MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, national outrage over the alleged sexual abuse of children at Penn State.
MR. JOHN SURMA: Joe Paterno is no longer the head football coach, effective immediately.
MR. GREGORY: Was there a conspiracy of silence throughout the university to cover this up for years? This morning, where is the investigation going? What are the consequences for Penn State, and the larger questions about how some institutions get so big and so powerful they fail the most basic moral test?
With us this morning, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania and member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, Tom Corbett.
Then, what a week in the Republican race for the White House. The denial...
MR. HERMAN CAIN: I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period.
MR. GREGORY: The debate disaster.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX): It's three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and the--what's the third one there. Let's see.
MR. GREGORY: And now the questions. Is Perry finished? Can Cain weather sexual harassment questions? Can Romney quiet conservative critics? And can Michele Bachmann, once near the top of the polls, regain her standing in the first tier? We'll ask her. With us this morning, presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Then the view from the Democrats. How does the president overcome America's high anxiety about the economy? Will he have to run away from his record to best position himself against a Republican nominee? Joining us, the leader of the Democratic Party, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.
And finally, our political roundtable. How wide open is the race for the GOP nomination? And more on the national conversation over the Penn State scandal. With us, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and The New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning.
On the subject of foreign policy, the Republican presidential candidates met last night for their 10th debate and leveled more attacks against President Obama than against each other.
(Videotape, last night)
FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA): Look, one thing you can know and that is, if we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.
(Videotape, last night)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): And if there's anything that we know, President Obama has been more than willing to stand with Occupy Wall Street, but he hasn't been willing to stand with Israel.
(Videotape, last night)
FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): There are a number of ways to be smart about Iran and relatively few ways to be dumb, and the administration skipped all the ways to be smart.
MR. GREGORY: More on that in just a couple of moments.
But first this morning, the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State. After 46 years on the sidelines, head coach Joe Paterno was not at yesterday's Penn State-Nebraska game. There was, instead, a subdued mood in Happy Valley.
Sports Announcer: The Nebraska and Penn State players currently sharing the sentiments of many around the nation, gathering in prayer for the victims in these allegations, showing a solidarity and support.
MR. GREGORY: The scene on the field yesterday.
We go now live to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where we are joined by the man who, as Pennsylvania's attorney general in 2009, began the investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who you see here, as he was arrested, and a subsequent cover-up by Penn State officials. He is now the governor of the state and, as such, is a member of the Penn State board of trustees.
Governor Corbett, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.
GOV. TOM CORBETT (R-PA): Thank you, David.
MR. GREGORY: I know you're limited, because you were attorney general, in speaking about the criminal investigation, but I have to ask you more broadly, are there more victims that we don't know about?
GOV. CORBETT: I don't know the answer to that, David. When you conduct investigations like this--and in my career, I have conducted investigations like this--the more that you can get public about what has happened, the more that you can demonstrate that law enforcement and authorities are going to assist the victims of these types of crimes, it is not uncommon to see more victims come forward. Hopefully, there aren't any more victims. Hopefully, we know who they all are. But if there are more victims, we encourage them, the state police, the attorney general's office, and I encourage them to come forward, let us know, and we're going to work to do everything we possibly can to help you. This is about the victims.
MR. GREGORY: You have to understand people, those of us who are parents, including myself, I have a nine-year-old boy at home, and you hear about instances of a graduate assistant coach, McQueary, who sees a nine or 10-year-old boy being sodomized by Sandusky in a shower, according to his testimony, does nothing to physically stop it, calls his father, but does not call the police. His father does nothing to stop it. Runs it up the chain, nobody calls the police. And you have to ask yourself why isn't McQueary or his father actually charged with a crime?
GOV. CORBETT: Well, the, the attorney general made a decision--and I'm going to make this from observations, not from conversations with the attorney general--that he is a witness to this case, that he met the minimum obligation of reporting it up and--but did not, in my opinion, meet a moral obligation that all of us would have. I answered a question the other day of what would you do? And I think everybody believes that they would go in and break that up. Unfortunately, that isn't what happened, and that's clear from the presentment. But we need to move forward.
MR. GREGORY: McQueary's on administrative leave--he's on administrative leave by the board of trustees.
GOV. CORBETT: Right.
MR. GREGORY: Should he still have a job?
GOV. CORBETT: Well, that's a determination that the board of trustees, but more importantly, the new administration with Rod Erickson as the president, will make a decision on. But they have to keep in mind that this is also somebody who is a witness to this crime and is a very important witness to this crime.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you as governor about the law in your state. Now, when McQueary goes to Joe Paterno and says, "I saw something of a sexual nature." By law, and people may not know this, in Pennsylvania, unlike a lot of other states, in 40 other states, all Paterno has to do by law is report it to the head of his department. And then the institution, the head of the institution is responsible for calling the police or calling child services. So Paterno does what he should've done by law. Did he do enough? And should that law be changed?
