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NBC News MEET THE PRESS
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Guests: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State; Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va, Chairman, Government Reform Committee; Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Ranking Member, Government Reform Committee; Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I.
Moderator/Host: Tim Russert, NBC News
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Iraq, Lebanon and Syria and the United Nations. Our guest: the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
Then Congress subpoenas Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and others to testify about steroids and baseball. Is this an appropriate use or excessive misuse of congressional authority? An exclusive interview with the man who will conduct the hearing: Republican Tom Davis of Virginia and Democrat Henry Waxman of California.
Then Social Security: Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee has not endorsed the president's plan. Democratic Senator Ben Nelson has not rejected the president's plan. Chafee and Nelson: Can there be compromise on Social Security reform?
But, first, joining us now is the secretary of state.
Madam Secretary, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
DR. CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Thank you very much. Good to be with you.
MR. RUSSERT: Iraq--let me show you the kind of stories we're seeing in and around the country, around the world. "Nearly six weeks after a landmark election, no new government has formed and people who risked their lives to vote wonder why they did. ... Shopkeeper Mohammed Saddoun ... [lamented] the delay. `I am not only frustrated, I am ready to burst with anger,' Saddoun said. `We put our souls in the ... palms of our hands and went to the ballot centers. You remember the threats there were that they would kill people who voted. ... This vacuum of power increases the number of terrorist acts, it opens the way for the terrorists.'"
A lot of concern, rank-and-file voters in Iraq. When are we going to have a new prime minister?
DR. RICE: Well, the Iraqis are clearly in a very intense political process following their elections. They have a lot of divisions to overcome, divisions that were really exacerbated by Saddam Hussein's reign, but what's interesting about that quote is that the pressure is coming from the Iraqi people now to form a government. This is clearly a democratic process. I would note that they have said that they will seat the transitional assembly later this week, I think, in fact, directly in relationship to the pressure from the voter on the street to being to get a government. From all reports, they are getting close and I suspect that they will form a government fairly soon, but this is now an Iraqi process and we have to respect that process.
MR. RUSSERT: One of the leading contenders, Ibrahim Jafari, is the head of the Dawa Party. Are you concerned that he may have a terrorist past?
DR. RICE: Well, I've had a chance to meet Mr. Jafari at one point and he seems to me someone who is devoted to a better future for Iraq. The Iraqi people in any case will have an opportunity to assess how well this works. He's an elected official and we will work very well with him. In all my conversations with people who know him well, including in the conversation that I had with him, he seems devoted to trying to make this one Iraq, which is representative of and respectful of all Iraqis and an Iraq which will be a fighter in the war on terrorism. He has been very tough on the kind of terrorist activity that has been carried out by people like Zarqawi.
MR. RUSSERT: So if he was a terrorist in his past, that's forgotten?
DR. RICE: Well, I don't know about the immediate past or about his past. A lot of people in that period of time who were fighters against Saddam Hussein were branded with various labels, but the important thing is that he is elected by the Iraqi people to the assembly. He is now being in a very intense political process with many other Iraqis, and he will have to govern and govern wisely if he becomes prime minister of the interim government.
MR. RUSSERT: And let me turn to Lebanon. Do you believe that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization?
DR. RICE: Our view of Hezbollah has not changed, that it is, indeed, a terrorist organization. We're concentrating, Tim, on trying to remove the artificial element in Lebanese politics at this point and that is Syrian troops and the Syrian security forces, intelligence services. Once that is done, the Lebanese will be able to have a political process that is free of that kind of foreign interference, a political process that will begin to develop and we will be able to see or they will be able to see what the real balance of forces looks like in Lebanon. But as long as you have an overwhelming security and troop presence there for the Syrians, it is not possible for them to do that work.
MR. RUSSERT: I think many people were surprised by this story in The New York Times: "US Called Ready To See Hezbollah In Lebanon Role. After years of campaigning against Hezbollah, the radical Shiite Muslim party in Lebanon, as a terrorist pariah, the Bush administration is grudgingly going along with efforts by France and the United Nations to steer the party into the Lebanese political mainstream, administration officials say. The administration's shift was described by American, European and United Nations officials as a reluctant recognition that Hezbollah, besides having a militia and sponsoring attacks on Israelis, is an enormous political force in Lebanon that could block Western efforts to get Syria to withdraw the troops."
Hezbollah, who says "death to America, destruction of Israel," it appears that we're willing to tolerate them.
DR. RICE: Tim, we have not changed our view of Hezbollah, in any dimension have we changed our view of Hezbollah. We consider it a terrorist organization. What we're concentrating on--and everything is happening very quickly in this process--and what we're concentrating on is getting Syrian forces out under Resolution 1559, and then allowing the Lebanese people to have a process that will, I think, reveal what the real balance of force is in Lebanon. And it goes without saying that when you have a democratic process and you have a reform process and you ultimately establish rule of law, then those who continue to resort to violence outside of the legal and rule of law processes really can't be tolerated in a democratic process.
But first things first. When the Syrians go, you will see what the balance of forces really looks like in Lebanon. The Lebanese will be able to deal with their differences. It is also extremely important for the Lebanese to have free and fair elections to legitimate any political process going forward, and that's what we and our European allies and a number of Arab states in the region are working for at this point.
MR. RUSSERT: If the Lebanese people chose Hezbollah party as the governing party, we would recognize and accept it?
