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updated 10/30/2006 9:42:17 AM ET 2006-10-30T14:42:17

MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Only nine days until the midterm elections. The Democrats must gain six seats to take control of the U.S. Senate. This morning, our Senate Debate Series 2006 concludes with another one of the most closely watched races of the year: Maryland, where Democratic Representative Ben Cardin faces off against Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele for this open seat. A new Washington Post poll out this morning shows Cardin with the lead. Democrat Ben Cardin vs. Republican Michael Steele, only on “Meet the Press.”

But first, it’s usually all eyes on Florida or Ohio, but this morning, it is Maryland. Democratic Congressman Ben Cardin, Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, welcome both.

LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE (R-MD): Good to be here, Tim.

REP. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Thank you. Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: Voters in Maryland, all across the country, say the big issue for them this year is Iraq.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Steele, let me start with you. I’ve been reading everything you’ve been saying about the issue. Back in July you said, “So for me, staying the course, yes.”

LT. GOV. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: Two weeks later you said to a group of reporters, “It didn’t work. ... We didn’t prepare for the peace. ... Let’s call it what it is. We thought this was going to be a different kind of engagement.”

And then two weeks after that: “Asked if [he] agreed with the Bush administration’s management of the war in Iraq ... Mr. Steele replied ... ‘By and large, absolutely, yeah.’ Has the Iraq war been successful?

Mr. Steele argues it has.” And then, now this, just about 10 days ago. “The situation is not going well on the ground. ... We are getting deeper and deeper into a mess.”

LT. GOV. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: Where are you on Iraq? Do you believe the war in Iraq has been worth the cost in lives and money?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I think the war in Iraq right now stands with a mess that we need to fix, absolutely. We are at a point right now where there is no clear strategy or clear direction on the ground. You hear it — you hear it from the generals, you hear it from the personnel on the ground, and I think that the focus has to be, going forward, is what, what is the strategy? And for me, it’s very straightforward: Put in place the benchmarks, put the pressure on the Iraqi government to lay out very clearly and very forcefully that they’re committed to the, the democracy and, and the pursuit of, of, of that democracy that they voted for three times.

So this has been an evolutionary process. I mean — and you can see it in the polls, you can see it in the way this, this war has tracked itself. But here we are at this moment, we’re looking at a situation where there’s not a great deal of confidence on the ground that we can get this done. The administration has to step up with the pressure where I believe it belongs — that’s on the Iraqi government — to decide once and for all whether they’re going to go forward with this and pursue it themselves so our footprint can lessen, or, like Senator Warner says, we have to get to the point where we say, “Look, this is not — if this is not what you want to do, we’re not going to commit one more soldier to a cause you don’t believe in.”

MR. RUSSERT: You said it’s a mess. Did the Bush administration help create this mess?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I think that the Defense Department did not give the president the kind of strategy that he needed to prosecute this war. From the beginning we didn’t have enough troops on the ground, from the beginning there was no clear decision to, to win the peace here. We are right now, Tim, in a situation where we’re putting up conventional forces against a counterinsurgency, and that, in — just, in strategic terms, is a mismatch. So we need to step back and evaluate and make it very clear, what is the strategy going to be on the ground? That’s what frustrates the American people right now. They don’t have a clear sense of that, and we’re looking now to Iraq to say, “Help us finish this. It is on you. You voted for this, you wanted this, we’re here to bear with you, so that now we can begin to move back as you begin to move forward.”

MR. RUSSERT: Should Secretary Rumsfeld resign?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, let’s put it this way: He wouldn’t be my secretary of defense. And ultimately, that’s going to be a decision that the president of the United States makes.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe the war has been worth the price we’ve paid in lives and costs?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I think the war has been worth it to the extent that what we’re trying to establish there is a beachhead of democracy. We want — when we walk out of Iraq, when we — when the last soldier leaves — and this is the question everyone needs to ask themselves — what do we want? Do we want an Iraq that’s an ally of the United States, or do we want an Iraq that is an enemy of the United States? And I think we want an — want an ally, so it’s been worth it to us to establish this beachhead of democracy and, and an allow — ally in an area where we’ve had some trouble in the past.

MR. RUSSERT: Knowing what you know today, that Saddam Hussein did not have the stockpile of weapons of mass destruction we had been told, would you still vote to authorize the war?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, that, you know — that’s “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” that’s kind of past. In my view, that’s looking backwards. I wasn’t a member of Congress, I didn’t have access to the intelligence on all the information that the congressman have and so many others who voted to go into war.

MR. RUSSERT: But you said you would have voted for it.

LT. GOV. STEELE: But I — given what I knew, given what I knew what was supposed to be on the outside...

MR. RUSSERT: But what you — but what you know today, would you vote for it?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I think — I would think we’d still prosecute the war. And, and — but what I would do, if we’re going to do it, let’s make sure we have the right complement of personnel on the ground and that we are looking forward in this and not looking backwards. And that’s where I am right now: What are we going to do, what is our strategy to begin to move our soldiers home and have Iraqi government and leadership move forward and keeping what they want in Iraq?

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Cardin, in June you said this, you “called on the Bush administration to immediately begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and adopt a plan to pull American combat forces out of the country by the end of 2007.” What if Iraq is still not secure at the end of 2007? Still pull our troops out?

REP. CARDIN: Well, Iraq’s in the middle of a civil war. We need to combine withdrawing our troops with also a political and diplomatic solution. We need to engage the international community and recognize that there’s a civil war going on in Iraq. It’s not in our interests to continue the current policy. Mr. Steele and I have a fundamental disagreement here; I find it still somewhat surprising after everything we know today, Mr. Steele believes we should have pursued this war. I voted against it four years ago and I’ve been an outspoken critic of this war. Mr. Steele has, has presented no plan, I have a plan to change the direction in Iraq. Mr. Steele has on his Web site, buried somewhere in there, a 168-word statement on Iraq. He’s had no speeches or town hall meetings on Iraq, I’ve had both. I’ve been to Iraq. I have a plan that will at least change the direction in Iraq. We need to have a plan brought forward by this administration that starts bringing our troops home and energizes the international community so that we can have a diplomatic and political solution in Iraq.

LT. GOV. STEELE: (Unintelligible)...

