Meet the Press | February 03, 2013
>>> we are back with our roundtable. joining me now, former obama press secretary and senior adviser to the president's re- election campaign , robert gibbs . ana navarro, national hispanic chair for mccain 2008 . "new york times" columnist david brooks . and chairman of the faith and freedom coalition ralph reed . welcome all. super bowl sunday.
>> thank you.
>> david , i want to start with chuck hagel . you heard what leon panetta said. the political knives were out.
>> it was him. you ever had this nightmare you're back in college, you've been nominated to be the defense secretary , you haven't done any studying all term, and the confirmation hearing is in five minutes? it looked like that. unprepared. even to defend himself. look strong. he's being attacked for his integrity, honesty. hit back. demand some time. defend yourself. you've got to do that because you have to have the confidence of the president to get the job and the confidence of the generals in the building. this is a problem. if i were chuck hagel , i'd go to the president right now and say, do you still have confidence in me? do you think i can do the job?
>> you would offer to withdraw?
>> you have to if you think you won't be effective because of what's happened.?? i think you have to ask privately that question.
>> ana , a lot of the conversation that the white house is trying to say, this was all politics. let me play a clip of your old boss questioning chuck hagel .
>> were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since vietnam? were you correct or incorrect? yes or no.
>> my reference to the --
>> are you going to answer the question, senator hagel ? the question is, were you right or wrong? that's a pretty straightforward question.
>> well --
>> i would like the answer whether you were right or wrong, and then you are free to elaborate.
>> well, i'm not going to give you a yes or no answer on a lot of things today.
>> well, let the record show you refuse to answer that question.
>> ana , the viewers may not know the history between hagel and mccain . they were close friends in 2000 . not so in 2008 when it was clear that hagel 's wife was supporting obama and not mccain . was that personal?
>> i don't think so at all. anybody who ever saw mccain grill donald rumsfield knows that this is john mccain . this is his job. they are there to advise and consent, not to rubber stamp . if they are not going to get the scrutiny and tough questions now, then when?
>> why was he so much tougher on chuck hagel than john kerry ?
>> because there are so many inconsistencies with hagel . i have never -- i don't remember a hearing where there were clarifications to clarifications that then had to be clarified. when there were so many, i regret having said that. there were so many what i meant to say, what i should have said, because he was doing a terrible job, because he's not giving answers. john kerry gave answers. we just saw an interview with leon panetta where he gave answers. he answered masterfully. we saw three tough hearings this week. secretary clinton on benghazi. we saw john kerry go through a hearing. and chuck hagel . and you can not compare the first two to chuck haguel. after i watched the hearing, i remembered the lyrics to a country song . you mean i shaved my legs for this? you mean we're having this huge fight over this guy who cannot even articulate our policy towards iran?
>> robert ?
>> let's be clear.
>> this performance was not good.
>> two things. i want to go about something that ana just said. if you turned on cspan and hadn't watched tv in the intervening six years, you would think we had 150,000 troops parked right now in iraq . this next defense secretary is not going to deal with iraq and the surge. this was a vanity thing for john mccain to try to approprove to a former friend who disagreed with him that he was right on the surge and that chuck hagel was wrong.
>> what should hagel have said? what would you have told him to say?
>> i think he said correctly, we're going to let history judge iraq , because frankly chuck hagel could have said, senator mccain , i think i might have been wrong on iraq . were you wrong on iraq ? here's the question. none of that is anything that the next secretary of defense is going to deal with. hold on. let's split this into two buckets. there was the totalally out of context questions that won't bear on what the next secretary of defense will do. he seemed unprepared on the questions that quite frankly he knew were coming.
>> he had mock hearings. should he go to the president and say, do you still have confidence in me?
>> i'm reminded through weeks into his first term of the obama administration. time geithner gives a speech at the treasury department about our banking industry and how to save it. three weeks into the administration. three weeks into his tenure. the market dropped 382 points. two weeks ago, tim geithner walked out of the treasury department , four years later, as one of the most influential treasury secretaries in the history of our country. so we get into all of these kerfuffles about one hearing or a few answers. chuck hagel is an infantryman who executed the orders of the secretary of defense and the commander in chief and understands what those people go through, and he'll be a good secretary of defense.
>> i know we talked about this. bill kristol wrote the following, comparing chuck hagel to harriet myers and almost daring them to do with harriet myers . they simply thought she wasn't a first-rate candidate. they were confident that bush and the courts and the country could do better. it wasn't pleasant in 2005 for them to oppose a nominee tore to gi but it was the right thing to do and a willingness to do it was a sign of health of the american conservatives . are you surprised more democrats aren't publicly raising concerns?
>> i am surprised, and i think privately it's, you know, it's window rattling. how much democrats behind the scenes are saying that this was an abiz malperformance by senator hagel . he is the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time. and by the way, there were far more questions about the issues that perspectively he would deal with as secretary of defense than his record. the reason why his position on the surge in iraq is so critical is because it speaks to his judgment. but when it comes to iran, let's remember, chuck, he voted against designating the iranian revolutionary guard as a terrorist organization at a time when the intelligence was clear that they were killing u.s. soldiers in iraq . this is somebody who wants to command u.s. troops . the revolutionary guard is killing our troops. and he voted against calling it a terrorist organization .
