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July 28: Jack Lew, Mike Rogers, David Axelrod, Maria Bartiromo, Mike Murphy, Harold Ford Jr.

MR. DAVID GREGORY:  This Sunday, the state of the economy.  And will Washington make it worse with another partisan showdown?

The president on the road again to sell a second-term economic blueprint and to blame Republicans for standing in the way.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  You can’t just be against something.  You’ve got to be for something.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  But what is the president’s record on the economy?  And what is his growth agenda?

Plus, will Washington go to the brink of a government shutdown this fall?  This morning, I put these questions to the administration’s point man on the economy, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

Plus, a showdown this week in the House over the NSA’s controversial post-9/11 surveillance programs.


REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI/Chair, House Intelligence Committee):  Passing this amendment takes us back to September 10th.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  A measure to shut down the program was narrowly defeated.  But where does the debate go from here?  Will there be more privacy safeguards put in place?  And the Snowden saga.  I get the very latest from the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Michigan Republican Congressman Mike Rogers.

And our political roundtable, sex and politics, a bicoastal summer of scandal from New York City to San Diego.  Can Anthony Weiner stay in the race for mayor of New York?  How much more can voters take?


REP. NANCY PELOSI:  It is so disrespectful of women and what’s really stunning about it is they don’t even realize it.  You know, they don’t have a clue.

(End videotape)

ANNOUNCER:  From NBC News in Washington, the world’s longest running television program, this is MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

GREGORY:  Good Sunday morning.  A developing story this morning in Egypt where there is a rising death toll; 72 dead in weekend clashes between security forces and supporters of the country’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi.  It is the deadliest attack by the security services since the 2011 uprising.  Secretary of State John Kerry monitoring it all is urging Egypt’s leaders to, quote, “help their country, take a step back from the brink and allow peaceful protests.”

Back home, the president is focused on the economy, a refocus, if you will, as Washington prepares for another high-stakes budget debate.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  But over the past couple of years in particular, Washington has taken its eye off the ball, an endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals.  Shift focus from what needs to be done.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  The president’s weekly address this weekend.  That’s where we’re going to start this morning with the Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew.  We sat down for a conversation Friday afternoon.


GREGORY:  Mister Secretary, welcome back.

MR. JACK LEW (Secretary of the Treasury): Good to be with you, David.

GREGORY:  Always good to have you.  I want to talk about the broader state of the economy in just a minute, but first let me talk about a potential standoff again between the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill over the budget.  What are the chances that we are going to see the government shut down this fall because of another such standoff over the budget?

MR. LEW:  Look, David, I think the American people are tired of the kinds of problems that Washington creates for itself and for the country.  And we saw in 2011, how much harm it does to the country when we have those kinds of self-inflicted wounds.  We shouldn’t do that again.  (Cross talk)

GREGORY:  And you said even at that time that-- confidence in the economy is really undermined when Washington becomes part of the problem.

MR. LEW:  The fight over the debt limit in 2011 hurt the economy even though in the end we saw an extension of the debt limit.  We saw confidence fall, and it hurt the economy.  Congress needs to do its job.  It needs to finish its work on appropriations bills, it needs to pass a debt limit.

GREGORY:  There is also a shift in strategy, which is why I bring this up, from the White House.  The Washington Post is reporting this, “Senior White House officials are discussing a budget strategy that could lead to a government shutdown if Republicans continue to demand deeper spending cuts.  Both lawmakers and Democrats who are familiar with the thinking said on Thursday, President Obama has made it clear that he will not sign into law Republican spending bills that slash domestic programs even more deeply than sequestration.  If Republicans do not relent and the White House sticks to its position, a shutdown would be likely at the end of September when Congress must authorize a new measure to fund the government.”  So, is the president going to make it clear that he’ll go to the math this time when it comes to funding the government?

MR. LEW:  David, to be clear what the president said and has written to Congress is that they cannot fix the problems created by the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration by cutting domestic priorities in order to fund defense.  That’s unacceptable.  He won’t sign that.  The-- the-- you know, the across-the-board cuts are hurting our future.

GREGORY:  Fair enough, but the-- the process in Washington over continuing to fund the government or raising the debt ceiling is necessarily a process that has to be engaged in.  I guess what I’m asking is, is the president, unlike what he’s done before, signaling he will go to the brink this time in order to stop cuts that he thinks will harm the economy?

MR. LEW:  And what the president did this week is he-- he sent a very clear message that Washington has to stop playing these brinksmanship games.  It’s not about the-- who wins and who loses (Cross talk).

GREGORY:  But this report, Mister Secretary, indicates that indeed the White House is setting itself on a position to go to the brink in order to force Republicans…

MR. LEW:  To be clear, what-- what-- what we have said is Congress needs to get its work done and needs to fund the kinds of things the American middle class need, and we need to get the debt limit extended in a way that doesn’t create a crisis.  That is what every Congress needs to do, and Congress needs to do it when it gets back in September.

GREGORY:  The president will go to the brink if necessary?

MR. LEW:  You know, David, the-- the-- drawing this to brinksmanship is a mistake.  It’s bad for the economy for it to be brinksmanship.

GREGORY:  The president…

MR. LEW:  The job needs to get done and it needs to get done in a way that works for American middle class families that want us to be worrying about how to build a more stable future for the American families.

GREGORY:  Repub-- Republicans would argue there’s a way to protect middle class families as well.  And as the Speaker has said-- Speaker Boehner, “We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending.”

MR. LEW:  So, you know, we-- we’ve been through budget debates over the last four years, and sometimes you have the sense that people are starting all over again as if we hadn’t been through the last four years.  We are not in the same place that we were in in 2011.  We’ve seen several pieces of legislations enacted that have reduced the deficit very substantially.  We are seeing the most rapid reduction in the deficit since the end of World War II when we demobilized.  We’re actually outperforming expectations in terms of how quickly we’re reducing the deficit and we’re controlling healthcare costs because the Affordable Care Act.

