MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, a showdown over nuclear weapons between the president and Republican opponents.
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PRES. BARACK OBAMA: There's no other reason not to do it than the fact that, you know, Washington has, has become a very partisan place. And this is a classic area where we have to rise above partisanship.
MR. GREGORY: Is the new START treaty a matter of immediate national security, or will it get held up in post-election politics? Plus, the president at the NATO summit in Portugal this weekend pressed his allies for support of the U.S. endgame in Afghanistan, even as new questions arise back home about how and whether to try terror suspects in U.S. courts. Our guest this morning, from the summit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Then, a leading voice from the Republican Party unleashes a blistering attack of the president's leadership during the gulf oil spill. How does the GOP lead as it seeks the presidency in 2012? My guest, author of the new book "Leadership and Crisis," Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal.
Finally, our political roundtable on the fights ahead in Congress over taxes and spending, and an early look at battleground 2012. Sarah Palin's new book sets the stage for a presidential run. With us, Robert Draper, whose piece about Palin's inner circle appears as the cover story
of The New York Times Magazine this morning; editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, Paul Gigot; Richard Wolffe, author of the new book "Revival," about President Obama; and incoming freshman tea party-backed Republican congressman from Florida, Allen West.
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Breaking news in The New York Times this morning that North Korea has built a large nuclear facility to enrich uranium. An American nuclear scientist who visited the site telling the Times he was "stunned" by the sophistication of this new plant. This further
complicates the president's nuclear disarmament agenda from North Korea to Russia to Iran, which was front and center at the NATO summit in Portugal, as the president used the world stage to press his Republican opponents in Congress to ratify a new nuclear arms deal with Russia.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was with the president at the summit, and I spoke with her before she departed Lisbon.
Secretary Clinton, welcome back to the program.
SEC'Y HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, David.
MR. GREGORY: I want to talk about this showdown between the president and Senate Republicans over the START treaty. The president, in his comments to reporters, made it very clear he thinks politics is being played here, saying to reporters, "Nobody's going to score any political points to 2012." Is that the president's belief here about what's standing in the way? And in your view, is this really a, a litmus test of whether there can be bipartisanship in Washington after the election?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, I think the president believes strongly, and I agree with him, that this treaty is in the national security interest of the United States. And it's not only Americans who believe that. I'm, you know, very impressed by the number of leaders at the NATO Lisbon
summit who voluntarily told their own press, or American press, they were chasing down reporters to say this is so much in the interest of Europe and others. So the president sees this very clearly. But I don't think he considers this a political issue. It's a question of whether we have the time and whether we can make the case in the limited time that the
lame duck provides to satisfy the concerns of two-thirds of the Senate. I think we can. I think that everyone has operated in good faith. We have looked hard at this. When it came out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it came out with an overwhelming bipartisan vote,
14-to-4. I think that the questions are being--that are being asked by Republicans deserve thoughtful answers. And everyone in the administration stands ready, from Bob Gates to Jim Clapper, the head of the--director of national intelligence, because we all see it in the same
way. And we're in the tradition of both Republican and Democratic presidents, going back to Ronald Reagan, who famously said, "Trust, but verify." We have no verification without a treaty about what's going on in Russia's nuclear program. So I think whether you're already convinced or can be convinced, I think we want to get our inspectors back on the ground, and the only way to do that is by ratifying this treaty.
MR. GREGORY: Is there an issue, though, of American prestige? The president was dealt a setback on fair trade when he was in Seoul. There was a feeling, when it comes to whether it's trade or economic policy, that America can't always get what it wants. Is this going to
potentially be a problem of the president not being able to get what he wants on the world stage because of Republicans?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think that the president didn't agree to a trade deal in Seoul because he didn't feel like it was enough in America's interest. That's what a president is supposed to do. Obviously, he's still working to get one finalized that is.
And in respect to START, which concerns, not just trade, but life or death, because we're talking about thousands of nuclear warheads that are still pointed at the United States, the president believes this does go beyond politics. You can argue about a trade deal, but what the tradition has been in the Senate, going back to the 1980s with President Reagan, is that once people have had a chance to carefully consider these arms control treaties, they have been passed overwhelmingly. We've seen it with the Reagan and the Bush administrations, the Clinton administration. Now, of course...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...we are in the Obama administration. And in this one area, this goes beyond politics. This should be nonpartisan, not just bipartisan.
