MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday: Washington paralyzed by snow and the capital's politics still in a deep freeze.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Bipartisanship cannot mean simply that Democrats give up everything that they believe in.
MR. GREGORY: Is bipartisan agreement possible given deep divisions over a jobs bill, the administration's handling of terror suspects, and health care? We'll ask our guest, Vice President Joe Biden, joining us from Vancouver, Canada, the site of the Olympic Games.
Then, the governing challenge: How should the White House reframe its agenda after a bruising first year, a sour electorate, and a unified opposition? Insights and analysis from our roundtable: New York Times columnist David Brooks; MSNBC's Rachel Maddow; chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, former Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee; and Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois.
But first, the vice president of the United States. We spoke to him late last night from Vancouver.
Mr. Vice President, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN: It's good to be back with you, David.
MR. GREGORY: You are there, of course, at the Winter Games, and there's been mixed emotions as the games have begun, incredible pride and excitement after the opening ceremonies, but also the tragic death of that luger from Georgia. Give me your impressions of the mood and of the games so far.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Well, exactly how you described it. I met with Misha Shalikashvili--Saakashvili last night, the president of Georgia, and it was obvious it was--it really had hit home with him and his team. But the way--the reception that the Georgian team got when they walked into the arena was heartening, and, and I think that--I think people are basically dedicating the games to the young man, and they're moving on. But it's an exciting atmosphere, notwithstanding the opening tragedy.
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to some of the issues that you and, of course, the rest of the administration are dealing with. Let me start with terrorism and the controversy surrounding the proposed trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The attorney general ordered a civilian trial to be held in New York. Now it appears that that decision has been withdrawn. It's unclear what's going to happen. The reason for a civilian trial as given by the president and others was a question of perception, that it was very important that the rest of the world see that we'd treated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed fairly. But hasn't the administration already made the decision that even if he were to be acquitted that he would never be released?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Look, there's no doubt that he would not be acquitted; the facts we have are overwhelming. We're absolutely confident he will be convicted in whatever for he is tried. The attorney general made the decision that he should be tried in the court of the greatest jurisdiction, which was in New York City. There has been significant response coming from the city and congressional delegation requiring the president to have to take a look at this again. That decision as to where he's going to be tried and exactly when is something that is being considered right now. But he will be tried...
MR. GREGORY: But Mr. Vice President...
VICE PRES. BIDEN: ...he will be held accountable.
MR. GREGORY: But wait a minute, you--but the question I asked is whether a decision has already been made that even if he were to be acquitted, he would never be released.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: David, I'm not going to speculate on that. He will not be acquitted; he will be found guilty. He will be in jail, and he will stay there.
MR. GREGORY: But here is what the attorney general said last November on this question of what would happen if he were acquitted. This is what he said:
(Videotape, November 18, 2009)
ATT. GEN. ERIC HOLDER: If there were the possibility that a trial was not successful, that would not mean that that person would be released into, into our country. That, that would--that is not a possibility.
MR. GREGORY: It's rather clear what he's saying: If he were acquitted, he's not going to be released in America. I can't imagine the United States is going to release him somewhere in the Middle East or elsewhere around the world. So isn't the conclusion that he's going to stay a prisoner of the United States. And, if that's the case, despite your confidence in his conviction...
VICE PRES. BIDEN: No, it's not the case.
MR. GREGORY: ...despite your confidence in conviction, what is--where is the fairness--the perception of fairness in our system?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: David, he--the, the--what the attorney general said, he would not be released into America, that is a fact. But we're not even going to have to get to that place. I'm not going to speculate on what would happen to him if, in fact, he were acquitted. I assure you, I assure you, acquitted or not, he will not be walking the streets of the United States of America. He will not be acquitted.
MR. GREGORY: By such statements, are you prejudging the trial, and doesn't that undercut the, the goal of fairness by the rest of the world in our judicial system?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: No, look, I'm part of a team that heads up the prosecutorial apparatus of the federal government. We are confident in our case.
MR. GREGORY: Are you ruling out a military commission?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Name me a prosecutor--I am not ruling anything out. What I am telling you is he will be held accountable under the law. We have improved military commissions considerably. The fact of the matter is, the only reason there's any discussion going on about whether or not the trial will take place in an Article III court in the court of jurisdiction with the broadest jurisdiction, New York City, is because of the response of the Congress requiring the president to have to consider the consequences of failing to heed their, their, basically, their, their concerns. So this is a discussion taking place. The decision will be made by the president. He will be held accountable. A military tribunal is available. It is the less preferable way to go. But one way or another, he will be held accountable.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about some of the criticism that's been leveled at this administration by former Vice President Dick Cheney. He has argued that this administration has failed to treat the fight against terrorists as war. He cites the decision related to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to offer him a civilian trial as one example. Giving the Christmas Day bomber the privileges of the American criminal justice is another example. The decision to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison. What do you say?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Let me choose my words carefully here. Dick Cheney's a fine fellow. He's entitled to his own opinions. He's not entitled to rewrite history. He's not entitled to his own facts. The Christmas Day bomber was treated the exact way that he suggested that the shoe bomber was treated, absolutely the same way. Under the Bush administration, there were three trials in military courts. Two of those people are now walking the streets; they are free. There were 300 trials of so-called terrorists and those who had engaged in terror against the United States of America who are in federal prison and have not seen the light of day, prosecuted under the last administration. Dick Cheney's a fine fellow, but he is not entitled to rewrite history without it being challenged. I don't know where he has been. Where was he the last four years of the last administration?
MR. GREGORY: What about the general proposition that the president, according to former Vice President Cheney, doesn't consider America to be at war and is essentially soft on terrorism? What do you say about that?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: I don't think the vice--the former vice president, Dick Cheney, listens. The president of the United States said in the State of the Union, "We're at war with al-Qaeda." He stated this. And by the way, we're pursuing that war with a vigor like it's never been seen before. We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates. We are making--we've sent them underground. They are, in fact, not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don't know where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it's one thing, again, to, to criticize; it's another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?
