MR. TOM BROKAW: Our issues this Sunday: Obama vs. McCain. And this year, the American West will be a crucial battleground.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): So, I think we can win in the West.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): The West will make the difference as to whether I am the next president of the United States or not.
MR. BROKAW: But how will they navigate the key issues of that region: the environment, energy, social values, gun ownership and the economy? With us, two Western Democratic governors: Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming and Bill Ritter of Colorado. And then California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus, the insights and analysis on the changing political landscape of the Western battleground from NBC's political director Chuck Todd.
But first, we're in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is the site of this week's Western Governors' Association annual meeting. And we're joined by two Democratic governors, Bill Ritter of Colorado and Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming, who's the chair of the Western Governors' Association. We'll also hear from a well-known Republican, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, later here on MEET THE PRESS.
Gentlemen, welcome to both of you.
GOV. DAVE FREUDENTHAL (D-WY): Thank you.
GOV. BILL RITTER JR. (D-CO): Thank you.
MR. BROKAW: The West is going to be the big political battleground this time. We're all looking at the same numbers. Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico all went Republican last time, 19 electoral votes. If Obama can win those states and win the same states that John Kerry did, he can be elected president of the United States.
In Colorado, where he's up by about 5 points now, Senator Obama's known primarily as the guy who's been running for captain of the home team. He's in the Democratic primaries. But the Republicans are beginning to identify him as a big city liberal Democrat. Is that going to change his chances in Colorado, Governor?
GOV. RITTER: Well, I think that Senator Obama has great opportunity to win in Colorado. The people of Colorado are independent thinkers, they're future looking and they're also optimistic. And I think he's captured that language in his campaign. The things that he's talked about are very much things that resonate with the people of the West and certainly the people in Colorado.
MR. BROKAW: If he chooses Hillary Clinton as his running mate, will that help or hurt his chances?
GOV. RITTER: That's, that's a good question. I don't know really if it'll help or hurt. What I can tell you is if you think about the play in the West, independent voters--independent registered, not registered Democrat or Republican--they're really where the play will be. And the language that he speaks is very much like the language the governors have spoken who have won seats out here in the West.
MR. BROKAW: Governor Freudenthal, in Wyoming, obviously, Republicans have been winning by huge margins the last several election cycles. In December, you were saying you didn't like any of the people in either party and you were thinking about not even going to the Democratic Convention. But then in April you endorsed Senator Obama; but you also said you were favorably inclined to John McCain. What changed all that?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: Well, I think the transition that's occurred is that John McCain's not the John McCain of 2000 and 2002. In that time his appeal in this region was pretty real, because very independent. At this stage he's really molded into a kind of Bush-Cheney look-alike, and that is not an attractive thing to see continue in this country.
MR. BROKAW: There's been some scurrilous things about Barack Obama out on the blogosphere. When you announced your endorsement, did you hear any of that in Wyoming, or did you hear from bloggers who are not happy with him, either as a result of his political positions, they've attacked his name and even raised questions about his faith?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: You know, not much of it originates in Wyoming. Most of what I got was from outside the state. Most people in Wyoming, they're sort of--what they really want to know is who is this guy? And it's not so much a--the race issue as it is just getting introduced to him.
MR. BROKAW: Is there any chance that Senator Obama can carry Wyoming in the fall against McCain?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: I wouldn't, look, I wouldn't bet the ranch on it. I mean, this state is 67 percent Republican. The last Democrat we voted for was Lyndon Johnson. I think Obama will do much better than expected, because there's a, there's a real independent attitude and a, and a pretty candid view in terms of how we assess people. And Obama has struck a pretty good chord here.
MR. BROKAW: Colorado has a very significant Hispanic vote. Senator Obama did not do well with Hispanics during the primaries. Hillary Clinton was able to win most of those, and Senator McCain next week is going to Mexico, thinking that will appeal to Hispanic voters come the fall. Is that going to be an issue for Senator Obama?
GOV. RITTER: Again, I think when the campaign is really Obama and McCain and Hispanic voters are paying attention to what the two different candidates are saying about their, about their issues and how they view the future, Obama wins, I think, among Hispanics hands down, and he does that because he has a language about education that really is, again, it's about optimism but it's also about reforming the system, and I think Hispanic voters pay attention to that. They care that the job creation happens across all kinds of lines, socioeconomic lines, and I think they're going to be excited about Barack Obama in a far bigger way once the spotlight is on him and on his, on his issues that really will matter to them.
MR. BROKAW: Energy is obviously a very important issue in--not only in Wyoming but throughout the American West. Senator McCain has said that we should drill offshore to get oil now to deal with $4 gasoline. He's also talked about 45 new nuclear plants. And there will be additional pressure to drill in environmentally sensitive areas in the American West. You were opposed to that four years ago. But with the reality of gasoline prices where they are, would you change your mind on all that?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: No, I wouldn't. I think--and it's part of the problem with McCain is just--it's an extension of the short-sighted, one-legged stool approach to energy that this administration's had. Their answer to everything is drill for oil and gas. They've ignored coal, they've ignored nuclear, they've ignored wind, and just a couple of days ago they decided that they're going to suspend all activities on solar on public lands.
