MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, the challenges weighing on the White
House at home and abroad. In Afghanistan, will the president commit to
more troops for the war as his commander on the ground wants? Iran, will
talks push that country to give up its nuclear weapons program?
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: If Iran does not take steps in the near future to
live up to its obligations, then the United States will not continue to
GREGORY: Our exclusive guest this morning, a key member of the
president's foreign policy team, the U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations, Susan Rice.
Then, the economy. Unemployment inches towards a staggering 10 percent
despite the massive stimulus. Where are the jobs?
PRES. OBAMA: Today's job report is a sobering reminder that progress
comes in fits and starts, that we're going to need to grind out this
recovery step by step.
GREGORY: Plus, prospects fade for a public option as part of the
healthcare plan. And the president goes for the gold but comes home empty
handed; the 2016 games to be held in Rio, not Chicago. Strong opinions
about what it all means: New York Times columnist David Brooks,
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and
Republican strategist Mike Murphy.
Finally, in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, remembering New York Times
columnist William Safire, who appeared on this program 99 times
throughout the course of his career.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: But first, news about Iran in this morning's
newspapers. The New York Times reports they may be closer now to
producing a nuclear weapon than originally thought. It comes as the chief
international weapons inspector arrived in Tehran last night and met this
morning with Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Was it--what does it
all mean for the administration's efforts now to negotiate with Iran?
Here with us live, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.
Ambassador Rice, welcome.
MS. SUSAN RICE: Thank you. Good to be with you.
GREGORY: Let's get right to this New York Times reporting this morning.
This is what the article actually says. The headline: "Report Says Iran
Has the Data to Make a Nuclear Bomb. Senior staff members of the United
Nations nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that
Iran has acquired `sufficient information to be able to design and
produce a workable' atom bomb. The report by experts in the IAEA stresses
in its introduction that its conclusions are tentative, subject to
further confirmation of the evidence, which it says came from
intelligence agencies and its own investigations. But the report's
conclusions, described by senior European officials, go well beyond the
public positions taken by several governments, including the United
States." First off, does the U.S. concur with these conclusions?
MS. RICE: Well, David, I'm not going to get into characterizing the
substance of a confidential report or our own intelligence. But suffice
it to say, our whole approach is predicated on an urgent need to prevent
Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capacity. And that's why a united
P5-plus-1 last week presented Iran with a very plain choice: Prove to our
satisfaction that their program is, as they claim, for peaceful purposes
and open up their facilities to inspections, freeze their uranium
enrichment program, commit, as they have done, and follow through on that
commitment to provide fuel for enrichment outside of the country or face
real pressure and consequences.
GREGORY: But they have the know-how to make a bomb.
MS. RICE: I'm not in a position to characterize that report or our own
intelligence. But the point is whether they have it now, whether they
seek it or whether they will obtain it down the road, we are very focused
on preventing that from occurring.
GREGORY: Well, why can't you say when you think they're going to have it
or if they have it now?
MS. RICE: Well, there are various assessments and they don't all align.
But the point is we share the concern that an Iran with nuclear weapons
would pose a great threat to U.S. national security and the security of,
of allies and partners in the region. And that is why we're very
determined to take the steps necessary to prevent them from obtaining
GREGORY: But given this report, given that the president has talked about
a deadline of September, what is the deadline for Iran to either put up,
to negotiate away its nuclear potential or face consequences?
MS. RICE: Well, we're very much in a, a period of intense negotiations
now. What happened last week was a constructive beginning, but it was
only a beginning, David. And the onus is now squarely on Iran to adhere
to the commitments it has made. If it doesn't, time is short. We're not
interested in talking for talking's sake, we're not interested in
interminable negotiations. They have to demonstrate conclusively that
their program is for peaceful purposes.
GREGORY: You talk about these--the potential for consequences. You won't
negotiate indefinitely. The question is how much leverage does the U.S.
really have? Charles Krauthammer, critical of the approach, saying,
"Look, you don't have China and Russia really on board." This is what he
wrote in an opinion piece on Friday: "Do the tally. In return for selling
out Poland and the Czech Republic by unilaterally abrogating a
missile-defense security arrangement that Russia had demanded be
abrogated, we get from Russia...what? An oblique hint, of possible
support, for unspecified sanctions grudgingly offered and of dubious
authority--and, in any case, leading nowhere because the Chinese have
remained resolute against any Security Council sanctions. Confusing ends
and means, the Obama administration strives mightily for shows of allied
unity, good feeling and pious concern about Iran's nuclear
program--whereas the real objective is stopping that program. This
feel-good posturing is worse than useless, because all the time spent
achieving gestures is precious time granted Iran to finish its race to
acquire the bomb." Is this a cat and mouse game?
MS. RICE: No. Look, this is a very serious process where we are together
aligned with the P5-plus-1--that's Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and
the United States--presenting Iran with a very stark choice: Either they
give up their nuclear weapons program conclusively to our satisfaction,
or they will face additional pressure. That is the agreed position of the
P5-PLUS-1. Now, it's, it's true that Russia and China have historically
resisted sanctions, but we have moved Russia and China in a very
constructive direction just recently on North Korea, where we now have in
place, with their unanimous support, the toughest Security Council
sanctions on any country in the world. We are united in presenting this
choice to Iran, and Iran new--now has the responsibility either to adhere
to its obligations internationally or face that pressure.
GREGORY: What, what crippling sanctions are you considering? What kind of
pressure against Iran if they don't comply?
MS. RICE: There are a range of, of sanctions, David, under consideration.
There are those that we might pursue multilaterally in the context of the
Security Council, there are others that we could do outside of the
Security Council with partners in Europe and elsewhere, and then there
are those that we can take by ourselves unilaterally. There's a wide
GREGORY: Economic sanctions?
MS. RICE: Economic and otherwise. But that is one option. But right now
we are in a period of intense negotiations. It's not a, it's not an
infinite period, it's a very finite period.
GREGORY: So what's the period?
MS. RICE: Well, we will--we have some very important milestones that we
GREGORY: I know, but the president...
MS. RICE: David...
GREGORY: The president has said September.
MS. RICE: This--no, the president said...