GREGORY:  So-- so…

MR. LEW:  So I’m not…

GREGORY:  …the idea of the debt crisis, the idea of austerity, you don’t think we face an urgent need for a grand bargain set?

MR. LEW:  Look, I think that what we have in this country is an urgent need to address the fundamental cornerstones of-- of thriving economy for the American middle class.  We cannot cut our way to prosperity.  We have already done a lot of deficit reduction.  We are on a path right now where-- you know, just recently the IMF said we’re doing too much too quickly.  I mean that-- we should be doing more in the long term and less in the short term.  I think that we have a composition question.  The-- the across-the-board cuts are not good for the economy.  They’re not good for the American middle class.  It’s not good for our national defense.  We ought to be having a debate about the kinds of medium and long-term reforms to entitlements and tax programs, but we ought not to be talking about holding the country hostage again to a fight over extending the debt limit.  Just to remind you, David, the debt limit doesn’t commit any new spending.  All the debt limit does is it gives us permission to pay the bills that Congress already committed to.  In 237 years, we never had a debate about whether or not the United States should pay its bills until 2011.  We cannot have that debate again.

GREGORY:  Is a grand bargain over spending and taxes, over entitlement programs, is that within grasp, realistically?

MR. LEW:  You know, I-- I think that the-- the-- the-- the question of a grand bargain kind of captivates Washington.  What the American people are asking is what are we doing to make sure that their kids can go to college?  What are we doing to make sure that they-- their healthcare is secure?  What are we doing to make sure that their homes are secure?  We need to be debating the things that the American people are focusing on.  And in the course of it, we will solve-- we need to solve all of these Washington, you know, responsibilities but we can’t let the Washington box score be the issue.

GREGORY:  So let’s talk about the broader economy.  The president in the course of his speeches this week made this particular comment.  Let’s watch.

(Videotape; Wednesday)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Today, five years after the start of that great recession, America has fought its way back.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  What exactly did he mean by that?

MR. LEW:  I think that the American economy has shown its resilience.  The core of the American economy is strong.  We’ve grown for 40 months in a row.  We’ve seen job creation-- 7.2 million jobs.  I think that there are a lot of things that we need to do for the future to be as strong as it should be.  But, you know, I go around the world meeting with my counterparts.  I just came back from a meeting with finance ministers from around the world.  Four years ago, they looked at the United States and they saw the center of the financial crisis, and they wondered where was the United States going.  Now, they look with admiration, at the resilience of the U.S. economy, the U.S. people, and all of its messiness our U.S. political system.

GREGORY:  And yet look at how the American people tend to view that same question.  Are we coming back, is America coming back?  Our polling, NBC News/Wall Street Journal released just this week indicated 61 percent of the country believes that we’re headed in the wrong direction, off on the wrong track.  Why don’t more Americans share that sense that the president has, that we’re fighting our way back?

MR. LEW:  You know, I think we have economic data that shows that confidence is actually improving.  Yet, we have these surveys that show that their-- the American people have kind of deep memories of how bad the recession was and concern that they need confidence that it’s going to stay on the path towards continued growth.  One thing I do know for sure is that a season of Washington fighting about self-inflicted crises and self-inflicted wounds will not help that.  It will hurt that.  I think the American people need and expect for Washington to buckle down and do the kinds of things the president was talking about.

GREGORY:  Mister Secretary, you’re being prescriptive, which I understand, but there is also independent assessment of what the president’s economic record has been this long in office.  The reality is that most of the new jobs being created are short-term jobs, not part-time jobs, not full-time jobs.  You have persistently high unemployment as you’ve said.  Long-term unemployment that’s deeply worsen-- worrisome to the country.  The Wall Street Journal in its editorial would be critical of the administration.  It was, and I want to lay it out and let you respond to it.  The inequality president, the editorial’s headline.  For four and a half years, Mister Obama has focused his policies on reducing inequality rather than increasing growth.  The predictable result has been more inequality and less growth.  The president called his speech a better bargain for the middle class, but no president has done worse by the middle class in modern times, a reference to that wage inequality in the fall in-- in wages.  The core problem has been Mister Obama’s focus on spreading the wealth rather than creating it.  Obamacare will soon hook more Americans on government subsidies, but its mandates and taxes have hurt job creation, especially at small businesses.  Mister Obama’s record tax increases have grabbed a bigger chunk of affluent incomes, but they created uncertainty for business throughout 2012 and have a dampened growth so far this year.

MR. LEW:  Look David, I think that if you look at where we started out, we were in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression.  We are-- the American economy is fighting back and it’s coming back.  The job creation has actually been a little bit more impressive than what you described.  We’re seeing growth in manufacturing jobs, more new manufacturing jobs than in most recent periods.  Clearly there’s more work to do.  You know, I think that the-- the challenges ahead are how can we put the pieces in place so that we have the infrastructure in place for American factories to ship their goods.  How do we make sure we have the workforce that’s trained with the skills for the modern workplace?

GREGORY:  One more on this in terms of the effect on real people’s lives.  As I was going through material this week, I saw this out of Georgia about persistent poverty affecting folks in-- in Georgia, the food stamp program.  This is how The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported on Tuesday.  Four years after the end of the recession the economy has been growing, employers have been hiring and the number of people relying on food stamps in Georgia has been going up.  A year ago, the program provided food assistance to a record 1.91 million people in the state, nearly one-quarter of them six years old or younger.  By this June, the program has added 40,000 more recipients.  Those numbers have nearly doubled since the economy slid into recession in late 2007.  Georgia suffered more than most states and is still hundreds of thousands of jobs below its prerecession levels.  Moreover, many jobs that have been added are low-paying positions.  The question is who’s got the responsibility here?  Does the Federal government have responsibility?  Is it the States?  And is the job to do more to help the poor or to do more to get the poor and working poor off of these government programs?

