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'Meet the Press' transcript for March 28, 2010

Transcript of the March 28, 2010 broadcast of NBC's "Meet the Press," featuring Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Meacham, Mike Murphy and Bob Shrum.

MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday: The president makes history with healthcare reform, but the fight is far from over.


Unidentified Man: I think the slogan will be repeal and replace, repeal and replace.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: They're actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November. We've been hearing that. And my attitude is go for it!

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Will reform work and what are its real economic consequences? Plus, what does it mean for the rest of the president's agenda--jobs, climate change, and immigration? A debate this morning between Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina.

Then, the political fallout, rage against Washington, have opponents gone too far? And will voter anger sweep Democrats from power in November as Republicans hope a repeal healthcare message returns the GOP to power in Congress. Insights and analysis from our roundtable: Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, and Democratic strategist Bob Shrum.

Finally in our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE, we look back at another major piece of healthcare legislation that had Congressional Republicans talking about repeal.

But first, the vote may be over, but the debate over healthcare reform and its effects continues. With us this morning, Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham. They have escaped the pressure cooker of Washington and gone back home.

Where no doubt your constituents will have a lot to say about the legacy of healthcare reform. Welcome to both of you.



MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about this legacy question. Senator Schumer, is it going to be that millions of additional Americans are covered with health insurance, or is it going to be headlines like we saw this week that AT&T and other companies will take a billion-dollar charge because of lost deductions as a result of this law and that ultimately they may provide fewer benefits to their, to their employees?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, I think as people learn about the bill, and now that the bill is enacted, it's going to become more and more popular. And here's why, two things happen, David. First, the lies that have been spread, they vanish because you see what's in the bill. We had "death panels" in the summer. People are going to see there are no death panels. "Illegal immigrants are going to get health care," it's clear that's not true in the bill. And the number one lie that bothers people is "You'll lose your insurance if you have it now and you're pretty happy with it." I had a firefighter come to me at the Rockville Centre St. Patrick's Day parade last Saturday, he was all upset, he said, "I'm going to lose my health benefits." I said, "Where do you work?" He said, "I'm a New York City firefighter." Well, this bill isn't going to touch his benefits, which are very good. And, as we go through the next several months, he'll, he'll learn that and feel much better about the bill.

Then, at the same time, the positives are going to start weighing in. Senior citizens will get much better opportunities to buy prescription drugs, which we know they care about. Small businesses will get tax breaks so they'll be either able to cover their employees--many small business people want to but can't afford it--or keep the coverage if they have it already. People will be less likely to be--have their insurance policies canceled when they get sick. That's a big thing to people.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

SEN. SCHUMER: And then there's a little hidden one, just one final one. If you're up to 26 years old you can stay on your parents' health coverage. My daughter is graduating from law school. We told her the day after she graduates she's on her own. She has a job in September, but she was fretting what does she do for the four months? Does she buy health insurance for $1200 a month? Well, she called me up at midnight after the bill passed and said, "Dad, I'm covered."

MR. GREGORY: Senator...

SEN. SCHUMER: "I'm--I feel great." There are going to be millions of calls like that. So I predict, David, by November those who voted for health care will find it an asset, those who voted against it will find it a liability.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, we'll go through this in greater detail.

Senator Graham, the same legacy question for you, but here's the backdrop in terms of what people actually think about this. After all has been said and done, a 13-month pitched battle over this, whereas the president said, "Everybody had their peace on this. Every, every opinion was aired," and this is the polling from The Washington Post out this morning, 50 percent still oppose healthcare reform. What's the legacy?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I think it's going to be on the Medicare front that we're going to take $570 billion out of Medicare, which is already $34 trillion underfunded, and give it to somebody else. So the legacy for Medicare is going to be devastating. If you're a senior citizen in South Carolina and New York, you're going to lose your Medicare Advantage. The legacy on taxes is going to be enormous, from 2014 to 2023 a trillion dollars in additional taxes. The legacy for student loans is going to be terrible because, in this bill, the federal government takes over the student loan program; and if you think Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did a good job with housings, wait till the government runs student loans, $9 billion taken out of the student loan program to pay for health care. So the process that led to this bill was sleazy. It was the worst of Washington, it was not transparent. The substance of this bill is massive in terms of taxes and compromising Medicare, and there's a bunch of tricks and gimmicks in the bill like--you've heard about AT&T, it's going to come up and bite the American people. So we're going to have a spirited civil contest on the size and shape of government, and health care will be center stage.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Graham, despite what you say, is a campaign of repeal--you're a pragmatic legislator--is that realistic?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. Only if you replace it. It is realistic to let the American people know the Class Act, which is a new entitlement where the government offers long-term healthcare insurance to the population, collects $78 billion in premiums to use to be paid for this bill. So when you--the money's spent to pay for the healthcare bill, and when you need your Class Act coverage, there's no money there. It is good to repeal the cuts in Medicare and to repeal the, the massive tax increases and replace it with opportunities to buy insurance in the private sector without cutting Medicare and raising taxes and using budget--Ponzi schemes like the Class Act. Yes, there's a way to do that. And 16 million people are dumped into Medicaid. My state is going to get killed by having to serve more Medicaid people; it's going to hurt state budgets. Finally, this fight won't wind up being just in Washington; it's going to spread to every statehouse in the nation, and we're going to have referendums on this bill through every statehouse in the nation. Can the states afford what Washington did to them?

MR. GREGORY: It is a, it is a big point. Let me break this down a little bit, now that we've kind of established some of the terrain, into some of the more specific costs and benefits. And let's, let's try to narrow this in our answers to, to these particular topics.

