tv.broadwayworld.com

Sen. Rubio, Portman Among Guests on NBC's MEET THE PRESS

Related Links
ABC News THIS WEEK Ranks as #1 Public Affairs ProgramABC News THIS WEEK Ranks as #1 Public Affairs Program
September 18, 2014
NBC's MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD Posts Ratings GrowthNBC's MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD Posts Ratings Growth
September 18, 2014
NBC News' MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD Debuts at No. 1NBC News' MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD Debuts at No. 1
September 11, 2014
Chuck Todd's MEET THE PRESS Debut to Feature Exclusive Interview with President ObamaChuck Todd's MEET THE PRESS Debut to Feature Exclusive Interview with President Obama
September 05, 2014
Related: MEET THE PRESS, NBC, News
Sen. Rubio, Portman Among Guests on NBC's MEET THE PRESS

Yesterday's MEET THE PRESS on NBC featured interviews with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Obama senior political strategist David Axelrod, and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH); a roundtable conversation with Democratic strategist and former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, and New York Times White House correspondent Helene Cooper; and NBC News political director Chuck Todd with the latest NBC/WSJ national poll numbers.

Below is a transcript of the broadcast of NBC's “MEET THE PRESS WITH David Gregory” from October 21, 2012:

David Gregory: This morning on Meet the Press, roughly two weeks to go and the final push is for women voters. The president in battleground Virginia at week’s end. Hoping to keep the gender gap in his favor among women by attacking his opponent.

(Videotape)

President Obama: Governor Romney wants to take us to policies more suited to the 1950s.

(End videotape)

(Videotape)

MITT ROMNEY: This president has failed America’s women. They’ve suffered in terms of getting jobs.

(End videotape)

David Gregory: Looking at the record. And looking forward. What will tomorrow’s final showdown mean for the final days? We hear from both campaigns this morning.
For Governor Romney, Senator Marco Rubio from all important state of Florida. For the president, Senior Adviser David Axelrod.

And later, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, Romney’s debate sparring partner, joining us live from the debate site.

Plus our roundtable weighs in. From the York Times Columnist Tom Friedman and White House Correspondent Helene cooper. Republican strategist Mike Murphy. And former White House Press Secretary for President Clinton, Dee Dee Myers.

David Gregory: Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
I’m glad to be back, thank you.

David Gregory:
Let’s talk where Chuck left off, about Florida. Looking at the President’s schedule, he looks to be focusing a little bit more on Ohio. In your judgment, you’ve seen the numbers, is Florida Romney red at this point?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Well, we like the way Florida’s going. We always predicted it would go this way. Because two things have happened over the last couple weeks. Number one is the American people have gotten to see Mitt Romney up close as he offers his vision of the future and what he would do as president. But even more startling is the President’s complete failure to put forth an agenda for the next four years.

I mean if you look at the statements he’s been making on the campaign stump over the last 72 hours, or even the last two weeks, he doesn’t talk about the future, he doesn’t talk about his governing plan for the next four years. It’s all attacks against Mitt Romney down the stretch here. And I think you saw those numbers just a moment ago. I think they’re only going to get better– for the Republican side, both in Florida and nationally, as we move forward.

David Gregory:
Let me ask you about something that’s developing this morning. In The New York Times, exclusive reporting about Iran. This is The New York Times lead this morning. It is: “U.S. officials say Iran has agreed to nuclear talks. The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one on one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.

“Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election. A senior administration official said, “Telling their American counterparts that they want to know with whom they would be negotiating.” What is your reaction to this?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Well, my reaction is the White House has denied it, and so I don’t think there’s much more to talk about. They’ve denied that. Let me say this, though. Obviously, war is always the last option. No one wants a war. We would hope this could get solved in another way. I think the military option has to be on the table. And both candidates have said that.

And I also think there’s concern. And I’m not talking about this story now, but just in general, that Iran has often used negotiations in the past to buy themselves time. But the White House is denying that story this morning, and therefore, there’s not much to talk about.

David Gregory:
Well, what they’re denying is that there hasn’t been a final decision. And we know what that means in Washington. That doesn’t mean that it’s a case closed here. Generally speaking, if it’s President Romney, do you think he has a duty to give diplomacy, one on one talks, if they’re open to it, a chance?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Well, it he’s talked about that. He has said that war and any kind of armed conflict is the last option. Everything else should fail. But at the same time, I think he’s very cognizant of the fact that Iran has used negotiations in the past to buy themselves time. I think under a President Romney, you would not have to haggle with the White House about sanctions. I think they would lead on sanctions, including continuing to increase sanction from our partners, increase pressure on Russia and other countries to participate in those sanctions. At the same time, I think that a president with a clear vision of what it is he wants to ultimately accomplish, and that’s preventing a nuclear capacity, a nuclear weapons capacity by Iran, may actually help further that process along.

David Gregory:
Governor Romney has said that crippling sanctions like those now in place by this administration are things that he’d like to see continued. So not a tremendous amount–

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah.

David Gregory:
–of difference there. Let me move on. The president on the campaign trail says there’s a new condition out there called Romnesia, which is that Governor Romney’s walking away from previous positions. The issue of contraception and abortion seem to be one in the fight for women voters here. And I want to talk that through with you a little bit.

I was in Ohio this week. And of course you can’t miss the campaign out there. And this is one, a part of one, that the Romney campaign is running. I want to play a portion of it and then discuss it with you. Here it is.

(Videotape)

NARRATOR: Romney doesn’t oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life.

