October 17, 2010

Gibbs: ‘Come election night, we’ll retain control of both the House and the Senate.’

ROBERT GIBBS: I think our candidates have done a remarkably good job in a tough political environment. And I think that—come election night, we’ll retain control of both the House and the Senate.

Economy is the reason for Democrats midterm troubles

ROBERT GIBBS: We’re in a tough political environment because the country’s in a tough economic environment. It’s-- 9.6 percent unemployment, again, 8 million jobs that have been lost. But, you know, look, we’ve got candidates that are out there making—their positive case, because we know exactly what the Republican party wants to do. David, they said it sitting probably right here in the chair I’m sitting in. They want to go back exactly to what we had in 2008.

Karl Rove group ‘has the potential to derail democracy,’ Gibbs says

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, again, it’s just a fact. Karl Rove—who believed quite frankly that outside money in the 2004 race had the potential to derail our democracy before he started running a group that I think we now both agree has the potential to derail democracy.

Karl’s group is spending $50 million, the Chamber is spending $75 million. If you add up all the conservative groups and what they’ve pledged to spend in this race, it’s $399 million. Nobody knows who those donors are. Nobody knows what their political agenda is.

***

GOP coordinated strategy for Democrats failure, says Gibbs

ROBERT GIBBS: Quite frankly, from the very get go, from the very first day, there was a coordinated strategy by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans to simply say no to everything that President Obama wanted to do. And now we know why. Because they wanna go back to what happened in 2008 and 2007. Look, Karl Rove is the architect in many of these outside groups. And I think it’s—pretty emblematic of wanting to take us back to the Bush years.

Gibbs: ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will end under this President.’

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, we have a process in place right now to work with the Pentagon—for an orderly—and disciplined transition—from the law that we have now—to an era that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell doesn’t exist. And I will say this, David. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will end under this President. The courts have decided, the legislature has—has—is beginning to decide and the President is firmly in the place of removing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…

It ends with a vote in Congress. It’s a law. And the most durable solution is to repeal that law. That’s what the President asked the House to do and they did. That’s what the President—I think there’s enough votes to do it in the Senate. But, again—we have to get through a Republican filibuster.

Buck believes being gay is a choice

DAVID GREGORY: Do you believe that being gay is a choice?

KEN BUCK: I do.

DAVID GREGORY: Based on what?

KEN BUCK: Based on what?

DAVID GREGORY: Yeah. Why do you believe that?

KEN BUCK: I guess—you can choose who your partner is.

DAVID GREGORY: You don’t think it’s something that’s determined at birth?

KEN BUCK: I—I think that—birth has an influence over like alcoholism and some other things—but I think that—basically, you—you have a choice.

Buck maintains he has not shifted to center

DAVID GREGORY: This is how the Denver Post editorial—wrote about it on Friday. I’ll put it up on the screen. “Buck ran as a far-right Tea Party conservative in his primary race against more moderate Jane Norton, and now he’s been” tacking—“tracking back to the center.” … Is that charge, fair?

KEN BUCK: No…. Fifteen times more with the Democrat Tracker Camera in my place I explained that I wasn’t in favor of repealing the 17th amendment. It is easy when you have—a tracker and—and they have-- 100 examples of—of answers and—and the questions are comin’ at ya from different angles—to use—tape that shows—a slight—deviation in the answer. It is not fair to say that I have backtracked on—on those issues.

Sen. Bennet says Buck is a political opportunist

DAVID GREGORY: Is he [Buck] a political opportunist?

SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET: I think absolutely. I mean it—I think it’s very clear that he ran a primary election saying that he would privatize Social Security. That he demolish the Department of Education. That the American people need to wean theirselves off of student loans. That he supported the personhood amendment—pro-life in all cases except for—including cases of rape and incest. He’s not changed his position on that.

And in the general election, even as recently as yesterday, he said, “Well, I—I don’t oppo—I—I don’t support abolishing the Department of Education but I wouldn’t oppose it if it came up for a vote.” That’s not the kind of straight talk that people in Colorado want….

The flip flops in this race are unbelievable.

Sen. Bennet says process of passing health care was ‘horrible’

SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET: I did vote—I did cast a vote for healthcare and I also said that I thought the process was—was horrible. The status quo before we passed healthcare was also horrible. And part of what we need to do is clean up the way Washington does its business. I completely agree with that because it—it’s one of the things that’s eroding confidence in the American people and what’s going on in—in this town.

Sen. Bennet on President Obama: ‘He’s done some things that were not helpful to Colorado’

SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET: I also think that it’s clear that the recovery, you know, package—has grown the GDP somewhat and saved thousands and thousands of jobs in my home state. Look, when I agree with the President I agree with him. When I disagree with him, I disagree with him. He’s done some things that were not helpful to Colorado and I fought back. Cancelling the Orion Project. Making sure that we didn’t change the tax treatment for bad for the—gas producers in our state.

Buck says no regrets for statements about rape case

DAVID GREGORY: During the primary campaign, you [Buck] said—you said that voters should vote for you because you don’t wear high heels. And then, there was an issue that’s gotten a lot of attention as a district attorney about a 2006 date-rape case. You—you declined to prosecute. You told the Greely Tribune, “A jury could very well conclude that this was a case of buyer’s remorse.” After you looked at the circumstances of the case, and decided not to prosecute…

Do you regret the way you either talked to her or talked about the case?

KEN BUCK: I—I don’t regret the way I talked to her. I think—I think—the—it is important that—a prosecutor—approach a victim with—with a certain amount of reality, and—and that’s what I tried to do with this victim. I didn’t blame her at all.

DAVID GREGORY: Right. But what about what you told the Greely Tribune?

KEN BUCK: What I told the Greely Tribune, I gave them five or six reasons why I thought a jury could—decline this case. One of the reasons was the fact that she had regretted this relationship, and she had buyer’s remorse as a result of the relationship that she had with this young man. That is—that is—something that I think when—when someone decides to make the case public, the—the public has to understand why.

Buck on paying for tax cuts: ‘We pay for it by cutting spending.’

DAVID GREGORY: Well, let me ask you on that point. Do you agree with Republican leaders who say that tax cuts do not have to be paid for?

KEN BUCK: No. I don’t. I—I think we’ve got to find spending cuts…

DAVID GREGORY: You either believe in a balanced budget or you do not. If you extend tax cuts—you said just a moment ago, they have to be paid for. Then how do you pay for it?

KEN BUCK: Well, the—we pay for it by cutting spending. We also pay for it by growing government. When we leave money in the hands of taxpayers, they buy things, they pay taxes, they grow government. It’s not a one for one—exchange in the first year, but—but it would be bad in my view—and every economist I’ve talked to—has told me that it would be bad in a recession to try to increase taxes.

