Meet the Press   |  January 26, 2014

1: A View from Both Sides of Senate

Sens. Rand Paul and Dick Durbin visit Meet the Press to discuss the president's upcoming State of the Union address.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> from nbc news in washington , the world's longest running television program , this is "meet the press" with david gregory .

>> good sunday morning. big week coming up here in washington . one of those moments when the president has a huge audience and a clans to speak directly to the audience with his state of the union address . my big question is how much political clout does he have left? the outspoken republican senator rand paul will talk to me about it, and speaking of republican politics, there's been a lot of discomfort this week about comments made by mike huckabee over what he describes as his war for women . we'll talk about the future of democratic politics. it seems to be all about hillary clinton . "new york times " magazine article out this morning asking whether she can be seen as a candidate of the future and not the past. first a little bit of news. the latest on that deadly shooting at a shopping mall near baltimore. police are still trying to determine the motive as a man carrying a shotgun opened fire at a mall in columbia, maryland yesterday killing two employees at a skate shop and then himself. shoppers ran for cover. gunman was also carrying explosives. the roundtable is here with me this morning. chuck todd , former head of the federal communications commission michael powell , our friend from the west, republican strategist mike murphy is here, california democratic congress woman lorette sa sanchez and carolyn ryan. you were installed in november and covering politics a long time. chuck todd , what i an difference a year makes. this awful incident in columbia. a year ago at the state of the union it was all about gun control . a different story this year.

>> it is. the key word the white house is trying to put out there is opportunity, a word borrowed from the clinton years. it used to be an obsession particularly in the second term of bill clinton . it's interesting "the new york times " this morning previews the state of the union and says it's going to be a modest state of the union which is exactly what the white house fears people will view it as, this is a modest moment. they see it actually as their last state of the union that can have an impact. when you look at the next two, 2015 and 2016 , we're going to be in the middle of a presidential campaign . everybody's going to be looking ahead. they believe this state of the union is their last one to get something done. it is modest as far as what they're going to ask congress to do, but they know this is maybe their last opportunity to have an impact.

>> what do we think? how much persuasive power does he have left?

>> this is like the shot clock, the last one. i think there's been a lot of quiet tension over the last month or two as they plan this between the political hacks very worried about the midterm elections , the president's numbers are very low, harry reid is probably going crazy every day. and then you've got the president thinking it would be nice to have some legacy other than my rather disappointing outcome with obamacare. there are some openings to the republicans , maybe legal status , things like that. i'll be interested to see how they thread the needle. when in doubt, politics will win.

>> i don't think so at all. every single day of his presidency to look forward to. i remember when i was the national chair for the democratic party under clinton and the gore political season going on. and president clinton was working so hard. i know because we were out there and we were with the people. i said to him, don't you ever get tired? because we would go till 3:00, 4:00 in the morning campaigning. he said loretta, i'm going to sleep the day after i leave the presidency.

>> i don't know if that's president obama though.

>> there was work to be done. i still think, when i look at immigration reform which i believe we'll see something happen this year, at least an effort to try to move it forward on the floor, small things, the debt ceiling we've got to get past right now, we've got tax reform . my michigan colleague, the chair of the ways and means , david camp is anxious to do this, bacchus is anxious to do this.

>> let me interject. pure politics here. this is also a chance for him to say this is what democrats are for, you know, income inequality raising the minimum wage . he's going to be thinking about helping democrats.

>> absolutely. he's thinking about the senate midterms which the outcome of those races is far more important than the speech. but just to take issue with the idea, the question is whether does obama still command the stage. you have at least some people in the political world including his own party seem to be moving beyond the obama era. you have this kind of remarkable stampede of it people signing up to be part of the 2016 hillary clinton election campaign and the president has three years left. so the question is, is he still relevant, can he command the stage, can he move the the country.

>> we'll hear from all of you as we move forward. i want to turn to kentucky's republican senator, senator rand paul who joins me now. senator, welcome.

>> glad to be with you.

>> let me pick up on this point. you have questioned the president's moral leadership at points along the way. is there an area where you feel you can work in common cause with him this year?

>> well, you know, i think the thing we make the mistake up there, we try to agree to too much. i'm the first to acknowledge the president and i don't agree on every issue, but if you took ten issues i think there are two or three we agree on and we may agree firmly on and why don't we go after the issues we agree on like immigration reform for example. we don't agree on the whole comprehensive package for the democrats but i'll bet you about half of it we agree on. the question is, are wing will to narrow our focus and go after things we can get done or stay so polarized we always have to have our way or the highway. when i was at the white house a couple weeks ago, i said to the president, i want to increase infrastructure spending and i know you do. let's let companies bring back their profit from overseas at 5% and put it all in infrastructure and i've been talking with senator durbin, others in the senate on the democrat side. i think we could agree to that tomorrow, but we have to narrow the focus and not say, oh, we're going to do overau tax reform because we don't agree.

