tv Meet the Press NBC December 5, 2010 10:00am-11:00am EST
this sunday, as the president makes a surprise one-day trip to afghanistan, washington feels the full weight of a sour economy, with the jobless rate creeping up to 9.8% in november, a seven-month high. still, no deal on taxes or unemployment benefits. a summit-like sit-down between the president and republican leaders. >> this is nonsense, all right? the election was one month ago. we're 23 months from the next election and the political games have already started, trying to
set up the next election. >> can there be agreement? and what about the rest of the crowded agenda of the lame duck session of congress and beyond? the treaty with russia, the ban of gays and lesbians in the military. at the center of it all, republican leader of the senate, mitch mcconnell of kentucky. and for the democrats, chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, john kerry of massachusetts. then, america's anxiety. when will the economy turn around? are taxes going up? how vulnerable are we to another terrorist attack? can anything get done in congress? who leads us out in this sense of limbo? our roundtable weighs in, columnist of the "new york times," david brooks, republican strategist mike murphy and the
times," david brooks, republican strategist mike murphy and the bbc's katty kay. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good morning. a political showdown yesterday in a special saturday session. blocked tax cuts to the middle class only, which would have raised taxes on higher earners. it seemed to keep a door opened to compromise. >> we need to redouble our efforts to revolve this impasse in the next few days to give the american people the peace of mind that their tacks will not go up on january 1st. it will require some compromise, but i'm confident that we can get it done. >> joining me now exclusively, top republican in the senate, mitch mcconnell of kentucky, welcome to the studio. good to have you here. >> good morning. >> where are we? are you close to a deal with the president on taxes? >> let's put it this way. we've had more conversations in the last two weeks than we have had in the last two years. i think that's a good sign,
growing awareness that the power will be more sim emmeymmetrical next congress. >> what will the deal look like? >> i'm not going to negotiate it here on "meet the press" this morning. but i think you're familiar with all the issues. the big issue on the public mind, of course, is whether or not we're going to raise taxes on anybody in the middle of a recession. and it is almost laughable that we were in session yesterday. it reminded me of the old movie groundhog day. we keep doing the same thing over and over and over again. voting once again on the tax issue, it could have been dealt with at any point during the course of the year. here we are at the end of the year. i think it's pretty clear now that tacks aren't going up on anybody in the middle of this recession. we're discussing how long we should maintain current tax rates. and there are other issues that many people feel are important to address. >> let's break this down. how long of an extension could you agree to? a lot of talk of it being temporary, a year or two.
>> well, i don't want to frustrate you, but i'm not going to negotiate that onthe show this morning. >> but the notion of temporary extension is something you could live with, whatever that exact figure is? >> i would prefer to do it permanently. >> right. >> you and i have discussed that on earlier shows. i think the current tax rate is appropriate for our country. it's been in place for ten years. obviously, the president won't sign a permanent extension of the current tax rates. so, we're going to have some kind of an extension. i would like one as long as possible. >> but you're comfortable that rates will not go up on anyone in america? >> i'm very hopeful that rates are not going to go up. what we saw yesterday in the senate, every single republican and five democrats voted we shouldn't be raising taxes on anybody. in other words, bipartisan opposition to raising taxes on anybody at this time. >> what about extending unemployment benefits? you have said in the past we're in the middle of a jobs crisis. that being the case, could you then agree to an extension of jobless benefits as part of any tax cut package? >> i think we will extend
unemployment compensation. we've had some very vigorous debates. in the senate not about whether to do for it but whether to pay for it as opposed to adding it to the deficit. all of those discussions are still under way. >> do you see this as a mandate for the american people to keep tacks where they are? >> we feel the taxes should not go up. colleag colleagues on the other side do not see it that way. all republicans in the senate and a significant number of democrats feel the same way. it isn't going to happen. >> what about the impact on jobs? senator reid on the floor of the senate this week said it's fantasy to believe that somehow this is going to be helpful to the job situation. this is what he said. >> we can pretend giving the rich tax breaks creates jobs but we know in the past decade it doesn't. if that were the case, mr. president, the economy would be booming. >> let me give you some figures
that aren't fantasy. over 7 h00,000 small businesses pay taxes as individuals. they would be hit by raising the top rate above 250,000. 700,000 of our most productive and effective small businesses. that's 50% of small business income and 25% of the workforce in the middle of a recession. >> democrats do point out a lot of those people do include people who are doing quite well, whether they're law partners or other individual business owners who are not exactly the typical small business owner, mom and pop store. >> i understand that. the question is, is it a good idea to raise taxes on 700,000 small businesses affecting 50% of small business income in the middle of a recession when we know that small business is the biggest job generator in our country. i mean, look -- >> you had these tax rates in place in 2001. >> imagine how much worse it would have been had we had the higher tax rate. this argument is over, david.