Sen. Bennet favors extending Bush era tax cuts for one year to figure out how to pay for them

DAVID GREGORY: Well, and you think there should be an extension on all the tax cuts for at least year.

MICHAEL BENNETT: For a year. In part to figure out how we do pay for it. I mean, the same thing that Ken is saying right now is what the Bush administration said when it created these tax cuts to begin with. And what we saw was the first period of economic growth in our country’s history when middle class income fell.

DAVID GREGORY: Right. But it’s not—but it’s not fair to compare him to all Republicans. The—the Republican leaders don’t agree with what he just said. Which is that you have to pay for tax cuts. So, isn’t he—aren’t you guys more in line than you say?

MICHAEL BENNETT: Well, I didn’t—I actually didn’t hear him say that. I heard him say that you pay for it, and also by growing government you pay for it. I’m not quite sure what that means… Well, I’m definitely not interested in growing government, I can tell you that.

KEN BUCK: I’m sorry, growing the economy. I apologize.

MICHAEL BENNETT: Growing the economy.

DAVID GREGORY: You’re talking about growing the economy?

KEN BUCK: Right.

#          #            #

WEB LINKS FROM TODAY’S “MEET THE PRESS”

FULL GIBBS INTERVIEW

http://bit.ly/dluUa9

FULL SENATE DEBATE

http://bit.ly/cG1f9K

Gibbs: Economy driving tough political climate

http://bit.ly/9gaZzu

Gibbs: We’ll retain House and Senate

http://bit.ly/dcvKsk

Gibbs: Obama will end ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’

http://bit.ly/aWj2oL

Gibbs eyeing top job at DNC?

http://bit.ly/99HLkI

Buck: Tea Party a ‘legitimate’ movement

http://bit.ly/9dNYIP

Colorado hopefuls wrangle over of tone of campaign

http://bit.ly/d1zaO4

Colorado Senate candidates on stimulus, Obama

http://bit.ly/b6aJKo

Bennet, Buck debate Bush tax cuts

http://bit.ly/9y5wUb

Colorado candidates on Buck’s handling of rape case

http://bit.ly/cG9BAs

Buck: Being gay is a choice

http://bit.ly/cLJ0E0

Colorado Senate candidates answer Facebook question

http://bit.ly/aulNR5

#          #            #

Below is a RUSH transcript of this morning’s broadcast (10/17/10), mandatory attribution to NBC News’ “Meet the Press with David Gregory.” A final transcript of the program is available at: www.mtp.msnbc.com.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good morning.  Today, for the first time this election season, the President and the First Lady hit the campaign trail together, heading to Ohio to stump for Governor Ted Strickland, and attend a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.  But with just 16 days until the election, is there anything the President can do to stop Republicans from a major victory on November 2nd?  Joining me now, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.  Welcome back to Meet The Press.

ROBERT GIBBS:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

We are just 16 days away, and there was something in the Washington Post that really caught my eye that kind of summed up the difficulty for the President and for Democrats.  I’ll put it up on the screen.  It’s about the West Virginia race, and hopeful Joe Manchin.  The headline:  he’s got the pesky D after his name.  This year, Manchin has one problem he can’t fix.  Quote, “There’s not much wrong with him,” said John Jenks, attending an event for the Republican John Raese, on Wednesday.  It’s just that he is a Democrat.  Why is that such a problem?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, look, there’s—there’s different political environments in different states, but understand, David, the overall political environment is driven by our overall economic pic—picture.  It took us years to get into the mess that we got ourselves in at the end of 2008, and it’s going to take a while to get us out.

We lost 8 million jobs.  We saw a financial system near collapse.  We have—a continuing housing crisis—that we’re making progress on dealing with.  We have positive economic growth, and we’ve had nine straight months of private sector job growth.  It’s just going to take a while to get out of the mess that took us a long time to get into.

DAVID GREGORY:

Just this morning, though, AP story out showing a poll, many Obama 2008 supporters defecting to the GOP.  This has, in many ways, become a referendum on the President and his policies.

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, I will say this, I’m a little leery of polls that take three weeks to conduct just as a political professional.  But again, we’re—we’re in a tough political environment because the country’s in a tough economic environment.  It’s-- 9.6 percent unemployment, again, 8 million jobs that have been lost.  But, you know, look, we’ve got candidates that are out there making—their positive case, because we know exactly what the Republican party wants to do.  David, they said it sitting probably right here in the chair I’m sitting in.

They want to go back exactly to what we had in 2008.  They want to start by repealing things like Wall Street reform, and putting banks back in charge of making financial decisions that affect not just Wall Street, but affect Main Street.  I think at the end of the day—people are going to understand that message—and not turn over control—of Congress to people that want to take us back to what we’re trying to get out.

DAVID GREGORY:

Last time you were here, you made a little news.  You raised some eyebrows—by what you said.  And I want to play what you said, but I want to play it in the full context, and have you—talk about it, give—give an updated version about it.  Let me—this is about the election landscape.

DAVID GREGORY VO:

Is the House in jeopardy?  The majority for the Democrats in the House in jeopardy?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Yes, I—I think there are no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up.  A lot of contested seats.  I think—people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I—I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play—that could cause Republicans to gain control.  There’s no doubt about that.

DAVID GREGORY:

You also went on to say that there’s—it will depend on how strong the campaigns are by Democrats.  First of all, what—how do you see the landscape now?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, again, I—it’s—there’s no question it is a tough and challenging political environment.  We’re the beneficiary of—a lot of political real estate after 2006 and 2008 that haven’t been held by Demo—Democrats for a—long period of time.  But, look, I—I think that campaigns—in this—cycle are being run on a lot of local issues—and issues that are important not nationally, but to individual states, and independent—independent—individual Congressional districts.  I think our candidates—have done a remarkably good job in a tough political environment.  And I think that—come election night, we’ll retain control of both the House and the Senate.

DAVID GREGORY:

You believe that?

ROBERT GIBBS:

I do believe that.

DAVID GREGORY:

What’s different now, as opposed to then?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, again—I think right now, you see an electorate by Democrats that is actually more engaged.  You mentioned—the President out on the trail.  He’s joined today by—a very popular First Lady in a—in an important state like Ohio.  Twenty-thousand people signed on Deval Patrick’s website for the event that we had yesterday, 26,000 people in Wisconsin.  There’s an excitement about what this President is trying to do.  There’s an energy around it.  And we’re seeing that in shrinking generic Congressional ballots and we’re seeing that in—a shrinking enthusiasm gap.

DAVID GREGORY:

The President on the trail, as you mentioned—has some pointed messages.  And—I want to show just a portion of—of one of his talks here on Tuesday.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

The question is going to be whether once again hope overcomes fear.  Because what essentially the other side has decided is that—they’re going to try to ride fear and anxiety all the way to the ballot box on November 2nd.

