MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, a political earthquake in Delaware, the end of a turbulent primary season. Is the tea party the present and future of the GOP? What impact will candidates like Christine O'Donnell and backers like Sarah Palin have on the midterm election and the party's prospects for 2012?
Plus, the anti-Muslim backlash in the country, ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. How has America's role in the world changed? We'll ask our exclusive guest, secretary of State to President George W. Bush, General Colin Powell.
Then, another leader on the world stage, President Bill Clinton prepares to host his sixth annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting, hosting key leaders to tackle the world's most pressing problems. Plus, what's ahead for Democrats in November? Can President Obama turn things around? And the future of the economy. Our conversation with former President Bill Clinton.
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning. Social conservative activists gathered this weekend in Washington for their annual Values Voters Summit, attracting a field of potential 2012 Republican candidates. Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana got an early nod, winning their straw poll for president. Sarah Palin finished fifth but did not attend, opting to keynote a Republican event in Iowa, where she continued to rally the GOP behind tea party candidates who have prevailed this primary season, leaving the Republican establishment reeling.
The midterm primaries are over and the tea party won.
MS. CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.
MR. GREGORY: Christine O'Donnell's triumph in Delaware was the latest example of the purge inside the GOP. Incumbents, moderates, members of the establishment are gone or have left the party. The message is stop spending, stop taxing, stop borrowing.
(Videotape, May 18, 2010)
DR. RAND PAUL: We've come to take our government back.
MR. GREGORY: GOP leaders in Washington are riding a tiger. Some seasoned Republican voices fear it will cost the party.
MR. KARL ROVE: I got to tell you, we--I--I'm--we, we were, we were looking at eight to nine seats in the Senate; we're now looking at seven to eight in my opinion. This is not a race we're going to be able to win.
MR. GREGORY: But others inside the party counter the energy behind the tea partiers requires the GOP to adjust to a new reality.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I think Republicans better be very inclusive and open their arms and their minds to the message they're hearing from the grass roots across the country.
MR. GREGORY: Led by Sarah Palin, who's emerged as a kingmaker this election season, the tea party may help get out conservative and independent voters in the fall. But what's the longer term impact?
MR. JONATHAN MARTIN: They're demanding purity from the party. And when it comes to general elections, that means they can nominate candidates that aren't necessarily going to appeal to the broad center of the electorate.
MR. GREGORY: And that is the big question for the Republican Party: Can they win in 2010 and even in 2012 without a bigger tent? Joining me now, a man who has served this country under four presidents, most recently, of course, as secretary of State under President George W. Bush, General Colin Powell.
Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
GEN. COLIN POWELL (Ret.): Good morning, David. Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: There is so much going on. I want to start with politics. You heard that setup. What do you make of what's happened in the Republican Party this week?
GEN. POWELL: I think the tea party movement--and at this point I think it's still a movement and not a party with an agenda--has tapped into an anxiety and an anger that exist throughout the country. And they are not just mad at President Barack Obama and his administration, they're mad at, mad at Democrats and they're mad at incumbent Republicans. And so I think it is a fascinating change in our political life to see this kind of movement gain such momentum and strength. And this is good. People want to see this. But at the same time, this movement doesn't become a real force unstill it--until it starts to talk to the issues. I want to cut spending. I want to have lower taxes. But how do you do that? You can't just have slogans, you can't just have catchy phrases. You have to have an agenda. And I think what the Republican Party has to do, if it's going to incorporate the tea party efforts in it, is to come up with an agenda that the American people can see, touch, and actually believe in, and something they believe in.
MR. GREGORY: Mayor Bloomberg called the tea party movement, in The New York Times in an interview this morning, a fad akin to what Ross Perot was advocating back in 1992. Do you see it that way?
GEN. POWELL: It may well be a fad unless it converts itself from a movement into something that is a real political organization that takes stands on positions. Right now what do they really believe in? We all believe in the Constitution, we all want lower taxes, we all want less spending, lower deficit, everything else, more freedom. But, at the same time, how do you get all of that and at the same time make sure that we are investing in our children, investing our infrastructure? How do we bring the deficit down by cutting spending, and where do we cut that spending? It's not enough to just say, "Let's do it." You got to have more than slogans.
MR. GREGORY: It--this time about a year ago you were in a, a feud with former Vice President Cheney, with Rush Limbaugh, about the nature of the Republican Party. And this is what you said in May of 2009: "Rush Limbaugh says, `Get out of the Republican Party.'" He was talking to you. "Dick Cheney says, `He's already out,'" speaking about you. "I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again." That was a year ago. Is the tea party what you had in mind?
