Meet the Press Netcast | May 30, 2010
MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, day 41 of the oil disaster in the gulf. When will the leak be plugged? And after his visit to the Gulf Coast Friday, is the president now in control or simply playing catch-up? Joining us, White House energy and environment adviser Carol Browner . Then, a nation divided over immigration and securing America 's border with Mexico . This morning, a debate about the president's decision to send 1,200 additional troops to the border and Arizona 's controversial get tough law. With us, Congressman Luis Gutierrez , Democrat of Illinois , vs. former Republican congressman from Arizona and Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth . Finally, the president's tough political week -- the oil spill , immigration and the revelation that former President Clinton was enlisted to offer Congressman Joe Sestak a government position to stay out of the Pennsylvania Senate race. Analysis this morning from David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post .
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington , MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning. The leak has not been plugged. The latest effort to stop the flow of oil from that broken well in the gulf, called "top kill," has now been declared a failure. The move had been promising a few days ago, but now yet another procedure must be attempted. The president issued a statement last night saying this news is as "enraging as it is heartbreaking." Here with us now live this morning is BP 's managing director Robert Dudley . Mr. Dudley , welcome to MEET THE PRESS.
MR. ROBERT DUDLEY: Good morning, David.
MR. GREGORY: What went wrong?
MR. DUDLEY: David, we made three attempts to wrestle this beast to the ground by pumping heavy fluids into it. We were unable to overcome the flow. The scientists and the engineers from BP and the government reviewed all the data and determined that the next best option was that we needed to move as fast as possible to a containment operation, which we were beginning already, which will contain the flow and produce it to the surface.
MR. GREGORY: I want to put up that live picture of the flow that we're talking about and ask you a couple of questions about it. I mean, this is just an amazing picture. First of all, you know, you look at this thing and you think, "Can't you just go in there and shove something on top of it and stop it?" Would you explain how difficult it is in 5,000 feet below the level -- the sea level , with that kind of pressure, to do that?
MR. DUDLEY: We have to do everything by robots, remote-operated vehicles. They virtually had to go down and construct a small city of architecture, of pipes, of manifolds and pumpings, and then connect them with these robots. We had the problem of a well flow coming up through a top, through a blowout preventer , that we had to inject fluids into a blowout preventer . Some of them went down, some of them went up. But in the end, too much of the drilling mud that we were injecting came back up out of the well. We were not able to overcome it, and so now we want to capture and contain and limit the oil on the, on the surface and in the water.
MR. GREGORY: Well, you've tried containment before unsuccessfully. What makes you think this new attempt will work?
MR. DUDLEY: Good question. Very, very early days we went down with a dome to contain it. What we found is that there's so much natural gas in the -- what comes out of this well, it immediately forms an unusual thing called hydrates, which are ice crystals, which created the dome to float. This one we will have concentric pipes down it, we will pump warmer seawater down around it to keep the temperature within the right range, a little bit of methanol, and that's the way we want to prevent the problem that we had before.
MR. GREGORY: What are the...
MR. DUDLEY: The objective is to, to contain the majority of the flow this way.
MR. GREGORY: What are the chances this works?
MR. DUDLEY: I think the engineering on this is more simple than the, than the top kill. What we need to do is go down with the robots, diamond cut saws, slice off the top of that riser with a clean surface -- the flow rate shouldn't be that much higher -- and then drop over it this containment . It'll be a four to seven-day operation. I think the probability of it working is much different than the, the top kill, which is luck.
MR. GREGORY: What -- different, does that mean better?
MR. DUDLEY: Better, absolutely better.
MR. GREGORY: And you think we'll know by about four days?
MR. DUDLEY: I think by the end of the week, as we -- as you know, the 5,000 feet of water, no humans could go down there. We're reliant on the robots. These guys that are working offshore are incredibly skilled at this. We've been asking them to do the equivalent of open heart surgery on television for everyone. They, they are very, very careful people that check pressures and temperatures and connections.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. DUDLEY: But I would say by the end of the week.
MR. GREGORY: I want to put up that live picture of the oil flow again, and I, I'd like you to just kind of level with the American people , how much oil is spilling into the gulf on a daily basis?
MR. DUDLEY: We honestly do not know. The original estimates, which were government and BP estimates together, primarily unified estimates of 5,000 barrels a day, were based on satellite pictures. We've always found this a difficult oil to measure because of the, the huge amounts of gas in the oil. The, the new estimate range of I think it's 12,000 to 19,000 barrels has been issued without an actual flow measurement . The one thing about this method that we're about to go into, it will and should measure the majority of the flow.
MR. GREGORY: If this doesn't work, do you have additional things you can try, or do you effectively have to stall and do what you can until a relief well is in place in August?
MR. DUDLEY: Well, the backstop, and always the backstop, will be the relief well in August. We -- the engineers are going to take the data, the science, they may go back in and try to kill the well. If the containment is successful and we can put in place a longer term containment program which is effectively producing the well, then that will minimize the amount of oil on the ocean. So that's the trade-offs we want to make. We don't want to do anything that creates a bigger problem than we have now. We've been very careful not to do that before. So we'll see.
MR. GREGORY: It's stunning, the fact that BP , with all your expertise, did not have a better contingency plan than you appear to have. I mean, it's been noted, the ad hoc nature of what you're doing, trying one thing, then another, and unsuccessfully so. The president is reportedly incredibly angry about that and feels, frankly, misled by the industry . Did the industry mislead government about the danger of what it was doing and what would happen if something went terribly wrong at this level?