And I think if you look at it, even by McCain's own admission, we're not going to change the price of gasoline by going into these sensitive areas. I think you need a--and it's one of the appeals about Obama, if you read his material and listen to him, he actually has an understanding that there's a relationship between a diverse energy package and a sound environmental policy, which you don't see. And I think this whole dance about it's, it's sort of the same song, second verse, and--but unfortunately, it's the same as the first.
MR. BROKAW: You're sitting on a mountain of coal here in Wyoming.
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: Sure are.
MR. BROKAW: Montana's doing the same thing.
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: Yeah.
MR. BROKAW: Jim Hansen, who's one of the leading climate scientists in the world working for NASA said just last week we have to have a moratorium on new coal-driven power plants in the country. Isn't that a wise decision, given what global climate change is doing to this country?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: I mean, the problem with that is is that it assumes that somehow if you do it in the United States, it's going to happen worldwide. But more importantly, when people do that, they need to take a look at what that drives. What that drives is a shift to natural gas and a lot of the natural gas that's produced, including some in Wyoming, has higher CO2 emissions than anybody envisions. There are places in Wyoming where you do processed gas that for every unit of natural gas that's produced, you produce and emit two units of CO2 into the air. So I think the need is to have a more balanced approach that is actually thought about, where we need to be 20 years from now, not where we need to be in the November election.
MR. BROKAW: Do you think nuclear power is in our future?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: Absolutely. I think that, that ultimately there is a--there's such a growth both in the United States and worldwide in terms of demand for energy, we're going to have to have greater emphasis on energy efficiency, and all of the other sources, including the renewables, because, I mean, a state like Wyoming is known for fossil fuel, but our greatest growth in energy production right now is in wind energy. And we're one of those states that if they can figure out transmission, which we're working on, and I understand is in Obama's...
MR. BROKAW: But that's at best only a partial answer, isn't it?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: It is only a partial answer, which is, which is why if, if this country doesn't come to grips with the fact that you've got to have a diverse energy portfolio, and one of those elements is energy conservation, we're going to stumble and we're going to stumble hard. People are going to be stunned, I think, by the price increases in their utility bills over the summer in the Southwest as they deal with air-conditioning and in this part of the country. Currently, the--the current filings for utility rate increases in Wyoming are about 70 percent increase in the fall.
MR. BROKAW: Governor Ritter, would you take a nuclear power plant in Colorado?
GOV. RITTER: Well, I think that Governor Freudenthal's right. It's going to be part of our future as a country. It already provides about 20 percent of the energy to this country. But I think the thing that we both are saying is we have to have a national energy policy, and it has to be a combination of how we produce traditional resources and how we do it in a clean way. We should load up on research and development for clean coal, and quite frankly, we have not done that. But as well, have renewable portfolio standards that make a difference, that get up to 20 or 25 percent. And then, in addition to that, just ask how we put them on the grid. And finally, look at the place, the nuclear place--not finally. Then do conservation and efficiency as a part of that as well, and incentivize conservation and efficiency. And you do all that, you get to the place where you have a national policy, and you really begin to address greenhouse gases.
MR. BROKAW: You're going to be the host of the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer. It's only a guess, but I'll bet there are going to be some activists there who are going to say, just as Jim Hansen did last week, "We can't have any new coal-driven power plants in this country." Are you going to pick up the phone and call your friend Governor Freudenthal and say, "Sorry about that"?
GOV. RITTER: Well, what I think we'll do is talk to them about all the things that we are doing. That convention's going to be the greenest convention since the invention of electricity. Woody biomass was used, you know, back in the day. But since the invention of electricity, this will be the greenest convention, and we're making every effort to do that, because we think, number one, it's the right thing to do, but we also believe we can showcase the kinds of ways that you can really run green electricity into a major site like the convention. Use recyclables, use reusable material, all sorts of ways of us thinking about it. Because Tom, at the end of the day, I believe that my kids will consume energy differently than we do today, but as a country, we'll produce it differently, and who better than a national political party to say, "These are the ways that we can do it as a country."
MR. BROKAW: As I don't have to tell the two of you, last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the District of Columbia ban on handgun ownership was unconstitutional. Senator Obama had this to say about it. "I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for those communities that are ravaged by crime to do something for their children." It gives local communities now much needed guidance for handguns. Are we at a stage in this country where we're going to have to have one set of laws for one region and another set of laws for the inner city and the urban areas when it comes to gun ownership?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: I don't know that we have to, but I think that's where you end up. And is that--one of the things I asked Obama when he was out here before I made my decision was on this question about his perception of that right. But I think you are going to end up with a recognition that the question on guns is more an urban/rural split than it is a political split in terms of people's attitudes and how they want it handled.