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask my question again. If, in fact, there was chaos on the ground at the end of 2007, would you still bring all troops home?

REP. CARDIN: I don’t believe in a time schedule. I’ve said that before. And also, I, I...

MR. RUSSERT: No, but you, you called for all troops out by the end of ‘07.

REP. CARDIN: No, what I said was it’s reasonable to expect that if we start redeploying our troops, start bringing our troops home, start engaging the international community, start with a diplomatic and political solution — this is last June — that it’s reasonable to expect that our combat troops could be out by the end of 2007. I stand by that. The tragedy today is we know that the current plans are not working. As long as America gives the impression that we’re going to be an occupation force in Iraq, we’re not going to have a successful program. The Bush administration’s own advisers are telling us the current strategy won’t work.

MR. RUSSERT: But in — you had a chance in ‘05 in July to vote for a resolution offered by the Republicans, and I’ll show it to you. “Iraq commitment: ... [House] members on July 20 [2005] approved a GOP-sponsored amendment declaring that the United States should withdraw its force from Iraq only when it is clear ‘national security and foreign policy goals relating to a free and stable Iraq have been or are about to be achieved.’ Voting yes: ... Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD).” You now say pull the troops out in ‘07 whether there’s a stable Iraq or not.

REP. CARDIN: No, what I said was we need to start bringing our troops home, yes. I think as long as we continue this same policy, as long as the president doesn’t present a plan that will start to bring our troops home, and as long as we don’t engage the international community, we are going to continue to go down a path that’s going to cause chaos in Iraq. The reports have shown that more terrorists are being encouraged by our policies, that we — the current program shows that we’re not going to be successful. We need a new plan in Iraq. Yes, part of it must be to start bringing our troops home; do we — should we have a time schedule? No. We need to start, but we also at the same time, need to engage the international community for a political solution. This is a civil war, this is not a war on terror in Iraq today, it’s a civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites. And we need to engage it as a civil war.

LT. GOV. STEELE: But...

MR. RUSSERT: One second, Mr. Steele, then I’m going to — I’ll let you ask a question as well, and we’ll go back and forth here. But I want to follow up one last time with Mr. Cardin.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: From the Baltimore Sun, “‘What I hope would happen is that the leadership of Congress will work on a constructive course in Iraq, recognizing that public opinion is on the side of change,’ said Cardin. ... If that does not work, however, Cardin said he’d be willing to vote to cut off funding for the war. ‘If Democrats could present it in the right way, I would clearly support it.’” You would vote to cut off funding for our troops while the war’s going on?

REP. CARDIN: No. I will never support turning our backs on our troops. And I’ve supported the appropriation bills, in order to make it clear that our troops who are in harm’s way have everything they need to be safe. What, what I think Congress needs to do is consider all options. And Congress needs to use every option they can, so the president presents, presents a plan. My objective is to get a plan from this administration that has its — gives us the best chance to achieve U.S. objectives.

MR. RUSSERT: But do you stand by your comment, you would consider cutting off funding?

REP. CARDIN: There’s a lot of different options that Congress can consider, including contingencies of funds. There’s options that we can consider. And if the Democrats get back control of the United States Senate, then the amendments can be presented in a way that could be constructive in getting the president to submit a new plan.

MR. RUSSERT: But you would consider cutter off — cutting off funding for the war.

REP. CARDIN: I would consider using the appropriation process, I will not support putting our troops at risk.

LT. GOV. STEELE: I, I, I’m sorry.

MR. RUSSERT: I will allow, I will allow each of you to talk about the war.

LT. GOV. STEELE: That is absolutely amazing to me to have a member of the United States Congress sit here and say that he would vote for — if, if his party gets control of the Congress, that you would vote for cutting off funding for our troops in Iraq; men and women who are putting it on the line every single day. Your own words.

REP. CARDIN: Not what I said.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Your own words. Secondly, to sit here and say you want the Bush administration to put together a plan. Sir, you have been in Congress for over 20 years. You have been a member of Congress from the beginning of this war to this very point. The only plan I’ve heard you put on the table is “We need a plan.” This is not how you go about dealing with complicated, frustrating at times, foreign policy issues. The reality for us at this point, Tim, is that we need to come to this table with a bipartisan approach. What, what you see with Baker-Hamilton, let’s see what their recommendations are. Let’s begin to put the pressure — this is my plan, by the way — let’s begin to put the pressure on the Iraqi government and force them to own up to their responsibility to take control of the situation on the ground, which they should be doing. And we...

MR. RUSSERT: And if they, and if they don’t?

LT. GOV. STEELE: If they don’t, then like Senator Warner says, then we in 60 to 90 days, or 120 days, need to step back, evaluate whether it’s not — worth sacrificing another American life for a cause that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people do not themselves believe in.

MR. RUSSERT: So if, if the situation is unchanged in the next six months, you would consider withdrawal.

LT. GOV. STEELE: I absolute — at that point, if it’s, if, if — look, if the Iraqi people don’t want this, if they’re, if they’re, if they are content to have this internal strife, they want civil war, they want this, this terrorist beachhead to be formed, then we will have to re-evaluate our policy, and our — certainly our foreign policy position with respect to that country. And that would be on the table, absolutely.

MR. RUSSERT: Getting out.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely.

REP. CARDIN: I would never put our troops at risk. And I think my record in Congress shows that I would never put our troops at risk. I have come forward with a plan. I’ve come forward with a plan that can work. Mr. Steele, if you look at...

LT. GOV. STEELE: What’s the plan?