GREGORY: And now you're saying a finite period. So what, what's the
MS. RICE: The president said that we would take stock in September, and
indeed we did. And we presented Iran with a very stark choice on October
1st. Now we have some deadlines that the Iranians themselves have
committed to. They will meet October 19th at the expert level to discuss
the Tehran Research Reactor. That's an important step. ElBaradei, the
IAEA director, today confirmed that on October 25th the Qom reactor will
be open to IAEA inspections. The Iranians have also said that they will
come back to the table within the month of October. So we will look and
see whether those steps are indeed fulfilled. If they are, that will
indicate a degree of seriousness that we've not seen yet. If they're not
fulfilled, then obviously we are in a two-track posture and we have the
pressure track before us.
GREGORY: You talk about engagement with Iran. Most Americans, when they
think about a relationship with Iran, this is what they think about. They
think about the hostage crisis back in 1979. If I interview you a year
from now, what would you like to be able to say about the U.S.
relationship with Iran?
MS. RICE: I'd like to say that we are on track to conclusively prevent
Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capacity. You know, we've had many
years, David, of drift, where we have refused to engage in negotiations,
the Iranians have pursued their enrichment program unabated and we
haven't been able to put in tougher sanctions. We're in a different
place. We have unity among the P5, we have a clear opportunity here...
GREGORY: Yeah, but the question I asked was about what's, what's the
relationship the U.S. would like to have with Iran? What's the future
MS. RICE: Well, obviously the optimal outcome is an Iran without nuclear
weapons, that is peacefully integrated into the international community,
that no longer poses a threat to its neighbors, no longer supports
terrorism, treats its people with respect and allows them to participate
peacefully in a democratic process. That's the Iran we hope to see. Iran
has, and the people of Iran have a tremendous history and a great
opportunity to be much more constructive players in the international
community or they face another choice, and that's up to them. But we hope
very much that Iran would be in a position where it can be a responsible
GREGORY: Let's turn to Afghanistan and the other breaking news overnight,
insurgents storming an outpost, killing eight U.S. soldiers. Back in
August the president addressed the topic of Afghanistan, speaking to veterans, and
this is what he said.
(Videotape, August 17, 2009)
PRES. OBAMA: But we must never forget this is not a war of choice, this
is a war of necessity.
GREGORY: If this is a war of necessity, why wouldn't the president
immediately grant the request of his commanders to fully resource this
war of necessity?
MS. RICE: Well, let me begin by pointing out what has been and remains
our objective here. The objective, David, is to prevent al-Qaeda from
being in a position to launch attacks on the American homeland again. Our
goal is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and
Pakistan, and prevent it from obtaining safe haven to come and attack us
as they did on 9/11. That is the clear goal. The president set that out
in March. And he said in March, when he laid out the policy, that after
the Afghan elections in August we would review where we are; we would
review the goals, the methods and the resources needed to obtain them. In
the interim we've had several things happen. We've had General McChrystal
come in with his assessment of the situation on the ground. He has said
that the Taliban is, is gaining in strength and that, that we have a
somewhat deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. We've had
progress in Pakistan, critically important political security and even
economic progress. And at the same time we've had an election in
Afghanistan which has not lived up to the hopes and expectations of the
Afghan people. We are now in a process that I'm part of which is a very
responsible process to assess where we are, how the circumstances now
affect our strategic goals and what methods and resources we need to
GREGORY: But I just...
MS. RICE: That is a responsible, necessary process.
GREGORY: That may be the case. But the question I asked is, if this is a
war of necessity, as the president has said, then why would he not
immediately grant the wishes of his commanders to fully resource what is
a war of necessity, to fully resource--which was the promise made by
presidential aides after he launched his strategy--this war of necessity?
MS. RICE: We are fully resourcing it. We have put in place 21,000
additional troops. They are still completing their deployment. We have
increased the number of civilians and we have increased the financial
resources to Afghanistan and Pakistan substantially. The president has to
make a judgment based not only on the military assessment of his
commander on the ground, also the inputs of his diplomats, his
ambassadors. He has to look at the military, the security situation. We
have NATO partners involved. We also have Pakistan next door, which is
critically important to this equation, and the entire global effort to
fight and defeat al-Qaeda. The president, as commander in chief, has to
look at more than what is happening in a single theater. He has to look
at what is necessary to advance our goal of defeating al-Qaeda globally.
That's a clearly very important theater. We're going to do what is
necessary to accomplish our goal in Afghanistan, but we're not going to
do it without having taken stock, without going through a comprehensive
and responsible assessment where all voices are heard and the president
makes a judgment. There's no decision more serious, David, than putting
more Americans into harm's way. The president will do what is necessary
to keep America safe.
MS. RICE: But he's going to do it after a thoughtful and thorough
GREGORY: General McChrystal said this, speaking to military specialists
in London about the difference in views in the national security team
about whether you go in with kind of a lighter footprint, without
committing more forces, just focus on counterterrorism. This is what he
said earlier this week.
GEN. STANLEY McCHRYSTAL: You have to navigate from where you are, not
from where you wish you were. A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan
in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.
GREGORY: Is the president committed to at least not leaving Afghanistan
unless it is stable?
MS. RICE: The president is committed to doing what is essential to keep
America safe. And obviously we have made important and substantial
investments in Afghanistan. We are not talk--nobody's talking about
walking away from Afghanistan.
GREGORY: No, but will the president stay in Afghanistan as long--until it
MS. RICE: The, the president will do what is necessary to keep America
safe. And that relates not only to Afghanistan, but Pakistan, where we
face a very serious...
GREGORY: But you won't commit to staying in Afghanistan until it's
MS. RICE: We'll, we'll commit to staying in Afghanistan as long as it
takes to keep America safe, David. We have challenges and threats...
GREGORY: But those could be two different things, right?
MS. RICE: They have--there are challenges and threats that face the
United States that come from multiple quarters.
