MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday: With the president on the world stage,
his agenda is under fire back home. Critics charge his stimulus plan is
stuck, while the number of unemployed Americans continues to climb. And
Democrats appear in disarray over the president's massive healthcare
Meanwhile, the political world remains puzzled by Palin. After her abrupt
resignation, what's next for her and the GOP? With us, the man who put
her on the political map by choosing her as his running mate during the
2008 presidential campaign, Arizona Senator John McCain. Then, the view
from the other side of the aisle, New York Senator Chuck Schumer.
Finally, the take from our political roundtable: Karen Hughes, Republican
strategist and former counselor to President George W. Bush; Bob Shrum,
Democratic strategist and senior adviser to the Gore and Kerry
presidential campaigns; Andrea Mitchell, NBC News' chief foreign affairs
correspondent; and Roger Simon, Politico's chief political columnist.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: But first, Senator John McCain, welcome back to MEET
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, David. Thanks for having me back
MR. GREGORY: I'd like to--always happy to have you here. I want to start
with some breaking news this morning. The front story in The New York
Times is that former Vice President Dick Cheney kept Congress in the
dark, his orders to keep Congress in the dark about a covert CIA program.
It's a program that CIA Director Panetta has now shut down. He's briefed
Congress about it. What do you know about this and what's your reaction
SEN. McCAIN: Well, uncharacteristically, not a lot. I, I am not on the
Intelligence Committee. I don't know what the details of this are. The
vice president, I think, should obviously be heard from if the
accusations are leveled in his direction. Clearly the Republicans did not
sign a letter, apparently, that was written alleging this, so I, I think
it's, frankly, too early for me to reach any conclusion.
MR. GREGORY: It doesn't appear as if any lines were crossed, in your
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know because, again, a lot of this is anonymous
MR. GREGORY: Hm.
SEN. McCAIN: And this is--if I know Washington, this is the beginning of
a pretty involved and detailed story. And I, I don't have enough
information, but I think a lot more's to come on this.
MR. GREGORY: Should there be an investigation, do you think?
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know if--first of all, I'd like to know the facts of
the case before there should be an, "an investigation."
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. McCAIN: How long did, did the director of the CIA know about this
program and when did he terminate it? And all of these things are going
to, are probably going to be heavily discussed in the weeks ahead.
MR. GREGORY: Speaking about investigations, there's now word from
Newsweek magazine today with a story about the attorney general, that
he's getting closer to investigating alleged torture during the Bush
administration. This is the reporting from Daniel Klaidman, that Holder
"may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way.
Four sources telling Newsweek that he's now leaning towards appointing a
prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation
practices." Would that be a good idea?
SEN. McCAIN: No. Look, I fought against waterboarding. I said
waterboarding was torture. We passed the Detainee Treatment Act, which
prohibited cruel and inhumane treatment. I have spoken out as forcefully
as possible everywhere against what went on and that we need--it harms
our image so much around the world when photographs come out and--we all
know that bad things were done. We all know that the operatives who did
it most likely were under orders to do so. For us to continue this and
harm our image throughout the world--I agree with the president of the
United States, it's time to move forward and not go back.
MR. GREGORY: But where's the accountability?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, the accountability, obviously, is that people's
reputations have been harmed very badly. The question is, is do we want
America's image harmed more by dragging this out further and further?
You've got to--what's going to be the positive result from airing out and
ventilating details of what we already knew took place and should never
have, and we are committed to making sure never happens again? I do not
excuse it, I'm just saying what's the, what's the effect on America's
image in the world? I don't, I don't mean to drag out my answer, but I
did meet with a high ranking member of al-Qaeda in a prison in Iraq who
said his greatest recruiting tool was the pictures of Abu Ghraib. We
don't want to give the, the terrorists and the radical Islamic extremists
more tools and bullets to shoot against us and help their recruiting in
this ongoing struggle we're in.
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to politics. You must have been shocked to see
Governor Sarah Palin resign as governor.
SEN. McCAIN: Well, I wasn't shocked. Obviously, I was a bit surprised,
but I wasn't shocked. I understand that Sarah made the decision where she
can be most effective for Alaska and for the country. I love and respect
her and her family. I'm grateful that she agreed to run with me. I am
confident she will be a major factor in the national scene and, and in
Alaska, as well.
MR. GREGORY: But you say you were surprised a little bit. Why?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, because she had not called me. We've discussed it
since and I better understand the reasons for her decision.
MR. GREGORY: What were they?
SEN. McCAIN: Look, there's--well, how could she best serve? How could she
most effectively serve Alaska and the country? And that was her decision.
MR. GREGORY: But, but, but, Senator, you have a reputation...
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: ...of personal and professional toughness and
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: You sought the highest role in the land, president of the
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: You never quit.
SEN. McCAIN: Oh, I don't think she quit. I think she changed her
MR. GREGORY: She made a promise to the voters to serve out her term,
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know if there was a "promise," but I do know that
she will be an effective player on the national stage. And I will say, I
have never seen the sustained personal family attacks that were made on
Sarah Palin and her family in, in, in my life. Carl Cannon has a very
interesting piece about the media establishment and the attacks that were
made on her, and I'm sure that that had some impact. Ethics charge after
ethics charge, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of, worth of legal
fees. But the fact is she is very popular with our Republican base. She
will be a strong voice. I chose her because she was a reformer, because
she beat an incumbent governor, she was a popular Republican of her own
party, she ignited our base, she did a great job as my running mate even
under the most sustained personal attacks that...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEN. McCAIN: ...in certainly recent American political history.
MR. GREGORY: But, Senator McCain, you have faced personal torture,
personal attacks, political attacks, investigations. You have never
resigned from anything. Is it consistent with your qualities of
leadership to resign an elected post like this?
SEN. McCAIN: Sure. If you think you can be...
MR. GREGORY: It is consistent?