MR. LEW:  You know, David, the problem of income inequality was at the core of what the president spoke to this week.  And it’s not a new problem.  It’s not a problem that emerged out of the recession.  It was decades in the making.  At the beginning of this year we saw a very important step when we took back some of the tax cuts and-- by raising the tax rates on the very wealthy in America.  That was actually an important piece of policy to start remedying the inequity of-- of-- of the tax code as it existed at the time.  We need to create more jobs.  We need an economy that’s growing faster.  And government needs to do its part.

GREGORY:  Is he responsible for an anemic recovery that could be more robust in the view of this?

MR. LEW:  David-- David you keep describing the economy-- the recovery in terms of-- or, you know, understating where we came from and where we are.  If you look around the-- the-- the developed world, our economy has recovered better from this recession than others because of the decisive action that we took.  We are not sort of satisfied that we’re done with the job.  But we inherited an economy in freefall and we took the kind of decisive action to create opportunities for people to get back to work.

GREGORY:  So you would not describe this as anemic recovery at all.  This in your judgment is strong economic recovery.

MR. LEW:  I’m saying that the core of the economy is growing, and I’m saying we need to do more, and I’m saying the president’s laid out a vision of the things we need to do.  And we need to get outside of the kind of inside Washington debate about who’s winning and who’s losing and deal with challenges that the middle class families want us to deal with.

GREGORY:  Before I let you go, the IRS scandal.  First of all, was that a phony scandal as far as you’re concerned?  Why did the president refer to that and others as a phony Washington scandal?

MR. LEW:  You know, president has been clear and I have been clear that what happened there was unacceptable.  It was extremely bad judgment and it’s just unacceptable for groups right or left to be targeted because of their political views.  I think that the piece of it that the president was referring to is after weeks and weeks of investigations, IG investigations, Justice Department investigations, congressional hearings, there’s no evidence of any political involvement in the decisions leading up to that situation.  So the attempts to continue to raise this question in the absence of any evidence is what he was referring to.  And I think that, you know, politics being what it is, it prop-- it will probably continue.  But we have to distinguish reality from the part that is phony.  There was a real problem.  The problem was bad judgment that was, you know, career officials trying to operate their programs more efficiently using bad judgment to do to it.  But the political piece, that’s-- that’s a stretch.  There’s no evidence.

GREGORY:  Mister Secretary, I’ll leave it there.  Thank you as always.

MR. LEW:  Pleasure to be with you, David.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  From the economy to national security debates this week, particularly over the government’s surveillance programs that were put into effect in 9/11, an important House vote that almost scrapped those programs.  Joining me now, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman from Michigan Mike Rogers.  Chairman, always good to have you back.

REP. ROGERS:  David, thanks for having me.

GREGORY:  Before we talk about the NSA programs, let me mention this developing story in Egypt this morning.  You have violence in the streets.  You have a provisional government.  Really the military cracking down on protesters with dozens who have been killed already.  I wonder whether you believe that the tacit support by this administration for a military coup is not leading to stability as was forecast but leading to something far worse.

REP. ROGERS:  Well, I do think that you-- in a circumstance like Egypt, you need to pick your friends, and clearly I think the Muslim Brotherhood-led government, although democracy without freedom is certainly no democracy at all, and that’s what they were trying to get to, changing the constitution, reducing the rights of women in Egypt, reducing the rights of religious minorities in Egypt.  They weren’t concerned about the economy at all.  They were concerned about pushing towards an Islamist state.  To that end, I think the people of Egypt rose up and said that’s not what-- was not-- what we bargained for.  And so I would argue that we need to make sure that all political parties have a voice in Egypt, that the secular parties have-- have an opportunity to have a voice in Egypt.  And I do think that the military was acting on behalf of the huge secular movement that actually got Mubarak thrown-- thrown out in the first place.

GREGORY:  All right.  Let me come back to these NSA programs and a momentous week.  I wanted to have you on because I wanted to get into this debate, which we’ve had in the House.  You had 205 members of the House, including 94 Republicans who, and I’m boiling this down, essentially voted to scrap these programs that allow the NSA, the National Security Agency, to sweep out-- sweep up what’s called the metadata, which is called details in the United States in order to track down terrorists.  Last month, General Hayden, Michael Hayden, Former Head of the NSA, Former Head of the CIA, was on MEET THE PRESS.  And he said the following about these programs.  Listen.

(Videotape; June 14, 2013)

RET. GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:  I think it’s living in this kind of a democracy, we’re going to have to be a little bit less effective in order to be a little bit more transparent to get to do anything to defend the American people.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  Given the kind of support for an amendment to scrap these programs, do you agree with what General Hayden said there?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, I’m not sure what point he was making there, but let me tell you this.  I-- I mean, I share the frustration of the American people, and that’s what we saw happen recently.  It was a collision of really bad, awful policies and ideas coming out of the administration, the data hub that would take Social Security and health information and other information, put it in one place.  All of that is bad, and we should all be very concerned about it.  The problem was this was I think the first opportunity for members who are frustrated about those things and the American public is frustrated about those things, and by the way I’m frustrated about those things, and say this is exactly the same.  And un-- fortunately, it’s not.  And so this is a program-- let’s talk about why we have it.  And this is really important to get to the point, should we or shouldn’t we, is after 9/11, our intelligence services knew about a guy who was a pretty bad guy that we believed was going to be involved in some type of attempt in the United States to commit an act of violence, a terrorist, who was living in San Diego.  But because we couldn’t find the nexus, we were not allowed to find out if somebody from overseas was calling in to the United States to talk to him.  We couldn’t get that piece.  We missed it.  He got on a plane and flew it in to the Pentagon shortly thereafter.  So we said that’s a scene we have to fix.


REP. ROGERS:  How do we do that?


REP. ROGERS:  And-- and what we ended up doing is the program that they tried to turn off is the program that catches foreign terrorists from talking to people in the United States.  It helps us identify those individuals.