DR. RICE: Well, we have seen, Tim, that in democratic processes, people have to address a whole different set of concerns than they do when there is no democratic processes. But our view of Hezbollah has not changed. I really want to emphasize, though, this is a Lebanese process of coming to terms with their own political future, and that really can't happen in a way that is--that goes forward smoothly until Syrian forces are out.
MR. RUSSERT: But we would recognize Hezbollah if they were chosen by the Lebanese people?
DR. RICE: Tim, our view of Hezbollah has not changed and it's not going to change. The key here is for the Lebanese people to be able to deal with the divisions in their society that we all know are there, with the various forces in their society that we all know are there, and the role of the international community and, indeed, of the United States, is to make certain that Resolution 1559 is enforced. Eventually in a society that is devoted to rule of law, you cannot have organizations that continue to resort to violence.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the appointment of John--nomination of John Bolton as ambassador of the United Nations. President went to Europe and said, "You know, we had our differences about the war in Iraq, but now we must come together." You had a tour across Europe embracing people, the French, the Germans and others. And yet the appointment of Mr. Bolton has raised a lot of eyebrows in Europe and around the United States. Comments like these, an interview he gave with National Public Radio. Bolton: "If I were redoing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world." Question: "And that one member would be, John Bolton?" Bolton: "The United States." Great Britain, France, China, Russia, all permanent members, pretty much left out. And then this interview comment from Mr. Bolton. Let's watch.
(Videotape, Citizens For Global Solutions Convocation, February 3, 1994):
MR. JOHN BOLTON: There is no such thing as the United Nations.
The secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.
MR. RUSSERT: Why are we sending him to the United Nations?
DR. RICE: Because John is a very good diplomat. He has a lot of experience in U.N. affairs. But the fact of the matter is there are five permanent members of the Security Council. John Bolton knows that and he's going to be perfectly prepared to and ready to work with them, as well as other members of the Security Council, with Secretary-General Annan and with the agencies of the United Nations.
MR. RUSSERT: Does he sometimes say undiplomatic things?
DR. RICE: Well, sometimes we all say undiplomatic things, but the key is that this is a very good diplomat. I can tell you, Tim, that I had the opportunity to work with John when we were developing the Proliferation Security Initiative, from which he did a lot of the negotiation. When we were doing the global partnership for removing nuclear materials and weaponry from the old Soviet Union in concert with our G8 partners, he did the negotiation on that. John is one of the few Americans who actually, on his own nickel, supported a U.N. project when he worked as the special assistant to secretary--former Secretary of State Jim Baker on the western Sahara problem in the U.N.
The United States needs a U.N. that is efficient, that is effective, that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. The U.N. itself, Secretary-General Annan's people, the members of the U.N. all know that the U.N. needs reform, that there are problems that have been exposed, for instance, through the oil-for-food program, or through some of the problems with peacekeeping. The United States is going to work with the secretary-general and with the U.N. to make sure that we address these problems, and John Bolton, who's going to be a very important part of my team--and I expect to see him often in Washington, I expect to be in constant contact with him--John Bolton is going to be someone who's going to be a strong voice for U.N. reform and for an American role in that.
MR. RUSSERT: Will we allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb?
DR. RICE: We, and our European allies, are now united publicly in a concerted effort to make sure that Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon. Because it isn't acceptable because it would be so destabilizing to a region that is already very troubled. And what we were able to achieve over the last few weeks is a really clear common purpose and common approach with the European Union 3 so that Iran knows that it really has only one choice, and that is to live up to its international obligations not to develop a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear power.
MR. RUSSERT: It will not be allowed, period?
DR. RICE: The Iranians can't have a nuclear weapon. And that's what everyone has said.
MR. RUSSERT: Afghanistan, you'll be going there soon. The presidential report saying it's on the verge of becoming a narcotic state, that opium production is bigger, broader, wider than ever before. What are you going to tell the Afghans? Are you going to stop the opium growth in Afghanistan?
DR. RICE: Tim, sometimes it's important to step back and look at where Afghanistan was three years ago, when it was under the Taliban rule, and when there was no process by which Afghan citizens, most especially women, could even participate in the political process. If you fast-forward to now, we have a democratically elected president in an election that is--around the world, very much renowned for the fact that so many Afghans voted in that process. It is a place that is now fighting against terrorists. They're making progress.
But, yes, they have a narcotics problem. The growing of poppy has been a problem in Afghanistan for a very long time. We have a five-part strategy for dealing with it. You have to attack the poppy problem from many sides. You have to have reliable interdiction, you have to have eradication of crop. You also have to have alternative livelihoods for farmers who agree not to plant. You have to have a legal system that can punish activities of narco traffickers and you have to have public education.
And I have to say that the Karzai government has been more forthright about the poppy problem in Afghanistan than any other government had been. He's had a public campaign against poppy-growing. He has a minister who has that responsibility and I, indeed, intend to spend some time with the Afghan government seeing how we can support their efforts. The United States is putting a lot of money into this. The British have doubled their effort. It's going to have to be a concerted effort. But let's give the Afghans credit for being now a democratically elected government that can try to deal with this problem.
MR. RUSSERT: But you will raise the issue?
DR. RICE: Absolutely. And Karzai wants the issue raised.
MR. RUSSERT: You told the Washington Times on Friday you were mildly pro-choice. What does that mean?
