Meet the Press | July 22, 2012
>>> we're back with our roundtable. i want to talk about the turning points in this campaign but i want to go back to you, steve, quickly. the obvious question, all those tax returns for mitt romney , is there anything in there that would be a real problem?
>> well, he's an extremely wealthy man and his tax returns do not look like anything like the average american .
>> did you see them?
>> people in the campaign saw them, i never saw them. but look, i think on the -- your common sense would tell you they're extremely complicated. at the end of the day no one is standing there to hand ou a gold medal to say, hey, congratulations, you've been really transparent there.
>> anything in there that made senator mccain and his team --
>> mitt romney went through this process. what i can tell you is that he's a person of decency with the highest ethical character and background. there was nothing that was disqualifying that picking 2008 was not about any deficiency with mitt romney , it was a political decision that we made in a very bad political circumstance.
>>> let's go to our turning points and the first one, steve has already referenced, and that is that the governor will choose a running mate as early as probably after the olympics, maybe that week of august 5th . michelle rhee , as you look at all of this and the potential veep stakes, what do you think is important here? this is one of those campaign moments where it's a presidential level decision.
>> well, as a democrat i don't think it really makes a whole lot of sense for me to weigh in on this, but i think from a very layman, normal person standpoint, it seems to me that what the republicans need right now is some energy, some momentum, a real person who can help to bring some life to the campaign and some excitement. so i think that's what people are going to be looking for.
>> you talk excitement, we go to some of the top candidates being discussed. you've got governor bobby jindal from louisiana who's on that list, tim pawlenty , former governor of minnesota and rob portman , the senator from ohio . justin bieber dined alone. such excitement.
>> you know, i personally think portman is the right pick. look, something is going to happen in the world. the big political event that happened last week was the spanish bonds went crazy. that means the european crisis is more likely. the iranian crisis has gotten more likely as israel's patience has begun to wear thin. so two big things are possible over the next 107 days. so you want a vice presidential candidate who seems up to that. so i'd go for the boring, brave guy.
>> interesting. on that list you all can weigh in on whatever, but the other thing we're talking about as a turning point is going to be the convention. bob, a lot of people watching . it is an opportunity not just for the candidate to make a big speech but to also have some high-profile speakers there to try to reinforce the message.
>> it's also an opportunity to get in deep trouble by having high-profile speakers who do real damage . the first george bush had real damage done to him by pat buchanan at the 1992 republican convention . al gore in his acceptance speech in 2000 actually gained about 13 to 15 points. it doesn't happen very often, but those speeches can be defining. as can these, by the way, these vice presidential picks. i agree with david, i'd go with portman for one simple reason, he's serious, he's not a gimmick. he might help in ohio . everybody says it doesn't matter. the vice president doesn't matter unless it does damage. some year that's not going to be true and he might help in ohio . by the way, joe biden , i think, helped a lot in pennsylvania and florida in 2008 .
>> i think there's a very small list of republicans out there who pass the threshold issue, that they're ready to be president of the united states on day one, god forbid something should happen to president romney. pawlenty and jindal and portman are all on this list.
>> it's all about risk threshold and depends on what your standing is in the campaign.
>> that's right. in 2008 , for example, we were willing to take high risk because the political situation was very bad. four years later, very different political situation. i think it's going to be a very low-risk decision.
>> you know, when we talk about turning points , michelle rhee , looking a bit ahead to the presidential debates , they really do matter because you get to a point, especially in a deadlocked race, where americans are really tuned in and watching these two interact with each other. it's not all the outside money and the ads. they are going to be forced to engage on policies, on direction, on vision, the things that you're trying to be focused on and you'd like to see the campaign focused on. that could be a big moment.
>> yeah. and we're, quite frankly , hoping that there is more of a focus this time on education and education issues. second to jobs, it is really a top of mind for americans and the vast majority of americans know that the public education system is broken and want to know what these two candidates think about how we're going to fix this, what the solutions are.
>> is it too forward-looking a problem to be focused on?
>> i disagree, michelle is a big hero of mine. but i would say please keep education out of the campaign. the campaigns kill subtly. and barack obama has a very brave education policy right now. if he had to campaign on that with the middle of the campaign with the nea, he would not have run on that campaign.
>> but that's sort of saying of a democrat because he's going to take bold stands on education, we have to hide that or else the teacher unions are going to go nuts. to me that's sort of not the best argument. we have to be focused on what the american people want to know and hear about. and what their everyday reality is, they need to send their kids to school every day knowing that they're going to get a great education so they can compete in the global marketplace .
>> i've got a minute left. can i end on something i just read about this morning and that is the statue at joe paterno at penn state is going to be taken down. how do you react to that?
>> my firm is involved in penn state and i should disclose that, but, you know, i think it's an appropriate decision for the school to have made. obviously it's a very sad chapter. it's a profound moral failing.
>> we shouldn't put up statues of living people. you're going to make yourself a hostage to fortune. that's what's happened here. he became a symbol of penn state . on the basis of what we now know, i think they have to take the statue down.
>> we put up statues of people we admire and it's hard to admire him right now.
>> interesting, interesting. how does a community, an educational community rebound from something like that, michelle ?
>> i think, again, what we have to do is focus just on the kids and what is in the best interests of the kids and that has to be the driving force of every institution, every administration is not about, you know, the institution itself.
>> that was the big failing. i don't think anybody disagrees with that. michelle , all of you, thank you very much for the very interesting discussion.
>>> you can watch "press pass" a conversation online with anne- marie slaughter . she sparked quite a debate this summer that people are still talking and reading about, writing a piece entitled "why women still can't have it all." that's on the atlantic website. there's a link on our website as well, met -- meet the press.com.