MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, the White House predicts high unemployment through next year's election. On this Labor Day weekend, the jobless rate stands at 9.1 percent, new numbers showing zero job growth for August, as companies are still slow to hire and a slow housing market prevents recovery. The president prepares to speak to Congress and the nation about what the government can do to get people back to work. But what are the prospects of Washington acting during a fierce ideological fight over the economy? Political paralysis is just one of the factors holding America back and raising new fears that our country is in decline.
This morning, a special discussion featuring New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, co-author of the new book "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How It Can Come Back."
Plus, previewing the political battles ahead in the 2012 campaign, as Republicans prepare to square off for the first debate that will include the new force in the Republican field, Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Also with us this morning, historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin; The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot; Democratic Congresswoman from Los Angeles, Maxine Waters; and political strategist Mark McKinnon.
Then, as the nation prepares to mark 10 years since the 9/11 attacks, Army Captain and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Joseph Kearns Goodwin, joins his mother, Doris, to discuss how that day changed his life and how the attacks define his generation.
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning. Labor Day weekend marks the unfortunate end of summer and kicks off an intense, high-stakes political season. And if there is a headline that underscores what this campaign is all about, it's Saturday's lead news in The New York Times, "Zero job growth latest bleak sign for the U.S. economy." This morning as we near the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, America is taking stock of what the decade meant and what challenges the country now faces.
The president this week will yet again try to focus attention on jobs as the economy is stuck in slow growth. This week America was reminded of what's wrong with Washington, a short-lived but intense back and forth over when the president should address a joint session of Congress and the American people. In the end, it will be Thursday at 7, avoiding a conflict with Republicans who on Wednesday will debate about how and who should try to replace the president.
MR. JAY CARNEY: The sideshows don't matter. The economy matters.
MR. GREGORY: It does, and it's not getting better. The question is, how likely is it that Congress will pass an Obama jobs package that includes more spending or investment in the economy? You remember the debt ceiling debate.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: We have to create more jobs, and we have to do it faster, and, most of all, we've got to break the gridlock in Washington that has been preventing us from taking the action we need to get this country moving.
MR. GREGORY: Gridlock happens when there's an election, and next November is coming faster than you may like. This is a week for serious jockeying in the race. Is Sarah Palin or out? She dangled the prospect of a candidacy in Iowa this weekend.
FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN: The challenge is not simply to replace Obama in 2012, but the real challenge is who and what we will replace him with.
MR. GREGORY: Mitt Romney, now trailing Texas Governor Rick Perry in the polls, will no doubt use this Wednesday's NBC News/Politico debate to begin a line of attack.
FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY: I spent most of my life outside politics dealing with real problems in the real economy. Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don't know how to get us out.
MR. GREGORY: Republicans and Democrats are having the debate. The question is, as a nation, are we having the right conversation about the best way forward? That's what we're going to attempt right here this morning.
Joining me now, editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, Paul Gigot; presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; Democratic Congresswoman from Los Angeles, Maxine Waters; and co-author of the new book "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back," Tom Friedman; as well as former adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and John McCain, as well as co-founder of No Labels, an organization dedicated to putting party labels aside in politics, Mark McKinnon.
Welcome to all of you. Happy end of summer. That's what this means, as I said, and the challenges that await us as we get into the fall are pretty steep. Here's the context of this debate that we're having in politics and the debate about the economy. The unemployment numbers that came out in August have kept unemployment at 9.1 percent. No job growth in August, a pretty bleak headline. And these are the projections that the White House has released, keeping unemployment at 9 percent through the election year. They project it comes down to 7.8 percent by 2014. Something caught my eye this weekend. Howard Rosen from the Peterson Institute of International Economics in The New York Times yesterday, he said, "This is not just a jobless recovery, it's a recovery-less recovery."
Tom Friedman, the book is "That Used to Be Us," it talks about what's holding America back. It talks about fears of America's decline. With that backdrop, what is the major point in the framing of this book?
MR. TOM FRIEDMAN: Well, David, what I and my co-author Michael Mandelbaum from Johns Hopkins are basically arguing is we've got good news and bad news. The bad news is this problem didn't start in 2008 with the subprime crisis. This problem, in our view, started at the end of the Cold War. The good news is, there is a way out if we understand exactly where we are. I beg four big points, basically.
First of all, we made the worst mistake a country or species can make at the end of the Cold War, we misread our environment. We interpreted the victory in the Cold War--for the end of the Cold War as a victory and not understanding it's actually an onset of one of the biggest challenges we've ever faced as a country. We had just unleashed two billion people just like us. But the '90s turned out to be quite a party, thanks to the peace dividend, thanks to the massive productivity boost of the Internet, and thanks, most importantly, in many ways, to the collapse in oil prices, which was like a huge tax cut. Then that brings us into the 21st century. So really the '90s was like a 3,650-day victory parade for the United States.
Start with the 2000s, 9/11, which we're going to talk to here. Tragically, 9/11 set us on a really bad course. We spent the last decade, in many ways necessarily, many ways excessively, chasing the losers from globalization rather than the winners. And we made up for a lot of the fall behind there by basically injecting ourselves with steroids. Just as baseball players did it to hit home runs, we injected ourselves with credit steroids, created a huge housing boom and construction boom to create jobs.
