Meet the Press Netcast   |  September 30, 2014

Kaine, Steele, roundtable

May 17: Exclusive! In their first Sunday showdown as Party Chairs, the DNC's Tim Kaine and the RNC's Michael Steele squared off on the many issues that divide their two parties. Plus, how does each leader plan to steer his side to victory in 2010 and beyond? And, insights and analysis from our political roundtable: Council on Foreign Relations' Richard Haass, Newsweek's Jon Meacham, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, and National Journal's Ron Brownstein.

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MR. DAVID GREGORY: Our issues this Sunday: warring parties . Democrats and Republicans at odds over the economy , national security , abortion and health care . This morning, whether President Obama 's agenda is the blueprint for lasting Democratic rule or an example of overreach that will allow Republicans to chart the course back to power . With us for their first Sunday morning showdown as party chairs, the Democratic National Committee 's Tim Kaine and the Republican National Committee 's Michael Steele square off on the many issues that divide their two parties .

Then the torture debate and the House speaker 's pointed charge.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): So yes, I'm saying that they are misleading -- that the CIA was misleading the Congress .

MR. GREGORY: What Speaker Pelosi knew about the use of waterboarding and whether she did anything to try to stop it. Our roundtable weighs in on that and much more after a busy week in Washington : the National Journal 's Ron Brownstein ; the Council on Foreign Relations ' Richard Haass , author of new book " War of Necessity , War of Choice : A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars "; Newsweek 's Jon Meacham ; and The Wall Street Journal 's Peggy Noonan .

But first, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee , Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia , and the chairman of the Republican National Committee , Michael Steele .

Welcome both of you back to MEET THE PRESS .

MR. MICHAEL STEELE: It's great to be with you.

GOV. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Thanks, David .

MR. GREGORY: There's a lot to talk about. Let's begin with the issue of abortion , the divide between left and right in this country , and it is playing out today on Notre Dame University 's campus; the president there to receive an honorary degree , to give the commencement address , and he's created quite a bit of controversy.

MR. STEELE: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: And here's the backdrop, and it's very interesting. The Gallup Poll did a survey this week and this is what it found:"A new poll...finds 51 percent of Americans calling themselves `pro-life' on the issue of abortion , 42 percent `pro- choice .' It's the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking the question back in 1995 ."

Chairman Steele , both of you as Catholics , should Notre Dame have a pro- abortion rights president get a degree and address the graduates?

MR. STEELE: I think you have two issues here that need to get clearly separated. First off, any institution's going to be honored to have the president of the United States come and address them. And that's separate from that institution then placing its imprimatur on the president by conferring a degree, which is what -- which is the case here. And that's where Catholics draw the line. It's not about the president speaking at the university, it's the fact that the institution is saying that we confer, you know, our favor on you...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. STEELE: ...and by extension a lot of the values that you represent and hold, because they are tied together in many respects. Those institutions don't hand those degrees out that readily. So it is, it is a very strong sticking point and I think a lot of Catholics and a lot of pro-life Americans are very concerned about that. And I think it's inappropriate. And the president should speak, but the degree should not be conferred.

MR. GREGORY: Chairman Steele .

GOV. KAINE: Well, David , look, I'm a Catholic . I've got two brothers who are Notre Dame grads and feel very close to that community. I'm very happy that they've invited the president and that they are honoring him with a degree today because I think that his career merits it, and I think most Catholics agree. The issue on abortion is really this, the president has really made it pretty plain: Our party stands for let's reduce unintended pregnancies, let's reduce abortions, but we don't have to criminalize the choices that women make or that their doctors make to do so. So the president has got a very open dialogue going now with folks who want to come up with other strategies to reduce abortion . Better health care access for women, you know, appropriate education of youngsters, better adoption policies.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

GOV. KAINE: Those things can reduce abortion .

MR. GREGORY: What should the president say today, though, to address this controversy...

GOV. KAINE: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: ...at a time when this culture debate is going to rear its head again as we get to the Supreme Court ?

GOV. KAINE: I think what he should say is that let's beware of those who want to make it into a polarized culture debate and talk about ways for Americans to find common ground . And that's what the president has done, and I think that's what he will share today at Notre Dame .

MR. GREGORY: You know, it's interesting, because this is an issue where some on the left have been critical of the president, saying that he hasn't pushed hard enough. This is how The New York Times reported it on Friday: "[ Obama ] has actually dialed back some earlier ambitions. In 2007 , he promised Planned Parenthood that...[he would] sign the Freedom of Choice Act , which effectively codifies Roe v. Wade. Now he says the bill is `not my highest legislative priority.'" Is he backtracking?

GOV. KAINE: He's looking forward to bringing people together. Because again, abortion is like a lot of other issues. It gets pitted as, you know, one polarized side against the other. But American people , I think, recognize that we would want to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions. You just don't have to criminalize women's health care choices...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

GOV. KAINE: ...to do so. And that's where the president is drawing people together.

MR. GREGORY: Chairman Steele , there are Republicans like Newt Gingrich , who's out there saying this is the most pro- abortion of any American president .

MR. STEELE: True.

MR. GREGORY: Do you see it that way? True?

MR. STEELE: I absolutely see it that way.

MR. GREGORY: Based on what?

MR. STEELE: Based on the fact -- based on his past record in, in the state legislature , the bill that he sponsors -- sponsored there with respect to partial-birth abortion and late-term abortions. The first steps of his administration were to undo the executive order that would ban federal funding of abortion and abortion -related information overseas. I mean, this president is really talking out both sides of his mouth on this issue. On the one instance he's telling Planned Parenthood , "I got your back, I'm going to be there," but then on the other instance he's coming into an institution like Notre Dame and he's going to play this, you know, "we can all get along on this issue." The reality of it is the majority of Americans now -- and a lot of those numbers are reflected by young people who are coming around on this issue. The science is now proving that life has greater value than, than the Supreme Court thought it did in 1973 . And I think that -- you're with two pro- life chairman here. I think that this issue's going to be a big part of the debate going forward , and the administration had better be careful here because you cannot get away from the morality, morality that's involved with this issue.

GOV. KAINE: David , I, I just have to say on this, it's not talking out of both sides of your mouth to try to bring Americans together, and that's what this president is doing. As far as Newt Gingrich 's statement, a great group in the Democratic Party , Dems For Life , has been very happy with the way this president has included them both in the platform drafting process and now in discussions about finding common ground on strategies to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions.

