Meet the Press | July 28, 2013
>>> this sunday, the state of the economy. and will washington make it worgs with another partisan showdown? the president on the road again to sell a second-term economic blueprint and to blame republicans for standing in the way.
>> you can't just be against something. you've got to be for something.
>> but what is the president's record on the economy? and what is his agenda? plus, will washington go to the brink of a government shutdown this fall? this morning i put these questions to the administration's point man on the economy, treasury secretary jack lew. plus, a showdown this week in the house over the nsa's controversial post-9/11 surveillance program.
>> passing this amendment takes us back to september 10th .
>> a measure to shut down the program was narrowly defeated. but where does the debate go from here? will there be more privacy safeguards put in place? and the snowden saga. i get the latest from the chairman of the house intelligence committee , michigan republican congressman mike rogers . and our political roundtable, sex and politics, a bicoastal summer of scandal from new york city to san diego . can anthony weiner stay in the race for mayor of new york ? how much more can voters take?
>> it is so disrespectful of women, and what's really stunning about it is they don't even realize it. you know, they don't have a clue.
>> good sunday morning. a developing story this morning in e egypt where there is a rising death toll . 72 dead in weekend clashes between security forces and supporters of the country's ousted president mohamed morsi. it is the deadliest attack by the security services since the 2011 uprising. secretary of state john kerry monitoring it all is urging egypt 's leaders to, quote, help their country take a step back from the brink and allow peaceful protests. back home, the president is focused on the economy, a refocus, if you will, as washington prepares for another high-stakes budget debate.
>> but over the past couple of years in particular, washington has taken its eye off the ball. an endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals. shift focus from what needs to be done.
>> the president's weekly address this weekend. that's where we're going to start this morning with the secretary of the treasury, jack lew. we sat down for a conversation friday afternoon. mr. secretary, welcome back.
>> good to be with you.
>> always good to have you. i want to talk about the broader state of the economy? just a minute, but first let me talk about a potential standoff again between the white house and republicans on capitol hill over the budget. what are the chances that we are going to see the government shut down this fall because of another such standoff over the budget?
>> david , i think the american people are tired of the kinds of problems that washington creates for itself and for the country. and we saw in 2011 how much harm it does to the country when we have those kinds of self-inflicted wounds. we should don't that again.
>> you said even at that time that confidence in the economy is really undermined when washington becomes part of the problem.
>> the fight over the debt limit in 2011 hurt the economy even though in the end we saw an extension of the debt limit. we saw confidence fall, and it hurt the economy. congress needs to do its job. it needs to finish it work on appropriations bill and pass a debt limit.
>> there's also a shift in strategy, which is why i bring this up, from the white house . "the washington post " is reporting this, that senior white house officials are discussing a budget strategy that could lead to a government shutdown if republicans continue to demand deeper spending cuts, lawmakers and democrats familiar with the thinking said on thursday, president obama has made it clear that he will not sign into law republican spending bills that slash domestic programs even more deeply than sequestration. if republicans do not relent and the white house sticks to its position, a shutdown would be likely at the end of september when congress must authorize a new measure to fund the government. is if president going to make it clear he'll go to the mat this time?
>> what the president said and has written to congress is that they cannot fix the problems created by the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration by cutting domestic priorities in order to fund defense. that's unacceptable. he won't sign that. the across-the-board cuts are hurting our future.
>> fair enough, but the process in washington over continuing to fund the government or raising the debt ceiling is necessary lay process that has to be engaged in. i guess what i'm asking is, is the president, unlike what he's done before signaling, he will go to the brink this time in order to stop cuts that he thinks will harm the economy?
>> what the president did this week is he sent a very clear message that washington has to stop playing these brinksmanship games. it's not about who wins and who loses --
>> but this report, mr. secretary, indicates indeed the white house is setting itself on a position to go to the brink, to force republicans --
>> what we have said is congress needs to get its work done and needs to fund the kinds of things the american middle class need, and we need to get the debt limit extended in a way that doesn't create a crisis. that is what every congress needs to do, and congress needs to do it when it gets back in september.
>> the president will go to the brink if necessary?
>> david , drawing this to brinksmanship is a mistake. it's bad for the economy for it to be brinksmanship. the job needs to get done and in a way that works for american middle-class families that want us to be worrying about how to build a more stable future for americans .
>> republicans would argue there's a way to protect middle-class families as well. speaker boehner mass said we won't raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending.