DAVID GREGORY:

He’s accusing Republicans of riding fear and anxiety to the ballot box, and yet, with his talk about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the influence of foreign money, a lot of people question whether he’s in fact guilty of the same thing.  This is what the President said back in October in Maryland.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations.  So, groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.  And they won’t tell you where the money for their ads come from.  So, this isn’t just a threat to Democrats.  All Republicans should be concerned.  Independents should be concerned.  This is a threat to our democracy.

DAVID GREGORY:

A threat to our democracy, yet the White House has not produced proof of any—foreign funds in the ads.  And this is what the Washington Post said about this general issue.  The headline:  Secret campaign money that foreign donations are not the problem.  The gusher of secret money, they say in the editorial, pouring into the coming election is alarming.  It should be plugged for future campaigns and could be with the switch—of a Senate seat or two.  But the rhetoric about this development from President Obama down is irresponsibly alarmist.  Bruce Josten, with the Chamber of Commerce, his chief lobbyist, told the New York Times and Chambers said 115 foreign affiliates paid less than $100,000 in membership dues out of a total budget of $200 million. The foreign money is kept in segregated accounts.  The White House seems willing to stoke xenophobia—xenophobia without any evidence for its accusation.

ROBERT GIBBS:

David, I—I think if you look at what the President said—he was—extremely careful.  You’ve got a group that does take money from foreign countries.  From—from companies in—in other countries.  They are running $75 million with of ads.  David, you and I don’t know exactly who’s contributing to that because there’s a program that keeps all of their donors and—involved in these ads a complete secret.

You’re not going to know today, you’re not going to know tomorrow, you’re not going to know after the election.  What’s the agenda of those that would contribute and write million-dollar checks to influence races like in Colorado, or throughout the country.  What’s their political agenda?  And this is solved quite easily.  Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist, could simply open up the books.  Could simply show people exactly where the donations are coming from, and who’s paying for the ads.

And I have to say, David, it—it’s a pretty easy political solution to simply show the American people where the money’s coming from.  And since it’s been—a week and a half or two weeks in this debate, and they haven’t show you were the money is, it—it calls into question where that money comes from.

DAVID GREGORY:

But isn’t it striking to you, Robert, that—an administration that passed health care reform, financial regulation, a massive stimulus to try to, you know—grow the economy is, in itself, using a fear tactic here a couple weeks before the election?  Talking about Karl Rove, talking about the Chamber of Commerce, and secret money into the campaign?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, again, it’s just a fact.  Karl Rove—who believed quite frankly that outside money in the 2004 race had the potential to derail our democracy before he started running a group—I think we now both agree has the potential to derail democracy.

Karl’s group is spending $50 million, the Chamber is spending $75 million.  If you add up all the conservative groups and what they’ve pledged to spend in this race, it’s $399 million.  Nobody knows who those donors are.  Nobody knows what their political agenda is.  What do they want from the next Senator or from the next Congressman.  It—it does have the potential to derail our democracy.  $400 million injected into this political campaign—

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is still a lot more smoke than fact. Isn’t that fair?

ROBERT GIBBS:

No. Absolutely not.  Again, we could—we could know all the facts by simply having Karl Rove and others—lay out exactly where their donors come from and exactly where that money—what the agenda is behind those big checks.

DAVID GREGORY

But isn’t the bigger issue here than Karl Rove—this poll question that bom—Bloomberg asked—earlier this month.  Whether people believe that children in your life will have a better life than you have.  Fifty-one percent say they’re just somewhat or not confident in that.  The faith in President Obama and making a better future was very high when he came into office and here’s where it stands now.

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, look—I don’t doubt that—there are concerns throughout this country.  And there’s a deep frustration.  And you can include the Oval Office in that in getting our economy moving again.  The President works every day not to do what is political popular but what—to do what is right.

Investing in—auto companies and ensuring a financial collapse didn’t lead—not from a recession to a Great Depression may not have been the most popular thing to do, but it was the right thing to do.  And every step of the way, David, in—in facing economic catastrophe, Republicans said no.

The people in this country—in order to affect—their outlook on the future need a party in the Republicans that’s willing to come be part of democracy and be part of government.  I don’t doubt that as we look through the messages of what happens on election day, regardless of the outcome, the American people are gonna want two political parties to work together to solve our problems.

And, quite frankly, from the very get go, from the very first day, there was a coordinated strategy by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans to simply say no to everything that—President Obama wanted to do.  And now we know why.  Because they wanna go back to what happened in 2008 and 2007 where Karl Rove is the architect in many of these outside groups.  And I think it’s—pretty emblematic of wanting to take us back to—the Bush years.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do—do you call on Democratic candidates like Joe Manchin, like a dozen or so blue dog Democrats—in the Congress to rebuff their support from the Chamber of Commerce that they have in—in this race?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Look the—the chamber has—has certainly—a constitutionally protected right—to air ads.  Nobody’s arguing that they can’t be involved in the election.  But the President has said—and not just in the last two weeks.  David, the President said this at the State of the Union in criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision that groups that support Democrats and groups that support Republicans, liberal or conservative, oughta simply tell the American people where they get their money.  Who’s paying for the millions and millions of dollars -

DAVID GREGORY:

But you’re not concerned about Democrats getting support from the Chamber?

ROBERT GIBBS:

No, look, I—the—the—the chamber—supported the President’s recovery plan.  The President—we would like to have had the—the Chamber’s support in dealing with small business tax cuts that Republicans opposed and took us three months longer to get than it should have.  We would, quite frankly, have liked the Chamber’s support on common sense Wall Street reform that starts to put— Main Street back in charge and not held hostage by Wall Street.  Again, there was a coordinated effort not to have that happen.  Not because it was right for the American people but because it was all a series of political ploys.

DAVID GREGORY:

I want to ask you about—a big news item this week and that is the—the—the issue of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military.  The President speaking on Thursday at an MTV—town hall said this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I’ve said clearly, including in a State of the Union address, that I’m against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and that we’re gonna end this policy.

DAVID GREGORY:

And yet on that very day, the President’s Justice Department—filed an appeal to halt a judge’s ruling that would have struck down Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  So the President wants the law to go away, if he wants the ban to go away, why is he still supporting the law in the courts?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, let’s be clear.  The President believes the ji—law is discriminatory, unjust—and quite frankly—you have men and women who are willing to lay down their life for this country.  They—those people oughta be able to serve.  The law that was—struck down that the President opposes, we—we’ve got a process.  One, the House has—has passed repeal and we hope the Senate takes up that repeal quickly.

DAVID GREGORY:

But what—

ROBERT GIBBS:

And it didn’t.