MR. GREGORY: Secretary Clinton, let me get to a few other areas, including the war in Afghanistan. Listening to the president, listening and following the events that have happened at the NATO summit, I wonder whether the Washington clock for the war has changed, and that Americans should expect that by next July there's a token number of U.S. forces
that are withdrawn, and that, really, the war doesn't end for America until 2014.
SEC'Y CLINTON: No, David, I think that we've been very clear about this, that the transition to Afghan security lead begins next year in 2011. It is conditions-based. So where it can happen, at what pace it can happen, how many troops can be substituted for, that is what General Petraeus and the military leaders are going to be working on to recommend to the
president and the leaders of other countries.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let me get in on a key point, then. Is it possible then, even at 2014, when you envision and you hope that a transition is complete, might the United States have a long-term presence there, say, in the form of permanent air bases, to maintain a presence in the country?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, we're, we're intent upon reaching the goal of transitioning to Afghan security in 2014. But both the United States and NATO-ISAF partners have said that, of course, we'd be willing to continue to help train and equip the Afghan military, what we do with countries around the world. There could be other missions that other countries would take on in terms of civilian aid and supporting the government. So the security lead, the, the fight, if you will, does transition to the Afghans. Support for that fight will continue to be provided by...
MR. GREGORY: What, what about...
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...not just the United States, but others.
MR. GREGORY: ...permanent bases? Permanent bases?
SEC'Y CLINTON: There's, there's been no decision whatsoever about any of that.
MR. GREGORY: But is that possible? Is that something that the U.S. is considering?
SEC'Y CLINTON: There's no consideration. It's just not on the table at this point.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about--as secretary of State, you don't have to deal with airport security, but so many Americans do, especially coming up in this Thanksgiving week.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Right. Right.
MR. GREGORY: There's obviously a security threat out there...
SEC'Y CLINTON: Right.
MR. GREGORY: ...a terror threat, which is why you have this advanced technology and why you have these rather invasive pat-downs that we're seeing throughout airports around the country. Is this excessive, or is this the right response to the kind of threat environment that Americans face?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, the people responsible for our security, such as Secretary Napolitano, obviously believe that this is necessary. And I'm not going to comment or certainly second-guess their considered opinions. At the same time, I think everyone, including our security experts, are looking for ways to diminish the impact on the traveling public. I mean, obviously the vast, vast majority of people getting on these planes are law-abiding citizens who are just trying to get from, you know, one place to another. But let's not kid ourselves. The terrorists are adaptable, they start doing whatever they can to try to cause harm. And when you
have people who are willing to die in order to kill Americans and others--you've got folks putting explosives in their underwear, who would have thought that? So striking the right balance is what this is about. And I am absolutely confident that our security experts are going to keep trying to get it better and less intrusive and more precise. But at the same time, we want people to travel safely.
MR. GREGORY: And a follow-up on, on terrorism. The Ahmed Ghailani case that was concluded this week with a conviction has raised new questions about whether it's wise to put these terror suspects in civilian courts. As secretary of State, why is it important to the rest of the world that these hardened terror suspects go in U.S. civilian courts to be tried?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, I think it's important, first and foremost, to Americans, which is my highest priority, what, what is best for the United States and for our own citizens. The civilian courts, known as Article III courts under the Constitution, have a good track record of
convicting terrorists. And, in fact, if you look at the comparison between terrorists who are now serving time in our maximum security prisons compared to what military commissions have been able to do, there's no comparison. We get convictions, we send people away in our
civilian courts at a much more regularized and predictable way than yet we've been able to figure out how in the military commissions.
Secondly, I think there's a misconception in our own country about what's admissible in terms of evidence in a civilian court vs. a military commission. They don't have the same rules, but the rules are close enough in terms of what can or can't be admitted into evidence. So
there's a, there's a very strong argument that what the judge in the Ghailani case said...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...could not be admitted, would not have been admissible, either...
MR. GREGORY: Well, right, and that's kind of...
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...in a military commission.
MR. GREGORY: And that's a very narrow issue, but the real issue is there's a lot of uncertainty in the criminal justice system, as you well know, as a lawyer...
SEC'Y CLINTON: But there--but...
MR. GREGORY: ...and in a civilian case. But my question is, are we committed with these terror suspects that if they are acquitted in civilian courts, they should be released?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, no. And don't forget, we're not going to...