GOV. CORBETT: Well, obviously the attorney general, one, made a decision that he did enough and said he's not a subject in the investigation. Should the law be changed? Absolutely. I know that members of both parties, Republican and Democrat, have already introduced measures to make that change. We have to make sure the, the change in the law is one that is effective. It's easy enough to take a look to see what other states have done. But we--I'm sure that within the next few weeks, you will probably see the bills become public. I wouldn't be surprised to see if a bill was passed within--between now and the end of this year.
MR. GREGORY: There's a very key point here that has to do with this charity that Sandusky set up called The Second Mile, which, according to the grand jury report, is where he targeted kids for sexual abuse. Now, in 2002, when one of the victims was allegedly sexually attacked and McQueary witnessed, all the administration at Penn State did, according to the report, was tell Sandusky, "Don't bring kids onto campus." Nobody tells the police, nobody tells child protective services. They do tell The Second Mile. And the lawyer at The Second Mile used to be the lawyer at Penn State, who was himself aware that the police had investigated a prior incident with Sandusky back in 1998. You, no doubt, have some serious questions about that charity and who's on the board of the charity and those who knew what was going on.
GOV. CORBETT: Well, first, the determination has to be made as to what was going on, as the attorney general has indicated. This is an ongoing investigation, and I'm sure that that is part of it, as to what information and when was communicated to the executive director of The Second Mile, to the lawyer of The Second Mile, and from there what was passed on to the members of, of the board of that organization. And there are many members who are from the community of State College who are on that organization. The Second Mile has done a lot of great work with students. Unfortunately, though, Mr. Sandusky has done a lot of bad work with these students.
MR. GREGORY: I just have to ask you as a trustee, as the governor of the state, as the former attorney general of the state, how did this happen? I mean, was this, was this a culture of indifference? A culture of cover-up? Did it extend throughout the university? Go beyond the university to the police, to the D.A.? Where?
GOV. CORBETT: Well, two things, David. Number one, as you know, I was just elected last year, I'm new to the board of trustees. In fact, Thursday and Friday were my first meetings with the board of trustees. I've had representatives there. One of the reasons that I went there, in addition to having planned to be there already, is to understand, to get a better handle on what's going on, to see exactly what's going on. But, secondly, the board has appointed Ken Frazier to conduct an investigation--his vice chair is Ron Tomalis, my secretary of education--to investigate exactly what happened. And I think some of the questions that you just asked, including is this just a culture of people not questioning what is going on, not passing information along as they should, I think that is going to be the subject of that investigation. And I always wait for the results of investigation before I issue any opinions.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think that the culture of football at Penn State ultimately corrupted the rest of the institution and, and forced it to fail a basic moral test?
GOV. CORBETT: Well, I'm not going to call it the culture of football at Penn State. It's--the question should be is, what is the openness at Penn State? And, frankly, maybe at all major universities and even small universities, small colleges. I had somebody indicating to me that they told me a story earlier about a small community and their programs and people not talking about things that they should talk about. I think one of the lessons that we need to learn from this is that, when people see something like this or hear about something like this, you need to investigate right away, you need to report. We have lost the focus of what's in the best interests of the child when you see something like this.
MR. GREGORY: What about the future of the football program? As you remember, USC, when it had financial improprieties with running back Reggie Bush had to decline bowl invitations for two years. Should that happen at Penn State? Should the football program be suspended for a period of time?
GOV. CORBETT: Well, I keep, I keep in mind that this had nothing to do with the men on that team right now, and I don't think that they should have to suffer because of the actions of maybe a few, including Mr. Sandusky. But I think it is a question that, not only should the investigation by Ken Frazier take a look at, but that the board of trustees should take a look at.
MR. GREGORY: Should they go to a bowl game if invited?
GOV. CORBETT: I think that's a question that has to be determined by the board of trustees, and I'd have to give that thought.
MR. GREGORY: What about funding for Penn State and ultimately the financial health of the state? Moody's has said they're going to take a look at its bond rating because of the allegations at Penn State. The financial liability of this institution through lawsuits, through loss of support from donors could be monumental, do you not believe?
GOV. CORBETT: Well, it could be, but I don't engage in speculation like that. I think, if you look at the financial statement that was actually presented to the board on Friday, they're in a very strong position, and people should take a look at that. They do get some funding from the state of Pennsylvania. I think it's maybe 7.5 percent of their total operating budget. But I think from a financial standpoint, Penn State's in a very good position right now.
MR. GREGORY: From a criminal point of view, is there more to come?
GOV. CORBETT: From a point of view of having conducted investigations like this in the past, you never know what's to come. But the more that you press, and especially now that charges are filed against individuals, should some of them decide to cooperate if they tell us information that we don't have that maybe many in the media and in the public are speculating on, is there a potential for that? Sure. There's always a potential for that.
MR. GREGORY: All right, we'll leave it there. Governor Corbett, thank you very much for your time.