DR. RICE: It means that like many Americans I find the issue of abortion very difficult. I believe it ought to be as rare as possible. Nobody wants to see anyone go through that. I favor parental notification. I favor a ban on late-term abortion. But I, myself, am not a fan of having the government intervene in the laws.
MR. RUSSERT: You would not outlaw it?
DR. RICE: No.
MR. RUSSERT: The U.S. government has now stopped $34 million going to non-governmental agencies to provide counseling and family planning to women around the world because they do not want abortion suggested as an abortion. Do you support blocking that funding?
DR. RICE: I am carrying out the laws of the United States of America. It's the president's policies. I happen to agree. I also am not someone who believes that federal funding ought to be used for something about which there is so much difference in America. We do so much to support women around the world, including supporting family planning efforts around the world. We spend a lot of money on--almost $400 million that we've spent on family planning opportunities, on trying to help women with these difficult choices. And so I'm perfectly comfortable with where we are in this project.
MR. RUSSERT: Before you go, let me show you some photographs on the screen: Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Van Buren, Buchanan. What do those six men have in common?
DR. RICE: Oh, Tim, that's too tough for a Sunday morning.
MR. RUSSERT: They were all presidents of the United States that were at one time secretary of state.
DR. RICE: Ah, OK. All right.
MR. RUSSERT: In light of that, I was up on the Internet last night and found this Web site, www.americansforrice.com. And it features these bumper stickers and this song.
Unidentified Man: (Singing) Condoleezza will lead us. Sister, don't you worry about a thing.
MR. RUSSERT: Should that Web site be removed?
DR. RICE: Look, it's freedom of speech. But let me say, I don't have any desire or intention of running for president. I've never wanted to run for anything, and I just don't have any desire to do it.
MR. RUSSERT: Desire or intention?
DR. RICE: Both.
MR. RUSSERT: There was a great American named General William Sherman. and this is what he said, "If nominated, I will not accept. If elected, I will not serve." Will you issue a Shermanesque statement?
DR. RICE: Tim, I don't want to run for president of the United States.
MR. RUSSERT: "I will not run"?
DR. RICE: I do not intend to run for--no. I will not run for president of the United States. How is that? I don't know how many ways to say "no" in this town. I really don't.
MR. RUSSERT: Period? Period? I will not run as president of the United States.
DR. RICE: I have no intention. I don't want to run.
MR. RUSSERT: "I will not run."
DR. RICE: I think people who run are great. I don't want to run.
MR. RUSSERT: That is a Shermanesque statement?
DR. RICE: Shermanesque statement.
MR. RUSSERT: You're done. You're out.
DR. RICE: I'm done.
MR. RUSSERT: There's news.
DR. RICE: I hope not.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who just said she will never run for president, correct?
DR. RICE: Tim, why do you keep pressing me to make these statements?
MR. RUSSERT: Well, because if you're secretary of state, will it affect your ability...
DR. RICE: I don't want to run for president of United States. I have no intention of doing so. I don't think I will be president of the United States ever. Is that good enough?
MR. RUSSERT: And you will never run?
DR. RICE: I don't intend to run.
MR. RUSSERT: But it's different.
DR. RICE: I won't run.
MR. RUSSERT: Oh, we got it.
DR. RICE: All right. There you go.
MR. RUSSERT: Thanks very much.
Coming next, steroids in baseball. A congressional hearing is scheduled for this Thursday. And the men who will conduct it, Congressman Tom Davis and Congressman Henry Waxman of the Government Reform Committee are here only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Baseball and steroids and the president's Social Security plan after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back and joined by the two congressmen who will lead hearings this week into steroids and baseball: Chairman Tom Davis, ranking Democrat Henry Waxman.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D-CA): Thank you.
REP. TOM DAVIS, (R-VA): Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Chairman Davis, you have subpoenaed seven major-league baseball players, present or former. How many are showing up?
REP. DAVIS: We expect them all to show up.
MR. RUSSERT: All?
REP. DAVIS: We expect them to. That's what the subpoenas--now we're going to meet and there may be one who gets an excuse here or there, but we expect them all to be or we're ready to vote out of contempt resolution.
MR. RUSSERT: Vote a contempt of Congress resolution out of the committee?
REP. DAVIS: Absolutely. These people are not above the law. You know, they may fly in private planes and make millions of dollars and be on baseball cards, but a subpoena is exactly what it says it is. They have to appear.
MR. RUSSERT: Will it be approved by the committee?
REP. DAVIS: Of course.
MR. RUSSERT: And it will then go to the full House?
REP. DAVIS: Correct. I expect it to be approved by a very wide margin there.
MR. RUSSERT: How wide?
REP. DAVIS: Very wide, 350, 375 votes.
MR. RUSSERT: In favor of contempt of Congress?
REP. DAVIS: Of course.
MR. RUSSERT: And then where does it go?
REP. DAVIS: It goes to the courts of enforcement.
MR. RUSSERT: And what does that mean?
REP. DAVIS: That could mean they're in contempt, which is a fine or it could be jail sentence.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree?