MR. GREGORY: Then why--but then why hold up the American system...
SEC'Y CLINTON: But...
MR. GREGORY: ...as the right route if you're not going to release them? That's what the American system says you have to do.
SEC'Y CLINTON: But, David, first of all, our system is the best system in the world. We all know that. It is good enough and strong enough to either convict and sentence the guilty or even execute, where appropriate, and, where you can't convince an American jury, which is
certainly obsessed with terrorism, maybe there's a question about the strength of the case. And I think what we are trying to do is get the best result consistent with our laws and Constitution. And under our laws, military commissions are legal for certain cases, but it should be the primary decision to use our civilian courts whenever and wherever possible.
So I, I think that this has become a kind of strange argument. On the one hand, people say we want to convict these people. The civilian courts have a better record of actually convicting and imprisoning than we do yet have in the military commission. But we also don't want to have security problems or publicity problems for particularly dangerous leading terrorists, so we should look at the military commission. So I, I think that this is a difficult issue, but I really hope that everyone can look at it carefully and consider all of the facts concerning this.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Secretary Clinton, before I let you go, I have to ask you this, just as a political observer, what do you make of what happened on Election Day? And all this talk about Sarah Palin, when I interviewed you a while back, you said you'd be willing to sit down and have coffee with her. She may be someone who is in a position to try to equal what you accomplished in the political arena. What, what advice might you give her? And what do you make of what's happened politically?
SEC'Y CLINTON: You know, David, the best thing about being secretary of State is representing the United States around the world, but the second best thing is I'm out of politics. So, with all due respect, I am not going to comment on the political scene right now, other than to say that I'm focused on making the case to 67-plus senators in the Senate to pass the START treaty because that's, to me, the, the most important task facing the Senate, and it goes way beyond politics.
MR. GREGORY: And here I thought I'd lulled you into a moment of candor. Secretary Clinton, thank you very much, as always.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Thank you, David.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: We now turn to the author of the new book "Leadership and Crisis," Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal.
Governor, welcome back to the program. When we talk about politics, you're going to have to answer all the questions.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA): Well...
MR. GREGORY: You can't wiggle out. You can't use the secretary of State argument on. I'm just putting you on notice.
GOV. JINDAL: That's right. That's not my job. Thank you for having me back.
MR. GREGORY: All right.
GOV. JINDAL: It's great to be back.
MR. GREGORY: I, I want to talk, because your book deals a lot with the issue of the role of government. And we'll talk about the gulf oil spill in just a moment. But let me pick up on an area that I asked Secretary Clinton about, the TSA, these airport screeners and some of these
searches that are really disturbing people around the country, is this excessive?
GOV. JINDAL: Absolutely. Now, look, let's start off, we cannot be lackadaisical about protecting our country against terrorists, make no mistake about that. But I've got two primary concerns with how they're doing this. First, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, others have made this point...
MR. GREGORY: Conservative columnists.
GOV. JINDAL: Other conservative columnists have made this point; they're not using common sense, they're not using intelligence. Look, there's no reason for them to be doing these body searches of six-year-old, 12-year-old girls traveling from Louisiana to visit their grandparents.
We're not talking about profiling, but use the information to actually--don't let political correctness stop them. Use the information we have to actually apply our defenses to those most likely to cause us harm.
But here's the second concern. It feels too much, from this administration, like we're playing a defensive game in the war on terrorism. Yes, we need to harden our infrastructure, but if you have a committed terrorist who's willing to give up their lives, you look at that past pattern. We got lucky with the bomb in Times Square, we got lucky with the cargo packages, we got lucky with the underwear bomber that the devices didn't go off. Luck is not a strategy. We need to be rooting out these networks, we need to be killing these terrorists. I think that the American people are worried when they see an administration worried about reading Miranda rights to the underwear bomber. They worry when they see an administration committed to civilian trials. They wonder, "You're so worried about the rights of the terrorists, what about the rights of the innocent American traveler?" So, absolutely, I'm concerned that out of political correctness, they're screening people they don't really believe to be dangerous.
MR. GREGORY: So you think profiling is really a better option.