MR. GREGORY: You, you have often said, when I've asked you and others, that you never impugn a man's motives, but why do you think Dick Cheney is speaking out and being so critical of the president and the administration so publicly?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: I don't know. I, I, I'm not going to guess about his motive. All I know is he's factually, substantively wrong on the major criticisms he is asserting. Why he's insisting on that, he either is misinformed or he is misinforming. But the facts are that his assertions are not accurate.
MR. GREGORY: You would not be this outspoken or critical when you're out of office, is that fair to say?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Well, I, I would hope I, I--look, it's one thing to be outspoken. It's another thing to be outspoken in a way that misrepresents the facts. And I, I just--again, I--it's almost like Dick is trying to rewrite history. I can understand with--why that would be, you know, an impulse. And maybe he isn't--literally, I'm not being facetious, maybe he's not fully informed of what's going on. I mean, the progress we have made. There has never been as much emphasis and resources brought against al-Qaeda. The success rate exceeds anything that occurred in the last administration. And they did their best. I'm not, I'm not impugning their effort. It's just simply not true that the president of the United States is not prosecuting the war against al-Qaeda with a vigor that's never been seen before. It's real, it's deep, it's successful.
MR. GREGORY: Let me move on to some other issues. I want to ask about some other foreign policy matters in just a couple of minutes. But let me turn to the economy. You said on Friday that Democrats facing re-election this fall will do just fine if Americans see, "tangible, visible evidence" that the economy is turning around, it's creating jobs. Well, here are the facts: You came into office, the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, it's now 9.7 percent. Where is that evidence?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Well, look, I'll tell you where the evidence is. We came into office--and let's get the facts straight. The month we were sworn in, 740,000 people lost their jobs; 640,000 the next month, before we could get our, our, our, our, our computers hooked up accurately in the, in the West Wing. We had an economy that shrunk at 6 percent the quarter before we took office. We found ourselves with our financial institutions not only needing to reorganize, but in threat of shuttering their doors and moving the world into a literal depression. We found the housing market absolutely tanking for 32 months in a row. Here we are 11, 12 months later, we're in a situation where the economy grew at over 6 percent--or, excuse me, 5.8 percent the last quarter, where we are--stopped the hemorrhaging of jobs and are now going to begin to produce jobs on a monthly basis, where the housing market is stabilized, where no bank is in jeopardy. And now we're turning our attention to reviving small town banks, commercial banks so we can get credit flowing again. I--we have pulled us back from the brink, we have made genuine success, and now we're in the process of having--moving forward and the--building the kind of economy that is not built on a bubble, a housing bubble, not built on a dot-com bubble. We're investing in the future, including technology, the new green economy, etc. This is going to take time.
And my point was, David, it's understandable why, when you're sitting in your kitchen table and your wife or husband lost their job and you're worried about your job, where you're not sure you can send your kid back to college this year, where you're--can't get any help to care for your elderly parent, there's no wonder you're sitting there and feeling angry. But there's going--tangible evidence, tangible evidence that the path we've put the country on, that we're moving it in the right direction has become more and more apparent. And by the time we get around to November, in addition to bringing home 90,000 American troops out of Iraq, the story of this administration is going to be more clearly told and we're going to do just fine.
MR. GREGORY: But if--there's not going to be tangible evidence of a turnaround if the jobless rate is as high as it is.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: David, look, the neighborhood I grew up in, and I suspect the neighborhood you grew up in, no one sat at the, no one sat at the kitchen table talking about the jobless rate. They talked about their job. My grandpop used to have an expression: When the guy up on Olyphant was out of work, it was a slowdown; when your brother-in-law was out of work, it was a recession; when you're out of work, it's a depression. This is a depression for a lot of people. Not only are we moving to be able to provide them the ability to get jobs by putting a lot of focus on small business, the engine of job creation, through tax cuts, through capital gains cuts, through a $5,000 tax credit for employing people; in the meantime, we're working on things that affects the quality of their life. We're making sure their kid's going to be able to stay in college and pay back that college loan. We're helping--we're going to be helping them this year with child tax credits. We're going to help them with their--with elder credit. We're going to make sure that they are able to begin to save for their retirement by automatic 401(k) programs withheld from their--or excuse me, automatic retirement programs set up by their employers where they can have part of their pay automatically taken out and saved. There's a lot of things you do simultaneously beyond just creating jobs, which we have created or saved over two million jobs thus far. Put another way, instead of seven million people being unemployed, there would have been nine million people unemployed this year.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But, but do, do--you have to concede...
VICE PRES. BIDEN: But that--but less bad is not good enough.
MR. GREGORY: Wait a second, Mr. Vice President. Mr. Vice President, you have to concede, that figure that you use so often, economists say there is no way to accurately measure the impact of the stimulus on jobs saved or, or job creation. That is a number that cannot be verified.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Well, I do not agree with that. I know economists will tell you that. We use the same, we use the same econometric models economists have been using for the last 25 years to measure growth and to measure loss. That--you cannot say with absolute certainty what the job loss is either. It's based on an estimate of who files and how and when. Look, David, there is no reasonable economist that I know of, no econometric model that suggests that we have not created a minimum of 1.6 million to 2.4 million jobs. Even The Wall Street Journal last quarter acknowledged that the significant reason for the growth in the third quarter was because of the investments of the recovery package. They went on to say, but that's not good because once the recovery money is not there things are going to change. That--so you can't have it both ways.
MR. GREGORY: Let me...
VICE PRES. BIDEN: The fact that you stimulate the economy and it actually grows, no one doubts that the recovery package played a major part in that.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about health care.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Yep.