MR. DUDLEY: Well, we're, we're angry too, and we understand the anger of the people, particularly those whose livelihoods have been affected on the Gulf Coast . This is an unprecedented accident. These, these blowout preventers which are used on oil and gas wells all around the world and have been used on more than 5,000 deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico have not failed before. There are multiple levels of failure redundancies in those blowout preventers, and we want to find out why this has happened. The whole world will change as a result of this, and the industry , so that it never happens anywhere again.
MR. GREGORY: Sir, my question is whether the industry misled government .
MR. DUDLEY: We did have a spill response.
MR. GREGORY: Straightforward question: Did the industry mislead government ?
MR. DUDLEY: I don't think so. The industry has -- all around the world these pieces of equipment are inspected regularly, and in the U.S. they're inspected every 14 days. This is a very unusual failure. We need to find out why. We need to learn from it and, and change the industry for good.
MR. GREGORY: Final question, sir. We, we were told by the company last light -- last night we'd be speaking to, to CEO Tony Hayward . Apparently that changed or, or was -- somebody was wrongly informed. My question is, when this immediate crisis is over, Mr. Hayward is, metaphorically speaking, the captain of this ship. Should he resign?
MR. DUDLEY: Well, Tony Hayward has been here since the very beginning. He's been spending time in the engineer and control centers, he's been out on the rigs, he's been visiting with the governors and meeting in the, in the communities that have been affected. Very early days he said, "We're not going to stand behind statutory limits of liability, we're going to take full responsibility for it, we're going to make good for it." We've spent nearly a billion dollars on this cleanup effort. I think he's done a, a great job of leading a company to stand up and do the right thing . We realize that there're frustrations that's out there. We're trying to make good so that people don't miss boat payments and house payments. We've set these claims up at offices up all across the country , and we've been able to bring in four rigs and teams from around the world to respond to it.
MR. GREGORY: So Tony Hayward should keep his job?
MR. DUDLEY: This is not ideal circumstance -- I think Tony 's doing a fantastic job.
MR. GREGORY: And he should stay in that job?
MR. DUDLEY: I think so.
MR. GREGORY: OK, Mr. Dudley , we're going to leave it there. Thank you very much .
MR. DUDLEY: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: We now turn to White House energy and climate change adviser Carol Browner . Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
MS. CAROL BROWNER: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Well, accountability aside, I mean, it is just sort of shocking that we're in this position where something else hasn't worked. What's the president think about all of this?
MS. BROWNER: Well, as the, as the president said, it's, it's both enraging and heartbreaking. Obviously, getting this well under control , getting it closed is the highest priority, but also being responsive to the people of these gulf communities. You know, the president was down there on, on Friday. We had a very long, a very good conversation with the governors, with the parish presidents. They noted some more things that they wanted done. We've taken that seriously; we will be responding to that in the next couple of days. You know, we want to continue to work with these governors and these parish presidents to deal with what now is going to be a much different situation. There could be oil coming up till August when the relief wells are dug. I think, David, it's important to know that there's not just one being dug, there are two, because we insisted -- the government insisted that there be a second in case something went wrong with the first one. In the meantime, our scientists have been down there, Dr. Chu has been leading a team of 150 scientists. In fact, it was Dr. Chu 's team that said to BP yesterday, "We are very, very concerned if you continue to put pressure into that well that something even worse could happen." That's when we turned to this containment exercise, which, you know, everyone's going to do everything they can to insure that it works.
MR. GREGORY: But let me just break one thing down. You just heard from Mr. Dudley from BP . He thinks there's actually a better shot at containment now than even perhaps what they had with -- what they were doing with the top kill. Is that the government 's view as well?
MS. BROWNER: Well, the top kill would have shut it down . There wouldn't have been any oil coming up. We're now going to move into a situation where they're going to attempt to control the oil that's coming out, move it to a vessel, take it onshore. Obviously that's not the preferred scenario. We always knew that the relief well was the permanent way to close this, to get it killed so there wasn't oil coming up while the relief well was being drilled was the second option. Now we move to the third option, which is to contain it. And what our scientists are saying -- I think you asked him some very good questions, which is why would this containment work vs. the other containment ? It's going to be a cap, there'll be a snugger fit. They've learned a lot from the first big cofferdam effort, but we're going to remain vigilant. Our scientists are going to be on the scene asking probing questions, giving strong advice if we think something isn't going right.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But the bottom line is, you're not -- I should say, the bottom line is, the chances are very high that nothing is going to work until a relief well is in place . All these attempts are still basically low-percentage plays. We're looking at an oil flow that goes on until August.
MS. BROWNER: We are prepared for the worst. We have been prepared from the beginning. We will continue to assume that we move into the worst case scenario , which is, as you point out, is there is some oil leaking onto -- up to the surface and then onto the beaches and shorelines. We will continue to prepare for that.
MR. GREGORY: How much oil is coming out every day?
MS. BROWNER: It's important, I think, for people to understand that that is a hard question to answer. So what we did is we put together an independent government review panel to look at this. And here's why it's important to know that it's independent. BP has a financial interest in these numbers. They will pay penalties at the end of the day , a per barrel , per day penalty. So what we wanted was a group that didn't include BP . They looked at three issues to determine the flow rate . They looked at what was happening on the surface using satellite imagery. They looked at what had come up through the riser insertion, which has now been removed; and they also looked at the burn rate , and they looked at the plume. And so based on those three groups -- there were differences among the groups. That's how scientists are, they have differences. When they came back together, they put forth the number of between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels. They're going to continue to look at this. But if we are able to start capturing all of the oil, we will then have a better tool to determine precisely how much.