REP. CARDIN: Well, you — I’ve already expressed it. If you look at what Mr. Steele has done, look on his Web page, try to find his positions on Iraq. A hundred and sixty-eight words, that’s all he devotes, and it’s lost on his Web page. Hasn’t had one major event dealing with foreign policy or the war in Iraq. Keeps changing his position: Stay the course, now not stay the course; supporting the president, still thinks it’s the right thing to do, now pulling out. Doesn’t have a plan, doesn’t even have a consistent position on Iraq. You’re right, Tim, this is a very important issue to the voters of Maryland. And Mr. Steele and I have fundamentally different views. I voted against the war in Iraq, I have been an outspoken critic of the president in the war against Iraq, and I have put forward a plan in which we could bring our troops home without a time schedule.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, I, I still, I’m still waiting for the plan, sir. I’m still waiting for the Democrats to lay that plan on the table. I’m still waiting for you to lay that plan on the table. All I have heard for the past year of this campaign is George Bush — anti-George Bush, anti-war — anti-Rumsfeld. And that’s fine, if, if that’s what you believe, and that’s what you feel. So the American people, and the people of Maryland are saying what are your, what are your goals? You have said you want to draw down the troops, 10,000 a month. Now, there are 140,000 troops on the ground, and that’s 14 months, there you go, that’s your timetable. You’re now saying that, you know, you don’t want to fund the war, that when you get control of the Congress, your vote is going to be to de-fund our, our troops on the ground. That — that’s your plan.

MR. RUSSERT: Give one specific of your plan.

REP. CARDIN: My plan is to start redeploying troops, to show the world that we’re not going to be an occupation force; convene the international community so that we can develop a diplomatic and political solution; use the non-governmental organizations to deliver humanitarian assistance; bring in the international community to help train the troops. Mr. Steele does not have a plan, Mr. Bush does not have a plan. I have come forward with a plan.

MR. RUSSERT: Where would you redeploy the troops?

REP. CARDIN: I’d bring them home. I want the troops, basically, home. I want more flexibility. I want to focus on the war against terror. We have serious challenges today, and America’s influence internationally is being compromised because of our commitment in Iraq. It is...

LT. GOV. STEELE: So what do you leave on the ground?

REP. CARDIN: ...counterproductive. It’s counterproductive to focusing on the war against terror. We haven’t completed Afghanistan, we have a crisis developing in North Korea, we have Iran. And this administration, because of its involvement in Iraq, has compromised our national security.

LT. GOV. STEELE: But Mr. Cardin, what does Iraq look like under your plan on the last day the troops are withdrawn? What does Iraq look look like, sir?

REP. CARDIN: It’s going to look a lot better than it looks today, because...

LT. GOV. STEELE: And what is that? What is that? Please tell us what that is. What do you see Iraq looking like?

REP. CARDIN: ...because we will have — it will be...

LT. GOV. STEELE: If you start with your plan to redeploy the troops and to drawn down — I presume this would happen as soon as you take control of the Congress, and that would be what, January? So let’s start from that timetable. What does Iraq look like on the last day when the last soldiers leave?

REP. CARDIN: On the first day that we start bringing our troops home, the international community will know that we’re no longer looking at Iraq as an occupational force, that we want to engage the international community and we want a political and diplomatic solution. On the last day — and I hope there will be a last day in a, in a reasonable period of time — we will have been successful in engaging the international community for a stable Iraq, where Iraq respects the, the differences among the Sunnis and the Shiites and the Kurds...

LT. GOV. STEELE: This is...

REP. CARDIN: ...so that you develop a political solution to end the civil war and you negotiate a cease-fire with the militia.

LT. GOV. STEELE: This is so much inside noise.

MR. RUSSERT: But Mr. Steele, I asked you if the status quo was the same six months from now, you said “Get out.” So what would Iraq look like six months from now?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I, I said what, what — and what — and that’s my point. Between now and that point in time, this administration, with the leadership of the Congress and certainly with our State Department and, and Defense Departments, need to put the pressure where it belongs: on the Iraqi government. When you have the prime minister of Iraq starts waffling and saying — that causes me concern. Are you, are you serious about the effort on the ground? Look, our, our soldiers are not police officers. They should not be engaged in a police action. As you, as you sit on the threshold of a civil war, you — as you sit on, on the threshold of the tensions between Shia and, and Sunni, that is the responsibility of the government of Iraq to make sure that their folks are stepping into that breach...(unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT: But if you get in six months, the way you said you might if, in fact, status quo remains, what do you leave behind?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, that’s — but that’s the question. I think what we need to make sure we leave behind in Iraq is an ally, not an enemy. And I think what we need to do is make certain that, whether it’s looking at the Biden plan in terms of a trifurcation or looking at a whole Iraq, this is the conversation we need to get into right now that we haven’t. What we have done, ostensibly, for the last three years, is slowly march towards nothing. And that’s been all — that’s always been my concern. What has been the prosecution for the peace? How do we get to a point where we can see demonstrable benchmarks? Now, for example, Tim, a few weeks ago, the Iraqi government took control of its military. That is a notable benchmark. But there are so many others that we need to reach, and so many others that we have to do, that together will move us in a direction towards putting in place a stable Iraq that we can rely on as an ally, and not just sort of, “Well, we withdraw the troops or we don’t fund them.” That is not the strategy. What is your, what is your goal to put the pressure on the Iraqi government?

REP. CARDIN: A systematic plan will give the Iraqis an opportunity to stand up and take responsibility for their own country. A deadline of six months, of withdrawing all of our troops after six months, will leave chaos in Iraq. You have no plan! Read your own Web site: 168 pages.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, sir, you’re referring to a Web site. I mean...

REP. CARDIN: You — have a plan, have a plan! And we need to implement a plan in order that Iraqis have a best chance of stable government.

MR. RUSSERT: One of the issues in this campaign has been George W. Bush.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Yes.

MR. RUSSERT: And, Mr. Steele, I was interested in reading this in The Washington Post. “The [Steele ads] never mention that Steele is running as a Republican, or that he is the second-highest-ranking member of his party in Maryland. Or that he was once chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. Indeed, the word ‘Republican’ doesn’t appear anywhere on Steele’s Web site, and his official bio omits his tenure as party chairman.” And if you go through your political life, it is quite interesting. At the Republican convention in 2004, here’s Michael Steele.