you and i can continue to engage in it but it's over. the senate voted yesterday. every republican and five democrats said we're not raising taxes on anybody in the middle of a recession. >> bottom line on the extension of tax rates, unemployment benefits being extended, you see a compromise here in short order? >> i think the american people expect us to work together to make sure their taxes don't go up. we're working on that package. we've had more conversations the last two weeks than the last two years and i think we're going to get there. >> assuming that's the case, would that also open the door then for debate and actual ratification to start nuclear arms treaty with russia? >> look, i don't set the agenda in the senate. 42 republicans sent our friends on the other side of the aisle earlier this week saying two things we need to do first is decide what people's tack rates will be come january 1 and decide how we'll fund the government for the next ten months. we haven't done that either. once we get those things out of
the way, what you do with the balance of the time is up to the majority leader. >> do you see it being ratified in the lame duck session? >> i have no idea. >> are you prepared to vote to ratify it? >> i haven't made a decision on how i'm going to vote. >> here are some of the highlights. tough medicine in terms of what they propose. social security, raise the retirement age, cut future benefit increases, eliminate mortgage deduction, increase federal gas tax by 15 krents per gallon, cap security and nonsecurity spending, freeze federal pay for three years, eliminate congressional earmarks. you said if this were a proposal you would be behind it. are you now prepared to endorse this and be a catalyst to get some of these measures passed? >> first, i was extremely proud of my appointments. senator coburn, crapo, senator greg. they supported not because they
liked every part of it, but because they thought this comprehensive recommendation underscored how deep seated this problem is. this is an enormous problem. i think the message to us is let's see what we can do with the president. you cannot do entitlement reform for your viewers, entitlements mean long-term liabilities set by law. we don't even vote on them every year. so many of them very popular, social security, medicare and the like. you cannot do entitlement reform with just one party. you can only do entitlement reform on a bipartisan basis. the message to us, coming out of this deficit reduction report is that it's time for the president of the united states and people like john boehner and myself and others to sit down and see what we can do to make sure we have the same kind of country for our children and grandchildren that our parents left for us. >> politicians make these promises. the president said there has to
be broad sacrifices. why can't you say whether you'll specifically endorse this plan and what you plan to do as a party and a leader to make painful choices. >> it would be absolutely irresponsible to sit here on a sunday talk show and blow the talks by starting to endorse and rule out things. what i'm saying is this is the road map. we need to sit down with the president, see what we can do together. the only way we will actually accomplish something -- i want to actually accomplish something. >> do you endorse thoo specific proposals? >> what i endorse is the effort to underscore the magnitude of the problem. and i'm prepared to sit down with the president and figure out what we can do on a bipartisan basis. that's what this report was about. now it's time to do something. >> let me ask you about this wikileaks controversy. how much damage has been done here? what's the real story that you're focused on? >> i think the man is a high-tech terrorist. he has done an enormous -- >> assange?