SEN. McCAIN: If you can be--the question is, is how can you serve most
effectively? Sarah and Todd and her family made a decision that she can
be most effective by stepping down, and she did. I respect that, that
position and that decision, and I cannot tell you the appreciation I have
MR. GREGORY: You think she's qualified to seek the high, highest office
in the land?
SEN. McCAIN: I know she's qualified. I know she's qualified.
MR. GREGORY: She is qualified?
SEN. McCAIN: Sure. Absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: No doubt about it.
SEN. McCAIN: No doubt about it. She has all the right instincts, all the
right principles. She was a, she was a, a mayor, she's a governor. She
understands the challenges that families face. She has, she has a great
background, and I am confident that she will continue to play, as I say,
a major role.
MR. GREGORY: And if she, if she seeks the presidency in 2012, you would
SEN. McCAIN: Oh, I--look, I think it's way too early for that kind of
thing, because she obviously has not made that decision yet. And
traditionally, those of us who were the nominees have waited at least a
period, a long period of time before we got into that. But we've got a
lot of good, strong, young, attractive, articulate spokespersons for our
party and our principles.
MR. GREGORY: But can you understand how people would think it's a little
bit strange? You vouched for her in front of the country.
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: Said she was qualified for the highest position in the land.
SEN. McCAIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: And yet you're not prepared to endorse her now?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, I mean, George Bush--Ronald Reagan didn't endorse
George Herbert Walker Bush, his own vice president, until the year of, of
the election. I mean, it's, it's just way too early. But I'm confident
she would make a fine president. The question is, is what's the whole
MR. GREGORY: Do you think she'll run?
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know. I know she will play a major role. I know she
has the ability to ignite our party and to galvanize us and get us going
again and give us a strong positive message.
MR. GREGORY: One more on this.
SEN. McCAIN: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: Your trusted adviser for many years, Mike Murphy, wrote this
week something very pointed. He writes that "Governor Sarah Palin is the
political train wreck that keeps on giving. First, she was an awful
choice," he wrote, "last year as John McCain's running mate. ... An
inexperienced governor of a small state, she lacked the experience to be
president and brought nothing to the ticket except a surefire knack for
exciting voters who were already reliably Republican. It was a
strategically awful choice." Knowing everything you know now, you would
pick her again?
SEN. McCAIN: Absolutely. And in all due respect to those who like to
examine the entrails and, and, and look backward, the fact is we were
three points ahead on September 15th, and the stock market crashed and we
went seven points down. Sarah Palin ignited our party. We were winning
and we could have won. But I'm proud of the campaign we ran. I'm proud of
the people around me. I'm grateful for their support. I love them. I am
proud to have had the honor of being the nominee of the party of Abraham
Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
MR. GREGORY: Is she a...
SEN. McCAIN: And I will remain so.
MR. GREGORY: Is she ahead of the pack in terms of leaders of this party,
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know. A recent poll I saw shows she and Mitt Romney
and Huckabee very tight. But it's so--way so early. You might remember,
in 2007 my campaign was dead.
MR. GREGORY: Right, right. Remember well. And you, and you came back.
Let me switch gears a little bit, talk about the president of the United
States currently, and that's Barack Obama, and his performance. Look at
the recent poll numbers that came out, and it shows declining support.
His approval rating now 58 percent; back in January it was a 66 percent.
What's your assessment of how he's performing?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, first of all, his numbers are still strong, so they're
relative. Second of all, I think Americans, understandably, are becoming
very, very concerned about the deep, deep political--I mean economic debt
that we are laying on future generations of Americans. We are committing
generational theft. Just last week, the, the estimate of the deficit was
$1.1 trillion just for the first nine months. It's going to be $1.8
trillion. That's, by a factor of two, the highest in anytime in peacetime
history. I mean, we are spending and spending and spending. Who, five
months ago, thought we would own Chrysler and General Motors? Who thought
we would own AIG? Who thought we would own all these banks and
institutions? It's, it's a, it's a most massive movement from the free
enterprise system to the government in the history of this country.
MR. GREGORY: The president says be patient. How much more patience do you
SEN. McCAIN: Well, I, I, I also think it was interesting, the president
uses a very effective rhetorical ploy. He says--he sets up the position
of opposition. Like he said, "There are those who said we wanted to do
nothing." Who was that? We wanted to have a stimulus package. We wanted
one that would help small business, the generator of jobs in this
country, that would cut the corporate tax from 35 to 25 percent, that would help
small businesses buy equipment and hire people. That's, that--and would
have immediate, shovel ready projects. And we predicted that most of this
"stimulus package" that was passed through the Senate, in a partisan
fashion, would not have any real long--short-term effect. So guess what,
we're finding out only 10 percent of the money has been spent. A lot of
it has been on ridiculous projects. So I say, with respect, we
Republicans had a positive alternative. It was over $400 billion. We've
had an alternative budget. We had an alternative to the omnibus spending
bill, and so...
MR. GREGORY: But 40 percent...
SEN. McCAIN: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...of this stimulus package included tax cuts.
SEN. McCAIN: It included tax cuts, but a lot of them were in the wrong
direction. Why not make sure we focus on small business and also on
corporations, which now have the highest tax rates of any, of any country
in the world.
MR. GREGORY: Here's what his top economics adviser said this week, Larry
Summers, to The New York Times: "People know that problems of this
seriousness cannot be turned around in six months or nine months," Mr.
Summers said. "One of the president's strengths” in his extraordinary
candor—“is his extraordinary candor. The president has been honest with
the American people about the enormity of the challenge and the amount of
time it will take to turn things around." Then the president yesterday in
his radio address said, "This Recovery Act has worked as intended." Is he
leveling with the American people?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, I'm, I'm sure the president is doing everything that
he can to try to help their--this economy.
MR. GREGORY: But is he leveling? Is he being straight?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, he's either not leveling now or he wasn't leveling at
the time of the passage of the stimulus package, because they said the
maximum unemployment would be at 8 percent. That was what they told us.