(End videotape)

David Gregory:
So two issues there: Contraception, access to contraception, and abortion. So let’s separate those two for just a moment. First of all, on the issue of contraception, we know that Governor Romney supported a measure in Congress that would have said to employers, “Look, you don’t have to provide access to contraception if it violates your own moral code or religious code,” to any employer. Now that was not passed. That was the Blunt Amendment. But he supported that. And yet, listen to what he talked about in the course of the campaign. In this last debate on this very issue. Watch.

(Videotape)

MITT ROMNEY: I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.

(End videotape)

David Gregory:
So I don’t see how both things can be true.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Sure.

David Gregory:
If he supports a measure that would say to employers, “You don’t have to provide access,” And then he’s saying, “Everybody should have access,” how do both things become true?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Well, becau– I think that’s a general statement about most employers. But there are a handful of employers that have conscientious objections to it. For example, the Catholic Church. This is not an issue about contraception. No one is talking about banning contraception. No one is talking about preventing people from gaining access to contraception. This just happens to conflict with a constitutional principle of religious liberty.

And for example, the Catholic Church teaches against contraception. And to force the Catholic Church or its institutions to have to pay for something that’s against their religious teachings violates their religious right.

David Gregory:
But the Blunt Amendment–

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
And I think that’s the governor’s–

David Gregory:
–says any employers, Senator, any employer–

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Well–

David Gregory:
–with a moral objection, religious or otherwise, didn’t have to provide access to contraception. So how is that consistent with him saying that every woman should have access?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Because obviously they have to have it well found (?), and it has to be a real objection. And certainly, if they were faking the objection, I think they would be pilloried in public coverage of it. The truth is the Catholic Church, for example, which is the impetus of this, it’s the folks that are leading the charge against this, has a well founded, long time and historical opposition to contraception. They teach that in the church. And the Obama ruling, the Obama administration’s ruling and mandates on this issue run counter to those religious rights, those religious protections, that are constitutional principles.

David Gregory:
On the question of abortion, true or untrue, Governor Romney has said that he would sign a bill that banned abortion, should that come to his desk.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
And I think what he’s saying, he’s laying out very clearly what his record is on and the exceptions that he supports. And there’s diversity on those in the Republican Party. But he has also clearly said he is pro-life. He’s never run away from his record as a pro-life candidate or a pro-life governor before that. But he is setting clear what he believes the exceptions are that he stands for.

David Gregory:
But that he would sign a bill, if it came to that, to ban abortion.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
He’s pro-life and he has talked about how he’s pro-life. He also believes in certain exceptions. That ad you have just played, what it does is it identifies those exceptions that he believes in.

David Gregory:
Let me talk more generally about how he relates to women, again, because this has become such an issue on the campaign trail as our piece at the very top set up. You know, when he talked about flexibility in schedules, he talked about the binders full of women that he received from some women’s groups when he was looking to fill his cabinet with posts when he was governor of Massachusetts. He talked about the importance of flexibility so that, you know, women could get home early to be with their kids and make dinner. And he’s gotten some criticism for that because it seems that there’s a narrow view of what women’s roles are, both at home and in the workplace.

Ruth Marcus with The Washington Post wrote this in her column on Friday, and I’d like your reaction to it. She writes: “Listen close to Romney, not just in the debate, but in his comments about women throughout the campaign. And you hear not only modern manager but ’50s dad. He speaks of the dignity of work when talking about welfare moms. But at heart, he seems convinced that children are better off when mothers stay at home.”

Look Senator, you’re 42. You’re of a different generation as a father and as a husband. Can you understand why some women have that reaction that he seems sort of out of touch with what modern women are going through?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Well first of all, let me correct you. I’m 41. I only feel 42.

David Gregory:
You know, I thought we were the same age.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
(LAUGHTER) Just a couple things I want to say about that. The number one issue in America, and especially for women, but for all Americans, is an economy that’s growing and creating opportunities. And that’s why, you just read a poll that the gender gap is narrowing. The reason is because Barack Obama’s not offering anything.

What’s he going to do over the next four years economically so that women that are graduating from the universities can find jobs in the professions that they’re studying for? That’s the number one issue in America. It’s the number two issue in America. It’s the overriding issue in America. And the president is failing to put forward what is his plan for the next four years.

David Gregory:
But you–

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
What’s his plan?

(OVERTALK)

David Gregory:
–has to do with, again, the perception–

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah, but–

David Gregory:
–real or not, about whether Mitt Romney gets it when it comes to–

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
But that is–

David Gregory:
–what women are dealing with in the workplace today and in their own choices that they face today.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
There are going to be columnists and folks on the left that don’t like Mitt Romney, do not support Mitt Romney. They’re going to come up with all sorts of interesting arguments between now and election day. I think that’s absurd. He has a record of placing highly qualified women, both in his administrations and his campaign and throughout his life.

In the debate, this is silly outrage. It’s not even real outrage. He was discussing a process that they went through to identify qualified women for important positions in his administration. I mean I think his record speaks for himself on that in terms of the way he’s behaved himself in both private life and in his campaign.

David Gregory:
Let me ask about another big issue in your state. You know it well. And that’s the issue of Medicare. What we do about the fact that Medicare is going broke and that something has to be done with health care costs that affect the Medicare program. There’s a Romney ad that features you. And this is a portion of it.

(Videotape)

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: My mother’s eighty-one and depends on Medicare. We can save Medicare without changing hers, but only if younger Americans accept that our Medicare will be different than our parents’, when we retire in thirty years. But after all they did for us, isn’t that the least we can do?