GOV. CORBETT: Thank you for having me, David.
MR. GREGORY: Joining me now, Republican presidential candidate, Congresswoman of Minnesota Michele Bachmann.
Congresswoman Bachmann, welcome back.
REP. BACHMANN: Thank you, David. Good to be with you this morning.
MR. GREGORY: There's a, there's a lot to discuss on the campaign trail. But I have to ask you first about this horrible events--series of events at Penn State and ask you whether you think, as a national figure, whether there is a role for Congress to pay--play in investigating this, where you think the national conversation has to go from here on what has happened at Penn State.
REP. BACHMANN: Well, this is a national conversation. And I--the lens that I look at this through is as a mother. I, I'm a mother of five biological children and 23 foster children, and my heart is--I think is reflective of that of the American people. This is so horrific on the level of a parent. I think about my children, if that was my child. And I think my automatic reaction would be, even though I'm a small woman, I'd want to go find that guy and beat him to a pulp. I think that's what any parent would want to do when they think about their child. But, clearly, this is very high-profile now, as it should be. And I have no doubt that this will--with the--this level of scrutiny justice will be done. And this is a state matter; it needs to stay at the state level. And I think that it's good that the media's paying a lot of attention to this because this should never happen to any child.
MR. GREGORY: Just, just one more on this. You say it's a state matter. As you know, the Department of Education is looking into this, as well, to see if there's an area where federal law applies. Do you think it's a matter for Congress to get involved in? As you know, Congress can look at anything. They did in terms of steroids. They could look at it in terms of, you know, institutional abuse or a conspiracy of silence.
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I think that that's--the pendulum swings, and when something horrific happens people's automatic reaction is somebody needs to do something. But it doesn't necessarily mean that this issue should be kicked up to Congress. I really do believe this needs to stay exactly in the jurisdiction where the offense occurred. Congress has a lot of other things to pay attention to. But I think this needs to be handled. And, again, I think this is one place the media gets beaten up a lot, but I think this is exactly where the nedia--media's needed more than ever is to bring light on this situation. That's the best thing that can be done.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let me switch gears now and talk about the important issues of this campaign, as well, and talk about your standing in the campaign. Here's a flier that you are circulating; and, as a key point it makes is that "I am the one true conservative in the race and I can win." You've got a book coming out, and here's the cover of it. "Core of Conviction: My Story." What is the distinguishing characteristic as a conservative between you and Mitt Romney?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I think the distinguishing characteristic is that I have been consistent throughout my career. I'm 55 years old, I spent 50 years in the real world and then five years in the lion's den in Washington, D.C., fighting against out of--all of the out-of-control spending. Probably the number one thing between Governor Romney and myself--it's not personal, it's just issues--would be the fact that I was the lead opponent of President Obama's Obamacare. That's the government takeover of health care. Governor Romney instituted that program in Massachusetts, and it's--I think it's highly unlikely to think that he will be the one who'll be able to fully repeal Obamacare as president of the United States. I brought 40,000 Americans to Washington, D.C., to fight against the implementation of Obamacare. I have the commitment, and I also wrote the law, the legislation to repeal Obamacare. So I have that core of conviction...
MR. GREGORY: As you...
REP. BACHMANN: ...and I'll see this through so that we can get back to patient-centered care. And really the real issue is to bring costs down in health care.
MR. GREGORY: And...
REP. BACHMANN: Unfortunately, that's not what Obamacare brought.
MR. GREGORY: As you know, the president's senior adviser, David Plouffe, said on this program about Mitt Romney, he has "no core." Do you agree with that?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, there's certainly a sharp contrast between myself and Governor Romney. He has been pro-choice, I am pro-life. He has been for marriage between people of the same sex. I am for marriage between one man and one woman. Obamacare obviously. If you go issue after issue, Governor Romney has been on both sides of the issues; I've been on one side of the issues. I make no apologies. And that's why I say I have a core of conviction. And of all of the candidates in the race, you won't find any surprises, and that's why I invite your viewers to go to nosurprises2012.com, and that website shows the compare and contrast between the candidates. There's no surprises with me. So nosurprises2012.com.
MR. GREGORY: One of the surprises in this race were sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain. His lawyer said this week that other women should "think twice before making allegations." You talk about yourself as a woman in the race, as a mom in the race. Are these disqualifying allegations, in your mind, if proven to be true for Herman Cain?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, of course, that would be for the voters to decide. But that is--that's something that would have to be proven. On one hand, it's a terrible thing to be falsely accused of something that you didn't do. But on the other hand women have the right to be protected in the workplace. And so, ultimately, it really depends on the truth of these allegations. I have no information about that, so I don't have anything I can share. But I think that, again, that will be up to the voters to decide.