It's 9.5, going to 10. They said that most of these projects were shovel
ready and the money would go out as--very, very quickly. We know now that
that has not happened. And even that 10 percent is a little deceiving,
because it really hasn't actually been used. So what they promised us
would be the result of this stimulus in a short-term has turned out not
to be true. So I'm not saying that it's "not leveling," but it's
certainly not factually correct, because they said unemployment would be
a maximum of 8 percent and probably closer to 7.
MR. GREGORY: Could you support a second stimulus plan if it comes, comes
SEN. McCAIN: Oh, I think that would be the biggest mistake we could ever
make. Why don't we focus on tax cuts? Why don't we focus on small
businesses? Why don't we, instead of saying we're going to increase taxes
to pay for healthcare reform, why don't we say, "Look, let's ease this
burden on small businesses, particularly." And I keep going back to that.
Who generates jobs in America? Not General Motors, not Chrysler. People
that generate jobs in America, the small business people who all over,
all over my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, are shutting these storefront
enterprises of theirs. And yet General Motors is too big to fail, and so
is AIG. But they're too small to save? Something wrong with that picture.
And that's why the American people are unhappy.
MR. GREGORY: You mentioned healthcare reform. This is what the president
said back in March. He said, "Look, this is critical to the overall
financial health of the country." Listen.
(Videotape, March 5, 2009)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy and
get our federal budget under control, then we have to address the
crushing costs of health care this year.
MR. GREGORY: Do you agree?
SEN. McCAIN: I agree that we need to reform health care and we need to
make it affordable and available. But we're losing sight of the fact that
the highest quality health care in the world is in the United States of
America. That must be preserved. So the key, what we should be focusing
on is affordability and availability for all Americans. I don't think
that these proposals are doing that.
I was at MD Anderson in Houston. People--with Senator McConnell and
Senator Cornyn. We did a healthcare town hall. People from 90 countries
all over the world were there. They could have gone anyplace in the
world. The best, highest quality health care is in America. It's the
cost that's the problem.
MR. GREGORY: Are you prepared to support what the administration's
proposing on health care?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, the latest was by CBO, that we still are only...
MR. GREGORY: Congressional Budget Office.
SEN. McCAIN: Yeah, the Congressional Budget Office. After saying we were
a trillion dollars short and only covered a, a third of the people who
are uninsured, now about half of them are uninsured under this plan.
Look, we got to give people the ability to go across state lines to get
the health insurance of their choice. We've got to have--we're in
agreement on prevention, on wellness, on trying to have outcome-based
health care. A whole lot of areas we're in agreement on. We should be
sitting down now across the table, not trying to do what they did with
the stimulus package, with the budget and with all the others, and that
is pick off a couple of Republicans. Let's sit down and have some real
conversations, some real negotiations rather than the charade that we've
been going through.
MR. GREGORY: The House says--House Democrats say we need to raise taxes,
a tax surcharge in order to pay for this. Does that kill this effort?
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know if it kills the effort, but it kills our
economy. What--I don't think there's any rationale for raising taxes on
anybody at this particular time, in the economic difficulties that we're
in. And look, malpractice reform is another thing that's been taken off
the table. We need to have that as well. That could save us tens of
billions of dollars a year, because of the practice of defensive medicine
that doctors have to engage in.
MR. GREGORY: A couple of foreign policy notes. Look at this striking
statistic out of Afghanistan, released this week. The number of roadside
bomb incidents; these are the ones that were successful, that hurt or
killed people. Back in June of '07, 24; June of 2009, up to 82. That's
got to trouble you.
SEN. McCAIN: It troubles me enormously. But we all knew that once we went
into areas that have been controlled by the Taliban, particularly in
Helmand province and in the south, that causalities are going to go up.
British just took a terrible blow this week, as you know, with 10 British
soldiers killed one day. The--look, this is going to be long and hard and
tough, and I want to work with the president. But we've got to remember
what worked in Iraq, and that is it requires additional troops if
necessary. Listen to our military leaders. I saw on the front page of the
Post this morning, General McChrystal may say we need more troops. Let's
tell the American people how tough it is. Let's tell them what's at
stake. And I want to work with the president and make sure we win this
thing. But let's not try to go back to the Rumsfeld era of trying to just
go out, kill people, leave and try to get out of there.
MR. GREGORY: Is that the risk of this administration now?
SEN. McCAIN: That's the risk. That's the risk.
MR. GREGORY: You think we need more troops.
SEN. McCAIN: I know that we should listen to General McChrystal and the
leaders on the ground who according to news reports, not my information,
say we are going to need additional troops in order to really secure. And
we talk about economic, political, military.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. McCAIN: First you've got to provide a secure environment. We proved
that time after time.
MR. GREGORY: In terms of Iran, the president says by September they
abandon the program or get into negotiations, or face consequences. What
does this administration have to do now to get that changed, to get them
to abandon a nuclear program?
SEN. McCAIN: Look, this is one of the toughest challenges we face. Again,
we all want to work with the president. Meaningful sanctions need to be
imposed. But also, we need to tell the people of Iran who are struggling
for a free democracy and an open society and elections that are fair that
we're with them morally. I'm not talking about sending arms, I'm not
talk--I think the seminal event was the death of Neda on the street that
was broadcast all around the world. That will fundamentally change the
future of Iran, because she was the symbol of an oppressive and
repressive regime. And I think the winds of change will even blow through
Iran. Now, whether it does quickly or not is hard to say. We didn't
predict the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but it happened; and I believe
that in Iran, something is afoot that can't be stopped.
MR. GREGORY: Before you go, are you prepared to support Sonia Sotomayor
to be on the Supreme Court?
SEN. McCAIN: I want to see the hearings; obviously, those are a very
critical part. Obviously, she's a great American success story and we all
respect and admire that. I'd just like to see the hearings and watch very
closely, starting on Monday.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Senator McCain, thank you, as always.