GREGORY:  And-- and again, in-- in-- in talking to senior government officials this week, the-- the way to understand these programs is as they lay it out is to say a-- a suspected terrorist calls somebody in the United States, the way you put those two together is you have a haystack.  And in the haystack in the United States is basically every phone number that is swept up in the United States.  It’s not the content of the calls.  It’s the details.  And it’s put in this kind of vault in-- you know-- in a-- you know, in a cloud scenario.  And that you get the ping, you get that relationship I have in the haystack. Is there any way to provide better privacy when it’s-- it’s been explained to me, you either have the haystack of phone numbers and call details or you don’t, and that’s what libertarians are really concerned about.

REP. ROGERS:  Well, I understand.  But here’s the thing.  There are so many protections here on this.  Remember there are no names and no addresses in this database.  There’s more information on an envelope that you fill out and stick in the mailbox than are in this database.  This is billing records that already exist.  They said we just need to put them in one place and hold them longer so we have a number to compare to.  So they’re not calling them.  They’re not doing pattern analysis.  And here’s the best part of the news of all.  In this program, zero privacy violations, 54 terrorists, violent terrorist attacks thwarted.  That’s a pretty good record.  That’s a great record.  And that tells me this is one program that works to protect your privacy and live up to our constitutional obligation in Congress that says we must provide for the general defense of the United States.  We have found how to do this and protect your privacy.  Remember, most people think that these phone calls are recorded.  They are not.  Most people think that their names are associated with these phone numbers.  They are not.  It’s just a whole list of phone numbers with no names and no addresses.  When a terrorist number, just a terrorist number is found, they plug it in to these numbers and it pops up with somebody they may be talking to in the United States. Again, no name and no address.  What we do about is say, oop, that’s bad. We’re going to give this to the FBI to determine who that person even is.  And so that’s the way we protect their privacy.  And that’s why there’s been zero policy-- privacy violations with this.  And it’s been able to be used to stop 54 violent terrorist acts.

GREGORY:  Chairman, I’ve got about 30 seconds left.  Edward Snowden…


GREGORY:  There are some attempts by the administration to-- to suggest to the Russians and to him that they would not pursue the death penalty to try to get him back here.  Senior government official told me this week that Snowden has the blueprint for the NSA but not the owner’s manual.  What does that say to you about the threat that he still possesses with more disclosures that could come forth?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, I want you to understand this very quickly.  He has disclosed programs that make it easier for terrorists overseas.  And the first people who are going to feel that damage are our soldiers in Afghanistan.  We need to understand that.  This is serious and it’s real.  As well as empowering Chinese and Russian intelligence officials.  I think it’s important that he comes back, brings what he has left.  And-- and if he really truly believes he did something “Good,” quote, unquote, then come back to the United States.  He missed every opportunity to be a whistleblower when he missed every opportunity to talk to a whole host of avenues for him.

(Cross talk)

GREGORY:  But is it-- is it realistic?  Do you think that we can compel him to come back?

REP. ROGERS:  I’m not sure.  I think he may be too far gone.  I-- I would hope at the end of the day, he makes that decision.  We know that he’s certainly-- the Russian intelligence services would love to have further conversations with him.  We think he’s already had some disclosure to the Chinese intelligence officials.  So there’s a lot more to this story, a lot to be concerned about.  I would like him to come back as well and bring what he has stolen from the people of the United States.

GREGORY:  All right.  Chairman Rogers, we’ll leave it there for this morning.  Thank you as always.

REP. ROGERS:  Thanks.

GREGORY:  Coming up, we will switch gears, talk about politics and scandal, men behaving badly.  In fact, two big city politicians, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and New York City mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner, under fire this week for their personal misconduct.  Both remain defiant at the wake of public outcries, but at what point will voters say they’ve had enough?  Up next, we’ll hear from Weiner’s main rival in the New York mayor’s race, Christine Quinn; plus, our political roundtable.  NBC's Senior Political Analyst, David Axelrod; CNBC’s, Maria Bartiromo; Republican Strategist, Mike Murphy; Former Democratic Congressman, Harold Ford, after this short break.


GREGORY:  This week the New York tabloids dedicated their covers to who else? New York City mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner, the former congressman facing new revelations this week about his inappropriate behavior.  They threaten to derail his bid for mayor.  Should he drop out?  His chief rival, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, weighs in on that.  Plus, the larger question.  With this just the latest in a string of politicians behaving badly, how much more can voters take? Our roundtable weighs in, coming up next.


GREGORY:  And we’re back with our political roundtable.  Joining me now, Former Senior Adviser to President Obama, now an NBC News Senior Political Analyst, David Axelrod; Republican Strategist, Mike Murphy; anchor of CNBC’s Closing Bell, Maria Bartiromo; Former Democratic Congressman from Tennessee, Harold Ford Jr.  Welcome to all of you.  Scandals, scandals, everywhere, and they have to do with sex and misconduct.  And let’s get right to it.  I mean, you can’t make it up.  This is the cover of The New Yorker. It is Anthony Weiner sitting astride the Empire State Building and the picture tells a thousand words about his scandal.  He is talking about these-- these sexting relationships that he had.  He was asked about it while campaigning earlier this week on Coney Island.  This is what he said.

(Videotape; Thursday)

MR. ANTHONY WEINER (D-New York City Mayoral Candidate): It’s not dozens and dozens.  It is-- it is six to 10, I suppose, but I-- I can’t tell you absolutely what someone else is going to consider inappropriate or not.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  And what-- what is so inappropriate, David Axelrod, is so much of what’s in the New York tabloids we can’t even discuss this morning because it’s simply not appropriate for our air.  Bottom line is can he stay in this race?