REP. WAXMAN: Well, that's what it could ultimately come to, but I hope it doesn't because I think it's important to have an investigation of steroids in major-league baseball. To me the shocking thing is that baseball doesn't seem to have been much concerned about all the steroid stories about their players over the last 10 years. We shouldn't be doing these hearings. They should have been doing these hearings and for a number of reasons. One, the integrity of the game is at stake, but from my point of view, the most serious problem is that it permeates to our kids that using steroids to be better athletes is socially acceptable and they're under a competitive disadvantage if they don't do it. So if you look at the last 10 years, it used to be one out of every 45 kids use steroids. Now, it's one out of 16. That's 500,000 kids that are using steroids. That's a real serious threat to their health. And it's also a message that shooting is acceptable.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you agree with Chairman Davis, if the players do not show up, both the committee and the full House will hold them in contempt of Congress?
REP. WAXMAN: Well, we'll have no other choice but to pursue the ability to enforce our subpoenas, but I hope it doesn't come to that.
MR. RUSSERT: There's been a lot of discussion of your posturing in this particular situation. Congress Paul Kanjorski, who's on your committee, said this to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I'm astounded. ... I think there's been a total failure to justify why these subpoenas are necessary. It appears to be a publicity stunt. ... To spend our time calling seven baseball players--maybe I've missed something, but is this the most important issue in the United States today? ... I've received no analysis or evidence that it is. ... I served as a page here 50 years ago during the McCarthy hearings. I was here when Nixon used subpoena power. I know how destructive they can be. What are we looking for? Until [the committee] proves there's a public crisis, it doesn't warrant even a committee hearing, no less the issuing of subpoenas."
REP. DAVIS: It is a public health crisis and our testimony from medical experts is going to show this. We have the parents of kids who have used steroids and committed suicide. Over a half a million youth are using steroids, and these major-league players are their idols. Major-league baseball has not come down hard on this. Players have not been out there denouncing it. The policy that they have, we're going to find out at the hearing--we're going to investigate it--but it's not what they say it is at this point and I think the public demands action on this.
MR. RUSSERT: Stanley Brand, an attorney for the major-league baseball and Players Association, is saying that this is beyond your committee's authority and that it is prying into the privacy of these American citizens, the baseball players.
REP. WAXMAN: Well, we wrote a--Chairman Davis and I wrote an extensive letter to Stan Brand, the attorney for baseball, explaining to him why it was within the jurisdiction of our committee. The rules provide for it, but if you just look at the fact that they're violating the Controlled Substances Act, which Congress passed in 1991, they're violating baseball's own rules against using steroids and yet steroid use is increasing. We ought to find out at the minimum why federal laws aren't being enforced adequately or what changes in the law ought to be made. That alone justifies our jurisdiction.
But what strikes me is that baseball doesn't want to investigate it and they don't want us to investigate it. It seems to me that they've had a "don't know, don't tell" policy for the last 10 years. They said that there's a problem but they don't know who's involved, how it happened, but they're going to put something in place that will fix it. In your business, when CBS made a serious mistake about President Bush's service record, they changed their policy but they did it after they had an independent investigation. Baseball doesn't want any investigation of this issue.
MR. RUSSERT: Chairman Davis, in terms of the people who have been subpoenaed, why Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire?
REP. DAVIS: Well, they've been named. I mean, they have been accused by former colleagues of having used drugs at this point. In one case, we've had players who have said they want to be able to come up and set the record straight. But there have been public accusations about these players. They've set records. There is, I think, a widespread feeling that maybe they cheated their way to achieving these records by using illegal drugs.
MR. RUSSERT: Rafael Palmeiro has been cited by only one person, Jose Canseco.
REP. DAVIS: And he's said he would like to come and refute that under oath. We're gonna give him that opportunity.
MR. RUSSERT: Palmeiro's coming?
REP. DAVIS: Well, we've asked him to come.
MR. RUSSERT: Isn't there a problem, though, if just one person, like Canseco, who has a long rap sheet, makes a comment about, well, someone like Rafael Palmeiro, he comes before your committee and takes the oath, it gives the suggestion that he did something wrong, or if he doesn't come, the suggestion that he did something wrong, when only one person has accused him.
REP. DAVIS: Well, you have colleagues. I mean, you have people that serve together. This is something baseball has just ignored over the last decade while it's been going on, records have been being set and they've been breaking attendance records. You now have not just Canseco, you have grand jury testimony in a number of cases. The more that we find out about this, the wider spread it appears to have been. We're going to allow members to come and set the record straight.
MR. RUSSERT: Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees has already testified before a grand jury. If he comes before your committee and you grant him immunity, won't that interfere with the criminal justice process?
REP. WAXMAN: Well, the grand jury is not looking at him. The grand jury is looking at BALCO, and we don't think it's going to. And, of course, before an immunity would be granted, we'd be checking this out. In fact, we've already started checking it out with the Justice Department. The purpose of this hearing is not to go after any individual player or to put them in legal jeopardy. The purpose of this hearing is to get the facts. You can't have a hearing about baseball without the players being involved. We have baseball, the baseball union, and we should have the players. We have medical people. We need to look at this from different aspects. It's a problem that needs to be investigated, and we're going to do it.
MR. RUSSERT: Why aren't you bringing in the baseball owners?
REP. WAXMAN: We are bringing the baseball commission which represents the baseball owners.
MR. RUSSERT: But there is suggestion that some of the owners look the other way, some teams may have altered contracts and turned a blind eye.
REP. DAVIS: Tim, we're bringing in some managers. One of the leaders there in the Oakland A's at the time all this was going on is coming. He's now a baseball executive. So we're going--we're looking at it from that aspect. You can't have everybody in one hearing. We're just trying to set a framework here. What we'd like baseball to do is admit they have a problem, show what they are doing to fix it, and make sure that we can set the record straight for young people. This is bad. This is bad for their health and it's bad for the kids.
