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Meet the Press Transcript - July 27, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2014

DAVID GREGORY:

Next on Meet the Press, as the Obama administration takes a permanent end to the fighting in Gaza, what do both sides think that he gained from a brutal war which has killed over 1,000, mostly Palestinians. This morning I'll ask Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whether he thinks there is a military solution to the Hamas problem. Then the other foreign policy flashpoints for President Obama. Libya again is a threat to Americans.

And how does the West show weakness in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Plus the future of the Republican party, the immigration fight, and does the GOP have a new way to fight poverty? Or is it the same old idea? Former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan joins me in a Sunday exclusive.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with David Gregory.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good Sunday Morning. The latest now, out of Israel and Gaza, where every hour seems to bring either more fighting or a temporary ceasefire, and despite diplomatic efforts that include the U.S., there's yet to be a lasting agreement. Today's development, Hamas started firing more rockets at Israel after rejecting extension of an Israeli-imposed ceasefire. Israel's now reviewing a Hamas call for a 24-hour humanitarian truce. Israeli troops have resumed their military offensive in Gaza this morning. Our Richard Engel joins me now with the very latest from Gaza. Richard, good morning.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Good morning, David. Yet again, there is another attempt to put a humanitarian ceasefire in place. But we've seen these come and go. And a lasting deal here still remains elusive. Israelis and Palestinians are both paying a heavy price for it. But as we saw for ourselves during a lull in the fighting, parts of Gaza are being devastated.

(BEGIN TAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL:

Mohammed Abu Habib is learning is learning he's lost everything. His home, his possessions.

RICHARD ENGEL:

But in this rare moment of relative safety, he's looking for something much dearer, the body of his son. This is what's left of Shuja'iyya, Gaza's most crowded neighborhood. Two weeks ago, 200,000 people lived here. Only hints are left of what life was like. Torn laundry on a line. A single plant unmoved. A crib perched on a ruined apartment building.

It took days of deliberate shelling and airstrikes to reduce this neighborhood to rubble. This is no precision war against Hamas and its weapons. It's far more basic than that. It's punishment. Israel's ways of telling Gaza, "If you fire rockets, this is what you get." But even after all the destruction, even after more than a thousand killed, including several hundred children, many here still support Hamas.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Savir Dahr said, "Half the people are tired of Hamas after all this. The other half supports Hamas, thinking the Israelis should feel a little of the pain that we feel here." To understand what Hamas is fighting for, it helps to look at a map. Gaza is a tiny strip of land under a tight blockade.

In the west, fishing is limited to six miles off shore. In the east, Gaza is fenced in by razor wire. In the north, Israel tightly controls two land crossings, restricting building materials and strangely even crayons. In the south, Egypt has closed the only crossing at Rafah.

Hamas's big demands? Move the Israeli blockade and open the Egyptian crossing. Israelis are feeling the pain of this war too. So far, it has lost more than 40 soldiers. But it's also fighting for wider goals. Amos Harel is a leading Israeli expert on military affairs.

AMOS HAREL:

This is an asymmetric war. For Hamas, perhaps it's enough not to lose, to remain standing after three weeks of battle. For Israel, this is not enough. It is a stronger military power, and it needs to send a strong message to the region, to the neighborhood.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Hamas uses two main weapons against Israel, an elaborate network of tunnels to attack and kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians, and its rockets, now including longer-range rockets that could reach deep into Israel. Israel's main objectives, destroy the tunnels demilitarize the Gaza Strip. So far, Israel has destroyed more than half the 30 tunnels it believes Hamas has. And Hamas has shown that it can strike at Israel, sending hundreds of thousands into shelters. But neither side can claim victory.

AMOS HAREL:

By now, they're both deep into the escalation and looking for a way out. And it gets messier and uglier and more violent as we proceed.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Which is why now, the international efforts to reach a lasting ceasefire have become so urgent.

(END TAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL:

Israel has long said that it has no choice in this war, that it simply cannot accept more than 2,400 rockets because fired at its city. Palestinians we've spoken to actually understand that, but say Israel doesn't have to flatten entire neighborhoods and kill hundreds of children to do it. David?

DAVID GREGORY:

Richard Engel on the ground for us in Gaza with his perspective and analysis. Richard, thank you. I'm joined now by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister, welcome back to Meet the Press.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Thank you. Good to be with you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

There is a talk of another ceasefire, a pause in the fighting. What are you prepared to accept, and could it lead to a more lasting ceasefire?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

We've accepted five ceasefires, acted upon them. Hamas has rejected every single one of them. Violated them, including two humanitarian ceasefires, which we accepted and implemented in the last 24 hours. Now Hamas is suggesting the ceasefire, and believe it or not, David, they've even violated their own ceasefire.

So they continue to fire at us. And of course, we'll take the necessary action to protect ourselves, to protect our people, including against the terror tunnels that they're digging under our border and trying to reach and blow up our people. We'll do whatever's necessary to defend ourselves.