MR. BROKAW: Governor Ritter:
GOV. RITTER: You know, on that, on that question, the Supreme Court said, "We're not doing anything to strike down provisions that prohibit felons from carrying guns, people with mental illnesses. There are certain restrictions you can still put in place." And I think that's an important distinctions. Both of us, actually, are former prosecutors. He was a federal prosecutor, I was the district attorney of Denver. And it's really important that communities have some ability beyond just everybody being able to carry a gun. Some ability to restrict the carry--the restrict, carry, and conceal, those kinds of things, because they deal with whole different problems. And I just think that the Supreme Court looked at Washington, D.C., and said, "The ban goes too far, but we're not saying that there aren't reasonable restrictions that communities can put in place."
MR. BROKAW: Governor Ritter, you're a practicing Catholic. You're anti-abortion. The abortion debate will come up at the Democratic Convention as well. Do you expect that there will be a plank that will be emphasizing pro-choice for the Democratic Party?
GOV. RITTER: You know, it's interesting. In Colorado, when I ran in 2006, I actually ran without a primary, and it tells you a little bit about the West and how--I think the Democratic Party in the West has been able to say that that's not going to be a litmus test for candidates. I suspect it'll be a plank in the platform, and it has been a plank in the platform for a very long time, but that doesn't mean that as a party, that we don't very much embrace people who might have different views. And I'm a great example of that.
MR. BROKAW: Governor Freudenthal, Wyoming has gone to war. National Guard units and others who have volunteered for duty in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Where is the war now as an issue as we go into the presidential election of 2008?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: I think it remains an issue. I mean, I've been to every funeral. Went to one just this week. But I think it has fallen down in terms of people's concerns. Right now, it's the economy, it's energy prices, it's what are they doing about health insurance. The war is still very much on people's mind, and there's clearly a support for the soldiers that's very strong in this state. The questions about sort of the tactic and the strategy for the war, I mean, people are all the way across the board on it one way or the other. But I don't think it's going to be--frankly, I don't think it's going to be determative about how people vote come November, because I don't think it's going to be the priority issue for them.
MR. BROKAW: You have endorsed Senator Obama.
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: Yes.
MR. BROKAW: Do you also endorse his idea that we've got to start getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: Probably not. I mean, I think, I think from my point of view, that is a circumstance that probably has a life of its own. Both candidates, I think, are, as they say in the West, kind of talking through their hat about what they may be able to do. There are certain realities, and the, the touchstone that they're all using, though, in the end is they're going to take the advice from the commanders on the ground. And I expect that'll determine policy.
What you have from the two of them is a predisposition about how they want to go, and I think the thing that, that always happens, and I think it's the difference between the West and the East, is that, is that here, I mean, I endorsed Obama. I'm not taking him off my income tax as a dependent, you know, I'm, I'm proud to have endorsed him, I believe he'd be a great president for this country. But just as Bill points out, there are things that, that people believe that somehow because you're, you're in a party you believe everything the party does. Truth is, I decide how I'm going to register. I joined the Democratic Party, they didn't pick me. And I think there's an independence here that underlies the way that these states end up being in play that they might not be in other parts of the country.
MR. BROKAW: Governor Ritter, in Colorado, where is the war in Iraq as an issue of primary concern?
GOV. RITTER: Same as Governor Freudenthal described. The economy is the number one issue. It remains the second issue--the second largest issue, but it's quite a ways under in terms of just the public opinion surveys. I think the people--Colorado has a great military presence, and so obviously we, we do all we can to support our soldiers. I, I went to Iraq and Afghanistan because in December we had the highest number of National Guard troops deployed than anyone can remember in the history of the state. So I went there and visited with those troops in both places. And it's going to be very important, I think, to the voters. But I think the economy is what both of these candidates are going to have to deal with going forward.
MR. BROKAW: Your state also has a substantial concentration of evangelical voters, especially in the Colorado Springs area. Values always come up during a presidential debate. Is Senator Obama going to be able to win the evangelicals, or will they stay on the Republican side?
GOV. RITTER: We've seen some movement among evangelicals that relate to what I would call environmental concerns. And it's not, you know, it's not that they, you know, joined the Green Party, but it's that they really view the Earth as a sacred trust and really as a created, created entity, and that as a created entity we should really respect it and that we should view it as sacred and we should treat it as a steward. That has actually, I think, caused them to think differently than vote in just a straight line Republican ticket. There are moral conservatives that will absolutely be with John McCain and will not be with Obama, but there's been some other play happening that really has to do with the things that are happening in the West around public lands and around land use.
MR. BROKAW: What would happen in Colorado if all the illegal immigrants in the state, the so-called undocumented workers, were forced to go back to Mexico?
GOV. RITTER: We passed some serious reforms in 2006 and it's had its impact. It's had its impact on farms and ranches and hotels and the service industry, and, and some of it is not because illegals aren't there, but because legal immigrants viewed it as becoming a less friendly place. So it is--we rely on foreign-born workers in the construction industry, the service industries and the agricultural industry, and it really does hamper our ability to get foreign-born workers in if we don't have really a sensible immigration policy, which I think the country currently lacks.