MR. STEELE: Well, I...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

Let me ask you this: Is the Republican Party open to pro- abortion right candidates in the way that Governor Kaine has survived in the Democratic Party ?

MR. STEELE: We've, we've, we've had, we've had, we've had wonderful pro, pro- choice candidates. Governor Christie Todd Whitman , for example, was a very successful Republican governor.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. STEELE: And I think, I think this is a great opportunity, since the chairman has made this, this opening here, I look forward to working to build a strong pro-life coalition within the Democratic Party since that's -- this is the direction the president wants to go.

MR. GREGORY: All right, let me talk about how this may play out in the Supreme Court , with a new Supreme Court nominee forthcoming from the administration .

MR. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: And the president has talked about wanting a nominee who is empathetic, somebody who knows what it's like to be poor, to be African-American , to be gay. Chairman Steele , you were on the radio recently and you took a shot on that priority for the president. This is what you said.

MR. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: "I don't need some judge sitting up there feeling bad for my opponent because of their life circumstances or their condition. And short changing me and my opportunity to get fair treatment under the law. Crazy nonsense empathetic." Sounds like -- you, you also say to the NRA on Friday, "Sounds like the president's been watching ` Dr. Phil ' too much, that's who he wants on the Supreme Court ."

MR. STEELE: Yeah. I don't -- look, I need a judge who's going to take the Constitution , apply the facts, apply the law and come to a reasoned, sound judgment. I don't need a judge to look at an African-American standing before him and go off on some, you know, liberal tangent about, "Oh, gee, I wonder what his life was like as a child." I'm concerned about getting fair adjudication and jurisprudence under the law. And, and the reality of it is this: This is an opportunity for the president to, to break this cycle that we've been in, this back and forth between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to judicial nominations. The Constitution must stand for something, it must mean something, and I think this is the appropriate time for this president to show that it has value and importance other than being empathetic.

MR. GREGORY: Chairman Kaine , Jeff Sessions , Senator Sessions , who's the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee , says you got to get a judge on there instead of, say, a politician who's going to think that they can start interpreting the law and making law. What do you say?

GOV. KAINE: Well, let me wrap it in with the empathy comment. You know, I, I think this is a fundamental philosophical difference between the parties , David . And, you know, I would say to Chairman Steele , you know, the party of no shouldn't now become the party of no empathy . What the president said was, "I want somebody who has the empathy to be able to understand

when, when he is -- when he or she is writing an opinion , how is it going to play out in the lives of people sitting in their kitchens trying to work on the economy ?"

MR. STEELE: But that's not the role...

GOV. KAINE: "How is it going to play out in state legislators who have to follow what the court writes, or in a court that has to interpret it?" Empathy is the ability to understand how an opinion written in an closed chamber actually gets played out in real people 's lives. That's what this president wants .

MR. STEELE: I'm sorry. I, I am sorry.

GOV. KAINE: And I'm surprised at the other guys would have a problem with that.

MR. STEELE: You know, the, the party of no is no to judges that are going to sit there and try to come up with some feel-good legislation, effectively, to feel sorry for me, a judge is there to look at he facts and apply the law and come up with the appropriate resolution. through their opinion . That's not the role of a judge. A judge is not there He's -- I don't have time for the judge to feel good or bad about an issue.

GOV. KAINE: But that's not what the president ever said. He's, he's not...

MR. STEELE: He said he's empathetic. Go look up the definition.

GOV. KAINE: Right. I, I, I have. And...

MR. STEELE: The definition is empathetic is, like, concerned about one's feelings.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

MR. STEELE: I don't a judge to be concerned about my feelings.

GOV. KAINE: Well, if you guys are against empathy , just stand on that platform.

MR. STEELE: I'm not -- it's not -- look, it's not about...

GOV. KAINE: Empathy is something we think's a great value.

MR. STEELE: Come on, Chairman, you know it's not about being against empathy , it's about applying the rule of law and having jurisprudence that you can trust, not a judge who may have a bad day or be overly sensitive to my condition.

MR. GREGORY: Let me move away from the issue of social issues and let's talk about national security and where it divides these two parties . House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in some hot water this week. She's taken on the CIA , saying she was never actually briefed about the use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding . She accuses them of misleading the Congress . They have pushed back saying that wasn't the case. Why does this matter, Chairman Kaine , in the overall debate over " torture "?

GOV. KAINE: You know, David , great question, because I think the real issue is thank goodness we have a president and a Congress who are stating clearly torture is no longer an instrument of foreign policy of this nation. That's what really matters, that we've turned the page, we've said that torture is not an instrument of foreign policy . So what was...

MR. GREGORY: But Democrats don't want to turn page, Chairman.

GOV. KAINE: Well...

MR. GREGORY: They want accountability for Bush administration figures. And there are those on the right who say wait a minute...

GOV. KAINE: Well...

MR. GREGORY: ...what about the House speaker who was in a position to push back and evidently didn't?

GOV. KAINE: There are some who would like to get into what happened in meetings five, six years ago. The president has made pretty plain...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

GOV. KAINE: ...we've got to move forward . We have to move forward . Their accountability is important, but the most important thing is getting this right. And so he declared, in a very direct way, torture is no longer going to be used. And I think the American people are rallying around that, you know. So -- and as, look, as I followed this situation with the speaker, she said she was briefed that the CIA was getting legal advice about what to do. She was not briefed about the, the tactics being used and thought they were going to come back to her on that, and nobody from the CIA has contradicted her on that.

MR. GREGORY: Well, they have said that they -- their contemporaneous accounts indicate that she was indeed briefed on the use of waterboarding .

GOV. KAINE: I, I, I think they, they will say, if you go and look at Panetta 's letter and others, that she was, that she was briefed about the fact that legal advice was being sought, that legal permission had been granted, but the actual fact that it had been used previous to that briefing I do not thing was disclosed to her.

MR. GREGORY: Do Democrats have faith still in the House speaker 's leadership ?

GOV. KAINE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. GREGORY: Her job is secure?

GOV. KAINE: It is.