DAVID GREGORY:

What does it take to get the kind of ceasefire that the United States government and others are seeking right now of a longer duration?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

I think what we need to do is go to the Egyptian initiative. The Egyptian initiative is the only game in town. And the Egyptian initiative also enables to get what I think are the prerequisites for a sustainable period of quiet. And that requires, in essence, the demilitarization of Gaza. That is, we have to demilitarize it from the weapons that Hamas has put in there.

Missiles, rockets, terror tunnels, we can't allow them to restock this arsenal or we'll be stuck in another five, six months with the same problem. So we want demilitarization of Gaza. And obviously, that would enable also the social and economic relief that the people of Gaza want. And I'll tell you why the two are tied.

Suppose you want to bring in cement or concrete to build, rebuild houses in Gaza. Houses where Hamas fired on us and we had to take action against them. Okay. If you want to bring in that concrete, how do you know that that concrete and cement will not be used again as Hamas has been using in the last few years to rebuild the terror tunnel, the terror kingdom underground that they're using to penetrate Israel?

So you have to have a mechanism to ensure demilitarization. You have to have supervision on the social and economic relief. Same thing with money. You want money to go to the people of Gaza, not money for Hamas rockets and missiles. There is a link between demilitarization and social and economic relief. And I think that's what has to be discussed in Egypt.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you about the price to Israel of this ongoing conflict. The staggering number of dead civilians on the Palestinian side in Gaza. And the fact that just this week, you had condemnation from around the world by the targeting of a UN school that killed children and those civilians who were fleeing a safe place to go in the fighting. Was this a mistake on the part of Israel even though the UN says this was clearly marked and that the Israeli forces knew the GPS coordinates of the school?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Well, first of all, Hamas is responsible for the deaths of civilians. We're not targeting a single civilian. We're responding to Hamas action and we're telling the civilians to leave, Hamas is telling them to stay. Why is it telling them to stay? Because it wants to pile up their own dead bodies. They not only want to kill our people, they want to sacrifice their own people.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But where can they go? You say they should leave. Where can they reasonably go?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

I'll get to it.

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

I'll tell you, there are plenty of places they can go to. But Hamas is making sure that they don't go anywhere. Let me tell you about the UN school. Secretary General of the United Nations, before this incident took place, admitted that two UN schools in Gaza were used to stockpile rockets. And he condemned Hamas, he condemned Hamas for turning these schools into military targets, legitimate military targets.

Now we still do not target schools. These schools, the (UNINTEL) of these schools we used to attack, our forces responded by our initial investigation. Now it doesn't show that it's our fire. It actually shows that it may have been Hamas rocket fire. That's still being investigated. But the important thing to understand is that the reason we have civilians are killed not because Israel is targeting civilians, but because Hamas is using civilians as human shields.

DAVID GREGORY:

But Prime Minister--

(OVERTALK)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

--missiles to protect our people, they use their people to protect their missiles.

DAVID GREGORY:

You have heard in an unguarded moment by Secretary Kerry last Sunday where he mocked the idea of Israel conducting pinpoint strikes. The president has made no secret of the fact that he told you he's very concerned about civilian deaths. Are you worried about vanishing U.S. support for this operation if it goes on further?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

First of all, I've been, I think like every Israeli, looking at the casualties, nobody's happy here. Everybody regrets to see a single civilian death, a single civilian death, something we deeply regret. But it's not something that is our responsibility. I've also been in combat. I've been to war.

And I know what efforts the Israeli army takes to minimize civilian casualties, to directly target at terrorists. I think everybody understands that. The United States has been unequivocal in support Israel's right of self defense and condemning Hamas for using the civilians as human shields. And I think that unequivocal support is necessary if we're going to have a successful conclusion to this operation.

Because if Hamas comes out winning not only the propaganda war, but it actually shows that it actually received a lot of goodies,I think that peace will be very, very hard pressed. I think it will be very hard to move peace forward. On the other hand, if Hamas is condemned, is Hamas is weakened, discredited, and demilitarized, I think that opens up the path for peace, which is something that Israel wants and something that the U.S. wants.

DAVID GREGORY:

Prime Minister, final question. Do you believe there is actually a military solution to Israel's Hamas problem?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

I think that we have to make a decision between the Palestinian/Israeli conflict with those who are willing to coexist with Israel. That's the Palestinian authority. There we can have a real solution. And any kind of political solution with Hamas, Hamas is a terror organization that is committed to our destruction, supported bin Laden, condemned you for taking action against bin Laden, wants to eradicate the state of Israel, you don't have a solution with them. Again, you have to weaken them, discredit them, and demilitarize them at the very least. That's necessary to any kind of peace in--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But can you destroy them? Can you force them out militarily? Is there a military solution to this problem?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Well, certainly we can do a lot of things and I'm not going to discuss our operation activity. But we have not drawn any limits on our activity. We do target Hamas, we do not target civilians. But we will take the actions that are necessary to defend our people as any country would, the United States would.