>> yes. he has done enormous damage to our country. and i think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. and if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law. i think it's done enormous damage to our country and to our relationships with our allies around the world. >> is there a question of incompetence here on the obama administration in your mind about how this happened? >> well, i'm sure that they're going to pursue the way it happened internally as well. i hear that they know who did it. that individual also should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and they need to be looking at how to avoid this in the future. >> secretary of state clinton has said part of the problem after 9/11, more emphasis on information sharing. the pentagon has more access to these cables and ultimately that's where private manning, who is accused of doing this, got that information. is information sharing the problem, the ability to download information in the government? >> i don't know.
but we sure need to look at it thoroughly. because this is a huge problem. >> i want to ask you, finally, about your measure of the president politically at this juncture. you had an opportunity to sit down with him. you said at the outset of this interview it's more talking you've done with him face to face as you've done in a while. as you metropolitan met with other congressional representatives. you look at his approval rating. he actually rates a bit higher, counter to conventional wisdom because he has taken a licking here. >> the political thing will play out over the next two years. the thing we need to do now is to figure out how we can work together. the american people didn't send us here to do nothing for the next two years. we've had a regularly scheduled election every two years since 1788 in this country. what i hope will happen is the president will hear the message of the american people.
i think they spoke rather loudly and rather clearly. one pundit described it as a restraining order against what we've been doing the past two years, this splurge of spending and debt, washington takeovers. that needs to stop. hopefully, we can focus on things we agree on. for example, the president has apparently secured an agreement with korea with regard to trade. that's something i'm very likely to support, can support. >> and you consider that a big accomplishment by him? he was criticized leaving south korea without that free trade deal. he waited for it and he got it. >> if he now has an agreement, that's something we ought to go forward with. by the way, we ought to do the columbia and panama agreement as well, which have been languishing for years. >> your goal is to make him a one-term president. >> what's so unusual about that? >> what makes you think he's vulnerable to being a one-term president that you will succeed?
>> i don't think we ought to be talking about what happens two years from now. >> you said that's your goal. >> he wants to be a two-term president. i want him to be a one-term president. the american people put us in charge for two more years. we need to have a relationship and see what we can do working together. i hope he pivots and starts helping us reduce spending, reduce debt, ratify trade deals. he is in favor of nuclear power. so are most of my members. there are things we can do together for the american people that would be very important. >> you predict he could become a born-again moderate. >> i hope so. >> is that playing out in this? >> we'll find out. the two models we've been looking at for six months, the harry truman and bill clinton model. truman decided to run against the congress, worked for him. clinton decided to do things with the congress. it worked for him in '96. my view is we're all here to do the people's business for the next two years. to the extent that the president
wants to do things that i and my members are comfortable with, we want to do that for the country. >> is he tougher in terms of being vulnerable than people think? >> we have political agendas, but there will be some overlap and hopefully, we can find some way to work together. >> before you go this morning, don't ask, don't tell, the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, will that ban be lifted? >> people talk as if that's the only issue. that also has abortions in military hospitals in that bill. the defense bill, it typically takes two weeks. i don't see how we can possibly finish the defense authorization bill, a two-week bill, fully aside from these controversial items in it, there are a whole lot of other things in it, before the end of the year. >> in your mind, do you think the support is there to lift the ban in congress? >> my personal view is that senator mccain is correct on this. i tend to follow his lead. we'll find out when we finally get around to debating this bill, which i do not think will
be before the end of the year. >> we'll leave it there. thank you. appreciate it. the view from the democrats on all the looming battles in congress, tax cuts, deficit commission, gays in the military. senator kerry will be here next. columnist tom friedman and david brooks, republican strategist mike murphy and the bbc's katty kay. during its first year, the humpback calf and its mother are almost inseparable. she lifts her calf to its first breath of air, then protects it on the long journey to their feeding grounds. one of the most important things you can do is help the next generation. at pacific life, we offer financial solutions to accomplish just that. ask a financial professional about pacific life. the power to help you succeed.