This race, if anything, David, has proved to be extremely fluid. The voters have not made up their minds. This is wide open. It's a state-by-state race. It's Iowa first, then New Hampshire, then South Carolina, and on to Florida. And that's what we're paying attention to, is the schedule of these early primaries. And I think that we have a very good chance. After all, I won the Iowa straw poll in less time than any other candidate in the history of the straw poll.
MR. GREGORY: Well...
REP. BACHMANN: And I'm the first woman...
MR. GREGORY: ...let me ask you about that.
REP. BACHMANN: ...to ever win the Iowa straw poll.
MR. GREGORY: Well, right, and you had, you had a lot of momentum after that, but it seemed to have been taken away when Rick Perry got into the race. You fell down in the polls. You're now at four percent in our most recent poll. And yet, Rick Perry appears to be stumbling. How do you get back to a place where you're in that top tier?
REP. BACHMANN: That--well, that's a very good question. I think doing exactly what we're doing right now. I'll be getting on a plane and flying back to Iowa from South Carolina today. And what we're doing is meeting with people on the ground. We have a very good organization in Iowa. We have a, a lot of identified supporters. And so we need to do the very hard work of meeting people and greeting people, talking to them, listening to them, and organizing. Because Iowa is a caucus state. It's getting your actual supporters out to the caucus, and then they make their decision. It's a great form of government. It's true grassroots politics. Then, from there, on to New Hampshire, and then on to South Carolina. So we're doing exactly what we could do, and I think that the momentum is turning in our direction.
MR. GREGORY: So let's take a few minutes and talk about a few quick issues. Foreign policy was the topic last night at the debate. You said you would reinstate waterboarding in terms of how detainees, terror detainees are treated when they are in--held, held captive, held prisoner. You went on to say the following here about the president's foreign policy. Watch.
(Videotape, last night)
REP. BACHMANN: Today, under Barack Obama, he is allowing the ACLU to run the CIA. It is as though we have decided we want to lose in the war on terror under President Obama. That's not my strategy.
(End of videotape)
MR. GREGORY: That the president almost wanted to lose the war on terror, did you feel that way after he killed Osama bin Laden, ordering that raid? Did you feel that way after he ordered more drone attacks on terrorists in Pakistan than the previous administration?
REP. BACHMANN: Those are good tactical moods that, that were made, and those, I, I, I think all Americans would agree with. But the bigger picture, the strategic blunders that this administration has made have had profound consequences. And this is what we need to understand. We are conducting a war on terror, but when we have--we have no jail for terrorists. So what this means is either we kill them or we release them.
MR. GREGORY: But that's not true, Congresswoman.
REP. BACHMANN: We also have no ability, we...
MR. GREGORY: We have Guantanamo Bay. We have some secret prisons that have remained open. That's simply been looked at and found to be not true. They have--and there are other ways that they can actually be held for some smaller determined period of time on ships, on Navy ships in the region as well.
REP. BACHMANN: We all know that that isn't a long-term solution to this problem. We aren't adding any new terrorists to Guantanamo Bay. We only have Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of 9/11, who is at Guantanamo Bay, and others as well. But we don't have a place to put al-Qaeda when we pick them up. It's either catch and release, which is a terrible idea, or we have to kill them. What we need to win this war on terror is interrogation. This is where my comment about the ACLU comes in because today the CIA is no longer able to go through the interrogation that yielded such profitable information that saved American lives. That's what I'm interested in, David.
MR. GREGORY: But you, but you realize, you realize...
REP. BACHMANN: ...saving American lives and winning...
MR. GREGORY: Understood.
REP. BACHMANN: ...the war on terror.
MR. GREGORY: You say that...
REP. BACHMANN: And so this is a, this is a real difference.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
REP. BACHMANN: The only thing--let me add this.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
REP. BACHMANN: The, the, the only thing that we have available to us today is the Army field manual. That's online. So terrorists can go ahead and read ahead of time what will happen to them when we capture them, and it's really, effectively, when we capture them today, it's a slap on the wrist. I want to save American lives, and that's why I want the CIA...
MR. GREGORY: One...
REP. BACHMANN: ...to have every interrogation tool available to them...
MR. GREGORY: One more, one more on this.
REP. BACHMANN: ...so that we can win the war on terror.
MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, one more on this. You say the ACLU is taking over the CIA, run now by General David Petraeus. You understand...
REP. BACHMANN: Their philosophy. Their...
MR. GREGORY: OK. You, you...
REP. BACHMANN: Their philosophy.
MR. GREGORY: I understand that. I understand, I understand that's what you mean.
REP. BACHMANN: Yes, I agree. I believe, I...