GOV. JINDAL: I don't think it's profiling. I think it's using the information we know. You look at things like, for example, you look at travel patterns, you look at how they purchase their ticket, you look at the information, the intel we've got. We all know--and again, George
Will and others make this point so articulately--we all know that the grandmother who's being, being body searched doesn't really pose the threat. We know the little girl going to visit her grandmother--here's the third thing that is also odd. The administration rolled this out
right before the busiest travel time of the entire year, never making their case to the American public. If they really believed this was a response to a genuine threat, why didn't they make their case to the American public? The bottom line is, yes, we need to secure our country,
but simply playing defense isn't enough.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let me...
GOV. JINDAL: Yes, we need to harden our infrastructure.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. JINDAL: But I think that it's hard to, to listen to an administration that's reading the Miranda rights, stopping the interrogation of the underwear bomber. And it's so hard to understand, why are they so worried about the terrorist's rights and not our rights?
MR. GREGORY: You know, you, you write about this in your book, and I want to put a portion of it out the way you talk about a therapeutic foreign policy. We'll get that portion of your book and put it on the screen. You write that "Our current therapeutic approach to national
security is dangerous. I'm just not interested in empathizing with the `grievances' of our sworn enemies. Let's figure out where they're vulnerable and destroy them." And hearing what you just said, I think a lot of people would hear that and say, "Is that a serious commentary?" I
mean, you keep mentioning the Christmas Day bomber, who actually confessed to what he was doing; and the Miranda rights were not read until later, number one. How could you say that this administration, which has so many areas of continuity and is more robust in targeting
terrorists in Pakistan, surging up forces in Afghanistan, a continuity with regard to treatment of, of terror suspects and detainees, how could this be a therapeutic approach to foreign policy and national security?
GOV. JINDAL: Well, three things. One, I think the Bush administration was also wrong, by the way, the way they treated Richard Reid, the, the shoe bomber. I, I don't just criticize this president, I criticize President Bush.
MR. GREGORY: So you think President Bush just got lucky?
GOV. JINDAL: No. I...
MR. GREGORY: When there was no strike after--well, how does Obama just get lucky, but President Bush is better?
GOV. JINDAL: Wait a minute. Let me answer your question. First, I think he was wrong and the administration was wrong in the way they approached that bomber in the same way. I mean, go back to the Miranda rights for the, the underwear bomber. What evidence do they need? He--I mean, they caught him with the device. What was the purpose? You asked
a great question to Secretary Clinton: Why are we doing these civilian trials if they're not going to release them? Why are we compromising sources?
But here's the second point. You look at some of President Obama's writings. You look at how he talks about, "Well, we need to understand the, the disadvantaged backgrounds. This is a matter of social justice and more foreign aid." Nonsense. The analysts have looked at the
terrorists that are coming at us. A--the disproportionate share are educated, come from privileged backgrounds. The reality is, this isn't about people who don't have enough jobs, who don't have enough social aid. This is about fighting an enemy that hates our way of life. This
is a fundamental clash of cultures. And I think that it's important to the war on terrorism that we understand what's at stake. This isn't, "Well, let's go and figure out a way to apologize for America." This isn't, "Have we offended them because we're supporting Israel?" I think
our foreign policy needs to be based around the understanding this is an enemy that hates our--and disagrees with our fundamental freedoms.
MR. GREGORY: Let's, let's bring it back home. Let's talk about your book, "Leadership in Crisis." Here's some video back in May of you having a pretty heated discussion with the president. And we don't have to relitigate the whole issue there. It had to do with expanding food stamp assistance for those affected by the spill. He was concerned about a
letter that you had sent out and some of the timing issues, but you make a larger point as a result of that discussion, and, and you write about it in the book. "That encounter with President Obama served as a reminder to me of why Americans are so frustrated with Washington: the feds focus on the wrong things. Political posturing becomes more
important than reality. In Washington they live by the motto: `Perception is reality.' They worry about things they shouldn't and fail to do things that they should focus on. It's called core competence, or lack thereof." Was the administration incompetent in dealing with the
gulf oil spill?
GOV. JINDAL: Absolutely. And look, that whole conversation, and even in their response to the book, the administration doesn't get it. They were mad--he was mad about food stamps. The point was two weeks after the explosion, the, the main issue wasn't food stamps. We were frustrated by the lack of resources, lack of a plan.