DAVID GREGORY:

if the Senate does?  Is there faith in the Senate that’s misplaced?  What does the President do if the Senate doesn’t act?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, we have a process in place right now to work with the Pentagon—for an orderly—and disciplined transition—from the law that we have now—to an era that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell doesn’t exist.  And I will say this, David.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will end under this President.  The courts have decided, the legislature has—has—is beginning to decide and the President is firmly in the place of removing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

DAVID GREGORY:

But does he believe it’s unconstitutional?

ROBERT GIBBS:

You know, David—he think it’s discriminatory and it’s unjust.  And most of all it harms our national security.

DAVID GREGORY:

We know his position, though.  But if you—

DAVID GREGORY:

keep defending it in the courts, how does it end?  You can pronounce it dead, but how does it end if you—

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well—

DAVID GREGORY:

backing it in the court?

ROBERT GIBBS:

It—it ends with a vote in Congress.  It’s a law.  And the most durable solution is to repeal that law.  That’s what the President asked the House to do and they did.  That’s what the President—I think there’s enough votes to do it in the Senate.  But, again—we have to get through a Republican filibuster.

It harms our national security.  It’s discriminatory.  It’s time for it to end.  And I will say this, David, again, this President will end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  And—I think the courts—you’re seeing from the courts—that—they’re deciding that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—quite frankly is—has—it’s time for it to end and it—that time is coming very soon.

DAVID GREGORY:

This is in the Sunday New York Times Magazine.  It’s called “The Education of a President”.  And it talks about—the President and the White House’s vision for what happens after November 2nd.  Whether you lose control of the House or the Senate or you don’t, if it’s’ a slimmer—majority.

And there’s a por—portion of the article written by Peter Baker.  I’ll put it up on the screen.  “While proud of his record, Obama has already begun thinking about what went wrong and what he needs to do to change course for the next two years.  He has spent what one aide called ‘a lot of time talking about Obama 2.0.’”  What is Obama 2.0? What—what comes next?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, look—there’s a couple of different things.  We’ve got to address problems—that sit before us.  We have a medium and long-term fiscal situation that we all understand is unsustainable.  And it’s only gonna be solved if the two parties are willing to work together.

We’ve gotta take steps to continue education reform.  And, most importantly, we’ve—we’ve passed some important legislation that creates a foundation for long-term economic growth.  Wall Street reform and healthcare reform.  And it’s gonna take a lot of—coordinated energy and work to implement those.  I—I think that’s what the President—you’ll—you’ll see the foc—President focused on in the next two years regardless, quite frankly, of the—

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, what about—

ROBERT GIBBS:

outcome of this.

DAVID GREGORY:

how do you say to the voters, “I hear you.  There’s gonna be some kind of course correction.”  What does that look like?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well—I think we’ll have time to figure out exactly what is said after the election when we know the final results.  Right now the President’s focus—is on—getting our economy—stronger and strengthened and moving forward—as he’s out there making the case for—for Democrats in this election.

DAVID GREGORY:

You said you’d never trade the job of press secretary.  Do you stick by that or might you be elsewhere in the administration or in Washington?

ROBERT GIBBS:

You know, David—and I—I think you would—you—pretty easily agree with this.  It is a tremendous honor and privilege to walk into that building every morning.  To serve this President or serve any President.  I am happy with what I do.  I’d love to be—the manager of the Atlanta Braves but they hired somebody this week, so—I’ll just have to be—inordinately happy with—one of the best jobs on the planet.

DAVID GREGORY:

Maybe you run the DNC?

ROBERT GIBBS:

I—I’ve spent no time thinking about—and no time talking to people about what comes next for me.  We’re focused on what comes next for this country.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Robert Gibbs.  Thank you very much.

ROBERT GIBBS:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Appreciate it.  Coming up next.  Our special Senate debate series continues.  (MUSIC) This week, the fight for Colorado.  Democrat Michael Bennett squares off with his Tea Party-backed challenger, Republican Ken Buck, in a tight race that could tip the balance of power in Washington.  Only here on Meet the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DAVID GREGORY:

In the final stretch, President Obama tries to rally his base with democratic control of Congress on the line.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

This election is a choice between our fears and our hopes.

DAVID GREGORY:

In Colorado, President Obama isn’t on the ballot, but he’s on the minds of voters, and he casts a long shadow over Democratic Senator Michael Bennett.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

He’s somebody who is going to change Washington if you send him back there, and give him the kind of mandate that he—he deserves.

DAVID GREGORY:

A relationship his opponent has used against him.

VOICE OVER:

A rubber stamps for his friends in Washington.

DAVID GREGORY:

Two years ago, Colorado was Democrat country.  Where the party staged its national convention, where Senator Obama tapped into frustration among the state’s independent voters.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

The challenges we face require tough choices.  And Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas in politics in the past.

VOICE OVER:

And we have news.  Colorado also went for Obama, according to NBC News projections.

DAVID GREGORY:

And carried the state by nine points over John McCain.  But much has changed in the Rocky Mountain west.  High unemployment due to lost construction jobs, growing anger over government spending, and the debt.  Giving the Tea Party an opening, and a candidate, Ken Buck, a lawyer, and former district attorney whose Tea Party backing helped him beat the establishment GOP candidate.

KEN BUCK:

I have cowboy boots.  They have real bullshit on ‘em.  (LAUGHS) That’s Weld County (BEEP) not Washington D.C. (BEEP)

DAVID GREGORY:

He is challenging Bennett, the freshman Senator and former head of Denver schools who was appointed to the seat after Ken Salazar joined the Obama cabinet.  Their campaign, among the most contentious in the country, mirrors the national debate.  Has government helped or hurt in the great recession, and who can voters really trust to fix what’s broken in Washington.

DAVID GREGORY:

And joining us now, the current junior Senator from Colorado, the Democrat, Michael Bennet, and his challenger, Republican Ken Buck, who is still the district attorney at Weld County in Colorado.  That was my mistake, I apologize.  Welcome to both of you.  And this is a debate that matters.  If you look at the polling, we’ll put it up on the screen.

The latest Denver Post K-USA poll.  This is a tight race with—Mister Buck—with a five-point advantage right now.  Both of you under 50 percent.  So, a lot on the line here.  Mister Buck, let me start with you, because you do have Tea Party backing.  The Tea Party is a major movement in this midterm campaign, whether it’s Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell getting a lot of headlines—in Delaware.  And the question is whether the Tea Party represents an extreme insurgent—political force, or whether it’s a legitimate political movement.  What do you say?

                        KEN BUCK:            I—I think it’s a legitimate political movement.  I think what we’re talking about are folks that are frustrated.  That—we are spending so much money in Washington D.C.  And they’re every bit as frustrated with Republicans as they are with the Democrats, ‘cause the Republicans are every bit as much to blame for the mess that we’re in as the Democrats.  And—and that frustration—has—exhibited itself in a lot of energy.  Folks are—are not going to try to send the same type of Republican in Washington D.C. that they’ve sent in the past.  And so—I think it is—a lot more mainstream than it has been afraid.