GEN. POWELL: Well, I have to point out that Mr. Cheney pulled that comment back a few weeks later and thought maybe I should stay in the party if I chose to remain in the party. I'm kind of like a Mike Bloomberg in that he has shifted back and forth. I consider myself a moderate Republican. I have very, very moderate social views, and I'm pretty strong on, on defense matters. And, and I think there is a party in there that wants to come out. But if the Republican Party's going to come out in the way that Mike Bloomberg is talking about and others are talking about, they've got to take a hard look at some of the positions they've been taking. We can't be anti-immigration, for example, because immigrants are fueling this country. Without immigrants, America would be like Europe or Japan with an aging population and no young people coming in to take care of it. We have to educate our immigrants. The Dream Act is one way we can do this. That's before the Congress this coming week.
MR. GREGORY: Explain that a little bit because that's an important piece of legislation.
GEN. POWELL: The Dream Act, in a nutshell, says if you are a young person and you were brought here by your parents and you're in illegal status, if you have finished high school, and we will give you a six-year temporary residency, and if, during those six years, you finish two years of college or you go into the military service for two years, then you're on a path to citizenship. That's good. America is going to be a minority nation in one more generation. Our minorities are not getting educated well enough now. Fifty percent of our minority kids are not finishing high school. We've got to invest in education. We should use the Dream Act as one way to do it. Whether it should be part of the defense bill or not is something that Congress will decide.
MR. GREGORY: And yet, Republicans on the campaign trail are already talking about immigration in a rather hard-line way. Former Governor Romney speaking about it at that Values Voter Summit, talking about it recently.
(Videotape, September 17, 2010)
FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY: We have serious enemies and growing threats around the world. Unfortunately, we have an administration whose idea of a rogue state is Arizona.
MR. GREGORY: And what's happening in Arizona is something that's animating the Republicans right now.
GEN. POWELL: The American people want their borders to be protected. There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with making sure that people come across our borders, particularly our southern border, in a legal, safe manner. But, at the same time, we have millions and millions of illegal immigrants in our country, undocumented individuals, who are working, who are doing things we need done in this country. They're all over at my house doing things whenever I call for repairs, and I'm sure you've seen them at, at your house. We've got to find a way to bring these people out of the darkness and give them some kind of status. In the next few years, we will discover that, between the ages of 15 and 64, the working ages of our people, most of those are going to be kept in that age group because of immigration and the children of immigrants, whereas in other parts of the world the age of the population's getting older and fewer people are working. So I'm telling you and I'm telling all of my, my, my citizens around the country is that immigration is what's keeping this country's lifeblood moving forward. They enrich our culture with every generation. And we have to find a way to protect our borders but, at the same time, treat our immigrant population with respect and dignity and give them a path to citizenship.
MR. GREGORY: Let me talk a little bit more about the status of the Republican Party and ask you, most directly, you still consider yourself a Republican?
GEN. POWELL: Yes. Why shouldn't I?
MR. GREGORY: Have you thought about leaving the party at any point?
GEN. POWELL: No, not really, because I still think that there is a need for a two-party system and that the Republican Party still has strength in it. It has strength with respect to its feelings about foreign policy and defense policy and our place in the world, and I'm not happy with the rightward switch, shift that the party has taken, and I've said this on many occasion, said it in 2008 on this program. And so I'm not about to give up. I think that we will see what happens in this election and what happens over the next two years as we head into 2012 as to what kind of party is actually going to be running as opposed to just being a movement.
MR. GREGORY: As you well know, one of the most animating forces right now in the party is Sarah Palin. I made a reference to her. She was at a Ronald Reagan dinner in Iowa over the weekend. She's campaigning across the country, advocating across the country, as she did in Delaware, which helped Christine O'Donnell get elected. Some Republicans think that has hurt the seat. What is her impact right now on the Republican Party, and does it bother you?
GEN. POWELL: She's a star. Why--it doesn't bother me. I mean, she is out there mixing it up, she's conveying her views, she's animating people to come forward and participate in the political process. I didn't think she was ready to be president of the United States in 2008, and I'm not sure she would be in 2012. But there's nothing wrong with former Governor Palin getting out there, presenting her views and animating American political life. People seem to suggest or think that this is something new and wild. But if you look at our history, we have had movements like this throughout our history. We've had this kind of political fighting throughout our history. It's the nature of our democratic system. One of the problems that I'm having with all of it right now is that there is a certain undercurrent of, of thought that is not helpful. When people want to attack the president, attack him. Presidents are used to being attacked. But let's not go down low.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GEN. POWELL: Let's not go down and start saying...
MR. GREGORY: Well, let me give you one example of that.
GEN. POWELL: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Because Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, has made some references to a book that's out called "The Roots of Obama's Rage," and this is in part what he had to say--I'll put it up on the screen--to the National Review. "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior. This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president." What is this?
