Meet the Press | January 27, 2013
>>> with our roundtable. president and ceo of naacp ben jealous . incoming president of the heritage foundation , former senator jim demint . nbc news special correspondent for rock center ted koppel . nbc 's own ted koppel . and associate editor for "the washington post ," bob woodward . and nbc 's chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell . welcome to all of you. a lot to get to. and as we react to paul ryan this morning, i want to show some of the headlines from the president's inaugural address . obama offers a liberal vision. we must act. charles kranthammer wrote this in "the washington post " and it caught my attention on friday and i want to put on the screen. his mission is to redeem and resurrect a 50-year pre-reagan liberal ascendency. accordi accordingly, his address is his historical marker , the reagan of the left. if he succeeds in the next four years, he would have earned the title. and i so that, bob, because of what paul ryan said that i thought was so notable, is that he believes this president is more interested in political conquest than political compromise. that is the backdrop for a second term.
>> and ryan is an important figure in this in many ways. and i think you agree. he's quite likely the future of the republican party . but if you go back three years ago, president obama himself publicly said that the ryan proposal on medicare was serious and legitimate. the president is playing -- and not the republicans aren't. they play a lot of politics. but the president is playing politics too. when i talked to the president six months ago about medicare , he said the spending trajectory is untenable. and so he knows there needs to be a fix in this area. and what's the shame in all of this is that they can't kind of sit down and work it out, because, you know, if you were the negotiator up at camp david , you'd be able to do it.
>> well, one of the problems is they're not at camp david . they are not sitting down together. but the state of the union i think should not be viewed as -- rather the inaugural address should not be viewed as a state of the union speech . this is not the place where he was laying it out. i'm told by white house officials that he put on the table for medicare is still on the table. he wants to negotiate it. and i think paul ryan will be leading the republican side on where they go on this. there are going to be serious negotiations. they have to get down to it. i think where the liberal or progressive mission was from the inaugural speech was on human rights , on dr. king's legacy, on gay rights . that was profoundly moving and important. that's where he sees his legacy.
>> but that's not going to drive legislation as much. ted koppel , the big issues of the day are the ones we've been fighting for the last several years. how much taxes, how much in spending cuts, and this role of government.
>> david , i think the president recognizes the obvious, that is he's got eight to 12 months to do things, and the time for being coy is long over. he laid it out. and he laid it out without any ambiguity. i think he's going to push. he's going to push hard. and push immediately.
>> jim demint , former senator, where do you see your party pushing? where should they push? how do they balance conservative principles with a real desire on the part of the public to see compromise and achievement?
>> paul ryan was talking about one of the most important moral issues of our time. the fact that we are stealing from our children and putting so much debt on them that their lives, their opportunities, are going to be greatly diminished. and what he said about balancing our budget or putting our country on at least a path to balance our budget in 10 years is a complete contrast with what president obama is talking about. before we get into all the political labels and the specifics, it's clear the president plans to keep spending and borrowing and putting more debt on our children. so america has a perfect contrast between the directions that they want to go. we know --
>> but we just had an election, senator with two different directions, and america chose. that's what paul ryan said last year. the country will choose what happens in 2013 . and they did. so are we past the point of two different visions in choosing?
>> i don't think the country has chosen that. in fact, we see almost in the majority of states now where a conservative, bold visionary governors are implementing the ideas that work. and that's what conservatism really is. whether it's cutting taxes or freedom in the workplace or education choice, what we want to do is what we need to do for the american people is show them the successes and which ideas work. we can show where president obama 's ideas go. we can look in history, at countries that failed. at europe today . we can look at his home state of illinois . the tax and spend and big government approach has always failed. so our job as conservatives is to make sure americans know that. and we need to show it with real people and real faces.
>> but a lot of this we have to remind ourselves is about economic growth . what makes the economy grow, what gets people back to work, and what role does washington play in that?
>> we know how to get out of tough times. we got out of the great depression by investing in what we wanted to be as a country, by investing in jobs rather than focusing on our fears. you know, i would push back and say that the big issues of this day also include marriage equality . they include comprehensive immigration reform . and right now when you look at joblessness in this country, you know, the country is back to pretty much where it was when this president started. white people in this country are doing a bit better. black folks are doing a full point worse. so with this president having said to us we need to invest in strategies to lift all boats, now that some boats are clearly more stuck, the question is will congress join him in getting those boats unstuck too.
>> well, but the question, ted koppel , as well is where the president tries to seek a way forward . he doesn't think much of republicans in terms of their approach or being able to deal with them. but he can also confuse the opposition a little bit if he would take the reins and say, look, we have though o do big spending cuts and here's why. it's helpful for the solvency of the country, even if he has to push back against some democrats.
>> look, david , i'm going to defer to some of the others here who spend more time covering domestic policy . i think this president is going to end up facing some of the biggest foreign policy crises that we have had in many years. and i know you want to get to that later. so let me hold my piece there.
