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'Meet the Press' transcript for Nov. 23, 2008

Transcript of the Nov. 23, 2008 broadcast of NBC's 'Meet the Press,' featuring James Baker, William Daley, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Erin Burnett, Paul Ingrassia, Eugene Robinson and Chuck Todd.

MR. TOM BROKAW: Our issues this Sunday: After another down week of terrifying news in the financial markets, President-elect Obama unveils a massive new plan to stimulate the economy. He is expected to name the current head of the New York Fed, Tim Geithner, as his new secretary of the Treasury. What can be done now, and how will the president-elect address this continuing economic meltdown come January? Insights from two political heavyweights--a man who served President Reagan as secretary of the Treasury and George Bush 41 as secretary of state, Jim Baker; and an adviser to Obama's transition team, the secretary of commerce for President Bill Clinton, William Daley of Chicago.

Then, he was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000 but supported Republican John McCain in 2008. After a fight to keep his key chairmanship in the Senate, does Joe Lieberman have any regrets? We'll ask him. An exclusive interview with Connecticut's independent senator, Joe Lieberman.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): ...they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: Prospects for a Detroit bailout fade on Capitol Hill. The very latest on the Obama transition and his expected Cabinet picks. Insights and analysis from our political roundtable: the anchor of CNBC's "Street Signs" and co-anchor of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," Erin Burnett; the former Detroit bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Ingrassia; Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; and NBC News political director Chuck Todd.

But first, the subject on the minds of everyone these days, the economy. And now two men who have served the economic teams of former presidents, former Treasury secretary for President Reagan James Baker, former commerce secretary for Bill Clinton, now an adviser to the Obama transition team, Bill Daley of Chicago.

Welcome to both of you.

Mr. Daley, let's begin by hearing what the president-elect had to say in his radio address to the country yesterday as it played out on his Web site, about what he has in mind.


PRES.-ELECT BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I have already directed my economic team to come up with an economic recovery plan that will mean 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011, a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face that I intend to sign soon after taking office. We'll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year nationwide effort to jump-start job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: We're beginning to hear some of the details this morning. Is this going to be an FDR public works kind of project?

MR. WILLIAM DALEY: I think what you're going to see, Tom, is a combination of, yes, there must be infrastructure, we must rebuild our roads, our bridges, as the president-elect said. We must modernize our schools. Those are investments. But at the same time, there'll be a host of other things that the economic team will look at. The president-elect is intent on this being done over the next number of weeks, ready to be introduced even before he's sworn in so that the Congress can deal with it over those three--two and a half weeks and then hopefully pass it and have it ready to be signed. But it will be large enough to be meaningful and will hopefully set a predicate for laying a stronger economy, so then he can deal with the longer term issues that have been neglected for so long, starting in hopefully '10 and '11.

MR. BROKAW: We're going to get to Detroit in a moment, but will he also be addressing manufacturing in states like Ohio, and the issues of trade, which were so contentious during the campaign?

MR. DALEY: I think you'll see, in this economic recovery legislation, across-the-board look at what, what needs to be done; how large must this action be to really make an impact in the two years to create those or save those two and a half million jobs. It has to be a very large package, but it has to be a combination of things, tax cuts, the president-elect has been intent on trying to bring tax relief to the vast majority of the middle class in America.

MR. BROKAW: We want to get to taxes in a moment, but first, let's get the reaction, if we can, of Secretary Baker who's in Texas this morning.

Do you think that the Republican Party is prepared to go along with a massive public stimulation program that is directed by the government, Mr. Baker?

MR. JAMES BAKER: Well, I think it depends entirely, Tom, on what's in it. We don't really know that yet. I will say this, I think the president-elect has pinpointed a very serious problem that we all know we're living through right now. I happen to believe that we are a very resourceful people and a resourceful country, and we're going to come out of this all right, but it is, it is very serious. It's far worse than the downturn that we saw back in the 1987 when we had a stock market collapse when I was Treasury secretary. That one was much less broad and severe, but even that took us two years to come out of. So some sort of an infrastructure program could be part of, of a recovery program, but I don't know that that would be the centerpiece of it, as far as the Republicans in Congress are concerned. This is also a bad time, Tom, and, and Bill Daley knows this as well as anybody, to be doing any talk about backsliding on trade. Everybody knows that free trade creates economic winners, more winners than losers, so we ought not to be thinking about raising taxes or backsliding on foreign trade.

MR. BROKAW: And let's talk about taxes for just a moment ,if we can. The New York Times is reporting today that "in light of the downturn, Mr. Obama is also said to be reconsidering a campaign pledge: his proposal to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. According to several people familiar with the discussions, he might instead let those tax cuts expire as scheduled in 2011, effectively delaying any tax increase while he gives his stimulus plan a chance to work." Is that your understanding of what may happen?

MR. DALEY: That looks more likely than not, Tom, but the president-elect is very committed to the fact that there must be greater equity in, in the responsibility of, of taxes in this country. We must bring tax relief to the middle class. He has said this now for two years as he's been out there on the campaign, and he's going to deliver on that. That's an integral part of his economic recovery package next year is to bring some tax relief to the American people and the vast majority who are in the middle class, not those of us who do much better than that. So I, I think he's going, he's, he's got a great team he's putting together: Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, a whole host of other people, that he's charged with putting this plan together. I think he's gone out to get the most competent, qualified, experienced people to put this together. We are, as Secretary Baker said, in the middle of an unprecedented economic crisis. We will come out of it, but these are times that no one's ever seen, and it's a global issue. And of all the people he's put forward in these major jobs are very experienced in a global setting of economics also.

MR. BROKAW: And, Secretary Baker, keeping the Bush tax cuts in place, will that be central to winning any Republican support for a massive public stimulus program of some kind?

MR. BAKER: Well, it depends on which you mean by keeping them in place. If that means he's not going to try to repeal, not going to try to increase taxes during this very critical next two-year period, then, yes, it would be and probably would be if it means that he's going to abandon the idea of, of keeping them, keeping taxes low thereafter. But let me, let me second what, what Secretary Daley said about the team that the president-elect is putting together. I think he's appointed some extraordinarily capable people, and we're going to see some more, as I understand it. And I think he's to be commended for that. Bill Daley knows and I know that any new president has got to surround himself with competent advisers, and that's even more so today when we're facing the kind of economic crisis we're facing.

May I say one other thing, Tom? I, I think that a lot of what we're seeing out there today is a lack of confidence, and the president-elect and, as a matter of fact, the current president have to face this problem over the next 60 days. It's unfortunate that we're in this interregnum of a transition, but I think that something very useful might even come out of the two of them sitting down together and addressing not the, not the midterm, not the mid and long-term problem that we face that was the subject of the president-elect's speech, but the--but facing--but addressing stability of our financial system and to see if there isn't something that they could do jointly, together, over the next 58 to 60 days that would help us make sure that the--that the financial system is stabilized and, and secure. Because if that goes under, then this thing is even, believe it or not, going to get worse. And I think just the mere fact of their sitting down together and seeing if there's not one thing that they could come together on would do a lot to restore confidence and, and remove the anxiety and fear that's out there.

MR. BROKAW: Mr. Daley, I know there's some wariness on the part of your team about getting too close to the outgoing administration, taking ownership, in effect, of some of the policies that they believe that have failed. But isn't that a reasonable idea?

MR. DALEY: Well, I think the--what you've seen is probably the, the best transition by, by President Bush of any administration outgoing. There has been great coordination, great discussions between President-elect Obama's team, the president-elect himself, and the secretary of Treasury and the, and the Fed. So there's a lot of interaction going on.

I, I agree with Secretary Baker that confidence is what's lacking. Senator Obama, in his address yesterday, put forward a very positive program. He is appreciative of President Bush's consultations with him, and they will continue that. No question, this 60-day period is, in, in some ways, is an opportunity to get a team together, get a plan together to act. We only have one president during that period, but there is great consultation going on. And, and, and all the major decisions that this, this administration is moving on, they are consulting. And as President-elect Obama's team gets put together, starting tomorrow, they'll be a greater opportunity for--to work even closer.

MR. BROKAW: You've walked all the way around the simple question, however.

MR. DALEY: Yeah.

MR. BROKAW: Secretary Baker...

MR. BAKER: Tom, Tom, I agree.

MR. BROKAW: Anyway, secretary...

MR. BAKER: I agree. I agree 100 percent. We can only have one president at a time, but nothing would do more to create confidence and, and eliminate the fear and anxiety that's out there, particularly in the finance--in financial markets, than to see the incoming president and the outgoing president get together on a--on some sort of a proposal or, or program over the short term. I'm not talking about the, the mid, the mid-term or, or long-term correction of the economy, but something that would do a little more perhaps to make sure that our, that our banks don't continue to slide down and, and that would stabilize our financial system, which is critical.

MR. BROKAW: So if the--President-elect Obama came to you and said, "Bill, what do you think? Should I go meet at the White House if we have sherpas in advance work something out?" Do you think that that's a...

MR. DALEY: I, I, I don't think there's a, a meeting that's going to give the confidence that Jim is talking about. I think what's going to take place is you're going to have the confidence by the actions of this administration in consultation with the president-elect, in--and then President-elect Obama, as he has done, telling his team, "Quickly, in 60 days, put together a plan that we can pass, even before I become president." That's the sort of aggressive leadership that I think President Obama's going to give. And I think the markets, as shown by Friday's action, maybe, indicate that there is some belief that, as his team gets appointed and they then develop a plan, that we're going to begin to see some confidence come back into the--and there, this is a difficult period, no doubt about it, in this transition period, but the administration is also, as I understand it from press reports, moving very quickly to possibly even change the plans that they've put forward at this point.

MR. BAKER: The appointment...

MR. BROKAW: Here, here is part of the problem as I see it.

MR. BAKER: The appointment of the team...

MR. BROKAW: Go ahead.

MR. BAKER: Tom, the appointment of the team did, the appointment of the team did, did stabilize things for a day or so, and Bill's quite right about that. And then when it's formally announced Monday, it may do so again. But I'm not sure that it's going to be enough to, to, to stop the problem. And, and, boy, nothing would do more. And, and the president-elect would not have to take ownership. This would be a joint program, and it would only--it would be limited to trying to do further stabilization of the financial system only.

MR. BROKAW: Well, let, let me take this to the next phase, if I can. I want to share with you what Secretary Paulson had to say recently, November 13th, about the stabilization of the American banking system. Here's what he had to say.


SEC'Y HENRY PAULSON: I believe the banking system has been stabilized. No one is asking themselves anymore is there some major institution that might fail and that we would not be able to do anything about it. So I think that is a positive.

Unidentified Man: There could be a failure of another major institution?

SEC'Y PAULSON: I, I got to tell you, I think our, our major institutions have been stabilized. I believe that very strongly.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: And shortly after that statement, as we all know, Citibank, one of the largest financial institutions in the world, had its stock drop by 64 percent in a matter of days, hours. It was in free fall. It's now looking for additional government assistance. Tom Friedman in The New York Times today is suggesting that Tim Geithner be moved up as the secretary of Treasury, that he be put in place before the inauguration on January 20th. Is that the kind of thing that the Obama team is going to explore?

MR. DALEY: Well, I, I, I think we're going to stick to the schedule, as has been laid out, and that is the secretary of the Treasury will be nominated. He has to go through a confirmation process. No one takes for granted the Senate's action in that. But, but I think what Secretary Paulson said was there are, there are tools they have today to prevent that sort of collapse, and hopefully they will take them if they're faced with that. But these are unprecedented times, no question about it. I don't think anyone's ever seen them. It took us a long time to get to this. It's going to take us a long time to get out of it. And we've just got to be confident that we have the tools which Secretary Paulson said we do as a government, and then how to build on those in this new administration.

MR. BROKAW: Detroit and what to do about it has been a central part of the discussion in the past week, not just in Washington, but across the country. Will President-elect Obama address Detroit tomorrow on what he thinks ought to be done about that?

MR. DALEY: I, I think at his press conference, I'm sure they'll--one of your colleagues will ask the questions. He has been very up-front in saying, and strong in saying that the auto industry is an important part of our economy. This is an unprecedented time of difficulty. Much of the difficulty in our auto industry brought on by the industry itself, but much also brought on by this confluence of economic problems that have hit the country at once. There's no question there is no desire for a bailout. That's not going to work. They have been charged by the Congress, after failure last week, to come back to the Congress with a plan that can begin to convince people that they have some opportunity, out of a plan, to survive and to grow and bring new cars and help address the economic problems. But to let them go down just as though it won't affect this country and this economy is just unrealistic. It's the backbone of our manufacturing, it affects the small towns throughout America, and we've got to do all that we can. But they have to do--the responsibility is on the auto companies and the union to come back to Congress and give them a plan. That's what Congress has asked for. President-elect is strongly encouraging them to do that, and he will support some sort of short-term, if needed, to get to the point where they can honestly come in with a plan that will show long-term growth and opportunity for the auto industry in America.

MR. BROKAW: Secretary Baker, is there anything short of bankruptcy that the Republicans would sign off on to help Detroit?

MR. BAKER: Well, I can't speak for the Republicans generally, Tom, but what I think the president-elect could do in, in this case is take a page from, from President Ronald Reagan's book back in 1987 when every major automobile company chief executive came in pounding on my desk as secretary of the Treasury and then over at the Oval Office demanding protection against Japanese and Korean imports. And it wasn't easy for President Reagan to do this, but he said, "Wait a minute, I'm not going to do that. We believe in free trade. What you're going to have to do is get competitive, you're going to have to downsize and streamline," and they did that. When, when, when a bailout-type approach was denied them and when they were not given protection, they did downsize, they streamlined, they became one of the most effective and efficient automobile industries in the, in the world. And that's the kind of approach, I think, that most Republicans would like to see to the problems of Detroit.

MR. BROKAW: But then they lost their way, and a lot of people blame this administration and others for always pushing back when people wanted to raise the CAFE standards on mileage and not saying anything about Detroit and its great binge when it came to SUVs and big gas-guzzling vehicles of all kind. So...

MR. BAKER: Well, that's part of--of course, that's a big part of the problem. But another large part of the problem is that they're simply not competitive. Given the pension benefit obligations that they've incurred over the years under both Republican and Democratic administrations, and given the, the wage rates and salaries that they pay, I mean, other automobile companies come into this country, they locate in the South or the West and they build cars and they build them very effectively and very competitively. I think it costs maybe--I think Detroit has to find $2,000 to compete with some of the cars of--similar type car that Toyota builds in some of its plants in the South. So that, that problem is endemic, and it's going to have to be addressed.

MR. BROKAW: Secretary Baker, I can't let you go without getting your reaction, as a former secretary of state, to the prospect that Hillary Clinton is going to be the new secretary of state in the--in an Obama administration. What do you think of the choice of Hillary Clinton?

MR. BAKER: Well, well, as I said earlier, I think all of the choices that have been surfaced out there so far are, are quite good. I, I see them as--maybe I'm wrong in this, I hope I'm not, but I see them as being sort of center-right of the Democratic Party. With respect to Senator Clinton, she's got the qualifications. She's extraordinarily intelligent. she is--her appointment, should it come, will be well-received by a lot of people around the world. It will certainly do a lot, I would think, speaking now as a politician, perhaps, to solidify the Democratic Party. But the key is going to be whether or not she and her president are seamless in their approach to foreign policy issues. As I think Tom Friedman wrote in a column last week, a, a foreign leader can see daylight between a president and his secretary of state from a hun--from a thousand miles away. So she will be successful depending upon how seamless she is with her president and how they operate together and how he protects her back and vice-versa, how he formulates foreign policy, she picks up on that formulation, and she implements it. That's going to be the key, but I think she is clearly well qualified, provided that seamless approach is, is undertaken.

MR. BROKAW: And Mr. Daley, finally, are they going to work out the Bill Clinton issues to get her appointed?

MR. DALEY: I, I, I'm not confirming anything, but I would hope that things work out because I, I agree with Secretary Baker that she would be a tremendous addition to this administration. Tremendous.

MR. BROKAW: All right. Bill Daley, representative of the Obama administration incoming; and, of course, Jim Baker, in Texas, secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, secretary of state under Bush 41, White House chief of staff, now down in Texas playing the part of an elder statesman of the Republican Party.

Coming up next, does Joe Lieberman have any regrets over his support for John McCain during the presidential election? I'll be asking him that in our exclusive interview. Also, our political roundtable. All coming up next only here on MEET THE PRESS.


MR. BROKAW: Joe Lieberman, plus our political roundtable after this brief station break.


MR. BROKAW: Senator Joe Lieberman, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS. You were last here in early August at a time when you were supporting John McCain. Before we get to that and the consequences of it all, I want to ask you about President-elect Obama's economic stimulus program that we'll hear more about tomorrow, but we're already getting the broad outlines of a two and a half million job program of some kind. Apparently based on what Mr. Daley was saying, it will include not just public works, but some incentives for the private sector as well.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): Right. Well, I was very encouraged by what President-elect Obama had to say yesterday. As everyone knows, this is an unprecedented economic situation. I mean, just think about the effects. We've lost about $8 trillion of value in the stock market. There are millions of Americans whose home mortgages are either in foreclosure or about to go into foreclosure. Unemployment is rising. We need to work together to, to get the economy going again. I was impressed by what Secretary Baker said, although, frankly, I'd address it a little bit differently. I, I'm concerned that we're between presidents now and in the meantime, the economy is continuing to cycle down and, to, to a lot of people, out of control. I'd like to see President Bush work with President-elect Obama and the Democrats and Republicans in Congress to see if we can agree on a short-term stimulus that would be in effect some time right after the first of the year, perhaps a, a tax rebate or, or a, a program of grants to state and local governments, money that would move right out into the economy. Because, when you think about it, Tom, we're two months from Inauguration Day. It's hard to imagine Congress moving a short-term stimulus program of President-elect Obama in less than a month. We're going to be into the second quarter of next year before we get the stimulus, and that's too long. We need some action right now.

MR. BROKAW: Everybody's gone home. Should they be called back?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah. Well, we are coming back in December to deal with the auto industry crisis, but what I'm saying is I, I think President Bush ought to take the lead here and reach out to President-elect Obama and Democrats in Congress and see if we can agree on a short-term stimulus for the economy. We need it now. Now, Secretary Baker talked about financial institutions. I, I think Secretary Paulson and the administration already have enough authority to deal with financial institutions. And, and Hank Paulson might have been right in what he said that our financial institutions are stable, but that's not enough. They're not lending money, and until they do, this economy is going to go nowhere. So I, I, I think Secretary Paulson ought to call in Mr. Geithner, if he's the choice tomorrow, and begin to work with him on trying urgently to find a better way than they've found so far with the $700 billion in authority that we, in Congress, gave Hank Paulson to get banks to start lending money again.

MR. BROKAW: Let's talk politics. You were here in early August. You were appearing with John Kerry.


MR. BROKAW: You appeared as the vice presidential candidate of the Democratic ticket in 2000. It was, I think, a vigorous exchange at the time, as you continued to defend your choice of John McCain as your presidential candidate, the Republican standard-bearer. Here's what you had to say to the MEET THE PRESS audience at that time.

(Videotape, August 3, 2008):

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I assure you this, Tom, I'm not going to go to that convention, the Republican Convention, and spend my time attacking Barack Obama.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: And then we saw you in St. Paul, and this is what you had to say in prime time to a packed hall, great cheering, and to a national television audience.

(Videotape, September 2, 2008):

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Senator Barack Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who I think can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But, my friends, eloquence is no substitute for a record, not in these tough times for America.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: You said you weren't going to attack him, but you were saying, in effect there, he's just not qualified to be president of the United States.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I was saying he was less qualified than John McCain. I think I, I praised him right, right there. Look, in that speech, as I said to the Republican delegates, I wasn't really speaking to them, I was speaking as an independent Democrat to independents and Democrats across America about why...

MR. BROKAW: Oh, but you're, but you are, come on, Senator, with all due respect, you were appearing at the Republican National Convention. You were speaking to them as well.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, of course I was, but my, my main audience, because they had already decided they were going to support McCain. I was trying to explain why I as an Independent Democrat--remember, I made the choice after having been elected as an Independent, why I thought John McCain was the better choice. And I think I spoke respectfully of Barack Obama. But, you know, that's over. Barack Obama won fair and square and impressively; and now, as I said the day after the election, we've got to all unite behind him in these perilous economic times, and that's what I intend to do.

MR. BROKAW: Were you at all uncomfortable when Sarah Palin later said that he pals around with terrorists, or when Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York--the former mayor of New York, mocked his experience as a community organizer at the Republican National Convention? Did that make you uncomfortable?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I didn't agree with either of those statements, and...

MR. BROKAW: But you didn't express it publicly then.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, in fact, I did. People asked me about it--during that period of time, people in the media asked me about it during that period of time. But again, that's over and Barack Obama has won. Incidentally, Barack Obama has set exactly the right tone in victory since election night. Magnificent speech by him. A, a great speech by John McCain. Election night was a great American night, classically American, coming together. Senator McCain, Senator Obama, at Obama's invitation, have met; they've agreed to work together on a host of issues. We can't afford the luxury of spending time going back to the campaign. There's a lot of people in this country who are in danger of losing their homes and their jobs, and we've got to come together across party lines to help them quickly.

MR. BROKAW: But you're being judged not just by your fellow senators, but by Democrats across this country as well, because actions do have consequences. Here's what you had to say at the Republican National Convention about the choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate, right after you disqualified, in effect, Barack Obama because he wasn't yet ready. Here's what you had to say about Sarah Palin.

(Videotape, September 2, 2008)

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Now, I'm honored to say just a word about the great lady that John McCain has selected as his running mate.

The truth is, she is a leader we can count on to help John shake up Washington.

That's why I sincerely believe that the real ticket for change this year is the McCain-Palin ticket.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: Did you honestly believe that she was more qualified than you--you were on the short list for John McCain at one point--or than your friend Joe Biden to be the vice president of the United States.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: It's so sweet of you to run that clip and ask me that question this morning, Tom. Look, I, I got into this in December of 2007 to support my friend John McCain, who I've worked with on a host of different issues--climate change, lobbying and ethics reform, national security--because I thought he was better prepared than any of the candidates at that time--because everybody was in the race--to be the president we needed. I'm going to leave the political commentary and analysis looking backward to others. I'm focused on going ahead, now empowered to be chairman of homeland security by my colleagues in the, in the caucus and empowered to work in the caucus with the president-elect and his team to try to get our economy going again and protect our safety.

MR. BROKAW: You seem to have had a singular view about what happened in the caucus. You were quoted as saying afterwards it was the best time you'd had with the Democratic caucus since 2000.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: That, that was a misquote. What I said was I, I felt closer to the caucus than any time since 2006. I felt real close in 2000. But 2006 was a tough time for me and my friends in the Democratic Party. I lost the Democratic nomination over the--my position on the war in Iraq in Connecticut. I went on to run as an Independent. God bless the people of Connecticut, they re-elected me. And so I came back as an Independent-Democrat. And my status over those two years was a different one, but I felt--I tell you, the caucus was a, a very healthy exchange of real honest feelings, and I--that's why I said I emerged from it feeling closer to my friends in the Senate Democratic caucus than I have since 2006.

MR. BROKAW: There seem to have been several versions of what happened in there. Let me just read to you from the Politico: "Lieberman said that he doesn't regard his loss of a spot on the Environment and Public Works Committee"--I think you served on that for 20 years--"as any kind of punishment. ... `I don't view it as a sanction,' ... Lieberman told Politico. ... Instead [he] suggested he relinquished his seat on the committee voluntarily." But a spokesman for Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, "disagreed with Lieberman's characterization. ... One senior Democratic aide ... also disputed [the] contention. ... `It's a sanction,' the aide said. `Someone who serves on a committee for 20 years just doesn't drop it in the spirit of cooperation. It was taken away from him.'"

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, look, the whole spirit of the caucus was reconciliation, and the fact is that Senator Reid asked me if I would leave the environment committee if he needed space on the committee for some of the new freshman senators coming in. I said yes, I would. People may have voted for it thinking somewhat differently. It's OK. What, what I feel good about is that I have the opportunity and privilege to be chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in which I've done a lot of work that I want to continue to protect the security of the American people at home, and to continue to chair the subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee that oversees all Army and Air Force programs at a critical time. And, look, this began with President-elect Obama, when he said both publicly that he holds no grudges, in my case, and I think generally. And, and then Senator Reid saying that he had heard from President-elect Obama, who asked him to do everything he could to keep me in the Democratic caucus, because the president-elect is looking forward. He knows the enormous challenges he faces. And I think he wants to make sure, first, that he has a united Democratic Party before him, and then, as he indicated in and after his meeting with Senator McCain, that he's got the opportunity to work across party lines to fix the enormous problems that we all face together.

The public is sick of partisanship. They really want us to put our country first. And that, I think, is what Barack Obama has been making clear he will do since the night he was elected.

MR. BROKAW: You've always, as a public servant, held other people accountable. You were the only one to speak out on the floor, for example, against Bill Clinton during the time of the impeachment. Holding yourself accountable, looking back over the last six weeks, two months or so, what are the statements that you most regret?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I don't want to go into the details. Let me just say this, I don't regret having supported John McCain because I sincerely believed in his experience and his extraordinary record of working across party lines to get things done. But I do regret, as I said to the caucus and, and afterward publicly, there were some things I said in the heat of a campaign that I wish I had said more clearly. There are other things, frankly, I wish I hadn't said at all. That happens to all of us in the heat of a campaign. But, nonetheless, I regret it and I want to move forward. And I was very grateful that my caucus, in the resolution they passed, did not disapprove of my support of Senator McCain, because they respected that I did is as an Independent Democrat for somebody I had worked with very closely. They expressed their disapproval of some of the things I said. I accept that. That was the spirit of reconciliation. And now we move on together to get the nation's business done.

MR. BROKAW: Have...


MR. BROKAW: Have you picked up the phone and talked to Barack Obama about just that?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I, I called Senator Obama, President-elect Obama, after the campaign. He's busy. I heard back from Joe Biden and Rahm Emanuel. I'm sure, in time, Senator Obama and I, who, who, who have developed a good friendship and working relationship over the years he's been in the Senate, will, will talk. In some sense he talked to me through Harry Reid and his spokespeople, and I appreciate very much the spirit of reconciliation that he evoked. We don't have the luxury of looking backward to the campaign. He's the winner. He's the president-elect. We've all got to work together with him to make him successful, and that's what I'm committed to doing.

MR. BROKAW: I hear the word regret but not the word apology.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I do, I regret it. I mean, I don't, I, I, you know, I'm going forward. You can take from the word regret what you, what you, will. I wish I had not said some of the things I've said. But, again, we all do it. There was a lot of stuff said in this campaign about both candidates that I think a lot of people regret. I'm happy to step forward and say that I regret some of the things I've said. But somebody once said to me, God put our eyes in front of our head so we would always be naturally looking forward. And that's what, at this time of peril for our country, we've all got to be doing.

MR. BROKAW: Do you think that your friend Senator John McCain will become an advocate, an enthusiastic advocate for trying to heal the partisan divides that have so--been so cancerous in this town and work closely with Barack Obama?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah. I'm convinced John McCain will play a leadership role in bringing people together across party lines in support of Senator Obama, obviously on the areas in which he agrees with him. And, and I'm not just guessing, because that's been McCain's whole record. He's been one of the most productive legislatures we've had because he has worked across party lines. He will do it again. There will be occasions, I presume, where he would disagree with the president-elect, President Obama; he will say so respectfully. But you couldn't ask for a Republican candidate for president who didn't win who is more prepared than John McCain to do everything he can, as he said during the campaign, to put our country first by supporting our country's president. He's not the Democrat's president. Barack Obama is going to be America's president, and we all need to help him be a great president.

MR. BROKAW: Senator Lieberman, thanks very much for being with us.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Tom.

MR. BROKAW: Hope you'll come back again.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I look forward to it.


The very latest on the prospects for a bailout of Detroit. Also President-elect Obama's expected Cabinet picks and his big economic stimulus program. Our political roundtable will be weighing in. Erin Burnett, Paul Ingrassia, Eugene Robinson and Chuck Todd next only here on MEET THE PRESS.


MR. BROKAW: We're back. We've got lots to talk about this morning with Erin Burnett of CNBC; Paul Ingrassia, the former Detroit bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal; Gene Robinson of The Washington Post; and Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News. Welcome to all of you.

Erin, you've been around the world and back in the last 10 days or so. You were in Moscow, you've been talking to Hank Paulson and other people. Of course you've been keeping track of the markets nanosecond by nanosecond because that's what's required today. What do you think the response will be, and I always hate that amorphous term, of the markets tomorrow to this announcement that Barack Obama plans a two and a half million job economic stimulus program of some kind?

MS. ERIN BURNETT: It's so hard to tell what the market will do, you're right, nanosecond by nanosecond, but if you take Friday as an indication to Timothy Geithner as head of the Treasury, obviously that did cause a last minute surge, and it broke a couple of bad days for the market. So you could say that might be an indication the market would take it positively. Two and a half million jobs, though, really isn't that many. That would still leave you with a net loss next year, and many people might say OK, that's good, but not overly ambitious, particularly those on Wall Street who are lukewarm on the idea of a massive infrastructure project. So maybe it indicates he's being a little cautious on the infrastructure side, and that would be received warmly.

MR. BROKAW: Isn't the more critical need to do something about Citibank and the other financial institutions that are in free fall?

MS. BURNETT: Citibank is an incredible story. And some reports that I've heard is that the vast majority of trading last week was people betting the stock would go down. You look at the cash position of Citigroup, it may be too big to manage, it may be a company with a lot of problems, all of that is true, but that company has $800 billion in deposits. There has been no fear, no fleeing, and to see that institution go down so quickly is truly shocking and, as you said, would be shocking to the Treasury secretary as well.

MR. BROKAW: Chuck Todd, we heard former Secretary of the Treasury Jim Baker, former secretary of state, a wise man in the Republican Party, announce today that he thinks that Barack Obama and President Bush should get together before the inauguration with some kind of a symbolic act to try to shore up confidence in this country.

MR. CHUCK TODD: Well, it's interesting, and, and what I'll be curious to see is what Republicans will jump on that bandwagon and say let's do something. And maybe the symbolic act is what you asked him about in particular, asked Bill Daley about it, about getting Timothy Geithner in place now. You know, don't wait until January 20th. What's been interesting about watching Barack Obama during this transition is he wanted to hold off on, on doing this economic team.

There was a lot of, of sort of, of political advice he was getting: "Hold off, don't take, don't take control of this economy just yet. Don't..." And yet, a lot of Wall Street folks got to him and said, "No, get on this now. Hurry up and inspire confidence." What Baker outlined, I could absolutely see in the next couple weeks influencing Obama and saying, "You know what? Maybe I will sign on to something."

MR. BROKAW: Good idea, Gene Robinson?

MR. EUGENE ROBINSON: Well, I, I think it's a good idea. I--but I think it was extraordinary to hear Jim Baker, the, the Republican eminence grise, essentially call on George Bush to, to share power, Republican president to, to effectively step down early and, and hand over the reins to the president-elect as a way of, of reassuring the, the market and the economy.

MR. BROKAW: I'm not sure he was going quite that far, but.

MR. ROBINSON: Well, well, but almost. And, you know, the--I mean, he is still president.

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MR. ROBINSON: And, and as, as Bill Daley was saying, George, George Bush--there are things he can do now, yet he does not have the credibility in the market, or I think in the, in the, in the country to, to get--to bring about that sort of confidence right now.

MR. TODD: He was speaking like a Treasury secretary, though. He was just talking in full confidence. It seemed like he took off his Republican hat there.

MS. BURNETT: But, Tom, there's also this whether Tim Geithner should take over. There are real differences between Henry Paulson and Tim Geithner.

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MS. BURNETT: And one of the biggest questions out there, when you talk about Citigroup, what are we going to use the rest of this TARP money for? Hank Paulson's trying to wait and leave that for the next administration. So if you did have Tim Geithner come in, he could say, "This is how I want to spend it. This is what I want to use it for." And that would give some clarity that might be needed.

MR. BROKAW: In the meantime, the 100,000-pound gorilla in Washington and across the country is your area of expertise, Paul Ingrassia. We're going to show on the screen a letter that Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, have sent to Detroit, saying really, "You've got to get your house in order. We'll help if you can guarantee us that you'll make the kinds of changes" that required everything from executive pay to reorganization. What do you think the chances are that something will be done before January 20th on behalf of Detroit with pretty strict conditions that are short of formal bankruptcy?

MR. PAUL INGRASSIA: Well, you know, we hear a lot about hybrid cars, Tom, and I think what we probably need in a case like this is something that might be called hybrid bankruptcy. Or if that word is toxic, let's call it hybrid restructuring. You need someone that has the authority to really cut through some of the ropes that are tied around this industry that really prevent it from being competitive and effective. The dealer franchise laws basically make it impossible for General Motors to really shrink its dealership network from about 7,000 dealers to about 1500, which it really needs to go down to. The union contract, just the master contract with the UAW and the car companies, is about that thick. Meanwhile, out in California, General Motors and Toyota have a joint venture called NUMMI, New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., that has a modern contract about that thick. Much less work rules, much less bureaucracy on both sides. And those kind of things have to be cut through with someone who has the, has the power to invalidate the union contracts and the dealer franchise laws so real restructuring can be done.

MR. BROKAW: But in, in your own column you wrote about bankruptcy would take shareholder value to nothing, probably. It's down...

MR. INGRASSIA: Shareholder value's already nothing.

MR. BROKAW: ...74 percent.

MR. INGRASSIA: Look at the stock prices.

MR. BROKAW: But what does it do at the other end of the pipeline to those communities across America that really do depend on their car dealerships to be a part of the heartbeat of their local economy?

MR. INGRASSIA: Well, sure. I mean, look, there's no painless way out of this, I don't think. But there is--there are parts of America where the car companies are really thriving. I mean, Honda just opened a brand-new assembly plant in Indiana last month, making Honda Civics that are selling--you know, nothing's selling well in this economy, but they're selling OK. So the truth of the matter is there's no painless way out of it. What you really have to do is find a way to minimize the pain and to give these companies a chance to really reboot themselves. And I think it's going to take some very harsh action with people who don't have to negotiate solutions but can impose solutions.

MR. BROKAW: A week ago there was some talk that GM may disappear. Do you think that's unlikely?

MR. INGRASSIA: Well, I hope they don't disappear. I think it'd be a disaster for the country, certainly. But I think that they have to be radically restructured, probably some new leadership and certainly downsized. They have eight brands with about 20, 22 percent of the market. If you just do the math, they don't have enough money to put behind marketing or product development for eight brands. They really need to get down to Cadillac, Chevy and maybe one other, maybe Saturn. But, again, to do that, it's going to take someone who can really invalidate some contracts with dealers.

MR. BROKAW: And, Gene Robinson, you have been writing about this. We're going to share with our viewers now from your column. "Detroit blames its situation on the financial and economic crisis. It's true that demand for cars has fallen off a cliff, largely because many would-be buyers are unable to get financing. It's also true that the auto industry claims to have seen the light about making energy-efficient cars. But it's also true that these newly enlightened executives spent years defending their industry's obsession with SUVs--and pooh-poohing the idea that times, and tastes, would ever change." Do those three executives to appeared here in Congress last week have to just hang it up and walk away?

MR. ROBINSON: I think they do. I, I think for, for the country to have confidence in, in any sort of, you know, call it a bailout or restructuring or whatever, but the US government's going to have to put money into it, and, and for people to have confidence in that, I don't think they have confidence in, confidence in current management. I think a lot of people on Capitol Hill don't either. I had a long talk with a veteran Democratic senator on Thursday, the kind of guy who, who recognizes that--how disruptive a failure of GM would be, a failure of any of the automakers and, and who supports unions and, and wants to see the retirees get their money and everything. But he was enormously frustrated, just enormously frustrated and recalled conversations he had had with, with several of these executives in the past about "When are you guys going to get your act together?" "Oh, we've learned. We're better. We're going to, we're going to reform and make better cars." And then nothing happened.

MR. BROKAW: Chuck Todd, one of the first tests of Obama's leadership, it seems to me, is he's got to go get in the face of the labor unions, the UAW in this case, and say, "Look guys, I know you supported me. I said I would be a champion of labor."

MR. TODD: Right.

MR. BROKAW: "But it's time for you to take a step back and get realistic here."

MR. TODD: Well, you know, it struck me that those--the head of the UAW should've been on Capitol Hill as well with--as part of this. I mean, it is going to be a, a dual solution. Now, this is why I don't think, politically, you're going to see this Democratic-controlled Congress or Barack Obama let the car companies go under, let any one of them go under because there is enormous pressure being put on them by labor beyond what we've seen. And that's why you do wonder if, if Congress should put them up and say, you know, "You've got to publicly be a part of this solution," and put them up with the executives. And that's something they haven't done. We'll see. I, I, I think that, that there is a majority out there to save, to save the auto.

MR. BROKAW: Maybe that plan is what President Bush and President-elect Obama, under the Baker proposal, should be working on between now and January 20th.

MR. INGRASSIA: Well, that would be exhibit A in my book. I mean, I really think, you know, I agree absolutely with what Chuck said about the union pressure. I think, think the union's got to come to the party on this. I mean, even today, Tom, some of the Big Three car factories have to staff 20 percent above the staffing level that it would take to normally operate the plant because of absenteeism. I mean, you know, a simpler operating contract, the, the contract that they have out in California at the GM/Toyota joint venture, you just miss a certain number of days and you're out. There's no negotiating with bureaucracies about, well, is this an excused absence or not an excused absence? It's a simpler operating agreement. And the template already exists. They should take the corporate jets and go to California and find it.

MS. BURNETT: We need more clarity, though, on where these two and a half million jobs are going to come from because, as I say, I think that's a lot less than a lot of people on Wall Street were expecting to hear out of Obama, maybe a larger number. But if you're going to talk about restructuring here, you're going to lose jobs no matter what. And finding some sort of an immediate transition seems to be very important. And if you're talking about infrastructure, there's only about $18 billion of projects ready to go that you could really put people to work on. So there is this sort of no man's land that we're going to go into where you could have a lot of people looking for work in addition to where we are right now and not really having anywhere to go right, right yet.

MR. BROKAW: Yeah, I've told--I've been told by governors and mayors alike that it's about an 18-month ramp-up to any kind of realistic public works program.

We're going to talk about the Cabinet that is now beginning to take shape. The one that has been getting the most attention besides Tim Geithner as the choice of the secretary of the Treasury, as you might expect, Madam Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The Clintonistas are back--Rahm Emanuel as the White House chief of staff, Eric Holder, the attorney general. What are the issues for Hillary Clinton beyond Bill? Or are those the big issues?

MR. TODD: Oh, I think it was the--that Bill was the big issue here. In fact, there were some very loyal Hillary loyalists very upset this week, thinking that Bill and his boys were, were, were messing the whole deal up by leaking the fact of how cooperative he was being. It was creating this--the drama that the Obama folks were trying to avoid. And it was my understanding that some, some Hillary loyalists made it clear to Chicago, this isn't us. This isn't the way we're going to be. We're not going to be this type of State Department. I think what's critical going forward is what is the relationship going to be with Jim Jones...


MR. TODD: ...who's the likely national security adviser and Hillary Clinton?

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MR. TODD: What you're seeing Obama develop here, yes, he's going to have some very strong, it's not a team of rivals, I call it a team of egos. And I mean that in a positive way. There's a lot of big personalities he's putting in his Cabinet, but he's also putting big personalities in charge of major things. NSA, he's doing this with Larry Summers, with the Council of Economics, with that position, and he's going to create one on green, on energy issues that's going to almost be an uber-Cabinet post over energy, interior and EPA.

MR. BROKAW: We should let our audience know that Jim Jones, well-known in the Washington circles...

MR. TODD: Right.

MR. BROKAW: ...former Marine commandant, has several languages, he was NATO commander, he is highly regarded across the board here. There you see him on the screen. He'll be a very, very strong voice in, in any White House. Eric Holder...


MR. BROKAW: ...Obama's friend, number two in the Clinton administration in the Justice Department under Janet Reno.


MR. BROKAW: But on the way out...


MR. BROKAW: ...he was involved in the Mark Rich pardon by waving it through...


MR. BROKAW: ...saying, "Take a look at it."

MR. ROBINSON: Exactly, looking, looking the other way and he has, in, in public statements since said, "Well, maybe I should've paid a bit more attention to, to, to that and taken, taken another look at it." The early signs are that, that Capitol Hill seems to be and Washington seems to be willing to say, "OK, that's in the past. Eric Holder is highly regarded by people on both sides of the aisle." As attorney general, he would be an, an, an interesting choice in--for me, in part, because he has very strong views on, on the issues or torture and, and detention at Guantanamo and that whole nexus of issues. It'd be interesting to see how he perceives--President-elect Obama has said he will make this a priority, closing Guantanamo and restoring America's honor and place in the world, as he, as he has, has essentially put it. So do we have some sort of investigatory commission? How does, how does he, how does he go about putting things right from the point of view of the new administration?

MR. BROKAW: And, Chuck Todd, you've been looking at the election results. One of the things that jumps out at you...

MR. TODD: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROKAW: the Hispanic vote, obviously, was very powerful for the Democrats. Texas could go Democrat in four years or possibly eight years. Bill Richardson, who is the most high-profile Hispanic...

MR. TODD: Right.

MR. BROKAW: ...politician in the country now rumored for secretary of the Commerce.

MR. TODD: Boy, this came together sort of last minute, too. They were looking for a place for a well-known Hispanic. Some Hispanic supporters of, of Senator--of President-elect Obama were not happy that none of the big posts. You know, they've had HUD, they've had Energy, they've had, you know, that isn't what they were interested in. They wanted a seat at the, at the big boys' table and the big girls' table and so Commerce is an interesting thing. They're going to ramp up Commerce, they're going to roll it out, and this might actually be a good place for Bill Richardson. Commerce is America's cheerleader, sometimes, on business.

MS. BURNETT: But Commerce, Commerce and State need to work together, especially when you talk about protectionism and trade and obviously the relationship between Richardson and Clinton, is that going to magnets, egos coming together or hitting on the other side of the magnet?

MR. TODD: It's potentially...(unintelligible). We'll see.

MR. BROKAW: Yeah, but we also have Daschle, Napolitano, and maybe a holdover in Bob Gates, who is the secretary of defense, so we've got a lot to talk about in weeks to come.

We'll have to leave it right there for now, however. Thanks very much. I'll be right back.


MR. BROKAW: That's all for today. We'll be back next week with a special Thanksgiving weekend edition. Among our guests at that time, I'll have an exclusive interview with first lady Laura Bush. Next Sunday right here on MEET THE PRESS on Thanksgiving weekend. Happy Thanksgiving in the meantime, everyone. Because, if it is Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.