(Videotape, August 31, 2004):

LT. GOV. STEELE: These are the beliefs of our Republican Party. These are the beliefs and the principles that drew me to this party 28 years ago. And today, the standard-bearer of these convictions is George W. Bush.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: And then you read this in The New York Times Magazine: “Karl Rove called Michael Steele, the lieutenant governor of Maryland, to sell him on running for the Senate. ... Other top Republicans called. Senator Elizabeth Dole. Ken Mehlman, the party chairman. One day Steele’s cell phone rang, and Vice President Dick Cheney was on the other end.” Told WBAL in July, “I’ve been quoted before as calling the president my homeboy, and that’s how I feel.” If he’s your homeboy, why are you running away from him?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I’m not running away from him. I’m running for the United States Senate. I’ve been outed; OK, everyone, I’m a Republican. I think after four years as lieutenant governor, elected as a Republican, and certainly serving with Governor Ehrlich, a Republican, I think people know who I am. This is the point, Tim, you know, I found it somewhat amusing that I have to put on my material that I’m Republican, but no other candidate running for office has to put their party label on their material. I mean, I’m not running away from George Bush. I’m not running towards George Bush. I’m running for the United States Senate. And one of the things that I, one of the things that I wanted to do differently in this race, to be very straight up about it, was to get away from the polarization, to get away from the labels.

Look, since 2000, we’ve watched our country divide itself along red and blue lines —  Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative — and what have we got to show for it? All we’ve got is a lot of noise. Now, you know, you know, everybody in the world knows I’m a Republican, so that’s part one. But part two is, what are you going to do as a senator? And part of what I’ve seen in Washington is exactly what’s represented here today. Old Washington, old ways, an old mind-set that polarizes, that wants to say, you know, “When we take control.” You know, how about the country? How about the interest of the country? How about we creating a bipartisan — what I did not hear on the Iraq subject, for example, is a move towards a bipartisan consensus. You’ve got a commission out there with, with Baker and Hamilton that are looking at a strategy to help us resolve some important difficulties in Iraq on a bipartisan consensus. This is about taking control of the Congress and not so much about solving the problem. So when I look at this race, and when I looked at it, I wanted to do something a little bit differently, and I wanted to label it a little bit differently. I’m not running away from my party. And you know what? It has not been the easiest thing in the world to run in this cycle.

MR. RUSSERT: Are you running as a proud Bush Republican?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I’m a proud Republican.

MR. RUSSERT: Why not proud Bush Republican?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I’m a proud — I’m a proud Republican. I mean, because my orientation is the Republican Party, it’s not just one individual in the party. And so, you know, President Bush is the president of our party — of the United States, he’s the leader of our party. Ronald Reagan, I’m a Lincolnite. If anything, I consider myself a Lincoln Republican. And so my reality is, you know, we can talk about and try to get me boxed in on, you know, he’s this type of Republican or that type of Republican. What I’m trying to show the people of Maryland was what kind of senator I’m going to be, and that I’m going to have the ability to reach across the aisle and, and work with those who are on the other side.

MR. RUSSERT: Here’s the one thing that did confuse me.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Uh-oh.

MR. RUSSERT: Someone — this bumper sticker, paid for by your campaign.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Right, right.

MR. RUSSERT: And I’ll put it on the screen. “Steele Democrat.”

LT. GOV. STEELE: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: That’s not truth in advertising.

LT. GOV. STEELE: You’ve never heard of “Reagan Democrats”? Have you ever heard of the term “Reagan Democrats”?

MR. RUSSERT: It doesn’t say “I’m a Steele Democrat.” It says “Steele Democrat.”

LT. GOV. STEELE: Did it say “I’m a Reagan Democrat”? It said “Reagan” — it always referred to Reagan Democrats, right?

MR. RUSSERT: So you’re not passing yourself off as a Democrat?

LT. GOV. STEELE: No, I’m not. I — look, I am Michael Steele. I am, I am, you know, Maybelle’s son and — who was raised in Washington, D.C., and became a Republican, worked in the party, and is now Lieutenant Governor running for the U.S. Senate. I have a lot of Democrat friends in my state who support me, and what I thought was cute about that was they could put that on their bumper sticker and

when you said it, they’re still Democrats, but they’re Steele Democrats.

MR. RUSSERT: What about Steele Republican? Do you have a sticker like that?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Yeah, well, we don’t have that sticker because...

MR. RUSSERT: Because you said the R on — is a...

LT. GOV. STEELE: That’s not a bad idea, actually. Maybe we should get some of those made up.

That’s not a bad idea. I didn’t think of that.

MR. RUSSERT: You said, you said the R is a scarlet letter and that if this is a choice between

Democrats and Republicans, you lose.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely, Tim.

TEXT: “I’ve got an ‘R’ here, a scarlet letter. ... If this race is about Republicans and Democrats, I lose.”

-- Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-MD)
Washington Post
July 25, 2006

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely, absolutely. And that’s exactly what Ben Cardin wants this race to be about. That’s exactly what the Democrats want this race to be about. Because when this race is about Democrats and Republicans in a state like Maryland, which is two to one, all they have to say is “The boogeyman’s Republican and all you guys remember, you’ve got to vote for us D’s.” What I’m trying to do is break through that noise and say I represent something different. I represent, represent, I think, a different challenge for my state and for my country.

MR. RUSSERT: But you will organize with the Republicans if you won. You would vote for a Republican majority leader?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Yeah, yeah, I guess, yeah. That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

MR. RUSSERT: And would you — and would you be...

LT. GOV. STEELE: I wouldn’t vote for Ben.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you be a reliable vote for President Bush?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I would be a reliable vote for the people of Maryland because, at the end of the day, I’m going to evaluate every issue as it comes to me and where my party is wrong, I’m not standing with it, I’m not voting with it. And I’ve been clear on that. I’ve disagreed with my party on the minimum wage. I’ve called for an increase in the minimum wage. I disagreed with my party on No Child Left Behind.

MR. RUSSERT: You endorsed No Child Left Behind at the convention in ‘04.

LT. GOV. STEELE: I sure did. And, and since that time, I sat down and I’ve talked to a thousand teachers in, in my state, and I’ve listened to them tell me what the problem is. This is the problem with Ben Washington — Ben Cardin’s world, his Washington, Ben’s Washington. I like that. This is the problem with it. They don’t listen to people. They pass policy. They implement reforms, so they say. But then they don’t go back and see if they’re working. And I want to be one of those leaders who actually goes back and follows up on the bills and on the laws and make sure that they’re having the impact that we intended.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Cardin, you vote against President Bush 70 percent of the time and you said to MSNBC’s “Hardball” back in September, “I think we need to investigate this president. I’m very disappointed that this Congress has not instituted any investigations of this president.” What does that mean?