I write in the book, for example, that there was literally one case, oil coming into Timbalier Bay. There's boom, there, there are resources, there are people, there are boats sitting on the dock in Cocodrie. I take the federal government official in charge of the response to
Louisiana by Black Hawk helicopter so he can see the oil, thinking, of course, we'll get a response now. When he sees the oil, he admits there's oil, he admits the resources there. He tells me, because of the bureaucracy, it'll take 24 to 48 hours to move those resources, get them mobilized. That's too late.
A second instance, we have a locally devised solution: vacuum barges to pick up the oil out of the water. The federal government shuts it down for over 24 hours so they can check the valves, so they can count the number of life jackets and fire extinguishers, so they can do routine inspections. After being embarrassed publicly, 24 hours later they admit, "We don't need to do the inspections." But they waste that time in the meantime.
Look, the White House comes back in response to the book and says, "Well, we talked to the governor every day." It wasn't access. We had access. We had plenty of access. It was not getting timely action. You and I were talking about the bureaucracy, the red tape. Fake five years ago, in the federal response to Katrina, we saw some of the same impediments again, in response to the oil spill. At one point, we pointed out there was boom, there was materials all over the country sitting in warehouses and facilities. It took too long to relax the regulations to move those resources to the gulf coast. That would be like fighting a war, running out of ammunition on the front lines, having ammunition sitting in the warehouses because that's what the rules say. They didn't cut through the red tape and bureaucracy. They didn't always realize what were the most important things to get done.
MR. GREGORY: The White House has struck back pretty hard at this. You know, one of the things you talk about is being more concerned with the PR strategy, and yet, look at the cover at this book, "Leadership in Crisis." I mean, you know, you've got a picture of you in, in response to the gulf oil spill. This could be certainly seen as a way to, to shore up your own political standing and use your own PR. And the White House says this, this is a statement they provided to us about some of the substance in the book. I'll put it on the screen. "The governor requested the national guard, we approved and he never put them to work. Governor Jindal pushed for his berms," those sand berms, we can talk more in just minute, "which everyone has agreed were a mistake. Governor Jindal said that we didn't have a plan for skimmers" and "or boom, when he knows perfectly well that we did, [National Incident Commander Adm.] Thad Allen described it to him countless times, and Gov. Jindal's own office approved the plans. He got a daily update on the status of skimmers and boom from the Coast Guard in advance of the daily call." There's nothing, "this is nothing more than trying to sell a book."
GOV. JINDAL: Well, look, the first meeting, he comes on, he tips off the Washington reporter, "Watch this interaction." He tells them, "I'm going to be mad with the governor."
MR. GREGORY: You see--the president, you're saying.
GOV. JINDAL: The president, the, the White House, I'm not sure he actually called all those reporters up and said, "Watch this." The second time he comes down to Louisiana, at the end of the second meeting--we have a meeting with parish presidents, other elected officials. The end of the second meeting, he turns to me and Billy Nungesser, parish--president of Plaquemines Parish, and says, "And I don't want you guys going on TV to criticize me." This is the president of the United States, and he's more worried not about, "Guys, here's the plan. Here's how we're going to fight the oil." Here was the problem, and you look again at the response. Yeah, we talked to him every day, but the, the frustration was actually getting a response, actually getting them to move the assets on the ground. Time and time again, they wouldn't listen to local fishermen. They wouldn't listen to people who lived down there,
who know those waters like the back of their hands. From the beginning, they continued to be over reliant on the experts from BP and others. They underestimated the threat. You know, you remember the first several days, there's no...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. JINDAL: ...oil. Then it's a thousand barrels.
MR. GREGORY: But what about your role, Governor. I mean, your big issue is pushing to build this, this chain of sand berms to get the oil to stop coming ashore. By all accounts, it had a negligible effect, at best.
GOV. JINDAL: Well, that, that's not true, David. We were very pleased. Two things about the sand berms. We've now built over 12 miles, and this is going to be the largest coastal island restoration project in our state's history, which is something, by the way, that is good for our
coast, independent of the oil spill, good to protect us against hurricane surge as well as oil spill. We've collected thousands of pounds of oily debris off these berms. We have been able to stop oil both on the surface and submerged oil. And here's the third thing, if they hadn't
slowed us down, they took almost a month to approve the permits. Even after they approved the permits, they wouldn't allow us to dredge the sand from the areas they had already approved. We could have built many more miles.