MR. STEELE: Well, I, I -- thank goodness for Nancy Pelosi . And I'm so, I was so edified by that press conference the other day where she really expressed in as long as, Tom , she could take, eight different views on this one issue. And I think the reality here is that Nancy Pelosi has stepped in it big time , and she's not put the Democratic Party in a position where, where the question for me is does the president support Nancy Pelosi 's versions of what happened or his CIA director 's version of what happened? And then the next question is you've got, you know, Steny Hoyer himself who's calling for a closer examination of what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it. And I, you know, and I know Steny very well, and he's a capable, qualified leader in the House . And he, if, if he sees some concern here, then there must be some rot somewhere in the explanation.

GOV. KAINE:

MR. GREGORY: Should there be a wider -- should there be a truth commission ? Should there be an investigation?

MR. STEELE: I think, I think you've heard a lot of Republicans call for that. And if this is, if this is a door that the Democrats and, and their leadership , since they have the House and the Senate and the presidency and they want to expose all of this...

GOV. KAINE: Mm-hmm.

MR. STEELE: ...then let's put it all on the table and let's take a closer look at it.

GOV. KAINE: Michael , can't, can't we agree, sitting right here, it's a great thing that this nation has stated that we're not going to use torture as an instrument of foreign policy ? Can't we agree on that?

MR. STEELE: I, I, I think that, I think that's perfectly fine. But that's not the point. The point is that you have the speaker of the House who said that she, she wasn't told, she didn't have a clue. And, in, in fact, the evidence contradicts that.

GOV. KAINE: But, but I'm glad we have agreed now that turning the page and stating that torture is an instrument of foreign policy is a good thing.

MR. STEELE: You can, you can turn...

MR. GREGORY: Well, do you...

MR. STEELE: Well, you can turn the page all you want to that. That fact is still sitting there...

MR. GREGORY: Do you believe...

MR. STEELE: ...that your party 's going to have to address.

MR. GREGORY: Do you believe interrogators under the Bush administration 's watch engaged in torture ?

MR. STEELE: I think what, what was engaged in at that time was what the, the intelligence community , what the administration , the Department of Defense , the secretary of state all agreed were forms of getting information that were at that time...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. STEELE: ...you know, deemed appropriate. Now, if since that time if there's, if there's another opinion that's been formed by this administration or others, then that's the direction of the course.

MR. GREGORY: Do you, do you think it was torture ?

MR. STEELE: Well, my, my opinion on it doesn't matter. My personal opinion is look, I want the information.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. STEELE: We'll get it however we can get it.

MR. GREGORY: But you do, you have an opinion ?

MR. STEELE: I have a personal opinion , yes.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think it was torture ?

MR. STEELE: That's my -- I'm not, that's not appropriate here.

MR. GREGORY: You're not going to say.

MR. STEELE: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: One of, one of the more outspoken members of this debate was the former vice president, Vice President Cheney , who has spoken out in was no violation of the law. But there's a political matter here as well, and this was the Washington Post headline this week:"As defense of Bush administration policies and said there was no torture , there Cheney Seizes Spotlight , Many Republicans Wince ." Chairman Steele , did you wince when the vice president was out talking about all of this?

MR. STEELE: No. You know, no, not at all. You know, I -- look, I look at -- you know, I found, you know, Cheney , I find Pelosi , all -- everybody has an opinion , everybody has something to say. The difference is the Vice President Cheney is no longer vice president of the United States , he's a private citizen who expressed his, his thoughts.

MR. GREGORY: Well, wait a second.

MR. STEELE: But let me, let me...

MR. GREGORY: The Democrats are saying he is in fact the voice of the Republican cause.

MR. STEELE: But there are -- we have a lot of voices in, in the Republican Party , just as the Democrats have a lot of voices , starting with the president, the chairman, Al Franken and so many others. So the reality of it from my perspective is no, there was no wincing here.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. STEELE: The vice president expressed his views on this. I think he has some understanding, since he has been in, in that mix for a while. And, and it, it doesn't matter, ultimately, what the vice president thinks. What matters is what this administration is going to do...

GOV. KAINE: Well...

MR. STEELE: ...with respect to, you know, detainees that they come in, you know, bold and brash, let's open up the, open up Guantanamo , let's shut it down, and no clue where to put people.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. STEELE: And I understand...

GREGORY: Let me...

MR. STEELE: Let me make this point. Jim Moran , your own, your own congressman, has offered to bring the detainees to Virginia . So are you prepared to go to the people of Virginia ...

GOV. KAINE: I think you're overstating that.

MR. STEELE: No, that's....

GOV. KAINE: But I want to go back to something. He said it doesn't matter what the vice president thinks.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. KAINE: I beg to differ. Again, fundamental philosophical differences. When the immediately past sitting vice president of the United States says that Rush Limbaugh is a better representative of where the Republican Party needs to be than Colin Powell , he is laying out a pretty stark picture...

MR. STEELE: No he's not.

GOV. KAINE: ...of where the party is.

MR. STEELE: No he's not. And, Chairman...

GOV. KAINE: And so we push back against that.

MR. STEELE: ...you're, you're not going to get to parse that that way, no.

GOV. KAINE: We, we celebrate the Republican leaders like Jon Huntsman , for example, who, who...

MR. GREGORY: Let -- right. We're going to get to that. You raised this issue of what the vice president said last Sunday. Let's just show that tape and have you both react to it.

GOV. KAINE: Sure.

MR. BOB SCHIEFFER: Rush Limbaugh said the other day that the party 'd probably be better off if Colin Powell left and just became a Democrat.

VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: Mm-hmm.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Colin Powell said Republicans 'd be better off if they didn't have Rush Limbaugh speaking for them. Where do you come down?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh , I think. I think my take on it was Colin had already left the party . I didn't know he was still a Republican.

MR. SCHIEFFER: And you said you'd take Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell .

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I would.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Politically.

MR. GREGORY: Chairman...

MR. STEELE: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: ...do you agree?

MR. STEELE: Look, I take both of them. I want them both.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. STEELE: I'm, I'm in the building...

MR. GREGORY: So you disagree, that there's room for both.

MR. STEELE: It's not, it's not a question of -- the man expressed his opinion . You know, that's his, that's his view.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. STEELE: As the chairman of the party , I want Rush Limbaugh , I want, I want, you know, Colin Powell , and I'll even take Tim Kaine . I mean, he's pro-life, he's pro-business, you know, he's pro- Second Amendment . You'll, you'll fit...