MR. GREGORY: I, I want to talk a little bit about accountability. But before I do that, you're the president's top environmental adviser, what is the scale of this environmental disaster ?
MS. BROWNER: This is probably the biggest environmental disaster we've ever faced in this country . It's certainly the biggest oil spill , and we're responding with the biggest environmental response.
MR. GREGORY: And what does that mean? Because that's -- I mean, that's tough to hear, "the biggest environmental disaster " the country 's ever faced.
MS. BROWNER: Well, it's very tough to hear. I'm a lifelong environmentalist, I'm from Florida . It's a very, very tough thing to hear.
MR. GREGORY: But break that down. What does that mean?
MS. BROWNER: It means more oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico than at any other time in our history. It means there is more, more, more oil than the Exxon Valdez .
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. And the ecological impact?
MS. BROWNER: Well, the good news is, if there's any good news here, is that we have a lot of systems in place to manage and decrease the amount of oil that comes onshore. So, for example, more than 80 burns have been conducted. These burns are highly successful, they corral the oil, they burn it. Now, we can't do it all the time; weather conditions don't always allow for it. Secondly, there is booming that is in place . You -- the president visited some of that booming. They're able to capture the, the little pellets, the, the little slicks of oil that come onshore. And then finally there is the skimming. There are over 1,400 vessels in this part of the Gulf of Mexico . We are using skimmers that skim up the oil sheen. They bring up water, too. I think it's over 11 billion barrels of oil and water that have now been skimmed up. All of that is going to continue.
MR. GREGORY: The president says the buck stops with him. He was down in the Gulf Coast on Friday saying that. What specifically, though -- I mean, the government is now trying to make a big show , frankly, of the fact that it's in control and it's ordering BP to do things. Give me an example of something that it ordered BP to do that it didn't want to do.
MS. BROWNER: Well, the government 's been in control from the beginning. The example -- one example would be they said -- BP said, "We're going to drill one relief well." These are expensive wells for them to drill. We said, "That's not good enough. You're going to drill a second one." Yesterday, Steven Chu and his team said, "You cannot continue to put downward pressure on that well. It will not work." You know, BP has technology, the industry has technology, they know how to work the robots. We need them for that. But don't make any mistake here, the government is in charge.
MR. GREGORY: Did the government order BP to stop the top kill?
MS. BROWNER: The scientists met yesterday, and our concerns were shared, and at that point it was stopped.
MR. GREGORY: Well, what does that mean? BP is still the one who is the, is the first line who knows what to do to stop this, even more -- Steven Chu won the Nobel Prize and he's obviously involved. But isn't BP still running the operation? They're the ones who have the best technology and the best know-how to stop this.
MS. BROWNER: They -- you're right. They manage the robots, they put in place all of the equipment that has to be staged on the ocean floor. But at the end of the day , the government tells BP what to do. And at the end of the day , we will hold BP accountable for all of the costs associated with this.
MR. GREGORY: Will you get that cap lifted, that $75 million cap, for damages?
MS. BROWNER: We certainly hope so. We've asked Congress to lift it. But that, that, that, that's changing a law. Let's focus on, I think, what's happening here and now. BP has said repeatedly they mean to pay for all of the costs. We take all as all, and we will make sure that they pay for all of the costs.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about government 's role there. This week, part of our MEET THE PRESS ACROSS AMERICA forum we went to Minnesota and interviews Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty , a likely presidential candidate in 2012 , and he laid out some of the criticism that you've heard against the administration . Let's play that.
Governor TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): What we do know is this: This crisis was the result of negligence or a malfunction. This rig was approved on this administration 's watch. There's going to have to be a review of what was reviewed, why it was reviewed. There was decision- making on the ground on the platform on the day of the crisis that may have contributed to the, to the problem . And as to the cleanup operations, there's lots of concern. You know, why aren't more skimmers out there? Why aren't they working longer hours? Why did they rely just on BP early on to tell us what the volume of the, of the leak was? Why didn't we independently verify that using government sources? Why weren't booms replaced more frequently once they became saturated and releaked oil? So there's going to be a lot of those questions that may very well point back to this administration or the president. He wants to say he's in charge. That's great. I'm glad he's assuming responsibility and accountability. I wish he would have done it probably earlier.
MR. GREGORY: The real question is, is the president now in control or is he playing catch- up?
MS. BROWNER: The president's been in control from the beginning. The rig fell on April 22nd . A number of us joined the president in the Oval Office that evening to fully brief him. And since that time, he has been up to date, current. He knows what's going on, he's in charge. We obviously have Admiral Allen , the incident commander , the National Incident Commander , who is watching this on an hour-by-hour basis. I'm the point person in the White House . But we also have our Cabinet fully deployed. Everybody from Homeland Security to DOD , to the EPA , to Interior , to NOAA . This is a -- as I said, this is a very, very large disaster, and we are deploying all of our resources.
MR. GREGORY: But let, let me ask you, you know, one of the things the president said is, look, problem with regulation, you know, government was too cozy with the industry in terms of government regulators. They had not contingency plan . I mean, you heard me ask Mr. Dudley , "How, how could you be drilling in 5,000 feet and not have a real contingency plan if something goes wrong?" Now the government regulators, MMS , they were apparently working on this for 15 months. And my question is, why wasn't the administration 's priority working on the lack of regulatory control , working on this lack of a contingency plan instead of focusing on upping domestic production and doing more drilling , which is what the president, with, with your advice, has suggested be done?