REP. CARDIN: Well, first I’m trying to figure out the 30 percent where I agreed with President Bush, so I’ll try to figure those out. Let me first correct the record, state of the record.

MR. RUSSERT: You don’t think you should ever vote with the president?

REP. CARDIN: Oh, I do. I absolutely do. I’m just mak — look, I’ve, for the record, I have — my literature has Democrat on it. Just want to correct Mr. Steele on that. And for the record, I’m one of those Democrats who’s been able to work across party lines to get things done. I’ve been able to get major bills passed in a very partisan environment, because I know how to work with Republicans to bring about results for the people of Maryland. I’ve done that in health care, I’ve done that in pension changes, I’ve done that in tax code. So I know how to get things done. And I’ll stand by my record in that regard. Mr. Steele was recruited by the Bush administration. You look at what he’s, what he’s done. I’m concerned about what he will bring to Washington. He supported the president in the war in Iraq, and still supports that decision today. I think that causes pause for the voters of Maryland. I oppose that. He supported George Bush’s attempts to privatize Social Security. Marylanders do not want Social Security privatized.

LT. GOV. STEELE: You, you, you...

MR. RUSSERT: You’ve also talked about privatizing Social Security repeatedly.

REP. CARDIN: No, I didn’t.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Yes, you have.

REP. CARDIN: What I said, what I said was — what I said was, and what I did was to set up separate accounts outside of Social Security. And in fact, Portman-Cardin, our legislation has done that. I have never supported taking any money out of the Social Security system. I made that clear from day one.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you again about the investigations. “I think we need to investigate the president.” About what?

REP. CARDIN: What I — what I’ve said is, Congress needs to exercise its oversight function. It needs to do — act as a check and balance on the executive branch. Yes, we need to look at what the facts are, without any predetermined...

MR. RUSSERT: On what issue?

REP. CARDIN: On several issues. On the NSA wiretaps that the president did, that I believe was done without lawful authority. And the information we knew before we went to Iraq and the way that that information was presented to the American people. There’s a list of issues. It’s interesting, when Bill Clinton was president and the Republicans controlled Congress, at anything they would have at least an investigation to figure out what the facts are. Congress has a responsibility to the American people to oversight the executive branch of government. It shouldn’t be partisan. It should be bipartisan. This is a responsibility of the legislative branch of government.

MR. RUSSERT: Should we consider impeachment of the president?

REP. CARDIN: Should not consider any options, should just consider an investigation.

MR. RUSSERT: But aren’t you concerned the American people listening will say, “If the Democrats win, it’ll be one big investigation”?

REP. CARDIN: No, not at all, not at all. I want — it’s oversight. Yes, part of the responsibility of the Congress is oversighting the executive branch of government. And this Congress has not done that. It’s failed in that regard.

LT. GOV. STEELE: This, this...

REP. CARDIN: And when you look at that, as you look at what this Congress has done, and allowed the president to do things unilaterally without the oversight that was — that’s envisioned in our Constitution, this Congress did not carry out its constitutional responsibility.

LT. GOV. STEELE: So where was your resolution in the House calling for an investigation? So where was your resolution calling for all these things that you’re now talking about? That’s number one. Number two...

REP. CARDIN: Can I answer that?

LT. GOV. STEELE: ...we should not — we should not be in a — I’ll let you in a second.

REP. CARDIN: OK.

LT. GOV. STEELE: You — we should not be in a position during a time of war running up the flagpole all these investigations and, and, and you — members of your own party — I assume you’re stepping away from them now — calling for impeachment.

REP. CARDIN: Wait a minute. I never said impeachment. I mean, just use the right words here.

LT. GOV. STEELE: No, I’m saying — I’m saying — no, no, I’m saying — I’m saying you are stepping away from the members of your call — your party who are calling for the impeachment of the president.

REP. CARDIN: I have not seen — each, each individual member may express their views. But let me say when the NSA wirecept...

LT. GOV. STEELE: So you’re distancing yourself from that.

REP. CARDIN: ...when the NSA wirecept occurred, I sent a letter to the speaker asking for a House inquiry as to the use of that power. That’s the right role for a congressman to do. I was joined by other members who did similar things. Congress did not exercise its appropriate responsibility in looking at what this president has done.

MR. RUSSERT: We have to take a quick break. We’ll be right back with a lot more of Ben Cardin and Michael Steele. The debate for the U.S. Senate seat from Maryland, right after this.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: All on eyes on Maryland. Big differences on the big issues. The U.S. Senate Debate continues right after this.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And we’re back with the two candidates for the U.S. Senate from Maryland: Democrat Ben Cardin, Republican Michael Steele. Stem cells has emerged as an issue in this campaign. You each have a commercial on the air talking about that issue. Let’s watch them both and come back and talk about it.

(Videotape, Cardin campaign ad):

REP. CARDIN: I’m Ben Cardin and I approved this message.

MR. MICHAEL J. FOX: Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. But George Bush and Michael Steele will put limits on the most promising stem cell research. Fortunately, Marylanders have a chance to vote for Ben Cardin. Cardin fully supports life-saving stem cell research. It’s why I support Ben Cardin. And with so much at stake, I respectfully ask you to do the same.

(End videotape)

(Videotape, Steele campaign ad):

LT. GOV. STEELE: I’m Michael Steele and I approved this message.

DR. MONICA TURNER: I’m Dr. Monica Turner. Congressman Ben Cardin is attacking Michael Steele with deceptive, tasteless ads. He is using the victim of a terrible disease to frighten people, all for his own political gain. Mr. Cardin should be ashamed. There’s something you should know about Michael Steele: he does support stem cell research, and he cares deeply for those who suffer from disease. How do I know? I’m Michael Steele’s little sister. I have MS, and I know he cares about me.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Cardin, is there any difference in your positions?

REP. CARDIN: There’s a major difference, Tim. I support the expansion of embryonic stem cell research, Mr. Steele opposes that. I voted to override the president’s veto, a bill that was bipartisan, worked out so that we could advance embryonic stem cell research. Mr. Steele supported the president’s veto in that regard. So there’s a major difference between the two of us on embryonic stem cell research.

