Meet the Press   |  February 02, 2014

Will Obama Redefine Presidency?

A Meet the Press roundtable looks into the current status of the Obama administration's achievements and what's left to accomplish.

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

>>> me here chuck todd , glenn isle, rich lowry , robert gibbs and doris kearns - goodwin . by the way, it's ground hog day . punxsutawney phil did see his shadow this morning. what does it mean? it means more winter is here. it means bad things. poor punxsutawney. we'll talk more weather later. doris kearns - goodwin , we talk about the power of the presidency. you think so much about this. a thousand days left for president obama . here was the headline back in 2009 of the inauguration. historians say he, meaning obama, could redefine the presidency and with no disrespect to this policy, here's denis mcdonough the chief of staff talking about broadband connection , getting more kids connected. is that what you envisioned.

>> when you think about 1,000 days, some people might think that seemed short. that was the entire span of jfk's presidency. why is he remembered in part not just for the cuban missile crisis , he set things in motion for the future, civil rights that lbj was able to get through. medicare, lbj was able to get through. what obama is saying i think through executive orders and there's a triumphant history of executive orders , harry truman ' desegregation of the army was an executive order . lbj did discrimination ending in federal hiring and contractors. there's been bad executives. fdr's presidency was forever scored by the executive order incarcerating japanese americans . what he was saying in the state of the union , i want to go along with you, but if i can't, speak softly, carry a big stick . there's my big stick . more importantly he's saying my presidency will be remembered in part for what i began. he accentuated gay rights . we're getting energy dependence . he ended two wars. these things may take awhile to get into the history, but if he set things in motion that show a forward movement in social justice and defining inequality as the issue of our generation, then he will be remembered.

>> how do you see it, rich?

>> i thought the state of the union was a banal speech in the service of pick cue you know agenda. big clinton played small ball with strategy in the mind as part of an effort to associate him with middle class values. this to me feels different. it feels is much more like exhaustion, and doris kearns - goodwin can cite all these historic executive orders over the decades. none of the things they're talking about at the white house are anything like that. i would say it's a nod to the reality that this term is not going to finish with some flourish of legislative accomplishment as we saw in 2009 and 2010 . it the white house had an unsteady and unfocused year and needs to give the american people confidence that they have an agenda that speaks to them and they can get it done. and i think that the speech went a good ways towards laying that out. now, the impetus is also on the republicans to be part of that change.

>> yeah, that is --

>> at some point in 2015 and 2016 , we're going to have a race to be the next president. if the republicans aren't prepared to appear to the american people like they are a governing party, able to do that in the country, they won't be elected.

>> john boehner is concerned about that, gwenn. he's saying look, we've got to be a party of real ideas and not just go through the meat grinder of opposing the president all the time.

>> people like tim scott like to oppose the president. that's kind of the whole idea, but listeninging to denis mcdonough , he said two interesting things about two issues. the big issues which the president can do something about, one is immigration. he said we're stepping back and getting out of the way. we're out of this. house republicans you figure it out. if something good happens, we get the credit if nothing happens. the other is the keystone pipeline . it was interesting to hear him say we'll see what other cabinet members say. this decision is putting john kerry between the rock and the hard place, long-time climate change advocate now in the position of trying to make a decision which will anger people on the left who think that this is a major environmental hazard and will anger people on the right. in fact, some democrats like mary landrieu and mark begich running for re-election in oil rich state who won't be happy if he doesn't approve it. these are big issues the president has.

>> i know the left can be upset with the president. but there's a real opening to say to republicans, hey, you said this is a priority? i studied it and i think it's a priority, too. we'll go ahead and do it.

>> you know.

>> it could be a big moment for him.

>> it could be. i was surprised, you do get a sense the president didn't like the statement that he got because now they're, the white house is emphasizing other agencies have to weigh in.

>> for months they've been saying it's all about the state department .

>> it does feel as if politically, they're in a advice. look, the politics of this with arkansas where the pipeline might be going through, mark pryor , democratic senator. at some point, you do figure the politics is going to sort of impact where the president comes down here. but on the big picture legacy, the other thing that the president was elected on was changing politics as we know it in this town. that's what has stunned me from the david remnick interview to the state of the union which paints the picture that he's resigned to the constraints of the office and the constraints of the politics of this town. he's given up on trying to break the polarization addiction that this town has. some will say he added to it, but he's given that up, and to me, that's going to be something that i think historians are going to be writing down as the great disappointment.

>> historians are going to say the problems with the culture preceded him and they had to do with redistricting and the poison of money. of course, he came in hoping to do that.

>> did he attempt it? my sense is i don't feel like in the last 1,000 days he's even.

>> so much of this debate too is does this fever only break when we get to the 2016 ?

>> that's what we said in