MR. GREGORY: Back in January, it was reported that you said to the president, given the country's fiscal situation, it was not wise to try to pursue healthcare reform. Given what's happened, given the trouble that healthcare reform is now in, do you think that that advice should have been followed?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Well, first of all, I'm not acknowledging what advice I gave. The advice I give to the president is private. That's why he keeps asking for it, and as long as it stays private.
I think the president made the right judgment in deciding that in order to bend the cost curve and prevent people from being victimized by health insurance costs that we had to move and we had to move aggressively. And the president is still committed to making sure that we do three things: One, make sure that those whose premiums are now continuing to skyrocket in fact are brought under control; making sure that the money the federal government spends on health care, 46 cents on every dollar, spent is through Medicare and Medicaid, that we bend that cost curve to gain control of the future, of our future fiscal situation; and making sure the insurance companies can't engage in the kind of practices they do with pre-existing conditions and limits on coverage, etc.
We've invited the Republicans down to the White House. It is my sincere hope that they all say there's a real problem. If they're willing and they have ideas that can better deal with those three problems, we're ready, willing and able to listen; and we're anxious to. But we think it's absolutely essential for the economic health of this country that we move forward on health care.
MR. GREGORY: I wanted to get back to a few areas of foreign policy, away from the domestic, and that's Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. When I last interviewed you on this program eight months ago, this is what you said when I asked you whether President Obama would be the president to stop Iran from going nuclear or allow it to go nuclear. Here's--was your response.
(Videotape, June 14, 2009)
VICE PRES. BIDEN: He's going to be the president that stopped it, God willing. We are not going to allow Iran to go nuclear any more than the rest of the world is going to allow it to go nuclear.
MR. GREGORY: And yet eight months later, no real progress on that front. Do you still believe that to be the case, given Ahmadinejad's claim this week that, indeed, Iran is a nuclear power?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: It is not a nuclear power. I can understand why Ahmadinejad would make that assertion to divert the world's attention from the abuse of the civil liberties and civil rights of the people of Iran. But let's get the facts straight. The fact is that, number one, we've made significant progress. You have Iran more isolated internally by its own people than it has been in the last 20 years. In the region, they're completely isolated. We have the, we have the support of everyone from Russia to Europe, and I believe we'll get the support of China, to continue to impose sanctions on Iran to isolate them, to make it clear that, in fact, they cannot move forward. The progress that Iran has made on the nuclear front is greatly exaggerated, in my view. If you take a look at what's happened--anyway, I think we've made significant progress. We are no longer the issue in the world, Iran is the issue.
MR. GREGORY: Couple of other issues quickly, if we can. On Iraq, you said this week that it will turn out to be one of this president's great achievements. What did you mean?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: What I meant by that is I think he has taken office and managed the situation incredibly well in Iraq. We are now moving toward a position where there is actual political accommodation among factions who were killing one another just two years ago. We are going to be in a position to bring home 90,000 combat troops by the end of the summer. There will be a successful election, I predict, in Iraq, where there's full participation by the Sunnis, Shia, Kurds and other minorities. You are seeing the Iraqis now working. And we have worked very, very hard. I've made a total of 17 trips to Iraq, four just this year, working with each of the, each of the parties. I think they are working--it will be a great tribute to the Iraqi people and, I think, to the government that we've managed this transition, they've managed the transition well.
MR. GREGORY: Was the war worth it?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: No, I don't think the war was worth it in the sense that we paid a horrible price, not only in loss of life, the way the war was mishandled from the outset, but we took our eye off the ball, putting us in a much different and more dangerous position in Afghanistan. We lost support around the world. It's taken a lot of hard work to get it back. But we were handed--we were dealt a hand, and I think we're handling it incredibly well. I--that's presumptuous to say. I think we're handling it very well, the Iraqis are handling it well. And we build on the positive things that the Bush administration had initiated, and we have jettisoned those things that were negative.
MR. GREGORY: You, you mentioned Afghanistan. There is a large offensive under way by American and allied forces now in southern Afghanistan. What will be achieved through that?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Well, the hope is what will be achieved is we'll get further cooperation from the people in the region, the Pashtun tribes who will see more accommodation coming out of the Taliban, who--most of whom are Pashtun, realizing that they cannot realize their expectations through intimidation and force. And we will be in a position where the Iraqi forces that are leading this effort are more seasoned and more capable and more able to handle their own security interests over time.
MR. GREGORY: Finally, Mr. Vice President, about the Olympics, now, there are a lot of hockey fans in this country, including my seven-year-old son, who follow teams like the great Washington Capitals with great Russian players. I'm going to show you a picture of two of them, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. Now they are playing for Team Russia, and it's creating a lot of divided loyalties, my son now saying he's rooting for Team Russia over Team USA. What should, should a father do about this?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: I don't have that problem, and I would--well, David, I never give another man advice on how to deal with his children. Having three myself, I, I, I don't presume to tell anyone else. I think your son's a great hockey fan. Tell him that they chose to live in the United States and work and play for the Capitals, and, and that's what they, that's what he should focus on.
MR. GREGORY: I'll go with that. I'll see where it gets me. Mr. Vice President, thank you, as always.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: All right.
MR. GREGORY: And up next, the governing challenge for the Obama administration in the face of a sour electorate and unified opposition. Insights on it all from our roundtable, David Brooks, Rachel Maddow, Democratic former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., and Republican Congressman Aaron Schock.
MR. GREGORY: Reaction to the vice president and the politics of jobs and national security. Our political roundtable weighs in right after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: And we're back. Joining us now, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, New York Times columnist David Brooks, former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr., and Republican Congressman Aaron Schock. He is the youngest member of Congress, the first to be born in the '80s, we should point out. He represents the 18th District of Illinois, which includes Peoria, the seventh largest city in that state, and he's been chosen by his party's leadership to serve as a deputy Republican whip, and even received a waiver to serve on three committees in the House instead of the usual two. So welcome to the program for the first time.