Here is the, the price of the bill, Senator Schumer: $938 billion over the course of 10 years. The big question that a lot of people have to ask is whether this really comes in with the price tag that the government says it will. And there are some nonpartisan deficit watchdog groups who have real questions about this, including the Concord Coalition that issued a statement last Sunday after the bill was passed, and I'll put it up on the screen. "Even if everything goes according to plan, the promised deficit reduction will be quite modest compared to the trillions of dollars that current projections indicate the country will add to its debt in the coming decade. Political leaders will still need to look for large amounts of additional savings and revenue - both in the healthcare system and elsewhere. Moreover, they will have to do so with much of the potential savings having already been claimed for the expanded coverage in the new legislation.

"This is not the end of the cost control fight. It is a very tentative beginning." Bottom line, Senator Schumer, you're covering 30 million additional people. How do you do that without busting the budget in a, in a final analysis?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, you know, the CBO is very conservative, they don't give benefit to things that will happen. For instance, if you pay for preventing diabetes today and then you don't have to do a major operation on someone because they're in the final stages of diabetes 10 years from now--CBO doesn't give you that benefit. So I think, if anything, they underestimate the savings, and they say $130 billion in savings the first 10 years and then, when the bill really kicks in, a trillion. Look, David, everyone knows our healthcare system is very wasteful. It delivers good health care for most people, but one-third of all dollars don't go to health care. It's the most inefficient system we have. And, and with doing nothing, the price keeps going up 10, 12 percent a year. Without this bill, Medicare would have gone broke in seven years.

MR. GREGORY: But, but Senator Schumer...

SEN. SCHUMER: Now people say, now people say it's, it's, it's 12 more--it has 12 more years of life. So I think you're going to find--this is the first attempt in the history of health care to get at the waste, the fraud, the abuse, the duplication. Everyone's experienced it, you're on a gurney, they say, "Oh, there's Dr. Wilson." He waves, and then you look at the bill and he's--they've charged $4,000 for him, and you don't know what he did. That kind of stuff has to go.

MR. GREGORY: I know that. But my question has to do with...

SEN. SCHUMER: We're attempting to do it.

MR. GREGORY: ...whether this is a realistic time, all right? It's easy to say, "Yeah, 10 years down the road we're going to have deficit reduction." But the truth is, a future Congress--not until 2018 is Congress going to actually raise taxes on these gold-plated plans to raise some of the money for this. You really think Congress is going to have courage down the line that it didn't have this year?

SEN. SCHUMER: You bet. And that's why it's been crafted the way it is, to be realistic. But some of the cost-cutting will go into effect right away. Everyone knows the waste, the fraud, the abuse, the duplication in the system. The answer on the other side is do nothing, repeal it. We have to get a handle on costs. And for me, at least, the number one rationale for this bill--I think it's important to cover people--but the most important thing to do is get a handle on the costs that are out of control, that are killing business, killing individuals, and killing our federal deficit. Does this do everything in that regard? No. Is it the first major step to do it in a very large way? You bet. And in the second 10 years, when it really bites, because you can't do all this overnight...


SEN. SCHUMER: ...they predict a trillion dollars in savings.

SEN. GRAHAM: Hello? I can't hear. I lost him.

MR. GREGORY: Senator, Senator...

SEN. SCHUMER: The biggest savings that we've ever seen in any federal program.


SEN. GRAHAM: I lost him.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Graham I think has some difficulty hearing us.

SEN. GRAHAM: I disagree with Chuck, in case you didn't hear me.

MR. GREGORY: OK, consider--Senator Graham, if you can hear us now...

SEN. GRAHAM: Can't hear a word.

MR. GREGORY: ...what is your response? He still, he still can't hear us.

Let me move on to another issue, and we'll get Senator Graham back in here in just a minute.

Senator Schumer, you wrote a book a few years back in 2007, and this is what it was called, "Positively American: Winning Back the Middle-Class Majority One Family at a Time." The chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has said this will be a middle-class tax--excuse me, a middle-class healthcare bill. And yet if you look at our polling, middle-income Americans who are asked about this healthcare bill are roundly opposed to it. Fifty-eight percent say this is not a good idea. How does this deliver, then, for the middle class?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, it really does deliver for the middle class. But, as I said, there are lots of, lots of misinformation. That firefighter in Rockville Centre, and you could repeat that with tens of millions of families, are worried. People ask themselves, particularly at a time of recession, "How is it going to affect me?" They've been told by special interests that are against the bill that they will lose their coverage. People who have coverage now, whether through an employer or Medicare, will keep it and it will get better, actually, because the waste and the duplication will, will be cut back greatly. They'll keep it longer, they'll keep it better, they'll pay less. So this is a bill aimed at the middle class. And my point being, if you look at a snapshot poll today, some of them show--there was one that was 49-40 in favor of health care, this one's against it. But I would predict to you, and I feel very, very strongly about this and firmly about this, that as people learn what's actually in the bill, that six months from now, by election time, this is going to be a plus because the parade of horribles, particularly the worry that the average middle-class person has that this is going to affect them negatively...


SEN. SCHUMER: ...will have vanished, and they'll see that it'll affect them positively in many ways, some of which I mentioned.

MR. GREGORY: Let me get Senator Graham back in here. The, the question, before we, we lost your ability to communicate with you...

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: ...was whether this is really going to come in at cost.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, no, it's a giant Ponzi scheme. Let's look at the claim that it saves $138 billion in terms of reducing the deficit. If you assume paying a doctor is part of health care, there's nothing in this bill for the doctor fix. Next week or two weeks from now, we will try to forgive cuts to doctors. Over the next 10 years, doctors are supposed to be cut by $21 billion.

Can you hear me? Hello.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah, hear you fine. Hear you fine.