SEN. McCAIN: Thanks for having me back on.
MR. GREGORY: Appreciate it.
Up next, the other side of the debate; Democratic senator Chuck Schumer
of New York joins us. Plus, our political roundtable with Karen Hughes,
Bob Shrum, Andrea Mitchell and Roger Simon, only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Chuck Schumer and the view from the other side of
the aisle, after this brief commercial break.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: We're back, joined now by Senator Chuck Schumer of New
Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Good to be here.
MR. GREGORY: So this White House is on the defensive about the economy
and specifically about the stimulus plan. Over the course of the summer,
Vice President Biden has been out talking about the projections then and
now. They said with a stimulus plan they'd keep unemployment to 8
percent; that has not been the case. Here he was on this program back in
(Videotape, June 14, 2009)
MR. GREGORY: This package was sold on the premise that it would, in fact,
keep unemployment at 8 percent. It's exceeded that...
VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN: No, no, no...
MR. GREGORY: ...with the recovery plan.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: ...no, no, no, no. It, it wasn't sold on that. It was
sold on it would create or save...
MR. GREGORY: That's what the reports said, Mr. Vice President.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: No, it said it would--what would happen was it would
save or create jobs. It's doing that. It is doing that. Everyone guessed
wrong at the time the estimate was made about what the state of the
economy was at the moment this was passed.
MR. GREGORY: Everybody guessed wrong. This is what he said back on July
5th to ABC: "The truth is, we--and everyone else--misread the economy."
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, the bottom line here is it was very hard to read the
economy. I mean, you had a whole new world. We--I had never seen anything
like this, experienced. I think none of had. Financial markets frozen.
Just think, back in December and January, most people said there's a 25,
50 percent chance we're going to be in the Great Depression.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. SCHUMER: And the good thing that the president is doing is twofold.
One, he has strong medicine against it. Second, he has a long-term time
horizon. He's not going to be bounced around by what happens today on
export numbers, which were good, or what happens on consumer confidence,
which was bad. And they keep adjusting. And so I think that, yes, the
economy is very, very important, probably number one to the American
people, but the president has their confidence. He's doing a good job and
it's going to work well.
MR. GREGORY: But I asked you if you misread this. You are the senator
from New York.
SEN. SCHUMER: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: You have your finger on the pulse of the financial center of
this country. This is a list of economists and others who said that
unemployment would be worse than the administration anticipated. Do you
agree that everyone got it wrong, or did the White House get it wrong?
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, the bottom line is I think there were estimates all
over the place, and everyone said it's very hard to chart this out
because, again, we were, we were in uncharted waters. I think what...
MR. GREGORY: But there were certainly people who said unemployment would
get worse, you need a much bigger stimulus; they have got the wrong
SEN. SCHUMER: Yes. And there were many, mostly--many on the Republican
side and elsewhere who said we need a smaller stimulus and we don't need
this kind of thing. The president--I mean, I remember Larry Summers and
others saying we're trying to get the number right but erring on the side
of having it a little higher, because the downside is significant here.
MR. GREGORY: So you'd put yourself in their lot, that you misread it as
long--as well as they did?
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, I, I wouldn't characterize them or me as misreading.
You give the best estimates you can. I didn't make a projection as to
what the number would be.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. SCHUMER: We knew it was bad, we knew it needed serious medicine.
That's what we're doing.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the stimulus in New York state. This is
what the GAO reported, the Government Accounting Office, by the New York
Post: "New York has spent only about 22 percent of the federal stimulus
funds set aside for the state, and a [GAO] report revealed that most of
the money is being used just to keep governments afloat, rather than to
create jobs." This is apparently happening all over the country. Is that
what the stimulus was designed to do, to plug holes in government
finances at the state level?
SEN. SCHUMER: The stimulus, the stimulus was designed to do many things.
At the, at the immediate, it had to get some money into the economy. If
you remember then, and you can quote all those economists, the danger of
going into what economists call a deflationary spiral--where prices go
down, more jobs are lost, prices go down further--was the nightmare.
Because once you get into a deflationary spiral, no economist--liberal,
moderate, conservative--knows how to get out. You had to avoid that at
all costs. Getting money quickly into the economy, which is what the
government-type spending did, was the first phase.
Now we're in the second phase. Money's still continuing to go to the
MR. GREGORY: But is it too slow? Look at the numbers out of New York.
SEN. SCHUMER: This is not a four-month plan, this is a two-year plan.
When you have such an awful situation, the worst economy that we've had
in December, the president hamstrung because the usual tools of getting
us out of a recession were lowing interest rates but interest rates were
already at 1 percent, you need a strong, long-term plan that has a number
of phases. Now you're going to see the second part of the stimulus, which
is the job creation part, really kick in. You're getting...
MR. GREGORY: So you're not disappointed at what's happening at the state
SEN. SCHUMER: I am not. I think that it's working. I'm beginning to see,
in the last month, projects in upstate New York...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. SCHUMER: ...New York City, the New York City suburbs begin to get
going. I see the people working. A lot of construction going on that I
didn't see three months ago. And that, that money is going to start
coursing into the veins of the economy.
MR. GREGORY: More broadly, on the economy, back in April the president
sounded fairly optimistic. This is what he said.
(Videotape, April 14, 2009)
PRES. OBAMA: There's no doubt that times are still tough. By no means are
we out of the woods just yet. But from where we stand, for the very first
time we're beginning to see glimmers of hope.
MR. GREGORY: So let's look at the numbers, first six months in office:
unemployment is up 32 percent; job losses, 3.4 million; and the deficit
is up 50 percent. Are those glimmers of hope?