MR. BROKAW: One of the issues that the governors here are looking at, the so-called wildlife corridors, the freedom to roam, global climate change is having an effect on the wildlife in this country and how they move around. Are you able to get regional cooperation on that issue? It's always a tough issue here in the American West.
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: Yeah. I, I actually think for the first time we actually have got the states talking to each other. What we don't have is a decent federal partner. And that's the problem for us, is, is that the feds own so much of the--federal government controls so much of the land in this region that for the states to make policy without a federal partner has been incredibly difficult. And one of the things you hope for in a new administration is we start talking about it. Because people just kind of take wildlife for granted. They forget that they, they have to, they have to move, they have to migrate, they have to be able to work within an area. And unfortunately in this region, there's quite a bit of conversation between the states, not a lot of cooperation from the federal government. I think, I think Secretary Kempthorne tries, but he doesn't have any support from an administration because the only variable they want to maximize in all of the public lands is the production of oil and gas.
MR. BROKAW: Is that a tough sell in Colorado?
GOV. RITTER: Well, it's a big issue right now for us. We're going through a whole rule-making process. We view oil and gas as a resource. We also view wildlife as a resource. And right now it is the big fight, it's where the swords are crossing in our rule making because we think that you can have both, that you can protect wildlife, but you have to have some really serious regulation in play to say if you're going to drill on this land, you got to show us a plan that allows us to believe that the wildlife is going to be here in the numbers it is when you came, and really, you find, you find ways even to foster it. There are some companies that have actually done that, but there are others that have not. And so for us it is a big fight.
MR. BROKAW: Governor Freudenthal, Vice President Cheney has a home not too far from here. He's a regular visitor to Jackson Hole. Born and raised in Wyoming. In Washington, D.C., his numbers are very low, as you know, in terms of approval. A lot of his oldest friends in politics are saying, "We don't know what happened to the Dick Cheney that we used to know." What's his standing here in Wyoming?
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: I think his standing here has declined like it has elsewhere, but he's still a native son. I mean, if you look at it, Iowa's still proud of Herbert Hoover. We're going to end up being proud of Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney has a good history in this state as our congressman. And I've heard this same thing you say. Even from his friends in Wyoming, who say "Now, we didn't expect Dick would turn out this way." But I think he enjoys some support here, will continue to, but it's not what it was.
MR. BROKAW: Western governors have an opportunity in many ways to show the country cooperation in a state that's always been deeply divided and very independent in this region by state lines. Do you think you'll become a template for what the national dialogue should be?
GOV. RITTER: Well, I think there's a good chance of that. And I, and I think, you know, the Democratic Party in the West has a way to talk about that because we reach across party lines to find answers to pretty big solutions. We're not afraid to tackle them and we do it, and independent and sometimes bipartisan ways. Governors of Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, they're all Democrat, they're all preceded by Republicans because, I think, of the way we answer questions.
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: I might have a little different slant, which is that, is that this is an incredibly bipartisan group, the Western governors, and it reflects that, that--I mean, if you take Arnold Schwarzenegger's positions relative to others, you'd argue that he's probably more liberal than most of the Democrats. What you really have is a willingness of people to say, "Look, this is really--policy and politics are about the art of possible." How do you, how do you do something pragmatic as opposed to something that's just sort of for the, frankly, for the 6:00 news, no disrespect intended.
MR. BROKAW: Governor Freudenthal and Ritter, thank you very much for being with us.
GOV. RITTER: Thank you.
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: Thank you.
MR. BROKAW: And we'll have to remind everybody, that's not a set, obviously.
GOV. FREUDENTHAL: No, no. We'd like them all to come and visit Wyoming.
MR. BROKAW: The western edge of Wyoming.
Coming up next, another Western governor, California's Arnold Schwarzenegger. We sat down earlier this week at the Reagan Library in California and talked about the presidential campaign and some of the tough issues that he's facing with his state's budget and faltering economy.
MR. BROKAW: More of MEET THE PRESS with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger after this brief station break.
MR. BROKAW: Welcome back to this special edition of MEET THE PRESS, concentrating on the American West, which will be a crucial battleground in this election year. And we're joined now by the familiar figure of Governor Schwarzenegger of California, here at the Reagan Library in California.
And Governor, you were the guest of Tim Russert several times.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA): Several times, and he always did great interviews with a lot of humor, tough questions, but we had a great time, and I really miss him, I have to say that. And he was--I remember when I ran for governor, he called me, and he says, "If you make that, if you win, then I will take care of the rest." And I said, :What are you talking about?" And he says, "I will get you to run for president. I will make sure that we change the Constitution." Well, it never happened, but anyway, I miss him very much.
MR. BROKAW: Oh, I can't make the same promise, but I can...
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Come on, Tom. You can.
MR. BROKAW: I can--I can...
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: You have the power.
MR. BROKAW: I can continue the tough questions.
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: OK.
MR. BROKAW: When you ran for governor in 2003, you ran as a fiscal conservative who would change the system. You would bring businesslike techniques. Now you're facing a $15 million deficit here in California. Unemployment is running at about 6.8 percent. You've got the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. If you were the CEO of a public company, the board would probably say, "It's time to go."