A lot to get to, all of you. David Brooks, the national security fight. You heard Vice President Biden taking on his predecessor. This is now a fully engaged argument about whether the Obama administration is sufficiently serious when it's taking on the war on terror. He said of Cheney, he's either "misinformed or misinforming."
MR. DAVID BROOKS: On the big picture he's right. I mean, if you cover the Obama administration, they take it seriously. The idea that they don't know we're at war, they don't pay attention, they have the daily intelligence briefs. They take this utterly seriously. So Cheney's large charge is completely bogus. As for the specifics, I think there are a couple of things he's right about. The KSM trial has become a total mess. What Joe Biden said today on the program doesn't pass the laugh test. The idea that we're going to try a guy, not acquit him, apparently, if, beforehand, are we going to make Dick Cheney the foreman of the jury? I mean, how do we know that? And then let him walk three. The second, free. And then the second thing I think Cheney's actually right about is Mirandizing. We, if we--say we'd captured the 9/11 guys on September 10th, or one of them, should we have read that guy his rights and given him a lawyer? No. We should have tried to get some intelligence out of the guy.
MR. GREGORY: Rachel?
MS. RACHEL MADDOW: There--there's--there isn't, in this case, and there hasn't been in any known modern terrorism case, any correlation between the usefulness of an interrogation and whether or not somebody gets read their Miranda rights. It just isn't the case. And in every single instance, every single terrorism case where there's been an arrest in this country in a terrorism case since 9/11, every single one has been handled--the person has been handled as a civilian criminal. There was a moment when Jose Padilla and, and Ali al-Marri were handed--handled in military custody. There's nothing magic about the time that they were in military custody. They didn't do any more magical forms of talking that they wouldn't do when they were civilians. So, even on those grounds, I think that, I, I think what you see as being correct in the, in the vice president's charges, I just, I just don't think it's there.
FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR. (D-TN): Furthermore...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
REP. FORD: ...I think it's only fair, this president has been as tough as anyone's been on terrorists. Throughout the--throughout his campaign, he promised he was willing to go into Pakistan if need be. He was criticized by Republicans and Democrats. As you heard Vice President Biden, they've taken down several of the top 20 that we wanted to find in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our efforts in Afghanistan, 35,000 additional troops, some in the Democratic Party were opposed to it. This president charged ahead. The efforts in the last few days. I think it's--we can point around the edges a bit, but I think it's unfair to say this administration has not been tough, has not been focused and determined in going after terrorists.
MR. GREGORY: Congressman Schock, did--the accusation that is still leveled and that former Vice President Cheney in an interview this morning is saying, is that the administration does not consider these acts acts of war. They are still considering them criminal acts, which he says is the wrong way to keep America safe.
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R-IL): Well, look, all I can tell you is what my constituents are telling me and where I think most of Americans are, which is they see an American citizen who attacks our soldiers at a, at a base in Fort Hood, Texas, tried in a military tribunal. And they see a foreigner who comes to our soil for the sole purpose of attacking our country and our American citizens and he's read his Miranda rights. The majority of Americans, the polls indicate, do not support the president and this administration's plan to try these people in civilian court. And I think it's rightfully so why the administration is now backpedaling on their decision to hold these trials in downtown New York.
MS. MADDOW: I...
MR. GREGORY: Let me just take on one issue and then you can make your point.
MS. MADDOW: OK.
MR. GREGORY: I want to go back to the, the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, because I think this is the point that I was trying to ask the vice president about. Here was the headline in The Washington Post this week about how this is unfolding politically, which is not well for the administration. Obama to help pick the location of the terror trial, which can only be seen as a shot against his attorney general and his decision originally to put it in New York, which they reversed from. The tension here, Rachel, the whole reason why there are enemy combatants is to say these are warriors, they're not criminals. They--the president says that al-Qaeda is trying to destroy America, that we are at war. So these are warriors. And by virtue of the fact that the administration is saying, "We're never going to release this guy even if he were to be acquitted," does that not make the point that they should not even enter our justice system where there is due process, where there is a presumption of innocence, where any prosecutor knows the consequences that the defendant walks if they--they're not convicted?
MS. MADDOW: I, I think that in--even in the case of heinous crimes that have nothing to do with terrorism, that have nothing to do with foreign nationals, there is a, there is a frustration that there's a case that people who we believe are guilty might somehow get away. There's this frustration. That's what drives lynch mob mentality. I mean, we've always had that sort of tension. But the fact remains, there have been three convictions under military tribunals, three, and two of the people convicted are now free. It's no great guarantee that anything awesome is going to happen in terms of guaranteeing guilt and guaranteeing a long sentence to do the, to do the tribunal route. When the--when, when Richard Reid came up in civilian court and he tried to make the case that he wanted to be called a soldier, he wanted to be called--he wanted to be treated in the terms of war, the judge in the case, William Young, said, "You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not, you are not a soldier in any war. To call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. War talk is way out of line in this court. You're a big fellow, but you're not that big. You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist, a species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders." I think Americans cheer that sentiment, and the idea that we're going to elevate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and call him some sort of warrior when he's comparing himself to George Washington at Guantanamo, it's disgusting.
MR. GREGORY: But, David Brooks, the president is spending a great deal of political capital on a decision that was being made to put him in the civilian system so that the rest of the world thinks we're fair. And yet, the vice president this morning is saying, "He's going to be convicted. He's going to die." Other administration officials, including the president, has said that, that he'll most likely face the, the death penalty. How is this holding up American jurisprudence?
MR. BROOKS: Yeah, well, this is a policy in transition. Eric Holder, the attorney general, took this decision without consulting the president, without consulting the national security apparatus, did it on his own. And slowly, and now quickly, the White House is pulling that back. And so they are going to try to, I think, take--well, take it out of New York. But they're not there yet. The idea that we can try someone and, and guarantee a conviction and guarantee they won't walk free, I mean, this, this is a betrayal of our values. I mean, what--the, the correct charges against Gitmo were that it's a betrayal of our values. We're fighting our values in a way that--we're fighting this war in a way that betrays who we really are. And this is the essence of that. What Joe Biden said on the program today will be laughed at around the Arab world.