>> so, you know, we've been through budget debates over last four years, and sometimes you get the sense that people are starting all over again as if we hadn't been through the last four years. we are not in the same place that we were in in 2011 . we have seen several legislations enacted that have reduced the deficit very substantially. we are seeing the the most rapid reduction of the deficit since the end of world war ii when we demobilized. we're outperforming expectations in terms of how quickly we're reducing the deficit and reducing health care costs.
>> debt crisis, the idea of austeri austerity, you don't think we face an urgent need for a grand bargain.
>> we have an urgent need to address the fundamental cornerstones of thriving economy for the american middle class . we cannot cut our way to prosperity. we have already done a lot of deficit retux. we are on a path right now where, you know, just recently the imf said we're doing too much too quickly. we should be doing more in the long term and less in the short term. i think that we have a composition question. the across-the-board cuts are not good for the economy, not good for the american middle class , not good for our national defense . we ought to be having a debate about the kinds of medium and long-term reforms to entitlements and tax programs, but we ought not to be talking about holding the country hostage again to a fight over e extending the debt limit. just to remind you, the debt limit doesn't commit any new spending. it gives us permission to pay the bills that congress already committed to. in 237 years, we never had a debate about whether or not the united states should pay its bills until 2011 . we cannot have that debate again.
>> is a grand bargain over spending and taxes, over entitlement programs , is that within grasp, realistically?
>> you know, i think the question of a grand bargain kind of captivates washington . what the american people are asking is what are we doing to make sure that their kids can go to college? what are we doing to make sure that their health care is secure? what are we doing to make sure that their homes are secure? we need to be debating the things that the american people are focusing on. and in the course of it, we will -- we need to solve all of these washington , you know, responsibilities. but we can't let the washington box score be the issue.
>> so let's talk about the broader economy. the president in the course of his speeches this week made this particular comment. let's watch.
>> today, five years after the start of that great recession, america has fought its way back.
>> what exactly did he mean by that?
>> i think that the american economy has shown its resilience. the core of the american economy is strong. we've grown for 40 months in a row. we've seen job creation 7.2 million jobs. i think that there are a lot of things that we need to do for the future to be as strong as it should be. but, you know, i go around the world meeting with my counterparts. i just came back from a meeting with finance ministers from around the world. four years ago, they looked at the united states and they saw the center of the financial crisis , and they wondered where was the united states going. now they look with admiration at the resilience of the u.s. economy , the u.s. people, and with all of the u.s. political system .
>> yet look at how the american people tend to view that same question, are we coming back, is america coming back. our polling, nbc news, washington journal released just this week indicated 61% of the country believes we're headed in the wrong direction, off on the wrong track. why don't more americans share that sense that the president has, that we're fighting our way back?
>> i think we have economic data that shows that confidence is actually improving. yet we have these surveys that show that the american people have kind of deep memories of how bad the recession was and concern that they need confidence that it's going to stay on the path towards continued growth. one thing i do know for sure is that a season of washington fighting about self-inflicted crises and self-inflicted wounds will not help that. it will hurt that. i think the american people need and expect for washington to buckle down and do the kinds of things the president was talking about.
>> mr. secretary, you're being prescriptive, which i understand, but there is also independent assessment of what the president's economic record has been this long in office. the reality is that most of the new jobs being created are short-term jobs, not part-time jobs, not full-time jobs. you have per sis tently high unemployment. the washington journal in its editorial would be critical of the administration. it was, and i want to lay it out and let you respond. the inequality president the editorial's headline. for 4 1/2 year, mr. obama has focused policies on reducing inequality rather than increasing growth. the predictable result has been more inequality and less growth. he called it a better bargain for the middle class , but no president has done worse by the middle class in recent times, a reference to the wage inequality in the fall. the core problem has been mr. obama 's focus on spreading the wealth rather than creating it. obama care will soon hook more americans on government subsidies but its mandates and taxes have hurt job creation , especially small businesses. mr. obama 's record tax increases have grabbed a bigger chunk of affluent incomes but have dampened growth so far this year.
>> david , i think that if you look at where we started out, we were in the middle of the worst recession since the great depression. the american economy is fighting back and it's coming back. the job creation has actually been a little bit more impressive than what you described. we're seeing growth in manufacturing jobs, more new manufacturing jobs than in most recent periods. clearly there's more work to do. you know, i think that the challenges ahead are how can we put the pieces in place so that we have the infrastructure in place for american factories to ship their goods. how do we make sure we have the workforce that's trained with the skills for the modern workplace?