(End videotape)

David Gregory:
So what the Romney-Ryan Ticket wants to do is change Medicare by offering premium support or a voucher to seniors to be able to purchase health care in the private market, choices of health care plans under Medicare, including traditional Medicare. But you said, as a 41 year old, “30 years from now when we retire.” But that’s not accurate, Senator. Their plan would actually make these changes in ten years.

So if you’re a senior, if you’re 55 years old, you have to think about the impact of these policies. If they have the right idea, why not do it now? Why not put these changes in place and affect your mother’s Medicare right now?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Well first of all, because I think it’s doable without disrupting my mother’s Medicare and people in her generation. In the ad, I was describing the impact it would have on people like me, on my generation. And the truth is, our Medicare is going to look different. We’re going to have more choices. Ours is probably going to be adjusted for how wealthy we are when we retire. And wealthier people are going to get less of a premium support. We’re going to have more options. It’s still going to be the best plan in the world, it’s just going to be a little different than what our parents have.

David Gregory:
But if it was such a good idea, why not say to your mom, “Hey look–

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Well–

David Gregory:
–you– you’ve got to realize that this system’s going broke. You have to make the adjustment now, and it’s going to be great for you. You’re not going to have to pay anymore.” Or is there fear that doing that would actually make your mom pay more?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Because two things. Number one, if you’re 81 years old like my mom, you can’t afford, and you can’t sustain, the disruptiveness of an immediate change to her plan. Number one, they’ve paid into that plan all of these years. They’ve retired without promise. And at 81 years of age, you’re not in a position now to all of a sudden accept wholesale changes to the way the health care is delivered for you.

And that’s exactly, that kind of disruptive change, is what we’re trying to avoid. And the sooner we change, the sooner we go ahead and put some of these measures in place, the less likely it will be that anyone that’s a current beneficiary will have to be disrupted. And that’s why it’s so troubling that the president has failed to put forward any agenda for the next four years, including one that shows how you save Medicare. Where is the President’s plan to save Medicare? Isn’t now a pretty good time to offer it? I mean what is he waiting for?

David Gregory:
All right, we’re going to leave it there as the debate continues. Senator Rubio, thank you, as always.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:
Thank you.

David Gregory:
Now let’s turn to the senior adviser to President Obama’s re-election campaign, David Axelrod. David, welcome back.

David Axelrod:
Thanks, David, good to be with you.

David Gregory:
A lot to get to. And I’ll allow you to respond to Senator Rubio. I’m sure there’s multiple areas where you’d like to do that. I want to start with foreign policy. It’s the focus of this final big debate. And on the question of Iran, a New York Times story this morning, to repeat, saying that there is now the prospect of direct talks between the Obama administration and Iranian officials over their program. What’s not finalized, according to the White House is whether this is a final deal. But there is the potential there. You’re here this morning speaking for the president. Why does he think such direct contact may actually be critical at this juncture to avoiding potential military showdown with Iran?

David Axelrod:
Well, I don’t want to go too deeply into what may or may not happen, because the White House has said there is, as you say, no deal. And I don’t have any inside details of that, nor should I. But here’s what I do know. For two years, the president traveled the world, putting together a withering international coalition. And now the sanctions that they agreed on are bringing the Iranian economy to its knees. And there’s a tremendous disquiet in Iran. Their currency has dropped in value by 50%. Their oil business has dropped by 50%. There’s restiveness in their political environment there.

And they’re feeling the heat. And that’s what the sanctions were meant to do. So if they’re sensible, they’re looking at that and saying it’s time to set aside our nuclear ambitions and save our economy. And that’s what the President’s been working on. That’s a project he’s been working on for all these years. Remember, when we came to office, we were isolated on our position on Iran and in the world. And today, the world is unified against Iran with us, all because of the leadership of this president.

David Gregory:
Let me ask you about Libya. This will certainly come up again in their response to the killing of our ambassador, Chris Stevens, in the Benghazi consulate, as well as three other Americans, as part of that attack. The issue has been that there’s been inconsistency from the administration with regards to how they described this. The president did call it an act of terror the day afterward. But he also made reference in those very same remarks to the potential that this was a response to a video that was getting– anti-Islam video that was causing disruptions in Egypt, as well. This is how Paul Ryan, of course the running mate to Governor Romney, is describing the situation. He did it in a radio interview on Friday.

(Videotape)

REP. Paul Ryan: The problem is their story continues to shift; you know, they refuse to answer the basic questions about what happened. You know, and so his response, has been inconsistent, it’s been misleading and more than a month later we still have more questions than answers.

The Benghazi thing would be a tragedy in and of itself if it was an isolated incident, the problem is it’s not simply an isolated incident but a picture of a broader story of the absolute unraveling of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

(End videotape)

David Gregory:
And David, as you know, the argument is that this central claim of the administration to have dealt a withering blow to al-Qaeda, including killing Osama bin Laden, is undermined by an attack like this and further chaos in the Middle East. How do you respond?

David Axelrod:
Well, I think that’s nonsense. Obviously, this was a tragic event. And the president did call it an act of terror not just once but several times, and asked for and ordered an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened, and to bring those who committed this act of terror to justice. And that’s what he’s going to do.

There’s only one candidate here who’s tried to exploit it from the beginning, even while the flames were burning in Benghazi, Mitt Romney was sending out political press releases on this. And the whole Republican Party has followed. And on Friday, Chairman Issa in the House, on the Republican side, released a ream of documents that he asked for, that included the names of people on the ground in Libya who are cooperating with us and helping us on these security issues, jeopardizing their lives, carelessly, recklessly putting them at risk, all to score political points in the final weeks before an election.