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Are you always that positive? I can't believe it. Well, first of all, let just say that we are very happy that since I've come into office that we've changed a lot of things and improved California and got California back on its feet, and started paying off some of the debt and started to rebuild California for the first time in four decades, and fixed worker's compensation, and all kinds of great things happened. And the most important thing is that I was able to bring Democrats and Republicans together. Now, that doesn't mean that when you are doing a good job that the economy doesn't go down eventually. What goes up must come down, and I think that we see that nationwide. We see other states are struggling, the country is struggling, people are struggling, and I think we see it now all over the world. And I think the key thing for it is to again, bring everyone together and just start right away with an economic stimulus package, which of course is done on a national level, but also each state has the responsibility to do that.
MR. BROKAW: But when you came in, Governor, you said that spending was out of control here, and your rate of increase in spending is about the same as your predecessor, Governor Gray Davis. It's running about, what, 34 percent since you took office upward.
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, Tom, as you know, you've been around long enough to know that the numbers are misleading, because we've paid off a lot of debt, and that is counted in the spending. So I'm very proud that we paid off a lot of the debt, and that we got the economy going again, and that we also got the state jump-started in rebuilding again, the roads, the levees, the schools, expanding our universities, building more career educational facilities. And we're now in the middle of negotiating, also, water infrastructure so that we can secure the water and provide reliable, safe, good water for the people of California, not two or three years from now, but 40, 50 years from now. So I think there's all kinds of great things happening. The key thing is to continue moving on and moving forward. If it is infrastructure, if it is health care reform, education reform, and all the things that we set out to do, and we're going to continue on. Like I said, the most important thing is that both of the parties work together to accomplish all of those things, because with just one party you could never do it.
MR. BROKAW: It appears that the people, however, have some real questions about your leadership. Your approval rating has gone from, what, 60 percent in December down to about 40 percent recently. It's tough to govern under those circumstances.
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Not at all. I'm having a great time as governor of California, and it is a very challenging job and I've always known that when I get into that it would be a challenging job, but it's the most exciting job and it also is a job that gives me the satisfaction to serve the people of California, because I think that California has given me everything that I have. If it is my body building career, my acting career, the money that I've made, everything, my family, everything is because of California. So this is a way of giving something back. And I don't shy away from the challenges, never did. I'm very, you know, persistent in continuing moving forward. So, you know, it's, it's all about leadership and bringing people together and solving those problems. That's the key thing. And California is the greatest place in the world, and we're going to keep it that way.
MR. BROKAW: Let's talk national politics for a moment. Most analysts that I know say that John McCain would have a very, very hard time carrying this state in the fall. I don't think that that will come as any surprise to anybody who watches politics. But you also have 19 congressional seats held by Republicans here in California. How many of them will survive?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that the Republicans have a good shot of keeping all their seats. I mean, that all depends in the end of what the mood of the state of the nation is at the time of the election. I think the key thing is, is for Washington to show that they can work together and get things done. This year, I have to say, I'm very disappointed of what has happened. There's a lack of, of, of action in Washington. They cannot even get done the littlest things. Just recently with the tax credit for renewable energy, which, you know, started in the early '90s and now it, it's, it runs out at the end of December, by the end of this year, and they cannot even get that done. Immigration reform or the infrastructure of the United States, health care. There's so many issues that are so important, they can't get anything done. So, I think that the people are frustrated, people are angry because they look at that and they say, "Well, wait a minute. We just changed the leadership there. First it were the Republicans in and we thought that they can't get anything done. Let's put the Democrats in power, now they can't get anything done, either." So, I think that the people are angry about that, and rightfully so. So, I think depends of what the mood is if anyone would lose a seat or two. I doubt it.
MR. BROKAW: You endorse Senator McCain as the presidential candidate, saying he was a crusader who had the best interests of the environment in mind. Now, he's in favor of offshore oil drilling and he wants to build 45 nuclear plants. Do you still stand by his record in that regard?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: I'm very proud of him. I'm 100 percent behind him. That we don't agree on everything, that's clear; nor do I with my wife. I mean, it doesn't mean that we should split, it just means that we don't agree on certain things. I don't think that you will find that everyone agrees on everything. And he is terrific with the environment. He has been there four years ago and stood by my side when I talked about the environment, when I talked about the--fighting global warming and putting together a good energy policy and starting with the green building initiative or start building the hydrogen highway in California and the million solar roof initiative. He was there and he supported me on every step of the way, so he's the real deal when it comes to the environment. I think he has great ideas and there are some things, like I said, I don't agree with, but there's a lot of things I do agree with. And I think that he will be a bresh of--fresh breath of air in Washington when he becomes president, because we really would have, for the first time, a really strong energy agenda and a great way of fighting global warming.