The third, I think, big change is a big technological change. The world--we, we--the grid of the world, basically, the number of people who can compete, connect, and collaborate exploded in the last decade. You know, I wrote a book in 2004 called "The World is Flat," which is about this connecting of the world. We've gone from connected to hyperconnected in terms of the people who are now competing with us and connecting with us. When we sat down to write this book, I actually went back to "The World is Flat." I looked in the index, and I realized that Facebook wasn't in it. When I said the world was flat, Facebook didn't exist--or for most people it didn't exist, Twitter was a sound, the Cloud was in the sky, 4G was a parking place, LinkedIn was a prison, applications were what you sent to college and for most people, Skype was a typo. OK. That all happened in just the last seven years, David. And what it's done is taken the world from connected to hyperconnected. And that's been a huge opportunity and a huge challenge.
Lastly, I just say one thing, all of this is overlaid--and I'm interested in Doris' view on this, in particular--with a generational shift. We went from the greatest generation, whose philosophy was basically save and invest--and we are still living off their saving and investing--to basically the baby boomer generation, whose philosophy turned out to be borrow and spend. And we've really shifted from a generation born in the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War--these were serious people; they wouldn't think of shutting down the government for a minute, OK--to a generation basically that is much less serious. We've gone from basically the values of the greatest generation where--which were what my philosopher friend Dov Seidman calls sustainable values, values that sustain--to a baby boomer generation whose values are situational values. Do whatever the situation allows. You put them all together and I think you really account for a lot of the hole we're in right now structurally.
MR. GREGORY: That's the big picture, which we'll unpack a little bit.
Paul Gigot, to the immediate term...
MR. PAUL GIGOT: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: ...which is, again, this background, not just what got us here, but the fact that we're facing persistent unemployment. And it's not just about the jobs, it's the fact, the fact that the economy's not growing and here--we're going to hear from the president this week. What is he possibly going to say? What is it that government can possibly do?
MR. GIGOT: I think the president has to decide whether he wants an election issue or whether he wants to get something done. If he wants an election issue, he'll go big. Some of the--his liberal colleagues are talking about--friends are talking about saying, "We'll go F.D.R. all over again. We'll go with a big new jobs program financed by government. We'll go with more regulation." I think that's going to be a recipe for gridlock coming for the rest of the year, and may--will certainly set up a framework for the election debate.
But if he wants to get something done, I think he can confound the Republicans in part by going for a big tax reform, saying, "We're going to--you want tax cuts, OK. We'll reduce the rates. Let's get rid of the, the credits and other things in--to help pay for that and that will"--I don't know what they'd do. I think they'd be back on their heels and say, "Whoa, this changes the debate in a way that we hadn't expected. We're going to plan a run against Washington. He's now arguing on our turf." I think that's the fundamental choice the president has to make. I don't know which way he'll go, but if he wants to change the debate, that's the direction I would go in.
MR. GREGORY: We've been talking, as we get close to Labor Day, Congresswoman Waters, Labor Day being tomorrow, we spoke to James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, about the American worker. And what he would like to see from the president this week--it was part of our Press Pass conversation that's available online, and I'll play just a portion of it here.
Mr. JAMES HOFFA: I think we've got to start jawboning big business to start hiring people. He's got to have a plan that's bold. He's got to have a plan that hires people. Maybe we have to come out with a WPA program, start putting people to work, you know, hiring some of the unemployed and put them to work, you know, basically rebuilding America.
MR. GREGORY: Is this possible? This is what Paul was just talking about. You're in Congress. You saw the debt debate. Do you really think that's going to happen now?
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): I absolutely agree that the president must be bold. I agree that he must have a jobs program, must create jobs. I'm talking about a program of $1 trillion or more. We've got to put Americans to work. That's the only way to revitalize this economy. When people work and they earn money they spend that money, and that is what gets the economy up and going. I don't think he can shrink from the threats of the right. I don't think he can have a program that simply gives more tax breaks to the very people who got us in this trouble in the first place. And so I'm hopeful, I'm very hopeful that the president is going to put a big program out there, and that he's going to fight very hard for it.
MR. GREGORY: Mark McKinnon.
MR. MARK MCKINNON: Well, the problem, David, is not just our economy, but it's our politics. And Bill McInturff, who's a great pollster, did an amazing study this weekend that's sort of draw-jopping--jaw-dropping. The Consumer Confidence Index has dropped 15 points in the last two months, and it's a result of the way the debt ceiling debate was handled. Not just the outcome itself, but the debate and the nature of the debate. And that's what we've been talking about at No Labels, that it's the politics and the way that our politics are being handled in this country that's creating a breakdown in confidence, not just in the economy, but in government and our elected officials to handle the problems that are out there today.
We talk about unemployment, but the Consumer Confidence Index is a really key barometer. And it's interesting to note that it--an average for incumbent presidents, the average when they win, the Consumer Confidence index is 95.9. When they lose it's 78.4. The Consumer Confidence Index today is 55.7.
MR. GREGORY: Let me--it's interesting you talk about that, also faith and leadership.
Doris, this is a cartoon that we like this week from Jimmy Margulies from The Record of Hackensack, New Jersey. And, of course, the president's visiting flood victims in Paterson today. So the president's in a boat because of the flood zone and he's got a copy of his polls in his hand. And he says, "I remember when I could walk on this water," which to me really symbolizes the fact that this was great expectations and now there's a great amount of disappointment in the president. Not just on the right, of course, but among his core supporters.
MS. GOODWIN: I hope he's got enough sense of self to be able to save those cartoons. Teddy Roosevelt loved all the terrible cartoons about him, put them all up on his wall. But I think the key thing right now, and to pick up on what Mark said, it's a political crisis as well as an economic crisis that we're facing. And he has to somehow in his speech be able to persuade people that government can do something about it. We've lost confidence the government knows what to do. So I think he confounds the Republicans in two ways. What you said, I think he goes for tax reform somehow and figures out how to pay for a big, bold jobs program. Every Republican has said, "Jobs creation, that's what we want." Tell them, "If that's what you want, I'm going to give you specific things that you can do," and challenge them to do it.