>> one more on this in terms of the effect on real people 's lives. as i was going through material this week, i saw this out of georgia about persistent poverty affecting folks in georgia , the food stamp program . this is "the atlanta journal constitution " reported on tuesday. four years after the end of the recession the economy has been growing, employers have been hiring and the number of people relying on food stamps in georgia has been going up. a year ago the program provided food assistance to a record 1.91 million people in the state, nearly one-quarter of them 6 years old or younger. by this june the program added 40,000 more recipients. those numbers have nearly doubled since the economy slid into recession in late 2007 . georgia suffered more than most states and is still hundreds of thousands of jobs below its prerecession levels. moreover, many jobs that have been add are low-paying positions. the question is who's got the responsibility here? does the federal government have responsibility? is it the states? and is the job to do more to help the poor or to do more to get the poor and working poor off these government programs?
>> you know, david , the problem of income inequality was at the core of what the president spoke to this week. it's not a new problem that emerged out of the recession. it was decades in the making. at the beginning of this year we saw an important step when we took back some of the tax cuts and by raising the tax rates on the very wealthy in america . that was an important piece of policy to start remedying the ine kui ti of the tax code as it existed at the time. we need to create more jobs. we need an economy that's growing faster. and government needs to do his part.
>> is he responsible for an anemic recovery that could be more robust?
>> david , you keep describing the economy -- the recovery in terms of -- you know, understating where we came from and where we are. if you look around the developed world , our economy has recovered better from this recession than others because of the decisive thanks we took. we are not satisfied that we're done with the job. but we inherited an economy in free first of all and we took the kind of des sisive action to create opportunities for people to get back to work.
>> so you would not describe this as anemic recovery at all. this in your judgment is strong economic recovery.
>> i'm saying the core of the economy is growing, and i'm saying we need to do more, and i'm saying the president's laid out a vision of the things we need to do. and we need to get outside of the kind of inside washington debate about who's winning and who's losing and deal with challenges that the middle-class families want us to deal with.
>> before i let you go, the irs scandal. first of all, was that a phony scandal? why did the president and others refer to that as a phony washington scandal?
>> the president and i have been clear what happened was unacceptable, extremely bad judgment, and it's unacceptable for groups right or left to be targeted because of their political views . i think that the piece of it that the president was referring to is after weeks and weeks of investigations, ig investigations, justice department investigations, congressional hearings , there's no evidence of any political involvement in the decisions leading up to that situation. so the attempts to continue to raise this question in the absence of any evidence is what he was referring to. and i think that, you know, politics being what it is, it will probably continue. but we have to distinguish reality from the part that is phony. there was a real problem. the problem was bad judgment that was, you know, career officials trying to operate their programs more efficiently using bad judgment to do to it. but the political piece, that's a stretch. there's no evidence.
>> mr. secretary, i'll leave it there. thank you as always.
>> pleasure to be with you, david .
>> from the economy to national security debates this week, particularly over the government's surveillance programs that were put into e effect in 9/11. an important house vote that almost scrapped those programs. joining me now, the chairman of the house intelligence committee , republican congressman from michigan mike rogers . chairman, always good to have you back.
>> david , thanks for having me.
>> before we talk about the nsa programs, let me mention this developing story in e egypt this morning. you have violence in the streets. off provisional government . really the military cracking down on protesters with dozens who have been killed already. i wonder whether you believe that the tacit support by this administration for a military coup is not leading to stability as was forecast but leading to something far worse.
>> well, i do think that in a circumstance like egypt you need to pick your friends, and clearly i think the muslim brotherhood -led government, although democracy without freedom is certainly no democracy at all, and that's what they were trying to get to, changing the constitution, reducing the rights of women in e egypt , reducing the rights of religious minorities in e egypt . they weren't concerned about the economy at all. they were concerned about pushing towards an islamist state. to that end, i think the people of egypt rose up and said that's not what we bargained for. and so i would argue that we need to make sure that all political parties have a voice in egypt , that the secular parties have an opportunity to have a voice in egypt . and i do think that the military was acting on behalf of the huge secular movement that actually got mubarak thrown out in the first place.
>> let me come back to these nsa programs and momentous week. i wanted to have you on because i wanted to get into this debate, which we've had in the house. you had 205 members of the house including 94 republicans who, and i'm boiling this down, essentially voted to scrap these programs that allow the nsa, the national security agency , to sweep up what's called the meta data , which is call details in the united states in order to track down terrorists. last month, general haden, michael haden, former head of the nsa, former head of the cia, was on "meet the press." he said the following about these programs. listen.
>> i think it's living in this kind of a democracy, we're going to have to be a little bit less effective in order to be a little bit more transparent to get to do anything to defend the american people .