SEN. SCHUMER: No, but there are glimmers of hope. That's the bad, that's
the bad news, and there's lots of bad news. But let me just say, look at
where we were January 20th, when the president got into office, and
today. There are some good things. The financial system, hardly
recovered, but it's not frozen. I no longer hear, day after day, reports
from small businesses, middle-sized businesses, they can't get money
anywhere and they're going under. That created a huge problem, created
last fall and last summer, not dealt with.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. SCHUMER: That has ramifications on into this economy. Exports are
up. Parts of manufacturing is up. Consumer spending, which was going
down, is now flat. This is not--you know the good thing about Barack
Obama, one of the many good things about our president? He has a
long-term perspective and he has an internal gyroscope. He is not going
to get jarred by one month's number or one month's polling data. He has
his eye focused on the goal. The economy will be better, gradually but
certainly, and he's going to get us there. And I think, by the way, I
would say--maybe I'm misreading it, but I don't think so--the American
people have confidence in the president getting out of this mess.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about health care, his signature achievement that
he wants domestically. Will he get healthcare reform, a massive overhaul,
by the August recess?
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, we don't expect it to be signed into law by the
MR. GREGORY: Understood, but an actual...
SEN. SCHUMER: But we expect the House and Senate to have passed bills,
MR. GREGORY: You think it's going to happen.
SEN. SCHUMER: I do.
MR. GREGORY: The big claim that he's making is that this is deficit neutral,
that it's not going to add to the debt, a trillion-dollar program. The big
question is, how is it going to be paid for?
SEN. SCHUMER: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: A couple of options out there, and one is to offset the, the
price to $300 billion is that you tax some of the benefits. Could you
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, I think what we've learned over the last week, that
on both sides of the aisle people do not want to tax the benefits,
Democrats and Republicans. And given what the House has done, given that
a majority of Democrats are against taxing benefits, no, I don't think
that's going to happen.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think a tax surcharge, as House Democrats are going
to propose, on the wealthiest Americans, is that the way to make up $550
billion worth of that cost?
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, let me say a couple of things. First, the number one
thing we have to do to pay for this trillion dollars it cut--is cut
costs. And the president has wisely said the majority of this package, a
significant majority, is going to be from cutting costs. The system is
wasteful, duplicative, inefficient, number one. Number two, we will have
to find revenues to pay for the rest. We--the beginning of this week
everyone said--well, we saw , when you got a specific on the tax
benefits, that people weren't going for it; Democrats and Republicans,
key Republicans we're negotiating with told Chairman Baucus, forget it.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. SCHUMER: So now we're looking at other things. But here's the good
news, David. Wednesday and Thursday the Finance Committee, which is in
charge of raising the money, we met--Wednesday, Democrats; Thursday,
Democrats and Republicans--and laid out many different options. There are
a whole lot of options. We emerged from that meeting, I think, on both
sides of the aisle feeling this is doable. I believe that Chairman
Baucus' goal to have a plan that pays for it set by the end of this week
will happen. Now, to get into the specifics, I know you asked me about a
specific, obviously the surcharge has a benefit; it meets the president's
goal of not taxing anybody below $250,000. But I think to negotiate in
public when there are many different options is not going to be very
helpful, so I'm not going to do that.
MR. GREGORY: A couple of quick points. Judge Sotomayor, will she be
SEN. SCHUMER: I believe she'll be approved and I think there's a very
good chance she's going to get as many or if not more votes than Judge
Roberts got, which was 78. She has wowed people. People meet her and they
are impressed, Democrats and Republicans, not just with her story, but
she's smart but also practical. She's down to earth.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. SCHUMER: And she makes a great impression. And the very impression
she's made on 89 Senators she's going to make to millions of Americans as
they watch the hearings. She is going to be approved by a large margin.
MR. GREGORY: You heard Senator McCain opposed to the idea of an
investigation on alleged torture in the Bush administration. Where do you
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, I generally believe that--with the president--that,
look--and John McCain--that looking forward, not back, is right. But when
there are egregious violations, you can't just brush them under the rug.
And so I think that the attorney general to look for some egregious
violations, which is what he's doing now, is the right thing to do.
MR. GREGORY: Is Sarah Palin the future of the Republican Party?
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, I guess I shouldn't judge and let them fight among
MR. GREGORY: What do you think, though? Do you think she's qualified to
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, you know, I, I, I think the American people saw her
and they saw problems in terms of preparation and knowledge of things.
But, you know, four years away is a long--three and a half years away is
a long time away, so I'm not going to make a judgment.
MR. GREGORY: You're hedging your bets...
SEN. SCHUMER: You bet.
MR. GREGORY: ...but you're not holding out on the fact that you two are
very closely aligned. And here it is, from Field & Stream last year...
SEN. SCHUMER: Oh, yes.
MR. GREGORY: ...the political odd couple. There they are, Senator Schumer
and Governor Palin both heroes in Field & Stream. You cannot walk away
from how closely tied you two are.
SEN. SCHUMER: God bless America.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Schumer, thank you very much.
Up next, our political roundtable weighs in on all the week's news; Karen
Hughes, Bob Shrum, Andrea Mitchell and Roger Simon after this brief
MR. DAVID GREGORY: And we're back now with our roundtable: Democratic
strategist Bob Shrum; Republican strategist, former counselor to
President Bush, Karen Hughes; Andrea Mitchell of NBC News; and Roger
Simon of the Politico.
Welcome, all. A lot to talk about here.
MR. ROGER SIMON: Good to be here.
MR. BOB SHRUM: Good to be here.
MS. KAREN HUGHES: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Karen's in from Austin, Texas.
MS. HUGHES: Great to be here.
MR. GREGORY: We appreciate having you here.
Well, a lot to talk about. Roger Simon, I want to talk with Sarah Palin.