MR. GREGORY: Congressman Schock, the larger question of Republican dissent, if you look at it that way, or attacks on this administration, the top terrorism adviser to the president said this on this program this last week.
(Videotape, February 7, 2010)
MR. JOHN BRENNAN: I'm tiring of politicians using national security issues such as terrorism as a political football.
MR. GREGORY: Are Republicans and Republican attacks against this administration helping al-Qaeda?
REP. SCHOCK: Absolutely not. And I think it's insult to most Americans to suggest that their elected representatives who are carrying their views and the message of, of the majority of Americans to Washington and to this debate are somehow helping al-Qaeda. Mind you, these are the--many of these Democrats, including Mr. Brennan who served in the last administration, faced many of these same attacks under then-President Bush from, from the left. So the idea that we can't challenge the administration and their view on the fight on terrorism is completely bogus.
MR. GREGORY: What happened to Democrats when they challenged President Bush in the same way?
REP. SCHOCK: Well, some of the same, some of the same claims were made against them.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. SCHOCK: But at the end of the day, we're representing mainstream America and the majority of views. And, and whether it's closing Guantanamo Bay and moving it to the heartland of America, whether it's the, the--trying these folks in downtown New York, whether it's Mirandizing terrorists who come to this country to attack us, the majority of Americans have not bought, do not believe, that Obama and his administration is right on these policies.
MR. GREGORY: So you don't support the way the president is prosecuting the war on terror?
REP. SCHOCK: No.
REP. FORD: I, I, I, I can appreciate the, the politics that are at play here, and we're heading into a cycle, and we just met. I think he's a nice guy and a good guy, but to suggest that this administration is not focused in a right way and determined to keep America safe I, I think is just, is, is just not right and foolish. I think there's a legitimate conversation about whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in my home city. I disagree with the administration, I'm glad now we are revisiting and looking at a different location. I was against it because I think the costs are too high. We're in the middle of a recession. It would cost some $225 million a year to try him there. We could spend that money in a jobs program, an education program or even to pay down the debt. But to suggest--to play politics at this moment--Democrats raised the same concerns when Bush was in office and the same answers were given and--some similar answers were given by Republicans. The truth of the matter is Congress and the Senate ought to be focused on our efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and ensuring that our AfPak policy works. The conversation around Pakistan and Kashmir and whether or not a resolution there will help us resolve our issues in Afghanistan are far more important than a volleyball going back and forth about who's at fault. Barack Obama and his administration deserve tremendous credit for what they've done up to this moment.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Quick, quick comment, then I want to move it to domestic matters.
REP. SCHOCK: First of all, I want to make it clear: Nobody's suggesting that President Obama and his administration don't want us to be safe. What we're suggesting is he's taking unnecessary risks.
MS. MADDOW: Well, well, can I just...
MR. GREGORY: All right. Yeah.
MS. MADDOW: I'm sorry, though. What's the basis of the assertion that reading somebody their Miranda rights is unsafe? We did that with every...
REP. SCHOCK: Well, Rachel, you said yourself...
MS. MADDOW: Wait, hold on. We did that with every single person who has been arrested on terrorism charges since 9/11. Nobody's ever made an issue of it until the Obama administration and this case with Abdulmutallab. Literally, what's, what's the problem with being read your rights that wasn't the problem before?
REP. SCHOCK: Well, first of all, you suggested earlier that reading someone's Miranda rights does not--has never indicated that they talk less to our intelligence folks.
MS. MADDOW: We've never heard that from the FBI.
REP. SCHOCK: The fact of the matter is we do know that after the Christmas Day bomber was read his Miranda rights that he did, in fact, stop cooperating with our intelligence.
MS. MADDOW: That's not true, actually. I mean, it's not what we know from the people who've been involved in that. It's just...
MR. GREGORY: But there is--but, but the...
MS. MADDOW: The, the factual basis of these assertions is so thin.
MR. GREGORY: But the...
REP. FORD: Rachel's right about that. In fact, I think when he was read the rights, a report suggested that he shared more information after that. And that could be wrong, but the question...
MR. GREGORY: But there, but there is a debate, there is a debate about whether he should have been treated throughout as an "intelligence asset" without being Mirandized in order to bring people in who had more expertise specific to Yemen. Now I don't think any of us can know at this stage how much could be gleaned from FBI interrogators, who are very good...
MS. MADDOW: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...vs. other intelligence assets. So I think that debate will continue.
Let me take a break here. We're going to come back and talk about domestic matters in the Obama agenda. We'll be back with our roundtable right after this brief station break.
MR. GREGORY: We are back now with our political roundtable. Let's talk about the Obama agenda. And you may not have known this or heard about it, but we had a fair amount of snow here in Washington over the past couple of weeks. Here is a cartoon that really captures the nexus between government and weather. Huge snowstorm, one guy says, "Washington is completely paralyzed." The other one says, "And then came this snow storm." And here, here we are, David Brooks, with a domestic agenda right now. And what's leading this off? It's not health care at the moment, it is a jobs bill. And there seemed to be bipartisan consensus on this and now Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled it back, made it a much narrower bill by $15 billion, mostly of tax breaks, to get people back to work. Is this going to go anywhere?
MR. BROOKS: It'll go somewhere. But if, if this was your week to hate Washington, this was a good week for you, because we got this bipartisan bill that emerged in the Senate filled with pork and all sorts of things that people hate. Fine. But at least the White House signs off on it. But Harry Reid decides after the White House has signed off on it that it's--the liberals in his party have objected. So we got the pork, and he decides, "I'm getting rid of the whole thing," or at least scaling it back to something about $15 billion a year. So then we get partisanship. And then on top of that, it's basically pointless. Fifteen billion dollars a year in a multitrillion-dollar economy is nothing, will create no jobs. So we had partisanship, pork, and pointlessness all in one bill. And so this was a bad week for Washington.