GREGORY: Right. But you can see, those, those could be two different
MS. RICE: They may or may not be two different things. I'm not going to
prejudge the outcome of this review. It's a very important step that
needs to be taken to ensure that we are not just reacting and operating
on autopilot. The president's responsibility to the American people is to
look at circumstances as they evolve, to make a judgment about what is
necessary in the current circumstances to ensure that we are doing all
that we can to prevent al-Qaeda from being in a position to attack us,
whether in--from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Southeast Asia or any of
the other places where we have been active and on the offensive against
GREGORY: Is politics the biggest factor here?
MS. RICE: Absolutely not.
GREGORY: Is the, the political pressure from the left not to escalate in
the war a big factor for the president?
MS. RICE: Absolutely not. This is a president who is going to do what is
necessary, irrespective of politics, to protect the American people.
GREGORY: In the short amount of time left, going for the gold in
Copenhagen. Was it a mistake for the president to go out on the world
stage and, and be rebuffed by the IOC and not bring the games home?
MS. RICE: It's never a mistake for the president of the United States to
be willing to fight and compete on behalf of our country. And that's what
he did, and he would do it again in a nanosecond. This is--this was about
competing with three other compelling candidacies for the Olympics and
bringing that home to the United States. The day I'll get concerned is
when we have a president in the White House who refuses to fight for the
United States and compete because he's concerned about pundits or, or
GREGORY: Finally, you--talking about the United Nations, the body where
you are now serving as our ambassador. Recently during the U.N. General
Assembly Meeting in New York, Americans saw this kind of parade of
anti-Americanism. You see Chavez of Venezuela, Ahmadinejad of Iran and
Khaddafy--who, you know, may still be speaking for as far as we know. You
once said that the U.N. is imperfect but it is also indispensable. When
you look at that showing, what is the indispensable part?
MS. RICE: David, there are 192 countries in the United Nations. You
picked out three that provided some barroom drama during the course of
the General Assembly. The United Nations is critically important to our
national security because it is the one place that we can marshal with
the force of law the commitment of other nations to do things that we
need to protect our security. For example, when we got the Security
Council last June to pass the toughest sanctions on the books today
against any country in the world, North Korea, we got something that was
much more powerful than anything we could muster on our own. We are not
able, given transnational threats, proliferation, terrorism, climate
change, pandemic, to tackle these challenges along. No country is, even
one as powerful as our own. We need to marshal the active support of
others. Now, sometimes the U.N. falls short, it doesn't do all that we
want it to do, and particularly in cases like human rights and, and, and
cases of atrocities. And that's an area where we need to, to push for
improvements. But when it comes to issues of critical importance to our
security, like proliferation, like terrorism, we have seen progress come
from the United Nations when we can get them to come together and
pressure countries like North Korea to do what is necessary to keep us
and others safer.
GREGORY: All right, Ambassador Susan Rice, good luck with your work.
MS. RICE: Thank you.
GREGORY: Thank you very much.
MS. RICE: Good to be with you.
GREGORY: Up next, unemployment rises while prospects for a public option
on health care fall. All the while, the president makes a failed bid for
the 2016 Olympics in Chicago. What it all means with our roundtable:
David Brooks, E.J. Dionne, Rachel Maddow and Mike Murphy. Plus, our MEET
THE PRESS Minute, remembering our longtime panelist William Safire, only
on MEET THE PRESS.
GREGORY: Our special roundtable weighs in on health care, Iran,
Afghanistan and the economy after this brief commercial break.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: All right, we are back and joined now by our powerful
roundtable: Mike Murphy, Rachel Maddow, David Brooks and E.J. Dionne.
Welcome to everybody. Lot to get to here, including health care and the
economy and the big left/right divide in the country politically. But I
want to start on Afghanistan. And I thought Ambassador Rice was
interesting on this point, this question of whether the U.S., whether
this president is committed to keeping America safe in terms of
Afghanistan or staying there until Afghanistan is actually stable. I want
to go back to this August speech he gave to veterans, because I think
it's important. And this is what he said.
(Videotape, August 17, 2009)
PRES. OBAMA: This is not only a war worth fighting, this is a--this is
fundamental to the defense of our people.
GREGORY: "Fundamental to the defense of our people," David Brooks, a war
of necessity. Will this president make good on those pledges with the
decision he'll make on troops?
MR. DAVID BROOKS: I actually think he will. You know, they had this long
meeting this week in the White House, 18 people in the Situation Room for
three and a half hours, and they were exploring all the options. And
basically, I think they'll come to the point that if you look
historically at what's worked to defeat counterinsurgency, there's only
one thing that's worked historically, and that's what McChrystal is
suggesting, which is protecting the population. The fear I have--and you
saw it in the press reports and, frankly, you saw it from Susan Rice
today--is they're redefining the standard. And the standard you might
call the al-Qaeda standard. And that standard is, "Well, the Taliban can
take over, that's fine, as long as al-Qaeda doesn't come back." So
allowing a Taliban victory. And if the people who want to get out are
redefining the war as "a Taliban victory is acceptable to us," to me,
that's a huge mistake.
GREGORY: Rachel Maddow, I asked about the politics and she had none of
it, saying that it's not a political consideration. But it is a political
consideration. They've met with historians, they know about the Vietnam
example, and members of his party are not supportive of escalating this
MS. RACHEL MADDOW: I think that there's, I think that there's a
willingness on the Democratic side to allow some time, whereas I think on
the Republican side you're seeing these accusations of dithering, that it
needs to go faster and faster. I do think there's a partisan divide
there. But, you know, the idea of counterinsurgency theory, it, it does
have an innate appeal, I think, to liberals and Democrats, because
liberals and Democrats sort of believe in policy, believe that
governments can make constructive decisions about problems in the world
that governments can then fix. But we're entering year nine. And as much
as counterinsurgency theory says you've got to stick with it and protect
the population, doesn't have much to say about how to wage a successful
counterinsurgency staring in year nine of a war you've already been in
for this long.
GREGORY: And, Mike Murphy, this is the question: What's the politics
here? Where's the public? The public is not engaged in fighting in
Afghanistan indefinitely. The president knows that.
MR. MIKE MURPHY: Right. The politics are awful, because the real choice
is binary--excuse me--you either leave or you triple down, because we
know the way that works in counterinsurgency theory and we've learned
from the mistakes of nine years is to flood the place with American
troops to bring stability. In the short term that will be a victory
militarily, maybe politically in Afghanistan. But back here at home it's
a huge political price to pay for the president. So what they're trying
to do, like all politicians do in the White House, is romance their way
into a third way, where there's some more troops but not a lot more
troops, and then kind of nuance the politics. That's a critical mistake.