MR. DAVID AXELROD (Senior Adviser, Obama 2012 Re-Election Campaign/NBC News Senior Political Analyst/Director, Institute of Politics, University of Chicago): Well, first of all, let me just say it’s a matter of disclaimer that my old firm, the firm I sold, is representing one of the other candidates.  I’m not involved in that.  And I haven’t really commented on this because Huma is a friend of mine, his wife, and I deeply respect her. But at this point, it’s absurd.  He is not going to be the next mayor of New York.  He is wasting time and space.  And you asked at the beginning-- you know-- you know, Americans believe in second chances, but not third chances.  And, you asked in the beginning when will voters say enough, I remember an old song from the 1970s and that I love to call, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away.”  I think that they think it’s time for him to go away and let New York have its mayor’s race.

GREGORY:  You know, Maria Bartiromo, speaking of Huma Abedin, his wife, she was quite out front.  On Tuesday at this press conference saying that she stands by him.  This is what she said.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

MRS. HUMA ABEDIN (Anthony Weiner’s Wife):  Anthony has made some horrible mistakes both before he resigned from Congress and after.  But I do very strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  Maureen Dowd in The New York Times this morning writes the following, "Bill and Hillary Clinton transformed the way we look at sex scandals.  They plowed through the ridicule, refused to slink away in shame like Gary Hart, said it was old news, and argued that if Hillary didn’t object, why should voters?  Now, defining deviancy downwards, Senor and Senora Danger are using the Clinton playbook.  The difference is, there’s nothing in Weiner’s public life that is redeeming."  A lot of people I talk to wonder out loud, what has she been doing this week?  Maria.

MS. MARIA BARTIROMO (Anchor, CNBC’s Closing Bell/Anchor, CNBC’s On The Money):  Well, you know, I think she’s got to stand by him, but I wonder if she’s actually talking to him when they-- when they get home.  I feel bad for Huma.  I really do.  I think from an economic standpoint, the people of New York want to see a leader who will protect jobs.  When you’re looking at New York, you’re talking about roughly 3.3 million jobs.  They want to make sure those jobs stay in the city.  They want to make sure the leader of that city has good judgment in terms of ensuring that the regulatory environment is not too burdensome for-- for companies to come, locate there, and create jobs.  And I think I would have to agree with David.  I think the people are frustrated.  I think, you know, Mayor Bloomberg has done a lot in terms of expanding the number of industries that are locating in New York, rewiring the city for health care, and I thought it was really interesting what his comment was on Friday, putting Weiner aside, about Eliot Spitzer, basically saying you don’t want, you know, an attack dog coming and killing probably the most important industry in New York which is financial services.  I mean, it feels like that’s the tone.

GREGORY:  The regulatory environment is not getting a lot of play in the press here?  Mike.

MR. MIKE MURPHY (Republican Strategist):  Yeah, well, look, you know, what-- what sells, but it is-- it’s a horrible spectacle.  New York is the most important city in the world.  You know, look at that.  The only thing Weiner is very qualified to run for is mayor of spectra vision.  He didn’t have any qualities in the Congress that made him exceptional.  He was just kind of-- he was famous for yelling at staff.  So, I think his campaign manager quit today.  He is not going to be mayor of New York.  I think the thing is going to move on, but it could move on to Spitzer, running for city controller who has got his own checkered past. Not to mention, we have also got a pervert mayor in San Diego who has announced he won’t resign, instead he is going to go off to the playboy mansion…

(Cross talk)

MR. AXELROD:  …California.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah…


MR. MURPHY:  …Democrat mayor, though, I have--

GREGORY:  But you-- you talk about Mayor Bob Filner.  He spoke out on Friday after more women were-- were coming forward accusing him of sexual harassment.  And these were part of his comments.

(Videotape; Friday)

MR. BOB FILNER (D-Mayor of San Diego):  The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong.  My failure to respect women and the intimidating contact I engage in at times is inexcusable.  I am responsible for my conduct.  And I must take responsibility for my conduct by taking action so that such conduct does not ever happen again.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  But that action, Harold Ford, does not include resigning.  It’s just defiance.  I’m going to get some help for-- for a while, but I’m going to stay in office.

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR. (D-TN):  It’s probably inevitable that-- that he will have to leave office.  I know Bob.  I served with him.  But it’s probably a time for him to move on.  And I would-- I would identify myself with all the remarks that have been made-- have been made this morning.  As I listen to Anthony’s campaign, he makes the case, he’s fighting for middle-class New Yorkers.  He wants to ensure that a-- a lifestyle of good jobs and opportunity are there.  If he genuinely cares about that, then he should probably move on and allow the-- the race to get back.  They’re talking about the issues that people care-- care most about.  I think the point that Maria made is the most important.  There’s been a-- a dearth of issue debate here in this campaign.  Who’s going to grow the economy, who’s going to ensure that the tax base doesn’t flee and who’s going to ensure that what the mayor has invested and the city has invested in over the last few years will continue to grow?

GREGORY:  But what is-- what…

FMR. REP. FORD:  I’m not convinced that-- that’s happening right now.

GREGORY:  …what about the true politics here?  What is it that-- as I said, I mean, a story like Weiner’s, in addition to-- to not bringing husbands and wives closer together as a general matter, is-- also begs the question about why do they think they can hang on.  What is it about our current political culture, David, that-- that makes these guys think oh, no, I can ride this out?

MR. AXELROD:  Well, you know, I wouldn’t generalize too much because what makes them behave the way they did in the first place, there’s a certain pathology associated with this.  And I-- I would say the issue here isn’t about his relationship with his wife.  The issue is about his relationship with the voters.  He’s twice deceived them, lied about his activity, and why would you repost trust in someone who-- who did that.  But I think that he is delusional at this point and doesn’t understand the situation.

(Cross talk)

FMR. REP. FORD:  If you’re the CEO of a company looking to locate in New York City over the next few years and Anthony was the mayor, would you feel confident and comfortable in his leadership style, his abilities and perhaps the most important, his judgment?