MS. BROWNER: Well, first of all, let's take MMS . From the beginning Ken Salazar was focused on the ethics issues. You're right, it was way too cozy a relationship. There was a legacy of serious, serious problems. He came in, they put in place brand new ethics requirements. It's also important to know MMS doesn't exist anymore, and the reason it doesn't exist anymore is because there were inherent conflicts. You had one entity issuing permits, collecting the royalties, collecting the revenues, and enforcing the law. That has now been broken into three component parts, a very significant change. You know, I, I, I found the governor's comments interesting about what went wrong and how did it go wrong. There will be a full investigation. We will all understand , the American people will understand exactly what happened here. We've also appointed a commission so that we can make decisions about...
MR. GREGORY: But, Ms. Browner , you're looking forward . I'm asking you a simple question of not just the cozy relationship. The president again and again has cited a lack of contingency planning . What if something went terribly wrong? It was reported this week in The Washington Post that he's been telling aides privately, "I guess we were misled by the industry ." You heard me ask Mr. Dudley that. But MMS , this administration did not sufficiently work on the lack of contingency planning before moving ahead with more drilling . Wasn't that a mistake that can be understood now, not down the road?
MS. BROWNER: David, I, I, I think that we have to understand all of these things going forward. But I do think it's important to understand that these wells have been drilled for several decades now. There have not been these kinds of accidents. But going forward, we have to change what we're doing because it was an accident, and we have to learn from this accident. And, you know, in the interim, we have shut down all deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico until we have an answer to, one, how can you make sure that these operations are safe, that there are redundancies in place ? And, to your point, secondly, what happens when those redundancies don't work? We have to understand both of those before we go forward, and we will understand both of those before we go forward.
MR. GREGORY: Is part of the problem here -- you go back to the Clinton administration where there was thought to be more emphasis on environmental protection then there was on exploration of sources of energy . In the Bush administration , the criticism was far too much concentration on energy production , not enough on the environment . And here you are now working for President Obama , saying, "Yes, we ought to do additional drilling ." Is the problem that we're drilling in water that's just too deep? Should you even rethink your own approach to the environment to say, "Maybe in the Arctic Wildlife Reserve , we ought to be drilling there. We ought to be going into shallower waters so that this can be done more safely"?
MS. BROWNER: There's a lot of -- I think on the shallow waters, the distinction is you can get to the wellhead if something goes wrong in shallow water , and you can -- there's mechanisms to shut that down. You are asking all the right questions on deep water . We have to answer those questions before we proceed. That is why all of those operations have been shut down. In the Arctic , they've been shut down; in the Gulf of Mexico , they've been shut down, including 33 rigs that were out there drilling right now, which, you know, we understand it's going to be hard on those people.
MR. GREGORY: But as an environmentalist, I'm asking you, have you rethought your position on this?
MS. BROWNER: I want to see what the investigations tell us, I want to see what our commission has to say. You know, at the end of the day , we will make the right decision in terms of insuring that our environment is protected, insuring that we have all of the information to make those decisions.
MR. GREGORY: All right, Ms. Browner , we will leave it there. Thank you very much . Coming up next, a nation divided, the debate over immigration reform and the president's decision to send more troops to the border . Congressman Luis Gutierrez , Democrat of Illinois , and former Republican congressman from Arizona , J.D. Hayworth , square off. Plus, political analysis from David Brooks and E.J. Dionne , only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. GREGORY: Up next, the controversial fight over immigration reform and the president's decision to send more troops to the border , after this brief commercial break .
MR. GREGORY: And we are back, talking about a nation divided over immigration , joined now by the chair of the immigration task force for the Democratic Caucus , Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez , and Republican senatorial candidate for the state of Arizona , former congressman from Arizona , J.D. Hayworth . Welcome, both of you. You've been debating this for years, even on this program, and yet we still don't have comprehensive reform . We do this week, however, Congressman, have news from the administration . They are going to send down 1,200 additional National Guard troops to the Southwest border . You have called this sound bite -driven politics. Does it make any difference to send all those troops down there?
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D-IL): I think, in the absence of a holistic approach to comprehensive immigration reform , it really isn't going to solve the problem . I think you've probably been to a graduation or two. So have I. We know that thousands of those students that come here on student visas aren't going home . It's summer. We see all the tourists here in Washington , D.C. We know that thousands of those tourists aren't going home . We know that there are workers that come here on temporary work permits; we know they're not all going home . Forty percent of all the undocumented workers , our undocumented population, came here legally to this country and have overstayed their visas. So even if you shut down the border , it isn't going to answer the total question. So what I'm proposing is that we look at it from a holistic perspective.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Well...
REP. GUTIERREZ: I understand the frustration at the border , I understand that the border is a necessary component; but in and of itself, doesn't solve the problem .
MR. GREGORY: You're in a tough primary fight with John McCain , Senator McCain , who wants 6,000 additional troops down at the border . I mean, if you look at this dispatch from The Washington Post today, the first paragraph talks about 687 illegal immigrants in a 24-hour period last week. Is 1,200 enough? Is it neither now there in terms of a response?
FMR. REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R-AZ): David, let me begin on the point of unanimity...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
REP. HAYWORTH: ...because this is a contentious question. I know we all want to pause and give thanks for those who gave the last full measure of devotion this Memorial Day weekend . And because this is a question of national security , I think this notion of 1,200 Guardsmen is woefully inadequate. When you go back and check the press accounts, we hear that actually the president of Mexico and the government of Mexico , not content on lecturing the state of Arizona and the majority of American citizens from a joint session of Congress , now instructed the State Department , "Hey, if you're sending people there, don't have them enforce immigration laws ." So what we are seeing right now is a situation where you will have troops essentially working to maintain border patrol vehicles, change oil, change tires, or work in the office dealing with computers. This is cosmetic. It is ineffective because 1,200 Guardsmen across four states , do the math.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. HAYWORTH: That's 300 Guardsmen per state .