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we are back, joined now by the other side of the aisle, massachusetts senator john kerry. welcome. glad to have you in the studio. >> glad to be here. >> tax cuts, unemployment benefits. senator mcconnell was careful in his language, but seemed to suggest a deal is at hand. where are we? >> david, i think there will be an agreement. yesterday's vote made it very, very clear that the enormous divide between the republicans and democrats. republicans are fighting to keep in place a tax policy that has failed over the last eight years. it has failed. we have had a net loss of jobs. and what we've seen is a republican party that's
absolutely prepared to deny unemployment insurance to people who have been laid off, who can't pay their bills, who want to put food on the table for their families. they've said no. we're willing to hold that hostage so we can give the wealthiest people in the country a bonus tax cut. what i mean by that is people aren't focuseded on the fact that under the democratic proposal, everybody in america got a tax cut. the wealthiest people in america got a tax cut, up to the $250,000 of income. what they're fighting for is to give those people who earned more than a million dollars a year a bonus tax cut above that, even though it's the least effective way of creating jobs and putting impact into the economy. >> senator, isn't it true that the president's own economic advisers are said to him at this juncture, you may feel like you have drawn a line in the sand, no extension for tax cuts on the wealthiest americans, but that
means you could lose more jobs, have a worsening job situation if you don't -- >> let me tell you -- >> if you don't extend these tax cuts now for a temporary period. >> we want to extend tax cuts for every single american but up to the level that makes sense in terms of our economy. you talk about uncertainty of the economy, how certainty is there to our economy when you add $800 billion to the deficit? >> how far is the president willing to deal? there may be disagreement but is he willing to deal? >> how bankrupt, how fundamentally reckless their position is and has been. and the fact is -- let me go a little bigger here for a minute. our country is challenged economically as never before. people talk about american exceptionalism and how there's this sort of automatic for america. yes, we are exceptional but we're exceptional when we do exceptional things, when we behave exceptionally. we're not doing that today. we're locked down into a gridlock status where other countries are racing by us.
i'll give you an example. over the next 20 years, $600 billion is going to be invested in green technology, green energy. new jobs that could be for americans. 90% of that investment is going to be in other countries, david. >> by the chinese. >> by the chinese and a lot of other people. two years ago, china produced 5% of the world's solar panels. today they produce 60%. we're not even in the game. we invented this technology, bell laboratories 50 years ago. we don't have one company in the top ten companies of the world. shame on us. the point i'm making is that you can't just talk about american exceptionalism and then sit around and feed the frenzy of this tax cut at the upper end. you've got to invest in america. >> a lot of people look at this, especially liberal senators, and say absolutely right. senator kerry has it exactly right. then why is the president caving to the republicans? >> he's not. >> but wait a minute. what is the political fallout in
the president makes a deal where he might get an extension of unemployment benefits but all of these tax cuts are extended for a period of time, including on the wealthiest americans. >> let me tell you what the president is fighting for, and appropriately. first of all, the president is not gaming. the president insisted that we have the votes we had yesterday so that america could see what the republicans are fighting for and they could see what we're fighting for. his preferred position is $250,000, give every american a tax cut up to $250,000 but don't, don't put money back into the pockets of people who may never invest it in the united states. if you're earning more than $1 million a year, that investment, when you give that tax cut, you get about a 30 cent return on the dollar given. if you give unemployment insurance, you get $1.60 back on the dollar you put in. there are multiplier effects. the republicans are ignoring them in order to feed that upper
end. and they're willing to hold unemployment compensation hostage for that desired tabs cut. >> you heard there also might be a deal on that as well. >> here is the problem. you just have the minority leader sitting here for whatever period of time and all you talked about was the need to come to them. all he talked about is that if they could do something that makes us comfortable. that's not how you compromise. they need to have a little discomfort, just as we have a little discomfort. >> what does the president do to create that discomfort? the problem for the president has been he has done nothing to make the republicans uncomfortable. >> just a minute, david. let me take you on, on that. the president of the united states came into office with a president who left him with a $5 trillion add-on to the debt of this country, an unprecedented financial crisis. the fact is that the t.a.r.p. that we passed that everybody hates. they hate the word, the concept. it saved countless number of
jobs in this country. the recovery act saved millions of jobs in this country and brought our financial system back from the brink. wall street ought to be singing this president's praises. 60% increase in the stock market in two years. how often does that happen? you have $3 trillion increase in the net value of the fortune 500 companies. $3 trillion increase in two years under george bush and eight years it only increased by several hundred billion. you have the hire act. republicans opposed it. it created hundreds of thousands of jobs. recovery act, the small business act. >> i'm asking you a political question, where do you create the discomfort? you know the game here. you know the pressure -- >> here is what the president is doing. the president is fighting to get unemployment insurance that they have held hostage. this is the point. people need to focus in america. the republican vbs willis have willing to hold unemployment hostage to this bonus tax cut