If you had 2,500 rockets falling on your cities, if you had terror tunnels dug underneath your border to reach your kindergarten, if you had attacks by land, by sea, and by air, of course take action. You take action, you take military action aplenty. I have no doubt that you would. So does Israel.

DAVID GREGORY:

Prime Minister Netanyahu, as always, thank you for your time.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Now to Chris Gunness spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. It's his organization that runs the school in northern Gaza that was devastated on Thursday by this attack that left at least 16 people dead including children.

This school was crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from the fierce fighting. Mr. Gunness, as you heard the prime minister say, and you know of course, this fighting has resumed, despite talk of ceasefires. Are there other UN facilities that have been hit?

CHRIS GUNNESS:

Well, just within the last few minutes, quite literally, I'm hearing from colleagues in Gaza of some kind of explosion, which initial reports indicate is actually inside the main UN compound in the remote district of Gaza City. We have got people on the ground investigating. We cannot say what it is.

But clearly, it is another tragic example of what could happen to civilians in this pitiless conflict. Look at Beit Hanoun that you just talked to prime minister about, women, children. We saw the pictures of the most appalling carnage. And that is why justice with this instance that has happened in the last two minutes at the UN compound in Gaza, we call on the warring parties to respect the sanctity of civilian life. The inviolability of UN premises, and of course, to respect international humanitarian law obligations to humanitarian workers. Because we have lost three workers.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mr. Gunness--

(OVERTALK)

CHRIS GUNNESS:

Any other organization would've withdrawn.

DAVID GREGORY:

What about what the prime minister said? You accept what he said? He very directly accuses Hamas of using civilians, of putting civilians in harm's way as human shields. Do you believe that’s accurate? Do you accept that?

CHRIS GUNNESS:

Let me but very clear about this. UNRWA is responsible for its own installations. And where we have found neutrality violations by militants, as we did with rockets being discovered in schools which were closed and mothballed for the summer, we proactively issued a statement strongly condemning it as a flagrant violation of international law.

We contacted all the parties. And now we have actually been in contact at the highest level through the secretary general's office to get assistance from the United Nations Mines Action Service. We are not an organization. I hope you will agree that as it’s been accused of handing over weapons to Hamas. We have behaved responsibly to protect our staff and to preserve our neutrality.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mr. Gunness, the Israeli government has released video tape within the last hour, it was posted on YouTube. NBC News has not independently verified the Israelis pain. I realize you cannot see this video, but our audience can. And I'm going to describe it to you, that purports to show rockets being fired from a UN school. Is this accurate? Could this be happening without the UN's knowledge that would only bolster the prime minister's point that in fact, Hamas is using civilians, is using the United Nations even in a kind of propaganda war?

CHRIS GUNNESS:

Look, to be fair to me, to bring me on a live program and expect me to comment live on air on pictures I haven't actually seen, I think anyone looking at this program would agree that that's really unfair. I mean, if I can see it, I'll happily comment on it. But can I make the point that we have said that all sides have to respect the inviolability of UN compounds.

And that's both side. So if it is what you say it is, we would strongly condemn it. And we're a humanitarian organization. We're not an organization with an army. We have moral force. We have the force of international law. And we have the principles of humanitarianism to protect us. But that's it.

And that's why we had a UN-protected school with a blue flag on top of it, the Israeli army has been notified of its location, and let me also tell you, we spent hours on the phone begging, pleading with the Israeli army to allow civilians out on that terrible day. And in the end, we did not get a green light. UNRWA was not (UNINTEL) safe that. And the result, the consequence is those tragic consequences revolts the world and I think quite rightly.

DAVID GREGORY:

And Minister Gunness, just to be clear, I'm fully aware you cannot see the video. I was not trying to put you in an unfair position. The video the audience can see, we cannot verify. But again, it is simply to ask your response to what the Israeli government claims is in fact rockets being fired from those facilities and to ask you if you are aware of them. I think your position is clear and I thank you for your time this morning.

CHRIS GUNNESS:

Thank you very much indeed.

DAVID GREGORY:

Adding of course to America's troubles overseas, it is not just the war in Gaza. But now the quote "freewheeling militia violence" in Libya that has the U.S. embassy in Tripoli emptying this morning after yesterday's evacuation. Further evidence of the breakdown of that country.

This comes almost two years after the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi that left four dead. Plus in Ukraine, more Russian troops moving toward the border. The U.S. intelligence reports are that Putin will hand over more sophisticated weaponries to the rebels. That this show the Russian leader is not taking U.S. Threats seriously in the face of what he perceives is weakness by the West.

With me now, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. And senator, before I move onto these other areas, let me button up this discussion about the war in Gaza at this point and whether you think the U.S. government should be calling on Israel to do something differently here to get a different result?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

No. Here's what I think. First, the loss of life is terrible. You see the pictures, the grieving mothers on both sides of the Israel/Gaza border, and your heart just breaks. But we're not going to have peace if Israel is pressured to go for a ceasefire that allows Hamas to maintain its tunnels and its rockets. There have been three ceasefires, Israel's accepted all three.