That’s disgraceful. The way they’ve handled this issue is disgraceful. And to hear Paul Ryan make the place who is budget committee chair, wanted to cut back on our requests for security funding for these embassies and consulates makes it even worse.

David Gregory:
But this wouldn’t be an issue, would it, if the administration had a consistent response to what occurred there?

David Axelrod:
David, there’s investigation ongoing with the intelligence community. The F.B.I.’s on the ground. And we have reported, the administration has reported, everything that we’ve been told. And we’ve shared it in real time. The fact is, it’s a complicated situation. We’re thoroughly looking at what happened there and reporting to the American people on it.

There’s been no inconsistency. There’s merely been reports on the data and the intelligence that we’ve been given. And the intelligence community has been clear on this, that they have been doing the best they can, giving us the intelligence they have. We’ve been sharing that intelligence. And we’ll continue to do so.

David Gregory:
Generally, the attack that has come on this president from his opposition, from Governor Romney and from Paul Ryan, and you heard it from Senator Rubio, a lack of a second term agenda. Is it fair, that criticism? Has the president spent more time trying to disqualify Romney as an alternative than affirmatively saying what a second term would actually look like?

David Axelrod:
You know, I heard Senator Rubio say what the President’s saying around the country. I’ve never seen Senator Rubio at one of the President’s events. But if he did come to one of the President’s events, what he’d hear is the president making the case for how we build an education system second to none, so we have the best trained workers in the world, how we get control of our energy future, not just by drilling for oil and gas, but by commanding the new sources of energy that China and India and Germany and other countries are working on, how we rebuild manufacturing in this country, not by giving tax breaks to companies that move overseas, but by giving tax breaks to the companies that are starting up here.

And how we deal with our deficits in a balanced way, so that we are cutting back where we have to, asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more, something Governor Romney refuses to do. And investing in those things we need to grow this economy. We have a very specific agenda moving forward.

On the other hand, what you hear from Governor Romney are a lot of chapter heads with no chapters, and a plan to spend $7 trillion more on tax cuts and more money for the Pentagon that they’re not even asking for, with no plan to pay for it. So if there’s anyone who’s running without a real plan here, it’s Governor Romney.

David Gregory:
Let me ask you about this–

(OVERTALK)

David Axelrod:
–he has one– to the extent he has one, David, it’s going back to the same policies we had under the last administration, tax cuts for the wealthy, rolling back rules on Wall Street, and hoping that somehow, if the folks at the top do well, that the rest of the country’ll do well. We tried it. It doesn’t work. We can’t go back to that.

David Gregory:
Finally, the state of the race at this point. First, well, beyond the debate expectations nonsense, what are the stakes, though, in this final debate, of a serious conversation about differences about foreign policy? Preview that for me.

David Axelrod:
Well, I think it’s going to be an important debate. I don’t think any one event is decisive. But this is an important issue. Even though being strong at home and rebuilding our economy is the number one issue, people want to know that they have a strong, steady hand in the Oval Office. And they don’t want someone who’s reckless and who’s been consistently wrong on foreign policy issues, as Governor Romney has.

We all remember his Dukes of Hazard tour of international destinations of the summer where he not only roiled countries that are not as friendly to us, but our best ally, Britain. He was wrong on Libya. He was wrong on Iraq. So, you know, people are going to have a chance to take a measure of these two guys and say, “Who do I want as the commander-in-chief? Who do I want leading the war on terror?” And I think we’re going to– I think that’s a very stark contrast.

David Gregory:
Finally, state of the race now, as you handicap the final weeks. You heard Chuck Todd with our new numbers: 47-47.

David Axelrod:
Yes.

David Gregory:
He said 47 for the president is not a good number for an incumbent. If it was the Sunday before election day, you’d be very worried. How concerned are you about that right now, including the fact that, in total, Romney seems to have an edge in the battleground states?

David Axelrod:
Well first of all, David, I would say on this battleground state issue, you guys also issued polls in the last week that showed us with an eight point lead in Iowa. I think we had a lead I Ohio. You’ve showed us having the lead in Florida. So I don’t know how to square all the polling that NBC is releasing.

But I do think that this is going to be a very close race. And we’ve said that consistently. I think if you look back at your tape, every time I’ve visited with you, I’ve predicted that this will be a close race. But we feel good about where we are. We feel we’re even or ahead in these battleground states.

And if you look at the early voting that’s going on around the country, it’s very robust. And it’s very favorable to us. And we think that’s a better indicator than these public polls, which are, frankly, all over the map.

David Gregory:
All right, we’re going to leave it there. David Axelrod, thanks very much.

David Axelrod:
Good to be with you. Thank you.

(LEAD-IN AND COMMERCIAL OMITTED)

David Gregory:
Welcome to all of you. Let’s talk Libya, Tom Friedman. What are we to make of all of this? Could this be politicized any further?

TOM FRIEDMAN:
Well, it’s obviously been totally politicized at this point. You know David, you were talking earlier, I lived in a civil war in Beirut for over four years. These are incredibly messy situations. People don’t show up with uniforms. David Gregory, al-Qaeda, Mike Murphy, Ansar al-Islam, you know? (LAUGHTER)

(OVERTALK)

TOM FRIEDMAN:
You can have a flash mob turn into a planned thing. You’re going to plant people inside of a flash mob. To me, this is an utterly contrived story in the sensed that this is the end of Obama’s foreign policy. I think we’re missing two things. One is the global picture. What’s going on in the Arab world since the Arab Spring?