GEN. POWELL: I would, I would just tell my, my fellow Americans think carefully about what was just said. Think carefully about some of the stuff that is coming across the blogs and the airwaves. Let's make a couple of points. One, the president was born in the United States of America. Let's get rid of that one, let's get rid of the birth thing. Let's attack him on policy not nonsense. Next, he is a Christian. He is not a Muslim. Twenty percent of the people say he is a Muslim, 80 percent of the people apparently do not believe he's a Muslim.
MR. GREGORY: Thirty-one percent of Republicans say he's a Muslim.
GEN. POWELL: Well surprise, surprise. But I'll bet you a dollar if the unemployment rate was not 9.6, but it was down to 4 percent, then you would find only 5 percent thinking he's Muslim. So they're attacking the president on this line. But he is not a Muslim, he is a Christian. And I think we have to be careful when we, when we take things like Dinesh D'Souza's book, which is the source of all of this, and suggest that somehow the president of the United States is channeling his dead father through some Kenyan spirits. This doesn't make any sense. Mr. Gingrich does these things from time to time with a big, bold statement. He did it with Sotomayor, "She's a reverse racist." He did it with Elena Kagan, "She ought to pull out of--she ought to be taken off the, the nomination for Supreme Court justice." And he does it occasionally to make news and to also stir up dust, kind of like the...
MR. GREGORY: Well, what is this doing, General, to the party in your view?
GEN. POWELL: I think it, I think it may appeal to certain elements of the party. It may appeal to the fringe elements of the party. But I don't think it appeals to all Republicans, and I don't think it appeals to the whole country. This kind of chatter, "He's a Kenyan channeler," and all this sort of stuff, makes a lot of news, and you will find that Governor Palin and people on the right side of the political spectrum, along with the tea party movement, really are getting a lot of attention and a lot of news and a lot of--they're making a lot of noise and they're making a lot of, a lot of chatter throughout our political system. And that's fine, that's good. But I don't think anybody should grab that and think that's the entire country.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think that Republicans are poised to retake at least the House? And would you like to see them do that with this--the current slate of candidates and some of the ideas?
GEN. POWELL: I, I don't know. The, the pollsters would tell us that the Republicans are poised to take over the House. That wouldn't break my heart, I wouldn't go into a funk. Frankly, it might be good for the president to have the Republicans owning one of the two bodies of our Congress.
MR. GREGORY: How so?
GEN. POWELL: Because then they have responsibility. You can't just say no to everything. You can't just sit around beating up the president. But the president also has to, I think, shift the way in which he has been doing things. I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we're having trouble carrying it. I think the president has to, like a, like a, like a razor blade, just go right after the single issue that is uppermost in the minds of the American people and that's employment. And he's done a lot with health care, with cap and trade, with education, and I understand the importance of all of that; but as far as the American people are concerned, the main attack is employment, and he's got to fix that.
MR. GREGORY: But, General, you, of course, endorsed him in 2008, and he and his advisers will tell you, "Look, every day he's been in office he's been working on this." And it strikes me you'll be giving a speech in Washington this week where you talk about how to move from commanding to connecting. Is the ability to connect his problem?
GEN. POWELL: I think he has lost some of the ability to connect that he had during the campaign. And it is not just me picking on the president, it's reflected in the polling. Some of the anxiety and anger that you see out there I think comes from a belief on the part of the American people, whether it's correct or incorrect--and the White House would say it's incorrect--that not enough attention--his singular focus should be on employment.
Wall Street got fixed, they're getting their bonuses back. We fixed the auto industry, it's starting to function. But people are still seeing a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, they're losing their homes, their homes are underwater, mortgages can't be paid, short sales. They are anxious, and they are expecting more out of the president. So I think he has to do more with respect to reducing the deficit and also being careful about putting more and more programs, more and more rocks into that knapsack because the American people are looking for a singular focus on the economy and unemployment. And as part of that, he needs to focus on the business community. In my travels around the country, the business community is not that satisfied with the administration right now. So I think the president is, is aware of all of this. His advisers are aware of all of this. And I hope we will see him moving more, more vigorously in this direction.
MR. GREGORY: What about moving more vigorously to the center? Could he do more to court Republicans, to reach bipartisan compromise?
GEN. POWELL: I think he might consider that after this upcoming election. Right now everybody's in the trenches. Everybody's, as they say in "Godfather II," "They've all gone to the mattresses." So we will see what happens after the election.