You've got to be either all the way in or all the way out, or the
politics are going to kill you. Because victory is the one solution.
MS. MADDOW: Unless going all the way in doesn't make sense either.
MR. E.J. DIONNE: See, I think that's the critical mistake is that, you
know, you, you cast it as a choice. "If you don't do what General
McChrystal says then you're abandoning the place, and that's the only
alternative." They don't want a commitment that's going to last five
years, involve over 100,000 troops and cost maybe a trillion dollars, you
know. But the sin number one, we went to war in Iraq, ignored Afghanistan
for six years. General McChrystal's own report is very candid. If you
want to do counterinsurgency right, you need good governance. And he
talks about all of the problems with governance and corruption and
unresponsiveness in Afghanistan. I think what they are looking for is a
responsible way to defeat al-Qaeda. And the president's original
commitment back in March was to disrupt, destroy and defeat al-Qaeda. And
that's the heart of our interest in Afghanistan, and they're not going to
MR. MURPHY: But that's a change. That's a change, yeah.
MR. BROOKS: That's, that's, that's, that's the change, and that's a
terrible change. First of all, Taliban would take over, which would be a
moral atrocity in large parts of the country. And secondly, what we're
really fighting about here is Pakistan. The Taliban...
MR. DIONNE: And Pakistan is going better now than it was before, and we
are beating the, the al-Qaeda now.
MR. BROOKS: Well, a little better. But the Taliban is a cross-border
Pashtun movement which is threatening the Pakistan regime. They have 50
to 100 nuclear weapons. That's the real game here. And if we somehow
redefine victory as backwards so we can control al-Qaeda, that would
MR. DIONNE: Nobody's talking about...
MS. MADDOW: But if we, but if we are trying to present some sort of a
solution here that involves us supplanting the Taliban, that the Taliban
would otherwise take over if we're not there, what sort of solution is
that for Afghanistan? I mean, ultimately we can't win a counterinsurgency
for the Afghan people. Read "Counterinsurgency Doctor," and what they say
is good luck if you're a third party country coming in and doing this.
Afghanistan needs to be running counterinsurgency, not the United States
GREGORY: And we don't, we don't have a reliable partner.
MS. MADDOW: We certainly don't.
MR. MURPHY: Well, we don't. But that's the point McChrystal makes in, in
his document, which I think is very persuasive. The only way to build the
Afghans in the situation where they can--where we can win a
counterinsurgency war is to win the population. The only way to win the
population is to guarantee security. That means a hell of a lot more
troops. Politically, incredibly painful, but it is the only strategy to
stabilize Afghanistan. The other strategy, get all the way out and try to
make some sort of fortress Pakistan.
MR. DIONNE: Nobody's talking about getting all the way out.
MR. MURPHY: No, no, but, but hang on. My point is the politics of getting
all the way out are really bad; the politics of doing what you have to do
to win are really bad. There's no easy political path here for the Obama
administration, which is why they're, they're in this flux.
MR. DIONNE: They know it.
MR. MURPHY: I know. I know.
MS. MADDOW: There, there are no, there are no good--there are...
MR. DIONNE: There's no easy political path here.
MR. MURPHY: But they have to make a decision. This isn't a campaign, it's
running the country.
GREGORY: So let me take, let me take--from the very serious and the dire
to something on a lighter note that makes a serious point about this
priority and what the president has accomplished or has not yet
accomplished, and we turn to an incredible source and that is "Saturday
Night Live." Watch.
(Videotape, "Saturday Night Live," last night)
GREGORY: Does the biting satire, Rachel Maddow, have a point, as it
raises the question: Has the president brought the change that he
MS. MADDOW: The idea that the wars that Bush and Cheney started, that
they didn't win, he hasn't been able to wrap up in less than a year, it's
true that you could make great satire out of that, the idea that that
should be the standard that...
GREGORY: Right. Well, but, but, but a lot of people on the left have,
have been critical about, about the wars in particular...
MS. MADDOW: Sure.
GREGORY: ...and other things that have not yet been accomplished.
MS. MADDOW: I've been probably among the most critical. But even I
wouldn't expect it to be done by now.
MR. MURPHY: The reason that bit is funny is because it's true. The
honeymoon is over. They have not--they had tremendous expectations going
in. That's the hangover of any successful campaign where you make huge
promises. Now reality has hit, and that's the difficulty they're having
now; domestic policy, with the economy, with health care and Afghanistan
and everywhere else. The wheel's turning.
MR. BROOKS: Yeah. Government is hard. You know, a lot of what they're
doing--they can promise to close Guantanamo, for example, to take one
case. But it's actually hard to close it. They can promise to employ
sanctions on Iran, it's actually hard to do it. A lot of ways they're
continuing the Bush foreign policy--the second term Bush foreign policy,
not the Cheney one.
MR. DIONNE: You know, hooray we live--first, hooray we live in a country
where we do that week after week to any president of the United States.
GREGORY: Yeah, right.
MR. DIONNE: And the fact is that they are going to get a healthcare bill
at the end of year. I think what was missing from that list that is
really a problem for them is the economic situation, where on the one
hand they can argue, and I think they're right, that they helped keep us
from falling off a cliff. That's a good thing. But 9.8 percent
unemployment is not such a good thing. And I think what you're going to
see once they get a healthcare bill, which I think they will, is a lot
more attention to doing something about jobs. They're not going to call
it a second stimulus, but I think they're going to do more, because that
level of unemployment is not good substantively or politically.
GREGORY: E.J. Dionne, I really think you should be a television producer,
because you couldn't have set me up any better than just that.
MR. DIONNE: I like to help.
GREGORY: Yes, thank you. Because such a big topic that people have been
talking about all week long is the economy. The news, of course, that the
unemployment rate has hit 9.8 percent, highest level in 26 years. And
here's The Wall Street Journal: "Jobs Data Cloud the Recovery." Look at
this chart of the unemployment rate since the recession began; December
'07 when it was 4.8 percent, now at 9.8 percent, expected to go to 10
percent before too long. Vice President Biden, who has been behind the
stimulus efforts, a key part of the economic recovery as represented by
this administration, spoke about all of this on Friday.
VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN: There will be peaks and valleys in this process.
This is not a straight line to recovery. But we are recovering. We will
GREGORY: We are recovering. We will recover. Which is it?
MR. BROOKS: Well, we're, we're not getting jobs. You know, when the
stimulus package passed, the White House put out a chart of what it--what
the country would look like if it passed. And the unemployment rate peaks
at around--about 9, and then it comes down to--at this point we should be
around 7. We're not around 7, we're at 9.8. Now, they say, "Well, it
would have been worse without us." A lot of people say this shows it
didn't work. The fundamental problem is that for 30 years we went on a
spending binge. We are now recovering from that spending binge. There is
no magic elixir you can create to ease the pain of that. The economy has
to come back to some sustainable level, with some sustainable level of
debt, and there's just nothing we can do to, to make that hangover even
MS. MADDOW: The problem, though, is we didn't get here into this
particular crisis, the crisis that started where that graph started in
December '07, because of big government spending. We got there because of
a collapse of the financial system brought on in large part by bad
regulatory decisions. I mean, you can make a lot of this--you can make a
lot of arguments about how it happened, but that's part of it. It's not
just spending. And it may be that spending is identified by you as part
of the problem here, but I think it's a great--there's a great argument
to be made that it is definitely the solution, too. When E.J. says they
may not call it a second stimulus, I think you're right, because I think
stimulus has been turned into a toxic term. But I do think fiscal
policy's going to be a big part of bringing in unemployment back to
MR. BROOKS: I...
MR. MURPHY: You know, the...
GREGORY: Go ahead, David. Go ahead.
MR. BROOKS: Well, where's the money going to come from? I mean, I
think--talking to Democrats, the money is just not there. They will wrap
some of the, some of this into a transportation bill, but the money is
just not there. I find no hunger for a second stimulus, absolutely. And
the second thing, it's not federal spending that got us into this mess,
it's private debt. It's credit card debt. It's a fundamental societal
problem. And we can try to train, train--change the sort of the fizz of
private debt for a lot more public debt, and we're doing some of that,
but it's simply not going to get us out of this problem.
GREGORY: But that's also the question--well, Mike, let me turn to you on
MR. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.
GREGORY: Which is should there be a focus on relieving the debt, reducing
the debt or should, as a lot of more liberal economists are saying,
you've got to keep priming the pump if you're going to do something
specifically about jobs?
MR. MURPHY: Well, I, I'm with David on this. I don't think out of control
spending is a solution to pain created by a generation of bipartisan out
of control spending. But the politics is going to take this over. Because
even though Washington's obsessed with health care, a huge issue, in the
kitchen tables of America jobs are the issue. And in the kitchen table
politics that are going to rule the midterm elections the Obama stimulus
strategy, the type of way--the type of methods he used to inject money
into the economy, kind of taking a big curve through the spending
machinery of the Democrat interest groups, has been a failure. People
think it's a failure in their kitchen table. Perception's reality in
politics. And we're heading toward a bad midterm for the Democrats which
is going to change a lot of these politics, and I think there'll be a
backlash against this kind of spending.
GREGORY: E.J., what's fair about that is that people know one thing: The
banks did get bailed out, they seem to be doing a lot better.
MR. DIONNE: Exactly.
GREGORY: But people are still out of their jobs.
MR. DIONNE: Right. Well, there are a lot of people who think the banks
got a lot more money than they did, which is always a problem when you
are a Democrat in power.
MR. DIONNE: And of course, the bailouts started under Bush. But David, to
his credit, good conservatives are blaming capitalism. He's not talking
about government, he's saying that the system itself didn't work because
we accumulated all this debt. And we ought to be smart enough as a
country to say you do things sequentially. When you are in a hole
economically, you need to dig out. That's a time when you need
government. There's a time later to bring spending into balance. And I
think what Obama's going to do is to try to lay out a vision that in the
short term we got to get people back to work, and in the long term we've
got to deal with the debt.
GREGORY: Well, well, let me--first of all...
MR. DIONNE: And that's possible.
GREGORY: Let me show you some really interesting numbers that you may not
have seen this week. We'll put it up on the screen. Seventeen percent,
that's the broad unemployment rate when it includes people who are
working part-time who can't get a full-time job. Thirty-three, the
average number of hours in a work week. Why? Because employers are not
fully employing their workers, they're working more part-time than
full-time. And that--they may move them back up to 40 before they hire
more people. And then 64,000, the number of construction jobs lost in
September. All of these numbers, striking. Is the president doing a good
enough job selling government as the solution?
MR. DIONNE: No. I think he needs to do a better job to push back against
a lot of empty anti-government rhetoric. He's tried, at the end of that
healthcare speech, to do precisely, to do precisely that. But I think
there is more work that needs to be done. But your numbers point to the
real problem we have, which is even in a recovery employers are not going
to hire new people before they give those people they already have more
hours. That's why it is going to take us a long time to get out of this.
MR. BROOKS: But where's the proof it's working?
MR. MURPHY: Yeah. Where are the jobs?
MR. BROOKS: We have, we have a stimulus package, we're spending hundreds
of billions of dollars we don't have. They promised it would bring
unemployment rate down to 7, it hasn't done so.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah, there are no jobs from this program.
MS. MADDOW: Well, what was the alternate plan? The Republican plan, the
alternate plan to the stimulus was a five-year spending freeze.
MR. MURPHY: Well...
MS. MADDOW: How, how would we be doing right now?
MR. BROOKS: No, no, no.
MS. MADDOW: Five year...
MR. BROOKS: No, the Republicans had a $450 billion stimulus package.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah.
MR. BROOKS: The, the problem could be we could just pump money into the
economy. People are scaling back. We could pump money in, but people want
to get their balance sheets balanced and so they're just not going to
spend money no matter how much government puts in. What the economists
call the multiplier effect, you're just going to have a small multiplier
effect. You're not going to generate a lot of economic activity with
federal spending, and that's just going to be our situation.