MR. RUSSERT: Your sister said that the Michael J. Fox ad was deceptive and tasteless. Why?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, because it said that I don’t support stem cell research, and I do support stem cell research. Where I have drawn the line is federal funding for research that destroys the embryo. And, and I’ve been very much an advocate and supporter of advancing research that will allow us to do the — do what we need to do without destroying that, that embryo. There’s only one person at this table who’s voted against stem cell research, and that’s Ben Cardin. When there was a bill presented that was passed 100 to one--100 to zero, in the United States Senate, both, both Maryland Democrat senators voted for this, this bill that would allow for stem cell research that did not destroy the embryo. So we had Senator Sarbanes and Senator Mikulski support that. He voted against it the in the House. So this, you know, so this — I don’t...

MR. RUSSERT: We’ll let him respond to that.

LT. GOV. STEELE: You know.

REP. CARDIN: That bill was a — was put up by the opponents of embryonic stem cell research. The two House sponsors of the bill that, by the way, deals with embryos that would otherwise be discarded, Congresswoman DeGette and Congresswoman — Congressman Castle both voted against it. The advocates for the stem cell research urged us that this would do absolutely nothing to advance embryonic stem cell research. The reason is, quite frankly, that the technique just doesn’t exist. It will advance embryonic stem cell research. It was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Santorum. I don’t think I need to say more than that.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Wait, that, that — first off, Senate — Congressman, that’s rude to say that. Number two, what, what, what...

REP. CARDIN: Senator Santorum has been opposed to embryonic stem cell research.

LT. GOV. STEELE: ...what, what does, what does, what does Senator Sarbanes and Senator, Senator Mikulski not know that you know, that caused them to vote for it, and you against it?

REP. CARDIN: The, the...

LT. GOV. STEELE: What, what do they, what do they know that you don’t, that you don’t know?

REP. CARDIN: Let me answer. In the United States Senate, that was the way in which they were able to get a clean vote on the embryonic stem cell compromise bill.

LT. GOV. STEELE: So you said they...

REP. CARDIN: They did that in order to accommodate the vote in the United States Senate.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Oh, so they have, they have no convictions on this issue. They have no beliefs.

REP. CARDIN: No, they, they certainly do. They certainly do. This bill would do nothing at all to advance embryonic stem cell research. The critical vote in the United States Congress was on the bipartisan bill, the bill that was worked out, that dealt with embryos that otherwise were going to be discarded. It was a compromise bill that allows our scientists to move forward. Listen to the scientists. They’ll tell you that that was the vote, that was the key vote. You support the president, you supported the veto. We have a fundamental difference on this issue.

LT. GOV. STEELE: You know, you...

MR. RUSSERT: I went up on the Web site for the National Institute of Health, Mr. Steele, frequently asked questions. And let me share those with you and our viewers.

Question: “Why not use adult stem cells instead of using human embryonic stem cells in research?”

National Institute of Health: “Human embryonic stem cells are thought to have much greater developmental potential than adult stem cells.” That’s the issue. And...

LT. GOV. STEELE: That’s the, that’s the issue.

MR. RUSSERT: ...you’re opposed to using something that has more promise than adult stem cells.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, but, but, there’s — that’s — that’s not exactly the case here. What we’re talking about is — you’re talking about a research that is in its infancy. There’s a great — you also have people at the NIH and around the country, other scientists, that will tell you that embryonic stem cells research right now is not the most stable — it’s less stable than, than adult — because when you start to extract those cells, that, that, that, that line becomes less stable the more you extract. So there’s still — my point is this, Tim, there’s still a lot of work that we need to do. This is an emerging research, and my hope and my prayer is that we can get to the point where we can extract those lines without destroying, destroying that, that embryo.

MR. RUSSERT: Why are you opposed to using embryonic stem cells? Taking of a life?

LT. GOV. STEELE: It’s taking — yes, I see that as a life, and I, and I don’t think that we should use federal funds to do that. And that’s, and that’s the difference to me.

MR. RUSSERT: Here — here’s, here’s a question that I have to pose: There are fertility clinics all across the country, several in Maryland — Shady Grove, Baltimore...

LT. GOV. STEELE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...where they take embryonic stem cells and discard them because they’re not used in pregnancies — embryos. What — will you close down those fertility clinics?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I won’t close down the fertility clinics. We have options there. We could, we could set up adoptions for those, for those embryos. There are so many other options that we can pursue that we don’t. And, and the key thing to keep in here — keep in mind here, and for me, and I think for —  hopefully for Ben, too, and I — because he’s a good man on this, on this subject: Science moves us in a

certain direction, and it pushes the envelope, as it should. But as a society, we also must, must consider the, the, the religious, the moral, and the ethical values of that society, and that needs to be a part of this as well. So we cannot just because it’s in a bill, we cannot just because a scientist or a group of scientists say, “Yeah, let’s do this,” that we don’t step back and, and assess for ourselves is this the moral, ethical and, and, and appropriate thing to do?

MR. RUSSERT: But I’m trying to, I’m trying to understand the logic. If, in fact, these embryos are being discarded by fertility clinics, and you think that’s the taking of a life, how can you tolerate or allow it?

LT. GOV. STEELE: But my point is that we need to look at exactly how, how we store them, we have 400,000, I think, across the country. I, I would pursue options that would allow us to look at adoption of some of those embryos and, and to the extent that they — they’re no longer viable, that they have expired or whatever, then you have to look at what you do there. My only point is, let’s step back and evaluate what our options are before we go headlong into a sear — into a science or a research that is not fully developed.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you forbid fertility clinics from destroying embryos?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Would I forbid them from destroying embryos? Probably would like to look at that a little bit more closely. I don’t, I don’t know exactly how that mechanism is set up right now with respect to each, each clinic.

MR. RUSSERT: What about people who are concerned about harvesting embryos, even near-cloning? Are you afraid that your position is going to put us on a track to that?

REP. CARDIN: I think we do have a responsibility to make sure there is no cloning. And Congress has passed some bills that I have supported that deal with human cloning. That’s not acceptable. That goes beyond the range. But when you’re talking about embryos that are otherwise going to be discarded, the bill that was worked out in Congress, there’s no financial reward to the donors. These are embryos that otherwise are going to be discarded. These are the stem cells that we’re talking about. The difference between Michael Steele and myself, and that is, is, is the difference between moving forward with embryonic stem cell research or not. In my state of Maryland, we have great research facilities: Johns Hopkins University, the NIH is involved, University of Maryland Medical Center. They’re — they are making great advancements. But we’re going to lose these scientists. They’re going to go to other countries if we don’t allow responsible embryonic stem-cell research.