Hamas just last night again rejected another ceasefire. And then the minute the ceasefires are over, they sent rockets back into Israel. Let's not forget one thing. Hamas is an organization that's sworn to Israel's destruction. It believes it has the moral right to do military action against Israel at any time.

And so we can't use these ceasefires as simply ways for Hamas to reload. Once Israel is allowed to take care of the rockets and the tunnels, I believe there can be a real, lasting ceasefire, and eventually peace in Gaza. Because when Hamas doesn't have the ability to militarily attack Israel, as it has done repeatedly over the years, then it will lose its weight.

The Palestinian people will bring in a more moderate group, and the humanitarian aid and the economic aid will be used to help them, not to build tunnels, not to pay for rockets. So it's really almost impossible to have peace as long as Hamas is in control of Gaza. A ceasefire should happen, but it should happen without pressuring Israel to avoid getting rid of the rockets and tunnels. That's Hamas's trump card.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you about Libya. The embassy evacuated of American personnel because of the militia fighting. It raises to me a broader question about America's staying power in a region and in a country that's falling apart. America was part of an action taken along with the Arab League and other European countries to take out Muammar al-Gaddafi, but now you have a state that seems to be coming apart. What role should America be playing?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, this is very difficult. I spoke to the State Department yesterday. The fighting near the embassy was not aimed at the embassy. It was two factions fighting. One had a big, big sort of military base near the embassy, and the other was firing at it. And the actual rockets and missiles and bullets hit the embassy. So there was no choice but to evacuate.

Obviously, these situations are very difficult in the world. And while we should be as humanitarian as possible, I am dubious of our ability to really influence the outcome in this part of the world. We've not been able to do that in almost any place at all. Maybe Tunisia.

DAVID GREGORY:

What about Russia? The big question that's come up in commentary this week as Russia fortifies positions in Eastern Ukraine, Europe has been slow to ratchet up economic sanctions. Even as there's fresh evidence suggesting Russia's culpability providing the weapon that took down the Malaysia Airlines flight. That this is tantamount to appeasement by the West of Vladimir Putin.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, I tend to agree with that. Putin has shown he has no conscience. He takes advantage of this horrible downing of the airliner. And then just redoubles his efforts and rearms the rebels. And it's about time we took tougher action against Putin. He's a schoolyard bully.

What I learned in Brooklyn, you show a bully weakness, they take further advantage. You show them strength, they back off. So here's what we should do. Our strong hand is the diplomatic and economic. We should raise the sanctions, the economic sanctions that have really hurt Russia already, further.

We should remind the Europeans who have to be part of the sanctions that they should not be like 1938 Europe, where appeasement governed. If they appease Putin, they will not stop him, he will get worse. And second, we should take diplomatic actions. We should tell Putin and the Russians that if they keep this up, we will move to expel them.

We belong with the Europeans from the WTO and we will not allow the World Cup to go forward in four years in Russia. Putin has to be told to pay a price. We have to be smart about it. Militarily, we don't have the strength. They have the second-largest army. No Americans want troops in the Ukraine.

But we do have strength economically and diplomatically. We should use it and we should make sure and do everything we can to get the Europeans to stop this policy of appeasement. It'll just make Putin stronger and will pay a bigger price later.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We're going to leave it there. Senator Chuck Schumer this morning.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Thank you. Thanks David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you very much. Appreciate it. When we come back, Congress is about to leave for the summer. Having done nothing on immigration, President Obama's starting to act on his own. So is there a way through this impasse? I'm going to ask one of the Republican party's big hitters, 2012 vice president candidate, Paul Ryan. He'll be joining me next.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back. House Budget Chair and 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is one of the most influential voices in the Republican party and in Republican politics. In previous years, his budget plans have provided a blueprint for efforts to roll back government. This week, he unveiled a major proposal to fight poverty. And Chairman Ryan joins me now from his home state of Wisconsin. Thanks for being here.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Morning, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Lots to talk about. We've talked so much about foreign affairs and hot spots around the world. I want to focus back home with you. You made out a plan for attacking poverty this week, which I'll get to in just a moment. But here Congress is about to leave, having achieved so very, very little.

And on this issue of immigration, you voted to support a law that basically created a situation we have now, which is those who come to the border from Central America have to be put into a process where they are evaluated before they can be instantly deported. Do you have a different view of how that should happen now? Do you think these children and others, tens of thousands of them, should be sent back home?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Yes, I do. Otherwise the humanitarian crisis will continue. Otherwise families in countries far away, on the other side of Mexico will be given thousands of dollars to traffickers to take their children over the border and the humanitarian crisis will get worse. So I do believe we need to amend this law, which never intended for this to happen, to make sure that you can treat people in noncontiguous countries just like we do Mexicans and Canadians so that we can stop this crisis.

We intend to do that this coming week here in this session of Congress. But the other point about Congress doing nothing, look no further than the United States senate. We've passed over 300 bills in the House, bills aimed at job creation, fixing problems, that are just sitting in the Senate, going nowhere because the Senate has chosen basically to not legislate and give the president a free hand.