>> i want you both to tackle something here. it's the confidence -- he may get confirmed, david . but will he have the ability to go back before the armed services committee and sell cuts?
>> he will if he has the ability to do it. that's what we don't know. so look at what the next defense secretary is going to have to supervise massive defense cuts. make key decisions , long-term technical advance, short-term readiness. these are tough questions. you have to be able to present leadership and toughness. he is personally a tough guy. i've seen him oppose the iraq war with other republicans. he personally has that courage. but can he project that and show mastery of the building? that's the question.
>> the ability to be a salesman, a politician.
>> absolutely. let's divide politics from all of this. you know, ralph just said this was about judgment. and david just said opposing the war in iraq takes courage. i think the notion in some ways to say because chuck hagel doesn't believe what john mccain says you question his judgment. for somebody that carried a gun as a general in vietnam, i'm going to trust their ability --
>> well, chuck hagel doesn't believe what he says 10 years ago and 12 years ago.
>> i want to go to immigration. this is chuck schumer this week on the issue of immigration.
>> for the first time ever, there is more political risk in opposing immigration reform than in supporting it.
>> ana navarro, you were closely advising marco rubio , who is a part of this group, bipartisan group of senators. is chuck schumer right? there is more political risk opposing than to supporting?
>> i think there's political risk on both sides. and i'm very proud of what marco rubio is doing, stepping outside of the political safe zone, really going out on a limb and leading. i think he is making a big difference in how this issue is being received by the conservative base. he is an hispanic republican, they give him deaference because of that. he is also very popular with the conservative base and put a lot of time and effort into selling these principles and explaining them before they were afounnounced a week or two. he was on the radio or tv all the time explaining it to the conservative base and in spanish to the hispanic community. it needs to be supported by both.
>> you know, ralph, national review respectfully came out against marco rubio 's plan. they said he's wrong about how to go about repairing the immigration system. wrong to think that an amnesty bill at this time will end up being anything other than at unbuttered side of a loaf of bread, and there's no fear to lose a hispanic vote the republicans never had.
>> this editorial seemed off on recent history.
>> well, the republicans have now lost four out of the six presidential elections since the berlin wall fell. and the only two that they won, the candidate was somebody from a border state , with mexico, who said that family values don't end at the rio grande , and whose vision for the future of the country --
>> you work with a lot of social conservatives . is that message going to work?
>> well, i think so, and i'll tell you why. first of all, the devil will be in the details, if i can use that metaphor. but people of faith are commanded by scripture. both old and new testament. to welcome the foreigner and show compassion for the immigrant. but there's a cresponsibility, to obey the law and show respect for the customs of the nation in which they reside in. so, for example, you've got a million people who are spouses or children of people who are here legally.
>> with green cards .
>> seeking a green card . 200,000 of those are minor children. we do not believe, chuck, that somebody who violated our law as their first step on the road to becoming an american should take precedence over those minor children entering the country.
>> is this going to work?
>> you know, i have been so frustrated this week. we've got an aging society with stagnant education levels. out there, there is a global pool of talent. they'll pay more taxes than they receive. they'll create a much more dynamic economy. and the last week in washington, we've been side tracked off this potential to actually give some growth to our economy by issues of how many links are in the chain we're going to build. what's going to trigger what. does gay marriage affect all of this? it's like this moral i]obtuseness. this is our only shot at getting a growing economy. this attempt to win the race for global talent out there, and we are debating socrates.
>> it does seem like the politics of this is coming together. robert , you're here. i want to quickly talk about guns in this respect. the president, a picture of him skeet shooting . we know that there had been a kerfuffle, this idea was he really -- the president said yes, he had fired a gun. i do have to ask you, have you seen him skeet shoot ?
>> i have not. but camp david for him is a private retreat that he spends most of the time with his family. i don't think it's whether or not the president shoots a gun regularly or even if he shoots it well.
>> let's participawhy participate then by feeding the beast.
>> let's not -- the big political development this week in the debate on guns was that the nra came out in favor of criminals having access to any weapon they'd like to in our society, walking back the same congressional testimony that they gave after columbine that having a universal background check to make sure that a criminal doesn't have access to a semi- automatic weapon . i mean, that's the real --
>> i want to show a little bit of this ad. michael bloomberg putting up a super bowl ad , ralph reed and ana , basically supporting the background check bill, showing testimony of wayne lapierre supporting a background check . here is a little bit of that ad.
>> the nra once supported background checks .
>> we think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show . no loopholes anywhere for anyone.
>> all right. i'll admit i need quick answers here. can a southern republican vote for the background check bill and get re-elected?
>> a licensed dealer at a gun show already does a background check . that's already going on. what we're talking about is antique and special collectors and private sales. i think that's very difficult to legislate properly without killing gun show .
>> there is a rural split almost more than anything else. urban politics are more supportive of this idea.
>> yes. but i think both the southern republican and the urban republican should all be voting for universal background checks . look, connecticut was a game changer. we need to understand that. the gun issue is here. it's not going away. every other day, we are hearing about a tragedy on the news. and people keep asking, what are we doing about it? republicans and the nra should be part of the solution, should be part of the conversation, not just say no. and universal background checks is something that there could be consensus on.
>> guys, i have to leave it there. sorry, robert . i'll get you again. you used to be able to cut me off. now i get to cut you off.