The sand berms were a great success, but here's--this is another great example. They weren't willing to think outside the box. The federal government themselves approved. The US Corps of Engineers said the positives outweigh the negatives. The--Admiral Allen and the president both intervened to approve six of those segments. They themselves--this was a preapproved Coast Guard response to an oil spill, very effective. We are thrilled we did those sand berms.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, scientists will disagree with that, but we'll...
GOV. JINDAL: Not every scientist. Now wait a minute, the, the--it--let's not say that everybody disagrees. There are scientists that absolutely say this was one of the best things we could do for coast. Now that we've convinced BP not to just make them temporary
berms, but to convert them into coastal islands, the, the restoration of what was the original footprint, there are many scientists who have praised this as one of the most significant steps forward.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let me ask you a bottom line question. Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, somebody who's, who's been a mentor to you, a very important Republican figure, he said on this program back in June, the federal government's done more right than wrong. What do you know that he doesn't know? What have you seen that he didn't see assessing the situation?
GOV. JINDAL: Well, you go back, you go back to that day. Louisiana at that point had--it continued to bear the brunt of the oil coming in to our coast, and our frustration was, again, when we wanted resources, they weren't there. When their resources weren't available, we came up with solutions, like jack up barges to make the boom last longer so we could deploy it in real time. It literally--it took meetings with the president of the United States to cut through the bureaucracy to get that done. And they wasted time in the meantime.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
GOV. JINDAL: We wanted solutions like using hard pipe to deflect oil. It took too long for them. What we basically said was, "If you don't have the resources, let us protect our own coast. At least, either lead or get out of the way." And the problem was, either they didn't provide the resources, then when we tried, they interfered with our efforts.
MR. GREGORY: Just a minute left here. Some politics questions here. Do you think the president's a one-term president?
GOV. JINDAL: I think it's up to him. I think the voters said a couple of weeks ago they want to see less deficits, less spending, $14 trillion and counting is too much. The government 24 percent of GDP is too high. They don't want this administration to focus on Obamacare, cap and trade, card check. They want this administration and Congress focused on getting the private sector economy running and growing again.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
GOV. JINDAL: If he changes direction, he can certainly make a, a stronger case. But if he stays, if he doubles down on his current path, I think it's going to be very hard to make the case two years from now that he deserves to be re-elected.
MR. GREGORY: You don't want to be president in 2012?
GOV. JINDAL: No. You've got the tape from me last time.
MR. GREGORY: I do. You, would you be on a ticket? Would you be a number two?
GOV. JINDAL: Look, I'm running for re-election in 2011. I'm running to be the governor of Louisiana. There will be other candidates running for president and vice president.
MR. GREGORY: Would you rule out, rule out being a number two on a ticket?
GOV. JINDAL: I'm not going to turn down something that's not been offered to me.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
GOV. JINDAL: But I'm not running for vice president. I'm, I'm...
MR. GREGORY: Would you like to be president some day?
GOV. JINDAL: I, look, my only political aspiration is to be re-elected governor for a second term. We've cut spending in Louisiana. Portfolio.com says we've got the second best economic performance in the country. We're not raising taxes.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
GOV. JINDAL: I think we can prove a great example in Louisiana of what Washington should be doing instead of borrowing and printing more money.
MR. GREGORY: Sarah Palin gets a great deal of attention as a movement conservative. Can she unite the Republican Party and actually be the nominee?
GOV. JINDAL: I think she can make a compelling case. I think there's several governors, former governors, and others.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. JINDAL: My bias is, and I've said this before, I like governors because they have to balance their budgets, they have to run their states. They actually have to, to...
MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, she, she was a governor. But the question is, I'm sure she could make a compelling case, but do you think she can unify the party and actually get the nomination, as you survey the landscape?
GOV. JINDAL: I--look, I'll leave it to the pundits. I'm sure she can. But I'm sure there are a lot of other candidates. I think there's such a focus on the messengers, what's more important is the message. The Republican Party, Karl Rove says we're on probation. He's right. We're
on borrowed time. Four years ago we blew it because we defended--the Republican Party defended earmarks and spending we would never accept. Now the Republicans, I'm glad they've shifted their position on earmarks.They've got to cut nondefense discretionary spending. We've got to show in the next two years we're worthy of being a majority party by cutting spending back to historic norms, cutting taxes, getting the private sector economy growing. Let the pundits figure out who's running in 2012, who the nominee is going to be, who the RNC chair is going to be. What's more important for us is to show the American people we've learned our lessons, we deserve to be a majority party again.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We'll leave it there. Governor, thank you very much.