MR. GREGORY: Continue--OK, we've lost Senator, Senator Graham again.

SEN. SCHUMER: Hey, I like the show this way.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah, right.

SEN. SCHUMER: It's pretty good.

MR. GREGORY: These things happen from time to time. But he, he's, he's still making a point about the cost issue not coming in, that ultimately future Congresses, like with the doctor fix...


MR. GREGORY: ...are going to keep restoring payments to doctors when--in order to meet the budget of this plan. You know, you're not going--you're going to have to do that over time.

SEN. SCHUMER: Yeah, let me, let me say this. There are many doctors who--most do a very good job. There are a number, maybe 10 percent, who spend all their time maximizing income. Right now as we speak, there's some salesman talking to a doctor and saying, "Hey, if you buy this machine for a million dollars, my company'll finance it. We'll then show you how to fill it up 100 percent of the time with patients and you'll make $200,000 more a year," and even though there's another machine a couple of miles away and the machine's not needed. Right now there's no check on that kind of waste. Our bill does it. Doctors who go overboard and provide tons of quantity and no quality will be disciplined here. Again, CBO is bipartisan, everyone goes by its estimates and it's known to be conservative. It's driven us nuts, because we think there are many more savings in the bill that they didn't score. But even taking them at their face, $138 billion these 10 years, that's a lot of savings.

MR. GREGORY: All right, let me get Senator...

SEN. SCHUMER: A trillion next year...

MR. GREGORY: All right, Senator Schumer...

SEN. SCHUMER: ...that's a lot of savings.

MR. GREGORY: ...let me get Senator Graham in here.

Senator Graham, if you can hear us now, I promise Schumer is not...

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, I can. Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: ...playing with the, the, the cables here.


MR. GREGORY: But you, you have the floor here. You know what some of the discussion has been. What is your view?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, I do, I do. Well, there's a reason no Republican voted for this thing. It's not that we don't care about people and we don't want to lower costs. This lost its focus. It got to--there's a noble effort started by the president, then it got to be, "I got to pass the bill because my presidency's at stake." This idea it reduces the deficit is a flat-out lie. You don't include the money we're going to spend to fix the doctor problem, which is $200 billion. So they took it out of the healthcare bill and put it in the, in the jobs bill to make it look like it cuts the deficit. If you add the money we're all going to spend to help doctors not get cuts, that wipes out the deficit.

You spend Medicare money twice. You take $570 billion out of Medicare to pay for the healthcare bill, then you're using that same $570 to say it lowers the growth of Medicare over time. It's a giant Ponzi scheme. You create a new entitlement called the Class Act where you sell long-term health insurance to the public. You take the premiums and you don't keep them in the system, you pay for this healthcare bill. Where does the money come from when they need the health care? So it's a house of cards. It is a Ponzi scheme of the first order. It's going to blow up the deficit. It's going to affect every business, every family in this country. It was done by one-party rule, and it was an--it was a shame we had to go down this road, and there will be a contest in this country. President Obama ran as a centrist. He's governed from the left ditch in a right of center nation, and it's just not health care. It's taking over General Motors, it's the stimulus bill that's just completely out of control. And now taking over student loans. I look forward to a contest in November about whether this healthcare bill is a real fix or a phony political document trying to...


SEN. GRAHAM: ...grow the government. And I think...

MR. GREGORY: Senator Graham, let me...

SEN. GRAHAM: ...that's what it is.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Graham, let me, let me stay with you on the tone of the debate and then look a little bit forward about the rest of the president's agenda.


MR. GREGORY: Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke this week after we had seen instances of some violence or attacks on offices of members of Congress, nasty phone messages and all the rest. And this is what she said on Thursday.

(Videotape, Thursday)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I believe that words have power. They weigh a ton. And they are received differently by people in--depending on their, shall we say, emotional state. And we have to take responsibility for words that are said that we do not reject.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: When you hear from conservatives--whether they be popular politicians outside of office, party officials, members of Congress--describe healthcare reform as socialism, an attack on freedom, ushering in totalitarianism, does that contribute to an atmosphere where opponents can go too far?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, in my view, I think attacking this bill in terms of expanding government beyond anybody's imagination, where 80 percent of the country at the end of the day will be covered by a healthcare bill that is not paid for, that can never be paid for, is a legitimate debate. But when you use the N word and when you question somebody's patriotism, you're off base. President Obama is a fine man. He's a good father, he's a good role model. He's an American liberal. The reason I don't say he's a socialist, because most people associate that with being un-American. He is an American just as much as anybody else. The idea that he's very liberal I think is pretty clear to the American people. He ran as a centrist, he's governing from the left ditch, that's his big problem. And we don't need to call each other names.


SEN. GRAHAM: Chuck Schumer and I come from very different backgrounds, and we're going to work together to do some hard things. So let's focus civilly on the major differences of the role of government in our lives and what's honest and what's not, and, and impart the rhetoric in a personal way.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Schumer, have opponents gone too far?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, obviously there are some people way off the deep end, but you don't condemn a whole group or a whole movement for the outliers. You just ask the people who are responsible--left, right and center, Democrat and Republican--to condemn the bad words, the condemn the violence. That's been done. I've heard even the head of some of the tea party people condemn the violence. So I agree with Lindsey, I'm raring to go for a debate on the merits, because I think we win that debate and we don't need the distractions.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let's talk about the rest of the agenda, then, when it comes to...


MR. GREGORY: ...immigration reform, where you two have come together to, to seek out a path toward immigration reform; or whether it's climate change, financial regulation and all the rest. There's real questions about whether there has been a poisoning of the well here, Senator Graham. Your friend Senator McCain said there will be no more cooperation with Democrats in the White House this year. And this is what the New York Daily News wrote in an op-ed this week as well. "Senator Lindsey Graham, long been a thoughtful and constructive legislator. But the South Carolina Republican made a statement last week that showed why Washington is losing the public's trust and his party in particular is losing its sense of duty.

"Graham had joined with Senator Schumer to present a well-reasoned outline for immigration reform. Then Graham threatened to walk away from his own proposal. `If the healthcare bill goes through this weekend, that will, in my view, pretty much kill any chance of immigration reform passing the Senate this year.'"

What do you say?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I'm just being honest. I'm going to work with Chuck Schumer to come up with legislation to control China's manipulation of their currency. I will keep working with Chuck on immigration. But here's the effect, immigration's tough. You don't have to ask anybody other than me to tell you that. It is a tough heavy lift. The president promised to pass an immigration reform bill in his first year. They've done almost nothing in the White, White House on immigration. We've been absorbed by health care. People are risk averse. If a moderate Democrat got a phone call from the president, he wants you to come down to the White House and help him with immigration now, most of them would jump out the window. That's just the truth. I will continue to work with Chuck, but immigration is a heavy lift. We haven't done the things necessary to bring the body together, and 16 Democrats voted against immigration reform. This idea that I would be the 60th vote on immigration, climate change could not be further from the truth. Tough sledding lies ahead because of the, the acrimony around health care. But on financial regulations we'll get a bill. I hope it's a good bill, not some liberal bill with a few, a few Republicans.

MR. GREGORY: Senator...

SEN. GRAHAM: I look forward to working with Chuck.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Schumer, is immigration reform dead then?

SEN. SCHUMER: I don't think so. First, let's look at how desperately we need it. Fifteen thousand people cross our border illegally every day. Most of them take jobs from Americans. And yet, at the same time, there are certain people we need in this economy to help us grow, and we can't get them--engineers, doctors, farm workers. So the system is broken--it lets the wrong people in, excludes the wrong people--and so we need to fix it.

Now, Lindsey and I have worked for a year. We've put out a framework that goes by what we think most Americans believe. Most Americans are anti illegal immigration and pro legal immigration. And we're real close. We're real close.


SEN. SCHUMER: We do need a second Republican to come on the bill, and Lindsey, to his credit, and he's got a lot a courage to step forward here, I salute him, has always said we need that. But I would plead with him, if we can get that second Republican, we have business and labor ready to sign on. We have all the religious community, not just the liberals but the evangelicals. We even have Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly saying positive things about our proposal. I would urge that we try to get this done...

MR. GREGORY: All right.

SEN. SCHUMER: ...because it's so important for America.


MR. GREGORY: Quickly, Senator.

SEN. GRAHAM: If I could say something. I urge, I urge the president to write a bill and see if he can get another Republican, see if he can convince the 16 Democrats who voted no last time.

SEN. SCHUMER: Oh, he will.

SEN. GRAHAM: Let him do some heavy lifting here on immigration.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

SEN. SCHUMER: When the president...

SEN. GRAHAM: Write a bill and send it to me.

SEN. SCHUMER: The president will.

SEN. GRAHAM: I'd be glad to look at it.

MR. GREGORY: I'm going to make that the last word.

SEN. SCHUMER: The president supported our framework, and he'll be right up front in helping us. We just...


SEN. SCHUMER: We just need to move forward.

MR. GREGORY: Before I let you go, Senator Graham...

SEN. GRAHAM: Look forward to it.

MR. GREGORY: ...are you concerned about these recess appointments from President Obama?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes. It's going to make problems worse.

MR. GREGORY: How so?

SEN. SCHUMER: Can I say something?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, Becker is, Becker is a guy...

SEN. SCHUMER: All right.

SEN. GRAHAM: ...who wants card check by regulation, and, at the end of the day, they're really pushing forward here rather than trying to bring this together. Financial regulation has some bipartisan hope. I hope we'll seize the moment there and try to get a bipartisan financial regulation bill.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Schumer?

SEN. SCHUMER: Let me just say this, David, about recess appointments. They're holding up 77 people. The head of the TSA, we need that, some people in, in, in the Defense Department and the Treasury Department, 77 people. And so we have no choice but to do recess appointments. If we spent a week on each of these people they're holding up, and many of them get voted on 99 to nothing after they hold them up, we'd do nothing else.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

SEN. SCHUMER: George Bush did more recess appointments in, at this point, than President Obama has done. Reagan has done them. Clinton has done them. If they'd let us vote on these people, we wouldn't have to do the recess appointments.

MR. GREGORY: I'm going to, I'm going to...

SEN. SCHUMER: But they don't.

MR. GREGORY: I'm going to leave it there. Senator Schumer, Senator Graham, all of this to be continued. Thank you both very much.

SEN. SCHUMER: Hi, Lindsey. Bye, Lindsey.

MR. GREGORY: Coming up next, now that healthcare reform is law, what does it mean for the remainder of the Obama presidency and the midterm elections? Insights from Republican strategist Mike Murphy, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, plus presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Newsweek's Jon Meacham. Only on MEET THE PRESS.


MR. GREGORY: Healthcare reform, the political fallout. What will it mean for the rest of the president's agenda and the 2010 midterm elections, after this brief commercial break.


MR. GREGORY: We're back now, and joined by Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Newsweek editor Jon Meacham.

Welcome to all of you. Quite a week. Quite a week of history and an, an important week for the Obama presidency. Here is the president on Tuesday signing healthcare reform into law.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, healthcare reform is no longer an unmet promise. It is the law of the land. It is the law of the land.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: And Joe Biden, the vice president, seemed to say it best when he said with such vigor that this was a big deal.

Certainly the late Senator Kennedy, Bob Shrum, was part of all of this in spirit. His son Patrick Kennedy went to his graveside and penned a note that was photographed that said, "Dad, the unfinished business is done." This was a big deal.

MR. BOB SHRUM: It was a big deal. The last time I was here was the week he was lost. This is the week that the cause for which he spent so much of his life has been won. He would be the first person, by the way, to say, "Now we have to move on; we have other great challenges in this society." But it was a wonderful week, if you had been with him as I had for 40 years in the center of this fight, to finally see it get done because, you know, there was always a sense maybe this never would happen. He never thought that, by the way. He wrote a thing last summer, one of the last things he wrote, saying, "We're almost there." Now we're there.

MR. GREGORY: Previous presidents couldn't achieve this, Jon Meacham. There is even this, this photo that was kind of interesting between Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, and the president. Look at that embrace. I mean, she and her husband, former President Clinton, tried to achieve this and could not. To what extent is this what puts Barack Obama in the history books?

MR. MEACHAM: Well, it certainly changes the short-term narrative. Remember, about a month ago he was dead, dead, dead, and now he's--you're asking about what he's going to be in the history books. So I think it's a...


MR. MEACHAM: ...a cautionary lesson to all of us who, who render instant judgments. But he managed to do something that they've been trying to do since Theodore Roosevelt. And for all the rage and all the rawness that's out there, which is very ugly and very disturbing and, to my mind, disproportionate to, to the legislation, this is, as John Dingle has said, somewhat to the right of where Richard Nixon was. And so I think we should remember that as, as important this is, we need to look at it proportionately and with a sense of balance.

MR. GREGORY: Speaking about balance, Mike Murphy, there's a lot of Republicans who, who seek a little balance in all of this discussion of history. There's a, a congressman who wrote on his Web site, "Just because it's historic doesn't mean it's good."

MR. MURPHY: Well, I think that's right. I, I think it's a bad bill. I'm a conservative. I don't like it because it's not about cost, it's only about access, and the access problem is ultimately driven by cost. So I think the truth of this is it's only the end of the beginning on health care.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. MURPHY: The Congress we're going to have after the November elections, I can't tell you the magnitude, but I'd be willing to make a bet, is going to be a different kind of Congress. It may still be Democratic, but the numbers will be much tighter. This bill couldn't pass that Congress because the country doesn't like this bill. So this thing, the implementation, it is a long-term here, this is only the beginning. And I believe that four to five years from now, when this bill really would start to take effect, the same bill will not be on the books, it'll be different.

MR. GREGORY: But let's--well, we're going to get more into the politics...

MR. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: ...there's so much to discuss there.

Doris, this question of history. If we put this into some kind of historical context, thinking of you this week, we were thinking about FDR, and we found this sound bite from him signing Social Security into law back in 1935. Here's what he said.

(Videotape, August 14, 1935)

PRES. FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: It seems to me that if the Senate and the House of Representatives in this long and arduous session had done nothing more than pass this security bill, Social Security Act, the session would be regarded as historic for all time.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Historic but also arduous, and certainly health care was. And if you look at the tone of this debate, some of the calls for violence, some of the violence against congressional offices, racial epithets, all the rest, you heard Senator Graham say the process was "sleazy," it harkens back to another time.

MS. GOODWIN: Well, each time we've passed one of these major legislations, there's been a lot of turmoil around them. I mean, after Social Security, for example, in 1936, Landon, which we were just talking about before, ran to repeal that bill. He claimed in the '36 election that in your paycheck they would be taking out the payroll tax and you'd never get it back. And he ran on that issue, and he won a huge election, FDR did, as a result because he fought back. I think the key thing that the legacy is not simply what this is going to do for the future but what it's done, which you started on, to Obama's leadership. You know, when LBJ got civil rights through in '64, he said it felt so incredible inside to have done something that will make life better for millions of Americans. He said, "Now I'm going for voting rights. Now I'm going for Medicare." It emboldens a president. The fact that it was so tough in the Congress, and it became difficult, they're in the trenches together, they've come out more unified, the Democrats. The party has its morale back up. Even the, the sense of the countries abroad, he's a winner, he won something. I agree with you that the battle's only begun, because the battle of public sentiment was never won by the Obama people. The Republicans won it with the "death panels," they won it maybe with falsehoods, but still the majority of the people still don't feel good about this bill. So they still have a lot to do, I think, to compress their arguments and make sure that they reach the country. Lincoln once said, to go back to yet another guy, as he claims I always do...

MR. MEACHAM: It's Sunday.

MR. GREGORY: If it's Doris, it's Lincoln and Roosevelt.

MS. GOODWIN: OK, I promise, this is it.

MR. MEACHAM: (Unintelligible)

MR. GREGORY: No, this is, this is--we love this.

MS. GOODWIN: This is the end. No, Lincoln once said that "He who molds public sentiment is more important than he who passes laws."


MS. GOODWIN: That with public sentiment, everything's possible. Without it, nothing is. Public sentiment still has to be won.

MR. GREGORY: It, it, it raises the question, to Bob and Mike, you know, the, the--this president talked, as a campaigner, about being a transformational figure. And so what do we take away? What's a leadership lesson of this experience for this president, Bob?

MR. SHRUM: Well, well, first of all, I think there are some mistakes, and they would say there are some mistakes. They should have reassured the elderly at the very beginning that this didn't hurt Medicare, because if you look at the inside of that Washington Post poll, by 13 percent, people trust Democrats more on health care, and the center of the opposition to the bill is actually from seniors, and that could have been taken care of. But, you know, it's very hard to quarrel with the president who has achieved this kind of measure of social justice, the greatest measure in 50 years. Now, by the way, without the congressional majorities of the size that LBJ or FDR had, I think from here you have to go on and look at what's going to happen with financial reform, which Lindsay Graham sort of hinted is going to pass.


MR. SHRUM: I think it will. And at the end of 14 months, let alone the end of this year, you have a president with achievements of historic sweep: the largest economic recovery program in history; health care; the student loan reform, wholesale student loan reform, which by the way, was just tucked into the bill and hardly anybody talked about; and a major arms control treaty with the, with the, with the Russians. This is the beginning, I think, of a historic presidency that could be a great presidency and that could lead us into a whole new political era. And now Mike's going to disagree.

MR. MURPHY: I couldn't disagree more. In fact, I, I watched this debate, the new patina being applied to this, it reminds me of the old writers' room trick from the original "Star Trek" show, they used to do a great parallel thing where they'd do fake history, and they'd say, "Oh, Plato, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Zingo of Zoron Five," you know, and they'd create kind of this equality of patina. This was a failure of leadership. The hard thing to do would have been to address cost in a bipartisan way, which is the real problem in health care. And that involves the insurance companies, it involves the docs, it involves the labor unions, it involves the trial lawyers, key constituency of the Democratic Parties, that didn't happen. What we got instead was a one-party muscular effort to put a lot more people into the current system, make some small insurance reforms, and flood the thing full of money to prop it up for a few years. This system they created with this bill can't stand, which is why I think it's written in pencil not pen. You can't get ahead of public opinion like this. You got to lead the country. This isn't leadership. This has divided the country, and it won't stand.

MR. GREGORY: So if you...

MR. SHRUM: This is all a repetition of what was said about Medicare after it passed, what was said about Social Security after it passed.

MS. GOODWIN: You're right. Well, in fact, you know what Reagan said about Medicare at the time, he said that "Some day after Medicare passes you're going to be telling your children's children, as senior citizens, that you once knew a time when America was free," because it's no longer free. And yet he didn't even move to dismantle it because it worked. So that's the key. The key is they have to make this work. They can come back and do cost controls more.

MR. MURPHY: You think it will work?

MS. GOODWIN: I think it will work. Because I think they...

MR. MURPHY: I absolutely disagree.

MS. GOODWIN: This is the beginning. They can move forward, they can figure out--you know, it's not the end when these things pass, it's just the beginning.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask about...

MR. MURPHY: I'm saying it's not the end, but it's not a solution either.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, let's...

MR. MURPHY: It's a pun.

MR. SHRUM: The 32 million people...

MR. MURPHY: It's, it's a solution...

MR. SHRUM: ...who didn't have any health care...


MR. SHRUM:'s a big solution.

MR. MURPHY:'s a solution for access, but you can't solve the access problem unless you solve cost.

MR. GREGORY: Well, there's also...

MR. MURPHY: And it doesn't work.

MR. GREGORY: Whether it's a solution or not, you still--you bring up the political point about this. Here's the cover of The Economist, which says, "What now for the president," or "Now What?" The, the subheadline is "Barack Obama needs to use a bruising victory to unleash the promise of his presidency." And here is the polling on this--so there's the substance, but then there's the perception. We showed this earlier, the new Washington Post poll, 50 percent still opposed on this.

Jon Meacham, in terms of mobilization of voters as we get toward the fall, who's more mobilized on this?

MR. MEACHAM: Well, right now the--I would say it's a pretty close call. The passion, and the passion that we pay attention to because it's so dramatic, and again, raw and tragically unfortunate, I think, the--when John Lewis can't walk across Capitol Hill without being spit on and called the worst thing he can be called, a man who helped change America, then we're out of, we're out of whack in a way that we should denounce in the way I think Republican leaders at the very highest levels love to hear from Senator Dole, from the Bushes, I mean you--this is something that, that should not stand. And my sense is that the right has the passion. But you know what, the left and the center of left just helped pass this bill, and we shouldn't forget that. There was a key moment in the, in the White House strategy here where they went back to the grass roots, and you could see it on the Web, you could feel it with the e-mails. They were trying to re-enage the people who helped Obama defeat, remember, the most formidable force in Democratic politics, the Clintons, in the year before.

MS. GOODWIN: You know, the tone, the tone of recent time really is troubling, I couldn't agree with you more. I mean, for those of us who live in the past, it's not as bad as the 1850s when congressmen and senators sported guns into the Congress.

MR. GREGORY: Not to suggest you were living in the 1850s, by the way.

MS. GOODWIN: No. Or the 1960s when there's bulldogs and whips against the civil rights marchers. But in the last 30 years or so, to hear the racial epithets, to hear the anti-gay thing, when we thought we were moving forward toward a more tolerant society, it shows we still have a far way to go. Frank Rich had an interesting article today where he said, "This is not just about health care. Something bigger's going on." Just like prohibition wasn't just about prohibition, it was the rurals against the city. Now it's people worrying that the country's becoming too homo--unhomogenous. There's a lot of minorities out there, and the whites are fearful of something that's going on. So something's out there. But the Democrats have got to mobilize their base just as the Republicans have mobilized theirs.

MR. GREGORY: But there are some bigger things going on here. You heard--and there was a piece in the Times this week, a reference to then candidate Obama talking about the Reagan legacy, that there ought to be bottom-up wealth created rather than just trickle down. And Ron Brownstein wrote something that caught my eye this week about the difficulty for Democrats among some voting groups. He wrote this: "The belief that Washington has transferred benefits up the income ladder is pervasive across society but especially pronounced among white voters with less than a college education, the group that most resisted Obama in 2008." The Hillary Clinton voter in a lot of the primaries. "Now health care could threaten Democrats from the opposite direction by stoking old fears, particularly among the white working class, that liberals are transferring income down the income ladder to the `less deserving.'" You know, there are some tight races in Pennsylvania, say, or in Ohio, where this could be a factor.

MR. SHRUM: You know, Chuck Schumer went through what's going to happen immediately with this bill, from 26-year-olds being on the--being covered on their parents' policies to help for small business to preventing cancellation of your insurance when you get sick. All that's going to happen right away, and people are going to live with the reality of this bill, not the caricatures. I think that what's happened to the Republicans--and I think they will pay a longer term price for this, by the way--is that some of them got married to the mob and they stood outside on the steps of the Capitol, went on that balcony, and they encouraged people to do this. The, the words of that mob were echoed inside with words like "Armageddon" and "baby killer." Americans don't like extremists, and when they find out this bill isn't extreme--you know, it's actually your friend Mitt Romney's bill, and he's trying to kind of...

MR. MEACHAM: No, it's not at all.

MR. SHRUM: He's kind of try--oh, no, come on, everybody concedes it.

MR. MURPHY: The mandate is...

MR. MEACHAM: That's...(unintelligible).

MR. MURPHY: The mandate is, but not the bill.

MR. SHRUM: He--you know what his answers--you know what his answer is?

MR. MURPHY: That's unfair, Bob. It's not true.

MR. SHRUM: His answer is it should be done on a state-by-state basis. They then show a film of him from the 2008 campaign where he says it ought to be a national model. You know what's happened here? The Scott Brown era is the shortest era in the history of American politics, and he helped us pass the bill. Because once he got there, once he got there, the Democrats said, "We can't ping-pong this back and forth between the Senate and the House. The House must pass the Senate bill, then we'll fix it in reconciliation."

MR. MURPHY: That was a freight train of disingenuous sound bites, and I can't try to address them all.

MR. SHRUM: It was actually--it was, it was actually the march of truth.

MR. MURPHY: It was baloney. I worked on the Romney healthcare bill, you didn't. I know you don't. Here's my question for you.

MR. SHRUM: I do know the Romney healthcare bill. He helped write it with Senator Kennedy.

MR. MURPHY: Here's my question for you, Bob. Based on this historical triumph of incredible dimensions, how many House and Senate seats you guys going to pick up in the midterm election?

MR. SHRUM: Oh, I don't think we'll pick up seats. We'll lose seats. But we'll lose far fewer seats than people assumed. I think the Republicans peaked way too early.

MR. MURPHY: Well, we'll see.

MR. SHRUM: And I think, Murphy, they made a big mistake. They didn't take your advice from months ago that they had to stand for something positive.

MR. MURPHY: Well...

MR. SHRUM: The campaign you're running in California for governor stands for something positive. I hope it doesn't work, but...

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask specific question, though, that I brought up from the Brownstein piece, which is a lot of working-class, middle-class voters--and I showed this to Senator Schumer--they don't--they oppose this healthcare plan.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: The idea that somehow you think, "Well, wait a minute, this is mostly helping people who are poor or don't have insurance. But, you know, I'm struggling here."

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: "I may have insurance, but I'm struggling. Why are they getting all the benefits and not me?" Is that a real sentiment that drives voters away from Democrats in the fall?

MR. MURPHY: No, absolutely. They feel totally disconnected--they thought they voted--Lindsey's right, for a middle-of-the-road person that would put Washington back together, and they got kind of a more liberal, more labor-oriented ideological administration and they've got that policy now. So they feel very disconnected from Washington, which is why the polls show Republicans are doing so well.

The only worry I have about the Republicans isn't now. I think we're going to do very well, because the country wants to get this out-of-control Congress back under control. I'm worried about the day after the election, because that's when we're going to have a lot of seats, despite the "historic" cry that Bob's very proud of here. And then the country's going to say, "What are you going to do?" And we'd better have a damn good answer at that moment.

MR. SHRUM: And you don't right now.

MR. GREGORY: All right, I want to get to that in just a minute.

MR. MURPHY: Well, we do, but we're not, we're not talking about it right now.

MR. GREGORY: But, but let's stick with some of the nature of the opposition. Sarah Palin was--has gotten a lot of coverage. She was out this weekend campaigning for Senator McCain, who faces a tough race, a reminder that that anti-incumbency is also directed at Republicans like a Senator McCain. And she makes a point about the nexus between Republicans and the tea party movement out there. This is what she said.

(Videotape, Friday)

FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): And let me clear the air right now. We might as well call it like we see it, right, and not beat around the bush. In respect to the tea party movement, beautiful movement. You know what, everybody here today supporting John McCain, we are all a part of that tea party movement.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Is that true? That's probably what Republicans hope is true, that the tea party is part of the Republican Party.

MR. MEACHAM: I think perhaps that crowd, perhaps it was true there.

MS. GOODWIN: In Searchlight.

MR. MEACHAM: In Searchlight. Well, no, that was a different one. But I don't think so. I think--and Bob and Michael know this better. But, you know, when you have these extreme, more for--vociferous and ferocious movements, it doesn't always help. As Churchill once said in another context, "It's a good starter but it's not a good finisher." And the way parties absorb these things--and we've seen it a thousand times; we've seen it with Wallace, we've seen it with Perot--is they take some part of the grievance, address it and press forward. I think we're--you know, partly we're built for argument. I mean, we--the system wasn't created to really resolve much, ultimately, to go back pre-Landon.

MS. GOODWIN: See, you're worse than me. You've gone way back.

MR. MEACHAM: Because, because we haven't mentioned James Madison yet.

MR. GREGORY: No, right.

MR. MEACHAM: And I think we, I think we'd be remiss not to.

MR. SHRUM: And if you were in Texas you couldn't mention Jefferson...

MR. MEACHAM: That's true.

MR. SHRUM: ...because they've written him out of the curriculum.

MR. MEACHAM: That's true, that's true.

MR. GREGORY: Well, but, Doris--yeah, finish your point, Jon.

MR. MEACHAM: Well, just quickly. But honestly, I mean, when you think about it, and you think about the--it's interesting that the first question we asked is what's going to happen in the midterm? OK, all right. Well, we have this extraordinary bill, what's going to happen in the midterm? Well, this is the way it works. In 1964 we had civil rights, in 1965 we had Voting Rights Act. What happened in 1966? Republicans did extremely, extremely well. Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California. The system...

MS. GOODWIN: That was Vietnam as much as anything, though.

MR. MEACHAM: Well, it was...

MR. MURPHY: No, that point is correct. It's the big enchilada in 2012, which will also be linked to the one issue we're not talking about here, the economy, which is still the main driver of the election.

MR. SHRUM: Right.


MS. GOODWIN: Of course.

MR. MURPHY: But you're right, the midterms are only a step along the way. I feel confident about that. But, beyond that, the Republican Party does have some work to do.

MR. GREGORY: Well, that--that's a question, Doris. What are the expectations that the American people have right now of government on the other end of the arduous process that has been health care?

MS. GOODWIN: Well, I think that's one of the things that needs to be worked on if public sentiment is going to be changed. Before the Obama campaign began, people were saying they trusted government more. It was one of those sea changes, a little bit, from the Reagan era of conservatives hating government. And now they're just so mad at the process that we have to be able, I think, if you are a Democrat, or even if you care about government, to show that government did come through in the end in a certain way. You know, the funny thing about the way this process worked, even though everybody said it was so horrible and he should have taken control earlier, the one thing LBJ always said was that they have to be with you on the takeoff if they're going to be with you on the landing. And he made Congress feel engaged in this process. Even though it seemed it went on much too long, by the end, boy, they were there with him on the landing. They got the credit, they got the recognition. I think my favorite moment at that moment was when that guy stood up, and he said, you know, "You've taken your lumps." "We sure did, but we're still standing." He's linked to them in a way. But now the--still, I couldn't agree more that the sentiment in the country has not yet been changed on this. And unless they do that, then I think the Democrats will be in trouble.

MR. SHRUM: There are two things, though, in the...

MR. MURPHY: LBJ was...

MR. SHRUM: Go ahead.

MR. MURPHY: ...a lot better at, at a bipartisan kind of strong-arming and compromise than President Obama was. He had the Democratic Party with him on the takeoff, he's got most of them on the landing, but he has nobody else. And it's hard to change the country with just that.

MR. SHRUM: Yeah, but, but, but, but wait, but wait a minute. Everett Dirksen, who was the Republican leader, was willing to help John Kennedy on the test ban treaty, was willing to help him on civil rights and help Lyndon Johnson. Mitch McConnell said from the beginning, "We're not going to help at all. We're going to obstruct no matter what's in the bill" before he knew what was in the bill. So I think you have a very different situation. The president did exactly what he has to do.

And by the way, Mike's right about the economy. The next big thing to watch for are the March job numbers which come out in early April. Show significant job creation. Start recalculating the midterm.

MR. GREGORY: That's the last word. Thank you all very much.

Coming next, our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE. A look back at another piece of healthcare legislation that had congressional Republicans, including then minority leader Congressman Gerald Ford, and a question about repeal, after this brief station break.

MR. GREGORY: And we're back with our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE. Forty-five years ago in Washington there was another heated debate about providing health care to Americans. Despite vigorous Republican opposition, a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress passed sweeping reform. July 30th, 1965, the country's largest ever expansion of public health care, the Medicare program, was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in Independence, Missouri, the hometown of President Harry Truman, who had fought for a national health insurance program 20 years prior.

A year later, Republicans made some big gains in the midterm election due in large part to President Johnson's unpopularity. The GOP netted 47 House seats. And in early 1967, then House Minority Leader Gerald Ford appeared right here on MEET THE PRESS to discuss his party's plans and the issue of whether Medicare should be repealed.

(Videotape January 8, 1967)

MR. NEIL MacNEIL: Mr. Ford, the last election is interpreted by many as a mandate for the House Republicans. In the previous Congress, you people describe that Congress as one of the worst. I'd like to know whether you plan to repeal or basically alter any of that worst legislation, for example the Medicare bill?

REP. GERALD R. FORD: In the last Congress, the Republicans, as you well know, recognized that there were problems domestically that had to be solved. We felt there were better ways for the Republicans to do this job than the way that the administration proposed. For example, we had an alternative, a constructive one in my judgment, for the handling of the problems of the aged, hospital care, medical care. We had other alternatives. We had a better voting rights bill, for example, than I think that which came from the White House. I still think it should be on the books. It would be better legislation than the one we're operating under at the present time.

Mr. MacNEIL: Well, well, isn't the House now a conservative body?

REP. FORD: I think the Republicans, the 187 of us, compared to 248 Democrats, is, the Republicans are a moderate, highly unanimous group of representatives, and we're not going to clobber things. We're not going to stop the progress of America. We're going to try to redirect it and do it in a more effective and, I think, less expensive way.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: The question today on healthcare reform, of course, is whether it represents progress for the American people. But, as a political reality, both parties understand very difficult to take away a benefit from the American people once it's been given. And we'll be right back.


MR. GREGORY: Before we go this morning, a programming note. Tune in Tuesday to NBC's "Today" program for Matt Lauer's exclusive interview with President Obama, his first one-on-one interview since signing healthcare reform into law. That is Tuesday morning.

That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.