that adds to the deficit. and the phony recklessness to their position has this. they've said for months we can't give you unemployment compensation because it's unpaid for and it will add to the deficit but yesterday they were willing to vote for a $4 trillion increase that wipes out everything the debt commission is doing in order to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people. the president is willing to compromise to get unemployment insurance, to get the work for pay tax cut, child care credit tax cut, to get additional tax cuts that go to average people and create jobs. but he wants to do more than that. this is the most important difference between us and them. the republican agenda is tax cut and cut spending. we cannot cut our way to competition with other countries. if we're going to be a great power, if we're going to project in the world, if we're going to put america back to work and be part of the $6 trillion market that is new energy market of the
future with 6 billion users, we need to invest in america's future. and the president is fighting to get an infrastructure development effort in america so we regrow our own country. he is fighting for an energy policy that they fought against all last year, delayed and delayed and delayed, even though we made compromise after compromise. and i know, i was out negotiating it. r & d, science, technology, engineering, math. this is our sputnik moment. we've seen it going across the sky but did nothing similar as we did in the 1960s to respond to it. >> a couple of other matters that are very important. wikileaks, you heard senator mcconnell say this was a high-tech terrorist. secretary gates, defense secretary, of course, had a slightly different view of what the fallout actually is. this is what he said this week. i want to show it. >> now i've heard the impact of
these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game changer and so on. i think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. the fact is, governments deal with the united states because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets. >> do you disagree with that in terms of what the damage done here is? >> i think there is damage and maybe a little more profound than the secretary -- i don't think it goes to the extent that some people are saying but, yes, there is real damage. social security numbers of individuals have been made public. technology about roadside bombs has been made public. the relationship of a president, let's say, of yemen, who is involved in helping us fight domestic terror in yemen has been exposed for parts of his
relationship with the united states that can be very damaging to our efforts there. there are many similar kinds of efforts. in germany, people are calling for the return of the ambassador. in other places they won't talk to some of our people for a while. this hurts -- >> how many ambassadors have been removed from countries? >> i can't tell you but at some point people will say they can't work with us and they'll say that quietly and behind closed doors. this is voyeurism, an act by someone who wants attention that is not revealing some truth about a government lying or a policy that's been misled. this is just letting people in on the inside of something where it has great ability to undo our ability to protect the interest of our country. >> i want to ask you finally -- this is a bigger topic than we can get into all the details of. i want to ask you about afghanistan, the president
visiting the troops there, a surprise visit. when we talk about our goals, all the concerns about hamid karzai, the afghan leader, corruptions and so forth, it takes me back to a famous moment before you were senator, april 1971 when you said this on capitol hill about vietnam. >> how do you ask a man to be the last man to die from a state? >> my question to you is you look at the landscape of our withdrawal plans in 2014. is it a mistake in afghanistan to think, asked to be the last to die in a war that may not be able to achieve the results that we have laid out for us? >> first of all, i looked at that and said, boy, he needs a haircut. look, in my judgment, afghanistan is just not vietnam. we shouldn't have been in vietnam. it was a surrogate war, civil war, cold war, surrogate war.
there are any number of reasons why it was a gigantic mistake. in afghanistan, we're there for a purpose. i don't believe we need the size of the footprint doing everything we're doing. i've said that many times publicly. i don't think the president, in the long run, wants to do that, which is why he has committed to this transition. i believe the president and our military and our policy is on the right track. and that track is to turn this over to the afghans as rapidly as possible in a way that meets their needs to have sufficient stability and capacity to survive. >> can we do that before 2014? >> and our needs to be able to prosecute counterterrorism efforts. i think you can do a lot of counterterrorism with a smaller footprint and still imamanage t progress of afghanistan. most of that, in my judgment, will fend on what we're succeeding and doing in pakistan. pakistan is as much the key to
the outcome in afghanistan as ni anything else. can we do it by 2014? yes, i believe we can and i think the president is absolutely intent on preventing this from being the mistake that begged the question that i posed in 1971. >> we'll leave it there. senator kerry, thank you very much as always. coming up next, america's anxiety, questions about the economy, terrorism and the direction of the country. our roundtable weighs in on our discussion so far, the question of politics and leadership. from "the new york times," tom friedman and david brooks. republican strategist mike murphy and the bbc's katty kay. and go everywhere. to help revitalize a neighborhood in massachusetts. restore a historic landmark in harlem. fund a local business in chicago. expand green energy initiatives in seattle. because when you're giving, lending and investing in more communities across the country...