                        DAVID GREGORY:

But, you know, it’s—it’s that point.  There are a lot of folks who are supported by the Tea Party, and in the Tea Party, it’s really the mainstream movement.  But there are others who say it is anything but.  As a matter of fact, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and the NAACP are releasing a report this coming week, and here it is.  I’ll show it on the screen.  The Tea Party nationalism.  A critical examination of the Tea Party movement, and the size, scope, and focus of its national factions.

And there’s some serious charges that I want you to respond to.  The result of this study contravenes many of the Tea Party’s self-invented myths, particularly their supposedly sole concentration on budget deficits, taxes and the power of the federal government.  Instead, this report found the Tea Party ranks to be permeated with concerns about race and national identity, and their so-called social issues.  Tea Party organizations have given platforms to anti-Semites, racists and bigots.  Further, hardcore White nationalists have been attracted to these protests looking for potential recruits, and hoping to push these White protestors toward a more self-conscious and ideological White supremacy.  If you’re Senator, do you think these elements in the Tea Party need to be dealt with and need to be rebuked?

KEN BUCK:

Absolutely.  First of all, I haven’t seen it.  I—I’ve been to over-- 800 events in—in Colorado in the last 20 months.  I have not seen that.  And—and I find it offensive that folks would try to label the Tea Party in that way.  It’s just not true in Colorado.  I don’t know if it’s true in other states.  I haven’t been to the other states.  But I—I can tell you that—if there are people that hold those views they are quickly—asked to leave meetings.  I—I have not seen them in meetings.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator, is this a legitimate question?  Is this a mainstream movement?  Because this is high stake in your—in your campaign and this debate.

MICHAEL BENNET:

Well, you know, David—over the last 22 meetings, I’ve had town halls in every part of our state, red and blue, and said the same thing in all those places.  And what I’ll say is this, my favorite rooms are the ones where are the Democrats, Republicans, unaffiliated voters, and Tea Party people.  Because when folks are together in a room, they actually have to listen to each other.

I think one of the things that we are facing right now is that we’ve stopped listening to each other in our politics.  So, I haven’t seen a lot of that either.  And I have had the opportunity to engage with people who are self-described Tea Party people to have a serious conversation rather than just a bunch of slogans about how we are not going to be—you know, what we—what we need to do so that we’re not the first generation of Americans to leave less opportunity not more to our kids than our grandkids.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mister Buck, the issue of the Tea Party matters though because one of the big knocks against you, it’s been a subject to the campaign between you, is whether or not you took positions to appeal to primary voters, to get that Tea Party support that you’re now backing away from.  This is how the Denver Post editorial—wrote about it on Friday.  I’ll put it up on the screen.

Buck ran as a far-right Tea Party conservative in his primary race against more moderate Jane Norton, and now he’s been tacking—tracking back to the center.  It hasn’t been an easy waltz.  He’d trip over his feet more often in his march to the center if they weren’t in his mouth.  Buck’s critics now call his tap dance “Buck peddling.”  First, he said he supports Colorado’s Personhood measure, an abortion-related measure, then he backed off.  Now he says he isn’t sure.  During the primary, he told voters he’d support a fair tax, then when faced with a misleading Bennett attack ad, he backed off.

“He told one crowd he favored repealing the 17th amendment which allows for the direct election of Senators.  Then he later backpedaled.  His position on Afghanistan has morphed so much it’s almost incoherent.  Buck says he doesn’t believe in nation building yet he says, ‘We can’t leave Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorists,’ as if it would be possible to control events there once our troops are gone.”  Is that litany, is that charge, fair?

KEN BUCK:

No.

DAVID GREGORY:

Explain why?

KEN BUCK:

Well—issues like the 17th amendment.  I—I—as I said, I’ve been to over 800 events in—in Colorado in—in 20 months.  I have talked about—the 17th amendment.  Someone asked me a question.  I said, “The short answer is yes, but—“ and then I gave an explanation of why I thought there were better answers than—to—to restoring the balance of power between—the states and the federal government than the 17th amendment.

Senator Bennett has played a commercial over and over—that misstates, misquotes, misleads—on that issue.  The next day I called the person back and said, “You know, I—I’ve thought about it and I—I don’t wanna leave you with the impression that the answer is yes.”

Fifteen times more with the Democrat Tracker Camera in my face I explained that I wasn’t in favor of repealing the 17th amendment.  It is easy when you have—a tracker and—and they have-- 100 examples of—of answers and—and the questions are comin’ at ya from different angles—to use—tape that shows—a slight—deviation in the answer.  It is not fair to say that I have backtracked on—on those issues.

DAVID GREGORY:

But isn’t it also easy to flirt with positions in a primary and then back off and say, “Well, I’m not trying to actually vote for that,” you know, once you get into a general election.  Isn’t that what people really dislike about politics?

KEN BUCK:

Well, it—they may dislike it.  They—but people are also sick and tired of—of politicians not answering questions.  Politicians not being accessible.  And I think it’s—it’s incumbent on us, if we’re gonna—run in this kind of a race—and—and this is an important year, David.  I think that, you know, this is a different year than most years.

We’ve gotta tell the American people that we have to live with less.  We have a $13 and a half trillion debt.  And the only way to do that is an honest campaign with honest people.  And—and I have let people know my heart.  It hasn’t always been the same—exact words to—to the same—questions, but it has been—they—they know where I’m coming from—

DAVID GREGORY:

Is he a—

KEN BUCK:

on—on an issue?

DAVID GREGORY:

political opportunist?

SENATOR BENNET:

I think absolutely.  I mean it—I think it’s very clear that he ran a primary election saying that he would privatize Social Security.  That he demolish the Department of Education.  That the American people need to wean theirselves off of student loans.  That he supported the personhood amendment—pro-life in all cases except for—including cases of rape and incest.  He’s not changed his position on that.

And in the general election, even as recently as yesterday, he said, “Well, I—I don’t oppo—I—I don’t support abolishing the Department of Education but I wouldn’t oppose it if it came up for a vote.”  That’s not the kind of straight talk that people in Colorado Want.

And what—what complicates it even further is that the primary elections, virtually every dollar spent on TV on behalf of Ken Buck came from groups outside of Colorado.  Came from groups sponsored by people that got us into this mess in the first place.

You know, that managed to drive this economy into the worst ditch since the Great Depression and double our debt.  And in the general election the same thing is happening.  Eighty-five percent of the money that—that represents the TV ads that are running—running on behalf of Ken Buck—are from outside the state.  But—but the other thing is, in these difficult times I think it is enormously important—we’re never gonna say exactly the same thing every—you know, every s—second of every day but—the flip flops in this race are unbelievable.