DAVID GREGORY:

But at the same time, there are issues and people watching this who are already pretty disaffected with both sides in Washington. You look at an issue like dealing with some of the problems in the Veterans Administration, both houses, the House and the Senate passed a bill, and you can't even reconcile some of these differences. This is Washington at work doing nothing.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Trust me, we're frustrated as much as you are, David. We've been passing solutions, we've been passing bills, and the Senate's been walking away. They're in a conference this weekend on the veteran's issue. We've actually proposed a very specific solution to make sure that any veteran who can't get the care that they deserve and have earned gets that care. The House Republicans have put forward a specific solution. Now we're trying to see if the Democrats in the administration are willing to work with us to do that.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you about poverty. I want to just put up a summary of what you are proposing for how to rethink entitlement programs and deal with poverty. You got to conciliate 11 federal anti-poverty programs, including programs like food stamps, public housing assistance, child care aid, low-income-energy assistance, and cash welfare.

Consolidate them, have states administer them, they would get a certain amount of money and have some creativity to spend that money, even talk about the creation of kind of individual case officers at a state level who can deal with a poor family, for instance, and try to give them a path out.

Skeptics have cited one thing that really struck me which is that some of the poor states are run by Republican governors who have refused to even expand access to Medicaid under the ObamaCare law. So you can understand why people would be skeptical that giving them that kind of power would actually lead to constructive solutions to deal with people who are poor.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Well, look, first of all, these programs don't work with each other. In many ways, they end up being counterproductive, because poverty is a complicated problem and it needs to be customized. And secondly, we had basically a poverty management system with respect to the federal government.

If you want to have a healthy economy and have real solutions, you have to have a healthy safety net. And a safety net needs to work to get people out of poverty. So my argument here is let's not focus on effort, on input, how much money you spend. Let's focus on outcomes. Are we actually getting people out of poverty?

And the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to listen to people on the ground, the people who are fighting poverty person to person, and give them more flexibility in exchange for more accountability to actually get people out of poverty. We have learned good lessons about the right way to do this and not.

And I would argue that we can customize the benefit to a person based on their particular needs which actually helps them get out of poverty long term. We've spend $800 billion every year on 92 different programs to fight poverty. Yet we have the highest poverty rates in a generation.

DAVID GREGORY:

But let's talk about--

REP. PAUL RYAN:

You change the focus. And I think this is a very good step in the right direction. I want to have a conversation about how to improve the outcomes.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let's talk about your own attitudes about people who are poor and their views on government. You were on this program of January of last year and you said the following:

REP. PAUL RYAN (On Tape):

We don't want a dependency culture. Our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able-bodied people are becoming dependent upon the government than upon themselves and their livelihoods.

DAVID GREGORY:

It doesn't sound like there's a lot of sympathy for people you think need the government's help. What you seem to be saying is that people have a problem with their own dependency here that government is only furthering.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

That's not my intent and it's far from it. And my point, and I'll make it again, is we don't want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. We want to get at the root cause of the poverty to get people out of poverty. And I would argue that that is the best way to go forward.

And that's what we're proposing here, which is have benefits that are customized to either person's problems, because poverty is very complicated. And not just keep them where they are, but have them get to where they want to be. And that is what is the trust of these proposals. The federal government's approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty.

In many ways, it has disincentivized people to going to work. In some cases, you lose more in benefits if you go to work. So people don't go to work because of the federal disincentives that do so. So we need to reemphasize getting people up and on their lives and helping them give them the tools to do that. That's the point.

Able-bodied people should go to work and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential. That for me is a far better system to get people out of poverty long term than to just spend more hardworking taxpayer dollars on a program that is not getting the results that people deserve.

DAVID GREGORY:

Chairman Paul Ryan, a debate that will continue. Thank you very much for your thoughts on it this morning.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Thank you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Coming up here, who does Ted Cruz believe is to blame for the failure of Congress to pass major legislation in a gridlocked Washington.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (On Tape):

It should embarrass all of us. And it's the result of a deliberate partisan decision.

DAVID GREGORY:

The roundtable is here and we'll tackle that. Plus, the New York Times big statement about marijuana legalization just this morning, and why the paper's own David Brooks on our roundtable today might not be all that happy about it. Our roundtable coming up.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back with our political roundtable. Judy Woodruff is here, co-anchor, managing editor of the PBS Newshour, Ruth Marcus, columnist for The Washington Post David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, and Nia-Malika Henderson, political reporter for The Washington Post. We welcome so any intractable problems overseas. Why don't we tackle something the few people can agree on here at home, and that's marijuana.

The New York Times this morning with a major statement, a lead editorial calling for the legalization of marijuana by The New York Times. Here's a portion of the editorial board's piece this morning. "There are no perfect answers," The Times writes, "to people's legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol.

"We believe that on every level, health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues, the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs, at the state level." David Brooks, you weighed in on this debate before.

DAVID BROOKS:

I disagree with them on the larger issue. I don't know what they've been smoking up there. The office, (LAUGHTER) the haze. No.