MR. GREGORY: I want to talk about foreign policy and ask you about Afghanistan. Back in 2001, on this program, after the invasion, you told Tim Russert, "I don't expect that you will see U.S. combat troops there in Afghanistan for any length of time as part of that international security force." Times change, 2010 we're surging up to 100,000 forces. Is it the right thing to do? Is this victory possible?
GEN. POWELL: We all hoped in 2001 that we could put in place an Afghan government under President Karzai that would be able to control the country, make sure al-Qaeda didn't come back, and make sure the Taliban wasn't resurging. It didn't work out. And now I think that the strategy that has been adopted by President Obama to give the country a surge of U.S. troops and NATO troops and to do everything we can to build up the Afghan army and the Afghan national police so that they can take over, it's a strategy the president said will start to move out of, or at least bring to some culminating point, next July when we start to reduce the level of troops that we have there.
My problem right now is that I cannot get a good handle on how we're doing. Some of the generals are saying, "We're making progress. We are clearing an area." But you really don't defeat the Taliban by clearing an area. They move. And so I cannot tell how well it's going. My concern is that it also is resting on a very weak base with the Karzai government, corruption in the Karzai government, and the Karzai government, which has not really been effective in extending its control out beyond Kabul. So I think we've got 10 months between now and next July, and I think the president will be facing a very, very difficult choice. You hear a lot of chatter now coming out of various places within the Pentagon saying, "Well, it will take time." I don't know if the president will give them time beyond next July to start the drawdown. Not pull out next July, but start the drawdown.
MR. GREGORY: In Iran, a path toward confrontation is possible, and I wonder what you think is worth--worse: an Iran with a nuclear weapon or the fallout of an attack on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel to prevent it having a nuclear weapon?
GEN. POWELL: I don't think the, the stars are lining up for an attack on Iran either by Israel alone, or Israel in concert with the United States, or the United States alone. I don't think that's going to happen. I've heard nothing to suggest that we would be interested in doing that or think it would be useful even though the option is always on the table. I think eventually we will have to deal with the reality that sanctions may not change the views of the Iranians on these issues; and, therefore, let's see if we can find a way to see if Iran can have a nuclear program that is fixed on power production, low-level enrichment of their material, so that it's not a track to become a weapon.
Now, people will say that's naive. Once you know how to do that you can then enrich up to weapons capability. But I think if you take them at their word, "trust, but verify," Reagan's old line, if you take them at their word, and they say they are not interested in a weapon, just power, then put in place a set of sanctions that would be devastating to them if they violate that agreement, and then put in place an IAEA inspection regime, the International Atomic Energy Administration, inspection regime that will keep them below that, and get Russia and China and everybody else to agree to it, then you might have to live with an Iran, and you might be able to live with an Iran that has a nuclear power capability, but rigid enforcement constraints have been put in so they can't move up to a weapons grade program and the production of a nuclear weapon. Now, at the same time, what can they do with a nuclear weapon compared to what we could do in return? I don't think it is--you know, they are interested in remaining in power. The easiest way for them to lose power is to seriously threaten or use such a weapon.
MR. GREGORY: In our remaining couple of minutes, I want to ask you about an issue here at home that's very important to you, and that's education. It's important to us at NBC News as well. We've got a big meeting coming up, Education Nation, that both you and your wife, Alma, would be addressing in a special presentation on Tuesday, September 28th. I wonder what you plan to talk about and how you feel this accountability movement, as part of education reform, has done at achieving results.
GEN. POWELL: I think we have seen quite a bit of improvement in the education reform effort in recent years. What Alma and I will be focusing on when we appear on NBC, and I thank NBC for hosting this, is not just schools and teachers and the various aspects of the schools and education in schools, but how do you get kids ready for school. A child that is not read to in a home, a child who can't tell time, who can't recite his alphabet, a child who comes to school without having had that early childhood rearing, without having been taught how to mind their adults, how to pay attention, how to focus; I think education doesn't begin in kindergarten and first grade, it begins when the child can look up at a mother lovingly and look up at a father lovingly. So I think part of our system of reform has to include what we do in those early years of life and not just fixing our schools. Too often we act--ask our schools to be truant officers, our teachers to be truant officers, because we're giving them children who have, you know, they're not ready to learn. And if they're not ready to learn by the third grade, they know they're behind. And by the sixth or seventh grade, they're thinking about dropping out. And as soon as they enter high school, they drop out. It is an unacceptable situation, our dropout rate.
MR. GREGORY: As you think about education policy, other important issues for the country, and before you go, you, of course, endorsed President Obama in 2008. Are you prepared to endorse him for re-election?