>> the future of the republican party and frankly, your place in it is a big story . just this morning, the front page "the new york times " has this headline "rand paul 's mix inherit tense," senator looksing to move liberty tearism from the fringe to the mainstream. how big of a hurdle is this for you if you're going to run for president?

>> you know, i think there always are perceptions of what is extreme versus what is mainstream. i've always said you know, spending what comes in, balancing your budget is actually the very reasonable sort of proposal and spending a trillion dollars you don't have is an extreme proposal. so really it's a matter of getting our message out. but i think we've been talking a lot about poverty. it's about debating not who wants to cure poverty, republicans want to help people who are unemployed and help people get jobs but it's about what policies work. the reason we don't think grants work, we spend $1 trillion in the stimulus. they said it was $400,000 per job because you give it to the wrong people. nine out of ten businesses fail. so if government picks who they give the money to to create jobs, nine out of ten times they're wrong and pick the wrong person. what i asked with my economic freedom zones is dramatically lower taxes but give it to the businesses that are already started and the consumers have already voted for, but that's different than what we've been doing in the war on poverty for 50 years.

>> it's interesting the role of government, you've often referred to the tyranny of the federal government . again, it comes down to mainstream versus extreme. fellow republicans and maybe he's one that will run against you for the republican nomination, ted cruz , has described your strident libertarianism of your father as an issue that will always be a shadow over anything you try to do.

>> you know, i think one of the things, and you know, don't be trashing my dad too much. that's my dad. you know? but the thing is, i would say that my dad was extraordinary in washington and in being genuine, being really liked by people on both sides, being close to people from the conservative wing of the party but also very close to the congressional black caucus , as well. he went to berkeley and had 7,000 kids on their feet. he went to liberty university and had 7,000 people, 7,000 conservative christian kids on their feet. so that's a rare figure in politics and i would say i'm proud of my dad and what i would say, i'm trying to do is to try to bring that message to an even bigger crowd.

>> but senator, do you think --

>> i think there's a lot to be said for him.

>> is the federal government guilty of tyranny?

>> well, you know, month tas cue talked about when the executive branch tries to assume the legislative powers, that's a form of tyranny. so yeah, there are times when when we lose our checks and balances when government grows and when government's not obeying the rule of law, that that is a form of tyranny. tyranny is a strong word but it makes people sit up and take notice. but i would say that there are times when we are going beyond what we should be doing when we're exceeding the restraints of the constitution that there is a form of tyranny and we need to be aware of that.

>> the issue of edward snowden has been very much in the news this week with calls potentially for a deal with the united states government . you've called him a hero. you've said perhaps he would face penalties that would be too harsh. that's why he's not returning. "the wall street journal " editorial --

>> go ahead.

>> i was just going to say that's not exactly what i've said. i've said i have sort of mixed feelings. i think he's brought to forward something and i think his motives are noble in the sense i think he believe ooze the government was doing something unconstitutional and bringing this information forward. i don't think we'd have any of this debate had he not done it, but i've also said what he did was against the law and we do have to have laws to protect national secrets, you know, captains in the military, sergeants in the military do have to obey orders and we can't reveal secrets. i haven't said he shouldn't be punished. i've just said the death penalty is excessive. life in prison is excess sessive and he has brought an important debate.

>> what would you call on the attorney general, the president to do in terms of fashioning some kind of plea with him? what would be appropriate?

>> i'm not sure what the answer is. i've been responding not so much in a legal fashion but i'm responding to some i think overheated rhetoric by people saying let's string him up, let's shoot him. he's a traitor, this and that. i don't assign bad motives to snowden . i think his motives were good. i'm not sure he did the right thing in the right way. i also don't assign bad motives to james clapper but he did break the law and he is exposed himself to five years in prison for perjury. so you can't have it both ways. you can't say we're going to throw the book at snowden and going to ignore perjury to congress by james clapper . they both, if you want to apply the law, it has to be applied equally.

>> about what your colleagues the chairs of the intelligence committees, namely mike rogers in the house strongly suggesting on this program last week that snowden was a spy for the russians that he had help from the russians that he went into the open arms of the russians to seek refuge there? how do you react to that? do you think that's fair?

>> you know, i don't have details to know what the situation is there. i think it's complicated the way history will treat him because it's a little hard to be over there in russia talking about privacy and the bill of rights in a country that has persecuted journalists and doesn't really have the same degree of freedom we have in our country. so it has complicated it. but i don't know whether or not what his release and exactly what they're referring to.

>> let me ask you more about some of the debates within the republican party . mike huckabee former governor of arkansas got nest hot water this week with comments he said. he talked about a war for women . here's what he said.