MR. RUSSERT: Will every player that's called be given immunity from prosecution?
REP. DAVIS: No.
MR. RUSSERT: They won't?
REP. DAVIS: Some have--we have in one case, one player has said that they don't want immunity. They're ready to come and testify.
MR. RUSSERT: But anyone who asks, it will be granted?
REP. DAVIS: Not necessarily.
REP. WAXMAN: Well, we're still looking at that and still discussing it.
MR. RUSSERT: Dave Anderson of The New York Times--very respected sports writer--wrote this on Friday: "Without Bonds, Hearing Loses Much of Its Power. For all the questions being raised in the skirmish between a Congressional committee and a and Major League Baseball over most of the subpoenas issued for Thursday's real opening day - the scheduled hearing in Washington on steroids in baseball - perhaps the most important question has been raked under the infield dirt: Why wasn't Barry Bonds subpoenaed? ...Since Bonds is the symbol of suspected steroid use in baseball, a hearing without his testimony, whatever it may be, loses some, if not most, of its credibility. Without issuing a subpoena for Bonds, the committee is giving him an intentional walk."
How do you respond?
REP. DAVIS: Well, there are a lot of reasons why people are on or off the list, including the BALCO investigation in San Francisco, but including the fact that we didn't want to make this about one player. The problem of steroids has been systematic throughout baseball. You bring Bonds in, it's going to be just about Barry Bonds. It's more widespread than that.
MR. RUSSERT: But if you have Giambi and Palmeiro and McGwire and Sosa, it's not just about one player. Why...
REP. DAVIS: There are a lot of factors that go into this, including other investigations going on in terms of who we asked and who we didn't call.
MR. RUSSERT: So with Barry Bonds, your concern is the granting of immunity?
REP. DAVIS: I didn't say that. I think there are a lot of factors that go in that decided not to go with Bonds.
MR. RUSSERT: But as you know, Congressman Waxman, baseball fans are watching Barry Bonds close in on the home run record of Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron. Why not bring him before your committee and ask him straight up, "Did you ever take steroids?"
REP. WAXMAN: Well, he may come before us at some future hearing. This may not be the last hearing we hold on this subject. Depends how much we learn on Thursday, and, of course, if people don't even want to come in, refuse, snub their nose at the Congress, then we're going to have another hearing at least.
But the important point is not any one player. The important point is the widespread use of steroids by baseball players and other athletes, and what changes in the law we might need and how we can stop this signal to the kids that they have to take steroids to be athletes and be competitive. High school kids are told if they want a scholarship, they better take steroids.
MR. RUSSERT: Who says that?
REP. WAXMAN: Well, that's the whole lineup. If your professionals, your competitors take steroids, you're at a competitive disadvantage. If you're in college, you want to go into the pros, you feel like you have to take steroids. And then high school kids are--get the sense that if they want scholarships, to be good athletes, they better take steroids. It forces them. It's a pressure on them. And then on the other side of it is it becomes socially acceptable. Baseball and other sports have made it acceptable for people to use steroids to enhance their performance, which also means they're cheating in order to win.
MR. RUSSERT: How widespread do you think this problem is?
REP. DAVIS: Well, there's no question it's been very widespread. Now that baseball is starting testing, we'll be getting some of the test results. We don't want to know who passed and who failed, but we need to know, you know, what the numbers are. We'll get, I think, a better handle on it.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you satisfied with the new policy put in place by major-league baseball?
REP. DAVIS: Not at all. I mean, we don't know what the policy is. We've asked for it two weeks ago and we have yet to receive it. The subpoena calls for their delivery on Monday at noon. And I think we'll have more to say after we see it.
REP. WAXMAN: That's one of the subjects of the hearing. Baseball says they have a new policy. They couldn't do anything before because they had collective bargaining agreements. That's their argument. But they say they have a new policy. Well, I've heard through the grapevine that some people think you have to be an idiot to ever get caught under that new policy. This business of saying that they have a consent decree and that's the reason we should understand that they didn't do anything strikes me as ridiculous. Steinbrenner said that he doesn't want players with long hair and beards and so there are no players with long hair and bears. That's not part of the collective bargaining agreement. He just said that's a priority of the Yankees. Why hasn't he and other owners say it's a priority not to use steroids? We can't test everybody randomly. But if you've got a suspicion that somebody has been using steroids, and it's against the rules of baseball, can they sit back and say they've done nothing, they don't need to do anything, they can't do anything? That seems to me absurd.
MR. RUSSERT: Will you call Mr. Steinbrenner?
REP. WAXMAN: Well, I'm not interested in his policy about long hair and beards. I'm interested in knowing why they all observe that policy at the Yankees and other owners can't use that kind of example and say, "This is it. This is not going to be permitted." And the message is clear that steroid use is not going to be accepted either by the Yankees or any other baseball team.
MR. RUSSERT: If baseball does not cooperate, might it lose its antitrust exemption?
REP. DAVIS: Well, I don't think we're there yet. Just as we're not there sending to jail. But ultimately when you push this out, they not only enjoy antitrust exemptions, they enjoy a lot of tax exemptions in terms of depreciation of players and so on. They're advantageous to the business of baseball. You have to remember the BALCO hearings, and the grand jury investigation talks about masking agents, ways that you can get around the traditional tests, as well. That's something we need to look at. Is there a lot of ways that you can continue to use steroids and avoid testing?