GEN. POWELL: Well, just as I did in 2008, when 2012 comes along, I will look at the needs of the country, the situation as I see it, and I will evaluate both candidates and see which one I think is best able to lead the country. In 2008, in my judgment, it was Mr. Obama. We had a country that was in recession, heading into depression, we had banks failing, we had a stock market collapsing, we were in difficulty, and I thought that he was best able to deal with that with the advisers he was surrounding himself with, and we have stabilized our economy. So I think that worked out.
MR. GREGORY: You described him as a transformational figure, to have the potential. Has he lived up to that or do you find yourself disappointed?
GEN. POWELL: I think he has--is a transformational figure. Some people don't like what he's done in transformation, and it's caused him some difficulty. But the fact of the matter is, he did put together a health care reform. It's not perfect, and I think it'll have to be fixed over time, and a lot of people are not happy with that health care reform, but he did it. We still have millions of our fellow citizens who have no insurance, especially children. And so I think he has done transformational work with respect to education, and I think he should get credit for that. But in other aspects, I think he has to focus on now governing, not worrying about the daily, the daily campaign problem or reacting to everything that comes across the cable news channel. I think he needs to sort of get above all of that. Yes, Mr. President, they will kick you like a dog, treat you like a dog, but hey, that's the nature of our system. America's a great country, and this is the way we do our politics.
MR. GREGORY: We will leave it there. General Powell, thank you, as always.
GEN. POWELL: Thank you, David.
MR. GREGORY: And coming next, former President Bill Clinton prepares to host leaders from around the world in the sixth annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting. Plus, Decision 2010, what is ahead for Democrats this November? Can President Obama turn things around? And the state of the nation's economy. The 42nd president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, up next, live, right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up, President Bill Clinton joins me to discuss what Democrats can expect in November and what President Obama can do to turn things around, after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: We are back, joined now live by the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
Mr. President, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON: Thank you, David.
MR. GREGORY: I'm looking forward to discussing the Clinton Global Initiative and your work in Haiti, but I just wanted to begin our political discussion with some reaction by you to hearing General Powell on what have been pretty significant developments this week politically inside the Republican Party after this turbulent primary season. What do you make of it?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think that a lot of the voters who are voting for the tea party candidates have really good impulses. That is, they believe that for years and years and years, the people with wealth and power or government power have done well and ordinary people have not. That's true. They believe those in the Republican Party believe that they've talked a good game about balancing the budget, but the debt was quadrupled in the 12 years before I became president and then we paid down the debt for four years, paid down $600 billion on the national debt, and then my budget was abandoned and they doubled the debt again. So there's a good there. They're worried that utter--we've come out of this recovery to some extent, about 70 percent of our GDP growth has been regained from what was lost, but ordinary people aren't feeling it yet and they want to see some help for ordinary people. I get that. The question is what are the specifics? What really matters is what we're going to do. And right now they've elected a lot of people who are articulate and attractive, but it's not clear what their specifics are. The gentleman that beat Senator Murkowski@ in Alaska, as I understand it, said that he thought unemployment compensation was unconstitutional. Well, putting 10 million more people in bread lines is not my idea of how to bring the economy back or balance the budget. So we need to hear more from them about where they stand on the Republican Party's agenda. Do they too want to repeal the financial regulations that were just enacted to provide more oversight and require more capital before risk can be undertaken so we don't get in this mess again? We need to know where they stand.
MR. GREGORY: But what about Christine O'Donnell? Does she ensure that a Democrat holds the--that Senate seat? In other words, are candidates like a Christine O'Donnell actually helpful to the Democratic Party?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, Karl Rove says they are. I don't know. I can't tell you. She's a very attractive person, she speaks well on television. And when you call her on something, she just says, "Oh, everybody's playing negative politics." Where does she stand? Does she want to repeal the financial oversight bill? Does she want to repeal the president's student loan reforms which allows young people, for the first time in history, to pay back all their loans as a percentage of their income so they never have to worry about dropping out of college? We fell from first to 12th in the world in the percentage of our young adults with college graduates. These are the important things. The Republican leaders in Washington, they've got a big agenda. They want to basically dismantle the federal authority except when it comes to defense and laying concrete, and cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and turn power over to the kind of folks that got us in trouble in the first place. I want to know where they stand, and we don't yet.
MR. GREGORY: What about some of the extreme statements that you heard General Powell respond very sharply to by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who you've done battle with and even worked constructively with, when he talked as he did to the National Review about the, the president's anti-colonial views?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, keep in mind, when--after the 1994 election, one of the first things that Speaker Gingrich said was that Hillary and I were the enemy of normal Americans. Every time something bad happened in America back then, he blamed it on the 1960s culture. Even one woman who drowned her children and it turned out she'd been abused by her stepfather who was a local right-wing Republican leader, he said, "Nonetheless, they were infected by all those Democratic bad things." So that's just what he does when he's running. He's, he's out there playing politics, and it's his shtick. He knows better. He's a smart man.