MR. MURPHY: And there were bipartisan ways to put that money into the
economy a lot faster than his plan did.
MR. DIONNE: What...
MR. MURPHY: It went through the appropriations way. If he'd lived up to
his campaign rhetoric and had a bipartisan approach, he could've got a
payroll tax holiday for working people, would've put a lot of consumption
money into the economy a lot quicker.
MS. MADDOW: A bipartisan approach on stimulus? Really? Bipartisan
MR. MURPHY: Yeah, absolutely.
MS. MADDOW: The Republicans would be willing to go along with that?
MR. MURPHY: If it was a payroll tax holiday, you would've got at least
half of the caucus.
MS. MADDOW: That's hysterical.
MR. DIONNE: The real problem is in making a deal with some Republicans,
they cut aid to states. What's helping pull this back, states are raising
taxes and cutting spending. You need a lot more help to state
governments, and Obama had more of it and it was gotten rid of in this
GREGORY: But let's--if there's a bumper sticker to be found you can
probably find it on Twitter, because that's where there are a lot of--140
characters or less. And here the president goes this week, makes the
personal bid to get the Olympics to Chicago. He doesn't get it despite
the personal appeal. And there on Twitter is former House Speaker Newt
Gingrich, and he posts this. He says, "President Obama fails to get the
Olympics while unemployment goes to 9.8% Iran continues nuclear program."
While you were away, there was some bad news. It was an unfortunate fact
for the president.
MS. MADDOW: Well, the unseemly cheering on the right for America losing
its Olympic bid I think is going to be the taste that lingers a long time
after this failure. Certainly the president tried to get something and he
didn't get it, and people who hate the president feel like that's a cause
for celebration. But to see, for example, the Weekly Standard post
"Chicago loses, Chicago loses, cheers erupt at Weekly Standard
headquarters" I think says a lot more about the Weekly Standard, it says
a lot more about the right right now than it does about this loss. In
2012, London got the Olympics after Blair tried for them; in 2014,
Russian got them--Russia got them after Putin tried for them; and in 2016
all four finalists had their head of government or head of state to make
the argument. Obama did nothing unreasonable. And it would've been a
shock if Chicago won. For them to be cheering America's loss here on the
right I think is sort of disgusting.
MR. MURPHY: I'm, I'm enjoying the irony of the left attacking people's
patriotism after complaining about it during every Republican campaign.
But there are two big issues here. One, the president looks weak, it's
bad politics for him. I was for the Olympics here. But there's a second
thing going on which is inside Washington stuff, but important. I think
last week it was pretty clear that Valerie Jarrett's running the White
House, because this was amateur staff work. You never send the president
of the United States around the world to something where you don't know
MR. BROOKS: Yeah. There were, there were a bunch of senators...
MS. MADDOW: But...
MR. MURPHY: And I--this is--yes, something's up. And we will see.
MR. BROOKS: When Obama went, I would say most senators, Democrat or
Republican, thought, "Oh, we've got it in the back. There's no way he
would possibly go unless we have it."
MR. DIONNE: Right.
MR. BROOKS: So there is that internal Washington story. Nonetheless, I
have to say I'm with Obama on this. He took a risk. He comes away
somewhat humiliated, but he took a risk for his town, he took a risk for
his country. He put the country ahead of his own personal prestige. He
lost one. I actually don't mind it. I think, I think he was all, all
right on this.
MR. DIONNE: First of all, I think Rachel is right on this issue of the
right cheering. I mean, John McCain's slogan was "country first," and in
this case it was Obama hatred first on the right, not the country.
But on Obama, I think one of the things that went wrong here is that our
Olympics Committee, the Chicago Olympics Committee counted the votes
completely wrong. People on that Olympics Committee seemed to lie even
more than they do in congressional leadership races. But they counted
wrong. They told the White House, I am told, you know, "If you go, we got
it in the bag." Boy, were they wrong about that.
GREGORY: Well, because the IOC...
MR. DIONNE: I think they should've done...
MR. BROOKS: This is the problem with Chicago. I mean, in those days they
could steal any election. Chicago is in decline.
MR. MURPHY: Exactly, exactly. I don't like the, the fact that the White
House or the staff--and again, I think the professional staff is ignored
here--can get rolled by the Brazilian minister of sport. That bothers me.
MS. MADDOW: You know, but listen. Every, every member of every country
that was in the finals sent a head of government or a head of state. The
MR. MURPHY: But there's a difference, Rachel.
MS. MADDOW: The last--but the last two Olympic--it isn't.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah. The president of the United States...
MS. MADDOW: We're America, it's different.
MR. MURPHY: ...is a special category, a one, and you don't put a
president in that position in a competent staff.
MS. MADDOW: Sure. And tell a Spaniard that King Carlos is second, second
rate. I mean, at this point...
MR. MURPHY: King Carlos knows deep down he's second rate to the president
of the United States.
MS. MADDOW: Oh, I'm sure our, I'm sure our...
MR. MURPHY: That's the difference between the Republican and the Democrat
MS. MADDOW: You are huge, you are huge in Spain right now, Mike.
MR. MURPHY: I am. They love me...(unintelligible).
GREGORY: Right, right.
MR. MURPHY: Murphy and Mike, Twitter.
MS. MADDOW: It would've been a shock if Obama didn't try for it, and it
would've been a shock if Chicago won.
GREGORY: All right. I, I want to get to something that, that is playing
out here in our conversation that, that I think is significant, the
left/right divide in our politics as sharp as it's ever been. Last week
on the program I interviewed Bill Clinton, and I asked him if he thought
the vast right wing conspiracy was alive and well and he said, "You bet
it is. It's as virulent as ever," though he thinks the demographics have
changed. We have this this week, Tom Friedman writing in The New York
Times that the political environment is one in which violence is possible
in the way that there was in Israel before Rabin was assassinated. We
have this on the House floor in the healthcare debate, Alan Grayson from
Florida saying this about Republicans.