We’ve seen the breakdown of what’s called the Mahabharata state. “Mahabharata” is “intelligence service” in Arabic. And we’ve seen this, all these states have collared all these, you know, Islamists and Jihadist, for us, in many cases. Those states have broken down. But a new order hasn’t arisen. And that’s what you saw in Benghazi.

But here’s what’s also new. And we’ve completely missed this story, and it’s a great thing for America. Let’s forget which candidate it might serve. What happened immediately a day and a half after this incident in Libya? Thousands of Libyans, carrying pictures of our ambassador, voluntarily marched on the militia headquarters that did this and took these guys down.

That is one of the greatest successes for the United States possible. We didn’t have to do it. They did it on their own. And the fact that we’re not talking about that, that we’re talking about how many times you used the word “terrorism” and did you scratch your ear like– it’s nonsense.

David Gregory:
But what seems to me to be an important policy question, Dee Dee Myers, we do know that this administration has asserted that it has done grave damage to al-Qaeda. And the ultimate, of course, is killing Osama bin Laden. But here you have chaotic situations, including in Libya, where there were questions about whether there was adequate security for a diplomatic institution outpost like this.

Also, the issue of what’s happened since. The fact that the F.B.I. couldn’t get in there even to investigate because of security. And this from Steven Hayes of The Weekly Standard, which I think we should talk about. He writes in the magazine, “The man suspected of organizing the attack on the U.S. consulate, Ahmed Abu-Kattala, spent two leisurely hours sipping a strawberry frappe on a patio with a reporter from The New York Times and boasting that he wasn’t even questioned by investigators from the governments of Libya and the United States.”

We commend Times reporter David Kirkpatrick for getting the interview. But it raises an obvious question: Why is it that, more than a month after the attack, a New York Times reporter can spend two leisurely hours with the alleged mastermind, yet, no agent of the U.S. government has ever approached him?

DEE DEE MYERS:
Well, your first question was about al-Qaeda more broadly. By the way, President Obama still did take out Osama bin Laden. And there’s no question about that. And the leadership of al-Qaeda, in many ways, has been decimated, has been severely beat back. That doesn’t mean that al-Qaeda’s disappeared from the world. And the administration’s never claimed such a thing. There’s no question that progress has been made.

As for Libya, I think Tom described it the best of all. It’s complete chaos on the ground. And for every report about one group participating, there’s another report about that it wasn’t organized, it was a terrorist group, but not necessarily linked to al-Qaeda. There is so much confusing information.

And the reason that the administration’s story has evolved over time is that– the intelligence has evolved. And we keep worrying that, in fact, it was the intelligence community that told the administration that they thought that it was an al-Qaeda link in the beginning. And now we’ve seen that continue to play out.

David Gregory:
To that point, Peter King of Homeland Security Committee, has released a letter, and I’ll put it on the screen here. This is what it says: “Chairman King calls up President Obama to release intelligence community reporting that led to the administration’s changing characterizations of the Benghazi attack.” So Mike Murphy, we now have the intelligence community putting out basically everything it knew at the time, as well. So what have we learned? What’s the (INAUDIBLE)?

MIKE MURPHY:
Well, what we learned, one, is the world is very sloppy, as Tom says. Second, presidential campaign season is the worst time to get into serious foreign policy, because all the incentives are politics and hot language. And third, I think it was kind of a train wreck on all sides.

I’m a Romney guy, but they put out a dumb press release too early. And that was a bad idea. Then the administration’s been wiggling all over the place with different stories. There’s finger pointing. Now the permanent institution, the intelligence community, has kind of taken their shot. The whole thing has been, I’d say, kind of a middle level train wreck. And I don’t think it’s going to really change the outcome of the election. But it takes The Edge off all these bragging points the President’s had on foreign policy.

David Gregory:
Well, that’s–

(OVERTALK)

MIKE MURPHY:
–looks like there’s new confidence to it.

David Gregory:
But Helene, that’s a question that I have, which is if I’m watching all of this, and maybe I’m an undecided voter, we want to find who these people are. But if I’m out there, what’s the bigger point about all of this that I should be giving some serious attention to, if at all?

HELENE COOPER:
I think that’s a really good question. I wonder whether a lot of these undecided voters are actually, if they do exist, are actually thinking that. I think, as an American, you have to look at– the question of embassy security is one that definitely should be looked at. The administration has to study that.

But the larger issue is the issue of the Arab Spring and what’s happening in this key area, key region for American foreign policy. And that’s where you’re seeing, in Libya, in Egypt, in all, in Yemen, and all over this region, you have new governments in place. You have democracy for the first time with all of the mess that comes with it.

And I think Americans need to be– I think Tom’s point is excellent about the responsibility in people. I think in the Egypt case, that you didn’t see quite the same response. And I think that’s very worrying for the United States and for the administration. But I think the far larger point is that we’re, right now, in the middle of– the region is in the middle of such turmoil.

And we don’t seem to be addressing it in any meaningful way. Instead, we’re like talking about, you know, the death of four Americans, which is why, while incredibly tragic, is something that I think is peripheral to what’s going on right now.

TOM FRIEDMAN:
Well, let’s go to 30,000 feet for a second. Because that’s the context, or it should be the context, for this presidential debate on foreign policy. We’re in the middle of the breakup of two giant state systems. We’re seeing the failure of the European super state in the crackup of the Euro Zone, and we’re seeing the failure of the Arab Nation State in the Arab world. And it’s all happening at a time when the world has never been more interdependent.

So we’ve got all these states now around the world, in the Middle East, in particular, as Helene said, that are too dangerous to ignore, but too expensive to fix. And that, whoever is the next president, is going to have to wind their way through that reality. You can’t ignore them, but we cannot fix them the way we did the old way. We need to think of new ways.