MR. RUSSERT: What authority does your committee have? Could you look into drugs in Hollywood, drugs in the music business? How widespread do you feel you can go?
REP. DAVIS: Rule 10, Clause 4C2 gives us the ability to hold a hearing on any matter at any time. We're the major investigatory committee of Congress. We don't abuse it. We didn't issue any subpoenas for the last two years. Henry and I worked together in a bipartisan fashion to decide what we'll do. But this is a serious problem. Kids are dying from the use of steroids. They're looking up to these major- league leaders in terms of the enhancements that they're using. And we have to stop it.
MR. RUSSERT: What about football, basketball? Any other sports?
REP. WAXMAN: Well, I think it's a problem in all of these sports, and maybe one thing we ought to look at is one standard for all of the athletic teams. Maybe the Olympic standard. That is one that seems to be taking hold and the message is very clear. The standard that baseball is telling us they're going to put into place and we don't know exactly what all the details are, but they're saying you'll be suspended for 10 days if you're using steroids. Well, is that tough enough? I don't know.
MR. RUSSERT: Again, you're confident that several players will show up on Thursday?
REP. DAVIS: Of course.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be watching. Chairman Tom Davis, ranking member Henry Waxman, thank you very much.
REP. WAXMAN: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, Social Security reform. What must the president do to try to fashion a compromise? We'll ask two undecided senators, Republican Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska, coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Is there any possibility of a compromise plan on Social Security? Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, Democratic Senator Ben Nelson are here.
SEN. BEN NELSON, (D-NE): Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: You're considered independent, undecided. One Republican, one Democrat.
Senator Chafee, Vice President Cheney said this to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that "the Bush re- election victory provided a mandate `for the notion of personal retirement accounts,' and that Democrats would pay a political price among younger voters if they blocked them."
Do you believe that the president has a mandate for personal retirement accounts?
SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE, (R-RI): Well, the president has been on the road for a while now. And coming from a state with high elderly population per capita--Rhode Island now one of the top five in the country, I believe. I'm hearing from my seniors that the sell isn't being made yet on personal accounts. And we all know we have to do something about Social Security. Baby boomers are retiring. But selling these personal accounts, it's a tough sell. I'm hearing it from my elderly constituents and even the younger ones. They have some reservations about the cost up front and also the risk.
MR. RUSSERT: Does the president have a mandate for them because of his re-election?
SEN. CHAFEE: Well, usually when you talk about a mandate, you're talking about an overwhelming win. I don't think by any measurement the 2004 election was an overwhelming win. It was very, very close. It came down to Ohio. So I don't think he can use the word "mandate."
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Nelson, Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, 11 days ago talked to the press and had this to say. Let's watch.
(Videotape, March 2, 2005):
SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV): The American people do not like privatization. They are afraid of the debt the president's willing to do. And they don't like benefit cuts. And everyone here should understand all 45 Senate Democrats are united. We are not going to let this happen.
MR. RUSSERT: Are all 45 Democrats, that includes you, united against personal or private retirement accounts?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I'm not opposed to private accounts that don't involve heavy debt adding to the deficit or significant cuts to the benefits. What I think we have to do is split the Social Security issue into two parts. One is deal with the solvency. And if we do that, then all of the things that have been put on the table can be put into the process of finding a solution. On the other hand, the private accounts are a separate matter that don't solve and aren't intended to solve the Social Security solvency issue.
MR. RUSSERT: So then how do you pay for them?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I think you start first with the solvency issue and that's where you can talk about retirement age, you can talk about benefits, you can talk about increasing the cap. You could talk about all those things as they did back in 1983. That deals with the insolvency. Then you have to deal with private accounts. And if those private accounts that they're talking about doesn't involve significant borrowing and doesn't involve benefit cuts as part of that process, you can take a look at those private accounts in that context.
MR. RUSSERT: But the private accounts proposed by the president do include borrowing and it is suggested by members of the White House staff would involve indexing or benefit cuts.
SEN. NELSON: Well, that's one of the reasons why many people have really supported private accounts outside of the Social Security plan, but until we deal with the solvency issue, it's so difficult to have all of these balled together because then I think you can't sort them out and see them as distinct, different issues.
MR. RUSSERT: Harry Reid has sent a letter to the president signed by 41 Democratic senators which says to the president, "We will not negotiate with you. We will not talk to you until you take private personal accounts out of Social Security off the table." Do you agree with that?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I haven't said that anything should be taken off the table. What I'd like to do is--see, the president has gone from some concepts to content. I'd like to see the plan and see the calculus before I can decide whether all the parts will move together, whether or not the actuarial considerations will work because at the end of the day this is about numbers. It's not just simply about politics.
MR. RUSSERT: But should the Democrats refuse to negotiate until the president takes personal accounts off the table?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I haven't refused. What I've said is I want to talk with the president. I want to be an annex to the process. I want to be a constructive voice and work to see if this is possible. At the end of the day, I think that's what the American people, certainly that's what the Nebraskans, want from me.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Chafee, should the president take private, personal accounts off the table and focus on solvency?