MR. GREGORY: No, no, let me just make the point. Your view that waterboarding should be reinstituted, you understand that puts you at odds with most of the generals, OK, the former Republican nominee of your party John McCain, General Colin Powell. You realize you're on the opposite end of what they believe? Do you not trust them and their views?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, but what, but I, but I'm on the same side as Vice President Cheney on this issue, and others as well. Because, I, again, what we're looking at is what will save American lives. And that's what the most important thing is. We've got, we've got to decide that we want to defeat the terrorists. And when we make that decision, we need to, we need to employ the methods that will best help us to defeat them. And President Obama is not doing that. Again, President Obama was given a war that is won in Iraq, and he's choosing to lose the peace. That's a desecration of the memory of 4400 Americans that gave their lives to liberate Iraq. And also, it's over $800 billion that we have expended. I believe that Iraq should pay us back for the money that we spent. And I believe that Iraq should pay the families that lost a loved one several million dollars per life...
MR. GREGORY: All right.
REP. BACHMANN: ...I think, at minimum. This is, this, this is a terrible situation that the United, that the president has left the, the war on terror in.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to leave it there. More discussion to come. Congresswoman, thank you.
REP. BACHMANN: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: More Decision 2012. The head of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on the president's re-election effort. And a looming super committee deadline on the debt. Can the party unite and make the case for another four years for President Obama? And later, a special conversation with David Brooks and E.J. Dionne on the national outrage that was sparked in the wake of the child abuse scandal at Penn State.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up, more Decision 2012, with the head of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the president's re-election effort and the looming super committee deadline. That's up next, right after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: Joining me now, the chair of the Democratic National Committee and congresswoman of Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Congresswoman, welcome back.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thank you, David, great to be with you.
MR. GREGORY: As we talk about the Republican debates, and the president said this week that he effectively could campaign by just showing these debates, and that he thinks he comes out in favor. Whatever people think about the Republican field, the way they feel about the economy is incredibly pessimistic. Here were the personal views of folks, according to our latest poll, in terms of their own economic situation. And you have 84 percent who think their personal economic situation has either gotten worse or stayed the same. Americans are simply not better off after President Obama's leadership.
REP. SCHULTZ: Well, David, I think also reflective in your poll is a recognition by the American people that President Obama is focused on trying to make sure that the middle class and working families get a fair shake, and that he's fighting really hard to get the economy turned around and has made progress, taking us from bleeding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month to now having 20 straight months of growth in the private sector. And that's why your poll shows that President Obama would defeat any of the candidates in the Republican field right now simply because they understand that he is fighting for the average middle class American to ensure that there's some prosperity for them. And the entire Republican field is focused on helping keep the wind at the backs of the wealthiest, most fortunate Americans.
MR. GREGORY: But, but, Congresswoman, he's, he's had the job. They have been his policies. You concede Americans are not better off after his leadership?
REP. SCHULTZ: Well, what I concede is that we do have a long way to go, but we absolutely have begun to turn things around, and we have made steady, but not quick, enough progress. I mean, before President Obama took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month, David. And now we've had 20 straight months of growth in the private sector. We've added 2.8 million jobs in the private sector alone, begun to add, you know, millions of jobs in private--in, in manufacturing. We're starting to focus on making things in America again. That's what we--it needs to be all hands on deck. We need to--President Obama knows and believes that we need to put the partisanship aside, we need Republicans and Democrats to work together. That's what he's pushing so hard for. That's why he proposed and is pushing for the American Jobs Act. And he--and it's why, because he knows we can't wait, that he's signing executive orders to move the economy...
MR. GREGORY: Well...
REP. SCHULTZ: ...forward on his own, since the Republicans won't work with him.
MR. GREGORY: And yet, the--folks are overwhelmingly pessimistic about dealing with the debt situation in this country. This is an exclusive political poll, the full results will be out, will be out tomorrow on politico.com. Sixty-nine percent do not believe that the super committee will reach its goal. If he's so committed to bringing down the nation's debt, why is he not in there driving toward a solution? My own reporting tells me from people involved in those talks that the White House has had much more of a hands off approach to dealing with what the super committee will agree to on reducing the debt.
REP. SCHULTZ: Well, David, the president, as you probably know, called both of the co-chairs, Patty Murray and Jeb Hensarling the other day and made it unequivocally clear that he thinks that they need to come together and, and put forward a solution and do everything they can to make sure that those triggers don't kick in. And he also has proposed his own detailed plan. He's laid out, for the super committee, how he believes that we can reduce our debt, do it in a balanced way, make sure that we ask more from millionaires and billionaires, and balance that with cuts that we know are painful, but that are absolutely essential in, in these tough times. President Obama has absolutely been engaged. But, you know, this is a congressional committee, and the, the, the members of Congress on that committee need to come together, and we need Republicans to step up to the plate and agree to come to a, come to a compromise and not engage in the "my way or the highway" politics that they've consistently engaged in.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let's--they did, they did agree for tax increases that Democrats have not accepted this week. But I want to ask you about, specifically, about the debt.