MR. GREGORY: Well, we'll return to politics in a few minutes, but I want to talk about your work around the world and the Clinton Global Initiative, your sixth annual meeting that begins this week in New York. What is the focus? What do you hope to achieve this year?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, this year we're, we're focusing again on trying to empower women and girls in the United States and around the world because, particularly around the world, 60 percent of the kids that don't go to school are girls. And we know that if women can get an education, if they have an opportunity to enter the workforce, that a lot of these problems in very poor countries will be lessened. We're focused on bringing the benefits of private sector job growth to the challenges we face, including the energy challenges we face, not just around the world, but here in America. We've got a lot of commitments that I think you'll find interesting which will actually create jobs in this economy in the United States. I, I try to get people to focus, to go beyond their rhetoric and their concerns to actually getting real things done. We're, we're going to have two, two or more electric cars on display that will be manufactured in America, that will be creating jobs here. We're going to talk a lot about what can be done with new technology to generate economic opportunity around the world in poor countries and here in America. We're going to talk a lot about health care and how to build up systems of health care so the U.S. and other wealthy countries aren't just sending aid to poor countries forever, but they can support themselves in health and education and their growing economy.
And, you know, half of the people who come to our meeting, from 90 countries, are business people, about a third come from the nongovernmental sector, philanthropists and, and organizations that do work on the ground. We have 40 heads of state coming and 24 former heads of state, and then people from academia and other places. And we get everybody to make a commitment. So I think you'll see a lot of very specific emphasis on things that create economic opportunity, that advance educational opportunity, that help women and girls who are left out and left behind in many poor places in the world.
MR. GREGORY: As you think about the world, as president you talked about globalization, the interconnectedness of our global economy. And you look at the poverty that this country is going through, the poverty report that came out this week, more and more families going into homeless shelters, seven out of 10 people who are out of work. How does CGI, in effect, address both that domestic need and put it together with the global needs?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, this year we're going to try to spend more time on the domestic needs by getting and generating support for people who are working to reach those folks with both jobs and with training. Let me just give you an example that's really chilling to me. And this is what I wish we'd have more talk about in the elections this year in America. Where are the jobs going to come from? Where's the money to finance them going to come from? And can people do them? For the first time in my lifetime, David, we are coming out of recession with posted job openings. That is, tomorrow, Monday, you could get that job. These jobs have been offered. They're going up twice as fast as job hires in this horrible economy. Why? Because of two things. First, over 10 million of our fellow citizens are living in homes that are worth less than their mortgages, so they can't move or their credit's ruined for life. We still need more efforts to fix that. And second, way the biggest problem, is there's a skills mismatch. The jobs that are being opened don't have qualified people applying for them. We need a system to immediately train them to move into that job. And I hope we'll have some commitments coming out on that. There are five million people who could go to work tomorrow if they were trained to do the jobs that are open, and the unemployment rate in America would immediately drop from 9.6 to about 7 percent or 6.9. That would have a huge impact on America's psyche. That would happen if no bank makes another loan, if none of this other stuff goes on. We need to go to work on these things and get some action there.
MR. GREGORY: Mr. President, let me ask you about your work in Haiti, which has been extensive. When I spoke to you on this program back in January, you told me the mission in Haiti wouldn't just be to rebuild, but to build something stronger. And yet, here are some disturbing facts about the reality in Haiti. Reports estimate only 2 percent of the quake debris has been cleared, 1.5 million Haitians are still in tents, foreign donors have pledged $11 billion over the next decade, but only 18 percent or about $5 billion pledged over the next two years has been dispersed. Why is the progress this slow?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, first of all, on the housing, it's always the slowest thing. You can go to--after we had Hurricane Andrew, right before I became president, people were still living in temporary housing in Florida over a year after the quake happened--after the hurricane happened. So keep in mind, you had a third of this country totally devastated. It was the urban third. It represented a loss of 70 percent of their GDP. So we can't move them out any quicker than that.
Secondly, all the rubble that is in the cities, it's normally in places where the roads are broken.
And thirdly, we haven't been given much money. A lot of people promised all this money. So what I've done with this commission, we have a commission now that's half Haitian and half the donors, and they have approved an enormous amount of new projects. We have to have the donors give the money. If the donors don't give the money, we can't do the work.