DAVID GREGORY:

I wanna—you wanna button this up before I move onto some questions—to—

KEN BUCK:

I would.  The—the—the media has looked at Senator Bennet—Bennett’s ads.  And—and in fact the same editorial that you quoted from talks about—the despicable nature of Senator Bennet’s ads.  They have been false, misleading, deceitful.  The Colorado Springs paper talked about the fact that—the—this was the sleaziest campaign in the history of the state of Colorado.

And on—on Senator Bennet’s side he talks about—his—deg—deep empathy for Social Security n he’s on the commission on aging.  He missed 92 percent of the meetings—for the commission on aging.  He talks about earmark reform.  He voted against—earmark reform four times in 2009.

In 2010 he offers a bill.  Doesn’t bother getting one co-sponsor.  Doesn’t bother moving the bill forward in any way, but runs on the fact that he is a—good government earmark reformer.  It’s—it’s that kind of—of—of duplicity that—that Colorado voters are sick of.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me move on.  You can deal with some of that, but I wanna move to another issue which is the role of President Obama in this campaign.  He came out to campaign for you.  And back in February, this is what he said, talking about the economy.  Watch this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

He was here by my side in Denver a year ago when we signed the Recovery Act into law. Wasn’t a politically easy decision to make for any of us, ‘cause we knew that we were already facing big deficits that had been run up over the last dec—decade.  But we had a responsibility to do what was right for the American people and break the back of this recession that was slipping into a depression.

DAVID GREGORY:

And yet on that signature issue, the legacy of that, this is what you said back in September just last month.

SENATOR BENNET:

We have $13 trillion of debt on our balance sheet and, in my view, nothing to show for it.

DAVID GREGORY:

So the President said you took the tough vote.  You helped stimulus—

SENATOR BENNET:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

get passed.  You said there’s nothing to show for it but more debt.  Isn’t that an admission—

SENATOR MICHAEL GREGORY:

This—

DAVID GREGORY:

No, hold on.  Isn’t that an admission that the major piece to help the economy simply did not work by this administration?

SENATOR BENNET:

Absolutely not.  In fact what I was saying when I say that, which I have said in every town hall meeting in Democratic and Republican parts of this state—is true, because what I say is we have $13 trillion of debt on the balance sheet and nothing to show for it.

I say we have not even had the decency to maintain the assets that our parents and grandparents built for us.  Our roads.  Our bridges.  Our wastewater systems.  Our sewer systems.  By the way, those weren’t Bolsheviks.  Those weren’t socialists that built those things for us.  Much less build the infrastructure we need for the 21st century.  And it’s not just transportation.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah, but the President acknowledges that—

SENATOR BENNET:

And the—the—

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

that infrastructure spending has not been really dealt with this in this stimulus package.

SENATOR BENNET:

Transit and—transportation, transit and energy infrastructure as well.  That stimulus package saved us from going into the second Great Depression, but that’s hardly enough of a standard if the—if what generations are to judge other generations.  Is whether they left more opportunity not less for them.  That’s the point that I’m making.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, but—but what seems to be the issue that’s hanging out there is that most Americans don’t believe the stimulus has helped.  You have been in lockstep with this President.  Congressional Quarterly says you voted with the President 97 percent of the time.

And in an editorial by the Denver Post—endorsing you, I should point out, this is part of what they say.  “Michael Bennett for U.S. Senate.  Since—Bennett was appointed Senator he has been running for election and at times running scared.  If he had bucked his party and his President on just one major issue and in turn showed some Colorado independence, it would have been much easier to endorse him.”

“Instead, his 20 month career has been frustrating to watch, leaving voters and us with a difficult choice.  On December of-- 2009, for example, he made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor blasting Washington lawmakers for their dirty dealing as they patched together a healthcare bill larded with special deals.  Then, three days later, he voted for the bill.  The current healthcare bill is law because of Bennett’s one vote.  That vote, and his speech, epitomizes his short Senate career.  So much potential, yet not enough spine.”

SENATOR BENNET:

Well, let’s focus on the potential question.  Listen, I—I did vote—I did cast a vote for healthcare and I also said that I thought the process was—was horrible.  The status quo before we passed healthcare was also horrible.  And part of what we need to do is clean up the way Washington does its business.  I completely agree with that because it—it’s one of the things that’s eroding confidence in the American people and what’s going on in—in this town.

I also think that it’s clear that the recovery, you know, package—has grown the GDP somewhat and saved thousands and thousands of jobs in my home state.  Look, when I agree with the President I agree with him.  When I disagree with him, I disagree with him.  He’s done some things that were not helpful to Colorado and I fought back.  Cancelling the Orion Project.  Making sure that we didn’t change the tax treatment for bad for natural gas producers in our state.

And I might say also that today I was endorsed not just by the Denver Post but the Grand Junction Sentinel who endorsed John McCain and Bob Schaeffer, a Republican who ran for this seat.

DAVID GREGORY:

But on the big ticket items.

(OVERTALK)

SENATOR BENNET:

let me—let me just say one of the basis for their endorsement was my willingness to reach across the aisle to work with Republicans.  And—and my opponent’s—stated desire to be the chief  filibusterer of the United States Senate if he gets back here.

DAVID GREGORY:

On the big ticket items, the ones that have really contributed to the debt, you were with the President?

DAVID GREGORY:

On the big ticket times, the ones that have really contributed to the debt, you’re with the President?

SENATOR BENNET:

I—I don’t disagree.  And the President said, you know, in the clip that you had, that a lot of tough choices were going to have to be made here.  And it’s true.  The choices are tough.  And the politics right now are not supporting the aspirations we have for our kids and our grandkids.  They’re not allowing us to make or they haven’t allowed us to make—even tougher choices that we’re still going to have to make going forward.

DAVID GREGORY:

Why is that unreasonable in your view?

KEN BUCK:

I’ll tell you.  Senator Bennet does one thing in Washington D.C., and then comes back to Colorado and talks about a completely different thing.  He has spent—on his watch in Washington D.C.—been part of the spending of $3 trillion.  That’s $3 trillion.  We can talk about $13 trillion on the book.  $3 trillion—has been accumulated since he’s been in D.C.  And that’s something that he has to take responsibility for.

DAVID GREGORY:

And you take responsibility as well for what Republicans did in terms of running up the debt before that?

KEN BUCK:

David, I have said over and over that Republicans are every bit as much to blame as Democrats.  And I am not going to be one of those Republicans when I get to Washington D.C.

SENATOR BENNET:

Well, to be clear on that point, though, the—the budget—the budget—proposals that he’s made would blow—without even talking about the tax cut extensions, $1.3 trillion more of a hole into our budget than we already have.  And—and depending on what we do with these—extensions, an additional $4 trillion dollars in debt on (UNINTEL).