And that's what Harry Truman did in 1948. The Republicans were saying all the right things. "We're going to deal with the housing crisis, we're going to deal with inflation, we're going to deal with education." So he called them back in a special session, he called it the "turnip session" from Missouri. They did nothing, and then he was able to say, "Why didn't you do anything? You're the do-nothing Congress." If they want to deal with job creation, he has to be very clear about what he wants them to do. He has to make visual what those job--he can't just list things, an infrastructure bank. He has to explain how it would work and then challenge them to do it and find a way to pay for it at the same time. That's what he did before he got screwed up in the debt crisis. He had a bold plan that was balanced by tax increases. But then it--and people loved it. And then he got--lost it.
MR. GREGORY: Isn't a big part of this debate--and Paul it's, it's embedded in, in Tom's book, is the role of government, the debate about the role of government.
MR. GIGOT: Sure. It's government.
MR. GREGORY: You know, historically you've had great public/private partnerships. Now the notion of government being the last actor to try to create demand in the economy seems anathema to a generation of conservatives, and I say this new generation in the past, who've--the outgrowth of this past decade who say, "Hey, no mas. We, we've done enough of that as government." Is that--I mean, is there any way to get that back?
MR. GIGOT: I think that's the fundamental dispute here. The problem with what Doris is suggesting on the spending side is that the stimulus, the trillion dollar or so stimulus, $900 billion, is widely perceived to have not created any jobs. So it's going to be a very hard sell to try to get Republicans, in particular, to agree to more spending, particularly with the debt figures what they are. The other problem is the general broad mistrust of government. I mean, the Gallup survey out I think this last week showed that the approval rating for government was below oil and gas companies. Probably even below journalists.
MR. FRIEDMAN: No, no.
MR. GIGOT: Which is very hard to believe. And so that 17 percent approval rating, the country is saying, "We don't think government can create the jobs." We have to give incentives to the private sector, which is what we did in the '80s and the '90s, to grow again.
MR. GREGORY: Tom, you read a lot about this.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, again I don't know about the immediate. And we--Michael and I, in this book, we're really focused on, on the longer term trend.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. FRIEDMAN: And what we did was actually interview four employers, four major employers, one of whom actually is the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. And we interviewed him when he was head of the Army Education Corps, and--which is just very recently. And here's what employers will tell you, David. They'll tell you that they're all looking for the same kind of employee now, someone who can do critical reasoning thinking, dot, dot, dot, in order to get an interview. That's not table stakes. What they're actually looking for are people who can adapt, invent, and reinvent the job because, in this hyperconnected world, change is happening so fast.
You know, there are companies now in Silicon Valley that do quarterly employee reviews now because their product cycle's changing so fast. You can't wait till the end of the year to find out you have a bad team manager. Now, that's got to work back toward education. What we argue in the book, basically going forward, is there are really just two kind of countries in the world, HIEs and LIEs, high imagination enabling countries and low imagination enabling countries. Forget developed and developing. Why is it? Because if I have a spark of an idea now I can go to Delta in Taiwan, they'll design it; skip over to Alibaba in Hangzhou, they'll give me a cheap Chinese manufacturer; and make a jump over to amazon.com, they'll do my fulfillment and delivery; go to Craigslist and get an accountant; and freelancer.com will do my logo. They're all commodities now. What isn't a commodity is this (snapping fingers). And the countries, actually, that are thriving today, look at Israel, start-up nation. We--we're not going to bail our way out of this crisis. We're not going to stimulate our way out of this crisis. We are only going to educate, ultimately, and imagine and invent our way out of this crisis.
MR. GREGORY: And, Congressman Waters, on the topic of education, look inside the unemployment numbers as we did for August, and this is what you find. If you have less than a high school degree, the unemployment rate is 14.3 percent. High school, 9.6 percent. But if you have a bachelors or higher it's 4.3 percent.
REP. WATERS: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: About half of what the national average is.
REP. WATERS: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: We always pay lip service to the fact that education is the top issue. It's not ultimately what becomes the top issue when you get into the voting booth, however.
REP. WATERS: Absolutely not. To tell you the truth, the plight of education in this country is shameful. Just a few days ago I learned that more cities, more states are reducing the number of education days down to four instead of five. And I could not help but stop and think, "Is this America? Is this the country that said and continues to say that education is a top priority?" Why are we not investing more in education? Why do we have dropouts? Why do we have educational systems that are failing? Why is it that we have a situation where many of our young people will not be able to compete in this high technological society because they're not properly educated? And so, no, we do pay lip service to education. We don't really invest in it, and that's got to change. But let me just say this, Americans want to work. This joblessness is not only hitting the middle class, but it is hitting all classes. It is absolutely unconscionable what is happening in the minority communities. When we look at this no jobs haven't been created in August and we find in the African-American community it has increased from 16 percent, 15.9, 16 percent, up now 16.7 percent, and now we're going to talk about cutting government by $1.5 trillion, this new 12 committee membership that we have after the raising the debt ceiling debate? And that means that we're going to lose more jobs, that means more people are going to be unemployed. The African-American rate will probably go up to about 20 percent. I don't know how our country can sustain that kind of...
MR. GREGORY: But this is the issue...
REP. WATERS: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: ...Mark McKinnon. I mean, as, whether you are more of a centrist or you're a conservative, I mean, there is a different level of faith in government to usher in the kind of change that the congresswoman is talking about, for government to do what government did in FDR's time.