GOV. KAINE: My father-in-law was a Republican governor, but I'm a proud Democrat.

MR. STEELE: You'll fit right in.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. STEELE: My point is I'm in the process of working with leaders across this country to multiply and, and add to this party , not subtract and divide.

MR. GREGORY: Right. So does Dick Cheney out there, does it hurt that effort? Would you like him to tone it down that rhetoric?

MR. STEELE: No it doesn't. No, no. Dick -- I, I'm not in the business of suppressing someone's opinion and their thoughts. He gave a legitimate interview, he shared his opinion . My opinion as chairman of the party is that I want them both and we can accommodate everybody. You all come, the table's open, sit down, let's get to work.

GOV. KAINE: Michael , then I'm, I'm just going to ask you this; then don't go after the Republican senators who voted with President Obama on the recovery act.

MR. STEELE: Well, no...

GOV. KAINE: You said you might go after him in the primaries...

MR. STEELE: Wait a minute.

GOV. KAINE: ...and that pushed Arlen Specter away.

MR. STEELE: You've taken...

GOV. KAINE: Embrace those senators, don't go after them.

MR. STEELE: Arlen -- first off, Arlen Specter voted himself out of the party . He pushed himself away. In 1966 , when he couldn't get himself elected as a Democrat, he became a Republican. And in 2009 , when he couldn't get re-elected as a Republican, he became a Democrat. So that takes care of that.

MR. GREGORY: Look, I want, I want to bring up Charlie Crist , because this is an interesting point.

MR. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

GOV. KAINE: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: Here he was earlier this year effectively campaigning with President Obama on the stimulus plan, Charlie Crist supporting it. He's now denying funds to anybody who supported the stimulus plan. running for the Senate . You have said, Chairman Steele , that you are open to

MR. STEELE: As -- that is not...

MR. GREGORY: Will you do in the case of Charlie Crist ?

MR. STEELE: Let's, let's set the record straight here. That is not what I said. What I said was that I would follow the lead of the state party leadership and, and, and making their determinations with respect to primaries and, and the outcomes thereof. Charlie Crist is going to be in a primary for this office. If he wins the primary, I look forward to supporting him if the, if the party 's behind him. And that's all I said.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. STEELE: And I think, I think that...

MR. GREGORY: Why would the senatorial committee already announce support for him?

MR. STEELE: Because the senatorial committee is, is in a different business. They're looking to build the Senate , the Senate numbers...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. STEELE: ...and the membership. They don't have, they don't have to deal with the state party chairmen and the party leadership and the grassroots the same way the national party chairmanship does.

MR. GREGORY: But...

MR. STEELE: And our general rule is we don't get into primaries. We, we, we trust the judgment of primary voters and we trust the leadership to make those political decisions that they need to make with respect to the candidates who'll be running.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think, as head is -- head of the Republican Party , that you need more voices like Governor Crist ?

MR. STEELE: I need voices period. I need, I need the Republican base, I need Republican activists to stand up and talk about what this administration is doing on the economy , what it's going to do to us on health care and the actions it's taken thus far in the Middle East and around the world. So, you know, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not...

MR. GREGORY: But why make support for the stimulus a litmus test then?

MR. STEELE: The support for the stimulus was not a litmus test in, in the, in the way that you're meaning it. The, the key thing here to keep in mind is that was a core principle for Republicans across this country with respect to our views on spending and, and government interference in, in the market. And so that was, that was a line, it was a clear line that the House Republicans did not cross. Three members of the Senate did. That was a choice that they made. And as I said at the time, they will account to their voters in their respective primaries when that, when that comes.

MR. GREGORY: Final point on this before I want to turn to some Democratic criticisms of the administration . You have the prospect of real consolidation the Senate with Specter flipping... MR. STEELE: That was scary, isn't it? of Democratic power . You have it in

MR. GREGORY: You have the executive and you have, with Specter coming over, the legislative. How do Republicans overcome that?

MR. STEELE: Well, Specter seems to be having a little bit of problem. I just want to, I just want to know what the deal was that, that got him to the other side. I mean, this is a very sweetheart deal . He jumped to the front of the line, you're hearing the grumbling behind the scenes. I mean, clearly Governor Rendell ...

GOV. KAINE: The deal was we have a big...

MR. GREGORY: Whoa, let's.... How do you overcome this consolidation of power ?

MR. STEELE: Clearly -- well, but -- well, the way you overcome it is to expose it, expose what it means, expose the fact that when -- if, if the Senate gets to 60 that there will be very little that can be done to stop, you know, the wholesale, you know, use of the government in the lives of business, in the lives of, of families. And I think what we need to do is, is talk very clearly about what this means to, to the average person out there, to have one power , one power , one political power control it all. This country has been built on and certainly in the law 25 years worked with this balance. And right now the Democrats are positioning themselves to tip that balance when they lock it down, and I'm standing in, in the way of that as best I can.

GOV. KAINE: And...

MR. GREGORY: Chairman Kaine , we've talked about some of the internal dissention in the Republican Party .

GOV. KAINE: Yep.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the Democrats right now...

GOV. KAINE: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: ...and look at what happened just this week. The president reversed himself on the issue of releasing those detainee abuse photos, he's reversed himself on the issue of military commissions, now siding with the Bush administration approach with some key differences in how those commissions will move forward .

GOV. KAINE: Those differences are very important.

MR. GREGORY: They are, I understand that. During the campaign he said that "don't ask, don't tell," the government's -- the military's prohibition against gays and lesbians in the military would be overturned. He hasn't done that yet. Is he walking back from some of the key campaigns that he...

GOV. KAINE: No.

MR. GREGORY: ...promises he made in the course of the campaign?

GOV. KAINE: Absolutely not. Let me take them in order. On the photos, the president wrestled with a very fundamental question, which is now that certain photos are out, are more photos going to help us in our national security or not? And he reached the conclusion that they would put American lives at risk who are in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places in the world, and so that there was not a good reason to release more photos and in fact it would hurt our security interests . I think we want a president who's going to look at that data every day and try to make the best decision for the national security , and that was this decision .