RUTH MARCUS:

They didn't inhale.

DAVID BROOKS:

They didn't, yeah right.

RUTH MARCUS:

Maybe they did.

DAVID BROOKS:

I have two basic issues. One, the effects on the teenage brain really are pretty significant. They acknowledge that in the editorial. And I just don't think we can sanction, say, "Adults, fine. But if you're 18, you can't do it." That's just not going to work I don't think. Second, I just don't think the government should be sanctioning activity that most of mature out of, most of us age out of.

I just don't think it's the way we want to spend our minds. But and here's something I do agree with my colleagues on. I could be wrong (LAUGH) on marijuana. And so I wouldn't mind some state experimentation. And really, what the editorial is calling for is federal legalization. To allow some states some leeway. So even though I'm opposed to it, I think allowing -- throwing it to the states might be the way.

DAVID GREGORY:

So what are we learning from the states?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

Yeah, I think, yeah, we're learning from Colorado that at least in terms of revenue, there's a great deal of revenue. Right, $184 million, something like that. Also, at least these early statistics show that there's a slight decrease in crime. I think it's about 3% year over year from 2013 to 2014. So that's just--

JUDY WOODRUFF:

But it's still early.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

It's still really early. Sure. I think that--

DAVID GREGORY:

And marijuana legalization as a budget issue seems tough for a parent--

RUTH MARCUS:

We could make a lot of money on tobacco also. But we don't want that. I'm with David. I think I don't have a huge problem with letting states experiment. But I think for states to decide to go the full legalization route is a problem precisely for my mommy reason (LAUGH) that you can say that it's okay for adults, but everybody knows who has teenagers like me, the fact that alcohol is legal increases their access to alcohol. Making marijuana readily, legally available will increase their-- my kids are at home laughing at me. (LAUGH)

But it is a vast social experiment. We do not know the outcome except that the best evidence is that you lose, if you use marijuana as a teenager regularly, eight IQ points. And I don't know about the rest of the table, but I don't have eight to lose.

DAVID GREGORY:

Can we get to a point where there's, like with alcohol, the message is, "Use in moderation?"

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Well, look, this is a serious issue and I think it's a fascinating that the two of you are agreeing.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, they're both so conservative.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

On this. That's right. But, I mean, to me, when I think of grass, I think of something to walk on. I think a pot is something you put a plant in. And--

(OVERTALK)

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

Such a square.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

That's not, I know, such a square. That's where I'm coming from. I think it's important to have the debate. But I think it's, I wonder what's the rush. I mean, why not see what-- (LAUGHTER) pardon the pun.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON

But I do think this is going to be part of the new culture war, right? In 2016, I think we're going to see some division, especially on the Republican side. You're going to have sort of the Rand Paul wing of the party and the Chris Christie, more establishment wing of the party as well, so.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, the country is getting more libertarian on a lot of these issues. And it's everyone should do what they want. But we're part of a community, we're part of a culture. We're affected by each other's views and each other's values. And to me, there's some role in government playing some role in restraining some individual choice just to create a culture of healthiness for especially the teens.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me switch to, as I follow all the international events and the news out of Gaza, Ukraine, now Libya, I just sit back and I think a lot of people have to be wondering, I remember my sister saying to me, "Everything just seems so grim and there doesn't appear to be a solution." What is our ability, what is the U.S. ability at the moment to fix any of this, to influence any of this?

RUTH MARCUS:

Very, very de minimis.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

You heard Chuck Schumer say, "We don't have the strength militarily, essentially, to take on Russia."

RUTH MARCUS:

And we don't have the strength, we don't have the will. Let me be clear, I am not arguing for boots on the ground in a lot of these places. But George W. Bush used to talk about the humble foreign policy before it was not a humble foreign policy. But there are two simultaneous things we need to keep in mind. America cannot withdraw from the world.

The consequences of that, Rand Paul notwithstanding, are very, very dangerous. But America also has a limited ability to completely influence events for there have been decades, centuries of tribal conflicts that we can't necessarily fix.

DAVID GREGORY:

Nia, do you think that restraint on the part of the president to recognize that reality, is at some point going to be respected or still viewed as weakness?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

Well, I think you've seen here the approval ratings and the foreign policy real certainly plummet beginning really in the fall of 2013. And you've seen that really in a steady trend. I think, you know, we haven't figured out what it looks like for Americans to lead in terms of what the global stage but also pull back in terms of militarily. And what does foreign policy look like if--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

You can't do that. I mean, we did this report years after World War II. We had an American-led order which involved sort of constant gradual pressure. And that constant gradual pressure, which involved small wars every seven or eight years, but it kept the wolves at bay. It kept them on their back. Now the wolves are all like Putin. They're all advancing. They don't feel any pressure against them. And so you just get a lot more disorder unless you get that constant, affirmative pressure.