MR. MCKINNON: No question. And what people believe is that we need big, bold changes. And what I'm worried about is that we're nibbling around the edges and people tend to disconnect the jobs discussion from some of the bigger issues, like entitlement reform. And I think they're connected. And my biggest criticism of the president is that he had two fiscal commissions over a year ago that he could have embraced and, and taken on some of these big challenges. And, had we done that, I think we've--we'd be having a much different discussion today.
MR. GREGORY: You know, there, there's something, Doris, in, in this book, in Tom's book about risk taking. What is the big risk that President Obama should be willing to take and what is he actually willing to take?
MS. GOODWIN: Well, I think he has to show that he's willing to take a risk. I think what we need now is strength in Washington, strength coming from him. I mean, one of the sad things about this whole contretemps about whether he should give it on Wednesday or Thursday night was once again giving in to the Congress when he has to challenge them. I don't think he has anything to lose by going for broke, going for--he's got to make people believe in government. Government is not only Washington. Government are our teachers, government are the people that you want to be out there that are policemen. Got to remind us that we, collectively, are government.
What does it mean during The New Deal? We worked together to solve our country's problems. What did we do during World War II? The country came together in a public-private partnership. We produced ships, tanks and weapons that were the miracle of the world, and it was the best government partner and labor partnership in our country's history. We can do that again, but we've lost--we've somehow made government out there and here we are. And the people who run for politics now hate government. What's the point? Why do you want to go in and be a politician if you hate government?
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. GOODWIN: It doesn't make any sense to me.
MR. GREGORY: Well, but, but see, conservatives are unabashed about that point saying that we've had too much government, it's not the answer, it's part of the problem; you know, getting in, in touch with their inner Ronald Reagan and reviving that and refreshing it.
Tom, what you have seen are, I mean, liberals like the congresswoman here have embraced, you know, the, the government and the role of government, but from the president, an unwillingness to really stand up and say, hey, I'm, I put my hand up for government because government is actually part of the answer here.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Yeah. Just to put up on Doris's point, and this is really the core argument of Michael's and my book, which is that we didn't get here by accident as a great country. We, we actually won in every historical turn. How did we win in every history turn? Because we had a formula for success that you could actually date back to Hamilton, but you certainly see it in Lincoln. It was five pillars. Basically, educate our people up to and beyond whatever the level of technology is, whether it's the cotton gin, OK, or the super computer. Immigration, attract the world's most talented and energetic people. Third, infrastructure, have the world's best infrastructure. Fourth, have the right rules for incenting capital formation and risk-taking and preventing recklessness. And last, government-funded research. Put those together, stir, bake for 200 years, and you get the United States of America. Now, if you take all five of those, David, and you look at the last decade, which we call the terrible twos, possibly one of the worst, if not the worst decade in American history. Education, boop; infrastructure, boop; immigration, boop; rules for capital investing--how'd you like that subprime crisis--boop.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Government...
MR. GREGORY: Research and development.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Research and development, boop.
MS. GOODWIN: Right.
MR. FRIEDMAN: So all five of our pillars of success have been weakening. That's the underlying thing here. And, and, and, and that's what we've got to be looking at, that's what the president's got to be out there defending.
MR. GREGORY: And...
MS. GOODWIN: But he actually gave a speech about the pillars, about--one of the best speeches he made...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. GOODWIN: ...you know, a year and a half ago, was about the need to restore those pillars. But the bully pulpit just doesn't have its bulliness anymore.
MR. GREGORY: Well...
MR. FRIEDMAN: But there's a notion that, I did all of this on my own. You didn't do squat on your own, OK? You did it thanks to the greatest public-private partnership...
MS. GOODWIN: Absolutely.
REP. WATERS: That's right. That's right.
MR. FRIEDMAN: ...working together in the right balance.
MR. MCKINNON: Our...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. MCKINNON: ...(unintelligible)...is about policies that create growth. It's not just about investment, because growth is where the jobs come from, and that's where the big debate is, what creates growth.
MR. GIGOT: But the irony is...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. GIGOT: ...of the last 30 or 40 years is the prestige of government has collapsed most rapidly when government has tried to do much more and more and, and do far more than it's capable of doing. Government prestige increased under Ronald Reagan, the great supposed enemy of government, because he showed when you focused on a couple things and did it well and got the economy growing that people said, "You know what, they're competent. It's working."
MR. MCKINNON: The confidence built.
MR. GREGORY: Confidence and competence.
MR. GIGOT: Absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: I think that is a huge issue. I mean, I, I think, you know, the issue for President Bush was not just Katrina, but it was how the Iraq war turned out. I, I always thought people were not opposed to the Iraq war, they were opposed to failure. They don't like when things don't go well. If it had just gone well, it would have been a completely different reaction.
I want to come back--I want to take a break, but talk about politics, because one of the things you write about, Tom, is the political system and its failings. We'll be back with our panel. We'll continue this special discussion, plus talk about the big political week ahead when we come back right after this.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up, what are the hot political stories trending this very morning? We'll be back with more from our roundtable right after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: We're back now with more of our roundtable. Big political week ahead. This is Labor Day weekend kicking off the marathon that is the presidential raid. Let's--race. Let's look at our week ahead. Romney's got a tea party rally in New Hampshire. A big one, tea party rally, in Columbia, South Carolina, tomorrow as well. We've got a new poll coming out on Tuesday.
Wednesday is what I really wanted to flag. It's the NBC News/Politico debate. It's at the Reagan Library, 8 PM Eastern. That's going to be a big event principally because it'll be Texas Governor Rick Perry's first debate, and we'll be watching that very closely.