We will be moving this rubble out. And on October the 6th we're going to have a big housing expo down there to talk about building single units and multifamily, multistory units. And one of the things that I think will happen is a lot of these builders will come down there and help us get rid of the rubble by crushing it on site and either using it there or carting it away in a much more easy fashion. We're going to have to destroy a lot of that rubble where it is. We can't just lift it up and move it away the way people would think. But if we do, we can speed this up and get some things going. We did have the first new hotel that's been announced there. I have two more hotels ready to be announced, thousands of people who'll go to work. If we build a road, we've got the road approval now, and expand an airport in the northern part of the country. I think you will see in the next six months a dramatic acceleration if the election doesn't mess it up. They're having an election in the middle of all this, which is highly unusual for a country in the throes of rebuilding.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
PRES. CLINTON: But we'll get it all done, I think.
MR. GREGORY: All--well, let's talk about our election. A year ago, on this program, we met up in New York and I asked you about the prospect of another 1994. This is what you said then:
(Videotape, September 27, 2009)
MR. GREGORY: Do you worry about a repeat of '94, politically?
PRES. CLINTON: It--there's no way they can make it that bad.
MR. GREGORY: Your view one year later?
PRES. CLINTON: Do I still think that?
MR. GREGORY: Yes.
PRES. CLINTON: Well, they can't make it that bad, but we can. That is, there is all this anger on the right and they're very motivated to vote, but all the surveys show the registered voters are about evenly divided. The problem is not just anger on the right, the problem is that a lot of people who voted for the Democrats in 2006 and voted for President Obama in 2008, many of them first-time voters, are kind of apathetic. They say, "Oh, well, this whole thing hasn't been fixed in a year, and why should I go vote?" And they don't understand the differences. That's why I think it's really important for the debate to go beyond where it is now. Where it is now is, the Republicans said, "We left them in a $3 trillion hole, they had 21 months to fix it, they didn't fix it, throw them out. And besides that, they're trying to have the government take over the country." Which is not so. The Democrats say, "Well, at least we stopped digging that hole and we're trying to build our way out. Give us a couple more years. If it's not better then, you can throw us out. But, after all, you left the Republicans in for a long time. At least give us four years to try to fix this mess."
What I'd like to see them talk about now is two things: One, and most important, what are we going to do in the next two years, and who's more likely to do it? Where are the jobs going to come from? Small business, manufacturing and clean energy. Where's the money to finance them? The banks and the corporations in America today have lots of money that they can invest right now. Banks have $1.8 trillion in cash reserves uncommitted to loans, more than enough to get us out. And the third thing is the job training thing I mentioned earlier.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
PRES. CLINTON: How are we going to train people for the jobs that are there? Then, then I think the, the Democrats ought to talk about the Republican agenda. They want to repeal financial reform. They want to repeal the best student loan reform in history. They want to repeal, not fix, health care. Health care needs fixing, but if you repeal it, you'll go back to what we had. This year, 2009, in the depths of that recession, health insurance profits went up 26 percent, profits. As they were saying, "Oh, well, we had to raise these health premiums in a bad economy because our costs went up."
MR. GREGORY: Right. But, Mr. President...
PRES. CLINTON: So that's the issue. If the Democrats can focus on that and shake the voters out of their apathy, then we'll do fine.
MR. GREGORY: All right. But let me ask you about a couple of issues.
PRES. CLINTON: If they don't, we won't.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about health care. Back in August of 2009, you spoke in front of that Netroots convention, and this is what you said about healthcare reform. Let's watch:
(Videotape, August 13, 2009)
PRES. CLINTON: I'm telling you, I don't care how low they drive support for this with misinformation, the minute the president signs the healthcare reform bill, approval will go up because Americans are inherently optimistic. The minute.
MR. GREGORY: The White House said the same thing, Mr. President, but it hasn't happened yet.
PRES. CLINTON: Well, I was wrong about that for two reasons. First of all, the benefits of the bill are spread out over three or four years. It takes a long time to implement it. And secondly, there was--there's been an enormous and highly effective attack on it. But I think it's important. Let's--forget about the politics. Let's talk about the facts here. The real reason that the interest groups want to repeal, not fix health care, is that they like the way it's going now. They're dumping people every year and making the government pick them up. We are spending 17.2 percent of our income on health care. None of our wealthy competitors spend more than 10 1/2. Yet our infant mortality rate is higher than theirs, our overall mortal--age expectancy is lower than theirs. We don't have a better health system than they do. What's happened? That's a trillion dollars we spot our competitors every year for a health system that doesn't work as well. The people that are getting a trillion dollars have a lot of money to spread all this information--misinformation.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
PRES. CLINTON: And, you know, last night, I was with a 70-year-old neighbor of mine who is a dedicated Roman Catholic layman and a doctor, and he said, you know, "I just don't know what I'll do if they repeal this health care. We--we've never taken care of people." So there, there is--you can scare people about this, but you asked me about the politics. No one ever talks about the facts. Why do they want to repeal health care? Because there is a requirement that 85 percent of all the premiums finally go to health care. And they'd like to get rid of that.