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are we going to recover from this economy? is there another terrorist threat out there? the fallout from wikileaks, what's going to get done in washington? do we learn anything in this moment about compromise based on what you heard this morning? >> it depends on what you believe. we go through pessimistic phases. i can't remember a pessimistic phase this long. president obama talked about building new found aigs. new foundations for what? that's the big question that's out there. i would just say one thing that the united states has that no other country has is that we're a universal nation. people come here from all over the world and we have connections to all over the world. china will never have that. that has to be the basis once we move forward. once we have that defined, we know what we can compromise, what we can work with. >> this is a cartoon that caught my eye this week. i'll put it on the screen. you see it there from chris wine. it's obama and boehner, in the
spirit bipartisanship, why don't you take a step to the middle first? on unemployment benefits, we're seeing a deal. mitch mcconnell doesn't want to negotiate on "meet the press." >> no, that was his sunshine-sending strategy there. something is happening. they'll get the bush tax cuts, even though we're doing a silly analogy as we did in the election, democrats think the big word is millionaire, democrats think the big word is jobs. it's in the president's interest to understand two things happened in the election. people want something to get done and they want the country to move right economically. so if he moves right economically, something will get done. >> are we having right conversation? i'll put it up on the screen here. you see the down arrow in too many cases lasting for too long. you see the change of jobs going
up last month but november only 39,000 new jobs. that sense of anxiety and whether we're talking about cutting the debt, what about investing in the economy? are we having the right conversation? >> i think that is exactly what's producing anxiety, to get back to david's point. there is a sense of where the country is going and americans are thinking if i haven't got a job and i don't see how we're going to get out of this slump, i'm worried for the first time in generations that i might not be passing on a better country to my children. my children might not be better off, better educated than i am. that is tied in with these unemployment numbers. that's how it's affecting people directly. and what's interesting, to me, looking at the bright spot for america is that you don't have what you've got in europe where tens of thousands of people are taking to the street, demanding that the state intervene and give them those jobs or those benefits. this is the saving grace for america and always has been. they want to do it themselves. it's anxiety not anger at the government people are feeling. they want to fix this problem
themselves. >> you wrote this week a column that was so popular about wiki-china. explain the premise and why that had some traction. >> what if we could read china's cables about us, basically. what the chinese would be saying, i think, is how polarizing the americans are about all the wrong things. that's what i think is really the big story right now, david. what people want to know, first of all, from president obama and politically, where are we going? if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. what world are you in? we're in a flat world, competing with 2 billion people just like us. that's the first reality. in the second realit how do you get rich where you have to make more people's lives more productive, more secure, more entertained and more healthy? you have to do that with such good infrastructure and
productive american worker that one american worker can be paid that's what you need, then what is the hybrid politics that says we've got to cut here so we can invest over there, okay? we need to raise gas taxes or carbon taxes to get money so we can actually cut payroll taxes and encourage businesses to invest in this country. people are really looking for a hybrid politics, not two party that is grudgingly compromise on their ideologies. >> that interests me, mike murphy, something in "the new york times" this week, and i'll put it up on the screen. he writes mr. obama has invariably sought to position himself halfway between traditionalism and reform just as his vague notions of hope and
change during the 2008 campaign were meant to appeal simultaneously to both disaffected independent voters and core progressives. republicans have the leverage on that right now. liberals will be very, very unhappy. they are unhappy about that. they feel like they're caving. you have this disaffected middle that doesn't necessarily agree with tom that says government has to play a big role in investing in some of this new economy. >> he's caught because his base has become more liberal because of many of the losses. the losing team, lost an historic election. ideology is discredited. he campaigned in the center and governed from the left. his problem now is that he looks weak and secondary to the congressional battle. he ought to get out in front. he ought to pivot. i think you can create -- tom kind of implies this, kind of a national interest economic agenda. we are in a tremendous economic competition right now. it needs a rightward move on things. campaigned on it.