>> the democrats want to insult the women of america by making them believe that they are helpless without uncle sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they can't control their libido or reproductive system without the help of the government. so be it. let us take that discussion all across america because women are far more than the democrats have played them to be.

>> is this helpful?

>> well, you know, we have a lot of debates in washington that get dumbed down and used for political purposes. this whole sort of war on women thing, i'm scratching my head because if there was a war on women , i think they won. you know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. i have a niece at cornell vet school and 85% of the young people there are women in. in med school , 55%. my younger sister is an ob-gyn with six kids and doing great. i don't see so much that women are downtrodden. i see them rising up and doing great things. in fact, i worry about our young men sometimes because i think the women are outcompeting the men in our world.

>> but my question whether you think it's appropriate for the party key figures in the party to be talking about women , women 's het, women 's bodies and the role of the federal government related to those things.

>> i try never to have discussions of anatomy unless i'm at a medical conference. what i would say is we didn't start this sort of, i think, glossy and sometimes dumbed down debate about there being a war on women . i think the facts show that women are doing very well, have come a long way, and you know, like i say, i have a lot of successful women in my family and i don't hear them saying, whoa is me, this terrible you know, misojist world. they're conquering the world. the women ? my family are doing great. that's what i see in all the sticks coming out. i have, you know, young women in my office that are the leading intellectual lights of our office. so i don't really see there's some sort of war that's you know, keeping women down. i see women doing great and i think we should extol that success and not dumb it down into a political campaign that somehow one party doesn't like women or that. i think that's what's happened. all for political purposes.

>> elsewhere in republican politics, chris christie in new jersey is facing troubles over the bridge scandal there. and you've had your own feud with him. here's a little bit of tape that brings people up to date on that.

>> this strain of liberty tearism that's going through through both parties right now and making big headlines i think is a very dangerous thought.

>> if he cared about protecting this country, maybe he wouldn't be in this gimme, gimme, gimme all the money you have in washington .

>> maybe he should start look at cutting pork barrel spending he brings home to kentucky but i doubt he would because most washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon so they can get re-elected.

>> this is the king of bacon talking about bacon.

>> understand you two have been working through some of your feud. but my question for you is, do you think that chris christie could get the republican nomination?

>> you know, i think that's yet to be determined. the nomination goes through some very conservative primaries. i think there's room for more moderate republicans in the party and i really am a believer that we should have an expansive and diverse party idea logically and diverse in many ways but the primary is a very conservative process, and the -- my understanding is it will be more difficult for a moderate to make it through because we truly are fiscal conservatives in our party . if we are going to spend something on such as sandy, which is i think something the country was going to take responsibility in, we think we should pay for it. i offered an amendment on sandy to take the money everyone foreign aid and say look, we don't need it. if we're going to repair bridges in new jersey, i'm fine with that. if we're going to repair houses and roads, but let's take it from repairing roads in pakistan because there's a limited amount of money and really we're borrowing about a million dollars a minute a lot from china and japan. i don't think we should do that and we need to set priorities and say if we're going to help new jersey, it ought to be paid for. but that's why i think that there was a debate over him sort of lecturing congress and saying gimme gimme gimme all this money. all i was asking for and many other republicans were asking for is it ought to be paid for in spending cuts through overseas is spending

>> whoever the republican nominee is there's a good chance as we look at it now one within candidate on the democratic side will have a lot of momentum whether she gets the nomination or not, we don't know, is hillary clinton . an interesting profile in "vogue" magazine including this analysis. while her husband jokes meaning you that his gut feeling is that hillary clinton will not run for president, is a good thing since all the polls show her trouncing any opponent. kelly the wife of rand paul practically cuts him off to say clinton 's relationship with with monika lewinsky should complicate his return to the white house . are these issues something that you think will be fair game and an appropriate. part of a campaign should she be the nominee?

>> you know, i mean the democrats, one of their big issues is they've concocted and said republicans are committing a war on women . one of the workplace laws and rules that i think are good is that bosses shouldn't prey on young interns in their office. and i think really the media seems to have given president clinton a pass on this. he took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. there is no excuse force that. and that is predatory behavior and it should had something we shouldn't want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office. this isn't having an fair. i mean, this isn't me saying he's had an affair. we shouldn't talk to him. someone who takes advantage of a young girl in their office? really. then they have the gall to stand up and say republicans are having a war on women ? so yes, i think it's a factor. it's not hillary's fault.

>> but it should be an issue.

>> but it is i an factor in judging bill clinton in history.

>> right, but is it something hillary clinton should be judged on if she were a candidate in 2016 ?