MR. GREGORY: But from your point of view, then, is it simply a question of how many troops ? Would more be better?
REP. HAYWORTH: Well, it -- absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
REP. HAYWORTH: And like the book I wrote years ago, " Whatever It Takes ," the numbers necessary. Look, we are dealing with a national security crisis here, not just Mexicans coming across the border ...
MR. GREGORY: All right.
REP. HAYWORTH: ...but we're dealing with others.
MR. GREGORY: Well, but let's look at it in a bigger context.
REP. HAYWORTH: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: This was the scene in Phoenix , where you live, a massive protest. They were expecting on order of 20,000 protesters yesterday protesting the Arizona law, protesting in favor of a more comprehensive approach. And that's my question for both of you. And Congressman Hayworth , I'll start with you. How do you talk about securing the border only and not deal with this in a comprehensive way, dealing with the fact that you've got two
things: some 12 million illegal immigrants in the country ; and a culture in America where we're at once saying, "Stop at the border , but please keep coming because we need the labor."
REP. HAYWORTH: No, I, I would challenge a couple of points of the premise of your question. But first of all, Americans understand that comprehensive immigration reform is a poll-tested phrase that essentially means "amnesty." People want to see the laws enforced. To paraphrase Mr. Justice Brandeis , when the government itself supports lawlessness, you end up with anarchy. And the fact is, we need not only to enforce the border , we need interior enforcement. And let's take it away from the border for a second, David, to, to the major cities in the Northeast . For example, in New York City , a policy was adopted called the "broken windows" theory of policing, where you enforce the law for infractions no matter how seemingly minor and, as a result, overall crime drops. Now, the sad fact is Luis -- and I 've got it documented in the book -- said he didn't like the term "amnesty" because it applied forgiveness. We've appeared in different forums, and to this day, Luis has never answered the question, do you believe crossing the border , Luis , is not an illegal act when it's on the books that, in fact, it is illegal?
MR. GREGORY: Well, the, the, the -- but the question -- I don't think there's a question that it's illegal. It's, it's also a matter of practicality and political will. Are you going to start deporting 12 million people back? There's never been the political will to do that. But answer the question, Congressman. Whatever this congressman says about whether that's just a poll-tested phrase, there is such a thing as comprehensive immigration reform that deals with a legal path to citizenship for those who are already here...
REP. GUTIERREZ: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: ...reflecting the fact that you can't just deport 12 million people back to Mexico .
REP. GUTIERREZ: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: How do you secure one without pursuing the other?
REP. GUTIERREZ: First of all, what you need is a comprehensive approach to it. Because here's what I say, we have a magnet, their jobs. So, listen, I got a driver's license, it has my photo on it. I have a passport, and when I go in and out of the country , the government swipes that passport and it says, "OK, Luis , you're ready to come in. You're authorized." Why can't we have a Social Security card with a picture on it, so when you go get a job you swipe it? And if employers don't use that card issued by the government to authorize you before you go to work, we send those employers to jail. So we can be tough and stop the magnet of the jobs. But at the same time, let's be realistic. My friend J.D. simply wants them to disappear, as though this is the latest installment of a " Harry Potter " series. They're not going to disappear. They have deep roots in their communities, they're here. So what I want to do is be fair and practical at the same time and resolve the issue of the undocumented status of workers here in this country .
MR. GREGORY: Let, let's show -- yeah.
REP. GUTIERREZ: So what -- if I could...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
REP. GUTIERREZ: What I'd like to do, because -- is, is simply do this. That little girl , that little second grade girl who asked the first lady, "What about my mommy and her papers?" I want to say to that mother, "Come and register with the government . Give us -- go through a background check. Pay a fine. Go to the back of the line. Learn English. Make sure you learn all about our country . Be the best American worker you can be so that you can raise the best American citizen child." And when that young little second grader is an adult, she can say, "My country stood by my mother, by me, and cherished our family and our family values."
MR. GREGORY: And here's -- the Arizona law reflected a lot of frustration in Arizona , in the government , that federal laws were not being enforced to stop the flow across the border , which I alluded to just a moment ago. And here's a political reality. We put our recent poll up on the screen. Sixty-one percent of those polled support that law. Do you understand the frustration in Arizona ?
REP. GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. And their frustration is that the federal government has not assumed its rightful and obligatory responsibility to have our immigration laws enforced in this country . But if you ask those same people, "Well, do you agree with Luis that we should go after employers and make sure that they go to jail if they hire undocumented workers ?" they say yes. "Do you agree with Luis that we should charge those people a fine and make them right with the law and make sure that they learn English and that we bring them" -- if you ask those same people, "Are you frustrated with the immigration laws ? Do you really think this is going to reduce crime ?" They tell you, "No, we really don't think it's going to reduce crime ."
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. GUTIERREZ: What we really do -- what we really want to do is send the message to the federal government . They've sent the message. I understand their frustration . Their frustration is real. But what I don't want to allow is to continue to exploit that frustration , right, with simple sound bites and not give a solution. I have a solution that will solve...
MR. GREGORY: OK.
REP. GUTIERREZ: ...the undocumented status of people here in this country ...
MR. GREGORY: Let, let me -- Congressman...