On the military tribunals , when he was in the Senate he was a harsh critic of the way these military commissions were operated by the Bush administration . But he did support military commission bills reforming the process, and that's what he's announced today. It's not contrary to what he said earlier. He said the way we're going it is wrong, we have to put fundamental reforms in place to make sure that detainees are brought to trial quickly, the right evidence is used, and that's what'll happen.

And then finally, on "don't ask, don't tell" the president has said, and I share this, this is a policy that needs to change. It is a policy that was enacted by Congress , and so working with Congress to find a way to change it is something he's committed to doing with Secretary Gates . But he, he has the same...

MR. GREGORY: Why hasn't he done it? Why...

GOV. KAINE: Well, he's only been, he's only been in for three-plus months. He's had a little bit to deal with.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

GOV. KAINE: A couple of wars, toughest economy since 1930s .

MR. GREGORY: So this is not a top priority for him.

GOV. KAINE: This is a very important priority, but it is something that's going to need Congressional support so he's working with the military leaders on this. And there's a whole host of other issues that the president has said, "I'm getting to. I can't get to them yet, but I'm going to get to them." And that's what happens with every president.

MR. STEELE: But it's not a, but it's not as important as overturning the project labor agreements that would allow small businesses to actually effectively compete on, on contracts, on federal contracts which they can no longer do because they're not unionized. It's, it was, it was certainly not as important as, you know, reversing the, the executive order banning abortions overseas and it certainly was not as important as defunding the opportunity scholarships here in the District of Columbia where, where low-income African-American students are now looking this fall, they're being cut off from their opportunity to get an education. Many of those opportunity scholars attended my high school , attend my high school , John , John Carroll , here in D.C. Now the president's come back and go, "Oh, we'll just let those go through." But what about the long line of, of low-income African-American students in this very city who won't have the same education that he and I both had as we were coming through at a, at a tough time as well? So I think, I think the priorities of this administration are a little bit misplaced when it comes to a whole host of things.

MR. GREGORY: All right, I want to get you both...

MR. STEELE: Particularly with respect to something like that.

MR. GREGORY: I want to get you both to comment quickly on another priority, and that is health care .

Chairman Kaine , what will be the basis of bipartisan reform?

GOV. KAINE: Sure. Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: There's been some push back this week, warnings to Democrats not to push this too far because there are Democrats who don't want to pay the steep price tag for it.

GOV. KAINE: If, if this was easy, it would have been done. But the president's said the status quo is unacceptable, failed policies of the past are not going to solve our problems, we've got to move forward and reform. And we have to structure reform around three components: cost reductions for, for citizens, for businesses; but also it's really important that the health care industry bring down costs, and you saw historic announcement this weeks with health care industry leaders that they're going to start to reign in costs. That'll help everybody. Second, choice , that people should have a choice between plans that they're currently using or other plans that could be devised and put on the table to create more real competition. And finally, access, that the, the specter of 45-plus million Americans without health care access is troubling. We need to come up with a proposal that puts these together. You're right that Democrats and Republicans have a lot of different views on this. But I've actually been heartened, David , by what I've seen, the, the fact that there is some dialogue across party lines on this.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask...

GOV. KAINE: And I think, I think Republicans congressional leaders have applauded the president...

MR. GREGORY: Do you think it's going to happen?

GOV. KAINE: ...for reaching out to...

MR. GREGORY: Chairman, do you think it'll be passed this year?

MR. STEELE: I think -- no. I think...

MR. GREGORY: You don't think it'll pass.

MR. STEELE: No, no, no. I think what, I think what we're going to have is the beginning of a very important discussion. I think the governor is absolutely right that there is a building consensus towards something. But there's some key pieces that still remain. The costs, let's start with that. We're talking about an initial down payment of $640-some billion, OK? That's the down payment, it doesn't really get you where you need to be. Number two, in all of the noise that I'm hearing on health care , no one's talking about one additional cost, which is a significant one, and that's tort reform . The litigation that, that attends the medical industry performing their, their duties is not being addressed. The insurance companies also need to be at this table in a real way. Pharmaceutical companies need to be at the table in a real way. So I'm hoping that we're going to have a discussion that makes it affordable, that makes it cost effective , makes it portable, and I think the Republican leadership that wants , also wants to see us address tort reform and, and some other issues...

MR. GREGORY: All right.

GOV. KAINE: Michael , if, if...

MR. STEELE: ...that are no -- that are not on the table right now.

GOV. KAINE: If you want to see those addressed and your party does, too, we will get a deal with year, because you've just laid out key components that the president has, has openly dialogued with congressional leadership about.

MR. STEELE: Well, I, I'd love to see the Democrats take a lead on tort reform . That would be really heartening to see.

MR. GREGORY: Part of this is how we define the other side. Do you think that President Obama is a socialist leader?

MR. STEELE: I think President Obama is a leader, and that's all that matters to me. I don't get into the name-calling and all the, all the other rhetoric that, that attends these things. My, my focus is on...

MR. GREGORY: Your party has a meeting; the RNC 's going to -- wants to rename the Democratic Party , the Democrat Socialist Party .

MR. STEELE: Well, you know, if they do that, they do that. My, my, my role as chairman, however...

MR. STEELE: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...is to have a conversation with the American people without the name- calling, without the noise making, and that's my focus. And I've been very clear that I don't think that that is an appropriate way to, to express our views on the issues of the day.

MR. GREGORY: But why would they undermine you and move forward on something like that?

MR. STEELE: Well, well, it's not a question -- it's not undermining me. Look, you know, you have -- as the chairman can tell you, you have legitimate activists in both parties who have very strong passions and feelings, and that's great, and we have a process in which that can be expressed. My responsibility as the chosen leader of the party is to make sure that when we engage in the debates that we do so in a way that the American people can appreciate that we're moving towards progress and success.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

MR. STEELE: That's my job.

MR. GREGORY: Before you go, a week ago the president had a little fun with you at the White House Correspondents' Dinner ...

MR. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: ...and this is what he said.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Michael Steele is in the house tonight; or as he would say, in the heezie. What's up? Where is Michael ? Is -- Michael , for the last time, the Republican Party does not qualify for a bailout. Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset, I'm sorry.

MR. GREGORY: Good natured, for sure.

MR. STEELE: Yeah, yeah.

MR. GREGORY: But I wonder if you felt at some level the president was mocking some of your attempts to have kind of a hipper outreach program...