And speaking of Governor Perry, he was asked this weekend by a nine-year-old who his favorite superhero was. And here we're talking about how to, how to get the country back on track, what's holding America back, fears of America's decline. This is a conversation that's happening in some ways on the campaign trails. So, again, here's the nine-year-old who asks Perry about his favorite superhero and this is what he said.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX): I'm going to show you my age a little bit, Ari, because I don't know any of the real current superheroes. But there was one back in my day named Superman.
CROWD: (In unison) Yeah!
GOV. PERRY: And Superman came to save the United States.
MR. GREGORY: So, Paul Gigot, it inspires a little bit of laughter, but the serious point in all of that is that this is really the framing of his candidacy.
MR. GIGOT: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Which is America is off on the wrong track, and you need a--basically, "Waiting for `Superman'" like the film about education. Is that what this political campaign is about? And is Perry Superman?
MR. GIGOT: Well, he's going to contrast the record in Washington over the last decade with the record in Texas over the last decade, particularly in job creation; and it's a very different and very good message for Perry to make because they have created jobs. They have done a lot of the things that we say we want to do in Washington and haven't. That's his big, big strength.
He also--he has the best line of the campaign, where he says so far I think for the Republicans, which is, "I'm going to make--I'm going to get up every day and try to make Washington as inconsequential in your lives as I can." And that's a message that really resonates with Republican primary voters.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. Well, yeah.
MR. GIGOT: Now this is a big challenge for him Wednesday, though, because the question is with all of that behind him, he has rocketed up in public attention. Now does he have the staying power to do that or is he going to make mistakes that knock him back down?
MR. GREGORY: Mark McKinnon, you framed this fight on the Republican side in only--as only you can do with "Happy Days" references. And for those who might be, you know, under 30 watching right now, that was a fairly successful television program. How, how do you see Perry vs. Romney?
MR. MCKINNON: Well, I see it as a race between Arthur Fonzarelli and Richie Cunningham. And I think we know who Richie Cunningham is. Perry has taken off because he is giving voice to the anger and the heat in the Republican primary, that anti-Washington sentiment. He has honed that down to a fine art. And he's got the job story. He's created--there's been more private sector jobs created in Texas in the last 10 years than the entire country combined. So he's got, he's got, he's got a compelling message. Now he's getting up on the big stage this week, and he's never been on the national stage before, never been in a debate before. He's had nine successful elections in Texas, he's a very aggressive campaigner. This is going to be a big moment, a lot of people's first look. And it's a big stage, first time, so it's a lot on the line.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Go ahead, Congresswoman.
REP. WATERS: Well, as I understand it, the majority of the jobs that were created were government jobs in Texas. And I think we have to get...
MR. GREGORY: Private sector jobs, more private sector jobs.
REP. WATERS: We've got to get the exact information about where these jobs came from.
MR. GREGORY: I think that will, right, that will be, that will be vetted over time. Let's look at the line-up in terms of how the field looks right now according to Quinnipiac. And you do have Perry on top, followed by Romney and Sarah Palin, which gets to our Trend Tracker right now, tracking the hot political stories. And you may not be surprised when you look at the tracker that it's Sarah Palin. Still the question as she was in Iowa over the weekend and dropping hints and making speeches. Will she run?
Tom Friedman, there's still a great deal of interest in Sarah Palin as this political force in the middle of this huge conversation we're trying to have.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, to me, personally, that's a sign of the apocalypse. But I mean, you know, I--because this woman, everything I hear from her is--has nothing to do with what we argue in our book for the long-term trends of where our country's at. There is no short-term solution. It's not just getting rid of Obama. What strikes me about this moment, David, is like we're having an economic crisis and the politicians are having an election, and there's like no overlap between the two, almost. You know, these two circles.
You know, one of my favorite quotes in researching this, we went to Singapore. Singapore's a country that lives on the edge. A Singapore economist said to us, he said, "You know, Tom, we here in Singapore, we live in a thatched hut with no doors and no windows. We feel every change of breeze, every change of temperature, and we have to adjust. You Americans, you live in a brick house with central heating. You think you can sort of feel nothing." So where are we starting the conversation in the country right now? Are we starting the conversation where we should start it? What world are we living in? What are the big changes in the world? Here's a change, I just watched Mark McKinnon read his notes off an iPhone being captured by a robotic camera. Ten years ago, he had a secretary draw up those notes and there were three people who were operating that camera. They're gone. Those jobs are gone. They're not coming back. How do we adapt to that world? That's the question.
MR. GREGORY: It's...
MS. GOODWIN: In a scary time like this, what's interesting, though, is somebody like Perry, even though he might not appeal to the independents easily, as much as Romney might, eventually, because of some of his stands saying Social Security's unconstitutional, the income tax is bad. We go back to having the senators elected by state legislators. That was great when we had Mr. Oil and Mr. Gas and you could buy your way in the Senate.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MS. GOODWIN: But on the other hand, the strength, the confidence, the jazziness, the swagger that he shows, is sometimes what people care about even more than identity of issues when they're in tough times. So it means not looking at where this person's going to bring us, but the fact that this guy loves campaigning and he's got strength. But then the interesting thing is, if Romney does beat him, it will make Romney much stronger than if he had coasted as a candidate because he'll have to show--and then he'll look more moderate in comparison to Mr. Perry.
MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, I want to ask you about something.
REP. WATERS: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: You know, one of the things that you talk to people around the country, and they're, frankly, disgusted with Washington. They want to see more compromise.
REP. WATERS: That's right. That's right.
MR. GREGORY: But then there's people, yourself and others...
REP. WATERS: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: ...who say, "Hey, out of the president we want to see more fight."
REP. WATERS: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: And it's, it's the extremity in language, it's the intensity of fight, and, and you have an example of this, as well.