REP. SCHULTZ: Well, no, no, no. Because that wasn't a serious--come on, David, that was not a serious proposal. What they proposed was, you know, reducing the number of itemized deductions in exchange for a passage, an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, which actually would've resulted in less revenue and brought the overall tax rate, top tax rate down to 28 percent. So that was not a serious proposal. We need a serious proposal that balances the revenue of the super committee generates and the cuts.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, there, there was new revenue, there was new revenue that was proposed, but I realize that's still a subject of debate. But let me, let me focus...
REP. SCHULTZ: That would result in less revenue overall.
MR. GREGORY: Let me--well, again, that's in dispute, according to my reporting on that. On the debt, how irresponsible is it that this president has allowed America's national debt to increase by 41 percent over his term of office?
REP. SCHULTZ: Well, President Obama inherited a, a significant, significant debt, one that President Bush handed him after receiving a record surplus from President Clinton. So, I mean, we're, we're talking about a president who inherited the results of two wars that were unpaid for, a prescription drug program unpaid for, and 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that went to the wealthiest, most fortunate Americans unpaid for, and had the most significant economic problems that the Republicans had driven us to the brink of economic collapse of any president probably since FDR. So making sure that we could make investments to get this economy to begin to turn around was incredibly important. And this president did that, and that's why we've had 20 straight months of growth in the private sector.
MR. GREGORY: Well...
REP. SCHULTZ: And he stopped the decline.
MR. GREGORY: But let me...
REP. SCHULTZ: That was, that was critical, and began to turn things around.
MR. GREGORY: Well, but he certainly didn't stop the decline when it came to the debt if the debt has gone up. And this was candidate Obama in July of 2008. Watch.
(Videotape, July 3, 2008)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents, number 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic.
MR. GREGORY: That's his rhetoric. Should it not be turned on him now?
REP. SCHULTZ: No. What should be turned--well, what we should be turning on is that Mitt Romney, for example, who purports to be the alternative to President Obama, would've allowed Detroit to go bankrupt, would've allowed more than a million jobs in the pipeline to just, just evaporate. We wouldn't have had an American automobile industry. He's also said that housing is something that we shouldn't address. We should just let investors come in and buy up all the properties and leave people who are struggling to remain in their homes out in the cold.
I mean, so in the alternatives, in the field of Republican candidates, they continue to focus on making sure that millionaires and billionaires continue to have it good. And President Obama has focused on trying to make sure that the middle class gets 17 different tax cuts for small business owners. Ninety-five percent of Americans got a tax break at the outset of President Obama's administration. We are focused under his leadership on getting things turned around, and we've made 20 straight months of progress. So while, yes, we have increased our debt, we have done so in a way that has made sure that the economy can start to turn around. So we've made progress, and we've moved forward. We would make even more if the Republicans just stopped rooting for the economy to fail and join us in trying to focus on all of America's jobs, not just on the one job they care about, which is Barack Obama's.
MR. GREGORY: We're going to leave it there. The debate will continue. Congresswoman, thank you.
REP. SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: And coming up, a busy week in the Republican presidential race as the candidates were back together on the same stage for two debates, one just last night. And we have a brand-new exclusive NBC poll that will tell us what, if anything, changed this week in the race for the Republican nomination. That's next.
Plus, more on the Penn State scandal. Was there a conspiracy of silence within the football program and the university overall to protect one of their own? Joining us to talk about it all, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times.
MR. GREGORY: We're back now with our roundtable discussion. Joining me, columnist E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and columnist David Brooks of The New York Times. If you are country music fans, it's Brooks and Dionne.
MR. DAVID BROOKS: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: And so the famous, the famous combo. Let's talk Republican politics and look at the Republican field in the NBC poll. This is where we stood as the poll came out this week. Romney and Cain on top, Gingrich impressively at 13 percent, Ron Paul hanging tough at 10 percent. Perry, Bachmann and Santorum. Now, what we did this week, we recontacted some of the previous respondents based on the Cain allegations and his denials and the Perry debate moment. And we tried to gauge how it had changed the race some, and this is what we found that we can report this morning. An uptick from Romney, slight erosion of support for Cain, big uptick for Gingrich, who seems to be an emerging story. Perry down four, some real trouble for his campaign.
So, David, where are we now in this Republican field?
MR. BROOKS: To me, the big news is Cain not going down as much as I would have thought, or as most people would have thought. And why is that? Peter Hart, who does the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll with you guys did a focus group a couple of weeks ago where he asked people, "What sort of school kid would the candidates be?"
MR. GREGORY: Hm.
MR. BROOKS: And when they thought of Rick Perry, they thought, 'Oh, he'd be the bully." When they thought of Mitt Romney, that, "Oh, he'd be the rich kid." When they thought of Herman Cain, they thought, "He'd be the popular one." And so Cain has a reservoir of support that the others don't, even with these scandals. I think, in the end of the day, it'll hurt him. The second big question is, what kind of campaign are we running here? Usually people are out campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, raising money doing ground support. This year it's all a realty show based on the debates. I happen to think eventually it'll turn into a normal campaign where they'll go to Romney. But maybe it won't. Maybe Cain will still be sticking around there. So his resilience is the impressive thing.