>> well, look, this can be worked out if you look at the plans, and they seem very abstract when paul ryan and president obama talk about them. they are just saying, let's fix a little bit on the entitlement front, and they're not saying let's start tomorrow cutting. they're saying let's start in five years or 10 years. it is all doable and fixable. and then this gets to the engine of the economy. and if you fix that, if you stabilize the debt in some reasonable way, we're going to have growth. the unemployment rate should come down. and president obama is exactly right. focusing on the people at the lower end here. you fix and help the people at the lower end by getting the economy going again. you're exactly right. and the psychologically for the democrats and republicans , it's so important that there be some consensus. you get paul ryan here with his charts, and it looks like the world is going to end at some point. and you need to get everyone onboard to the idea, no, the world is not going to end.
>> andrea, i was on capitol hill this weekend. you get a sense that a lot of the gun legislation is not going to be successful. immigration reform is moving at pace. they are having very constructive conversations, republicans and democrats together. the entitlement piece is going to be hard, whether the president wants to go very far on medicare . he has liberals saying don't do it, don't raise the retirement age . so how do these pieces come together here in the next three, four, five months?
>> that is exactly the question. when he even suggested raising that retirement age from 65 to 67, decades from now actually, and not affecting current retirees, the whole liberal base exploded against him. the aarp went to war against him. so he has to decide whether to take that. even the budget negotiators iss, the gang of six, said that was a nonstarter. on immigration, you see these negotiations with lindsey graham and mccain and rubio on the republican side . and durbin and schumer and others on the democratic side. they are really making progress. the president is giving a speech on tuesday with outlines. the question now is, is he going to send legislation up? that is still to be determined. and he just met with the hispanic caucus and with the senators in the last couple of days. the other thing is guns. and despite all of the hints from the white house that they are not backing off of the assault weapon ban, most people i have been talking to in recent days, inside the white house and out, agree that that is really going to be the biggest lift. but if they can get the magazines and the background checks and something on mental health , they think there is something that can be done there.
>> senator demint, part of the calculation for republicans is whe where do they push, where do they fight. this is part of the self-examination of the party . bobby jindal spoke out, was outspoken on thursday, talking to republicans . here's part of what he said.
>> we've got to stop being the stupid party . i'm serious. it's time for a new republican party that talks like adults. it's time for us to articulate our plans and vision for america in real terms . it's no secret we had a number of republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. we've had enough of that.
>> he is arguing about colorasome getting in the way. colin powell talking about the republican party . how do you view that?
>> i talked to governor jindal yesterday. we are on the same page. he knows that spending more than we're bringing in is a moral argument that we need to connect with the american people . and not just in numbers. but we need to help people see that what we're doing here in washington , the politicians are the real takers because they are taking the future away. every paycheck is going to be worth less. and the future of our children with the debt on their head means that the opportunities that they could have are going to be diminished.
>> that's not quite what he was speaking of there. what he's talking about is how the brand positions itself.
>> one of the reasons i left congress is because i don't believe that politicians are going to solve our problems unless the american people force them to. they're going to keep spending and borrowing in washington . they're going to keep implementing policies, as ben just said, that hurt minorities. they are worse off. and we can go to detroit and philadelphia and chicago where these liberal progressive policies have been in place for decades, and you see latinos and african-americans in failing schools, with high unemployment. what we're going to do, and i know what governor jindal is going to do along with a lot of other governors, is show the success stories where the right ideas are implemented. and we're going to show the failures in detroit and philadelphia and l.a.
>> ben, comment before we go to break.
>> you know, there are places where we can clearly work together. criminal justice reform is one of them. but the real question for the gop is whether they are willing to give up on the gasoline that has been the old dixiecrat rhetoric for the past 40 years. and when he talked about those bizarre and insulting comments, that's what he's talking about. playing to the cheap seats again and again. they need to stop. they need to say, look, we have an old brand, the grand old party , the party of lincoln, the party of people who united this country again and again. let's be that. and let's stop trying to be these dixiecrats. it just doesn't work for anybody.
>> senator, do you regret some of the comments about abortion in this last cycle, about rape, about what colin powell thought were failed racist comments from the party ?
>> well, david , the fact that we are losing over 3,000 unborn children a day is an important issue. but republicans or conservatives should not engage in a debate about exceptions for abortions when the other side will not even agree that we have real people , real human beings . we need to fight the battle where it should be fought. life is important. we know from all of the new technology and improved sonograms that we do have a baby. and it's important that we fight for that. but instead of just offering my opinion on some hypothetical debate about exceptions for abortions, we need to move it back and particularly work with the states that are fighting for just the personhood of the child. if we can start there, i think america will move with us.
>> all right. a little different about the question than rhetoric and how to reach voters.