MR. STEELE: No. No, no.

MR. GREGORY: ...to African-Americans , other people of color to come to the Republican Party .

MR. STEELE: No. I -- that was, that was just good love between two brothers. And I, and I really appreciate the president throwing me a shout-out. It took me totally by surprise. And so this morning I just want to say "what's up?" right back at you, so.

MR. GREGORY: Chairman Steele , Chairman Kaine .

GOV. KAINE: Thanks, David .

MR. GREGORY: Lots more to discuss. We'll leave it here this morning. Thank you both very much.

MR. STEELE: All right.

GOV. KAINE: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: And coming next, the torture debate ; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi clashes with the CIA . Plus, looming battles on health care , national security and the economy . Insights and analysis from our political roundtable, Ron Brownstein , Richard Haass , Jon Meacham and Peggy Noonan are here only on MEET THE PRESS .

MR. GREGORY: Our roundtable weighs in on the battle between the two political parties , health care , national security and more after this brief commercial break .

MR. GREGORY: And we're back, joined by Peggy Noonan , Jon Meacham , Richard Haass and Ron Brownstein .

Welcome all. Or as Chairman Steele might say, what's up? Good to have all of you here.

Ron Brownstein , a very interesting discussion about the path that the two parties are taking...

MR. RON BROWNSTEIN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...and the ramifications for the Obama agenda and the rebirth, when that happens, of the Republican Party . What did you take away?

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Well, one of the things that really struck me was Michael Steele saying that Arlen Specter voted himself out of the party . Arlen Specter votes with Republicans two- thirds of the time...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: ...with the, with the party majority. And if that is voting yourself out of the party , you could see the cycle that they are in, which is kind of a cycle of contraction and compression. In the last two elections Republicans have lost a tremendous amount of ground in the swing parts of the country , both in the Senate and in the House . And what's left in both parties ' caucuses now is disproportionately -- both chambers' caucuses, disproportionately conservative, disproportionately Southern . Almost half of the Republicans in both the House and the Senate are from the South , and so what's left are the most conservative voices .

MR. BROWNSTEIN: You see it on the national level, Newt Gingrich , Dick Cheney , Rush Limbaugh . And you see Obama being very aggressive about trying to peel into the center, center part of the Republican Party ; Jon Huntsman nomination to China ...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: ... Arlen Specter wooed. It is a challenge for Republicans . They have to find a way to broaden their message at a time when the voices who would be most attuned to how to do that are no longer in the room because they're no longer in Congress .

MR. GREGORY: And it's interesting, Peggy Noonan , he talked about the former vice president, Dick Cheney , and his outspokenness. No more undisclosed locations, he is now out on a, something of a media tour to defend Bush administration policies. But he disagrees, Chairman Steele disagrees, it seems, with the idea that we should narrowly focus on Rush Limbaugh as the voice of the party ; he wants Rush Limbaugh and Colin Powell . That's the way forward , he seemed to be saying.

MS. PEGGY NOONAN: Sure. A big tent has big tent poles, and they ought to stand for something and enough people ought to be able to gather around a few of them that they can keep the tent up, if you will. Look, I think what's happening with the Republicans is that great parties evolve. The Republican Party took it right on the chin in '06 and '08. It's still rocking from the hits it took. It's going to take time for it evolve and to develop the kind of talent and representation that you're talking about that isn't seen so much now, to get some congressmen and senators in the Northeast , for instance.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. NOONAN: I think the way for it to go is to try to be serious with regard to Mr. Obama 's proposals, react seriously, react by speaking the English language -- which is something the administration has, has not been doing so good -- and by tying all of its views to philosophy in a way that is understandable to normal human beings .

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you, editor of Newsweek magazine , might I point out the newly redesigned Newsweek magazine . Here is the cover, for Jon Meacham , of the new magazine, and it has Obama on the cover:" Obama on Obama ." And if we can put this up, we actually have his analysis of the state of the Republican Party and what's happening, this comes from your interview with him, and he effectively said that Republicans are in a place where Democrats were as well. If we can put that up on the screen and have a look at it. The analysis essentially boiled down to this, that you're putting Republicans -- Republicans are putting those Republicans in an

awkward position who want to work with the Democrats by putting this kind of ideological purity test before them.

MR. JON MEACHAM: That was the most interesting phrase. He immediately -- I asked him, I said it appears as though Vice President Cheney is twittering your administration at this point, and he said that he felt the Republicans were where the Democrats were after Reagan 's election. The implicit comparison is that he is as transformative a figure, perhaps, as President Reagan . That took 12 years for the Democrats to find their, their footing. They -- I think Ron 's exactly right, they are clearly going closer to an ideologically purer base.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. MEACHAM: A, a congressman who's running for the Senate told me recently that the House Republican Conference had never been so conservative, and that to run statewide you could not be captive to the House Republican Conference . But the president clearly understands the nature of the opposition, and I think in some ways has been fortunate in his critics.

MR. GREGORY: Hm.

MR. MEACHAM: Having Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney after you is not a bad place to be.

MR. GREGORY: Speaking of, of Dick Cheney , Richard Haass , national security tests for not just the Republican Party but for the Democratic Party as well, a big part of the political way forward .

MR. RICHARD HAASS: Oh, absolutely. And you're, you're seeing it. You're seeing it from the war of choice that this president has embarked on in Afghanistan ...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. HAASS: ...whether Democrats are prepared to support that, and already you're seeing some divisions.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. HAASS: People talking...

MR. GREGORY: Fifty-one Democrats in the House voted not to provide funding for the supplemental, the war supplemental.

MR. HAASS: That and people talking about one-year time limits...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. HAASS: ...which we know is absurd on the face of it, because there's no way Afghanistan 's going to be turned around. We're also seeing it with all the push back on the president's decision , say, to release the -- not to release the photographs on torture . The president's decision was absolutely correct. Far better to alienate the ACLU in Washington than to alienate people in

Pakistan and Afghanistan . When people in Washington get alienated they write op-eds; when people in Pakistan get alienated, they, they, they plant IEDs and kill American soldiers.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. HAASS: It's the right decision . But what it still shows is the fault lines in the parties about national security .