MR. GREGORY: Let me just ask you about the debate cycle. So Perry's big moment in the debate had to do with really an unforced error as he was trying to level an attack. This is how it went.
GOV. PERRY: It's three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education and the--what's the third one there? Let's see. The third agency of government I would, I would do away with, the Education, the...
MR. RON PAUL: Commerce.
GOV. PERRY: ...Commerce and let's see. I can't--the third one I can't. Sorry. Oops.
MR. GREGORY: The oops moment. Last night the CBS News debate with Scott Pelly made some light of that. Have a look.
MR. SCOTT PELLY: Governor Perry, you advocate the elimination of the Department of Energy. If you eliminate the Department of Energy...
GOV. PERRY: Glad you remembered it.
MR. PELLY: I've had some time to think about it, sir.
GOV. PERRY: Me too.
MR. GREGORY: E.J., can Perry recover?
MR. E.J. DIONNE: You know, I think that that moment is painful every time you watch it. And I think that's the worst thing for Perry, which is that you can get by if voters can't--if some share of voters can't stand you. You can't get by when they start feeling sorry for you. And so I think this is a huge problem. I do think the Democratic National Committee is going to put up some money so that you can have a Republican debate every other day because I think, in general, these debates have not helped the field. And I think that the--what you're seeing is something very interesting. If you look at the CBS poll, which has more undecideds given the way they conduct it, their last poll showed that if you combine the number of Republicans who are undecided with the number of Republicans they say want--who say they want someone else, you get 31 percent of the vote. The field is losing as this race goes on. And while the conventional wisdom is, it's got to get to Romney eventually, what you're seeing pretty consistently is that Romney is having a lot of trouble getting much beyond a quarter of the Republican vote. You still feel there's an opening for another Republican candidate even if the process won't make it easy. So I've been thinking there is room for some kind of draft movement again. Maybe a write-in in New Hampshire. Now, yeah, that's way out there, but I just have not seen a race that's had so much trouble gelling, and I think it's because conservatives are having trouble getting to Mitt Romney.
MR. GREGORY: And that's a continuing problem. But it's also sort of, while the president has said this week, "Look, I could just--I don't have to attack the Republicans, I just play these debates," the reality is that our polls and an analysis done also show that he suffers from the lack of a defined image in voter's minds...
MR. BROOKS: Right.
MR. GREGORY: ...that should be more defined at this stage.
MR. BROOKS: Right. People still don't know who he is. E.J. and I have a totally different out--we don't agree on who he is. And that's generally a problem. He's, among independents still 38, 39 percent support. It's really hard to win without independents. Forty-five percent approval rating. And then finally the field is pretty weak. But Mitt Romney's really strong, and I think he's going to be the nominee. And a lot of Democrats are basing, "Oh, Romney's weak. We'll show he's a flip-flopper. We'll show he worked at Bain Capital." They're judging Romney by the way he was four years ago. He's a very different candidate, much stronger. They're underestimating him.
MR. DIONNE: You know, I--he is strong compared to this field. I was struck by how bellicose his rhetoric was last night...
MR. GREGORY: Yes.
MR. DIONNE: ...about foreign policy and Iran.
MR. GREGORY: That he would stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
MR. DIONNE: Yes. And to--I think everybody is obsessed with moderate and independent voters. After the war propaganda that got us into the Iraq war, I think moderate, independent voters in America are very wary of that sort of talk about foreign policy. And, you know, you--it's one area where President Obama has been strong in the polls. So, again, this may help Romney start rallying some conservative support in the Republican primaries, but I think that's very dangerous for him in the long haul.
MR. GREGORY: I want to talk about Penn State, to shift gears to something so horrible and disgusting as the allegations there. And, you know, when I read Maureen Dowd's column this week, it helped to really sort of bring it home to me. She was very tough and, and really go to what is so disturbing about the grand jury report.
This is what she wrote in part, though, criticizing Penn State. "Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique. And sports, as my former fellow sports columnist at The Washington Star, David Israel, says, is `an insular world that protects its own, and operates outside of societal norms as long as victories and cash continue to flow bountifully.' Penn State rakes in $70 million a year from its football program." That is what has been alleged to have happened at Penn State, a conspiracy of silence to protect their own.
MR. DIONNE: No. And it's--you know, I was actually listening to the Penn State-Nebraska game yesterday while I was doing some errands. And then I thought, "This is really eerie. I'm listening to this football game when you have something here that defies words--horrific, disgusting, abusive." And it makes you say that it--self-protection, institutional self-protection in these matters always seems to win, especially where powerless boys are concerned, 10-year-old boys are abused. So a penalty must be paid here. And the question is, what is the proper penalty? You've had, certainly, football programs suspended for far less than this. And we do use the word alleged. But you read that indictment and you see how Penn State has already responded. They know that this was a crime and they covered it up. And you--yes, you say you don't want to punish this generation of kids, these football players on the field yesterday. They had nothing to do with this, and yet you've got to have a penalty extracted or else there is no penalty to be paid for this.