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, let me ask you on that point.  Do you agree with Republican leaders who say that tax cuts do not have to be paid for?

KEN BUCK:

No.  I don’t.  I—I think we’ve got to find spending cuts.  And I don’t know what you’re talking about in terms of taxes.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, extending—extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest earners, the President says it all the time, would cost an extra $700 billion.  Should those be paid for if the—if Republicans like you want to cut that deficit, bring it in balance, do you then have to pay for the tax cuts you want to extend?

KEN BUCK:

Well, first David, where are the families going to pay for the money that they’ve got to send the federal government.  That’s—that’s the bigger question to me.  Secondly, though—

DAVID GREGORY:

But how can that either be bigger?  You either believe in a balanced budget or you do not.  If you extend tax cuts—you said just a moment ago, they have to be paid for.  Then how do you pay for it?

KEN BUCK:

Well, the—we pay for it by cutting spending.  We also pay for it by growing government.  When we leave money in the hands of taxpayers, they buy things, they pay taxes, they grow government.  It’s not a one for one—exchange in the first year, but—but it would be bad in my view—and every economist I’ve talked to—has told me that it would be bad in a recession to try to increase taxes.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, and you think there should be an extension on all the tax cuts for at least year.

SENATOR BENNET:

For a year.  In part to figure out how we do pay for it.  I mean, the same thing that Ken is saying right now is what the Bush administration said when it created these tax cuts to begin with.  And what we saw was the first period of economic growth in our country’s history when middle class income fell.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.  But it’s not—but it’s not fair to compare him to all Republicans.  The—the Republican leaders don’t agree with what he just said.  Which is that you have to pay for tax cuts.  So, isn’t he—aren’t you guys more in line than you think?

SENATOR BENNET:

Well, I didn’t—I actually didn’t hear him say that.  I heard him say that you pay for it, and also by growing government you pay for it.  I’m not quite sure what that means.  But—but—

KEN BUCK:

Well let me explain it to you—

SENATOR BENNET:

My point is—

KEN BUCK:

the point is that you grow government because as people have more money, they spend the money, and government grows.  When we put people back to work, government grows.  We increase revenue, and we decrease unemployment benefits.

SENATOR BENNET:

Well, I’m definitely not interested in growing government, I can tell you that.

KEN BUCK:

I’m sorry, growing the economy.  I apologize.

SENATOR BENNET:

Growing the economy.

DAVID GREGORY:

You’re talking about growing the economy?

KEN BUCK:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is there also a reality that—how do you pay for an extension of middle class tax cuts?

SENATOR BENNET:

Yeah, I—I think there’s a reality to all of it.  I mean, the—the top two percent is $700 billion.  All of them together are—are—are $4 trillion.  And we’re—we’re going to have to make some very hard choices to make sure that our kids are not burying in debt that we were unwilling to deal with.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mister Buck, I want to ask you—about women who are taking a hard look at this race, and deciding how they’re going to make up their mind, and some issues that have come up.  Controversial issues for you.  You’ve taken a hard-line position on abortion, saying you’d vote for a ban, even if it includes rape and incest.

During the primary campaign, you said—you said that voters should vote for you because you don’t wear high heels.  And then, there was an issue that’s gotten a lot of attention as a district attorney about a 2006 date-rape case.  You—you declined to prosecute.  You told the Greely Tribune” A jury could very well conclude that this was a case of buyer’s remorse.”  After you looked at the circumstances of the case, and decided not to prosecute.

A lot of people thought that was an insensitive remark.  The woman who was involved in this case has been critical of you, saying that your tone was one of—of—in essence, attacking her.  It was not the first time that your judgment or your ethics as a lawyer has been questioned.  And I wonder whether you regret using those words, and whether you think women should give some weight to those issues in deciding whether to vote for you.

KEN BUCK:

I—I think women as well as men are concerned about jobs and the economy and spending, and—and other issues.  They’re concerned that when their kids graduate from college, they have an economy, and they have a future in this country, and they—they have the same kind of opportunity that we’ve had, and—our grandparents have had.

But I’d like to talk about a couple of those issues if I can, to clarify some things.  Rape case came into our office.  It was reviewed by an attorney with—a prosecutor with 30 years of prosecutorial experience who’s now on the Colorado Court of Appeals.  He declined to prosecute.

Two female chief deputies reviewed the case, talked to witnesses.  They—they—declined to prosecute.  The case went to another chief deputy, who had handled many of the high-profile rape cases in the—in the Denver metro area.  He declined to prosecute.  I met with this young lady, explained the circumstances.  I then sent the case to the Boulder County—District Attorney’s Office for—for Boulder County, because they had a lot of experience with date rape as a result of the University of Colorado being in that county.  They declined to prosecute and told me that the case couldn’t be prosecuted.  It was after—this—the young lady made this case public that I had to explain to the newspaper exactly what—

DAVID GREGORY:

But do you regret the way you either talked to her or talked about the case?

KEN BUCK:

I—I don’t regret the way I talked to her.  I think—I think—the—it is important that—a prosecutor—approach a victim with—with a certain amount of reality, and—and that’s what I tried to do with this victim.  I didn’t blame her at all.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.  But what about what you told the Greely Tribune?

KEN BUCK:

What I told the Greely Tribune, I gave them five or six reasons why I thought a jury could—decline this case.  One of the reasons was the fact that she had regretted this relationship, and she had buyer’s remorse as a result of the relationship that she had with this young man.  That is—that is—something that I think when—when someone decides to make a case public, the—the public has to understand why.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator, is this an issue?

SENATOR BENNET:

I just—I—I do think it’s an issue.  Look, I have a lot of sympathy for the victim in this case.  He just used the language again, buyer’s remorse.  And as the father of three little girls, I just think that’s the wrong way to talk about—this kind of set of circumstances, especially when you’re a prosecutor.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, we’re going to—

KEN BUCK:

I get—

DAVID GREGORY:

We’re going to leave it there.  We’re going to get to some other issues.  We’re going to take a quick break.  More from our Colorado—candidates for the U.S. Senate when our special debate series continues right after this brief station break.

(COMMERCIAL)

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back to continue our special Senate debate series with the candidates locked in a tight race for the Colorado Senate seat.  I want to do—a bit of a lightning round here.  I want to get to some issues here, and have shorter answers on these things, and Mister Buck, I want to start with you.  The issue of—gays in our country.  In a debate last month, you expressed your support for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which we talked about with—Mister Gibbs, and you alluded to lifestyle choices.  Do you believe that being gay is a choice?

KEN BUCK:

I do.

DAVID GREGORY:

Based on what?

KEN BUCK:

Based on what.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.  Why do you believe that?