MR. SIMON: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: I thought that Senator McCain was rather striking in his
comments today. On the one hand, he said he was surprised that she
stepped down. How could he not be, given his record as a politician, as a
senator, as a leader? Is this the same person he chose to be on his
MR. SIMON: I think it is the same person. If the Republicans were
choosing a nominee today, I believe they would choose Sarah Palin. The
Republican Party has collapsed, like a star going nova, to its densest
core of conservative voters. Sarah Palin speaks to that core. Now, the
grandees in the party, the pooh-bahs and the mandarins, the elites, don't
like her. She's not of their ilk. She is the skunk at their garden party.
They believe, as some in the media believe, that the highest form of
political skill and authenticity today is to flawlessly read a speech
from a teleprompter that somebody else has written for you. That's not
Sarah Palin. Look, she's not going to beat Barack Obama. But all she has
to do is beat Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal...
MR. SHRUM: Mitt Romney.
MR. SIMON: ...Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney. Are you saying that she
couldn't beat Mitt Romney?
MR. SHRUM: No, I think she could. And look, I'm strongly for her. I, I
endorse her for the Republican nomination in 2012. I think she's got a
real problem with Republicans. They have a survival instinct. And she
said yesterday that she was maybe going to campaign for conservative
Democrats. That's because a lot of Republicans don't want her to campaign
for them. And that party ultimately--and you saw it with John McCain, you
saw it with Bob Dole--they nominate by primogenitor, they take the e next
person in line. I think that's probably Mitt Romney. But I agree with
you, she's got a big base and I think she might win the nomination. I
hope she does.
MR. GREGORY: But, Karen Hughes, Senator McCain just said he agrees with
her, that he thinks it, it helps her standing, it's in the best interest
of her, her interest going forward. It's OK to resign.
MS. HUGHES: Well, I think Senator McCain's in a, in a difficult position.
He chose her as his nominee and he wants to be supportive of her and her
family. I, I, like many people, was, I was surprised. I was, I was
puzzled. She sought that office. I remember when I worked for Governor
Bush and he decided to run for re-election as governor of Texas, even
when he was being mentioned as a presidential candidate he felt it was
important to have that seal of approval, that re-election from the
voters. And he was very honest with them and said, "I, I don't know
whether I will or won't run for president. I want you to make that as a
factor in, in your decision." So I was surprised and somewhat puzzled. I
think the weeks and months ahead are going to be very critical for Sarah
Palin. She's got a lot of charm. I like her. She's feisty, she's a
maverick. But there's a fine line between maverick and quirky, and so I
think she has to be very careful that the next steps she takes are very
thoughtful and that she really thinks them through before she takes them.
MR. GREGORY: Andrea, before we hear from you, we have to see you in
MS. MITCHELL: Please.
MR. GREGORY: This is Andrea Mitchell live on the scene in Atlanta.
MS. MITCHELL: Spare me.
MR. GREGORY: These--Alaska. These are some of the still photos in your
waders and your--by the way, most people don't know that you actually
travel with fishing waders in your purse...
MS. MITCHELL: Always.
MR. GREGORY: ...on assignment. And there you are in--but look at this.
This was the orchestration, on this small fishing village, of Governor
Palin to speak her piece. And look at this media scrum there during the
MS. MITCHELL: A photo-op to end all photo-ops.
MR. GREGORY: Here is, here is a question that you asked her about her
MS. MITCHELL: Can you imagine yourself running for president?
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): I don't know what the future holds. Can't
predict what the next fish run's going to look like, much less what's
going to happen in a couple of years. But my focus is on my state still,
and it always will be, and my family and what is best for them. What is
best for them is to not run for re-election and to avoid a lame duck kind
of wasteful session in a final year of office.
MR. GREGORY: Is that--I mean, this is the question I posed to Senator
McCain, which is, is shirking from those fights the way you demonstrate
leadership in the Republican Party?
MS. MITCHELL: I think that is her big flaw right now. Because even in
Alaska, even in her hometown of Wasilla, where people are enormously
supportive of her, where people love her, they said, "We're really
disappointed because she quit." So that quitter label does attach to her.
The other problem is, look, she's really warm. She was acting, I think,
on behalf of her family, which were, were hurting, and she needed to do
something about that. She was very deeply unhappy. She's got enormous
charm, as Karen points out, and she's feisty, she's attractive. Lord
knows she's attractive. But she has to have a coherent world view to be
the Republican nominee. And the reason why she was so rambling in that
Friday statement and didn't really fix it in her interviews with many of
us is that she doesn't--she's not deeply read, she hasn't thought through
a lot of these policies, and you have to do that as a national candidate.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask this question: Can a leader of the
Republican Party chart a new course without real new ideas and a new
direction for the party? In other words, does the Republican Party, to
get back to power, need a, a fundamental overhaul in terms of core
MS. HUGHES: Well, I think obviously, anytime a party is out of power,
there's a lot of talk about the crisis in the party. And new leaders and
new voices will emerge. But I think the next--the--as we move to the 2010
elections, as we move to 2012, that the leaders who emerge will have to
have a vision. It'll have to be an optimistic vision. They'll have to
make the case. I think they have to make the case that ours is an
inviting party, a welcoming party, that we want people to join us; that
we, we believe that our philosophy of educating children, of providing
health care in a fiscally sound way, of putting money back into people's
pockets rather than this massive buildup of debt and spending that we're
seeing under the Obama administration. We'll have to make the case that
our policies are in fact the, the best policies to take this country
forward. And we have, still, a country that is largely center right and
that is inclined to want to hear from us. I think the important thing is
that we have an optimistic and visionary messenger.
MR. SHRUM: I was going to say, I--which I never do--that I largely agreed
with you, till you got to that part, till you got to that part about the
country's largely center right.
MS. HUGHES: I must have said something wrong.
MR. SHRUM: I--no, you said the Republican Party needed a positive,
affirmative vision. I think that's the big problem right now. It is
coming across as the party of no. Look, if Obama fails, if the stimulus
fails, the economy does badly, Republicans would benefit anyway. They
don't have to get out there and cheerlead for failure, which is what
they're doing right now. And if we see signs of recovery next year, and
2010 and 2012 are what actually matter, I think Republicans will be
punished badly for being sore losers and for looking almost like they
were rooting for Obama to fail, which means the economy would fail.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let's look at Obama's...