MR. GREGORY: And, David, you--look at the scenes out of Penn State this week. Paterno, Paterno with the shifting statements and sort of hanging on to his job. Folks--kids rioting on campus, protecting Joe Paterno, not understanding what is really going on here. Do they get it there? What is accountability look like, to E.J.'s points?
MR. BROOKS: I don't think it was just a Penn State problem. You know, you spend 30 or 40 years muddying the moral waters here. We have lost our clear sense of what evil is, what sin is; and so, when people see things like that, they don't have categories to put it into. They vaguely know it's wrong, but they've been raised in a morality that says, "If it feels all right for you, it's probably OK." And so that waters everything down. The second thing is a lot of the judgment is based on the supposition that if we were there, we would have intervened.
MR. DIONNE: Right.
MR. BROOKS: And that's just not true.
MR. GREGORY: But I have to challenge you on that point.
MR. DIONNE: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Is it really that we don't know right from wrong? Is there anybody who doesn't know that sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in a shower by another man is wrong?
MR. BROOKS: But if you...
MR. DIONNE: Exactly.
MR. BROOKS: If you're alert to the sense of what evil is, what the evil is within yourself and what evil is in society, you have a script to follow. It's not a vague sense. You have a script to follow. And this is necessary because people do not intervene. If--there's been a ton of research on this. They say people, they ask people, "If you saw something cruel, if you saw racism and sexism, will you intervene?" Then they hire actors, and they put it right in front of them. People do not intervene. It's called the bystander effect. It happens again and again, people don't intervene. That's why we need these scripts to remind people how, how evil can be all around.
MR. DIONNE: I think David is way too abstract here, and I think he really underestimates human beings. You know that what was happening in that shower, as alleged in the indictment, was wrong. And, yes, people may be uncertain about what to do. They may worry about their standing and their job. But, God, you hope that if you had been standing there--and I think most people feel this way--you would have gone in and you would have tried to stop that from happening.
MR. BROOKS: (Unintelligible)
MR. DIONNE: So, yes...
MR. BROOKS: Yeah.
MR. DIONNE: So, yes, I agree that maybe we don't have as full a rich a sense of evil as we used to, but that was evil.
MR. BROOKS: Yet, we had a murder in our--where we live in Bethesda, Maryland, and no, and people heard it, did not intervene. Kitty Genovese case. There's case after case where people don't intervene, and so you've got to arm yourself beforehand about that. And we haven't done a good job of arming people.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We've got to take another break here. We'll be back with David and E.J. right after this.
MR. GREGORY: Just closing moments here with E.J. Dionne and David Brooks on the Penn State scandal. So you heard the governor on the program saying that laws have to be changed. And what he's talking about are reporting laws. Most states require anybody who finds out about a sexual crime like this to report it to the police or department of child services. In this case, if you're Joe Paterno's case, all you have to do is go up to the head of your department and it's their responsibility. And we all know, I mean, in this situation, there was nobody more powerful than Joe Paterno. Not the president of the university was more powerful than him. Is this the script you're talking about, in part?
MR. BROOKS: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: More robust state law?
MR. BROOKS: Well, I think they obviously need to make the law more robust. But we can't rely on law and rules. It's up to personal discretion. We've taken a lot of moral decisions and tried to make them all legal based. But there has to be a sense of personal responsibility, regardless of what the rules are, "Here's what you do to stop it." And so if you try to make everything a matter of legalism and rules, you're going to get people doing the minimal, and you're going, going to have people thinking, "It's not my responsibility. It's, it's somehow lodged in the rules."
MR. DIONNE: But, you know, given how much of this has gone on, and somehow we haven't taken child abuse as seriously as we should, I was shocked to learn that you weren't required to report that to the authorities. And you could, but...
MR. BROOKS: Right.
MR. GREGORY: And we--E.J., we've been through this in the Catholic Church. You've covered this. This has been a huge national issue.
MR. DIONNE: Right. And, you know, it's odd that in the Catholic case, because people could point to particular things in the church that, particular things they might have seen as wrong in the church...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. DIONNE: ...or that were wrong in the church, this may actually end up having even a wider resonance, which might get us to take this more seriously. Because you can't just say, "Well, the church is one thing, sports is something"--no, this is a big problem that we have...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. DIONNE: ...in that institutions try to get off the hook too easily.
MR. GREGORY: All right. I'm going to leave it there. Thank you both very much.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: And before we go, you can watch an interesting conversation on Press Pass this week. A person who our viewers know well from this program, longtime former Senator Chris Dodd, who now heads up the Motion Picture Association of America. We talked about politics and Hollywood. It's at presspass.msnbc.com.
That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.