MR. AXELROD:  Harold, it isn’t even worth a discussion.  He’s not going to be mayor of New York.  He should go away.

FMR. REP. FORD:  No, no, no.  I’m-- I’m making your point.

MR. AXELROD:  He should go away.

MS. BARTIROMO:  But the fact…

(Cross talk)

MR. MURPHY:  But the larger thing is what happened to honor and shame.  You know, in European politics, which has a lot of problems, people resign for much smaller stuff than this.  But we’ve created this therapy culture where as long as you feel bad about it, you keep running.  And it’s narcissistic, selfish and it’s an insult to the people of New York and San Diego.

GREGORY:  Somebody who also wants to be mayor of New York is going to join us now.  And she’s the Speaker of the New York City Council, mayoral candidate, Christine Quinn.  Speaker Quinn, welcome.

MS. CHRISTINE QUINN (D-Speaker, New York City Council/Mayoral Candidate, New York City):  Thank you very much.

GREGORY:  You have called Anthony Weiner’s behavior reckless.  The New York Times has said he’s been disqualified as a candidate.  You’ve heard our discussion here.  Is he disqualified as a candidate?

MS. QUINN:  You know, I think that what’s going on here is beyond unfortunate because as has been said by everyone on your panel, this is the greatest city in the world and it has potential to be even better.  And when you see scandal after scandal like this, what it does is create even more distrust and maybe even disgust in government.  And we really need to move beyond that, to reengage New Yorkers in this mayor’s race and have conversations about the records and the future.  You know, I’ve been in city government for a long time.  My time as Speaker, I’ve balanced eight budgets on time, saved the jobs of 4100 school teachers, and grew tech and manufacturing jobs during the recession, very few cities can say that.  And I want to make this city even better.

GREGORY:  But, Speaker-- but what about my question?  Is he disqualified as a candidate?

MS. QUINN:  You know, I think it’s become very clear that former Congress member Weiner has a pattern of reckless behavior, an inability to tell the truth, and a real lack of maturity and responsibility.  I don’t think he should be mayor, and I think the voters, if he stays in the race, will make that very clear.

GREGORY:  But just one-- one more try on this.  Again, The New York Times says he’s been disqualified.  Do you believe he’s disqualified even as a candidate, even as you decry the lack of focus on-- on serious issues?  From a political point of view, are you benefitting from the fact that he is weakened but still in the race?

MS. QUINN:  You know, I don’t think it’s appropriate for opponents to say who should or shouldn’t get in and out of races.  That’s for voters.  But do I think he has the qualifications to be mayor of the city of New York?  Has he disqualified himself?  Yes.  He disqualified himself but not just because of these scandals though that certainly has.  He didn’t have the qualifications when he was in Congress.  He was in Congress for 12 years.  He passed one bill at the request of a campaign contributor, a tobacco magnet.  You compare that to the kind of work I’ve done bringing Republicans and Democrats together in the New York City Council, passing legislation that improved the quality of 5000 apartments in New York City, passing legislation, getting it passed in Albany that come September makes kindergarten mandatory for every five-year-old.  That’s what we need in leadership, and that’s what voters want.  And I think that’s what we’re going to see happen come primary day and election day.

GREGORY:  One issue here that you have talked about, but it’s not getting as much attention, that’s the stop and frisk policy in New York that has been targeted by critics who say it is racial profiling.  You have raised constitutional questions about stop and frisk.  And yet you still support it.  Why?

MS. QUINN:  I think stop and frisk can be used in a way that keeps us safe, because I believe we can be the safest big city in America, but can do it in a way that brings communities and people together.  The way stop and frisk has been used isn’t doing that.  At our all time high 700,000 stops, over 95 percent of those resulting in no arrests, no weapons brought in.  That is over the line.  That’s pulling communities and police apart.  That doesn’t make us safer.  That’s why when I’m mayor you’ll see the number of stops go down, we’ll be focused on quality stops that keep us safe and that are done in a constitutional way, not just a rash to stop everyone.  And that’s what’s happened, and that’s been a danger as well because it rips people and police apart.

GREGORY:  Christine Quinn, Speaker, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

MS. QUINN:  Thank you.

GREGORY:  To Mike Murphy here.  Not only reaction to that, but again back to this issue of what Maureen Dowd calls the Clinton playbook in this Weiner race in-- in the New York mayor’s race and those comparisons and whether the public has moved on all that.

MR. MURPHY:  Well, I’m not. I think-- I think Weiner’s gone so beyond the pale, it’s over.  I agree with these guys.  The question is, for a lot of us who care a lot about New York, I lived there for a while, it-- it’s a weak field.  I'm for Joe Lhota because he’s actually run something, but Speaker (unintelligible)-- I mean, there are a lot of good liberal Democrats, but is there somebody exceptional? Well, I think it’s a pretty thin gruel.

GREGORY:  And before we go to a break, the polling in New York right now indicating that Anthony Weiner is in a different position.  In June at 25 percent, now at 16 and Quinn is the leader at this point.  And others like Thompson who have called on Weiner to get out of the race where-- where we are at the moment. 

We’re going to take a break here.  We’ll switch gears when we come back more with our political roundtable, the Washington fight over the economy, Congress, the White House, the debt ceiling, funding the government, more with our panel after this.


GREGORY:  And we’re back.  Let’s talk about the economy.  Maria Bartiromo, you heard Secretary of Treasury, Jack Lew.  They’re getting ready for a fight here in Washington again over funding the government this fall, then there’s another battle over the debt ceiling, cutting government versus helping the economy.  How do you see it?