MR. GREGORY: Congressman Schock, where are the Republicans going to be on this?
REP. SCHOCK: Well, look, I think, unfortunately, it's more of the same. I mean, all of this talk about bipartisanship, and yet the rhetoric doesn't match the reality. As David Brooks mentioned, there was some, some Republicans who worked with Democrats in the Senate to come up with a jobs bill only to have their leadership put the kibosh on it. We, we are for creating long-term economic growth. You do that by incentivizing entrepreneurialism, risk taking, and investment. You do that through creating certainty in the markets through certain tax incentives. And that's where we'll be on a jobs bill.
MR. GREGORY: So it sounds like you're--you like what the Democrats are doing here?
REP. SCHOCK: Well, I don't like all the pork that was in the bill. Seven hundred eighty-seven billion dollar stimulus bill, the largest spending bill in, in history, one of the reasons why it didn't create long-term growth is it didn't have stimulative tax cuts in it, but rather a lot of pork and spending.
MS. MADDOW: Which are the least stimulative things in the stimulus. I mean, when you assess what creates jobs, in the stimulus band it's the tax cuts that were put in in order to try to win Republican votes that didn't come anyway that are the least effective thing in the stimulus bill. So the theory doesn't match the practice here.
But, I mean, you, in your district...
REP. SCHOCK: Well, I, I can assure you...
MS. MADDOW: ...just this week you were at a community college touting a $350,000 green technology education program, talking about how great that was going to be for your district. You voted against the bill that created that grant. And so that's happening a lot with Republicans sort of taking credit for things that Democratic bills do, and then Republicans simultaneously touting their votes against them and trashing them. That's, I think, a, a, a problem that needs to be resolved within, within your caucus, because, I mean, you seem like a very nice person, but that's very hypocritical stance to take.
REP. SCHOCK: Well, Rachel, with all due respect, I can assure you Republicans were not consulted on the stimulus bill. That bill was filed at 11 PM the night before the 10:30 AM we began debating it. None of our amendments were considered. There was no debate and no bipartisanship on that bill.
MS. MADDOW: How about the...(unintelligible)?
MR. GREGORY: But, but answer--all right, let me, let me jump in here Rachel, which is that the, the question about you--you've called for spending caps out of Washington.
REP. SCHOCK: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: But to Rachel's point, does that mean that you will not accept any federal money that comes the way of your district?
REP. SCHOCK: No. I think that argument that liberals are making is absolutely ridiculous. With all due respect, Rachel, does that mean you're going to give back your Bush tax cuts that you continue to rail against? The fact of the matter is our country operates and govern by a majority. And I, along with almost all of my Republican colleagues and a good number of Democrats, have voted against the stimulus, the omnibus, all of this runaway spending. But we've lost those battles in the House. And at the end of the day, my constituents...
MR. GREGORY: But you'll take the money for, you'll take the money for your district.
MS. MADDOW: Take the money and tout it...(unintelligible).
REP. FORD: Here's, here's, here's a...
REP. SCHOCK: Well, let me finish. At the end of the day, my constituents and their children and grandchildren will be on the hook for the debt that's being created by this majority...
MR. GREGORY: OK.
REP. SCHOCK: ...and they deserve to have their fair share of federal spending.
MR. GREGORY: Harold's turn.
REP. FORD: I was in Congress for 10 years. I can tell you, your party ran up a lot of debt. Matter of fact, we, we grew--from the eight years that President Bush was there, the rate of growth exceeded any other presidents in the history of the nation. So we found ourselves in a moment...
REP. SCHOCK: Until this one.
REP. FORD: Well, no, this, this president, he's only been in a year. I know you want to blame him for everything, but you can't blame him for quite everything yet. And I don't want to blame President Bush, but we got to put it in context.
Two, I, I love it when Republicans talk about the desire to come around the table and work together. It was a Republican-Democrat thing that happened in the Senate. It was Grassley and Baucus, and it was Hatch and Schumer. They're--that was the centerpiece of the, of the stimulus bill and the jobs bill that's working its way through the Senate. But it was McConnell who told Reid the other day, "I will not work to, to, to collect any votes for this bill if you bring it to the floor." There has to be a genuineness and a sincerity here. Republicans say they want deficit reduction and deficit control, they vote against a deficit commission. I do hope President Obama will use an executive order to create a deficit commission in spite of what Republicans may say. You can't have it one day Monday in the morning and have a different message in the afternoon on, on, on Tuesday.
MR. BROOKS: But can I say this?
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
REP. FORD: I think it just has to be fair. Now, Democrats deserve some blame here.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. BROOKS: Yeah.
REP. FORD: But Republicans have to be, have to be honest, too.
MR. BROOKS: This conversation exemplifies what's wrong with Washington. It's like two guys fighting in the ocean to see who drowns first. I mean, the--it's--both parties are responsible for the, the deficits, and both parties are responsible for the fiscal suicide. And if you look at the polls that came out--a whole bunch of polls came out this week and they show both parties very negative. Unprecedented levels of distrust in Washington. Unprecedented, historically high levels of people want to get rid of their member of Congress from both parties. A level of distrust of Washington that is absolutely unprecedented in American history. And it's because the two sides are trying to fight each other than actually do something bipartisan or actually do anything.
MS. MADDOW: No, but...
MR. BROOKS: And so bipartisanship has become a wedge issue, a way to make the other party look bad. So bipartisanship has been twisted into just another partisan rant.