it will be good for the country, politically tough for republicans. but he would become the leader -- >> republicans won't specify to painful choices when this is where they say they have the mandate but yet they're hesitant to do that. >> nobody will specify painful choice. one word that politicians can't say at the moment is that you have to sacrifice. we're living in this age of entitlement where there is an attitude to either raising taxes or cutting spending from both democrats and republicans. neither side wants to give on those and neither side wants to make the cuts it will take. >> at the service level, katty is right, nobody is going to step up and make painful choices. inside, in private conversations, they're having a different conversation. i guarantee you right now at the white house they're having serious conversations at tax reform, big tax reform. in the republican party, republicans like paul ryan are campaigning within the republican caucus for serious entitlement reform. pushback from the leadership,
obviously. the level of the private conversations, which are more inspiring than what we see. >> what do we do -- what does it do for the country if we have inspiring private conversations? >> today was important that he was willing to sit down. the willingness -- i thought what he said today was quite newsworthy. he didn't commit himself to too much. he was willing to have a meeting. you don't say that unless you're willing to put a lot of stuff on the table. >> it has to start on the inside and has to be forced on the voters. it's easy to say in a poll you want all this sacrifice. most of the time, voters look at sacrifice, grab the person suggesting it and grab him in a wood chipper. politicians are turned into voters. the retired politicians are 5-1 for it. active politicians were split 50/50. this is where it begins inside. it is a hopeful sign. >> you were saying that this 40% of the middle or mike was saying that, i'm not sure. but they're against what's going on. i disagree. i think they will be for it if
they think the president has a plan to make america great again. if they don't think he has a plan for that, but just doing health care, they're going to say i don't want to spend a dime. what they're looking for is something big. we're doing things that are small and easy when we need to be doing things that are big and hard. >> ross perot in 1992 came in, campaigned on a platform of reducing the deficit. he got votes on it and you there was a very big difference. in '92, interest rates were 8%. american voters were feeling the pain directly. anyone with a car payment, mortgage was feeling the pain of the deficit. they're not feeling it today. >> i want to come back, continue this. also talk about the political leadership questions. who leads us out of the sense of anxiety? [ technician ] are you busy? management just sent over these new technical manuals. they need you to translate them into portuguese.
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we're back. more from our roundtable with our sense of anxiety and who leads us out of this. where does the president rate in his approval compared to reagan and clinton, november '82 and '94? they both suffered big mid-term defeats and we know how that played out. is conventional wisdom wrong that somehow obama is vulnerable and he has weakened? after all the beatings he has taken, is he stronger? >> conventional wisdom is never wrong. he is weaker than those guys. the economy is not reagan's economy or clinton's economy. we don't run elections nationally but ohio, indiana,
places like that. he is extremely weak there. the important thing that happened this week is the collapse of liberal morale. a lot of liberals have said he's not strong. he's not exciting. brother murphy, as much as i love you, he can't just lead those guys as the losing team. he's a democrat and has to rally those guys and win back the senate. i think he's strong, a great politician. he will be back. the troubles have been mounting on the left. >> i tried to raise this with senator kerry. i'm not sure i got a very clear answer on this. politically, what does the president do to make life hard for republicans? i have talked to republicans. he's making it very easy for us to say no. >> the meanest thing you can do in politics is steal the other guy gu guys back. he needs to make big moves, move ideologically. he will never get the left back. they are the losing team in
numbers. he can't completely cut them off but he can't let them drive, as he did the last two years. he needs to run against all of them and trace it. he has to move. democrats will keep doing this millionaire thing. it's been beaten to death. we keep winning that. i'm a partisan republican. i'm happy to wait two years, get a republican president and run the table. right now, we can run the economy. >> that's it? >> we win that, we win the election. >> tom friedman, i want to cover the wikileaks fallout, hillary clinton on the cover with a number of phones to her ear, trying to mitigate the damage here. what have we learned and what really hurts about all this? >> these are things that we learned most, david, we're leaking power. that's my view of it. what do we do? we're begging the saudis to not have their private donors fund