David Gregory:
What is our role now, Mike? That’s the big question.

(OVERTALK)

MIKE MURPHY:
And that’s what (UNINTEL) Libya at the debate. And I think the smarter candidate will go bigger. What’s the specific strategy? What’s the plan to not lose Egypt, which is the real headline, I think, out of what happened in the Benghazi event. You know, what’s the Chinese strategy beyond economics? I mean there are huge questions here. And if they spend the time quibbling over clocks and quibbling over small tactical things, it’s some missed opportunity.

David Gregory:
They won’t be quibbling over Iran, though. And Helene, I want to come back to you on this, because this is critical, which is do you give diplomacy a chance? Your reporting, if I’m summing it up accurately, is that the White House is now prepared to meet, one on one, in effect, direct talks with the Iranians about suspending their program. Tell us more about this, and this could both be a huge topic, but also, really matter if it happens.

HELENE COOPER:
Oh, it absolutely matters. Because if there’s one place where, you know, you’re thinking about where is the next place that Americans could end up sending troops, that’s, you know, where American troops could get involved. This is ground zero. My colleague at The New York Times, Mark Lander and I, have been working on this story for several weeks. And we’ve been chasing it ever since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sort of hinted at this when he was in New York at the end of September. And he came to the meeting with journalists, started talking about how Iran is interested in getting into talks with the United States after the elections.

This is something that the Obama administration has been pursuing for several years now. And they’ve been open to it. Iran has been not so sure. They flip flopped. You had a lot of internal political maneuverings going on inside Tehran. But the sanctions that have gone in effect, particularly the European oil embargo, and that went into effect in June, the Iranians really thought they were going to be able to figure out a way to forestall that.

But they couldn’t. And so the Iranian economy has really been hurt. And so nobody really has rose colored glasses, thinking that, you know, Americans and Iranians are going to sit down at a table, you know, one on one, and figure this out. But the belief is that you cannot make any sort of case for going to war if you haven’t exhausted all diplomatic options.

David Gregory:
Tom, how significant–

(OVERTALK)

TOM FRIEDMAN:
Foreign policy is about leverage, David.

David Gregory:
Yeah.

TOM FRIEDMAN:
It’s about, you know, who’s got the leverage. And one thing United States has successfully done our European allies in recent months, with these economic sanctions, when you cut someone’s currency in half, that’s leverage.

MIKE MURPHY:
And by the way, that’s Mitt Romney academy there. I mean this thing politically could be interesting. Who would the American people elect as the toughest guy to put the squeeze on somebody? It might be the guy from Bain Capital.

David Gregory:
All right, I want to get to Dee Dee’s point in just a minute. I want to turn, though, for a moment, while we have him, to Mitt Romney’s sparring partner to prepare for the debates. He’s Ohio Senator Rob Portman. You’re so many things. But at the moment, you’re best known for being the prize sparring partner, Senator. Always good to have you on the program. I’d like to have you comment on what we’ve been–

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN:
Thanks, David.

David Gregory:
–discussing here, which is this Iran story. This is going to be a big topic. And I guess my big question is where, beyond the rhetoric, does President Obama, do President Obama and Governor Romney differ on the path forward to Iran?

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN:
Well first, I don’t know if it will be a big story, because both the White House and the Iranians have said it’s not true. It sounds to me, actually, from what Helene just said, that it’s another example of a national security leak from the White House. You know, and they’ve done a lot of that.

But look, I think what you’re going to see is Governor Romney lay out a clear vision for how to get Iran to do the right thing, which is to stop its progress toward a nuclear weapon. We’re four years closer to it. What the president has tried has not worked. It’s true that we’ve started to put sanctions in place. But David, as you know, that’s because Congress pressured the president to do it. Other countries pressured us to do it. France was ahead of us on this.

The other thing that gets interesting about this story, if it’s accurate, is that it sounds like the U.S. is taking a position that we’re likely to jettison our allies. And as you know, there are talks going on right now, the P5 plus one talks. The last thing we would want to do is to abandon our allies in this and to make it a one on one negotiation. In fact, some of those allies, as I said earlier, have actually been more forward-leaning than we’ve been, to be sure these sanctions were tough and put in place.

David Gregory:
Let’s talk about Ohio, the state you represent. It seems to be kind of a firewall right now for the president. If they can hold Ohio, as you well know, it becomes very difficult for Governor Romney, electorally, in the electoral college, to get to 270. Here are some key stats here that we’ve put together. Of course, electoral votes are 18. No candidate since JFK has won the White House without Ohio.

You know that early voting started October second. The ad spending is staggering, $166 million. I was there this week. And you can’t miss the ads, that’s for sure. The president has an edge. An uphill climb at this juncture for Governor Romney in your state?

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN:
Well, I like what I see, David. Because the trend is in our direction. And as you know, I’ve been all over the state in the last couple weeks. I’ve spoken at six rallies, I think, and been to a lot of the victory call centers. And the enthusiasm energy is on our side this year. I mean it’s not like 2008 at all.

We’ve made three times more phone calls than all of 2008 with our volunteers, 25 more door knocks than all of 2008. So something’s different on the ground. And if you look at the polling, it’s trending our way. So that where you want to be at this point in the campaign.

David Gregory:
I want to ask you about the economy. And a key moment from the debate that has to do with Governor Romney’s tax and spend plan, his budget, his effort to reach a balanced budget, this is how the president went after it on Tuesday. Let me play a portion of it.