MS. BARTIROMO:  Well, I think there will be a fight.  I think the president has been very clear that he is not going to negotiate on the debt ceiling.  And John Boehner has been equally as clear that it’s not going to come from more revenue in terms of taxes and we need to stop spending.  So I do expect another fight.  Having said that, I think Jack Lew does have a positive story in terms of the recovery to talk about.  Things are clearly getting better.  Housing has improved.  The corporate sector probably in the best shape it’s been in years with trillions of dollars of cash on balance sheets, but there is still a very deep frustration I think within the administration in terms of we are in an anemic recovery.  You were right.  This is an anemic pace, not even two percent growth.  We need to get beyond this two percent growth.  It’s not happening in GDP.  And of course the unemployment situation, it remains persistent.  So I think there are things to do to, particularly when it relates to business.  Business needs to create jobs, but they need to believe it’s a landscape that is favorable to do so.

GREGORY:  And Mike Murphy, the Republican case against this president is what?

MR. MURPHY:  Well, the debt’s too big, unemployment’s out of control, the middle class has been more squeezed under this president than anybody in recent history.  People want a change that’s why your wrong track number is up in the 60s, I mean, that’s not just Republicans talking.  But the problem is Washington is stuck.  I think people on both sides would agree with that.  The president’s in a box because his numbers are dropping, yet he’s a good liberal Democrat and it’s very hard for him to make the ideological compromises that would get Republican support.  Republicans are locked in conservatives, particularly in the House.  They don’t want to move unless the president moves more than he probably can.  And then the-- the hidden actors in all this are the House Democrats who are every bit as fierce ideologically as the House Republicans are, but they don’t get quite the attention because the president is the star of the Democratic show.  So it’s stuck with an election coming, which means we’re going to have all the fiscal showdown madness, banana republic stuff at the end of the year we normally have.  If the president would move, though, if the president would go more to the center, we’d have some hope and it seems to me, with this campaign tour, he’s-- he’s locking in the other way.

MR. AXELROD:  I think Mike’s analysis would-- about the president would be more persuasive if you were born in like 2012.  But if you have any sense of history and understand where we were when he took office and the impact of the decisions that he made, you didn’t mention, Maria, the auto industry which has come roaring back.  It would have collapsed had he not intervened the recovery act.  His steps just…

MS. BARTIROMO:  And yet Detroit just went bankrupt.

MR. AXELROD:  …his step to stand up the financial industry for which-- which was not popular with his base.  All of those decisions have contributed to where we are.  What’s held us back are the antics in Washington.  You know, you had Speaker Boehner say last week that the-- that he will be judged not by the bills that he passes but by the laws that he repeals.  Well, if squeal and repeal is the-- the essence of your philosophy, then we’re in deep trouble and that’s what’s happened.  The-- you had 12 Republicans in the Senate say, they would shut down the government unless they defunded Obamacare, and-- and you’ve had Republicans, Tom Coburn said last week, that’s a suicidal impulse.

MR. MURPHY:  He’s right.  I agree with Coburn on that.


MR. MURPHY:  We’re-- we’re shutting down the Republicans who want to shut down, at least those of us who think it’s madness.  But…

MR. AXELROD:  But they’re in control of the House caucus, Mike.

MR. MURPHY:  Right.  Right.  Right.  And…

MR. AXELROD:  You don’t have a speaker who’s willing to stand up to them.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.  But you also know the Pelosi side would not move either.  That’s the problem.  The House is totally polarized between your guys and ours, and so it’s very hard with an election looming to see much happening, which is why I think the president is off on a campaign trail.  I think it’s…

MR. AXELROD:  Yeah.  I think the pre-- the president, you know, he got criticized this week for his speech because people said, well, it’s just what he’s been saying for the last eight years.  Actually, I’ve known him for 20 years.  He’s been saying these things for 20 years.  We need a strategy to push back on the economic forces that have marginalized the middle class.

GREGORY:  Right.  So Harold Ford, how do you get that done?


FMR. REP. FORD:  There are things that can be done outside of what Congress-- what-- what Congress has to do.  For one, I’m a firm believer.  Approve the Keystone Pipeline.  Let’s create jobs and create tax revenue for the very states who will be touched by the-- the contraction of this.

MS. BARTIROMO:  That’s a game changer.

FMR. REP. FORD:  You create higher paying jobs, you create greater tax revenue, one.  Two, the president has to come forward with a great infrastructure plan for the country.  We talk about it but there’s nothing concrete.  Treat it like the health care plan that they passed, that the president passed a few years back and make that the-- make that the signature piece of legislation between now and the end of next year.  Why?  Because you build for the country, you invest in the future, from broadband to new pipelines, to new bridge, etc, you create jobs.  And this does not cost a great deal of money.  I think the country would rally around it.  And finally, give the Republicans something.  If they want something on taxes or a little bit on debt, you’ve seen Detroit declare bankruptcy, you see other American cities have this-- have their credit rating downgraded, largely because they have this enormous pinch in liabilities going forward.  The country’s long-term problems are-- are much, much greater than the short-term problems.  Give the Republicans a little something on the long-term stuff and let’s get big deals going forward.  And if the president-- if the Republicans says no, Mike, then we have something concrete, I’m a Democrat.  Something concrete to campaign…

MR. AXELROD:  Hell, they have said no.

FMR. REP. FORD:  …against them on between now and November.

MR. AXELROD:  The president's repeatedly…

FMR. REP. FORD:  No, next November.

MR. AXELROD:  …he’s repeatedly proposed the kind of infrastructure program you’re talking about and he hasn’t gotten takers on the Republican side.

FMR. REP. FORD:  I’m-- I’m not going to argue with you.  I’m on your team.  I’m only saying give me something concrete so when I’m out and others are out saying this is what we want, we’ve laid out to the Republicans something…

MR. AXELROD:  And that’s exactly…

FMR. REP. FORD:  …to compromise.

MR. AXELROD:  …that’s-- it seems to me that’s exactly what he’s done.  He’s said here are the pillars that we need to-- to get this economy moving.  I don’t agree with you on the-- I don’t agree with either of you on the Keystone Pipeline as a job-- as a job creator.  But what I’m saying is that when you have a Republican Caucus in the House whose fundamental rationale is anything that they can oppose they will oppose, that they want to grind the government to a halt.  It hurts the economy.  And it makes it impossible to make this kind of progress.  And the only thing the president can do is go out and make the case to the American people…

GREGORY:  Can I-- can I interject this?