REP. GUTIERREZ: ...and illegal immigration .
MR. GREGORY: And the big issue -- we both got our copy of the bill, and make no mistake, I have read it, OK? And we can go through that.
REP. GUTIERREZ: Yes.
REP. HAYWORTH: You've got the House version, I've got the Senate version here.
MR. GREGORY: And we can go through that. OK. Well, I've got both, actually, right in front of me.
REP. HAYWORTH: Good. OK.
MR. GREGORY: And I know about the amendments from one to the other. The big issue here, let's get right into the center of it, is this an invitation for racial profiling ? And we can both turn, because I'm sure you'll quote it if I don't, to the relevant section which is that basically, I'm paraphrasing here, a police officer may not consider race, color, or national origin in the enforcement of this section except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution . It's right there in the law. It says no profiling. But let me ask you a practical question, if you're driving down the street in Phoenix and you're going too fast and a cop pulls you over, and if you're doing the same and a cop pulls you over, what else are they going to look at besides the fact that he's Hispanic to ask him whether he has his papers and he's here legally?
REP. HAYWORTH: Now, David, you set up a situation. Let's talk about the commonality of the experience. First of all, Luis and I are remarkably safe drivers. But we're dealing with a hypothetical here. If we were pulled over for speeding, the first request from a law enforcement professional would be to see our license, registration, and proof of insurance. Now, in some overheated political rhetoric , some people are saying, "Oh, they're asking for your papers." The fact is, and I'll quote right back to you, what it says at the conclusion of the Senate bill , "This act shall be implemented in a manner consistent with federal laws regulating immigration , protecting the civil rights of all persons, and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens ." What has happened here is there's been a concerted effort to shift this from a question of enforcement, which is a sound public policy priority we should have. It has now been changed, they're trying to shift this to a question of ethnicity and ethnic profiling , thinking there is some political benefit to be gained. That is not the case, and I believe law enforcement professionals will do well.
MR. GREGORY: So no, no, Congressman, no risk of profiling, as you heard the congressman talk about?
REP. GUTIERREZ: Well, here's what's going to happen. The fact is that Latinos have lived in the state of Arizona before it was the state of Arizona . There are families that go back generation after generation. And yes, it is Memorial Day tomorrow, and here's what's going to happen. There's going to be a group of guys that are going to play the soccer game. They're going to be coming home . Someone calls on the phone and says, "There's a disturbance," and they're going to ask somebody, "Do you have your documents?" "Well, hey, I was out playing soccer, so I didn't bring my papers with me. But by the way, I served in Afghanistan , I served in Iraq , and because of that they expedited my citizenship papers. Can you come by my house so I can show? Will that do?" That's what 's going to happen. You're going to ask men and women who have served this nation for their papers merely because of the color of their skin. They've paid the highest price, they've paid the highest tax, they've shown their devotion, their love for this country , and this country should do nothing to set them apart and to distinguish them as a criminal element. And that's the practicality of what's going to happen. Look, the fact is that the Latino community feels besieged upon. It feels as though the finger- pointing is against them, that somehow they're a criminal element. But that's not new. Look, there have been distinctions -- the Germans in Pennsylvania , the Irish in Massachusetts , the Italians in New York . There's always been. Let's stop that finger-pointing. Let's get real solutions to our, to, to our immigration problem , to our immigration crisis that we have in this country . So what I want to say is, look, we've all walked into the store. You want to talk about racial -- OK, we've all walked in, we've seen the person washing dishes. We've seen the person in the stroller strolling the kids as we go off to work. We've seen who picks our, our fruit and who does our agricultural work . Instead of simply looking at them, why don't we say, "I'm not going to look at you. I want to make you a taxpayer. I want to make you right with the law. I want to teach you English."
MR. GREGORY: All right. But...
REP. GUTIERREZ: "I want to make you the best American I can."
MR. GREGORY: ...let's stay on this. So, Congressman Hayworth , are you not concerned that just as this country has done, unfortunately, in the name of a national crisis in the past, during World War II , that there will not be excesses? That there will not be a denial of simple civil rights ? The law can say everything it wants. You know that what happens in practice is what actually matters here, and this is a pretty hotly contested issue. And, and people are getting hot under the collar all over the state of Arizona and the country .
REP. HAYWORTH: I think it's important to deal with reality rather than fancy -- fanciful tales of what if. I respect the notion that freedom isn't free. Luis and I understand this Memorial Day weekend , so many fought and died for that. But, also, we don't breed a culture of convenience. We breed a culture of law and order . And I dare say that people are pleased to show, when, when called upon as, as law-abiding American citizens , that they're here legally. But understand , law enforcement professionals are undergoing training to make sure the law is applied in a just manner. The fact is where we've gotten into trouble, David, is a failure of our government to enforce existing law.
MR. GREGORY: All right.
REP. HAYWORTH: All Arizona is saying is let's enforce the laws on the books, and that's what we're working to do.
MR. GREGORY: A final question to each of you on the politics of this. Congressman, you're in a, as I mentioned, in a primary battle with Senator McCain . You have acknowledged in that book that you've held up a couple of times that going back to 2001 you actually believed in a guest worker program . You believed in a path towards citizenship, which you now call amnesty. Senator McCain was a champion of comprehensive reform with Senator Kennedy back during the Bush administration . But he's also been a pretty consistent supporter of additional resources on the border . How does your position really differ from his?