MS. HUGHES: I, I disagree with that, David. I think what we're seeing
right now is that President Obama's policies unfortunately are failing,
and we're very concerned about that. We've moved from...
MR. SHRUM: Karen, that's a little like saying why didn't Berlin fall the
day after D-Day?
MS. HUGHES: Well, but we...
MR. SHRUM: I mean, it's ridiculous. We're only at the beginning of this
MS. HUGHES: Well, and--but wait a minute.
MR. GREGORY: Well, hold on. Let me interrupt for a second. Let me
interrupt for a second, though, because if we're looking at Obama's
general performance, first of all, look at the numbers out of Ohio; his
job approval numbers down. Politically sensitive Ohio, approval in
February at 67, now it's at 49.
Roger Simon, the political and financial realities are that they have not
met expectations that they set out for the stimulus plan. The president
talked about glimmers of hope; we see anything but over the first six
months. As a political matter and a financial matter, as Senator McCain
said, he's not leveling now or he wasn't leveling then. Something's not
MR. SIMON: It's not adding up. The rock star has come to an intermission
here. Barack Obama now owns the economy, it's his, and the American
people are holding him responsible. We passed a $780 billion economic
recovery bill in February and, as, as your chart just pointed out, since
then we've lost 3.4 million jobs. Now, we haven't spent all that recovery
money, but we have spent billions and billions of it. And people are
wondering, where has the--where are the jobs? Barack Obama says that
we've got two years, this is a two-year plan. Chuck Schumer said on the
show a few minutes ago, we've got two years. They don't have two years.
The congressional elections are in November of 2010.
MS. MITCHELL: And that's--well, I think a...
MR. SHRUM: Yeah.
MR. SIMON: They've got to show progress before then.
MS. MITCHELL: I think a big test will be whether they at least can get
some agreement on health care before the recess on the House side. The
Senate is going to be more difficult. That is, that is a huge problem.
And now we've got a proposal from the House Democrats, from Charlie
Rangel, for an income tax, a surtax. And first of all, this is going to
be very hard sell in the Senate and even among blue dog Democrats in the
House. Plus, the Obama administration has scored this with the
Congressional Budget Office, and they've figured out that rather than
just--it does raise $500 billion, supposedly, towards the healthcare
costs, the costs of insuring the uninsured. But after 10 years, those
numbers drop sharply. So in the out years, unless there are major savings
from healthcare reform back, you know, out there, you are going to have a
huge balloon of expenditures in 10 years out...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. MITCHELL: ...and that is going to be a big debate.
MR. GREGORY: Bob, did the big lesson from the 1993 failure on healthcare
reform is you got to have Congress have its say. Well, Congress is having
its say; unfortunately, it's in several different directions on how you
pay for it and whether there's going to be a public plan. What's going to
MR. SHRUM: You know, you know, I'm fascinated by this. In the political
and media class we want the instant gratification of instant verdicts. I
mean, we saw this on stimulus, where we had a story about doomsday coming
every other day.
MR. GREGORY: But, Bob, the deadline is coming. That's not fair.
MR. SHRUM: But I--and I'll tell you, by the time that...
MR. GREGORY: There's a deadline of August that the president set.
MR. SHRUM: When that deadline comes, there will be a bill. They will come
to an agreement. I believe that bill will pass and I think he'll sign it.
But we ought to be very...
MS. MITCHELL: By August?
MR. SHRUM: No, I--he said he'd sign it by October.
MR. SIMON: By October
MR. SHRUM: But I think we ought to be very, very careful about these
kinds of judgments. Like the job loss; we were losing 700,000 jobs a
month in January, we're now losing half that number. Obviously, it's
going to take time to turn this around. We got 2,000 projects under way,
20,000 approved. But the, but the arc of the stimulus is only beginning
to jolt the economy. The same thing's going to happen with health care.
We're going to get it out there. And by the way, the cost savings the CEA
calculates of 1.5 percent a year in terms of lowering medical inflation
will actually raise GDP substantially and lower the deficit.
MR. GREGORY: It is--just to turn this around, Karen, on the
MS. HUGHES: Well...
MR. GREGORY: ...why shouldn't there be more patience? Why shouldn't the
Republicans, who certainly spent a long time spending a lot of government
money and under whose watch the economy took the turn that it did, why
shouldn't there be more patience from the Republican aisle?
MS. HUGHES: Well, well, David, this was sold to the American people as an
immediate fix, and I think Bob is now trying to...
MR. SHRUM: No it wasn't. It wasn't. That's not fair.
MS. MITCHELL: No, it wasn't, Karen.
MS. HUGHES: Let me, let me quote you Larry Summers: "You'll see effects
immediately." Christina Romer: "We'll start adding jobs rather than
losing them." House Majority leader Steny Hoyer: "There will be an
immediate jolt. This will begin creating jobs immediately." And instead,
we've seen a loss of 2.6 million jobs.
MS. MITCHELL: But unemployment is a, unemployment is a lagging indicator.
There has been a decline in the rate of unemployment. That's the, the
immediate fix. Plus, you've seen a loosening up of credit. We were on the
point of disaster. I think they can accurately argue that they have
avoided catastrophe. But...
MS. HUGHES: Well, I would argue that that was avoided last fall when
President Bush took the politically unpopular step...
MR. SHRUM: Do you know, I would agree with you.
MS. HUGHES: ...of the rescue plan.
MR. SHRUM: Can I agree with you? Can I agree with you? I think what
George Bush and Gordon Brown did in Britain to save the world banking
system probably prevented an overall financial collapse. But in January
we were headed into a, potentially into a very deep recession if--or a
deeper and deeper recession...