MR. RUSSERT: Another issue that has emerged in the campaign. Here’s the latest headline. “Religious leaders and abortion foes are pumping more than $140,000 into the final weeks of the Maryland U.S. Senate contest to motivate ‘values voters’ by elevating such issues as abortion and same-sex marriage. ... National Right to Life’s political action committee plans to run radio commercials on Steele’s behalf ... and has spent more than $72,000 supporting [his] candidacy with ads and mail.” The National Abortion Rights Action League supporting your campaign, Mr. Cardin. The issue is being engaged. And let me ask each of you. Mr. Steele, if you’re United States Senator, would you vote for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I don’t — vote for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion? I think we’d have to have that get to the Supreme Court, wouldn’t we? I haven’t seen that bill proposed. I don’t think...

MR. RUSSERT: That’s been introduced in the Senate.

LT. GOV. STEELE: I don’t think anyone’s going to propose that this day.

MR. RUSSERT: So you wouldn’t do that?

LT. GOV. STEELE: No.

MR. RUSSERT: Would, would you encourage — would you hope the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I think that that’s a matter that’s going to rightly belong to the courts to decide ultimately whether or not that, that issue should be addressed. The, the Court has taken a position, which I agree, stare decisis, which means that the law is as it is and, and so this is a matter that’s ultimately going to be adjudicated at the states. We’re seeing that. The states are beginning to decide for themselves on, on this and a host of other issues. And the Supreme Court would ultimately decide that.

MR. RUSSERT: But you hope that the Court keeps Roe v. Wade in place?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I think the Court will evaluate the law as society progresses, as the Court is supposed to do.

MR. RUSSERT: But what’s your position? Do you want them to sustain it or overturn it?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, I think, I think, I think Roe vs. Wade, Roe vs. Wade is a, is a matter that

should’ve been left to the states to decide, ultimately. But it, it is where it is today, and the courts will ultimately decide whether or not this, this gets addressed by the states, goes back to the states in some form or they overturn it outright.

MR. RUSSERT: Is is your desire to keep it in place?

LT. GOV. STEELE: My desire is that we follow what stare decisis is at this point, yes.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Cardin, you support abortion rights, also late-term abortions, or partial-birth abortions. Also, you voted against parental consent for abortion. Why shouldn’t a parent know that his or her daughter is having an abortion?

REP. CARDIN: First let me say that I am in favor of what is commonly known as pro-choice, to give a woman a right of choice and for government not interfering and there’s a — I don’t get comfort in listening to Mr. Steele’s response. And let me also point out, when he was asked specifically about the abortion issue, he said, “What does that have anything to do with the United States Senate? We don’t take that issue up.” And there have been many votes in the United States Senate that deal with a woman’s right of choice. Parental notification, to me, is something that should be — parents should be involved in their children. Absolutely. The problem is, you don’t want it to become an obstacle, particularly where there has been family abuse issues or where there’s been neglect in a family. You don’t want it used as a way of preventing a child from getting the necessary medical attention.

MR. RUSSERT: So a parent should not be notified?

REP. CARDIN: Oh, absolutely. Parents should be involved in the decisions of their children. Absolutely. But there are some families where there has been abuse, there are some families where there’s been neglect, and we shouldn’t feel...

MR. RUSSERT: But you can have a judicial bypass for that.

LT. GOV. STEELE: (Unintelligible)

REP. CARDIN: Well, there’s — if there is proper protection in the law, then let’s take a look at it. That’s not what — the bill that we were involved with.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Steele, is there anybody who’s on the Supreme Court — and one of the most important votes you cast is to confirm Supreme Court nominees — is there anybody on the Court that you would’ve voted against?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Is there anyone on the Court that I would vote against?

MR. RUSSERT: Would’ve voted against. As a United States Senator, would you have voted against any of them?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Tim, that, that’s a “gotcha” question, and I...

MR. RUSSERT: Hardly.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, no...

MR. RUSSERT: It’s one of the most important tasks of a U.S. Senator.

LT. GOV. STEELE: But I think — it is, but that’s living in the past, and what does that change? And what- my approach to a Senate nomination by the president for the United States — U.S. Supreme Court is to listen to them and to hear them out and to evaluate their jurisprudence, their, their judicial temperament. I don’t have a litmus test on any issue. I want to be able to take down, take down their words, to listen and engage them. I have not had that privilege with the, the nine justices, to sit down and actually grill them on issues that I would think would be important, to see if I, as a senator, at that time, would vote for them. So I’m not going to, I’m not going to go into that, you know, “woulda, shoulda, coulda,” because I don’t — I didn’t have the privilege of that conversation. Going forward, as a United States senator, I will look them in the eye and get an assessment from them whether or not they have the temperament to be a judge, not a legislator but a judge.

MR. RUSSERT: If you had that chance with the nine sitting justices, would you have opposed any of them?

REP. CARDIN: Tim, it’s amazing. Mr. Steele uses my record in Congress, my background, to project what I will do in the future, but it’s not fair to ask him what he would’ve done if he was faced with the confirmation issue.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Because you have a record, sir. You have a vote.

REP. CARDIN: Well, the Judge Alito issue came up when both of us were U.S. Senate candidates. I came out with a position against the confirmation of Judge Alito. I said that the standards that I would’ve used — and I’d laid out the standards. I was willing to take a position on it because I think the voters of Maryland are entitled to know what standards we will use to evaluate judicial appointments. And the Judge Alito issue came up during our candidacy for the United States Senate. I took a position. I was willing to stand up. Mr. Steele was not.

LT. GOV. STEELE: But it...

MR. RUSSERT: Would you have voted for Clarence Thomas?

REP. CARDIN: I’m going to be frank. I probably would’ve voted against Clarence Thomas, but I was — I think the confirmation process, I didn’t focus on it as a voting — to be a voting member of the United States Senate at that time. We did when Judge Alito, because that was during our Senate campaign. I think, at the time, I expressed that I would’ve voted against Judge Thomas.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Steele, you...