MR. BROKAW: Let me ask you about something that Tom Friedman has written in The New York Times about President Bush and energy policy. It was entitled "Lead or Leave." He said that the president two years ago said we're addicted to oil. "Now," he says, "we have" a "new Bush energy plan: `Get more addicted to'" it. It's "hard," according to Mr. Friedman, "to find" "words to express what a massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy this is." Do you agree with him on that very harsh assessment of the president?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I'll tell you that we have always had a good relationship with the White House and with President Bush, and there were certain things that were done very well and we worked together very well, and there were other things where I have spoken out, where I disagreed with, which was on environmental issues. I don't dwell on the negative. The fact is that we have had a good relationship with him. And I think that, you know, it's easy to, you know, kick someone when they're down and to just be part of, you know, let's attack Bush, type of thing. But I don't go for that. I think that he's done great work, and in some things that he has failed. And I think that he probably knows that. The key thing is now to look forward. We in California have never paid much attention to the federal government's action when it comes to the environment because there was a lack of leadership. We moved forward very aggressively here, and we started looking into a future and really did things that were, you know, very unique for the United States, and we led the way.
MR. BROKAW: We talked about the housing crisis here in California. You have 72,000 homeowners who are in one stage or another of foreclosure; 20,000 have already lost their jobs, or lost their homes, in California especially. When real estate goes south, it drags the economy with it. It's about construction and home furnishings and appliances. It's about tax revenues. Is this going to be bad for a long time? Is it going to be a longer recovery than anybody anticipates at this point?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, first of all, let me just say that it is sad when you see the kind of people that are unemployed, and how tough it is to get a job, and this is why we want to pump in as quickly as possible the billions of dollars to get people back to work, especially in the construction business. But I, I, I am as amazed as everyone else of how quickly that came. And the housing crisis, the mortgages--the subprime mortgage crisis and all this kind of things, because I've had last year in the spring, meetings with economists and they said to me that for the next two years the economy in the United States is going to be strong, the economy worldwide is going to be strong. There is nothing that is indicating any decline at all.
Sure enough, two, three months later we've seen the slowdown in the housing market, we have seen the subprime mortgage crisis appearing, we've seen our revenues shrinking in Sacramento and $200 million a month came in less than anticipated. Then it went up all the way to $600 million by December already. So this really I think was a big surprise to everyone. And I don't think anyone can really guess of how long it will take. We are very fortunate here in California because we have so many different economies. We have the real estate, we have the entertainment economy, we have biotechnology, we have high technology, we have agriculture. We have all these different economies so that gives us some strength even though we are suffering because of the decline of the housing market.
MR. BROKAW: But has California been on a binge that was just unrealistic? A lot of speculation about cashing in on the real estate market, buying the big SUVs to drive on the freeways, one passenger using all that energy?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, no, I think that, you know, there were big mistakes made by borrowers and there were big mistakes made by lenders. And I think that everyone was on such a roll and the real estate market always, every year, went up and up and up, and so people started speculating. And, of course, what happened was the housing market was like the do- com bubble, it was a housing bubble, and it finally--the whole thing collapsed. And now we have to just wait until we grow our way out of this situation. And I think that by next year we will grow out of it.
MR. BROKAW: You have a lot of propositions on the ballot again this fall. One of them would mean a constitutional ban on gay marriages. Do you support that?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I think the Supreme Court made a decision there. It was apparently unconstitutional to stop anyone from getting married. It's like 1948, the interracial marriage, when the Supreme Court of California has, you know, decided it was unconstitutional and then later on the Supreme Court of the United States followed, I think 10 or 12 years later. So I think it is, it's good that California lead--is leading in this way. I personally believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But at the same time I think that my, you know, belief, I don't want to force on anyone else, so I think we should stay with the decision of the Supreme Court and move forward. There are so many other more important issues that we have to address in California. So I think to spend any time on this initiative I think is a waste of time.
MR. BROKAW: There's another proposition that would require a waiting period and parental permission before a minor could get an abortion or the termination of a pregnancy. Do you support that?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, I support that. I think there should be a notification of the parents, and I was always for that. And I have two daughters myself. I would not want to have someone in the school take my daughter to a clinic to get an abortion without telling me or my wife. I think one or the other should know. If my daughter decides she doesn't want to let me know but she feels more comfortable with my wife, that's perfectly fine with me, because my wife and I, we are partners in raising our kids. But someone, one of us both, should know, and I believe in that 100 percent.
MR. BROKAW: It's well known that your wife, Maria Shriver, endorsed Senator Obama early. Is that off-limits in discussion in your household, and if he wins and says he'd like to have her join him in Washington in some capacity...
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well...
MR. BROKAW: ...would you think that's a good idea?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: First of all, I think that it's great that she has her own opinion about this, and I supported it 100 percent when she called me before she did the appearance at UCLA. And I told her, "Go ahead, do it. You know, I think that you feel very passionate about that, and I feel very passionate about the person I endorse, which is McCain." And I think that we have always been like that. She has always endorsed or, you know, supported the Democratic candidates, I've always supported Republican candidates.