al qaeda. what do we do? borrow money from china, cycle it through our cars, send it to saudi arabia, and we're begging china, north korea wants to send ballistic missiles. can you not do that? no, can't do that either. why are we in this situation? basically we were hooked on oil, addicted to oil and we're addicted to credit. there's a fundamental law of geo politics. addicts never tell the truth to their pushers. china is our credit pusher, saudi arabia is our oil pusher. we can't have a frank conversation with them because we are in their debt. >> let me disagree on this one. when jimmy carter was president, did he snap his fingers and the country did what he wanted? bill clinton, i covered those summits in the '90s, when ronald reagan was trying to place
missiles in europe, didn't snap our fingers. china attacked us in north korea. i'm not sure -- i think what it shows -- i'm not sure we're leaking power. we have problems that you described. the other thing it shows is there's no secret conspiracy, the stuff going on inside, which these cables reveal, is stuff that we, as journalists, reveal every day. people who think there's some secret, hidden conspiracy in government is just not true. >> what about the fallout? will this really hurt america? >> i think it hurts the fact that there are not back channels that are willing to share information with american diplomats are not going to be able to do so. the senior german official resigned because he was leaked as sharing information and being useful to american diplomats and a canadian ambassador might be resigning on the same basis. people around the world are now thinking twice about whether they'll have private conversations with american diplomats doesn't help america. i agree with tom. it shows that this is a superpower whose powers are not
so super anymore. we had a period after the end of the cold war where america was the only big guy on the block and you could get other countries to do what you wanted and you haven't got that now. china, north korea, russia even. we're having to do deals with moscow to get what we want there. >> that was a bipolar world. the reason we couldn't do a lot of that, there was a soviet union on the other side. that soviet union is collapsed now. >> we were the big guy. >> political strategy of abdic attachme ating any responsibility. meantime we cash in on oil. problem with the wikileaks thing, it was pure destruction, huge monkey wrench in the machinery of american diplomacy. i feel sorry for the u.s. ambassador in france. french horn minister will play that stuff not max. thousand small little negotiations, our team now is
playing with a sand bag tied around it, which is bad for america. this was an act of treason. >> to the end of that, politics of this -- i want to touch on how this was used and more broadly. it was interesting, the theory of the case for the right, who some of the players are on the right. romney on jay leno, sarah palin continues to be out there. in terms of how the right is dealing with sarah palin. the most talked about figure in the gop is a reality show star who cannot be elected and yet the same leaders who fret that sarah palin could devastate their party in 2012 are too scared to say in public what they all complain about in private. she's a force. >> huge force. huge force now. 14 months away, even though that sounds painfully close to when the caucuses and primaries may begin. i think -- i've been a critic all along, started at the
republican convention, saying i thought she was a bad vp choice. she's a poison pill in the general election, i believed. in the republican primaries, particularly in the movement which will win the iowa caucus and get a lot of momentum, she's very, very powerful, if she runs. i think she'll have a half life but will be a terrifically powerful force, in some ways for good, but as a candidate she would be a disaster. and we'll see if other republicans start to take that position quietly. a lot of them do. >> tom friedman, the president we saw -- we have pictures of the president's surprise trip to afghanistan in the holiday season to buck up the troops but also coming at a time when we have a review under way of our afghanistan policy. you heard senator kerry say he thinks the footprint can get a lot smaller. where are we on afghanistan and how fraught do you think this review process will be? >> the first rule of middle east politics is the middle east only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them, when they want it more than we do, camp
david or oslo peace agreement. read the wikileaks. who is going to pay me which amount of money to do what you want? we are basically paying our afghan and pakistani partners to be two faced because we didn't pay them to be two faced they would be one faced and all against us. that is not a winning hand. >> that's what we're up against right now? we're going to have to leave it there. thank you all very much. before we go, a quick programming note. be sure to join us next week. an exclusive interview with new york city mayor michael bloomberg on leadership and politics and where we go. that is all for today. we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." ♪
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