(Videotape)

President Obama: Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t take such a sketchy deal and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up.
(End videotape)

David Gregory:
Now here’s the thing, I know the Romney campaign has six studies that say it does add up. But we don’t know exactly how. I’ve talked to Erskine Bowles and Senator Simpson, of the Simpson Bowles Commission, and they say it simply doesn’t work. That either the middle class will have to pay more in taxes, or you have to blow up the deficit. What can you say specifically that has undecided voters out there getting some clarity about why the math works, aside from asserting that it does work?

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN:
Well David, two points. One, it does work. You mentioned a half dozen studies. The president is talking about a study that is not the Romney plan. That’s what’s been great about these debates. And this is why they’ve helped Mitt Romney in Ohio and around the country, is that Mitt Romney’s been able to tell people who he is and what his policies are, rather than relying on these 30 second attack ads by the Democrats that, as you said, have been running hot and heavy in Ohio, mischaracterizing who he is, misrepresenting his policies.

So the policy does work. It does fit together. And it’s because it’s tax reform, it’s not just tax cuts. And it does, you know, require looking at some of these deductions, credits, and exemptions, and so on. So it does work. It does fit together. So that’s what these debates have been fantastic for in terms of Governor Romney.

Now second is Governor Romney has a plan. (CHUCKLE) And that’s one thing that you’ve heard from a lot of folks already this morning on this show, is that the President’s out there attacking the plan. Now he’s mischaracterizing it. But at least Governor Romney’s got a vision for the future. And he’s got the plan to put America back to work.

That’s not what you hear from President Obama. He’s talking about four more years of the last four years. And if you’re an undecided voter in Ohio today, that’s not what you want to hear. You know things are not going well. You know you want a change. Governor Romney’s laid out a change. And in these debates, he’s been able to talk about what he’s actually for and how it works.

David Gregory:
All right, we’re going to leave it there. Senator Portman, thank you very much. We’ll be watching tomorrow night.

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN:
Thanks, David. Thanks for having me on again.

(LEAD-IN AND COMMERCIAL OMITTED)

David Gregory:
We’re back with our roundtable. Here is a picture on Tumblr, actually. What is that? Of course, that is binders full of women, which refers, of course, to Mitt Romney’s reference to that. Dee Dee Myers, the debate after that about understanding women’s choices today, the pressures they face about access to contraception, about abortion, all of this seems to be an intense play right now as the administration, the president, wants to drive up that wedge and get women to vote for him. What did you make of all that?

DEE DEE MYERS:
Well first of all, I think that the way that binders of women blew up was indicative that women don’t trust something about Romney and his position on women. First of all, it’s why does he need binders of women? He’s been out 25 years in the private sector as a governor, I mean as a candidate for governor, before that, as a businessman, before that, during that time, at the Salt Lake City Olympics. Why didn’t he come with a network of women, right? So he didn’t have any relationships with women, which makes women suspicious.

Then, it came out that he made up his role in that, which, you know, took credit for something that 25 groups of women had done in Massachusetts in order to make sure that more women got into government. And then his positions more broadly. Right, he says he is against abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother, except he would support Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe. He supporting the personhood amendment, which would make abortion illegal under any circumstances, and outlaw many forms of birth control, even though he says he supports access to contraception for all women.

He’s been all over the map on every issue that’s important to women in this election. He doesn’t have a plan to help narrow the pay gap, which is really important to women. You know, women care about the economy. But in a recent poll, 39% of women said abortion was the most important issue, jobs were the second, and third was access to equality in the workforce and equal pay.

David Gregory:
But the gender gap is closing–

MIKE MURPHY:
Yeah, I was going to say, we–

David Gregory:
–among women, Mike.

MIKE MURPHY:
We talked to 65 million American women today, via that poll. And the gender gap is definitely closing. So the women of America are coming up with another definition. One, it’s always amazed me how the media assumes there’s no such thing in the world as a pro-life woman. (CHUCKLE) They’re the most unrepresented, you know, group in the world. We never talk about them. They’re very comfortable with Romney. And a lot of pro-choice women are because they know his priority is going to be the economy.

You know, I listen to this. And this is the Democrat line. But I close my eyes, because I worked for Romney when he was governor. And I imagine all the women I knew then who ran the place throwing stuff at the T.V.. I think it’s ludicrous people vilifying Romney for being a leader among all governors in appointing– I can’t even remember any of the men who worked there, frankly, when I think back to it’s ten years ago, I’m getting old.

But I think it’s what I call a shiny object attack. It’s the whole problem with the Obama campaign. Push it into small, divisive things to make up for the lack of any–
(OVERTALK)

David Gregory:
But Helene, one of the things, and I talked about it with my wife, and talked about it with some of my, you know, colleagues here at work. The example he cites about more flexibility for women had to do so women could get home at 5:00, be with–

(OVERTALK)

David Gregory:
–their kids, and cook dinner. Now look, there’s a lot of families who do make that choice. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. My understanding from my wife about feminism is respecting the choice. And yet, he talked about it in such a way that earned him that criticism, “Well, he’s just a little out of touch that he doesn’t understand what’s happening today.”

HELENE COOPER:
He really comes across that way. And I bet your wife wishes you cook dinner sometimes, David.

(OVERTALK)

David Gregory:
Yeah, I bet. (LAUGHTER)

HELENE COOPER:
Maybe not. But that’s a different story. I think he has the tendency when he talks about women to sound– maybe he’s been watching Mad Men. But he does sound very 1950s. The whole idea of, you know, women rushing home to cook dinner is something that just didn’t– I don’t think that sounded quite the way he would want to appear.