It makes it interesting discussion at night at home when we have dinner. Sometimes she pulls in the cutouts of Obama or whoever candidate she's for and is putting it right next to my breakfast table, and I have to look at it, and then of course when he screws up in one way or the other, the kids carry out the cutout, and he has to be outside the house for awhile, and then they carry him in again. So we have those kind of things going on. But I--you know--there's--I can only take all of these things for so long. Eventually, you know, I also sick and tired of it. So one day at night, I remember being at dinner, I got up because I had it, and I got up, and I said, you know, "McCain is the man. He's the best man for this country and for the future, and Maria is absolutely wrong with that Obama fellow. Absolutely wrong." I was so lucky that Maria was out for dinner that night. It was easier to do that.
MR. BROKAW: Her very closest friend and her family is Caroline Kennedy, who is on the Obama vice presidential selection committee.
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Can you believe that? When I heard that, I was like, I can't believe that--I mean, for Caroline to be...
MR. BROKAW: To you have any inside information for us? I mean, does Maria talk in her sleep or anything?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I've been talking to Caroline. No. But she's working, I'm sure, very hard at this, and she's taking it seriously, and you know, she has been a big supporter of Obama right from the beginning, so I think it's terrific for her. She's a very smart woman, and she will be very good in helping them in making a decision.
MR. BROKAW: Did Senator McCain asked you for advice about how he should run against Senator Obama?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: He did not, no.
MR. BROKAW: What would you tell him?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: I would say, "Look. You have a lot of smart people around you. Ask them. I'm going to give Senator McCain advice on how to run against you."
MR. BROKAW: You have talked recently and again in this interview about the importance of the two sides getting together and finding common ground, people working together again. Here at the Reagan Library and the LBJ Library in Texas, they'd like to have a series of town halls using both libraries in that kind of bipartisan fashion. Do you think that that would advance the interests of the country during this campaign year?
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: I think so. I mean, this--I think it will be interesting to have a debate between the two candidates, and to have town hall meetings together so that people can hear from both of them without having this formal kind of question and--you know, question and answer sessions where they stand behind a podium. I think those are fake. I don't buy in on what they say when they do those kind of--when they do this kind of format. I think a town hall meeting will be much better, and I think that it will be also very important for them to talk about reaching across the aisle.
And I think this is the very attractive part about Senator McCain, because he doesn't just talk about that. He has proven it over and over again, that he can reach across the aisle, he can bring people on board and create some action. And I think that's what we need in the future. We need to have someone there that can bring both of the parties together, because there's no way that we can reshape and fix our country, the various different ills that we have, and create again a better image overseas, with just one party. You have to have both parties work together, and this is why I'm a big believer in post-partisanship. It has worked here in our state, and it's a whole new way of looking at it. To be willing to compromise and to be a public servant and not a party servant.
MR. BROKAW: Governor, thank you very much.
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you. Good to see you again.
MR. BROKAW: And I'll be back from Jackson Hole with NBC's political director, Chuck Todd. He'll put the 2008 Western battleground all in perspective.
MR. BROKAW: We're back here on MEET THE PRESS from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with NBC's political director Chuck Todd.
Chuck, the political landscape in this part of America has been changing pretty profoundly.
MR. CHUCK TODD: It's stunning. You know, when you go back to the 2000 election, you could go from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico, from Montana all the way through New Mexico and only travel through states governed by Republicans. Fast-forward eight years, you do that same path and it's only states governed by Democrats. So, we've seen a big shift locally in elected governors out here, out West, and even in some of the state legislatures.
MR. BROKAW: And these governors are not ideologically centered, they're really can-do governors, and a lot of them work with Republican legislatures. In fact, most of them do.
MR. TODD: It is. It's sort of the--it's very--they're not ideologues, and what it is, is it's almost as if the libertarian streak of the West, you know, the whole--the Reagan-Goldwater Republicans were, were libertarian in nature, secular, actually. They'd, they, they might have been religious but they didn't wear it on their sleeves. And as the Republican Party locally in a lot of these states--Colorado in particular--has had a lot of sort of religious right dominating of their primaries, it's allowed these Democrats to start targeting the sort of center right libertarians, this sort of--the freedom that not wanting to talk about religion, and they've been winning those voters over.
MR. BROKAW: Let's talk about the fall and strategy in the West. Senator McCain represents Arizona; war hero, maverick. Why isn't he getting more traction in the West at this stage of the process?
MR. TODD: He's the perfect candidate, if you thought about it, for, for out West, because of everything you just described. But he's getting punished on a couple of things. First of all, the West is the youngest region of, of our four major regions, and Obama appeals to this young, and these young--Colorado's one of the five youngest states in the union. So, already--and McCain being older is appealing to older voters, so that's, that's one problem he's having. The Republican brand is a mess, that's the other thing. And, you know, we can focus simply on Hispanics. While John McCain has been proactive in trying to push for comprehensive immigration reform and, you know, really been very friendly with Hispanics, the Republican brand has been terrible. I mean, the Tom Tancredo stuff has really hurt the Republicans' image.