REP. WATERS: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: Going back to this August, you said the following when you were out in Inglewood, in your district, about the tea party.
REP. WATERS: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: And I want to play it.
REP. WATERS: Oh, I did, yes.
(Videotape, August 20, 2011)
REP. WATERS: As far as I'm concerned, the tea party can go straight to hell. And I intend to help them get there.
MR. GREGORY: Now, it's an applause line, but honestly, Congresswoman, is that really how you win the debate?
REP. WATERS: Let me say this, Americans are angry, and they're angry at politicians and government because they feel as if their government really does not care enough about them and their plight. They want jobs. The Congressional Black Caucus went to five cities during our break and some of the information that we gained basically helped us to understand there's desperation, there's hopelessness, and people think that they have to bail out the big banks and these financial institutions, and they're getting nothing for it. And one thing they're really angry about is the fact that these call centers are off-shore, where, for example, you had AT&T said, "Well, if you give me my merger, I'll bring my call centers back." And they feel as if the call centers should be brought back, That we should make it too expensive for our companies, our businesses, to take these jobs offshore. They want the jobs, and they want them back.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But this is a little bit like fighting the last war. I mean, you know, times have changed.
There's populism on the left, Paul Gigot, and there's populism on the right.
MR. GIGOT: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: That's what's fueling Perry. That's what's fueling the tea party.
MR. GIGOT: Sure. Of course.
MR. GREGORY: But that's not necessarily what's getting us to a place with some solutions.
MR. GIGOT: Well, in the end, this is going to be an election that's going to be settled on big ideas, which is the direction of the country, I think, in 2012. Are you going to have--if, if, if President Obama is re-elected, his economic policies will have been validated, and he will be able to continue in that direction. If, however, they are repudiated, I think you're going to see us move in a direction not unlike the kind of watershed election we had in 1980, where Ronald Reagan said, "I have a different idea, and I want to go in a different direction," and we'll give that a try. Yes, they'll be agreements in the middle; but, ultimately, what's what we do in elections, we set a direction. We've had a direction now for 30 months. The public is saying, "We're not satisfied with that direction." We're going to have a referendum on those policies. That's what we do in politics in this country.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But this is--Mark McKinnon, you've become a no labels guy, after working for Republican candidates or a Republican president, then Governor Bush. How do we somehow change incentives in campaigns so the kind of risk taking that all of us around the table seem to agree is a good idea in, in public policy and in politics, actually gets rewarded instead of penalized?
MR. MCKINNON: Well, that's exactly why No Labels was launched in December, and we have 300,000 members strong now. And we hear from Americans across the country saying, "We want everybody at the table, everything on the table." Politics is a market, and, and that market is the majority out there. They've just been quiet. And, in recent years, because of everything that was happening, their response was simply to throw their hands up and say, "We don't care." Now, the stakes are too high and they're engaging. And I think that there's going to be a huge response from the middle of America, and what they want is their parties working together. They want everybody at the table, everything on the table, and they know it's going to take big bold solutions and that everybody's going to have to sacrifice.
MR. GREGORY: It's interesting, it's interesting, Doris, one of the applause lines that Mitt Romney had that we, we played earlier was the idea that we've got a lot of government lifers, a lot of people who have been in government a long time. They're not necessarily the ones to lead us out of this mess because the sparks (snapping fingers)--this is not something you said (to Tom Friedman), but this is something you did, that's a communication for freedom.
MS. GOODWIN: I couldn't even do that. I was trying.
MR. GREGORY: But a lot of this, we know now what this means is going on, not in government, unfortunately, because the penalties are too high for that sort of, of spark creation. That seems to be a factor.
MS. GOODWIN: I, I mean, I think there's something to that. I mean, there's something about a bureaucratic mentality when you've been in these big buildings in Washington for a long period of time, you've got tons of regulations going on top of you, that you can't think imaginatively. But, again, you have to remember, government is not just that. I mean, government, as I said before, it's people working together collectively to put their talents to use with private energy, with the labor unions, and together those threesomes doing something. You can't take government out of the picture because government is collective will of us. Do you want to go back to the rugged individuals and the robber barons of the 19th century? That was great. Government was nothing. And we were terrible back then.
MR. GREGORY: Tom, you advocate a third party. Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York has said on this program no way, no how is that going to happen. He would be among the strongest contenders to try to carry that off.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, it does seem to me that we do need a shock. We're the ones who need shock therapy that we administered to the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. The system needs a shock. I agree with Paul the next election, I hope, will be on a big idea. But I hope it isn't just big government against small government. I hope it's about our formula for success and getting back to it. You know, David, people have come to Michael and me and says, "Your book, `That Used to Be Us,' does it have a happy ending?" And we tell everyone it does have a happy ending. We just don't know whether it's fiction or non-fiction. You know, that really depends on us.
But I'll tell you what makes me optimistic, is that this country is still full of people who just didn't get the word. And they are starting things and inventing things and creating things and organizing things. If you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head. You look at this country from the bottom up. You see the potential. We're like the space shuttle, all that thrust coming from below. But right now the booster rocket, Washington, D.C., is cracked and leaking energy. And the pilots in the cockpit are fighting over the flight plan. So we can't achieve the escape velocity we need now to get to the next level. You fix those two things, we take off. My favorite quote in this book is from...
REP. WATERS: Before we get to, before we get to the next level, we've got to recognize that there are big problems in this country. Foreclosures, the banks will not do loan modifications, and we have not come up with a program by which we can people in their homes. We need to be bold enough for the president to say to the bankers, "You come into this office, we're going to talk about how we're going to write down principals, how we're going to keep people in these homes, how we're going to make sure the interest rates are no more than 4 percent." People want to hear the answers about how they're going to have just a decent quality of life.