>> do you agree with what general hayden said there?
>> well, i'm not sure what point he was making there, but let me tell you this, i mean, i share the frustration of the american people , and that's what we saw happen recently. it was a collision of really bad, awful policies and ideas coming out of administration, the data hub that would take social security and health information and other information, put it in one place. all of that is bad, and we should all be very concerned about it. the problem was this was i think the first opportunity for members who are frustrated about those things and the american public is frustrated about those things, and by the way i'm frustrated about those thing, and say this is exactly the same. unfortunately, it's not. so this is a program -- let's talk about why we have it, and this is really important to get to the point, should we or shouldn't we. after 9/11, our intelligence services knew about a guy who was a pretty bad guy that we believed was going to be involved in some type of attempt in the united states to commit an act of violence , a terrorist, who was living in san diego . but because we couldn't find the nexus, we were not allowed to find out if somebody from overseas was calling in to the united states to talk to him, we couldn't get that piece, we missed it. he got on a plane and flew it into the pentagon shortly thereafter. so we said that's a scene we have to fix. how do we do that.
>> but --
>> and what we ended up doing is the program they tried to turn off is the program that catches foreign terrorists from talking to people in the united states , helps us identify those individuals.
>> and again, in talking to senior government officials this week, the way to understand these programs is as they lay it out is a suspected terrorist calls somebody in the united states , the way you put those two together is you have a haystack, and in the haystack in the united states is basically every phone number that is swept up in the united states . it's not the content of the calls. it's the details. and it's put in this kind of vault in, you know, a cloud scenario. and you get the ping, you get that relationship in the haystack. is there any better way to provide privacy , when it's been explained to me, you have the haystack of phone numbers and call detornados or you don't, and that's what libertarians are really concerned about?
>> i understand. but here's the thing. there are so many protections on this. there are no names and no addresses in this database. there's more information on an envelope that you fill out and stick in the mailbox than are in this database. this is billing records that already exist. they said we just need to put them in one place and hold them long sore we have a number to compare them to. so they're not calling them. they're not doing pattern analysis . here's the best news of all. in this program, zero privacy violations, 54 terrorist, violent terrorist attacks thwarted. that's a pretty good record. that's a great record. and that tells me this is one program that works to protect your privacy and li up to our constitutional obligation in congress that says we must provide for the general defense of the united states . we have found how to do this and protect your privacy . remember, most people think these phone calls are recorded. they're not. most people think their names are associated with these phone numbers . they're not. it's just a whole list of phone numbers with no names and no addresses. when a terrorist number, just a terrorist number is found, they plug it in to these numbers and it pops up with somebody they may be talking to in the united states . again, no name and no address. what we do with that is say, oh, that's bad, we're going to give this to the fbi to determine who that person even is. and so that's the way we protected privacy nap's why there's been zero privacy violations with this, and it's been able to used ed td to stop 54 violent terrorist attacks .
>> edward snowden . there are some attempts by the administration to suggest to the russians and to him they would not pursue the death penalty to try to get him back here. senior government official told me this week that snowden has the blueprint for the nsa but not the owner's manual. what does that say to you about the threat he still possesses with more disclosures that could come forth?
>> we need to understand this very quickly. he has disclosed programs that make it easier for terrorists overseas, and the first people who are going to feel that damage are our soldiers in afghanistan. we need to understand that. this is serious and it's real. as well as empowering chinese and russian intelligence officials. i think it's important that he comes back, brings what he has left, and if he really truly believes he did something good, quote, unquote, then come back to the united states . he missed every opportunity to be a whistle-blower when he missed every opportunity to talk to a whole host of avenues for him to --
>> but is it realistic to compel him to come back?
>> i'm not sure. i think he may be too far gone. i would hope at the end of the day he makes that decision. we know that he's certainly -- the russian intelligence services would love to have further conferrings with him. we think he's already had some disclosure to the chinese intelligence officials. so there's a lot more to this story, a lot to be concerned about. i would like him to come back as well and bring what he has stolen from the people of the united states .
>> all right. chairman rogers, we'll leave it there for this morning. thank you as always.
>>> coming up, we will switch gear, talk about politics and scandal, men behaving badly . in fact, two big city politicians, san diego mayor bob filner, new york city mayor hopeful anthony weiner under fire this week for their personal misconduct. both remain dee death faint in the wake of public outcries, but at what point will voters say they've had enough? up next, weiner's main flooifl the new york race, christine quinn , and our political roundtable. david axelrod , cnbc's maria bartiromo , republican strategist mike murphy , former democratic congressman herod ford.