MR. BROKAW: He's a Republican congressman from Colorado with a...
MR. TODD: From Colorado. Very sort of on a crusade, on anti-immigration, and it's really hurt the Republican image here. And that hurts McCain even though he's got a stance that should sell well.
MR. BROKAW: The Democratic Convention will be in Denver, not by accident.
MR. TODD: No.
MR. BROKAW: Howard Dean has said, "If we win the West we'll win the American presidency." Is everything up to date in Denver for the Democratic convention?
MR. TODD: Not really. They've got a financial issue. Part of that is they had a nominee very late in the process, they've had donors not ready--particularly a lot of Obama donors who were not ready to give money to the convention if they thought somehow they were--their guy wasn't going to be the nominee. But it looks like they're going to get the money, but it--we'll see. There's not a lot of corporate money in Denver. We've got a--they've got economic problems there, and so suddenly they've had some struggles. But the convention has to go on, so they'll figure it out.
MR. BROKAW: Wherever I go these days, and wherever you go these days, they say to you or to me, "Who's Obama going to pick as a running mate?" And then "Who's McCain going to pick as a running mate?"
MR. TODD: Well, it's interesting on the McCain front. I think the West could have an influence on him, because he's already struggling a little bit in the agricultural Midwest. Every--basically every state that touches Illinois, he's underperforming and Obama's overperforming. So, the West could end up being a battleground. Obviously, McCain wants to do well in the industrial Midwest--Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania--but he wants to not lose these Western states. You pointed out in the, in the beginning, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, if Obama sweeps those and holds all the Kerry states, it's over, he gets his 270. McCain's got to figure out how to hold a couple of those. Mitt Romney, being a Mormon, could actually help him in Colorado and in Nevada; in particular, you spike up some Western...
MR. BROKAW: Also, Idaho. Of course, they were going to win that, anyway, but...
MR. TODD: Sure. But it--and--but also in some other parts of the West where, you know, you've got--Obama's trying to win Montana and North Dakota, too. Those are two states he thinks he can do well. He's not going to win them, but he is going to sort of drive McCain and Republicans crazy.
MR. BROKAW: Now, be careful about what you say at this stage about what he's going to win and what he's not going to win.
MR. TODD: That's true. That's true.
MR. BROKAW: But he, but he's going to Montana next week, right?
MR. TODD: Well, it's interesting. They--both of them are targeting the West this week. McCain's doing it by going to Colombia and in Mexico. He's--by showing up there, the Hispanic-American media's going to cover McCain's visit, when he's going to see the statue of the, of the, of Guadalupe in, in Mexico, that's going to be a big deal and it's going to get a lot of coverage, and that's going to help him, potentially, in New Mexico and in Colorado.
But then you got Obama. He's showing up--he's going to be in Colorado on Wednesday, he's going to be in North Dakota on Thursday and he's going to celebrate the Fourth of July in Montana. We don't know where yet in Montana, but we'll find, we'll find out.
MR. BROKAW: Looking at all the numbers that you look at on all the polls, there was a fair amount of dialogue last week about Senator Obama deciding that he wouldn't take public financing, that he would take money from his online supporters. That resonate very much across the country?
MR. TODD: It doesn't resonate, but what it has allowed McCain to begin to paint is this narrative of, "You know what? This guy, Obama, you know, he makes all these promises and then suddenly he acts like a typical politician." And I think that a couple of more of these things and suddenly McCain might be able to sell this message that, you know, as much as you might think Obama's going to be the guy that might challenge his party, look at John McCain. He's a guy that has been challenging his party for seven years, has been doing these things. So, it's not that the campaign finance issue per se will resonate, it's that it allows McCain to start saying, "You know what? He's flipping on this, he's now flipping on guns, he's now flipping on this other issues," and it possibly paints a picture of a guy who will just say and do anything to get elected.
MR. BROKAW: The Democratic Convention in Denver. What do you hear about the role of Senator Clinton?
MR. TODD: Well, this is what we do know. She's going to speak. Shocking, right? But the question is how many Clintons will speak? And I think what we don't know is, is will there Clintons speaking on multiple nights? Unlikely, the Obama campaign doesn't want to have that. Senator Clinton, does she want to have President Clinton speak? And I think you're likely to see the Obama campaign leave it up to her. If she wants to have President Clinton introduce her, that's going to be fine with them. But does she? We've seen what happens when the two of them do back-to-back speeches. It's usually not that great for Senator Clinton. Maybe Chelsea Clinton introduces Senator Clinton. That's probably more likely. And we'll see some sort of almost a baton passing from one generation of Clintons to another generation of Clintons. So, I think a tribute video is in the future of President Clinton.
MR. BROKAW: Chuck Todd, thanks very much.
I'll be right back with a final word from MEET THE PRESS this Sunday.
MR. BROKAW: That's all for this edition of MEET THE PRESS. Our thanks to the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club for hosting us here in Wyoming. We'll be away next week due to NBC's coverage of the Wimbledon tennis finals, but we'll see you back the following week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.