MS. MADDOW: But the issue is not bipartisanship qua bipartisanship. It's hypocrisy. I mean, if you are for PAYGO, if you're for a deficit commission until the president of the other party comes around for it, and then you're against it? We're not talking policy anymore, we're not talking about bipartisanship. You shouldn't be blamed for not getting Republican votes on that. That's hypocrisy. If you vote against the omnibus bill, if you complain about the omnibus bill, if you tout your vote against the omnibus bill, it is hypocrisy to then go to your district and go to a ribbon cutting ceremony for something that's funded by the omnibus bill that you voted against. It's not just bipartisanship as a sort of platonic virtue.
REP. FORD: But, but...(unintelligible).
MR. BROOKS: Listen to the Republicans’ point, Republicans say--I can pick up the Democratic points. If, if Obama wants to say, "I'm going to balance the budget," and then say, "but I won't cut taxes on the bottom 98 percent," well, that's also somewhat hypocritical or inconsistent. If he says...
MS. MADDOW: Or that's focused policy.
MR. BROOKS: ..."I want bipartisan health care," but then invites the, the cameras into a bipartisan discussion and already has the plan he's going to come with--out with after the healthcare summit, that's also slightly political.
REP. FORD: David, David's right about one thing, and it's the bigger point for my party. I was astonished by what happened with the jobs bill also. We are in the majority, we have an obligation to govern. And the American people react in revolt when politicians feel like they know what voters want. Health care is important. But if we don't focus on jobs and jobs and jobs again, I think Vice President Biden was right, Democrats will suffer in the fall. The reality is families are having problems at home, businesses are having problems running themselves--or I should say, people running them are having problems. And the reality is people are worried about their future. And, ultimately, your point is the right one. I only make the point about the back and forth of it. There has to be some honesty about bipartisanship. You can't in the morning say you want it, and in the afternoon everything is undermined.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let's, let's talk about the prospect of bipartisanship when it comes to health care. The president will have a summit on February 25th. The cameras will be on. There'll be Republicans and Democrats there to talk about the issues. The truth is, Congressman, that healthcare reform is in trouble. But are the Republicans, on health care, prepared to say yes to anything?
REP. SCHOCK: Absolutely. From day one back in April, I joined with over a hundred Republican colleagues of mine on a letter with John Boehner and Eric Cantor to the president, who said, "Mr. President, we want to work with you on healthcare reform. We have ideas. We want to meet with you." And for the good part of that year, the president spent his, his, his time only working with Democratic members. And it wasn't until the losses in New Jersey and Virginia and, subsequently, the Scott Brown election in Massachusetts that have forced them to the table to talk about truly wanting to work with us. Unfortunately, yesterday we learned that, that Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid are now trying to develop a new bill before the February 25th summit. If that's the case, I think it's unfortunate. We need to start from scratch, which is where the American people are on this issue. They have overwhelmingly rejected both the House and the Senate versions. And if the president was--is willing to start from scratch, is truly willing to be a negotiator, meet us halfway, where the American people are, we will support it.
MR. GREGORY: Rachel, how difficult is it that the White House clings to the belief that the best way to win the argument on health care is to pass it first? It's a very difficult way to apply leverage on Republicans to cooperate.
MS. MADDOW: Well, I mean, the last time that we had, we had, we had Republicans in to do a bipartisan summit--or the first time we had Republicans in for a bipartisan summit at the White House, right, was March of last year? We spent the entire summer while this Senate Finance Committee didn't meet--Senate Finance Committee, with three more Democrats on it than Republicans. So instead, this bipartisan group of six could meet to try to work it out. The Republicans in the House proposed four planks that they wanted in health reform. They wanted buy insurance across state lines, allowing individuals to pool together, state innovation, and tort reform. Versions of all of those things are in the bill. Famously, in April, President Obama said, "If I'm willing to go a lot further than I have on tort reform, what are you willing to give?" Republicans said nothing. "We're not really--we're literally not willing to give anything in exchange for that." So the idea that it's just now that Democrats want to sit down with Republicans is, again, just--it's factually wrong, even though it's Beltway common wisdom.
MR. GREGORY: David Brooks, will there be reform this year?
MR. BROOKS: I would say the chances are 70 percent no. I mean, I mean, I don't think there's going to be much of a deal. I think the, the big picture is few--average, like, the last 10, 15 polls on the Democratic healthcare reforms, it's against probably 55 no, 38 percent yes, something like that. It's just hard to do a big national transformation when the public's leaning against.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But that's something you wrote this week, that "voters are in no mood for a wave of domestic transformation."
MR. BROOKS: Right.
MR. GREGORY: Were they initially?
MR. BROOKS: I don't think so. I think, you know, we had a period between 1932 and '64 where people basically trusted their government. And that ended because of Vietnam and Watergate and a lot of other reasons. When the president came in, it was not like '32 and '64. People had this incredibly high level of distrust. And if they had this economic security and you come at them with an institution they distrust with a whole bunch of change, they're going to have even more insecurity. They're going to recoil. I think that's what's happened. I think the president would have been wiser to go step by step to rebuild that trust in government. I still think that's what you should do today.
MR. GREGORY: Let me--I want to talk about 2010 politics, and I want to turn to you, former Congressman Ford. The question of whether you're going to run to challenge New York Senator Gillibrand in New York. You're being coy about this, and yet everything you're doing has the hallmark of you being a candidate. Are you going to run?
REP. FORD: I haven't decided yet. I'll make a decision in the next few weeks. I'll have to tell you, the travels around the state have been great, encouraged, humbled by what people are saying. The press and the pundits are focused on carpetbagging and some of the politics around it, but people in New York are expressing the same concerns that have been--that we've been expressing around the table. There's a big concern about health care but a bigger concern about the economy and jobs.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let's talk about some of the carpetbagging issues. One of the questions that's come up is, are you a really a New Yorker? Do you pay taxes in New York? Have you filed at least a partial return for the time you've spent there?