JUDY WOODRUFF

But in Russia you have a place, I think, for how much of history has Russia really paid attention to American policy? And right now, what they're worried about is their own region. Their part of the world. When they think about Ukraine and they think about Afghanistan, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, that's their neck of the woods. So and there's one school of thought that what Vladimir Putin is doing is there's this grand design that he wants to create this empire. The other frankly smart people I've talked to say this is, he's ad hoc-ing it. That he's--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, and that he's lost an ability to control what's on the ground. And they did good tactician and less good strategically. Let me turn back to Congress and the do-nothing nature of it. And some of the examples from the Veterans Administration to other more mundane things where there's bipartisan agreement that can't result in anything being done. My colleague Kelly O'Donnell talked to one of the Senate's most outspoken voices, Ted Cruz of Texas, Republican, about who's to blame for nothing getting done. Watch this.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. TED CRUZ :

There's only one member of the U.S. Senate that has control over the agenda. And that is the majority leader. I can't control the agenda on the Senate floor. The reason we have no votes on tax reform is because Harry Reid won't allow any votes on tax reform. The reason we have no votes on regulatory reform is because Harry Reid won't allow any votes on the regulatory reform.

The reason we don't even spend a minute talking about substantive issues to generate economic growth in jobs is because Harry Reid won't allow the votes. At the end of the day, the Senate used to be called the world's most deliberative body. We don't debate anything nowadays.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Ruth Marcus--

RUTH MARCUS:

I'm chomping at the bit.

DAVID GREGORY:

You say Harry Reid is like Dikembe Mutombo, "No, no, no, no votes." (LAUGHTER)

RUTH MARCUS:

There is a legitimate grievance that Republicans have with their ability to get amendments debated on the floor. That said, I do believe that Ted Cruz must be Texan for chutzpah. (LAUGHTER) Because for Ted Cruz, of all people, to be complaining about instructionism and lamenting congressional dysfunction when he has been one of the chief architects of that with a ridiculous all-night filibuster to stop a bill that everybody understood was going to pass.

Complaining now in terms of immigration, that he won't vote for any immediate money if we don't undo some of the president's previous acts for the dreamer. And I'm going to actually lump in your other guest also as long as I'm on my roll here, which is to listen to Paul Ryan saying the Senate has chosen not to legislate, when everybody understands that the Senate's immigration bill, if it were allowed to go to to House floor--

DAVID GREGORY:

It was blocked in the House too.

RUTH MARCUS:

--would pass. Okay, done.

DAVID GREGORY:

One of the things, David, that I see, and I talk to people around the country, is that until the incentives are changed, a desire for some compromise or even meeting challenges that Americans want dealt with, will not get done. Because nobody will give the other side even a small win in this climate.

DAVID BROOKS:

I used to think the problem was Washington, I now think the problem is the country. The country is polarized. The people actually in the states have become more polarized. But also, it's a different attitude. Politics is a competition between half truths, usually both side of a piece of the truth. Take this immigration debate. You have these kids flowing across the border.

We've got to do two things at once. Give them humanitarian refuge, some of them, and also readjust this law that induces them to come over. So you've got to do two things. The Republicans want to readjust the law. The Democrats want to give them refuge. Somehow you can't say, "Okay, they're both kind of right. Let's just jam it into a bill." We don't have the mentality that allows each side to say, "You're both kind of right."

JUDY WOODRUFF

I do think it's stunning, Congress, (LAUGH) next week they will go home for a five-week summer break. After a year in which they've accomplished almost nothing. And you talked about it earlier with Paul Ryan, you had not only immigration, the border issue, which everybody realizes is urgent.

But the veterans, where you had a bill, it passed the Senate, 93 to three, you had the sponsors were Bernie Sanders, a socialist, and John McCain, they can't get an agreement. So David, I hear you saying it's the country, but something's wrong.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah, but that's what I mean, if the incentives don't change for members of Congress, and they're still preying on that polarization to stay in office and to stay popular enough by standing on principle.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

That's right. And I think it was notable that over the last couple of days, you have Hillary Clinton talking about compromise, talking about the idea of we shouldn't elect folks who essentially say they're going to go to Washington to do nothing. And I think you are having some folks to look at 2014 and the folks who are running, they are sometimes having issues on the stump, sort of justifying their time in Congress not having passed bills. And you wonder in 2016 some of the guys who are going to be running if they're going to have the same issue as well.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, let me take a break here. Thanks to the roundtable very much. When we come back, ObamaCare may be on the ropes after court rulings this week, next, how the people of Vermont are looking north of the border and battling over the state's own unique healthcare solution.

JERRY SCHNEIDER (ON TAPE):

Canada has this health care system that I, as a Vermonter would like to have.

BUZZ ROY (ON TAPE):

I'm frightened by it. It has a potential to bankrupt the state. Everybody's going to move out.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

The debate over America's role in the Gaza conflict continues this morning on our website. We asked Israeli spokesman Mark Regev and Yousef Munayyer or the Palestinian senator make their case for how the U.S. should be involved. See that and more any time at MeetThePressNBC.com. We'll be back with more from our roundtable after this.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back, talking about the future of ObamaCare. Thrown into doubt after competing court rulings over subsidies for those who cannot afford to buy insurance. Meanwhile, the state of Vermont is going further and setting up a government-run, single payer system, similar to that of its next-door neighbor, Canada, generating a passionate debate is our Kevin Tibbles found in this week's Meeting America.