MR. AXELROD: …which is what he’s doing.

GREGORY:  Look at Congress approval and disapproval.  It’s striking in our recent poll, 83 percent disapproval.  If the federal government stuck, Mike…


GREGORY:  …is this a role more for the states to deal with poverty, to deal with infrastructure spending?

MR. MURPHY:  Well, increasingly but then you know some states get stuck too.  We just have highly incentivized to get stuck politics.  Republicans who are afraid of primaries…


MR. MURPHY: …within the small universe.  And Democrats are afraid of their interests groups, public employee unions and the like, so it’s hard to move.  I think the president has great frustration and I’m kind of sympathetic to it is he’s between a rock and a hard place.  He wants to be a liberal president of liberal policy.  He does not control the House.  He’s got a bunch of House Republican districts that don’t really care for him or Obamacare or his agenda.  So, it’s stuck.

MR. AXELROD:  And get rewarded politically for (Unintelligible).

MR. MURPHY:  In the short term.  But you know there’s got to be one courageous superhero here.  And it’s got to be the president.  And that means a painful ideological move.  And then he’d have an issue against the Republicans…

(Cross talk)

FMR. REP, FORD:  This morning, the front page in a national paper, the president is out talking about income equality in one of the national papers.  And Republicans in a parallel article saying they’re going to make abortion a big, big issue of the next several months.  Now, I don’t necessarily agree, but-- disagree with what they’re trying to do, but does that really the number one issue for the country to be dealing with in light of all these things?  They’re just--

(Cross talk)

MR. MURPHY:  No, no, let me just-- let me just point out to--

(Cross talk)

MR. AXELROD:  …Mike that when the president stepped out there in the spring and said, yes, I will do some things on Social Security, the CPI and so on, and I will talk about entitlement reform, the Republicans were like the kid who caught the-- the dog who caught the car, you know.  They didn’t want to engage in that discussion. So…

MR. MURPHY:  Well, yes.  But…

(Cross talk)

MR. AXELROD:  …he has no partner.

GREGORY:  Can I get Maria in here on this but also business still hanging back here despite record profits?

MS. BARTIROMO:  Yeah look, I think at the end of the day people are so tired of these fights.  It’s your fault, it’s your fault, it’s your fault.  We need to come together.  And I think what Harold said is really critical here.  There are some things that are low-hanging fruit that we can actually agree on and get things done over the short term.  Number one is tax reform.  Everybody agrees that tax reform is necessary.  And we need to make this simpler.  And I think a lot of people agree that it does include or it should include lower corporate taxes so that business is incentivized to actually create jobs here.  Another thing is low-hanging fruit is energy.  We are rich in this country in natural gas.  Whether its Keystone or fracking, this really could be a game changer in terms of jobs creation.

GREGORY: All right. Let me-- let get a break in here.  We’ll have more when we come back in just a moment.


GREGORY:  Before we go this morning, we are marking the end of an era at MEET THE PRESS.  Our Senior Executive Producer Betsy Fischer Martin is leaving the helm of the program in order to expand her portfolio at NBC News where she will now serve as one of the key executives directly in the network’s political coverage.  But let there be no doubt, MEET THE PRESS would not be what it is without her.


GREGORY:  A Louisiana girl, politics always ran in Betsy’s vein.  Well, down the street at American University, the lure of the world’s longest running television program was too great to ignore.  Well, something like that.

MS. BETSY FISCHER MARTIN:  I was a senior, I thought, this is great, I can sleep late, I can walk to work.  This is an ideal internship.  And little did I know I would just sort of getting-- got bit by the journalism bug.

GREGORY:  It wasn’t long before Betsy made her mark on the program, catching the eye of Moderator and Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert.  As his executive producer, they worked side by side as the program reached its greatest heights.

MS. MARTIN:  Almost every morning for the last ten years, Tim would call at exactly 9:00 AM and say, hey, Bets, what do you know?

GREGORY:  After Tim’s untimely death, Betsy led the program with Tom Brokaw as the moderator during the home stretch of the 2008 campaign.  Betsy and I, after being classmates at American University years ago, became partners on this program in December of 2008.  From Wall Street to the campaign trail to our program in Afghanistan, we pursued one of her signature goals.

MS. MARTIN:  I want to take a story and figure out how do we move it forward, how do we get to the bottom of something, how do we progress a story.

GREGORY:  Now it’s her own story--moving forward.  Betsy leaves us, but she gets her weekends back, a little bit more time with husband, Jonathan, and her darling Ella.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  Twenty-two years with MEET THE PRESS, 11 as an executive producer, Murph and Axe, you both know her well.

MR. AXELROD:  Yeah.  Well, I was shocked to hear that she took the job in the first place because she thought she could sleep late.  I think she’s lost…

(Cross talk)

GREGORY:  Yeah, right.

MR. AXELROD:  …and she’s lost…

GREGORY:  As an intern.  As an intern.

MR. AXELROD:  …an awful lot of sleep over the years but it’s paid off for the American people because she has made this show as much as you guys who carry the load in front of the camera, she has made this show what it is for so long.  And so she will be-- she'll be missed but she’ll enhance the coverage for NBC, I’m sure.

MR. MURPHY:  Best in the business.  When I started out here, Tim brought me in the show, I was terrified.  She brought me up.  She’s a-- a combination of kind of a mother hen do it and a drill sergeant.  And I’m always going to be very grateful and she’s going to be a huge addition to the campaign coverage.

GREGORY:  Well, the good news is, as we say, that Betsy won’t be far away.  We’re going to miss her.  I speak for everybody here when I say thank you.  That’s all for today.  We’ll be back next week.  If it’s Sunday, thanks to Betsy, it’s MEET THE PRESS.