SEN. CHAFEE: Well, as a member of the Centrist Coalition which meets every Tuesday to discuss this issue, we took kind of a pledge to have a completely open mind on all issues, but what we're learning in this Centrist Coalition is that there are other ways to address Social Security. As Senator Nelson mentioned, raising the caps. It's presently at $90,000. So if Tiger Woods is making $10 million a year, he's only paying that 12 percent Social Security tax on that first $90,000. That's one way. If you raise it...
MR. RUSSERT: How high should it go?
SEN. CHAFEE: Well, there's one proposal Dianne Feinstein from California is saying $140,000. Senator Graham from South Carolina saying have a doughnut hole, so it doesn't kick in until $200,000. So we can argue about that, or talk about over $90,000, it won't be 12 percent, it'll be 3 percent, 4 percent, some other percentage.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you buy into lifting the cap?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I want to see the whole plan. I mean, I think talking about these individually, I think we recognize that no one thing that's being talked about by itself will do it because it'd be too severe. That's why in 1983 they looked at a lot of different things and they moved a lot of the parts around. That's why they dealt with some benefits, they dealt with the caps, they dealt with a lot of things including raising the retirement age, but you have to do it in the context of an entire plan. I thinks that's one of the reasons why the president said all things need to be on the table. I think they all need to be on the table particularly as it relates to solving the insolvency issue part of Social Security.
MR. RUSSERT: But the stumbling block appears to be these private or personal accounts. And the president's top economic adviser said this, he rejected as, "`absolutely a non-starter' bipartisan proposals that the administration put aside its drive to create individual investment accounts in Social Security and focus first on extending the system's solvency. Allan Hubbard, in an interview Wednesday with USA Today, also dismissed a Democratic proposal that investment accounts be created to supplement Social Security, not as part of the system."
If the president insists that it is way, private personal accounts as part of Social Security and anything else is a non-starter, can there be a compromise?
SEN. CHAFEE: Well, I think we can possibly about separating it out into another argument as Senator Nelson says. Let's address Social Security and there are ways of doing this. I said raising the caps or indexing for inflation. We presently do it for wages. If we do it for price, it's more meets inflation, the true inflation, more accurate to inflation. That's saves a lot of money. You could argue it's a means testing for benefits because if you go to the price indexing for inflation, there's going to be some cuts in benefits, but then we could means test it for the lower income.
But as far as addressing personal accounts, I think that if we do it separately such as Kids Save as George McGovern proposed it back in the early '70s, put some government money into a program that's going to eventually yield dividends, but the big problem with private accounts is it's an up-front cost, a huge up-front cost, and also there's a risk. There's definitely a risk, higher than the president's Social Security system.
MR. RUSSERT: But if the administration is saying that anything else other than that is a non-starter, where do you go?
SEN. CHAFEE: Well, the debates going forward--and it does seem as though we're at loggerheads over this--but there's still weeks and months ahead.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Nelson, the Democrats are united. You may be the exception, but all the other Democrats have said, "Mr. President, we are not negotiating until you get those accounts off the table."
SEN. NELSON: Well, I guess my difference is I'd like to see the plan. Once you see the plan, you can go from content--or from concept to content to calculus. Without being wonkish, this is very--this may not be rocket science, but it's at least actuarial science, so you have to understand the mortality tables, the morbidity tables. You have to take a look at what the history of our longevity has been vs. what the projected future longevity will be.
Once you get the entire plan, my focus would be first on solvency, but if you've got private plans in it, how--what does it do? Most of the plans that are out there right now that I've seen rely heavily on borrowing. The president may have a way of doing it that doesn't involve borrowing. I'm not aware. But I think until I see the entire plan, it's hard for me to be critical of something that doesn't exist.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that Democrats in the Senate understand there is a problem with Social Security solvency?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I think so. I think they'd like to focus on that. That's why I've addressed that first. The solvency issue is separate from the private accounts. Now, they tie together if the private accounts within the system add to the insolvency of the Social Security Trust Fund. So I think that's why people are concerned about how you go about distinguishing between and solving both of those issues.
MR. RUSSERT: Have you told the president that he should deal with solvency first?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I've spoken to his people and I've told them that that's my--those are my druthers, that I'd like to see how that's done. But I haven't said that they can't put together a plan that involves both, but I'll obviously try to distinguish between the solvency issue and private accounts.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Chafee, one of your Republican colleagues we talked about earlier, Lindsey Graham, "Who has spent weeks attempting to recruit Democratic support for a plan to restructure Social Security, said that Republican, `made a strategic mistake' by initially focusing on a proposal to create individual investment accounts. ...He said the accounts by themselves will not fix the solvency problem Social Security faces as baby boomers begin to retire. `We've now got this huge fight over a sideshow. It's always been a sideshow, but we sold it as a main event.'"
Do you agree?
SEN. CHAFEE: Yes, he's making some good points, and as I said, there are other ways to address Social Security: raising the caps, indexing for inflation. These go a long way to addressing the solvency. Let's...
MR. RUSSERT: But Speaker Hastert in the House, Tom DeLay, the leading Republican in the House, have said, "We will not raise the cap. That's a tax increase. Forget about it."
SEN. CHAFEE: It's a shame if we come to that point, because the sooner we do something, the better it is. Baby boomers begin to retire in 2011. The system starts to show insolvency in 2018. The sooner we do something, the better. And here you have a Democrat and Republican working together on the Centrist Coalition. I think if we can get together, address it earlier, the better for our constituents.
MR. RUSSERT: Joe Lieberman is also in the Centrist Coalition.