MR. GREGORY: I want to ask about national security and turn to the issue of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and this " torture debate ." Different people have different views about these interrogation techniques. Here she was in the course of this back and forth with the CIA this week on whether she was briefed by the CIA about exactly what techniques were being used, specifically waterboarding . Here's a portion of her press conference.

REP. PELOSI: So the -- my statement is clear, and let me read it again. Let me read it again. I'm sorry, I have to find the page. I was informed that the Department of Justice opinions had concluded that the use of enhanced interrogations was legal. The only mention of waterboarding was that the briefing that it -- in the briefing was that it was not being employed. When the -- when my, when my staff person -- I'm sorry, I had the pages out of order. Five months later my staff person told me that there had been a briefing -- informed me that there had been a briefing and that a letter had been sent. I was not briefed on what was in that briefing, I was just informed that the briefing had taken place.

MR. GREGORY: The head of the CIA , director of CIA , Leon Panetta , issued a statement in the form of a letter to his employees that said this in response:"Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress . That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, how contemporaneous records" -- excuse me -- "our contemporaneous records from September '02 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Zubaydah , describing `the enhanced techniques that had been employed.' Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all of the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened."

Ron Brownstein , wow.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Wow, correct.

MR. GREGORY: Where does this go week and beyond?

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Well Leon , Leon -- first of all, Leon Panetta has given Nancy Pelosi a way out of this that she chose not to take, and instead she chose to escalate the conflict enormously. What Panetta is saying is, "Our contemporaneous records say that you were told this was happening, but it's ultimately up to you to decide whether our contemporaneous records were right." Earlier Pelosi seemed to be suggesting that she was not told it was occurring. In this new

press conference she went a long step further and said she was explicitly told it was not occurring, which is a very different thing.

I think, look, in Washington arguments about the past are almost always also about influencing the future. And what you have here is, I think, Pelosi to some extent is reflecting the internal politics in the Democratic coalition that you referred to, 51 Democrats voting against the supplemental, tremendous pressure on the left for a truth commission which would, I think, be in many of their eyes a step toward prosecuting Bush administration officials potentially, but also pressure on Obama to more ambiguously break from the Bush policies. I think you have to see this in the broader context of a desire on many in the Democratic Party for a more confrontational posture on what Bush did and a more aggressive attempt by Obama to separate from it. But she is, she has enormously escalated this fight, I think, by changing her accusation in a way that is extraordinarily inflammatory.

MS. NOONAN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: And yet this is, is an accusation and a debate that the White House decided, as Robert Gibbs said, not to RSVP to. They don't want this to go forward .

MS. NOONAN: Yeah.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Right.

MS. NOONAN: Yeah. Dazed and confused is a bad way for a speaker of the House to look. You know, I think that, that was a very difficult news conference for her. I don't see this -- I can't imagine quite how this story resolves itself. You have the speaker of the House and the CIA in a major disagreement here...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MS. NOONAN: ...and now people are going to come out of the wood and start for -- on, on their behalf and attacking each other. I just think Pelosi made a big mistake .

MR. GREGORY: But what's significant about this is that you have to go back to the politics of 2002 , and the reality is in Congress they were not prepared, the Democrats were not prepared to take on this president politically. And that's the issue, which is when it was really tough politically, did Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats say, "Hold on, not so fast. This is the wrong direction, this is not the step we should take." Or did they not want to stay in the way of anything that could prevent another terror attack?

MR. HAASS: The short answer is after 9/11 there were not a lot of profiles in courage. It's fascinating. Take the two Iraq wars, something I've thought a lot about recently. It's interesting how much more support there was for the second Iraq war started by George W. Bush , even though the case was far, far weaker. But after Iraq invaded Kuwait more than a decade ago it barely passed because Democratic support was so weak. This is about politics.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. HAASS: After 9/11 the Democrats were scared of looking unpatriotic, they were scared of looking weak, and that's what we're now have is a whole record of votes and a whole record of, of tolerance policies that, because Iraq soured, now Democrats are uncomfortable with it.

MR. GREGORY: All right, we're going to take a quick break here, come back talk more -- a little bit more about foreign policy , and also about the leadership of President Obama . We'll continue our roundtable discussion after this brief station break.

MR. GREGORY: And we're back with our roundtable. We were talking about foreign policy and some of the challenges for this president.

And, Jon Meacham , you, you interview the president in the, the new issue of Newsweek , the new design, newly redesigned Newsweek magazine . And this was the exchange about troops to Afghanistan . You ask, "Are you open to sending more troops to Afghanistan if this particular number can't make the progress you need to make?" He says, "I think it's premature to talk about additional troops . My strong view is that we are not going to succeed simply by piling on more and more troops . The Soviets tried that; it didn't work out too well for them. The British tried it; it didn't work."

And, Richard Haass , in, in your book " War of Necessity , War of Choice " that we have been talking about, and in, in other things you've written related to that, you write this:"President Obama has opted for a modest but not minimalist strategy of targeting al-Qaeda , weaken the Taliban and strengthening the central government . History suggests two pieces of advice. First, if the Obama administration is fortunate enough to achieve these goals, it should resist expanding U.S. objectives. Second, if it fails to meet its objects, it should resist increasing its effort much beyond current levels. Instead, it should limit the scale of what it seeks. ... The moment calls for defining success down."

Have both of you respond to that. Jon , you first. Very interesting how the president seems to be limiting the scope of, of this option.

MR. MEACHAM: He limits the scope. He says it's the hardest thing he had to do was send the 17,000 troops . He talked about the surge decision , about the internal battle in, within the administration , the competing views . And he has sort of, in his Spocklike way, he has reached a logical conclusion for the moment that this number of troops will help bring about what he hopes will be a stabilizing build up of some civil society , fair elections, try to stabilize Pakistan and then hopefully it won't require more boots on the ground . My sense of him, and Richard probably knows this better, my sense of him is that he will respond to new realities as they come up. And so I think the fact that he doesn't want to do it does not necessarily mean he won't ultimately have to do it.

MR. GREGORY: But we've seen this, Richard . We saw from Defense Secretary Gates , limiting our goals in Afghanistan . You write about defining success down. What do you mean, and why is that important in Afghanistan ?