>> no, i'm not saying that. this is with regard to the clintons and sometimes it's hard to separate one from the other. but i would say that with regard to his place in history, that it certainly is a discussion and i think in my state, you know, people tend to sort of frown upon that. we wouldn't be -- if there were someone in my community who did that, they would be socially -- we would disassociate from somebody who would take advantage of a young woman in the workplace.

>> senator rand paul , a lot of ground covered, a lof ground still to cover. senator, thank you as always.

>> thank you.

>>> i want to turn now to the assistant majority leader in the senate dick durbin . welcome back. i certainly want to talk about the state of the union . i don't want to let that go. as a democrat, somebody squarely behind president obama when he ran, if hillary clinton is the democratic nominee, are these issues about the former president relevant to her? is it an appropriate area of scrutiny you think in a 2016 campaign?

>> listen, david, hillary clinton has established her own reputation, her own name. and her own basis for running for president should she choose to do it. the issues raised by senator paul have been litigated in the public square for over a decade. for goodness sakes, let's judge hillary clinton based on her talents and her vision of america should she choose 0 run for president.

>> hard to separate one from the other he just said.

>> got to be honest about it though. i mean, there are people who believe that though he pay have done the wrong thing, he paid a heavy price for it in terms of the impeachment trial and beyond, and you know, there was an organization created called and the reason was the american people said we get it. it was wrong. now let's move on and talk about the future. what are we going to do about the future of america ? if the republicans like my friend and he is my friend, senator paul , want to dwell on these chapters in the past, i don't think it's going to have mu resonance.

>> what should happen to edward snowden ? what would call on the attorney general to do to get snowden back to the united states and perhaps do a deal with him?

>> he has to answer for having violated some of the most basic laws in our country and costing this country billions of dollars. now, that's a fact. did he also bring out in the public eye a lot of programs that we have been talking about in congress in the most veiled terms? how do we know much more about them, are we debating them? it's true. don't overlook the fact that this man was entrusted with an awesome responsibility entrusted with the most serious information. i don't know why incidentally when i look at his background, how he got this information. but he it had and he took an oath that he would not disclose it because he knew it would make america more vulnerable to attack and he did it anyway. that's a fact and you can't overlook that.

>> on this program last week, the chairman of the house intelligence committee suggested he is a spy for the russians . is there any evidence to corroborate that to validate making that kind of charge?

>> i haven't seen any.

>> do you think there's an effort on the part of some lawmakers to try to smear him publicly.

>> i can't say that because mr. rogers is the republican chair of the house intelligence committee and yet a person i have great respect for. i think he's proef, a former fbi agent. i take what he says very seriously. i've not seen any evidence to suggest what he said.

>> the future of spying in america is going to be something that congress is going to take up. how much authority should these intelligence agencies have? do you think these program that allow the government to collect bulk mate data, should they be here to stay?

>> we have to change these programs. the president challenged us to do it. i have spoken on the floor of the senate for years about this program. but only in the most circumspect way. i couldn't be specific or tell the details we now know. but the fact is we have to change them. if we have a suspicion of a person in area code 312 in chicago connected with terrorism, we don't need to collect all the phone records of every person living in the 312 area code . that's unacceptable. the government shouldn't hold that information. the president has challenged congress and the attorney general to come up with an alternative to keep us safe but to not create an opportunity for the government to overreach.

>> accountability time for president obama . tough year in 2013 at the state of the union last year, what were the big issues? it was gun control , immigration, raising the minimum wage . didn't get any of those. what's different in this year? i hope that what we saw with the budget agreement at the end of last year and the beginning of this year is an indication of a newbie partisan spirit. we need it on capitol hill . paul ryan , republican from wisconsin, patty murray , democratic senate budget committee chair sat down and hammered out a budget and then barbra mikulski and congressman rogers put together the spending bill, an amazing break through. and at one point, speaker boehner will to stand up to his tea party republicans and say i know it's a compromise, we're going forward. if he continues in that spirit, maybe we'll get a farm bill after waiting for two years.

>> do you get an increase in the debt ceiling without a fight?

>> the president's position is clear. we should not play russian roulette with america 's economy. we shouldn't jeopardize this economic growth and kill off jobs because of political squabble. we went through the eight 16-day government shutdown because senator cruz and a lot of right wing republicans thought that was a good thing to do. it was a disaster. i hope they don't repeat it again when it comes to the debt ceilinging

>> senator durbin, thank you so much for your time.

>> , that, david.

>>> coming up here if you haven't noticed, there's a lot of talk about hillary clinton this morning. our roundtable weighs in on what "the new york times " is calling planet hillary. plus, edward snowden , the u.s. says it may be willing to make a deal. is he ready to talk? we go live to moscow to speak to within of his top advisors. and billie jean king is a trailblazer once again as she heads to the winter olympics in sochi. harry smith with a revealing profile.

>> i was so publicly outed, i lost all my endorsements