Meet the Press   |  February 02, 2014

Obama Faces Rocky Road

A Meet the Press roundtable examines the achievements the president has left to accomplish.

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

>>> 28th. roundtable is back. with 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 '08 and in 2000 .

>> we've talked about christie in 2016 . hillary clinton still such a focus. polling came out. big surprise from the " washington post ," abc news that hillary clinton is trouncing any opponent she might have in the party is, joe biden or elizabeth warren . very interesting last week here with rand paul, really amping up kind confident republican response and raising bill clinton , raising monika lewinsky, maureen dowd rights in her column this morning the times that he had something of a point. here's a portion of what she wrote this morning. it's not so simple to cast hillary as a victim. she was also part of the damage control team to vouch for her husband and vouch for his mistress. they spread the word monika was a troubled young woman with stalking tendencies. she was distressed that the president was being attacked for his ministry of a troubled person. is this groundhog day in politics too?

>> such great memories.

>> david wildstein while all this was happening

>> gwenn, you go forward. is this deft on the part of the republicans?

>> watching that last week, i had the feeling he was -- this was something that occurred to him as he was defending his wife who had raised this question. people who live through this had for whom this was an important part of their political life and formative issue will be happy to write about it again. but as we spend all of our time obsessing about the clintons again and about hillary clinton again, i think there's a lot less time being spent aside from the chris christie who the republican nominee is going to be. there's got to be a republican nominee and they don't know at all. is it just me?

>> is that so bad though?

>> first of all, i think you're right.

>> hillary clinton in a way is waiting in the wings in a way maybe no republican could be.

>> she's been an overwhelming front-runner about before and that didn't work out well last time. maybe it works out this time. rand paul, he was being asked about his wife's comments. i get the sense the republicans don't.

>> for a riff, that was pretty -- that was pretty well played.

>> they're not sitting around in back rooms figuring out how to bring up the '90s again. i don't think they fear hillary clinton . it's probably not going to be a status quo election. is she going to be able to brand herself hope and change 2.0? i doubt it.

>> the backdrop of these comments and the state of the union are that the american people want to see positive action from this town.

>> go forward, not back into it has slowed down everybody.

>> this it is barbara bush 's point. if it's clinton busch again how are you going forward?

>> watching developments around hillary clinton , you know, i hope the message that they got from the '07 and '08 was we didn't do inevitability inevitably enough.

>> that's pretty good.

>> i spent time thinking about it.

>> he's just riffing

>> i didn't write this. what i mean by that is, democrats and americans want to see not that you can get a super pac to align with you and not that you can get big donors aligned with you, but do you have an american vision , a vision for how america fits into the world and what the role we want to see ourselves play.

>> all right.

>> at home and abroad. i think that's the reen onus on her.

>> we're going to take a break. i've got an interesting conversation about the future of football coming up. coming up next here, the investigation into the bridge scandal. will new chajs by a one-time close christie ali be a game changer? i'll speak with a man leading the investigation. and the threat to the future of america's most popular sport