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D-FL): The Republican healthcare plan is this: Die
quickly. That's right, the Republicans want you to die quickly if you get
GREGORY: We have Peggy Noonan writing in The Wall Street Journal this
week that there's a level of shrillness in the debate that is not helping
America. Rachel Maddow, what is the significance of the left/right divide
in the country right now, and what's, what's the end game for both sides?
MS. MADDOW: I think it's--I think we always lament the sharpness of our
partisan divide. I don't think there's ever been a time where we felt
very "Kumbaya" for the--as, as left and right, except for bad reasons,
because the country was facing real adversity. And I think that the
left/right fight is healthy. I mean, I, as a, as a liberal, I want
conservatives and the Republican Party to be robust and, and
participating in a, in a strong argument that, that advances the
country's interests. I'm not hoping for the demise of my enemies. I do
think that we've got vituperative language, language on both sides, and I
think it should be damned on both sides.
GREGORY: Is it a pox on both houses, Grayson and, and the congressman
from South Carolina?
MS. MADDOW: No. I mean, Alan Grayson, Democrats were, "Wow, a Democrat
did it." I mean, this follows on the House floor just this year
Republican members of Congress saying...
GREGORY: But he's talking about the death of the uninsured Americans as a
holocaust. I mean, is it...
MS. MADDOW: He apologized for the holocaust, and I pressed him to
apologize for the holocaust comment on my, on my show.
MS. MADDOW: But listen, this, this year we've heard Republicans say that
the Democratic plan is drop dead. We've had Republicans say that the plan
is to kill senior citizens. That's all been said on the House floor. But
that's so normal for Republicans...
MR. BROOKS: But this is...
MR. MURPHY: You know what the problem is, though?
MS. MADDOW: ...for Republicans right now that it hasn't attracted any
attention. Nobody demanded Ginny Brown-Waite apologize.
MR. BROOKS: Yeah, I think this is a media circus, and this is not where
the country is. If you're trying to build an audience for your talk radio
show of a few million people this works, this solidifies the audience.
It's not where the country is. We have more independents in this country
than Democrats or Republicans. Even on the Republican side we've got, you
know, frankly, people I consider loons and harmful for America: Glenn
Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, all these guys. They don't control the
Republican Party. They were all against John McCain in South Carolina in
the last primary season. They--and John McCain won the South Carolina
primary. These talk radio guys couldn't control Republican voters in, in
primaries in South Carolina. They have actually no power over real
Americans. It's a media circus. Most Americans are where they have always
been, sort of center-right independents.
GREGORY: You think there's no influence here?
MR. MURPHY: Yeah, I agree with that. What's happened is we've
created--there is kind of a freak show business now of, of each side
which amplifies the shrillest voices. We have one-party cable networks
now, one of each, and what that does is dumbs down the debate.
Everything's argument by noise, by hot language and by anecdotes, you
know, so facts and more complicated debate is pushed out because it's not
loud and colorful enough.
MS. MADDOW: Is Joe...
MR. MURPHY: It cheapens the debate.
MS. MADDOW: Wait, is, is Joe Scarborough, which network is he on? Which
MR. MURPHY: He's on your liberal network.
MS. MADDOW: So he's the--how is that a one-party network?
MR. MURPHY: I would take your prime time and Fox prime time and say it is
kind of a--the same dance toward the dumbing of debate.
MR. DIONNE: Let--you know, I think that the media does play a role in the
wacky part of this. There's a good left/right debate to be had. Democrats
have been trying to make a case that if you don't reform health care a
lot of bad things will happen to people over time. That doesn't get
attention. But when Grayson goes on the floor, suddenly he gets that
point across because that's what the media covers. David, the price--a
Democratic congressman from North Carolina told me he had a town meeting,
1,000 people in Durham, really good town meeting, real debate, but it
didn't blow up. A TV producer told him before the meeting, "If your
meeting doesn't blow up, it doesn't get on television." So I think if
we're going to bemoan a certain kind of harshness, we got to ask
ourselves the question, what gets reported? And does it take Alan Grayson
to go to the floor to do that to make a substantive point about health
MR. BROOKS: Yeah.
MS. MADDOW: But again, this isn't new. I mean, it's all--it's always led
if it bled. It always--we've always covered conflict over stasis.
MR. MURPHY: But it's worse now.
MS. MADDOW: It may be worse now because that--we've got, we've got, you
know, low stakes cable shows who are getting all the attention in prime
MR. MURPHY: Well...
MS. MADDOW: And you can call that dumb if you want.
MR. MURPHY: Right.
MS. MADDOW: But it happens to be that the press has always followed
GREGORY: But there, but, but...
MR. MURPHY: I don't think that's the press.
MS. MADDOW: And I don't think that means that conflict is not important.
GREGORY: Well, wait a minute. But there's--but there is--there's real
influence--there is real political influence--to take you on, David--when
we talk about a certain someone, Sarah Palin, whose new book is coming
out, "Going Rogue: An American Life." I sat down with John McCain at the
Atlantic Forum this week in Washington and asked him the following.
GREGORY: Which part of Sarah Palin's book are you most looking forward to
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): The, the, the part I'm, I'm looking forward to
most is the part where it energized our campaign and it put us--her
selection put us ahead in the polls. The part I'm looking forward to
least is some of the disagreements that, that took place within the
GREGORY: The master of subtlety.
MR. BROOKS: I...(unintelligible).
MS. MADDOW: (Unintelligible)
GREGORY: But, but, but, but the issue of influence, whether the, the
harshness of the debate becomes what controls the politics and ultimately
influences who emerges to the top of a political party, which is still a
question for Republicans.
MR. BROOKS: There's no evidence--Barack Obama was not evidence of that
harshness, John McCain was not evidence of that harshness. The people who
actually vote, even in primaries, who are pretty hard-core people, they
don't go for that. So it's a, it's a margin on the edge. And if Sarah
Palin is the nominee, the Republican nominee, I'll eat my hat. I'll eat
this cup on the air. But she will not be, because people just don't like
that style of politics.
GREGORY: Steve, Steve Schmidt, who ran the McCain campaign, also spoke at
this forum, and he said the following: "I think that she has talents, but
my honest view is that she would not be a winning candidate for the party
in '12. And in fact, were she to be the nominee, we could have a
catastrophic election result. ... In the year since the election has
ended, she has done nothing to expand her appeal beyond the base."