LT. GOV. STEELE: Why?

REP. CARDIN: Because of his, the standards that I would’ve used. The standards that I would’ve used, yes, judicial temperament and experience, but a person also who wants to become a judge on the federal court has to have an understanding of the Constitution and its protections against abuses of government. To me, that is an important standard for anyone who wants to become a federal judge. I want to make sure that they’re going to protect the consumers. I want to make sure they’re going to protect civil rights. I want to make sure that they’re going to protect the, the people of Maryland against the abuses of government.

MR. RUSSERT: You had said that Clarence Thomas is a hero. You still feel that way?

LT. GOV. STEELE: In this sense, that, as an African-American, and the only African-American on the bench. You know, I’ve disagreed with Clarence Thomas on a number of issues.

MR. RUSSERT: Which ones?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Affirmative action, for one. I, I strongly support affirmative action and, and believe...

MR. RUSSERT: You haven’t always supported it.

LT. GOV. STEELE: No, I’ve always supported affirmative action.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, if we go back in 1991, we’ve got a program here called “Affirmative Action that Doesn’t Work,” “Affirmative Action’s Become A Race-Based Quota Formula.”

LT. GOV. STEELE: That’s — but that’s not the same as saying “I don’t support it.” What I was outlining in that quote was the problem of affirmative action. Art Fletcher, who’s the founder, the, the, the, the father of affirmative action, was a mentor to me, and I spent many hours talking to him about affirmative action, and his concern had always been that affirmative action had moved away from the economic empowerment tool that it was designed to be and had, had fallen on race — racial lines. And his goal, and he thought for future leaders, the goal should be to move it back towards economic empowerment to help those. And so what I was pointing out there was the problem with affirmative action in the modern times is that we’ve lost sight of the economic tool that it’s supposed to be, and we’ve gotten caught up in this, in this racial tension that — it skews that opportunity for those who are disadvantaged economically.

MR. RUSSERT: But you support the current system?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I support, I support the current system and I support improvements to the current system, keeping in mind that while we have done very well in affirmative action at our universities across this country, I look at our boardrooms across the country, I look at this — you know, NBC, CNBC, Fox, all these stations, all the corporate, corporate companies — and I don’t see affirmative action necessarily being practiced there when I look at the management, when I look at the leadership, when I look at those who have a decision-making role. So we still have a lot of work to do to make sure that that ladder is available to all to climb.

MR. RUSSERT: Affirmative action?

REP. CARDIN: Well, I agree we’ve made progress, we have a long way to go. When you take a look at where we are, and we’ve see now one million minority owned businesses in this country, $80 billion in revenues, but we still have a long way to go. We need to have policies that will try to make the opportunities of this nation available to all of our citizens. So yes, I support affirmative action. I support programs that will help minority businesses. I support programs that will help in the employment of minorities and opportunities. I think it’s very important.

MR. RUSSERT: Your Web site, Mr. Steele, says you want to control runaway federal spending.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: What programs would you cut?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, what I would like to do is something that we did in Maryland. We — Governor Ehrlich and I came into office, we had a $2.2 billion deficit staring us in the face and a bloated government to contend with. And so we stepped back and evaluated exactly what the priorities of our government should be. Seventy-eight percent of our spending is in two areas: education and health care.

MR. RUSSERT: It’s the same in the federal government.

LT. GOV. STEELE: It’s the same. And my point...

MR. RUSSERT: Seventy percent is Social Security, Medicare and Defense.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you touch those?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Abso — Tim, everything has...

MR. RUSSERT: Everything’s on the table.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Everything has to be on the table, my friend. We are living in a time — we have to — government has to act like the rest of, the rest of the world and sit back and look at your budget. If you don’t have enough money in any given month, what do you do? You’ve got to reprioritize. You’ve got to take care of the business at hand. So what I want to do is a couple of things. One, I want to take a closer look at what we’re spending. The last five, seven, eight years, Congress has lost its mind when it’s come to spending. You couple that...

MR. RUSSERT: Controlled by the Republicans.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely. It doesn’t matter, Republican or Democrat, I just put it out there. That’s the reality of it. It’s...

MR. RUSSERT: Would everything be on the table?

REP. CARDIN: Well, I’ve come out with specific proposals to get the budget back into balance. I — look, I voted against the Bush budgets. I thought they were reckless at the time.

MR. RUSSERT: It’s 70 percent is Social Security, Medicare and Defense.

REP. CARDIN: So Medicare...

MR. RUSSERT: Would everything be on the table?

REP. CARDIN: Well, Medicare, we can save a lot of money by just taking on the prescription drug issue. Let’s have a fair price for prescription medicines in this country. We pay three times what we should.

MR. RUSSERT: But.

REP. CARDIN: I’ve introduced a bill to do that. To take on that cost.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Is everything on the table?

REP. CARDIN: Well, I have specific proposals to do it. I can give you Medicare cuts that can bring us into balance. I can give you changes in foreign policy.

LT. GOV. STEELE: And you’ll also give us tax increases because you voted 66 times to tax increases.

REP. CARDIN: And I favor — I — no, I’m, I’m not.

MR. RUSSERT: You know what? We are out of time.

LT. GOV. STEELE: We’re out of time?

MR. RUSSERT: I wish we had another hour.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Look...

MR. RUSSERT: Michael Steele, Ben Cardin, thank you very much.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Thank you so much.

MR. RUSSERT: We’ll be watching very carefully.

REP. CARDIN: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: Watch MSNBC all next week, non-stop coverage “Decision 2006,” plus broadcasts of the Florida gubernatorial and Senate debates Monday and Wednesday night on MSNBC. We’ll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week, a special pre-election show, an exclusive joint interview: the chairs of the Senate Campaign Committee, Republican Elizabeth Dole, Democrat Chuck Schumer; Counterparts in the House: Democrat Rahm Emanuel, Republican Tom Reynolds. All here, a pre-election exclusive only on “Meet the Press”. And, hey, Buffalo Sabers, nice job, 10 in a row. Make me proud. If it’s Sunday, it’s “Meet the Press.”

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