REP. HAYWORTH: Well, it differs profoundly, because what happened 9/11 helped the scales fall from my eyes. I understand that national security is border security , and I understand that we must enforce the laws. You're right, what Mr. McCain offers is first, for political consumption, a get tough policy on the border , but then, again, he wants to bring back amnesty. And would remind the viewers that in the 2007 bill with the late Senator Kennedy , the Heritage Foundation estimated that long-term retirement benefits alone for illegals granted citizenship would be $2.6 trillion. So much for fiscal responsibility from my opponent.
MR. GREGORY: But just, just to be fair, you are on -- at odds with Senator McCain on this, with former President Bush ...
REP. HAYWORTH: Oh, yes.
MR. GREGORY: ...and a lot of other Republicans who don't agree with your characterization that it's amnesty. Just to be clear.
REP. HAYWORTH: No. But the bottom line is this, this is not a partisan question, this is not a question of right vs. left, it's right vs. wrong. And apart from party distinction, Americans want to see laws enforced, and they don't want to see amnesty.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Final point for you, Congressman Gutierrez . You were arrested in front of the White House recently, you've been critical of the White House in their handling of this. Does President Obama -- this is the picture on May 1st of you being arrested in front of the White House -- do you believe President Obama has the political will to make immigration reform , in a comprehensive way, a priority? I mean a real priority.
REP. GUTIERREZ: I think he's going to need to do that. And I think...
MR. GREGORY: And he's not there yet, in your mind?
REP. GUTIERREZ: I, I don't think he's there yet. And I think the president has to understand that simple political sound bites is not what the American people want. They want practical solutions. He knows what the solution is to this issue. He has to demonstrate the political will and the political courage to take it on. Let me just suggest once again, look, it is a bipartisan issue. I worked with Senator McCain and Senator Kennedy . I introduced the bill in the House with Congressman Flake and Congressman Kolbe , a comprehensive bill. So it does exist. What doesn't exist is the political will to -- and the American people , you know what they say to me? They say, "Put aside the exploitation of our anger and our frustration . Give us sensible, practical solutions." I have one. I'm going to send employers to jail. I'm going to give everybody an ID so that they're right with the law. I'm going to make sure they pay taxes and get right with the law. Does the president have the will? He hasn't demonstrated it this week because what he does is respond easily by sending 1,200 troops . It's a good beginning but we see the rejection. Because there are those who only want to look at this from the state of Arizona 's perspective. It's a national problem .
MR. GREGORY: All right.
REP. HAYWORTH: That's it precisely. That's precisely...
REP. GUTIERREZ: And only the federal government can resolve it.
MR. GREGORY: OK. I'm going, I'm going to make that the last word. To be continued.
REP. GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
REP. HAYWORTH: Oh...
MR. GREGORY: To be continued -- I know. Thank you both very much for being here.
REP. GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Up next, another tough political week for the president. That oil spill , immigration , and a controversial offer via a former president to Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak . Analysis ahead with David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post after this brief station break .
MR. GREGORY: We're back, joined now by New York Times columnist David Brooks and columnist for The Washington Post , E.J. Dionne . Welcome. Brooks and Dionne , almost like the country music act, but not quite. Anyway, so much to get to here with this oil spill . You know, the president, in his press conference, I thought, summed it up with one line about what it is he's facing, that this crisis and accountability reaches to the edge of his bathroom when he's shaving. This is what he said.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: ...when I woke up this morning , and I'm shaving, and Malia knocks on my bathroom door, and she peeks in her head and she says, "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy ?"
MR. GREGORY: I mean, it really comes back to that, E.J. I've been asked this week, "Well, what does the president do to do a better job, you know, connecting on all this?" You, you plug the leak, is what you do. And we've heard this morning that it hasn't happened. Carol Browner saying worst environmental disaster in the country 's history.
MR. E.J. DIONNE: Well, you know, I think the frustrating thing is that we think government has all kinds of power, and then we discover that when something like happens, when even people who are anti- government want the government to have power to do something, turns out most of the capacity to stop this is in the hands of BP . And I think the president had this ambiguity at that -- this news conference where he kept saying, "We're in charge," but we all know that the equipment and basically most of the judgments are being made by a private company . So this puts him in a terrible position. And I think a question you kept asking in the earlier part of the show is the one that haunts me, which is, why isn't it that we -- meaning BP in this case -- weren't prepared for the worst possible case. And, you know, I think we're going to sort of look at our whole environmental argument a little differently. Environmentalists, people always say, "Oh, those environmentalists. They only look at the worst case scenario ." Well, suddenly, we are confronted with it, and I think we're going to have to rethink on some of these very complicated things we're doing -- deepwater drilling being one of them. Do we have to think a whole lot more about the worst case than we used to?
MR. GREGORY: Well, look what we started doing in government post 9/11. The continuity of government planning that went on that only was the very worst possible scenario envisioned. And that's why, you know, members of the administration go to secret locations to practice these. David Brooks , how is the administration doing?
MR. DAVID BROOKS: Well, it depends what you expect. You know, if you think government is the center of national life , government can do everything, then you're disappointed. But for those of us who don't expect that of government , who know there are limits to government power, then we're -- you know, we -- people say, "Oh, he should do something. He should do something." James Carville says that. But what exactly should he do? He doesn't have a degree in underwater engineering. I don't expect government to do everything, and I don't expect they will be able to do everything. And so we're going to have to live with this, live with the awareness that there are limits to what government can do. I do think this is a big moment, though, the failure of the top kill. I do think it's a big moment because we could be facing really weeks or months of that image. And that image of the oil spewing out will become the central image of the year. And for President Obama , who's had a really heroic presidency for the first year, now he's entering a period of a limited presidency -- limits to his power, limits to money. It's a different type of presidency , and that image will be the core image of the year.