MR. DIONNE: You know, I wish Sarah Palin well. I think it would be
wonderful if the Republican Party nominated Sarah Palin the next time
around. It would actually be an interesting test that we really need:
Does this kind of far-right politics work? And I agree with David, it
doesn't. It's not where the country is. Unfortunately for the Democrats,
that means I agree the Republicans aren't going to nominate Sarah Palin.
MR. DIONNE: But she'll sell a lot of books.
MR. MURPHY: No, she will sell a lot. I'm, I'm going to buy it. I'm going
to wait for it to get spell-checked, but then I'm going to buy it.
GREGORY: Right. And she's number--I should point out, I mean, number one
on the best-seller list for Amazon.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah. No, no, look, she has a constituency. She'll never be
the nominee, I totally agree with David. I agree with Steve Schmidt, it
would be actually a disaster if she was the nominee. I do wish my friend
Steve felt that a year ago when a lot of people were asking John McCain
to put her on the ticket. But the truth is--and I'm going to agree with
David here, too--the noisiest parts of kind of the conservative media
machine have far less influence than the mainstream media machine that
covers the Republican world thinks they do. These radio guys can't
deliver a pizza, let alone a nomination. And you can case study that out
in the last election. So I--the question is whether or not our party will
learn, when we have a pretty good midterm victory due to Obama's mistakes
this time, that turning up the volume is not the reason that we're going
to do well, I believe, in the midterms. And the fact is to get all the
way, there are a lot of things we have to do to modernize conservativism
to be successful.
MS. MADDOW: I, I do think that there's a little bit of reckoning that
needs to happen on the right for Sarah Palin's success. I mean, she was
the vice presidential nominee, she is going to sell a kazillion books and
she is the biggest brand name in Republican politics still right now. And
she's chose--the person who's writing her book, her last--the last person
who she co-authored a book with was called "Donkey Cons" and it was
co-authored with a guy who's widely believed to be and I believe him to
be a white supremacist. So she's chosen Lynn Vincent, who's written a
book with a white supremacist, to write her book, and she's the biggest
name in Republican politics.
MR. MURPHY: Oh, but, Rachel...
MS. MADDOW: And you can dismiss her and say she's not going to be the
nominee, but I do think the right needs to sort of answer for what's
happened to conservatism.
MR. MURPHY: But let me just say, I am a well-documented non-fan of Sarah
Palin, at least as a national politician. I don't know her personally.
But that's guilt by association stuff. That's the cable stuff. That's the
MS. MADDOW: But why would you--you can pick anybody to be your
MR. MURPHY: Sarah Palin's a lot of things, but she's not a white
MS. MADDOW: You could--no, I don't think she is. But when you can pick
anybody, why would she pick somebody who's associated with the League of
the South, who said that Americans are revolted by the idea of having a
black sister-in-law. I mean, she--this is who she picked to write her
MR. MURPHY: Yeah, but there's...
MS. MADDOW: Why do you do that?
MR. MURPHY: That's sort of guilt by association stuff, which I don't know
and it can--I--check it out.
MS. MADDOW: It's guilt by choice. It's guilt by choice.
MR. MURPHY: It is, is so, so not important to the central questions in
the country right now. But that's what cable TV has become, so I...
MS. MADDOW: Sarah Palin's popularity is a central question in the
Republican Party right now.
GREGORY: Quickly, E.J.
MS. MADDOW: And you can make fun of her, but it doesn't make it go away.
MR. DIONNE: Forget guilt by association. Governor Rick Perry may win a
Republican primary because he talked about secession. You haven't had
somebody win an election on secession since 1858.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah. E.J., I can tell you...
MR. DIONNE: There's a radical strain in the Republican Party. It's not
guilt by association, it's right out there.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah, but look...
GREGORY: All right, final thought here, Mike.
MR. MURPHY: Professional political consultant, that one line which you're
deducing a complete definition of Perry from, who I oppose in that
primary, is not the reason he's going to win.
GREGORY: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. The debate
will go on. Thank you all very much. We're going to continue our
discussion online with Mike and Rachel and ask them some questions that
our viewers submitted via e-mail and Twitter. Watch our MEET THE PRESS
Take Two Web Extra, it's up this afternoon on our Web site, newly
redesigned. Plus, look for updates from me throughout the week. It's all
And up next, our MEET THE PRESS Minute, remembering Pulitzer
Prize-winning New York Times columnist and longtime MEET THE PRESS
panelist William Safire, only here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Political columnist, wordsmith and longtime MEET THE
PRESS panelist William Safire died last Sunday at the age of 79. He
appeared on this program amazingly 99 times over his career. And one of
our favorites, in January of 1996, to discuss one of his most talked
(Videotape, January 14, 1996)
MR. TIM RUSSERT: And in this corner, the man whom Bill Clinton would like
to punch in the nose, William Safire.
Mr. Safire, welcome.
MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE: Greetings.
RUSSERT: Let me take a look at the screen here and show our viewers the
week you had. First, on Monday, a column in which you said the first lady
was a congenital liar. The White House then responded by saying, "White
House Says President Would Like to Punch Safire." The New York Post then
did a tale of the tape in which they put Safire vs. Clinton: height,
weight, so forth. Did you have any pause when you sat at your computer
writing the column and you write, "First lady Hillary Clinton, congenital
liar"? Did you sit back and say, "My God, am I crossing the line of
civility? Should I really be using those kinds of words?"
MR. SAFIRE: Well, frankly, the first word I had in mind was prevaricator,
which means liar. And then the second one was dissembler, which also
means liar. And then I said to myself, "I'm in the opinion business. Why
can't I express my opinion with a simple English word that everybody
understands?" And so I decided to go ahead and do it.
RUSSERT: And, Bill Safire, if you walk outside and there's a White House
operative, I have a little something just to make sure.
MR. SAFIRE: Boxing gloves.
RUSSERT: Good luck to you, buddy.
GREGORY: William Safire and his family are in our thoughts and prayers
And we'll be right back.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: That's all for today. Thanks for watching. We'll be
back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.