(BEGIN TAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

As the sun comes up in Burlington, Vermonters awake to a battle over whether their state can afford to push into unchartered waters and go further than ObamaCare. Vermont's democratic state government says it can deliver health care more efficiently and for less to every one of its 600,000 residents equally. All paid for with tax dollars to the tune of some $2 billion a year. Many say taxes here could double.

BUZZ ROY:

They're outrageous. I mean, the increases that are needed.

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

Doctors bills would go to the state government. Essentially eliminating the need for people to purchase private insurance. A solution to America's healthcare crisis, or the road to bankruptcy for Vermont? We decided to travel north through the Green Mountain state to where the United States nestles up to Canada. Where its citizens have had government healthcare for decades. Derby Line's relationship with neighboring Stanstead, Quebec, is so school, the Haskell Free Library actually straddles the boundary line.

JERRY SCHNEIDER

I'm in Canada right now. Canada has this health care system that I as a Vermonter would like to have. And we're this close.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

And you're excited about that?

JERRY SCHNEIDER:

I am.

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

Vermonter Jerry Schneider, who has had as high as a $5,000 deductible for his healthcare, was recently given a pacemaker. He says too many of his neighbors don't have health insurance because of the cost. Even with the Affordable Care Act.

JERRY SCHNEIDER:

When we're worrying, when we're stressed, when we're putting things off, where is the health in that?

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

But local pharmacist Buzz Roy is more than a little skeptical.

BUZZ ROY:

I'm frightened by it. It has the potential to bankrupt the state. Everybody's going to move out.

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

Roy isn't sold on the Canadian system. He says his friends on the other side wouldn't dream of giving up.

BUZZ ROY::

There are long waits for surgery. There are long waits to see just a general practitioner. The wheels are falling off.

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

As he travels the tranquil pads of his maple sugar farm, Steven Wheeler (PH) worries.

STEVEN WHEELER:

I'm over here hoping beyond hope that they do it and get it right. And it's a little scary.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Wow. Now what's that?

STEVEN WHEELER:

That's a maple dill dressing without the--

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

Steven and his family churned everything maple.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Okay, I'm putting my gloves on now. Like that?

STEVEN WHEELER:

Grab your bottle. You really need to grab it.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Grabbing bottle.

STEVEN WHEELER:

You're getting tense. You need to be relaxed. (LAUGH)

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

Health care that covers everyone is a panacea Steve supports. But he worries about the cost and the politics.

STEVEN WHEELER:

We're putting health care in the hands of a very select few people. If politics gets in the way enough that it can negatively impact my future.

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

Neal Goswami of the Times Argus Newspaper, says the single-payer system still has many hurdles to overcome.

NEAL GOSWAMI:

If they would make permission from the federal government, the governor here in Vermont hopes to move quickly because right now he's got a friendly administration to work with and nobody knows what's going to happen in 2015.

KEVIN TIBBLES (V/O):

In Derby Line, they've lived side by side for generations with their neighbors to the north. But when it comes to government-run healthcare, will it be allowed to cross the border? For Meet the Press, Kevin Tibbles.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

When we come back here, the big question that'll be driving the conversation this week, The New York Times with a bold statement about the legalization of marijuana when we come back.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Before with a big question and endnote to an earlier conversation about Gaza, we asked as you will recall, a UN spokesman about this video, which Israel claims, Israel claims showed rockets being fired by Hamas from a UN school in Gaza. This is shot by the Israeli government, and that's their claim. The UN has reviewed it, tells us that they have confirmed in their view the video does not show rockets being fired from a UN administrative school in Gaza.

So this is a back and forth that we are not able to settle at this point. Now to this week's big question, should marijuana be legal in the United States, the big questions I think could be a big debate this week. We talked about the merits of it, David, but your prediction-wise, do you think it's moving in that direction?

DAVID BROOKS:

Everybody says that. But if you look over history, the regulation of things like opiates, smoking, public drunkenness, it's really ebbed and flowed quite a while. And so it's not always just allowed more and more freedom. Sometimes there are just restrictions. You can't smoke the way you used to, you can't use opiates the way you used to, public drunkenness, much less acceptable.

DAVID GREGORY:

Could you see, Nia, that it could move forward by a prohibition in place for those under 21, for example?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

Possibly, and I think one of the things about this debate, at least one of the things it's driving it to is what we know is true about drug prosecution, is that there's a great deal of racial disparities between blacks and whites and the class disparities. So I think that's one of the interesting ways where you're going to have a lot of strange bedfellows around this issue.

DAVID GREGORY:

Interesting, too, but you talked about that before. Republicans not totally against it. We've got to leave it there. You can find the big question (LAUGHTER) and weigh in on the debate rather on our Facebook page. That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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