REP. FORD: Absolutely. Paid taxes on all New York income the last two years. And, for the first time, in '09 my wife and I will file as residents of New York. But this is politics. They've tried to distort my record on choice, my record on other social issues. But, at the end of the day, voters in New York are as unsettled and as worried about their futures as any other set of voters across the country. At the end of the day, many people in the state don't know Senator Gillibrand, don't know a whole lot about her. But there'll will be time, if I run, to litigate that line by line.
The bigger issue, I think, is what, is what David has raised and partially what, what the congressman has raised here. Democrats, we are in a position to make things happen. People are no longer interested in keeping score in Washington. They want outcomes. And, at the end of the day, if we're not seeing or not able to show how we're producing jobs and at least mindful of reining in the size and the growth of government because every business, every household is reining it in, I hate to use the example of being in the airport and listening to someone share with me how they're sitting around their table, cutting back. And they said, "You better, if you get there, make government cut back."
MR. GREGORY: But...
REP. FORD: We've got to be mindful of that as Republicans and Democrats.
MR. GREGORY: Bigger picture's important, but so is accountability on some issues, including a couple of others that have come up for you. There's so much talk and anger about bonuses on Wall Street. You have worked for Merrill Lynch. Are you going to release how big your bonus was with Merrill Lynch and other tax return information to voters now?
REP. FORD: David, if I become a candidate, I was in Congress for 10 years so I understand disclosure.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
REP. FORD: The simple answer is yes. But I'm not a candidate yet. I've answered questions throughout.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. FORD: And, again, I understand. What...
MR. GREGORY: But you won't say how big your bonus was with Merrill?
REP. FORD: I had a contract with Merrill Lynch. They--I had a certain things I--number of things I had to do. I satisfied that, and I was paid. I make no bones about it. New York City, New York state depend heavily on Wall Street. I'm a believer it ought--the system ought to be reformed, but putting a tax on banks at a time at which the recovery is as timid and as fragile as it is--680,000 New Yorkers work in this industry. The importance of the revenue to the city and to the state of New York, I'm, I'm not afraid...
MR. GREGORY: So what...
REP. FORD: ...nor am I ashamed to say, if I run for the Senate and I win, I will defend the biggest industry in my state.
MR. GREGORY: So how big was the bonus?
REP. FORD: David, if I run for office, I'll, I'll talk about all of those things. And I'll...
MR. GREGORY: What about--the question of whether you're pro choice or pro life has come up. Final question on this, which is would you support parental notification in New York, something it now does not have?
REP. FORD: I have--in the Congress, I've voted against late-term abortion--voted for--against late-term abortions. I am pro choice. The record has been distorted. The president of a--the Tennessee Planned Parenthood has said that Harold is pro choice. He's a friend. My wife is pro choice. I can assure you--who I wish happy Valentine's Day to this morning--if I were not pro choice, my wife nor my mother--Mom, happy Valentine's Day, too...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. FORD: ...they neither would allow me in their homes if I were not.
MR. GREGORY: Parental notification in New York, do you support it?
REP. FORD: I'm for--I'm for parental notification other than extreme cases, where a judge may have to be involved if there's, if there's a dispute between a child and a family. If you--if your daughter can't go to an NR-17 movie, David, without some notification, it would seem to me that a family ought to be made aware of some of these.
MR. GREGORY: Rachel Maddow, bigger picture on 2010 politics. What do you think the president can be saying now to Democrats who fear that this is a repeat of 1994 in this regard, the prospect of losing on healthcare reform, being stymied on healthcare reform just as they were stymied on the crime bill as well, that chaos theory that Democrats can't achieve.
MS. MADDOW: Yeah. I think that, that, that, when Nancy Pelosi noted this week that 200 bills have passed the House that have been sitting in the Senate, not--going nowhere, and 70 percent of those, more than 70 percent of those, had more than 50 Republican votes when they passed the House, is a key of what's going wrong. There's a real problem in the Senate, and the Democrats need to be able to show that they're doing the things the country needs to be done in this difficult economy and with a broken Senate that can't do it. And I think that what they're going to need to do, both practically to get stuff done and to show voters that they're serious about it, and that they're not wusses and they can't get rolled the way Republicans love to roll them is by actually taking on what's broken in the Senate.
MR. GREGORY: And, Congressman Schock, what is the reason that Americans should restore Republicans to power in Congress?
REP. SCHOCK: Because there needs to be some balance in Washington. You mentioned '94. I think...
MR. GREGORY: Where's, where's the imbalance now? The president hasn't achieved the big things he's trying to get.
REP. SCHOCK: Well, I think his, his agenda is clearly out of touch with mainstream America. It's why we had a rock star president a year ago with over 80 percent favorabilities and now he's below 50 percent. It's because cap and trade, the stimulus, healthcare bills are out of touch with where America wants us to be. And the Republican Party has been where we--the American people have been, which is talking about jobs, talking about the economy, talking about tax cuts to get our economy going again. That's what America wants us focused on. And despite the president continuing to talk about jobs, their stimulus packages and bills continue to just spend.
MR. GREGORY: Thirty, 30--David Brooks, 30 seconds, the outlook.
MR. BROOKS: Well, it's going to be a good year for Republicans. I'm actually beginning to think, for the first time in my life, there's a prospect for a third party at some point in the future. I just don't see how we get out of the fiscal hole if Republicans are not willing to raise taxes, Democrats not willing to cut spending. I just don't see how we get out of that, and that is the predicate. For the first time in my life I've thought maybe somebody could run a third party for president, not for Congress this year.
MR. GREGORY: Modern day Ross Perot.
MR. BROOKS: Hopefully a little saner, but, yeah.
MR. GREGORY: OK. We're going to leave it there. The debate will certainly continue. Thank you all very much.
I should point out, we're going to continue our discussion with Congressman Schock and talk to him about life as the youngest member of Congress. It's in our MEET THE PRESS Take 2 Web extra. It's up this afternoon. Plus, look for updates from me throughout the week. It's on our Web site mtp.msnbc.com.
And we'll be right back.
MR. GREGORY: That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.