MR. GREGORY: OK. Let's get a final...
MR. MCKINNON: But to your question to Tom, there's something he's written about, there's going to be an effort on all 50 states that will be ballot accessed for an alternative nominating convention in all 50 states next year. So there's going--there's some things going on out there. It's called Americans Elect, and they're--so there will be an alternative nominating process. So there's frustration out there, and they're--people are tired with the system the way it is. They're working within the system and No Labels, but there's things happening outside the system as well.
MR. GREGORY: All right, we're going to leave it there. Thank you all very much. This morning, before we take a break here, a programming note. For more on Tom Friedman's book, "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Make--How We Can Come Back," you can watch his live interview on the "Today" program. That's Tuesday morning; plus, listen to an audio excerpt on our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com.
And coming up here, for many, the events of September 11th led to life-changing decisions. For Joseph Kearns Goodwin, it was a call to serve. As the nation prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we'll look back on how that day affected his life, how it defined his generation. Forming--former Army Captain Joseph Kearns Goodwin and his mother Doris will join us right after this break.
MR. GREGORY: We're back with a special discussion as we look ahead to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Joining me now, bronze star veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, former Army Captain Joseph Kearns Goodwin and his mom, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who is back with us.
Welcome to both of you. This gets a lot more personal, right, Doris...
MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: Oh, God almighty.
MR. GREGORY: ...than talking about the "big issues."
Well, Joe, it's great to have you here.
MR. JOSEPH KEARNS GOODWIN: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: And as we talk about 10 years after 9/11, I wanted to talk about what that day meant, and what actually happened on that day for you and, and the days that followed.
MR. GOODWIN: Sure. Well, I was sort of--I graduated from college in the spring of '01, I was getting ready to go work at a political consultancy down in Washington, down here. And I'd sort of tossed around the idea of going into the Army, but never took it seriously. Then, after September 11th, I realized that my world was sort of inexorably changed, as it was for a lot of people. I remember I went in to see my mom, and I said, "Well, I guess I know what I'm doing now." She goes, "Yeah, you're not joining the Army, right?" And I go, "Well, you know, it might be the opposite." So on September 12th I went down to the closest Army recruiting station, signed the paperwork for what I thought was three years. It ended up being six, which is a life-long lesson in sort of reading fine print. But, that being said, it turned out to be an incredible experience.
MR. GREGORY: You know, I know you're here this morning as a veteran and also as a mere representative of so many others who served and volunteered to serve and who were already serving...
MR. GOODWIN: Right. Absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: ...prior to 9/11 and were trained and ready for that moment of great consequence. But describe the emotions of that time for you and what compelled you to say, "I got to do something."
MR. GOODWIN: You know, it was not so much, sort of, anger or the sense I wanted vengeance against the people who attacked us. I mean, there's maybe an element of that. It was more an understanding of there I was. I had just graduated college, I had not yet embarked on a career, and it became pretty clear on September and the days that followed that some young people were going to be needed to do something somewhere. We didn't know what it was. It was before Afghanistan, let alone before Iraq. And I just felt that I'd been sort of granted almost every advantage that a free and prosperous society can give you. I went to a great public school system. I went to a great university. I was prepared for it because of that public schools. I have a great family. I have a great Red Sox team. Although in 2001 that was probably more heartache than joy. And just sort of felt that because I was ready, willing and in relatively good shape it was incumbent on me to give something back to this great country that had given me so much.
MR. GREGORY: Doris, you were on the program the week after the war in Iraq started, with Tim, and this is the exchange you had.
(Videotape, March 23, 2003)
MR. TIM RUSSERT: You are a historian, but your most important job is a mother. Your son enlisted in the military after September 11th, Second Lieutenant Joseph Kearns Goodwin. What are your thoughts as a mother this morning as he finishes his flight school?
MS. GOODWIN: Well, he's currently in jump training, parachute training. I couldn't even go on a roller coaster, so physically I'm in awe of what he's been through. But, mentally, he feels that the Army has trained him as best as it could. He's been in leadership positions all along the way. He's met people he never would have met at Harvard College or Concord Massachusetts. And he's never second-guessed it. So I have to respect his decision. He'll be going overseas--whether he gets deployed or not to Iraq, we don't know--but he'll be going overseas in about 10 days.
MR. GREGORY: He was about to go to war, and that was a pretty brave face, Mama.
MS. GOODWIN: Yeah, it was--it was a game face...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MS. GOODWIN: ...because underneath, especially once he got to Iraq. I mean it was something at the very beginning I was so proud of his decision. I thought he would be part of a whole generation that were going to join and do something to help our country. And, as a historian, I was thrilled for him that he would have that experience. But then, once Iraq was there and once we started getting letters back from him from Iraq, very, very scary kinds of things, he even didn't tell us half of what was going on. Then you wake up, like any military family does, and every time you read something you worry, "Will something happen?" You obsessively look at the television, then you don't want to look at the television. I think the hardest part for me, to be honest, was not Iraq, because we got through that. He did well, he did incredibly well, but then he came back home. And then like so many others he was called back to another tour of duty. And it came to our house, the gobbledygook, from the military. I couldn't quite read it, saying, I think, "You're being called back to active service in Afghanistan." And I had to tell him.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MS. GOODWIN: He was working down here at NBC. But all those ranging emotions, as a mother, as a historian, in the end, I think he has seen a world he would not otherwise have seen. I am so proud of him.
MR. GREGORY: Joe, what, what--you wrote a few years ago that you really didn't feel America was at war.
Mr. GOODWIN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: As we are a decade later, where are we after 9/11? Do we, as a country, feel less secure. Do we have less, less faith in government? How have we changed?