MR. GREGORY: E.J., I mean, I think we might even be able to bring up that image, the notion that you can go to a live image of an oil leak that is out of control . You talk about the split screen version of a presidency , you know, I mean, there it is now. I mean, this question that keeps coming up, is -- the shorthand in Washington , is this Obama 's Katrina ?
MR. DIONNE: Yeah, and I think the answer is it's not Obama 's Katrina , but it's a huge problem for the president. You know, David has said that the government can't do everything, and I think almost everybody agrees with that. I think socialists agree with that. I think that's not the issue. The issue is what could government have done earlier on. We learn now from The New York Times this morning that BP , 11 months ago, had the sense they had a problem here. What was done about it? Was there a role for the regulator to look into this -- to have a greater opportunity to look into this? We learn that the Minerals Management Service , in some cases, the companies would fill out these forms in pencil and then, you know, it would be ratified. So, yeah, we can't have government doing everything. But we're looking for more competent government , which is what President Obama promised. That's why this is such a big test for him. And it's the worst test he could possibly face because government 's capacity in this is limited.
MR. GREGORY: Let me, let me move on to another area of limitation for the administration , and that's politically. Joe Sestak , who wants to be the senator from Pennsylvania , the Democrat, took on Arlen Specter , took on the White House , even, was where you are just last week, and I asked him about this notion that the administration offered him a job to get out of the way. This is how the exchange went.
MR. GREGORY: What job were you offered to stay out of a primary race by the administration ?
REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA): It's interesting. I was asked a question about something that happened months earlier, and I felt I should answer it honestly. And that's all I had to say about it.
MR. GREGORY: Yes or no, straightforward question, were you, were you offered a job, and, and what was the job?
REP. JOE SESTAK: I was offered a job, and I answered that.
MR. GREGORY: It turns out the White House Counsel's Office put out a report saying he was offered a spot, a government position on a presidential commission . He, he could have kept his, his role as congressman. And it was Bill Clinton , the former president, dispatched -- president, dispatched by Rahm Emanuel to see whether he'd accept that and not run. David, what's the big issue here?
MR. BROOKS: Well, the big issue is that the president has said, you know, he's tired of the small-minded politics in Washington . He's exasperated by all the pettiness. But the fact is, if I once see them not take a chance to be petty and small-minded in politics as usual , I, I'd like to see that, because they practice the same rules that everybody else practices -- to give people jobs, to push people out of the races. It's not illegal, it's not a big scandal, but it's politics as usual . And, and that's what they do, that's what most politicians do. I just wish they wouldn't pretend so much they're not doing any of that stuff.
MR. GREGORY: E.J., is the bigger issue that they seemed rather ham-handed in their intervention, that if you're going to use Bill Clinton , you should be able to carry something like this off?
MR. DIONNE: Well, you know, first of all the original sin here is bragging by Joe Sestak during the primaries...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. DIONNE: ...where he was trying to make the point, "I'm standing up to the Obama people running against Arlen Specter ." And he sort of put this on the table himself, and then suddenly there's a blowback afterward. And I think David's right in the sense that every -- the notion that somehow offering somebody a job connected to politics, if that were uniformly enforced, God knows how many people would go to jail. What they've done here is constructed a story, which we all hope is true, that seems to get around any legal restriction on offering the guy a job. It's just...
MR. BROOKS: ..."we're better than Washington , better than the lame brains of the press corps." That's been an underlying theme for the last couple of weeks from the administration . And when you match it to the things they actually do, it just doesn't match.
MR. GREGORY: I want to end on a note about the economy . We did this MEET THE PRESS ACROSS AMERICA forum this week in Minnesota with Governor Pawlenty . And I asked him a question about the economy , and I thought his response was interesting in terms of framing the Republican argument on the economy , which is still a big issue against the administration . Let's watch.
MR. GREGORY: The, the economy now is growing. It's on track to create on the order of 1.7 million jobs this year. If that happens, does the Obama administration deserve credit for a turnaround?
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): It over -- you can't push this much money into the economy in the near term and not have it have some effect. But what I would suggest to you is it's phony effect. I think you're going to see in 2011 , 2012 , if you don't have the private economy pick up the slack of the phony inflation of the economy over the next couple of years, you're going to trigger a whole set of nother adverse events, including potentially inflation. But President Obama , if this economy recovers and stays recovered, will get due credit. But I would suggest to you, at least in the intermediate and long-term, that's not what's going to happen.
MR. GREGORY: E.J.?
MR. DIONNE: The jobs created from the stimulus are largely in the private sector. It's rule number one of the -- of economics that when the government pushes out this money it has an effect across the economy . We'll see if Governor Pawlenty will indeed give them credit in two years if the economy is moving. You should have him back on.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah, whether he'll do that. We're going to leave it there. Thank you both. A reminder, you can watch our entire MEET THE PRESS ACROSS AMERICA forum with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty . It's on our Web site , mtp.msnbc.com. And our thanks to our Twin Cities affiliate, CARE-11 , for partnering with us for that event.
MR. GREGORY: A quick programming note this morning. Stay with NBC News for continuing coverage of the oil spill , including special editions of " Nightly News " with Brian Williams . He'll be reporting from the Louisiana Gulf Coast Tuesday and Wednesday evening. That is all for today. We'll be away next Sunday during NBC's Sports coverage of the French Open , but we will return the following week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS. And as we leave you this Memorial Day weekend , we honor and remember all those men and women who have given their lives in service to this nation .