KEN BUCK:

I guess—you can choose who your partner is.

DAVID GREGORY:

You don’t think it’s something that’s determined at birth?

KEN BUCK:

I—I think that—birth has an influence over like alcoholism and some other things—but I think that—basically, you—you have a choice.

DAVID GREGORY:

Does that put him outside the mainstream of views on this?

SENATOR BENNET:

I absolutely believe he’s outside the mainstream of views on this.

DAVID GREGORY:

About Afghanistan.  For you, Mister Bennet.  If—President Obama and General Patraeus were to determine that they needed a significant number of troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the July 2011 deadline, is that a position that you’d be able to support?

SENATOR BENNET:

My position is that we ought to begin bringing our troops home in July ‘11.  And there were will be troops there, they’ll have to leave troops there, and I recognize that, but this is the longest shooting war in our country’s history.

DAVID GREGORY:

But if a significant number of combat forces must remain to achieve U.S. goals, you’d be for it or against it?

SENATOR BENNET:

I would have to look at it then, but what I want to make clear is that I believe the President needs to honor the commitment that he made to bring—begin bringing our troops home.  I don’t know what significant is, but I imagine that there will be a substantial number of troops there for the foreseeable future.

DAVID GREGORY:

And you could support that?

SENATOR BENNET:

But I—but I believe that the American people need to see that our commitment there is coming to an end.

DAVID GREGORY:

How—how do you answer that, Mister Buck?

KEN BUCK:

I—I don’t think we set artificial deadlines.  I think that we—we set—realistic goals—and—and we try to accomplish those goals.  I don’t think we should be nation building, I don’t think we should be staying there over the long term.  I think—

DAVID GREGORY:

What if General Patraeus says, you know what, it’s July 2011, but if we’re going to achieve our goals, we can’t pull any troops out.  We may need more troops.  May need to surge up again here.  Well, you could support that, ‘cause you don’t believe in deadlines?

KEN BUCK:

No, I didn’t say I could support that.  I don’t believe in deadlines.  I don’t believe in telling an enemy when we’re going to withdraw.  I need to know what he thinks the goals are.  And if I agree with those goals, then evaluate at that point.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you a question about the Supreme Court.  Obviously, a crucial role as a U.S. Senator, confirming—a justice who’s nominated by the President.  Which sitting justices would you have voted against?

KEN BUCK:

I would have voted against—Justice Sotomayor and I would’ve voted against Justice Kagan for two.

DAVID GREGORY:

Other Clinton-era nominees as well, down the line?

KEN BUCK:

Perhaps.  I didn’t—obviously study them as much as I have the last two.

DAVID GREGORY:

For you?

SENATOR BENNET:

I—probably would’ve voted against Justice Thomas and—and—and—I’ve been disappointed by what Justice Roberts has done.  I think—my own view is that—the President has a Constitutional prerogative to nominate people.  And if they’re qualified, they ought to be confirmed, even if I disagree with their positions on a lot of things.

I think one of the most—graceful moments over the last 20 months since I’ve been in this job in the Senate was Lindsay Graham’s statement before he cast his vote for Elena Kagan that set out the President’s Constitutional prerogatives, and his Constitutional obligations as a United States Senator.  I thought it was a class act, what Lindsay Graham said—and I wish we saw more of that in the U.S. Senate.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mister Buck, this is kind of related to something you told the Washington Post back in July, and I want to put it up on the screen.  There’s a conservative movement within the Republican party that distinguishes a lot of us, and we recognize that Republicans are a big part of the problem.  I don’t have any deep friends in Washington now, and in six years, I won’t have any friends.

KEN BUCK:

Other than you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well—

SENATOR BENNET:

I’ll be your friend.

DAVID GREGORY:

But is—but is that part—

KEN BUCK:

But you won’t be in Washington, that’s the problem.

DAVID GREGORY:

But is that part of the problem, that you want to come to Washington and not have any friends?  How do you solve problems if you can’t work with people on the other side?

KEN BUCK:

Yeah—and again, I think if you take that literally, you—you reach that conclusion.  What I was saying there is I’m not coming to Washington D.C. to make friends.  I’m coming to Washington D.C. to do the people’s work, and the people’s work has to do with—reducing spending, and—cutting budgets, and—and trying to get a grip on the size of government.  Will—will I meet people here, will I—develop friendships, sure.  But I am not going to let those friendships interfere with my obligation to do the people’s work.

DAVID GREGORY:

Who—who’s a Republican—you talk about working both sides.  Who’s a Republican you admire.  You talked about Lindsay Graham.

SENATOR BENNET:

I just mentioned Lindsay Graham.  I—I wrote a bill—I wasn’t here for the bailouts.  And—and Ken doesn’t know that.  But I wasn’t here for the bailouts.  I was here to write a bill called the Pay it Back Act that said that the money that came back from the TARP recipient banks should be used dollar for dollar for deficit reduction.  Bob Corker was an original cosponsor—

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator from Tennessee.

SENATOR BENNET:

on that bill.  Johnny Isakson from Georgia—a Republican as well, helped with that bill.  It passed with broad bipartisan report.  That’s what the people in my town hall meetings want.  They’re sick of the hyper partisanship.  They don’t want to send somebody back to D.C. that says I’m going to be the chief filibusterer or I’m going to put my track shoes on, ‘cause I’m going to filibuster so much.  She—he should save his time.  There are people back here that will do that.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Well, we got about—

SENATOR BENNET:

What we need is cooperation.

DAVID GREGORY:

I’ve got about a minute left.  I want you both to take this.  This is from—Facebook.  We partnered up with Facebook’s politics page, and we solicited some questions for you on the page.  And here’s one that we chose.  Ashley Newberg.  This is what I would ask them.  What do you hope to accomplish both in your political career, and in life in general outside of politics, but you’ve got to very brief.  Mister Buck?

KEN BUCK:

In my political career, I’d like to see a Constitutional balanced budget amendment, and in my life, I’d like to—play more golf and—and get a decent handicap.

DAVID GREGORY:

There you go.

SENATOR BENNET:

I—this isn’t a hard question for me, ‘cause I’ve spent my whole life outside of politics.  This is my first exposure to it.  I hope to be able to accomplish a set of policies that make—create more opportunity, not less, for our kids and our grandkids.  Outside of politics, I hope to raise—my three little girls to be productive and happy citizens.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  We are going to leave it there.  Thank you both.  Early voting starting in Colorado.  And Monday night—Bill Clinton, the former President, campaigning for—for you, and—for the Democrats out there.  Strikingly, he seems to be one of the more respected political figures on both sides in Colorado right now.  So, a hard-fought contest, and we’ll—we’ll be watching.  And we will be right back.

SENATOR BENNET:

Thank you.

                       

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