MR. GOODWIN: Well, I do think, I mean, to your original point, that there was a huge missed opportunity after 9/11. I mean, as tragic as those events were, they really did bind us together as a country for a brief period of time, and I felt that a lot of the kind of mess we find ourselves in today might have been forestalled if back then people had been asked to contribute to the effort to the country in ways that they weren't. Now, that doesn't mean necessarily just bolstering the ranks of the Army. I mean, that would be great so you don't have these poor kids going back on their fifth and sixth tour. But, I mean, when, during World War II, and she's probably far more--can talk about this far better than I can, you had people that undertook tax increases, there were fuel rationing, kids were putting together rubber bands to contribute to the war effort. That call to service never came for us. And if we had asked people to sacrifice on September 12th, and I think they were ready, willing and able to do it, instead of putting two wars on a credit card, maybe we would not be in the mess we are today had that call to service came, because I think people were ready to respond.
MR. GREGORY: This has been defensive the last decade, preventing another attack. We've been at it for 10 years. We will conclude wars in Afghanistan and Iraq likely without much fanfare and without very clear results. This is not the end of World War II. We've been having this conversation about the restoration of America's greatness, if there's that feeling of decline. What are our emotions, do you think, emotions of a country 10 years later?
MS. GOODWIN: I think the hardest thing in contrast to the decade after Pearl Harbor was when everybody participated in that decade of World War II, you had everybody knew somebody who was fighting overseas. You had a Manhattan Project for atomic energy. You had, as you said, the rubber bands being rolled up. There was a feeling of closure when the war came to an end and a feeling of we all did it together. We've been spectators, most of the country, in this decade to the wars that have been fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, that was one of the things that was so difficult. When Joey's letters would came home, not only did we read them to everybody because everybody in our family wanted to read them. It was like primitive, going back to the letters 100 years ago. There was no e-mail in the beginning. But everybody we knew would want to hear about them because it was their one brush. Because especially in our world, our Ivy League world up in Boston, not very many kids had joined the Army then. The letters were, I think, the, the lifeline for me and for him. His brother Michael, who is 15 months older than him, wrote to Joey every single day, a hand-written letter, while he was in Iraq. And I kept thinking when they were four and five years old arguing over how many person had more cereal in their box.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MS. GOODWIN: And now they were best friends. That's all I needed to know, "I'll be dead, they'll have each other."
MR. GREGORY: You know, it's interesting the images that played out when Osama bin Laden was killed were really striking. Outside the White House, jubilation. I mean, young people, I--there was a young guy I know who was at college here in Washington who went down there to be part of it.
MR. GREGORY: At least this was an element of 9/11 that you can remember from being scared as a young person...
Mr. GOODWIN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: ...to now at least having some element of, of closure there. these scenes playing out at Ohio State University.
Mr. GOODWIN: Yeah, no, they're, they're, they're pretty spectacular. And I think you're right. I mean, for my generation at the close of the Cold War, there was that 10-year period where there was sort of this sense of maybe, "Hey, nothing's really wrong in the world. You know, everything is going to OK, everything's safe. We're all--everything's going forward." 9/11 was a stark reminder that the world is a dangerous one, it's a tough one, it's one with real issues and real problems. I don't think that's new for my generation, but that was sort of the time when my generation realized something that previous generations had realized from previous events.
MR. GREGORY: There, there's a conversation going on even as we're having ours, digitally and on Facebook. This caught our attention from Bryce G. "Graduating from high school in, in 2000 means many of my friends and family have served and continue to serve. This makes us a generation desensitized and accustomed to conflict and war. I have a sick feeling that if a time of peace ever actually happens again, we will be suspicious of it."
A final thought here, Joe. It ties together with this notion of being the new, greatest generation. What defines your generation that experienced 9/11 and served afterward, as you think about leadership, as you think about national purpose?
MR. GOODWIN: Sure. Well, I think what is great about America, what is great about any generation is 9/11 was a defining moment, but it's not what defines our generation. I think what's been go--so great about us throughout our history is to be able to encounter an event like 9/11, see what needs to be done, try to overcome it, but then go on with our lives. Go on with the business of, you know, of work and play and, you know, and everything all together. So while, like I said, while it is sort of definitional, I don't think it should define us.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Thank you for your service.
MR. GOODWIN: It was my honor. It really was.
MR. GREGORY: Joe, thank you. Doris, thank you.
As we think about 9/11 this morning and next Sunday's 10th anniversary, we want to remember those who were lost that horrible day, innocent victims as well as our first responders, firefighters, police and others. And we remember to say thank you to the men and women of our volunteer armed forces, like Joe, who have fought and died and served multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan while their families endured their absence back home.
One such warrior who defined military leadership in the post-9/11 era took off the uniform this week. General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and, before that, CENTCOM commander, and, before that, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, retired after 37 years of service in the Army, as he prepares to take the helm as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Petraeus changed the Army, re-engineering how troops are trained and how they engage and fight the enemy. He most notably led the surge in Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, called Petraeus not just one of the most important military figures of our time, but of all time. To him and to his wife, Holly, we offer our thanks and gratitude.
Next Sunday, on 9/11, MEET THE PRESS will not air as normal. Instead, I'll be part of our special network coverage along with Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw and Lester Holt, "9/11: America Remembers." We'll span the events and critical moments during the morning of 9/11. Join us as we look back on that fateful day one decade later.
And one other programming note. You can watch the rebroadcast of today's program this afternoon on MSNBC at 2 PM Eastern, as well as tomorrow morning for early risers at 6:00 AM Eastern.
That is all for today. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.