MR. HAASS: Well, it's very interesting that President Obama has not talked about democracy. He's -- it's very different than the Bush policy he inherited. He's increased the resources, he's increased the level of troops , but he's, he's decreased the objectives. And that, that's what's so interesting. On the other hand, he's not doing as little as he could. He, for example, could just go after al-Qaeda . But he used the phrase in a speech at the end of March, when he announced the new policy, David , that we are going to take the fight to the Taliban . What he was essentially saying is we are going to become a party , a participant in Afghanistan civil war . We are going to try to buy some time and space for this weak government to build up. The problem is it's not clear it's going to work. Afghanistan has such a weak tradition of central governments . Also, unless you do something about that sanctuary in western Pakistan , you can build up Afghanistan all you want and it won't be enough. So odds are he is going to have to make the message -- make the decision that he talked about with Jon in a year...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. HAASS: ...about whether to increase troops or whether to simply say we can't make Afghanistan viable, we're going to have to simply go after al-Qaeda .

MR. GREGORY: It's interesting, Ron , if you look at the larger issue of what we're learning about President Obama 's leadership , you get back to something that his allies around him say is really the hallmark of his leadership , that's pragmatism. And you talk about it in your column, I want to put it up on the screen, in terms of domestic policy :"On their two top domestic priorities, President Obama and leading congressional Democrats this week executed pincer movements that allied them with traditional adversaries in business and potentially isolated congressional Republican opponents. These maneuvers on health care and energy could signal a crucial shift in Washington 's tectonic plates of power . Although disagreements remain on both fronts, each move suggests that key business interests have decided to cut deals with a dominant Democratic Party rather than bet on a weakened Republican Party that is hoping to ride uncompromising opposition to Obama back to power ."

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Right. At the level of broad political economy we saw two remarkable events this week, a clear fork in the road for key elements of the business community that historically had been close to the Republicans and more a part of the Republican coalition . On Monday you saw the leaders of half a dozen major interest groups in the medical community -- the pharmaceutical industry , the insurance industry , the very people Michael Steele talked about, doctors, manufacturers of medical devices -- standing at the White House with President Obama and saying they were committing to try to save -- reduce the growth of medical spending over the next decade by $2 trillion. Are they going to hit that? Probably not. Are there enough specifics for that specific commitment? Probably not. But the broader point, the clear point here is that they are once again signaling they are moving further down the road of working with him on reform rather than moving into the absolute opposition that defined their response to Clinton . Then later in the week -- the Clinton health care plan of '94.

Then later in the week, equally remarkable, Henry Waxman and Ed Markey in the House Energy Commerce Committee produce a compromise bill on combating climate change and carbon emissions that draws support not only from elements of the environmental community, but positive comments from the leading lobbyists for the utility industry. Now, the utility industry, you know, they'll still want to argue around the edges, but essentially what Obama has been able

to do on both of these fronts, and the Democrats , similar to what we're talking about with Arlen Specter and Jon Huntsman , is they've been able to move to aspects of the Republican coalition to basically concluding that they can work with them. And at the time that the Republicans are becoming more monochromatically conservative and having these debates about who is a real Republican, Obama is moving very aggressively to expand his coalition even while advancing his base's goals, and that is how you build a lasting majority.

MR. GREGORY: Well, but, you know, Peggy , you write this week about what is one person's pragmatism is in fact overreach. You think this is the hallmark of a president doing too much .

MS. NOONAN: I, I think as regular Americans who don't obsess on politics sort of walk by the TV screen and pick things up here, pick things up there, they get a number of impressions. One is a coolness, this is Cool Hand Luke . This is a president who has seized responsibility and authority in the past four months. But there's also a lot of spending going on here. There's numbers like trillions, a $3.6 trillion projected deficit. It is head-spinning. There's a sense of flurry. You mentioned the, Ron , the recent bipartisan efforts to make progress in various areas. I understand that. But there's the sense that they're throwing all the spaghetti against the wall. They're doing a million things. In fact, there are just, I think, always a few essential things a president can do successfully if he's lucky. You got to narrow down, not do the flurry, and worry about the cost, the cost, the cost.

MR. MEACHAM: I -- we actually -- I asked about this issue this week with the president, and he said that one of the most important things he'd learned both during the campaign and in these first couple months was that the American people have a hunger for complexity and explanation. And my sense is that his approval ratings and the long-term political factors we're talking about prove him out on that. I don't think people -- I just disagree.

MS. NOONAN: It's all right.

MR. MEACHAM: I don't think people think that he's trying to do too much. I think that he has invested the country with the sense that they're grown-ups, they can deal with a lot of different things in their lives and the country can, too.

MR. HAASS: But he's not going to have the choice soon...

MS. NOONAN: People do.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. HAASS: ...because his in-box is going to get a lot more crowded...

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Well...

MR. HAASS: ...with Pakistan , with Iran , with Iraq .

MS. NOONAN: It is, with the dailiness. Abe Lincoln said -- he frankly conceded he was not in control of events, events were in control of him.

MR. GREGORY: All right, we -- but before we go I want to do one other thing, and that is, as we talked about, the battle for Newsweek . The New Observer had an interesting -- the New York Observer , rather, an interesting cover:"Who's Leading the Charge for the Battle for Newsweek ? Young Geezer Editor Jon Meacham Fights the Forces of the Media Universe ."

MR. MEACHAM: I'm going to get you.

MR. GREGORY: The young geezer.

MR. MEACHAM: Some day, some day I'm going to get you for this.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. MEACHAM: I don't know when.

MR. GREGORY: The young geezer shall, shall, shall lead us, huh?

MR. MEACHAM: Uh-huh. This -- to have a fashion sense that comes straight from Fred McMurray on " My Three Sons " I think is actually a kind of reverse hip.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah, yeah. All right, we're out of time. Thanks to all of you.

We're going to continue our discussion with Richard Haass online and ask him some questions that our viewers have submitted via e-mail and Twitter . It's in our MEET THE PRESS Take Two Web extra. Plus, read an excerpt from his book " War of Necessity , War of Choice : A Memoir of the Two Iraq Wars " and look for updates from me throughout the week. It's all on the Web site , mtp.msnbc.com. We will be right back.

MR. GREGORY: Before we go, a special thank you to the students and teachers at the Whittier Education Center here in Washington . I had the honor of visiting this week to see firsthand their commitment to excellence in public education and their use of technology to enrich the minds of these great students. It was great to be there. Keep it going.

That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS .