Guest: Chuck Todd John Campbell, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Brad Blakeman, Chris Kofinis
DAVID SHUSTER, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, President Obama in London. He had tea with the queen and met with the leaders of Russia, China, and Great Britain.
BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also came here to listen and not to lecture. Having said that, we must not miss an opportunity to lead.
SHUSTER: But this has not been a peaceful day. The latest on the violent G-20 protests.
Back home, “Follow the Money.” House Republicans introduce a budget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get this economy growing we propose a number of reforms. Number one, cut the corporate tax rate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was most appropriate that this thing came out on April Fools‘ Day.
SHUSTER: Later, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER: The president has not governed in the middle as I had hoped he would.
SHUSTER: McConnell lands in “Hypocrisy Watch.”
Plus, the GOP all stars—Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann—their wingnuttery continues.
And the things I thought you should know: President Obama gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod; the G-20 leaders, with celebrities in attendance, are dining tonight on samphire, a type of cliff plant; and Twitter time.
All tonight on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can fool me, but you can‘t get fooled again.
SHUSTER: April Fools‘ Day, but not in London.
Welcome to the show, everybody. I‘m David Shuster.
A deadly, serious day 72 has come to an end for President Obama on his first trip overseas since taking office. The president just wrapped up dinner with the G-20 leaders, while First lady Michelle Obama finished up a special dinner with the first ladies.
The Obamas‘ day began at 10 Downing Street with a breakfast with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah. Afterwards, the president and Prime Minister Brown held a private meeting that focused on the financial crisis, while the first ladies paid a visit to a cancer care center.
At 10:15, President Obama held a joint news conference with Brown. The leaders spoke to reporters about how the U.S. and U.K. can work together to get the global economy moving again. Asked about tomorrow‘s potentially contentious G-20 summit, the president took a pragmatic approach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We‘re not going to agree on every point. I came here to put forward ideas, but I also came here to listen and not to lecture.
Having said that, we must not miss an opportunity to lead, to confront a crisis that knows no borders. We have a responsibility to coordinate our actions and to focus on common ground, not on our occasional differences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: The news conference did have a few humorous moments. With first daughters Malia and Sasha back in D.C., the president made it clear he‘s enjoyed talking to Brown‘s two youngest sons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: ... Gordon and Sarah, that have been very hospitable. I had a chance to see their two sons, and we talked about dinosaurs a little bit in between discussions of Afghanistan and Iran. So we‘ve had a wonderful time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: After that, it was on to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. President Obama and President Medvedev made a significant breakthrough on nuclear disarmament, and on efforts to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. Plus, the leaders set an ambitious goal of getting a new treaty by the end of 2009. Mr. Obama also accepted an invitation to visit Russia in July.
After lunch, the president sat down with Chinese President Hu Jintao, joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. The leaders pledged to strengthen the U.S./China relationship and talked about the importance that China‘s huge economy will play in easing the global financial crisis. President Obama also announced he will visit China later this year.
After the meeting with the Chinese leader, President Obama got to do something he‘s been eagerly anticipating on this trip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: One last thing that I should mention that I love about Great Britain, and that is the queen. And so I‘m very much looking forward to—
I‘m very much looking forward to meeting her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Mr. and Mrs. Obama arrived at Buckingham Palace at 5:30 for a private audience with Queen Elizabeth, followed by a class photo with Her Royal Majesty and all the G-20 leaders.
Then it was back to 10 Downing Street, where President Obama attended a working dinner with the G-20 leaders, while Mrs. Obama went to dinner at 11 Downing Street with Mrs. Brown.
It is just after 11:00 p.m. right now in London, and the president and Mrs. Obama are back at the Winfield House after their jam-packed day.
And for more on this day, let‘s go to NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd, live in London.
And Chuck, how does the administration feel about what was accomplished today?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a diplomatic decathlon of sorts. It was unbelievable, what they tried to get done today, in a span of about 12 hours, which normally could have filled up an entire month of an international agenda.
They feel the best about what happened with Russia. They are really pushing behind the scenes this idea that, you know, people are not appreciating the significance of restarting nuclear disarmament talks with the Russians, the other nuclear superpower.
What I found fascinating, David, was sort of this way that the meetings today that the president had, that they were bookends. hey were sort of paired.
One was very 20th century, right, a flashback to the ‘80s, nuclear arms talks with the Russians. And one was very 21st century, an acknowledgement that China, the sleeping giant of the 20th century, is now truly America‘s equal, at least economically. And the decision that was made to open this dialogue, start this bilateral, much more serious conversation really—the comparable moment would be looking at sort of that moment in the ‘60s when Kennedy and Khrushchev sort of acknowledged to each other that they were the two powers of the world and that they needed to have talks that were unlike any other and meetings that were unlike any other sets of countries.
SHUSTER: Chuck, in the midst of it all, we‘ve just seen some unbelievable video coming in throughout the day of these protests, and people essentially demonstrating against the G-20. Put it in some context for us.
SHUSTER: How big were the protests? And what was the main sort of message, the main anger that these protesters have?
TODD: The main anger is that the financial sector and any of the very, very low-key violence has been directed at the Bank of England, for instance. Sort of the largest national bank here.
I would caution folks, it seems to be controlled chaos. Sure, there is some violence, but—some demonstrations, but it‘s not very violent. And it does have this feel that the more the TV cameras are on, maybe the louder things get.
That said, let‘s see what happens tomorrow. Tomorrow is the actual G-20 summit. Tomorrow—you know, I did drive around town, and you see banks boarding up its plate glass windows with—so that they don‘t have a lot of broken glass around, they don‘t tempt these protesters to throw stuff, et cetera. So I think tomorrow will tell us how serious these protests really are—David.
SHUSTER: Chuck, as far as the G-20, itself, there‘s been some fascinating sort of maneuverings between the key characters, as you know.
SHUSTER: Gordon Brown today reacted to some of the apparent threats that Sarkozy from France had been lobbing about possibly walking out of this dinner tonight. Here‘s what Gordon Brown said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I‘m confident that President Sarkozy will not only be here for the first course of our dinner, but will still be sitting as we complete our dinner this evening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Chuck, where do things stand with Sarkozy and the British and sort of the divergent positions on the sort of global economic regulation that Sarkozy wants?
TODD: Well, I would put this in context in this respect—you have Sarkozy and Angela Merkel of Germany in many ways challenging the power of America and England. You know, and the French president has even classified it the Anglo-Saxon economic crisis.
So it seems to be a challenge at almost the entire philosophical mindset of the Americans and the English when it comes to financial regulation, the financial markets. As we all know, you know, look, London has pointed some fingers at Wall Street, Wall Street has pointed some fingers at London. Everybody else in Europe is pointing fingers at point.
And that‘s what—it‘s a little bit of grandstanding. I mean, look, you get 26 politicians together, that all are leaders of their own countries, and you‘re going to get a little muscle flexing, a little rhetorical flourishes. It does seem as if it‘s not as bad maybe as some of the press reports indicate.
SHUSTER: And while we like to focus on all the tensions, there were, as you pointed out, some lighthearted moments.
Here‘s Gordon Brown and Barack Obama talking about the World Cup.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: England is playing in the World Cup, a qualifying match in Soccer, a game you love. Have you got any good luck message for the English team tonight?
OBAMA: Well, let me take all these in turn.
I have had enough trouble back home picking my brackets for the college basketball tournament that‘s taking place there called March Madness, stirred up all kinds of controversy. The last thing I‘m going to do is wade into European football.
That would be a mistake. I didn‘t get a briefing on that, but I sense that would be a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: And by the way, England did beat the Ukraine 2-1 this afternoon.
SHUSTER: Chuck, is the president—are they having fun with all of this?
TODD: Well, I think the president is. You know, look, ,he‘s the new rock star, he‘s the new guy, the new kid in class, whatever you want to call him.
I found it fascinating you mentioned the group photo, that sort of yearbook-like photo that the entire G-20 takes together, and they took it with the queen. Yes, the queen was at the center, but so was the new guy, President Obama.
We‘ll see if—you know, the first time, you know, Nicolas Sarkozy, I think had his first event, he seemed to be able to get the center of attention. So he‘s getting a little bit of that new guy treatment.
The other thing that we would be remiss without mentioning, David, was Gordon Brown‘s unbelievable attempts to politically attach himself to President Obama, who is more popular here in England than the prime minister, himself. He‘s got his own political problems. And it was very obvious that he was looking to capture some reflected political glory from the president.
SHUSTER: So interesting.
And Chuck, I‘m so glad you‘re there. I know we can count on you to pick up that stuff.
Great reporting, as always. And thanks for joining us, Chuck. We appreciate it.
TODD: All right.
TODD: You got it, David.
SHUSTER: Up next, follow the budget money. House Republicans offer their counterplan today to President Obama and the Democrats, and made some very bold claims. White House officials said it was a joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was most appropriate that this thing came out on April Fools‘ Day, because this thing is the biggest April Fools‘ joke and the cruelest that we‘ve had in years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Well, coming up, we‘ll talk with a Republican House member of the House Budget Committee to get his reaction.
Plus, at the half-hour, there was a big ruling this week in Minnesota over the Coleman/Franken Senate race. We‘ll get you the latest on where that battle stands and talk politics with Minnesota‘s senator, Amy Klobuchar.
That‘s at the half-hour.
Plus, we‘re taking your questions and video suggestions over Twitter.
Just go to twitter.com/shuster1600 or click on the link at
SHUSTER: Welcome back to 1600.
House Republicans convened this morning in the House chamber, and then they descended en masse down the east Capitol steps to announce they would be presenting their much-awaited budget alternative. Ranking Republican on the Budget Committee Paul Ryan of Wisconsin drafted the GOP proposal and said he was alarmed by how much the Obama administration planned to spend. Congressman‘s Ryan alternative budget seeks, among other things, to freeze discretionary spending on domestic programs and would also change the tax code.
Joining us now is a member of the House Budget Committee, Republican John Campbell of California.
And Congressman Campbell, the Republican plan would freeze most non-defense spending for five years. It simplifies the tax code by establishing a new system with two rates of 10 percent and 25 percent. But wouldn‘t that result in a massive reduction in government revenue and give a generous tax break for the wealthy?
REP. JOHN CAMPBELL ®, CALIFORNIA: No. The tax portion you‘re talking about, I‘m actually co-sponsoring that bill with Congressman Ryan. We call it the Optional Simplified Tax. And what it does is it leaves the current tax structure in place and then gives this optional tax with the 10 percent and 25 percent rates, but no reductions, none whatsoever.
And it allows...
SHUSTER: Well, if I‘m rich and I‘m paying 38 percent or 35 percent, of course I‘m going to choose 25 percent, and that‘s less money that goes to the Treasury. Right?
CAMPBELL: And that‘s what you would think, except that because wealthier people tend to have a lot more deductions and things, charitable interests, taxes, whatever, state taxes, et cetera, when actually, when we tested this, if you‘re in the top 10 percent of income, you pay—the top 10 percent of taxpayers would pay the same tax under this two-rate system as they would under the current system.
That‘s true with the bottom 10 percent and every other decile, as we call it, in between. So it‘s actually revenue-neutral. It doesn‘t affect how much money the government receives overall. What it does is it enables people to choose a much simpler tax system if they want to, which is what we think we have to move to at some point.
SHUSTER: Well, you also propose corporate taxes. And here‘s a question for you—if a company is losing money, they‘re not going to hire anybody regardless of what you lower the corporate tax rate, right?
CAMPBELL: Well, that‘s correct, but what the idea on the corporate tax rate is, is to keep the flight overseas. Right now, we have the second highest corporate tax rate of any industrialized...
SHUSTER: But I thought you guys said this morning the idea was to stimulate the economy. And again, if you‘re just acknowledging that cutting corporate taxes doesn‘t cause a company to hire anybody when they‘re losing money, this is a corporate giveaway. Right?
CAMPBELL: Well, no. What it will do is cause people to hire people in the United States instead of in some other country. That‘s what we‘re trying to do here, because virtually every other country in the industrialized world has a lower corporate tax rate than we do, so there‘s tremendous incentive for corporations now, whether they‘re foreign corporations or U.S. corporations, to locate those—various of their operations in other countries. All we do with this is put it at the average of the G-20 that are meeting in London today, the average of those corporate tax rates in those countries.
SHUSTER: Well, here‘s another thing I think a lot of people may not be able to understand, and that is, when you guys made your projections, you made your budget projections for the Democrats and the Republicans for 70 years. How on earth can anybody trust a projection that‘s 70 years old? Why would you guys do that?
CAMPBELL: All we‘re trying to do—and it‘s not just us that do this. The Congressional Budget Office does it. The...
SHUSTER: For 10 years. For five years and 10 years. Nobody does it for 70 years.
CAMPBELL: No. No.
SHUSTER: How do you know what our population is going to be? How do you know people that are not even born yet, what their policies are going to be?
CAMPBELL: David, there‘s no question that the farther out you get—frankly, if it‘s two years or 200 years, the farther out you get, the more difficult it is to make an accurate projection of what‘s going on. But what we‘re trying to show, which is something that the Congressional Budget Office does often look at and the comptroller of the currency also looks at, is what‘s going to happen to entitlement spending 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years out?
It‘s absolutely unsustainable. You could double taxes and it won‘t be even nearly enough. And the sooner we deal with these problems, the easier it will be to deal with than if we wait 10 years or wait 20 years. So we‘re just trying to call attention to that.
SHUSTER: Fair enough. But I wonder, on that issue, then, are you willing to say publicly, then, the Republicans support a cut in Social Security benefits? Because everybody knows the only way you can essentially help Social Security is to either raise the retirement age or cut benefits, and most economists say you need to do both.
So you‘re willing to cut benefits, right?
CAMPBELL: And that‘s not true. What we are doing—neither one of those—I know you would like to make it that simple, David, but it‘s not that simple.
What we‘re actually proposing to do on that is that we would—that if you‘re in Social Security now, we don‘t change a thing, OK? Except that we do—in Medicare and Social Security, we do have upper income people pay more than they are currently. But if you‘re average income, we have no change now.
But if you‘re not in Social Security yet, we want people to have options of different ways to fund that including, perhaps, some private options, because the fact is that the current system will—cannot be sustained. There isn‘t enough money to pay for it...
SHUSTER: But Congressman, while the ideas...
CAMPBELL: David, you‘ve got to change it.
SHUSTER: ... you have for Social Security are innovative, they would do absolutely nothing to deal with your alleged insolvency for Social Security. Absolutely nothing.
But in any case, it‘s a debate I would be happy to continue another day.
Congressman John Campbell, Republican, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
CAMPBELL: Thanks, David. Good to be with you.
SHUSTER: Good to be with you.
Up next, the top Republican in the Senate says President Obama and the Democrats are being too partisan.
Senator McConnell, you mean, like, when George W. Bush was in the White House and you were running the Senate?
“Hypocrisy Watch” is next.
Later, we‘ve got some amazing details on the president‘s visit this afternoon with Queen Elizabeth. It was an intriguing and remarkable occasion.
We will have the latest, ahead on 1600.
SHUSTER: Welcome back to 1600.
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, is accusing President Obama of being too partisan.
And that takes us to tonight‘s “Hypocrisy Watch.”
First, the background.
On Sunday, during an interview on CNN, McConnell sharply criticized President Obama‘s policies. That‘s fine, but McConnell went further and complained that President Obama has not been inclusive enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Oh, we‘ve had plenty of conversations, but I must say, I‘m disappointed after two months. The president has not governed in the middle as I had hoped he would. But it‘s not too late. He‘s only been in office a couple of months. Still, before him are the opportunities to deal with us on a truly bipartisan basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: McConnell wants President Obama to deal with Republicans in a truly bipartisan basis. Well, that‘s interesting, because remember when President George W. Bush was in office and Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, controlled the Senate? When Democrats asked for less partisanship and more cooperation, Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of being obstructionists.
He said, “How can we have bipartisanship in the Congress if Democrats will not take yes for an answer?”
This past weekend, McConnell also complained about Democrats possibly using a procedure that would only require 51 votes to get the president‘s agenda passed instead of 60.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: A way to jam the minority in the Senate is also something they‘re seriously contemplating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: That‘s right, McConnell criticized Democrats for possibly jamming the minority. McConnell knows all about that approach because Republicans used it when they were in the majority.
Senator McConnell, we appreciate it‘s tough being in the minority in the U.S. Senate. However, when you criticize the majority‘s tactics that you, as majority leader, embraced, that‘s hypocrisy, and it‘s wrong.
It was a big blow to Norm Coleman‘s reelection bid for the U.S. Senate, but Republicans are not giving up. They‘re preparing to fight Al Franken in court for years.
We‘ll talk about the race with Minnesota‘s senior senator, Amy Klobuchar.
And conservatives keep claiming the Obama administration is considering a global currency to replace the dollar. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is even working on legislation to protect the greenback.
That should be your first clue that claims about the dollar are a total myth. Newsweek‘s Daniel Gross will hammer several myths for us later on 1600.
SHUSTER: Welcome back to 1600 Pennsylvania avenue. The first big election of the Obama administration came yesterday in upstate New York. After the ballots were counted, Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco ended the night behind Democratic businessman Scott Murphy by 65 votes. Election officials will now count the absentee ballots in this traditional GOP district. It appears a final result will not be determined for weeks.
Sound familiar? It should. Almost five months after November 4th, the Minnesota Senate race is still undecided. Late yesterday, there was a big development in that battle between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. A three-judge panel ruled that only 400 ballots will still be in play. And they‘ll be counted in court next week.
The ruling serves as a reminder of just how grueling these five months have been. The Minnesota court has reviewed 19,181 pages of filings, pleadings, motions and memoranda. The court has admitted 1,717 exhibits into evidence. So many that if the three-ring binders that hold the paper evidence were stacked on top of each other, the pile would be 21 feet high.
In these hard economic times, the ongoing race has cost over $11 million.
Joining us is the only person currently representing Minnesota in the Senate, Senator Amy Klobuchar. Senator, how long is it going to take to get this resolved?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: First of all, I will say, you have done your research. I had never heard those startling facts. All I knew was that this trial has lasted longer than the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial.
Now we have a significant development. First, we had the recount back in December. That actually went fairly quickly, with a five-person bipartisan panel. That‘s how Al Franken pulled ahead by 225 votes.
Then we had this three-judge panel appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Next week, the ballots will be open. The fact it is 400 ballots that they‘ve been ordered to be opened, these are rejected absentee ballots. No one quite knows what‘s in them. It certainly bodes well for Al Franken in terms of the numbers.
SHUSTER: Your colleague, Republican Senator John Cornyn, said that if Democrats try to seat Al Franken before this goes all the way to the Supreme Court, he threatened World War III. What‘s your reaction?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, one of the other things he said, David, he said that we could go in Minnesota with one senator for years. And I would love to know how Texas would like that. I think that Minnesota would prefer to make its own decisions. I think we have a process that‘s taken a while. I think it‘s a fair process. It‘s going to—after these votes are opened up, Norm Coleman will make a decision about whether he wants to go up to the Minnesota Supreme Court. There‘s a process in place for that. Then I‘m hoping it‘s done.
Because I tell you one thing from—I am so proud of our staff. They‘ve literally been doing double the work. These aren‘t calls about how do you vote. These are calls about veterans‘ benefits, about baby adoptions that are stalled in Guatemala. They‘re about Social Security checks. We literally have gotten double the case work since this began. I‘m proud of our staff. But it would be nice to get a little help.
SHUSTER: One of the big topics today in Washington involved the House Republicans. They unveiled an alternative budget to what the Democrats are working on. Here‘s North Carolina Representative Patrick Murphy. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PATRICK MCHENRY, ®, REPUBLICAN: No Blue Dog, if there are such things as Blue-Dog Democrats anymore, should vote for a budget that raises taxes to the magnitude that this—the president‘s budget does; spends to the magnitude that the president‘s budget does; and taxes, again, for generations to come to pay off the debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: I got his name wrong. It‘s Patrick McHenry. In any case, you made fiscal conservatism a priority. How do you respond to what the House Republicans are trying to do?
KLOBUCHAR: First of all, the president‘s budget, the budget coming out of the Senate here has tax cuts for the middle class. It takes the tax cuts from the recovery package, that 800 dollar per family tax for the middle class, and puts it in place for a number of years. I don‘t know what he‘s talking about there.
Secondly, the president inherited a mess here. Basically, the administration had taken a Clinton budget surplus, turned it into a humongous deficit. Now we‘re crawling our way out of the hole.
Under the Senate proposal, there will be a two-thirds reduction in that deficit by 2014. The president‘s proposal, 50 percent reduction by 2012. That‘s what we‘re talking about.
They can use all the rhetoric they want, but it‘s the same old policies this time. They‘re talking about reversing the recovery, which I can tell you, in our state, we‘re already seeing the jobs come in to our state. We‘re seeing the money come into our state for construction and other things. People are glad that instead of putting our heads in the sand, which happened the last eight years, we are working to move this economy forward.
SHUSTER: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who, I should note, was in Iowa this past weekend. Senator, I‘m not going to ask you about 2016 just yet. But congratulations on all the work you‘ve done and enjoy. And we appreciate you coming on tonight.
KLOBUCHAR: It was great being on. Thank you very much.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome.
While Democrats face some budget criticism from those House Republicans here at home, President Obama‘s prescription for the ailing economy will face a big test tomorrow at the G-20 summit, where world leaders are expected to lock horns over stimulus spending and financial regulation.
For more on that, let‘s bring in our panel, democratic strategist Chris Kofinis and Republican strategist Brad Blakeman. Brad, first to you, your reaction, Amy Klobuchar. She‘s got a lot of pizzazz.
BRAD BLAKEMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: She does. I think she‘s certainly a leader within the Democratic party. But fiscal a conservative she‘s not. If she can go along with this Obama budget, which is a budget buster for generations to come, then she‘s not the fiscal conservative the people in her home state thinks she is.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Listen, you saw the Republicans come out today. It was like a “Back to the Future” episode. They‘re clearly living in the past. Everything they basically proposed we‘ve heard before. We actually heard and implemented over the eight years of the Bush White House. We know they failed.
They‘re going to cut taxes. They‘re going to cut spending. And somehow it‘s going to miraculously cure all the ills. Forget about the fact that it would stop the stimulus and cost millions of jobs. Forget about the fact they‘re going to jeopardize Medicare. And forget about the fact that their numbers don‘t add up. Oh, and don‘t mention the fact that they‘re going to actually transfer an enormous amount of wealth to even a smaller percentage of individuals. It just doesn‘t make any sense.
SHUSTER: Yet, over in Europe, you have a couple of leaders, Sarkozy and you have Merkel, who believe that the United States is doing too much, that it‘s spending too aggressively, that the world cannot sustain it.
KOFINIS: Here‘s the fundamental flaw with some of the criticism from Europe. They have a very—almost a cradle-to-grave social safety system, in terms of universal health care, in terms of unemployment insurance, other types of benefits. The government—our government, especially in this kind of a crisis, this serious a crisis, had to intervene. It had to do a stimulus. It had to extend unemployment benefits, because states simply could not do.
This logic in the arguments does not match up to the reality we face.
BLAKEMAN: Socialists are saying we‘re being too socialist. Something‘s wrong. France and Germany are ganging up against us. It‘s going to be the United States and England—
KOFINIS: I‘m glad you agree with the French.
BLAKEMAN: I agree we‘re the first—
KOFINIS: The first time a Republican agrees with the French.
BLAKEMAN: We‘re spending too much. If the Obama budget is implementing, Congress is going to ruin everything.
KOFINIS: We‘re spending what we need to do in order to deal with an economic crisis that was handed to us.
BLAKEMAN: Look, every president says that when they come in. Look at what we inherited.
KOFINIS: There‘s no president since FDR that inherited this kind of economic crisis.
BLAKEMAN: Look what George Bush had to face with eight years. We had two years. We had the largest attack on our homeland. We had Katrina. We had the largest reorganization of government—
KOFINIS: Did George Bush inherit the scope of economic crises that Barack Obama has?
BLAKEMAN: No, he did not.
KOFINIS: Thank you.
BLAKEMAN: Look at what we faced during the eight years he was president. We had unprecedented hardship in this country. A lot was not our fault.
SHUSTER: You‘ve given us a much better direction for this debate than we originally planned. We‘re going to continue it in the next segment. Brad and Chris sticking around.
Coming up, the Republicans did unveil their new budget plan today. Is it actually a new idea? Myth buster Wednesday with “Newsweek‘s” Daniel Gross is next.
Plus, Governor Sarah Palin is out, Newt Gingrich is in. Why the former House speaker is now headlining the annual Republican fund-raising dinner.
And your Twitter questions coming up at the end of the hour. Just go to Twitter.com/Shuster1600 or BlakemanB if you want to send some to him. Or you can use the link at Shuster.MSNBC.com.
SHUSTER: Welcome back to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. Congressman Paul Ryan presented the GOP‘s alternative to the budget today. In a “Wall Street Journal” op-ed piece this morning, Ryan said, quote, “in the recent past, the Republican party failed to offer the nation an inspiring vision and a concrete plan to tackle our problems with innovative and principled solutions. We do not intend to repeat that mistake.”
Except, is this really a new plan? Here to bust some myths is Dan Gross, senior editor at “Newsweek.” Dan, innovative solutions from the House Republicans? Were they innovative?
DAN GROSS, “NEWSWEEK”: No, this is like the shampoo budget. Rinse, lather, repeat. Except, in this case, it‘s tax cuts, talk about restricting entitlements, repeat. We‘re seeing a almost exact replay of what these guys did when they ran things from 2001 to 2006.
SHUSTER: Again, the basic principle is tax cuts will solve all the problems?
GROSS: They‘re saying they can cut taxes, but that will have no impact on revenues, which is generally false. They‘re saying they will freeze discretionary spending. They promised to do that back in ‘01. We got very rapid increases in discretionary spending. When people are in power, they like to spend on discretionary items.
There‘s also this sense that we will reform entitlement. That was the only item actually in the budget that said on a bipartisan basis. So the easy stuff, the tax cuts is stuff that we like. And the stuff that nobody likes is going to be the bipartisan stuff.
SHUSTER: Dan, here‘s myth number two. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and her fight against an imaginary plot to replace the U.S. dollar. Bachmann appeared on Glenn Beck‘s show yesterday. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Next guest adamantly opposes a global currency. Proposing legislation now that would prohibit the United States from recognizing any currency except the Greenback.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: We didn‘t have trouble getting co-signers. We‘ve got at least 30 members of Congress on board. I anticipate we will have more.
BECK: I can‘t believe that you only have 30 co-sponsors. How is it you can walk around and say, this is just, hey, save the dollar?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Dan, is there any effort in the United States from anybody in government to replace the dollar?
GROSS: You mean there are 30 lunatics in Congress? There are times when I feel like Congresswoman Bachmann was an animatronic creation invented by cable television producers, so we would have something to talk about. This is one of them. There was a bizarre moment in the hearings where Secretary Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke were talking about the bailout, and she started saying, will you disavow this notion of a single global currency that will eliminate the dollar. They literally look—they don‘t watch cable news. They had no idea what she was talking about.
There‘s nothing to this. There has been some talk from the Chinese and others that they need to diversify their holdings of reserve currencies. People outside of our country hold six trillion dollars in assets and they‘re worried about the value of that going forward, as they probably should be. So there‘s been some talk that maybe they should adjust and shift. This is something that has nothing to do with Americans and their ability to spend dollars at their local Starbucks.
SHUSTER: If it‘s Wednesday, it‘s Myth Buster Wednesday with Daniel Gross. Dan, thanks as always. We appreciate it.
GROSS: Thanks for having me.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome. So are the Republicans who promote these myths doing it deliberately, or are they just incapable of basic cognitive reasoning skills? That very issue came up last night when David Letterman spoke with Bill O‘Reilly. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”: I want Rush Limbaugh to be the new face—
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Why is that?
LETTERMAN: Well, he‘s tubby. It just seems to me like he‘s too smart to believe what he‘s saying. I feel the same way about you. You‘re too smart to believe what you say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Let‘s bring back our political panel, Chris Kofinis, and Brad Blakeman. Brad, is Michele Bachmann just deliberately lying about this global currency thing or is she just incapable of basic intellectual thought?
BLAKEMAN: The myth is that China is talking about doing this. There are leaders in sovereign countries talking about—
SHUSTER: Michele Bachmann is saying that people in the United States are talking about doing this.
BLAKEMAN: What Michelle Obama is doing and other Republicans is—
SHUSTER: -- is lying.
BLAKEMAN: Bachmann. She‘s raising the issues that others have raised overseas about the American dollar. She‘s not saying we should do anything about it. Right now, what she is saying is we should be worried when other leaders are talking this way about our currency.
KOFINIS: I think when Congresswoman Bachmann got the 30 co-sponsors, I think she passed out 30 tinfoil hats to go along with the co-sponsoring of this legislation. It is insane. There is no one in the entire United States Congress, federal government, no one, who is talking about this in any serious way. It‘s a manufactured issue that somehow jazzes up this far-fringed right element. I‘m not even sure who it is. But apparently, you know, Congresswoman Bachmann—
BLAKEMAN: What do you say to the Chinese when they raise it? Don‘t you think we should push back when a leader in China and Russia says the United States currency should be—
KOFINIS: This is like debating about whether UFOs exist. It‘s ridiculous.
BLAKEMAN: When a world leader talks about our currency that way and tries to influence others—
KOFINIS: That‘s not the debate.
BLAKEMAN: That is the debate.
SHUSTER: She‘s saying that somebody in the United States wants to replace the dollar. It‘s perfectly reasonable for world leaders to say whatever they want about what the United States should do. The United States has always responded, no, we‘re not going to do that. Why Michele Bachmann doesn‘t get that is I think what is so unbelievable. And doesn‘t that, and you throw in Sarah Palin and Michael Steele, who says the Republicans ought to be more unpredictable—maybe he means the fantasy world that Michele Bachmann lives in. How does that help the Republican party?
BLAKEMAN: Look, I think Michael Steele is doing a great job. I think Sarah Palin is the leader of our party, the same as we have people like Eric Cantor and we have Rob Portman and others.
SHUSTER: Let me read to you what was reported in “Politico” about Michael Steele when he talked in Baltimore the other night. “Embattled National Committee Chairman Michael Steele lashed out at GOP infighting Tuesday and urged the party faithful, some of who have criticized his erratic statements, to be more like him, unconventional, unpredictable, to do, from time to time, the unexpected.” Does that include just making things up?
BLAKEMAN: Who are these people? Not one of them put their name to any of those quotes.
SHUSTER: Let me give you a better example, Brad. When Michael Steele said his whole fight with Rush Limbaugh, that was strategic, that was all by design. It was a fight he designed. Do you believe Michael Steele?
BLAKEMAN: I don‘t believe that, no.
SHUSTER: Case closed.
SHUSTER: He doesn‘t have credibility.
BLAKEMAN: He does have credibility. But what Steele was right on is that Rush Limbaugh is not the leader of our party, like people like Chris Kofinis want you to believe.
KOFINIS: This is a political party facing the abyss. It is amazing to see that these are the leaders. Listen, if Governor Palin is a leader in your party, the Republican party is in worse shape than I could ever imagine. You have people like Governor Jindal, Governor Palin, you know, Rush Limbaugh, Chairman Steele.
BLAKEMAN: Rush Limbaugh is not—
KOFINIS: Yes, he is. Congressman Bachmann, there are people leading the party.
BLAKEMAN: You have people like Joe Biden.
KOFINIS: Oh, please.
BLAKEMAN: Senator Byrd, who doesn‘t run his office—
SHUSTER: Sarah Palin and Joe Biden—
KOFINIS: -- a party in strategic disarray. This is going to basically—
BLAKEMAN: Let‘s talk again in 2010 when the American people are broke and blame Democrats.
KOFINIS: You saw exactly in the debate today, in this budget rollout, how to void of the new ideas the Republican party is. It was the same old ideas pretending to be new.
BLAKEMAN: Republicans say cut taxes.
SHUSTER: Let‘s have that debate tomorrow night. Chris Kofinis and Brad Blakeman, they‘re sticking around for one more segment. You‘re going to love the segment we‘re going to do with that.
Up next, the residents of 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE dine at Ten Downing Street, London with other world leaders and celebrities. We‘ll tell you who‘s on the guest list. It‘s something I thought you should know.
SHUSTER: Welcome back to 1600. There‘s a lot going on today. Here are a few things I thought you should know about the president‘s trip to London. The president and first lady met with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace today. We are told the tea lasted about 25 minutes. The queen has now met with the 11 of the last 12 presidents. Lyndon B. Johnson is the odd man out.
Elizabeth met with Harry Truman when she was just a princess. Truman was in office when she was seated to the thrown. Queen Elizabeth met with President Eisenhower during her first state visit to the U.S. in 1957. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie dined with the queen at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 1961. Richard Nixon was there in ‘69.
For the Bicentennial celebration in 1976, the queen traveled to the United States to meet with President General Ford. Jimmy Carter traveled to London a year later. Ronald and Nancy Reagan stayed at Windsor Castle in 1982. The president straddled up with the queen and went horseback riding in Windsor Great Park.
Hopefully, President Obama learned from his predecessors, what not to do when meeting the queen. Here‘s the most recent example.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 -- in 1976. She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Or how about podium-gate during the Bush 41 presidency. Someone forgot to put a small raised platform at the microphone. Yes, that‘s the queen there, underneath the hat and behind the podium. Oops. The queen joked about it the next day on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUEEN ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND: I do hope you can see me today from where you are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: And president Bill Clinton apparently thought Buckingham Palace was a museum. He tried to bring an entourage with him. The group was turned away.
Next up, it‘s a long standing tradition for the president of the United States and the Queen of England to exchange gifts. Today, the queen gave President Obama a silver framed photo of herself and husband. President Obama gave the queen an iPod, loaded with video of her visit two years ago to the United States.
Finally, President Obama dined at Ten Downing Street, along with G-20 leaders. Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver prepared dinner for the group. Here was the menu. To start, the group dined on organic salmon from the Scottish Chetland Islands, samphire (ph), which is an edible plant, and sea kale, vegetables and Irish soda bread. The main course consisted of slow roasted shoulder of lamb, Jersey royal potatoes with wild mushrooms and mint sauce.
For dessert, baked well tart and custard. Vegetarian guests were served goat cheese and lovage, another edible plant which is similar to celery, as well as potato dumplings. Spouses of the world leaders feasted on the same menu, but ate in a separate room. First Lady Michelle Obama was there, of course. Sitting on her left was J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. To her right, British Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes.
Other guests at the dinner included Supermodel Naomi Campbell, TV comedy writer and actress Ruth Jones, entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox. This just into NBC News, there was a big surprise at the dinner, somebody performing 50 shows in London this summer, ready for this? The gloved one, Michael Jackson, amazing. April Fools‘! Michael Jackson was not invited to the dinner. I got you everybody. I got you, guys.
Those were a few things I thought you should know.
Now for Twitter time. The panel is back, Chris Kofinis and Brad Blakeman. I had you going, right? I had him going. Twitter questions. Back to the whole Sarah Palin, Michael Steele, Michele Bachmann; a couple questions for you, Brad, about that. Someone from Indiana writes in, “is the GOP now trying to legalize drugs? It seems to me they are smoking their fair share.”
BLAKEMAN: Well, I can assure you we‘re not. Look, the Democrats can have all the little giddy laughter you want. In 2010, we‘ll revisit this when you run us into the ground and the Republicans take control again.
SHUSTER: Chris, a question for you. Is there any sort of comparison between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden?
KOFINIS: Not—other than the fact that I think Vice President Biden likes turkey and Governor Palin kills turkeys. Other than that, I don‘t think there‘s much of a comparison.
SHUSTER: Finally, what would be the most humorous thing that could happen while the president is overseas? Brad, you start.
BLAKEMAN: For the Obamas?
BLAKEMAN: I mean, I don‘t—that‘s a hard one. What could be the most humorous thing? I have not a clue.
SHUSTER: Maybe it‘s related to Michele Bachmann. Chris?
KOFINIS: I think, you know—I think it‘s going to be pretty strait laced. I don‘t think there‘s going to be a lot of humorous moments.
SHUSTER: Do you want to take a shot at Michele Bachmann? I know you‘re dying to.
KOFINIS: No. I think she takes enough shots at herself. I don‘t need to help.
SHUSTER: Brad? You can admit it right here.
BLAKEMAN: Michele is a colorful member of the Republican party.
SHUSTER: You‘re allowed to say she‘s an embarrassment.
BLAKEMAN: The same as the Democrats have, you know—
SHUSTER: Go on, Brad, I know you want to say Michele is an embarrassment.
BLAKEMAN: They‘ve got plenty in their family that are dysfunctional.
We can go toe to toe on that.
SHUSTER: Brad Blakeman, Republican strategist, Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist, you guys are the absolute best. Thank you so much for coming on, as always. We appreciate. Good to have you here.
That is the view from 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE tonight. I‘m David Shuster. Remember, you can get the latest political news and a sneak peek at what‘s coming up on the show sent straight to your inbox at the 1600 Daily Briefing. Sign up at Shuster.MSNBC.com or text Penn to 622639 to have alerts sent to your phone. If you Twitter, I‘ll be online after the show at Twitter.com/Shuster1600. If you want to send Brad some messages, BlakemanB. Some day, Chris Kofinis will Twitter, some day.
I‘m David Shuster. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts now.
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