Because that’s a battle, I think, that women feel that they’ve fought years ago. Women have gone so far– become so far now, that the idea, that the whole idea of women, you know, should be able to go into the workplace and should be able to leave at a certain time. So for women to be litigating that now just seems like he– it makes him seem as if he’s out of touch.

David Gregory:
Are we focused, Tom, too narrowly on some of these wedge issues, and not getting the argument that Romney makes, which is, you know, ultimately women and men are going to be driven by the state of our economy and what opportunity they have?

TOM FRIEDMAN:
David, I felt from the very beginning the most dangerous thing for Barack Obama is this attitude. Barack Obama, nice guy, so glad we elected our first African-American. He really tried hard, but I just want to try something new. I think that’s always been the most dangerous thing for him.

And what Romney has done in the two debates is hit that button directly. And I think what Obama has to do in the last debate is really come out with some real energy, excitement, and imagination about why he is going to create more jobs in the next four years. And I would just take every issue on foreign policy back to this fact: We can only be strong in the world, we can only have leverage in the world, if we are strong and resilient at home. And if I’m Obama, my message is going to be, “All these plans, Race to the Top, innovation, entrepreneurship, that are going to make us strong at home so we can be strong abroad.”

David Gregory:
Beyond the women’s vote, Mike, take a minute, talk about state of the race, strategies on both sides.

MIKE MURPHY:
Sure.

David Gregory:
What is this going to come down to? And what do you make of 47-47–

(OVERTALK)

David Gregory:
–dangerous number.

MIKE MURPHY:
–absolutely real. I think it’s moving toward Romney right now. The debate’s very good. Romney ought to use it as a (UNINTEL) motive offensive to get people comfortable with him. Because they’re starting to come around to the fact he might be president and he’s got to close that final point.

It’s Ohio. Ohio is closer. The firewall is on fire. If you look at the demographics of Ohio, of Romney could perform as well with white voters there as he is in states like Virginia and Florida, there’s room for him to grow. So this firewall stuff, it’s a picket fence. It’s not a firewall. Race is closing fast.

DEE DEE MYERS:
But yeah, I–

David Gregory:
(UNINTEL) what’s the key?

DEE DEE MYERS:
I think Ohio is the key, although there are paths to 270 for President Obama that don’t include Ohio. But unemployment went down again in Ohio. It’s 7%. It’s the lowest it’s been in more than four years. And I think this is the race the Obama campaign always expected to run, a razor’s edge. That’s why they invested so much in their geo-T.V. operation around the country. And we’re seeing the first proof of that.

David Gregory:
Get out the vote.

DEE DEE MYERS:
Yeah, the “get out the vote” operation. Early–

David Gregory:
You watched The Insider.

DEE DEE MYERS:
I know. (CHUCKLE) It’s hysterical.

MIKE MURPHY:
In Ohio, they traditionally win the early vote.

DEE DEE MYERS:
Yes.

David Gregory:
Yeah.

(OVERTALK)

DEE DEE MYERS:
You win it, and you win it by a lot, and that gives you a firewall on election day.

(OVERTALK)

DEE DEE MYERS:
When you don’t necessarily win the vote. But all those– everything we’ve seen, every measurable metric so far, shows that the Obama campaign on the ground is as good, and as innovative, and as strong as they said it was.

David Gregory:
I’ve got 30 seconds for each of you. What would your topic area be for a question tomorrow night in this foreign policy debate?

HELENE COOPER:
For Mitt Romney, I’d ask him about his pledge to declare China a currency manipulator on day one. Why does he think this is a good idea, given that this could lead to a trade war?

David Gregory:
Okay.

HELENE COOPER:
For President Obama, I would ask him, he criticized Mitt Romney for saying that the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks should be the “kick the can down the road.” I would ask President Obama whether he has not just done exactly that for the last two years.

David Gregory:
Really quick, you would ask about carbon tax.

TOM FRIEDMAN:
Would you support a carbon tax that will help us be less dependent on foreign oil–

David Gregory:
Yeah.

TOM FRIEDMAN:
–strengthen innovation at home and combat climate change?

David Gregory:
All right. We’re going to be watching.

TOM FRIEDMAN:
And pay down the deficit.

David Gregory:
Right, all right.

TOM FRIEDMAN:
Even most important.

David Gregory:
Thank you all very much. I want to end on this. Early this morning, news came that long-time South Dakota Senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern died after a long illness. He was, of course, a champion for liberal causes, an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam.

He appeared on Meet the Press nine times over the course of his career, including the day after he announced his candidacy for his first bid for president in 1968.

(Videotape)

George McGovern: My judgment is that the Democratic Party does not draw its strength now, nor has it ever drawn its strength from trying to paper over honest differences that exist. There are differences among Democrats. There are differences in the country over how we ought to approach our problems in our own society and over how best either to conduct or end this war. My candidacy doesn’t introduce those differences. The differences are there, and the great strength of the Democratic Party comes from the fact that we have been willing to face up to those differences, to lay them out on the table to thrash them out among ourselves.

(End videotape)

David Gregory:
According to a statement released this morning, McGovern passed away peacefully this morning in South Dakota, surrounded by his family. He was 90 years old. Our thoughts and prayers with his family, of course. Thank you all very much for your discussion this morning.


BLOGS
BWW TV World's New Show: BUT, WAIT! WHAT? Fall TV Preview Edition w/ THE RESIDUALSBWW TV World's New Show: BUT, WAIT! WHAT? Fall TV Preview Edition w/ THE RESIDUALS

Become a Fan, Follower & Subscriber