SEN. CHAFEE: Chair.
MR. RUSSERT: He signed the letter saying private accounts should be taken off the table.
SEN. CHAFEE: Well, let's--we took kind of a pledge of being open-minded, and he was there for that. I don't know why he signed that letter.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think there can be a bipartisan compromise?
SEN. CHAFEE: I have to hope. I mean, this is a real problem. And then, after we deal with Social Security, then it's on to Medicare. I mean, that's the real big one. If we take an oath to address the problems of our country, let's do it. And private accounts, I do think they can be set aside and dealt with, whether it's Roth IRAs or other ways of getting people to have more of an investment in their future, we can do that. But first, I agree with Senator Nelson, address some of the ways of the solvency of Social Security. And we can do it. There are some good proposals.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Nelson, if the president's chief economic adviser is saying "We must have private accounts," if Speaker Hastert and Congressman DeLay are saying, "We will not support raising the cap, it's a tax increase," and if 41 Democrats in the Senate are saying, "We will not negotiate as long as there are private accounts," where are we?
SEN. NELSON: Well, it sounds like a classic series of negotiations in Washington, D.C. Everybody's stating their position in the most extreme way possible, recognizing that in the give and take of Washington, to get a bipartisan solution here, everybody's going to have to give somewhere. The question is, to what extent and how much and where. And if there is no movement, then you can't get a solution, because it will have to be a bipartisan solution in order for it to work. As Senator Chafee has said, he has his views of it, others have their views of it, so it's not strictly a partisan thing right now. You've got people on both sides of the aisle questioning what is the proper way to handle this.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the president made a mistake by leading with private or personal accounts?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I think it's--what it did is it crystallized some opposition that might not have existed to begin with. Because if we had focused on the solvency issue, I think that's one area where there is pretty much universal agreement; maybe not universal agreement as to how you solve it, but that it needs to be solved. If we can focus back on that first, I think we can have the opportunity to move to the second step, and that is: How do private accounts work? You've got people saying they work very well if they're outside of the system because there's no borrowing, there's no changing of benefits. It's only when you put them within the system that you have to ask the question: How do you pay for them?
MR. RUSSERT: Some Democrats are concerned that the Republicans want to co-opt the issue of Social Security, that Franklin Roosevelt created a loyal generation of Democrats because he established it, and here comes George Bush trying to reform it, which will make young Americans who invest in the market Republicans. How concerned are your Democratic colleagues that they're going to lose Social Security as a political issue?
SEN. NELSON: The only where--the place I've ever heard that is when it's been asked to me by a journalist. I've not heard any of my colleagues talk about that. I've not heard other Democrats outside of my colleagues talk about that. I'm not aware that that is a concern. I think doing the right thing here is the most important thing and that most people want us at the end of the day to be able to look at them and say, "We've done the right thing." Not the political thing, not the most expedient thing, but the right thing. That's what they're concerned about.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Chafee, I noted you invoked the name of George McGovern, and I started thinking about an article I read in the Providence Journal how you did not vote for George W. Bush for re-election. You wrote in his father's name. As a protest?
SEN. CHAFEE: Yes. On the issues that I care deeply about--the environment, Roe vs. Wade, the war in Iraq, with no weapons of mass destruction, the tax cuts that are now leading to deficits, I've got some deep issues with the president. But it's nothing personal. And so as a Republican, I support the Republican Party, but I did write in another Republican.
MR. RUSSERT: You were asked at that time might you become a Democrat, and you said, "No, I don't at this time, but I don't rule it out."
SEN. CHAFEE: Well, I heard you in the earlier segment trying to get Condoleezza Rice, Dr. Rice, to pin her down, never say never running for president, and so Nelson and I were commiserating over having--being forced to not say never. I think we don't want to ever say never. The same point, I'm proud of the Republicans. I'm working hard for my Republican Party in Rhode Island. We've got a good governor, Governor Carcieri, a Republican, Rhode Island, good team. We're trying to get elected there. So my full intention is to stay Republican. I'm proud of the Republicans.
MR. RUSSERT: And run for re-election in the Senate as a Republican?
SEN. CHAFEE: Exactly, yes.
MR. RUSSERT: And you will run for re-election in Nebraska as a Democrat?
SEN. NELSON: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: And the president used to call you "Nelly" as a nickname. What's his new nickname?
SEN. NELSON: "Benator."
MR. RUSSERT: As in Ben the Senator?
SEN. NELSON: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: He said some very nice things about you last week in Nebraska. Do you expect that the White House will not seek to defeat you?
SEN. NELSON: Well, I don't know. You can't pick your opponent and you can't choose what the other side is going to do. But I think the people in Nebraska are looking for somebody who will support the president when you can, oppose when you must, look for compromise, and not obstruct. And that's what I intend to do today and tomorrow.
MR. RUSSERT: Will we get a Social Security deal this year?
SEN. NELSON: If not this year, next year. But I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility yet this year.
SEN. CHAFEE: I think with these caps, the longer we look at these caps, and addressing the indexing for inflation, it seems as though we can get a long way just there. They're good proposals.
MR. RUSSERT: You think we're going to deal?
SEN. CHAFEE: We're going to have to work hard, really work hard on it, and then on to Medicare.
MR. RUSSERT: Thank you both. Thank you, Senator Chafee, Senator Nelson. We'll be watching.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: That's all for today. We'll be back next Sunday. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.
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