MR. SIMON: Right.
MR. SHRUM: ...if not a depression. And what the administration did has
cut the rate of job loss. And I think, you know, we ought to look at
what--where it's going to be next September.
MS. HUGHES: Barack...
MR. SHRUM: If next September people think things are recovering, the
Republican Party is going to pay a very heavy price for this attitude.
MR. SIMON: The president was warned that too much of the stimulus bill
was not stimulative...
MR. SIMON: ...that it would not lead to jobs, that it was typical pork
barrel stuff that the Congress wanted. He chose not to fight with
Congress. Now, in fairness, he was trying to prevent a world economic
MR. SHRUM: Right.
MR. SIMON: But in taking this huge bill that had a lot of stuff that
wasn't shovel ready, he risked paying the price that he's paying for now,
that the jobs aren't coming.
MR. SHRUM: Well, so...
MS. HUGHES: So we've gone from the euphoria of "yes, we can," to the deep
worry of "can we afford this?"
MR. SHRUM: You know...
MS. HUGHES: This is a massive buildup of debt and spending.
MR. SHRUM: Look, this--Reagan went through this. Reagan went through this
in 1981 and, in fact, his approval rating, by the way, at this time was
exactly the same as Obama's is today. And...
MS. MITCHELL: And unemployment went to 11 percent in '82.
MR. SHRUM: And Republicans, Republicans stayed with him. They stayed
despite the difficulties in the mid-term elections. They got to 1983, the
recovery came; so did morning in America and so did the confirmation of
the Reagan era. The real challenge here is for Democrats. Are they going
to stick with the president? Are they going to get wobbly? Are they going
to get afraid?
MR. GREGORY: I want to...
MR. SHRUM: Because if they don't hang together, they're going to hang
MR. GREGORY: I want to get to--I want to show some of the pictures. The
president was on the world stage this week while this debate was really
intensifying, traveling in Russian, then the G-8 meeting and then to
Ghana. The pictures from Ghana are striking, just from over the weekend,
as he visited, visited a slave prison with his family, an emotional tour
there. The response huge from the people of Ghana to America's first
In terms of image abroad, Karen Hughes, as a former counselor to the
president and as someone who was a head of public diplomacy at the State
Department as well, now we hear from the attorney general that he is
leaning toward, according to Newsweek, learning toward putting an
independent prosecutor in charge of investigating alleged torture during
the Bush administration. Do you agree with Senator McCain that that's a
MS. HUGHES: Well, I think it is potentially very harmful, because I,
everywhere I traveled as I tried to reach out on behalf of our country
around the world--and by the way, I, I applaud President Obama for trying
to reach out in the spirit of respect. That's exactly what President Bush
asked me to do for two and a half years as, as the undersecretary of
state for public diplomacy. But at some point it's more a matter--it's
less a matter of are you popular, or your outreach, as to are you
effective. And so let's look at what happened this week. It was a
great--great pictures, absolutely, in, in Africa. A very powerful moment
for the first African-American American president to go to the, the
continent of Africa. Some of the things that President Obama said there
were--sounded like echoes of, of President Bush, calling for more
transparency and for leaders of the continent to invest in their people,
invest in education and health.
But let's look at the results of this trip in Russia. Nice words were
exchanged, much as they were with President Putin and President Bush back
in Slovenia during their first meeting. And yet by the end of the week,
the president of Russia was basically warning our American president that
there will be no cuts in, in weapons as long--if he doesn't abandon the
missile defense system.
At the G-8 summit, they basically kicked the can down the road. They
said, "Well, we'll deal with climate change and, and the problem of a
nuclear Iran at the, at the G-20 and the U.N. in September."
MR. GREGORY: And I want to...
MR. SHRUM: Is he doing anything--is he doing anything right?
MR. GREGORY: I want to stay--but I want to--Bob Shrum, I want to stick on
this Eric Holder position: Should there be accountability for alleged
torture under the Bush administration?
MR. SHRUM: As I read what Holder is thinking about doing, it's--or
appointing someone to investigate people who acted outside of the
guidelines set by the Justice Department lawyers. I think if that is
actually what's come to light, he doesn't have much choice but to do
that, because what's been defended is the proposition that inside those
guidelines we're not going to, we're not going to go after people.
MR. GREGORY: I want to button this up with both of you on, on one topic,
I think a key point from this discussion, which is how will we know
whether the president is vulnerable on his overall agenda in terms of
going into this mid-term race?
Roger, I'll start with you. Quickly, from both of you.
MR. SIMON: How will we know if he's vulnerable?
MR. GREGORY: Vulnerable, or whether he's succeeding when it comes to the
MR. SIMON: Well, we'll see his poll numbers, for one. We'll see how the
party does. He's, he's--this is--he's just coming off--back to the trip
just for a second.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. SIMON: Because I think it makes a point. This is the first trip he
made, it seemed to me, that wasn't triumphant; that the American people
saw pictures of him in Ghana and they were very warm and emotional and
good, but also people are saying to themselves, you know, he's got a
healthcare plan he wants it wrapped up in August, but he's in Ghana in,
in mid-July. I, I think they're also going to be thrown way off track...
MR. GREGORY: OK.
MR. SIMON: ...by this truth commission.
MR. GREGORY: I...
MR. SIMON: He doesn't want the truth commission, because it's going to
throw everything else...
MR. GREGORY: All right. I'm flat, I'm flat out of time.
MR. SIMON: Oh.
MR. GREGORY: We're going to have to leave it there. Andrea, I'm sorry.
MS. MITCHELL: I know.
MR. GREGORY: Thanks very much. We'll be right back.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: A quick programming note here. Starting today, our
rebroadcast time on MSNBC cable is moving to 2 PM Eastern time Sunday
afternoons. Also, you can watch the full program online beginning Sundays
at 1 PM on our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com. So no excuse for missing the
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET