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Meet the Press transcript for October 2, 2011

MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, the big questions in the race for the White House. Is the GOP nomination fight a choice between Romney and Perry? Or is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about to reshape the field yet again?


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): What happened to state Senator Obama? When did he decide to become one of the dividers he spoke of eloquently of in 2004?

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Governor Perry stumbles in the debates and raises questions about his viability, Romney steadies, and is Cain suddenly able? Who will pose the biggest threat to the Obama re-election effort? The big question for the president and a weak economy, can he rally his base, get a jobs bill passed and overcome what one adviser calls a titanic struggle to win a second term?


PRES. BARACK OBAMA: I need you to help finish what we started in 2008. Now, back then, we started this campaign not because we thought it would be a cakewalk.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: A debate this morning between Governor Bob McDonnell, Republican of the important swing state Virginia and chair of the Republican Governors Association; and Governor Deval Patrick, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Then, insights from our roundtable. The political primary calendar in flux, as is the political map, and the road to 270. How does the president hold states like Ohio with so many Americans out of work? Plus, the political unknowns: Christie and Sarah Palin in or out? With us, Republican strategist, Time magazine columnist Mike Murphy; Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan; Democratic congressman from California and deficit cutting supercommittee member Xavier Becerra; and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.

Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

MR. GREGORY: Good morning. It's been a full weekend of political positioning. Last night, President Obama, in a speech to the human rights campaign, rallied his base and pushed again for a jobs bill.


PRES. OBAMA: I'm counting on you to have my back. Go out there and get them to pass this bill.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: And fresh off another national security victory, the killing of a U.S.-born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the president challenged Republicans after a gay soldier was heckled at a recent GOP presidential debate.


PRES. OBAMA: We don't believe in the kind of smallness that says it's OK for a stage full of political leaders, one of whom could end up being the president of the United States, being silent when an American soldier is booed.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Meantime, Republican candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry campaigned at five events in New Hampshire this weekend and, trying to deflect criticism over his more moderate immigration stance, suggested that U.S. troops might actually be sent to Mexico to help fight the drug war there. And the political left mobilized against Wall Street over the weekend. More than 700 protesters from the Occupy Wall Street Movement were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Joining me now to talk about it all, Governor Bob McDonnell, Republican of Virginia, and Governor Deval Patrick, Democrat of Massachusetts. Welcome to both of you.

GOV. BOB McDONNELL (R-VA): Good morning.


MR. GREGORY: There's a lot to talk about on the political landscape right now.

Governor Patrick, let me start with you. The president seems to be against the wall here as he begins this campaign for re-election. A top adviser, David Axelrod, now outside the White House, but he was his communications adviser, gave a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. This is what he said the stakes are.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

MR. DAVID AXELROD: We have the wind in our face because the American people have the wind in their faces. And so this is going to be a titanic struggle, but I firmly believe we're on the right side of the struggle.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: A titanic struggle. So what's the president have? What does he have as a message? Has he found his voice to overcome that struggle?

GOV. PATRICK: Well, first of all, I think it's, it's important to point out the president is not taking this election for granted and candidates shouldn't. I hope Democrats are nervous. I think that, that's more consistent with how people are feeling in the general population. And I think the question is, do we want a government that is on the side of helping people help themselves, or do we want a philosophy, which the National Republican Party has been pushing anyway, which says that everybody's on his or her own. I think, at the end of the day, the American people are going to choose a partnership with leadership in the, in the form of President Obama, which is about helping people help themselves. And the jobs bill is a--is just the most recent and, I think, very important example of that.

MR. GREGORY: What is he doing now? Is this a base strategy? Is that where you think the president finds his voice?

GOV. PATRICK: You know, you might be asking the wrong person because I'm--I don't do all the strategies and all that stuff. I think the president is about trying to make sure that every American, regardless of party, those who see themselves as Democrats or Republicans or don't see themselves as aligned at all understand that he is on their side and, with his jobs bill, he can help. We can help.

MR. GREGORY: Governor McDonnell, rhetoric matters and the president is in a new phase in terms of how he takes on Republicans. Earlier last month, he sat down with our own Brian Williams and, when it came to responding to Republicans, this is what he had to say.


PRES. OBAMA: I'm not going to start reacting to Republican rhetoric in a presidential campaign. Let, let them decide who it is that is going to be their standard-bearer and we'll have more than ample time to, to have a debate with them.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: He was at 35,000 feet, now he's down at the tree-line, right? This is what he said just this past week at a fundraiser out West. The president saying, "I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately? ... You've got a governor," he's talking about Perry here, "whose state is on fire denying climate change." He's engaging Republicans. He's calling them out by name. He must like the comparison.

GOV. McDONNELL: Well, all eyes are, of course, on the Republicans. There's no competition on the Democratic side. Let's--not for now. There may be if things don't get a little bit better.

GOV. PATRICK: Don't look at me, Bob.

GOV. McDONNELL: But, look, this election's about three things. And the Democrats are on the wrong side of it. It's about jobs and economic development, sustained 31 months now over 8 percent. The president promised the stimulus would get us under 8, we're at 9.1 now. It's about spending and debts and deficit. We're at 14 trillion. With the approval of the debt limit increase, that's going to be over 16, greatest increase in the national debt in history. And it's about leadership. It's about who--what party believes in the American dream and American exceptionalism. And I think we're getting back at a period of malaise like Jimmy Carter.

MR. GREGORY: But as a--as a Republican...

GOV. McDONNELL: That's not what's going to win it for the president.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to talk about the economy in just a moment. But as a comparison, do you worry, as a sitting governor, as chair of the Governors Association, that the National Republican Party is fielding candidates who will ultimately have to be too extreme and will lose the opportunity to retake the political center, which is how presidential campaigns are won?

GOV. McDONNELL: No. Because they're talking about jobs, spending, leadership, energy. They're talking about the kitchen table issues that people really care about. And so, after this inner-squad scrimmage is done over the next six, seven, eight months, of course they'll be people beating each other up a little bit.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. McDONNELL: But Republicans have a great desire to win and they will rally around the candidate big time this year.

MR. GREGORY: Let, let's talk about jobs. And for both of you, I want to point out The Wall Street Journal survey that was done from the Business Roundtable about hiring. I'll put it up on the screen. "Top business executives are less confident [now] about the U.S. economic outlook and their ability to hire new workers than in previous quarters this year. ... Only 36% of [CEOs] thought their company's U.S. employment would increase in the next six months; 24% thought it would" increase--it would decrease, rather. And that's according to a survey of 140 CEOs done by the Business Roundtable. This goes on to point out that in the second quarter, the numbers were different' 51 percent thought they'd be hiring more, only 11 percent thought it would decrease. The outlook is bleaker. What can and what should government do?

GOV. PATRICK: Well, let me just say that in--at home in, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, we're growing jobs faster than 44 other states. Our unemployment rate is well below the national average, as it is in Virginia, and going, and going down. And we've moved up. We're chasing Virginia, which is first in the nation in--as best places to do business. We've moved up to fifth or sixth at this point. That's because we have a strategy. And it's a strategy about investing in education, in innovation, and in infrastructure. And, frankly, that's exactly what the president's been talking about at the national level. That's what the stimulus bill has been about, and that's what the jobs bill accelerates. So I don't think that simply, you know, this notion of--that you hear sometimes from national Republicans of cutting spending, shrinking government, crushing unions and waiting is a strategy that's going to get us anywhere. What we have to be about is a wise partnership, public and private, investing in our future and lifting us all.

MR. GREGORY: All right. But as the governor of Massachusetts, what are the consequences of inaction? Because the reality is the president's campaigning for a jobs bill. The outlook is not very strong. So what is--what are the consequences for doing nothing at the federal level?

GOV. PATRICK: You know what I think, David, if I could just say, I think the consequences are dire and I think they reflect terribly on the folks who say no to whatever the president puts, puts forward. You know, we, in both of our respective states, if I may say of, of Governor McDonnell, we have worked in partnership with people who differ from us politically because we understand that people look to us to help. Not to solve every problem in everybody's life, but to help people help themselves. And we're all looking to the federal government that way. I think the president has shown over and over and over again, sometimes to the dismay of his supporters, that he's willing to reach across the--to the other side.

MR. GREGORY: You hear, Governor McDonnell, from the president's advisers that the Republicans nationally have been diabolically successful in blaming all dysfunction in the government on the president and basically saying no to, effectively, everything. What are the consequences of inaction by the federal government to do something to jump-start hiring?

GOV. McDONNELL: Well, I don't buy that argument in the first place. I think that's a lack of leadership. Deval's right. When you're a governor, you got to balance the budgets, get stuff done on time, you can't make excuses, you're held directly responsible for outcomes in your state. We can't do what the president's doing, which is blaming the House, blaming the tea party, calling the American people soft. I'd say we need stronger leadership. That's what's, that's what's wrong. And so I think what you've got here is an administration that's very much anti-business.

Look, look at this week. The president of Coke saying it's easier to do business in China that it is in America. The president of Google saying that all this regulation from Washington is stifling innovation. I don't think this is the right approach to be able to recapture the American dream. We ought to be more positive about what a great nation we've got, and I don't hear that from this White House.

GOV. PATRICK: I completely agree about the importance of being positive, and I think this president's patriotism is be--and enthusiasm

GOV. McDONNELL: Absolutely.

GOV. PATRICK: ...about this country is beyond, is beyond question. I think that we've been asking the president to fix the economy with one hand tied behind his back. We've been saying, in effect, "Make it so the government has no role in regulating excesses on Wall Street, in, in trying to assure that the multiple bottom lines of government is responsible for are, are adequately balanced and that you should, you should make investments but not--we're not going to give you any funds to do so." I think the--I think the...

GOV. McDONNELL: But, Deval, we did, we did regulate Wall Street. Look at Dodd-Frank. It was passed on the president's watch and now you got, you got CEOs around the country saying that's one of the things that's killing our ability to invest. That's why there's capital and jobs on the sidelines.

MR. GREGORY: Let, let me just jump in and talk about health care. We're not going to have this fight. The Supreme Court is likely to look at this now in the heat of the campaign year.


MR. GREGORY: Governor, you've been forceful in saying that you, you want to sue the federal government over this. You don't want this to become the law...

GOV. McDONNELL: We've already done that.

MR. GREGORY: You've already done that, excuse me. What's going to happen here? What's the impact of this looking to be?

GOV. McDONNELL: Well, it's hard to say. The Virginia case, of course, we got bumped out on standing; so we're appealing the United States Supreme Court; in fact, just this week on standing. The Florida case will probably be the likely one I think, Deval, that'll get to the Supreme Court on the merits.

GOV. PATRICK: I think, I think...(unintelligible).

GOV. McDONNELL: And the fundamental question is can the United States Congress force a individual in a state to buy a product or a good, and if not to get, get fined? So regardless of what you think about health care, and I know they've got a plan in Massachusetts, all the merits, which the states can do--this is about whether the federal government can make an individual do it. I think there's broad agreement in the country that we need more access at less cost. But doing it through this one-size-fits-all federal mandate from Washington is not the way to go, and that's why the majority of the American people are against it and why it's going to be a big campaign issue.

GOV. PATRICK: Well, of course, you know that we've--the national reform is based on what we've been doing in Massachusetts for the last five years, and 98 percent of our residents have health insurance. It's added 1 percent to state spending. It's been a wild success. There is a challenge everywhere in the country in terms of managing healthcare costs down. And that's regardless whether you have a universal system or not. We're going to crack that code in Massachusetts as well. I think that, frankly, to describe this, with due respect to my friend, Bob, to describe this as a mandate for one-size-fits-all is wrong. There is so much flexibility under this proposal to try different ways of accomplishing the same goal. And the goal is recognizing that health is a public good.

MR. GREGORY: Let me come back to politics now. And I want to ask you about your fellow governor Chris Christie up in New Jersey.


MR. GREGORY: So he was out at the Reagan Library this week. He, he quoted then Senator Obama in the 2004 campaign where he talked about one America and used that against him, really, in his criticism. This is what Governor Christie said this week.


GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, now, seven years later President Obama prepares to divide our nation to achieve re-election. This is not a leadership style. This is a re-election strategy. Telling those who are scared and struggling that the only way their lives can get better is to diminish the success of others. ... Insisting that we must tax and take and demonize those who have already achieved the American dream. That may turn out to be good re-election strategy, Mr. President, but it is a demoralizing message for America.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Would you like to see him get in the race? Do you think he will?

GOV. McDONNELL: It's hard to say. I'm going to leave that up to Chris Christie. He's an extraordinary communicator, he's a great governor, enormous reforms in everything from the pension system to budget reform in a blue, blue state. I just asked him to be vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association because he's such a terrific leader. I just think whoever's going to get in needs to do it immediately. We've got 90 days till the caucuses start in, in Iowa, and I think Chris is probably feeling that pressure to make a decision immediately. I think that says a lot about the fact that there's optimism about winning in 2012, and there are people like Chris...

MR. GREGORY: Or does it say that there's an opening in the field because there's concerns about who's at the top of the field?

GOV. McDONNELL: Well, I, I don't think so. I think there's nine people on that stage in the debates that, that are great people, and they're going to get better, better over time. But Chris is, is a unique successful governor with a positive outlook, and I think would fare very well against the president. But ultimately the call is his. I'd be surprised, at this point, if he got in.

MR. GREGORY: You would be surprised.

GOV. McDONNELL: I would.

MR. GREGORY: Just because of the calendar?

GOV. McDONNELL: The calendar and because he's said for a year he's not.


GOV. McDONNELL: But I--you know, he's got a lot of people who are well-respected in Republican circles who think he'd be the, the right guy. And I have great respect for Chris.

MR. GREGORY: Would he be formidable, Governor Patrick?

GOV. PATRICK: Sure. I like Chris. He's, he's, he's one of my favorites. I'm not going to--I don't, you know, I wish him well. Not that well.

GOV. McDONNELL: You hear that endorsement?

GOV. PATRICK: No, that's not what that was. But I--look, you know, he's been governor for, what is it, a year and a half, two years?


GOV. PATRICK: I think unemployment in New Jersey is higher even than, than the national average. It's some unfinished work in New Jersey in order to have proof points for the case he wants to make. I think the point is that the president is not leaving the outcome of this election up to pundits, pollsters, or some view of what the current or future field will be in the Republican Party. It's about getting out and appealing to people where they live, where they are, where they feel, and making sure that they understand he's trying to do what he can to help them out.

MR. GREGORY: Well, a quick one for each of you before you go.

Governor McDonnell, immigration. Your state, as you well know, has a, has a big increase, almost 19 percent since 2008...


MR. GREGORY: ..of Hispanic voters who are now voting age. This was a state that the president carried. If you look at the party stance, a harsh stance on immigration reform, do you see him recarrying--carrying Virginia again based in part on the reaction among Hispanic voters around the country to Republicans on immigration?

GOV. McDONNELL: No, I don't. I think the president is so way underwater. The last poll 39 percent approval rating. I carried the state by 18. Three new congressman elected last year. I don't see it happening. I, I do think that Hispanic voters, while they lean towards the Democratic Party, are largely self-identified as conservatives. I think we got a great chance to reach them because our message on job creation and economic development, restoration of the American dream is exactly why people come here in the first place. Because we are this shining city on the hill, and that's going to be our message over the next 14 months.

MR. GREGORY: Governor Patrick, as you well know, the most important personnel decision in your state this morning is not about the presidency, it is about this man, Terry Francona, who is now out as manager of the Boston Red Sox. This was a man who reversed the curse...


MR. GREGORY: ...two world championships. How do you, how do you lose this guy even after this colossal collapse of the Red Sox?

GOV. PATRICK: Oh, don't you think I have my hands full just trying to run the state government...

MR. GREGORY: You want to go back to the political questions, right, because those are easier.

GOV. PATRICK: ...of Massachusetts. Those are, those are, those are hard enough. Listen...


GOV. PATRICK: ...I love this team, I love its management, I love the players, and the fans are unbeatable. And, and that's why we have springs.

MR. GREGORY: Wow. I mean, that--we got more from him on the president than that.

Governor McDonnell, would you...

GOV. McDONNELL: But Notre Dame's back on track, so it is good.

MR. GREGORY: Governor, would you consider being a VP candidate on the Republican side?

GOV. McDONNELL: You know, that's nine months away. That's somebody else's decision. I'm having a great time chairing the RGA.

MR. GREGORY: But you'd be open to it?

GOV. McDONNELL: Look, if somebody called and said, "You could help our country, help our ticket," I think any of us would, would think about it. Right now I'm focused on making Virginia more competitive than Massachusetts and making it a great state.

MR. GREGORY: All right, governors, thank you both.

GOV. McDONNELL: Thank you.

GOV. PATRICK: Thanks for asking us.

MR. GREGORY: The debate continues. Appreciate it.

Coming up, after months of defiant denials, reports that Chris Christie is now actively considering a candidacy. Are republicans still looking for more options as Rick Perry fades some in the polls. Plus, the sagging job market and the weak economy all weighing on President Obama's re-election hopes as he tries to rekindle the magic of his 2008 campaign. Our political roundtable weighs in on the state of the race. Joining us, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, California Congressman Xavier Becerra, and the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne. Coming up after this break.


MR. GREGORY: Coming up, our political roundtable is here weighing in on the state of the 2012 presidential race: Mike Murphy, Peggy Noonan, Congressman Xavier Becerra, and E.J. Dionne. They all are here, ready to go. We'll be back right after this break.


MR. GREGORY: We are back, and the conversation has already started. Our roundtable's with me now. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne; Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan; Republican strategist and Time magazine columnist Mike Murphy; and Democratic Congressman from California and deficit-cutting supercommittee member Xavier Becerra, whose district is--includes Chavez Ravine, which is where Dodger Stadium is. More on that later.

Welcome to all of you.

I want to start actually with Republican--the Republican field and Republican politics. Chris Christie, is he in or is he out? He is being covered by everyone, including your source for news and information, Weekend Update on "Saturday Night Live." Here it is.


MR. SETH MYERS: (From "Saturday Night Live") After claiming for months that he did not want to run for president, insiders are now saying that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is reconsidering that decision. Promising to do one thing, then doing the opposite, sounds pretty presidential to me.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Mike Murphy, Christie is on record saying, "Short of suicide, I don't know how to tell all of you that I'm not in the race." That was then; this is now. What's he going to do?

MR. MIKE MURPHY: You know, I have no idea. I do know we don't elect a lot of president Hamlets, so it's time for a decision. The most decisive guy in politics seen maybe indecisive cannot last. My gut is he's not going to do it, late entry. And he, he's a very strong candidate, and he'd get in with a big boom. But the second and third look in a very conservative Republican primary might be a problem. But I'll give him one piece of free advice. If I were him, I would give all these New York money guys, who promise big but sometimes deliver small, a task, "Put $50 million into a supercommittee by Thursday or leave me alone."


MR. MURPHY: Because talk is cheap in politics.

MR. GREGORY: Peggy Noonan, the buildup could be great, the Ronald Reagan Library speech, leadership with a capital L...


MR. GREGORY: ...not a lot of specifics. So the first look, as Mike suggests, could be good, but what are some of his problem areas?

MS. NOONAN: Oh, well. Well, first of all, presidential politics is no game for the ambivalent. Do you know what I mean? He's got to decide, "Do I really want this? My heart, my head, my soul, are they going to go forward?" If he goes forward, he knows he's liked by so many people, Christie, what is called the party establishment, certain money people, regular Republicans on the ground, but he's going to find out if he has a relationship with the Republican base, which is a little restive...

MR. GREGORY: Well...

MS. NOONAN: ...and a little primal this year. So I, I don't think it would necessarily be smooth sailing, but it would be a great launch and a very interesting thing to see.

MR. GREGORY: But isn't it the primal nature of the Republican base right now, E.J., that is leaving some room at the top, that is leaving room for somebody to, you know, come in on the, on the white horse here?

MR. E.J. DIONNE: Well, absolutely. Republicans are really enjoying destroying their presidential candidates. I mean, the half-life of a surge is about two weeks and then comes the collapse word. I hate to use this, a Boston Red Sox fan. But, you know, Dan Balz had a great piece in The Washington Post this morning under the headline, "Voters make the real decisions, not talking heads," which I took as a memo to us all today. So let's just look at what we know now, not what we know--what we'll know later. We know that Mitt Romney is a better candidate than he was four years ago--one--this is a very hard thing to do, and I think he's doing it better. And it's still getting him not very far. When Perry collapsed, it didn't go to him. Perry had his two weeks, and now everybody has doubts about him. And I agree with Mike that where is the pressure for Christie to run coming from? It's coming from big money people in New York and a lot of conservative pundits. I am not sure that translates into support on the ground.

MR. GREGORY: Interesting. But, Congressman, it goes to something...

MS. NOONAN: But a lot of Republicans on the ground like him, though, so it's good talk out there.

MR. GREGORY: goes to something else, which is how much hunger there is among conservatives to take on President Obama. Alex Castellanos, the Republican strategist frequently on this program. He, he wrote something on Thursday that caught my eye. "The Republican Party," he writes, "is white hot. That's why when you see a Sarah Palin, a Donald Trump or a Herman Cain - whoosh! It's like a Roman candle. The people just want to roll a hand grenade under Washington's door. But at some point, you stop flirting with the candidate you want and you marry the president you need." But they are white hot. It's taking on Washington, it's taking on the president that's fueling a lot of these candidates.

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D-CA): Dave, I think a, a lot of these candidates have heard the siren call: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry. It wouldn't surprise me if you have Governor Christie say, "I can hear the song really loud and clear." The difficulty is, running for president is like committing suicide. There's not a lot of good choices there, and you have to be very prepared for, for the outcome. And, whether it's suicide or running for president, you better be ready.

MR. GREGORY: Well, the narrative is something that interests me. And, and, Mike, you can take this on. I mean, look--what--you've got Chris Christie as the potential, you know, the straight shooter, higher calling kind of leadership message, understanding more of the poetry of campaigning. Perry's a populist, an anti-government guy. Romney still seems like more of a technocrat. He's the, he's the private sector presidency. So you have all of these--I--Peggy doesn't like the word narrative now based on her column, but there are these...

MS. NOONAN: Not narrative or stories...

MR. GREGORY: ...these, these, these different stories that are coursing around.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: And Republicans have to make a decision about which one really moves them.

MR. MURPHY: And it's a tough decision. I, I always use the analogy--(coughs) excuse me--that it's kind of like a lost weekend, the presidential primary process. Friday night, everybody gets drunk, runs around, there's a lot of fun, the passion candidates do well early. Even Howard Dean, you know, representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Our, our kind of hot entertainment candidates have been Bachmann, up and down, Cain now getting a little action. Then, by Sunday morning when the election is, a lot of hangovers, but people sober up a little bit and make responsible decisions. So we're in--still in the beginning. You know, in the pundit world, I agree with Dan Balz, we--the campaign--we've been covering it day to day for a year. Out in voter America, there's lots of room for this to go up and down and we'll see. The legal rules, though, that dictate the process, the Florida primary's filing date...


MR. MURPHY: all coming up quick. So we're about 10 days away from locking the field, and then we're going to have still a month or two of turbulence, and then people start making real decisions. I think it'll be Romney or Perry.

MR. GREGORY: You--but you made the point this weekend, Peggy, that there is a desire that's not being captured, there is a desire to right what's wrong in America...


MR. GREGORY: America that...


MR. GREGORY: ...based on people you're talking to...


MR. GREGORY: ...that is not really being addressed here.

MS. NOONAN: Yeah, it is a hunger for leadership in the United States. So many people wherever I go in America and, and talk to people from all sort of areas of life, there is this sense of, "We could lose America if we don't make the right decisions over the next few years. Who's going to help us? Who is someone we could follow?" Someone with credibility. That's one of the reasons that the Republican race is so difficult this year. It's full of dynamism, it's full of movement, but people are actually looking for someone they think can maybe get us through the worst four or eight years...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. NOONAN: ...we're going to--we've ever faced in modern times. So they are taking it seriously. It seems crucial.

MR. DIONNE: I agree with Peggy that the underlying and often unspoken issue here is worry about American decline and will we still be America? But I just don't see that Chris Christie speech as being this visionary thing. I mean, the clip you showed where he said Obama wants to diminish the success of others; as far as I can tell, rich people are richer today than they were when Barack Obama took office. That struck me as a partisan "Coke brothers" style attack on his part. And, as for Obama, I think his problem for the whole year had been that in all this deal making, no one knew what he stood for. Some people see what he's doing now as, "Well, he's trying to rally the base." I actually think he's trying to make a bigger argument about what he stands for, and he's better off for doing that.

MR. GREGORY: Before we--I want to get back to Obama in just a minute, but Congressman, I want to come back to you on an issue that's going to be very tough for Republicans. And you see it in this primary. Jonathan Martin of Politico talking about the troubles this morning that Rick Perry's having in New Hampshire over his moderate immigration position. In New Hampshire, he's having this problem. It means that the, that the party, the core of the Republican Party has changed on this. I spoke to former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson this week on our Press Pass conversation, which is available in its entirety on our, on our blog Press Pass, and he sort of laid out where the problems are for Republicans on this. Watch.


FMR. GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM): Look what the Republicans are saying. They're very hostile to immigration reform. Look at Governor Perry. I mean, he has a sensible position on immigration as a border governor and--on the Dream Act, on education for kids of immigrants, and he's getting pilloried. I mean, voters, centrist voters, are going to be turned off by that.

(End videotape)


MR. GREGORY: It's a big issue; and yet, there are Hispanic voters who are upset with President OBama for not getting reform through.

REP. BECERRA: David, there's a difference, though. The Republicans are still in search of a leader. Democrats have a leader who has said what he tried to do. Republicans seem to be pulling the rug out from under Latinos who want to have that American dream, and what they are--what they're failing to understand is that if they don't stop the shouting and talk about how you're going to give people the American dream, they're in jeopardy, not just of losing Latino voters and a lot of new citizens...

MR. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

REP. BECERRA: ...not just in this election coming up, but for a long time to come. And if you take a look at the Southwest, the future of the Southwest and the future presidents who win the Southwest, are going to know how to approach the Latino voters.

MR. GREGORY: Mike Murphy, let's just look at these stats.


MR. GREGORY: From the Census Bureau, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, these are states, with the exception of Missouri, that were carried by Obama in 2008. This is the percent increase in voting age Hispanics between '08 and '10. Florida, you see it's higher; Virginia, almost 20 percent as we pointed out; North Carolina, up over 30, almost 31 percent; New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, as the congressman is talking about.


MR. GREGORY: Doesn't this hurt Republicans tremendously?

MR. MURPHY: Well, the arithmetic is pretty clear. If we want to beat Obama, especially in those western states where the Hispanic vote is exploding in size, 43 percent increase in the Latino population in 10 years, we've got to do better with that vote. So there's good news and bad news.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. MURPHY: The good news is, there's a big new pullout from Univision, Obama's in real trouble. They're becoming swing voters. That's the good news. The bad news is, if we have an ax fight over immigration in the Republican primary, we're going to do ourselves a lot of harm. Now, in the short-term, it's a great wedge issue for Mitt Romney to beat up Rick Perry with in the primary. In the longer term, it's a great wedge issue for President Obama to beat up the Republican nominee with. So it's one of those things where the short-term interest and the long-term interest are in conflict. I'm hoping the long-term interest prevails.

REP. BECERRA: But, Mike, you, you read too much into that. If you take a look at the head-to-head, the president does by 30 by 40 points better than any Republican. What the, what the polls reflect is that Latinos, like any American, are down. Down because the economy's down.

MR. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

REP. BECERRA: But when you put them head-to-head, there's no comparison. In fact, the president right now is doing better against any Republican...

MR. MURPHY: Well...

REP. BECERRA: ...than he did four years--three or four years ago.

MR. MURPHY: I'll argue with that because the model the president wants to get to is to win more than two-thirds of the Latino vote, maybe get up to 70 percent. And in this economy, like all voters, Latinos have real worries about the president. Most voters want to fire him. So the, the deal's not done for either side, which from the Republican point of view is a huge opportunity.

REP. BECERRA: But Latinos worry about the economy.

MR. MURPHY: But we have to seize it.

REP. BECERRA: They're not worried about the president. They are worried about some of the Republicans.

MR. MURPHY: Well...

MS. NOONAN: Well...

MR. MURPHY: ...on every defeated president, the, the political tombstone reads, "Screwed up the economy." So we'll see.

MS. NOONAN: Yeah, yeah.

MR. GREGORY: Let me get one other issue in here. We talk about locking the field down, Peggy and E.J., so there's still the question about Sarah Palin. Because we're going to ask the question about Palin until it's absolutely clear that she's not in the race. She was on Fox News this week, and this is what she had to say about her decision.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): Through my process of decision making with my family and with my close friends as to whether I should throw my name in the hat for the GOP nomination or not for 2012, is a title worth it? Is--does a title shackle a person? Are they someone like me who's maverick. You know, I do go rogue, and I call it like I see it. ... Does that prohibit me from being out there, out of a box, not allowing handlers to shape me and to force my message to be what donors or what contributors or what political pundits want it to be?

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: E.J., clearly the presidency is not big of enough of a, not big enough of a platform.

MR. DIONNE: No, planetary or, you know, the universe.

MR. MURPHY: Galactic.

MR. MURPHY: "My process of decision making." That's her next book. That's going to be a fascinating book. I'd like to know what it is. She's playing us so brilliantly. I do not think she's going to run for president. You just gave her that nice clip.

MS. NOONAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. MURPHY: And good for her, but she's not going to run for president

MR. GREGORY: But, but, I mean...

MR. DIONNE: and she...(unintelligible) announcing right now.

MR. GREGORY: But before we dismiss it as being insignificant, Peggy, she does represent some of the energy in the tea party base, some of which, I mean, or all of which has to be sought after for any nominee who's going to get this nod on the Republican side. Does it not?

MS. NOONAN: No. I think at this point people have settled down with regard to how they feel about Mrs. Palin. I think she will not run because, while not a reflective person or a deeply thoughtful person, she is a cunning person. She knows she will not win.

MR. MURPHY: Wait a second, here's the...

MS. NOONAN: It will only damage her as a businessperson in America and--if she runs, so she will not do that. However, she will play the part of, "I'm watching those Republicans. I'm going to keep out for reasons having to do with my family or whatever. I'm going to watch those Republicans." If they're not sufficiently conservative according to her viewpoint, she will be very critical of them.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MS. NOONAN: Maybe she would do a third party thing.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah. Or threaten to. It's good for her business...



MR. MURPHY: ...which is a lot of what drives--here's a great irony, though. She's gone from the big giant killer everybody was afraid of to now I don't think could get nominated.


MR. MURPHY: But I would bet dollars to doughnuts that right now Mitt Romney, if he had one lucky penny, would love for her to get in to split up Iowa so he could put away Perry there. While right now I think Perry wouldn't mind seeing Christie get in to maul up Romney in New Hampshire.


MR. MURPHY: So they--she's become a catalytic factor. People now might want her to be in the race rather than fear her like it used to be in the old days...


MR. MURPHY: ...which shows how much she's diminished.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to take a break here. When we come back, talk more about the Democratic side of this equation, the president on a campaign trail. Is he going to get a jobs bill? Is he rallying the base? How is it going? More from our roundtable right after this.


MR. GREGORY: We're back again with our roundtable.

Mike Murphy, let, let's button up something on the Republican side. The Perry panic story this week, it's worth remembering polling from back in 2007 at this point in the calendar, and look who was up on top, if you look at the polling back then, Giuliani and Fred Thompson. Not exactly how it turned out. You say much too early to start counting out Perry.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah. Look, I, I agree with conventional wisdom, he had some really bad debates and they hurt his campaign and he's sinking a little. But it's early, and a good debate coach, some time and proper modern pharmaceuticals, he could have a really good debate comeback, and then everything'll change again.


MR. MURPHY: The thing you got to remember about Perry is, state by state, and I wrote about this in Time this week, the, the calendar is good for Perry unless Romney gets aggressive early, which means a risky run into Iowa. Tough territory. Otherwise, Romney's bought up New Hampshire, Perry has South Carolina after New Hampshire, you could run the table.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

MR. MURPHY: So Perry is still formidable.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about President Obama. Here's a cartoon that we like from Jeff Stahler of the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch. You see President Obama in 2008--we'll push in a little bit for you at home. Look at the button; in '08 it said, "Yes we can," in 2012 it says, "We could do a lot worse." E.J. Dionne, is this, you know, "yes, we can eventually" here in 2012? What's the, what's the vision? Has he found his voice yet?

MR. DIONNE: I think he's starting to find it, finally. I mean, look, 9 percent unemployment, the economy was in a mess when he got in; it hasn't moved out as fast as the Obama administration thought it might. So that's a problem, and he knows it. But I think, as I said earlier, that his problem from the day--or this year began when the Republican Congress took over until very recently was that he was talking all the time about, "Well, we can reach some kind of accommodation with the Republicans." He wasn't putting a lot of his own specific ideas on the table, and he wasn't making an argument. You--the, the best presidents know how to make arguments.


MR. DIONNE: Ronald Reagan did it, Bill Clinton did it. He has finally started to make an argument to the American people, "This is what I think. This is what I'd like to do. You can agree with it or not, but I'm going to try to persuade you that I'm right, and they're wrong because I think government does have a role to play in lifting people up."

MR. GREGORY: And, Congressman Becerra, this, this is the question that I have--I mean, it was 20 years ago, and there's a big anniversary down in Little Rock this weekend for President Clinton and his first run. You know, they had the, the big get-together. And when he announced for the presidency back in 1992, it was the idea, "Look, I got an economic plan, but what I've really got is a vision."


MR. GREGORY: The--this president has had some big swings at economic recovery, and they haven't panned out. And now he's a, a warrior for the middle class. Is he see--who's he fighting for? Does he seem like enough of a fighter?

REP. BECERRA: David, I, I think--first, the slogan, "Yes, we can," is still applicable. It's, "Yes, we can. Will the other side help us make it happen?" What you're finding is that the president has encountered an obstacle all the way through to try to get it done, but I think he is still as determined to make it happen. It's more a matter of can he show the public that, yes, he can if he has the help to make it happen?

MR. GREGORY: Well, for instance, is he going to get a jobs bill?


MR. GREGORY: I mean, Democrats in the Senate are saying the votes aren't there.

REP. BECERRA: I guarantee you, there are a majority in the Senate and the House today who would vote for a jobs bill if, if, the Republicans wouldn't stymie it through the filibuster in the Senate.

MR. GREGORY: But that's the best you got, you can't overcome that. I mean...

REP. BECERRA: Well, that's, that's the difficulty. That's politics.


REP. BECERRA: When the--when Mitch McConnell, the senator--Senate leader in--on the Republican side, says, "Our number one goal is to defeat this president," he's forgetting that there are more jobs at stake than just the president's job.


MR. DIONNE: Could, could I just say that a lot depends on whether Obama can hold the Republicans accountable for blocking this? And we--you can't--it's not some vague, "This can't get done." There's a very specific obstacle--Harry Truman did a good job in 1948 at identifying the obstacle as Republicans, and that's what Obama has to do. We don't know if he can do it yet.

REP. BECERRA: But his...

MR. GREGORY: Let's--Peggy, go ahead.

MS. NOONAN: A leader leads.

MR. GREGORY: Go ahead.

MS. NOONAN: A leader leads. Part of the president's problem is that he has never, from day one, been able to really pull in bipartisan support, either make Republicans afraid of him or want to follow him. He's never been able to do it. Part of the reason people are talking about Chris Christie is that he's in a Democratic state, he's a Republican governor, but he has made progress on deficits, spending, pensions, property taxes with a Democratic legislature. It's never an excuse that washes to say, "Oh, the other team, the other party are bad guys. They wouldn't follow me." If you're a leader, you make them...

REP. BECERRA: Well, then let's put the president's jobs bill on the floor of the House...

MS. NOONAN: But if you're a leader, you make them follow you.

REP. BECERRA: ...and the Senate and put an alternative, a Republican alternative. But let's have a choice. The president said, "This is what I would do."

MR. GREGORY: But let...

REP. BECERRA: Republicans aren't giving it--the public a chance to see what they would do.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but let me pick up this thread, Mike Murphy, because I've had this discussion with people, again going back to Bill Clinton. He had this way, as Peggy would say, of confounding his Republican critics...

MR. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: ...of dividing them, of picking them off, appropriating their ideas. This president has not demonstrated...

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...similar skill, has he?

MR. MURPHY: He ran a brilliant senator's campaign and he's governed mostly as a Democratic base guy. Although, internally, sometimes he tries to edge them right. Not enough. You know, Harry Truman also had a sign, "The buck stops here," and that's the test that Obama's been failing. It may be just perception. Democrats will argue that it is. But he hasn't--there are Republicans he could get if he'd move to the center on some policy. Instead, it's been health care and the, and the stimulus spending.


MR. MURPHY: It's been a problem for him. So when you get to the point now where one out of four Americans has faith in his ability to run the economy, more than half don't, the rest undecided, those are horrible numbers.


MR. GREGORY: Go ahead.

REP. BECERRA: Mike, the jobs bill, the jobs bill is full of things Republicans have always pushed for in the past. It's got tax cuts on the payroll tax to try to incent people to have more money to spend to create more jobs. At the same time, it goes towards infrastructure in ways that Republicans and Democrats on a bipartisan basis have supported, building our schools and fixing our roads. We can't get Republicans to even give us a chance to vote on the bill.

MR. GREGORY: Let me, let me get in...

MR. DIONNE: But the Republican Party is way to the right of where it was when Bill Clinton was president...

MR. MURPHY: But you're insisting on a huge package.

REP. BECERRA: We can cut that bill down and pass it in a smaller way.

MR. DIONNE: ...and that is a central fact of life.

MS. NOONAN: You can barely get Democrats to put the bill forward.

MR. GREGORY: Let--E.J., let me, let me pick up on this. Let me pick up on--your, your column out tomorrow talks about the equivalent tea party movement on the left. What did we see over the weekend in lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn, this Occupy Wall Street movement, demonstrations, arrests. Is--does, does the president in a way need more of this, more activism on the left to say, "We need a response to what we're seeing on the conservative side"? Because that's a big issue for him whether people are going to have the same sort of enthusiasm.

MR. DIONNE: Right. There is what's happening on Wall Street, there's a conference this week on the American dream, a kind of left of center conference. I think the president has been hurt by the lack of an organized left. Because, if you look at what he proposed, the healthcare bill is Mitt Romney's plan in Massachusetts, the stimulus plan was not as big as most economists thought it was. Dodd-Frank is not radical, it's actually pretty middle of the road. A left would be out there saying, "Wait a minute, Barack Obama is a moderate or a moderate sort of liberal. We want to push farther than this." Right now, the whole discussion is skewed because the media has been obsessed by the tea party, with some reason. They had an effect on the last campaign.

MR. GREGORY: Right. And, Peggy, you do have to give the president credit for being very close on a very big deal on the debt ceiling that enjoyed the bipartisan support of at least the speaker, who unfortunately couldn't deliver. I mean, that was--he was very close on that.

MS. NOONAN: You know what, I may be the only person left who says the president should have just said yes to make a spend--make a spending cut the size of the debt ceiling raise. Let it go, don't fight on that field, don't make a nervous country more nervous. Let it go. I just thought strategically he played it terribly.


MS. NOONAN: What is it you want me to give him credit for exactly for...

MR. GREGORY: Well, I mean...

MS. NOONAN: I'm not being sarcastic.

MR. MURPHY: Boehner...

MR. GREGORY: No, the Boehner, the Boehner deal...


MR. GREGORY: ...that he came close to, but Boehner couldn't...

MR. MURPHY: I--it came close. But I think the Democratic caucus was about to revolt an hour later. That's the story that didn't happen.


MS. NOONAN: I think so, too.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask one--I want to get a question about national security. The, the news this week, the big news here at the end of the week that Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed, the U.S.-born cleric.

Congressman Becerra, I don't know how this is an issue for the right on national security other than congratulating this administration for some big gets in terror. Is there an issue on the left for the president with the use of drones and such continuity between the Bush administration to this administration in the counterterror policy?

REP. BECERRA: Al-Qaeda attacked us, he's part of al-Qaeda. In fact, he's one of the leaders of al-Qaeda. They're out there trying to kill Americans. He targeted someone who's trying to kill Americans.

MR. GREGORY: But not from you.


MR. GREGORY: Is this, is this a neutral issue here in the campaign?

MR. MURPHY: I think so. Look, I give both presidents and particularly the, the nonpartisan career people and intelligence and the military all the way down huge credit for this. But, of course, it's--the president should share in that credit.


MR. MURPHY: No doubt at all.

MR. GREGORY: But let's--yeah.

REP. BECERRA: Look at the success when he can do things without, without having to wait for Congress to give him an OK to do it.


MR. DIONNE: I think there is a legitimate question about targeting a U.S. citizen. I--if--you, you got to be honest and say, "What would liberals say if George Bush had done this?"


MR. DIONNE: I actually agree with Congressman Becerra, al-Qaeda is--if anybody's at war with us, it's al-Qaeda; and so I, in the end, come to the same conclusion that the president did. But this is a hard question, and we should acknowledge it.

MR. GREGORY: Quickly, Mike Murphy, the political calendar, we don't know who's going to do what exactly except that Florida's primary is going to be sooner. What does it actually mean? Can you give us the, the quick take on this?

MR. MURPHY: Well, it means there are some depressed people in New Hampshire because they're probably going to have one month less time to soak all the candidates for campaign.


MR. MURPHY: Because they're probably moving up from February to January. It looks like now early January's going to be the Iowa caucus followed by the New Hampshire primary, followed by South Carolina, followed by Florida with some question of does Nevada slip in right before Florida or afterward? That's in flux. Then a few weeks off, then Michigan and Arizona. That's most likely. And then on Super Tuesday on March 6th you're going to have a lot of Southern states. So it--it'll be set in about 10 days. The big change is Florida forced everybody up a month. The RNC's not happy. They're penalizing delegates. But it may look a lot like the 2008 schedule.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. MURPHY: Which means it's going to start in January, and it's going to go like mad through Florida. Maybe a little longer, though. I think whoever wins that Florida primary's going to be in a good position.

MR. GREGORY: What about, it there a Christmas...

Offscreen Voice: (Unintelligible)...Des Moines.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah, right. Even in Des Moines. Is there a Christmas caucus that's possible in Iowa?

MR. MURPHY: It's possible. It's possible. Bill Gardner, the crafty old Yankee up in New Hampshire, secretary of state, has a lot of power over this process. It's all 1914, you know, one moves then the other does. If I had to bet, and I'll plug--there's a political science professor who has a great blog called frontloadinghq, the best place to follow all this. He's the super nerd. I give him credit for really following it. But it looks--I think January's must--most likely, maybe December.

MR. GREGORY: All right, we're going to take another quick break here. We'll be back, though, with our Trends and Takeaways, a look at what was said here today, what to look for in the coming week, plus, what are the hot political stories trending this morning. That's coming up. More from our roundtable right after this.


MR. GREGORY: Final moments now with our roundtable. We want to look at a sound bite making news here this morning. My conversation with Governor McDonnell on the question of whether Chris Christie of New Jersey's going to get in the race, this is what he said.


GOV. McDONNELL: Chris Christie, he's an extraordinary communicator. He's a great governor, enormous reforms and everything from the pension system to budget reform in a blue, blue state. I just asked him to be vice chairman of the Republican Governor's Association because he's such a terrific leader. I just think whoever's going to get in needs to do it immediately. ... Chris is a, is a unique successful governor with a positive outlook, and I think would fare very well against the president. But, ultimately, the call is his. I'd be surprised at this point if he got in.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Mike, if he doesn't get in, is he just as influential in some ways in a run-up to 2016?

MR. MURPHY: Here's what I predict, I'm going to get very...(unintelligible)


MR. MURPHY: I predict he doesn't run, and 100 days after he announces he doesn't run the second Chris Christie for independent candidacy boomlet will begin.

MR. GREGORY: OK. From Facebook, the conversation going on as we're having our conversation here and we've been monitoring it on Facebook this morning. This was interesting from Steve P. This is for you, Congressman. He's saying, look, there's going to be no jobs bill or compromise. We've got a divided government until some side comes back in November 2012 with a mandate.

Is Washington effectively shut down over the jobs bill and over your work coming up on the supercommittee to, to cut the deficit further. If there's no agreement there, there's some automatic cuts that come, come to play.

REP. BECERRA: If gridlock exists in the Congress, then this supercommittee has chance to break that gridlock. And I hope we can because there's 12 of us there, we're trying to avoid all of the noise, the political nose. If we can get this done, we can get Americans back to work. But you got to restore confidence in America, and the best way to do that is put Americans back to work.

MR. GREGORY: But do you feel it on the Hill? Do you feel that we're basically shut down, overtaken by the debate?

REP. BECERRA: There, there's no doubt that we're already into election mode, but 12 of us, six Dems, six Republicans, are trying very hard to get somewhere for this country.

MR. GREGORY: And talking about the campaign, here's our week ahead. Look at some of the major candidates on the Republican side and where they'll be this coming week. South Carolina, Gingrich and Cain. New Hampshire, Romney and Gingrich. Florida, Cain and Romney. And Iowa, Bachmann, Perry, Santorum.

To our Trend Tracker now, and some of the big stories that are trending this morning. Perry, U.S. border, drug war.

This is interesting, Peggy, because he's talking about the prospect of U.S. troops having to go deal with the drug war into Mexico. Is this a governor who's trying to mitigate some of his more moderate stances on the issue?

MS. NOONAN: Probably. But, but what is going on in Mexico is a problem all Americans have their eyes on and are worried about. It's on everybody's radar screen. So I don't know exactly what he said, but, yes, I think he's probably trying to show a different kind of boots on the ground.

MR. GREGORY: The, the Trend Tracker also shows Wall Street protests that we talked about in Brooklyn, and also President Clinton's 20th anniversary, E.J. We talked about this a few minutes ago. This is the confab to relive 20 years ago. There is the former president and Hillary Clinton. "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow,' is the music you can hear underneath there. And, in fact, this is a group that's--that hasn't stopped thinking about yesterday and thinking that in many ways they're getting it a lot better than this Democratic crowd. There is that tension, isn't there?

MR. DIONNE: This isn't about me, David, this is about you. This is--I mean, look, he was a brilliant politician. He got something that a democratic politician has to combine and appeal to middle-of-the-road voters with some real progressive populism. That has always been a solution that works for Democrats. It worked really well for him.


MR. DIONNE: He was both things, and he was successful.

MR. GREGORY: Who, who thinks Hillary Clinton in 2016?

MS. NOONAN: Because he could work with the other side.

REP. BECERRA: I--she's certainly put herself in a position to do that.

MR. GREGORY: She could do it, Congressman.

REP. BECERRA: She could.

MR. MURPHY: I was at dinner with a bunch of Hollywood liberals, movie people, they all want her to run now in primary Obama. It's gotten that bad.

MR. GREGORY: We wouldn't jump at a story like that. We're going to...

MR. MURPHY: Stay tuned.

MR. GREGORY: We're going to leave it there. Thank you all. We'll be back next week, live from Chicago next week to kickoff the Chicago Ideas Festival and we will have an exclusive interview with the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, of course, former White House chief of staff for President Obama.

That's all for us today. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.