MR. GREGORY: They're, they're...
PRES. CLINTON: I don't blame them but it would be a terrible mistake. We need to fix health care, put more cost restraints in there, not repeal it.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think President Obama is as effective as he could be? Your friend James Carville said that he enjoys policy a lot more than politics. Does that have an impact on the enthusiasm or lack thereof of Democrats?
PRES. CLINTON: Well, you know, I told the president, last time I talked to him, I said, "I don't think they're saying very many things about you now they didn't say about me in '94." And they're trying to create this atmosphere of attention deficit disorder and not look at what's happened. The president passed a good education reform, he passed a good higher education reform, he--we've stopped the digging. There, there was an independent study last week that showed that saving the financial system, keeping the interest rates near zero by the Feds, and the stimulus had left us in better shape. If those three things had not been done, eight and a half million more people would be unemployed. People just don't feel better, and they're vulnerable, and the Democrats need to say, "This is what we did, this is what happened, this is what we're going to do."
MR. GREGORY: All right.
PRES. CLINTON: I think that their only chance here is to shake their own voters out of their apathy and respond to the legitimate voter anger by saying, "What's going to happen in the next two years? What do we need to do, and who's more likely to do it." If that is the question, they can win that fight and they'll do fine. If the election's about "Vote your mad," they won't do very well. So I'm--I just try to talk about what are we going to do, what are we going to do. And I think the president is beginning to do that.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
PRES. CLINTON: If we need to grow jobs in small business, manufacturing, and green energy, he and the Democrats are the only people with a real program for that. And right now, the other side is opposing his small business initiative in the Congress. So I'd like to see his focus on what are we going to do. A lot of this politics doesn't amount to anything. We need to put America back to work, and we need specifics.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Mr. President, about 30 seconds left. Two quick personal things. There are some who have wondered if you're looking a little too thin and they worry about your health. Are you OK?
PRES. CLINTON: As far as I know, I'm fine. I've lost about--yesterday, I was down 24 pounds from my maximum. But I went on a new diet and I'm exercising and I feel great. And I'm trying not to have another heart incident. You know, I had that stent put in after my open heart surgery, so I'm trying to pursue a diet that will...
MR. GREGORY: All right.
PRES. CLINTON: ...make sure that I don't have another incident.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We will leave it there. Mr. President, as always, thank you very much. Good luck with CGI this week.
PRES. CLINTON: Thanks, David.
MR. GREGORY: And up next, in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, a look back at longtime NBC newsman and occasional MEET THE PRESS moderator, Edwin Newman. We'll look back at Newman's first ever appearance on this program, July 10th, 1960, when he questioned presidential candidate John F. Kennedy on a now all-too-familiar topic of an economic recession, after this brief station break.
MR. GREGORY: And we are back with our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE. We learned this week of the death of long-time NBC Newsman Edwin Newman. Newman spent 30 years with this network, appearing on all programs across the news division. He was the bureau chief in London, Rome and Paris, and later moved to New York where he became a regular member of the "Today" show team. Newman also served as moderator of this program more than 40 times, and as a frequent panelist as well. In his first ever appearance on the program, July 10th, 1960 he interviewed Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy from the site of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
(Videotape, July 10, 1960)
MR. EDWIN NEWMAN: You've suggested spending another $2.5 billion or $3 billion on defense. You've also said you don't think the present administration will do that.
MR. JOHN F. KENNEDY: That's correct.
MR. NEWMAN: Now, if you became president and you did it, it would take some time for that money to be spent and to make itself felt in the economy. Do you conclude that a recession is inevitable?
MR. KENNEDY: No, I hope it is not. I just say that I think this is a very--a period of, I would say, of--which ought to be an alarm bell to us all. I think...
MR. NEWMAN: You...
MR. KENNEDY: ...it bears resemblance to the summer of 1957, but I think maybe more serious. There was a recession in '49, a recession in '54 and a recession in '58. Now we're talking about a slowdown two years after the recession of '58. I don't think that this administration can successfully run on a program of domestic prosperity if the real facts are pointed out.
MR. GREGORY: Three years later on November 22nd, 1963, Edwin Newman would make the first announcement on NBC radio of President Kennedy's death. Newman died of pneumonia in Oxford, England, where he had lived since 2007. He was 91. And we'll be right back.
MR. GREGORY: And before we go, a programming note. Tune into CNBC tomorrow at noon for "Investing in America," a CNBC town hall event with President Obama. The president will take questions about the economy and the direction of the country from a live studio audience.
And be sure to join us right here next week when MEET THE PRESS kicks off NBC's education week live from New York.
That is all for today. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.