GOV. JINDAL: David, thank you for having me.
MR. GREGORY: Up next.
GOV. JINDAL: And buy the book.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. There you go.
Up next, growing controversy over new airport security rules, as we've been talking about, including what many people say are invasive pat-downs. Plus, an early look at the fight for the White House 2012, as Sarah Palin sets the stage for a possible presidential run. Our
roundtable weighs in on it all: Robert Draper, who's written about Palin's inner circle for this morning's New York Times magazine; The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot; Richard Wolffe, author of the new book "Revival," about the Obama administration; and incoming tea party-backed Republican congressman from Florida, Allen West.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up, our roundtable looks ahead to the fight in Congress over taxes and spending. Plus, a 2012 preview. Does Sarah Palin's new book set the stage for a presidential run? After this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: We are back with our roundtable now. Joining me, editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, Paul Gigot; contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, Robert Draper--his piece is out today on Sarah Palin, the cover story of The New York Times Magazine--and the author of the new book "Revival" is with us, "The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House," Richard Wolffe; as well as incoming congressman from Florida, Republican Allen West.
Welcome to all of you.
Congressman, let me start with you. I mean, a, a fellow Republican, Governor Jindal, talking about the searches that we've seen around the country. And remember as we look at some of this video that a lot of people think it's disturbing. These are people who are making a choice
not to go through the actual machines that provide a rather revealing look at, at, at our bodies. And if they don't do that, they, they get these pat-downs. You heard him say, “clearly excessive." Is this going to become a bigger issue in Washington?
REP.-ELECT ALLEN WEST (R-FL): I think it may end up becoming an issue, especially when we come out of this holiday season and we see how that affects us--the travel and the, and the economy. But I think, once again, it comes back to marketing. I mean, we should have put out some type of feelers and talked to the American people about this before we go and implement this type of plan. And also, when you go back, you look at after September 11, we had the opportunity with Israel coming and talking to us about improving our security screening procedures, and we turned them down. I traveled to Israel, and I tell you what, they have
very good procedures, and you don't have to go through all of these very draconian practices.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Well, this is the, this is the debate, Richard. I mean, it--whether--what the Israelis do, a little bit more psychological profiling through an interview, whether there's an element of profiling. I mean, the larger question is, is there a better way here?
MR. RICHARD WOLFFE: Well, let's just be clear, OK? This isn't about marketing. You know, this is about national security. You've got a very risk-averse president who, as I explain in my book, was very unhappy with the way the Christmas Day bomber was proceeding and, and berated his national security team. So, with respect, I don't understand why a Democratic president or a Democratic administration introduces intrusive security measures, and that's an invasion of privacy; but a Republican president can, you know, have no-fly lists, no-fly lists that take up thousands of people...
REP.-ELECT WEST: Well, I didn't, I didn't agree, I didn't agree with that either. But I think that one of the critical things...
MR. WOLFFE: Well, wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second.
REP.-ELECT WEST: No, listen to me. One of the things we need to say...
MR. WOLFFE: The Republican...
REP.-ELECT WEST: ...it is about trend analysis, it is not about profiling. And I think--when I talk about marketing, I'm talking about talking to the American people about these changes in procedures.
MR. GREGORY: In setting it up. But where does this go, Paul Gigot? Where does this debate go, do you think?
MR. PAUL GIGOT: I think the danger here is that the public begins to revolt against these kinds of security procedures.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. GIGOT: And then you risk losing public support not just for airport screenings, but for the whole war on terror and the whole national security regime post-9/11. So I think we got to think very carefully whether this kind of intrusive pat-down is what we want to do. And I
think, in the end--we've already seen them move on children. No--children under 12 now are not going to be...
MR. GREGORY: Right. Pilots exempted now.
MR. GIGOT: That's right, pilots exempted now. I think there's going to be some real push back here, and the administration would do well to listen or lose support more broadly.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But we have to remember that--I always say, you know, the country was here after 9/11, maybe has gone down to here.
MR. ROBERT DRAPER: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: But, in terms of vigilance, could get right back up to here in a heartbeat. All you need is another Christmas Day attempt, or another attempt that we've heard about in months after that. And this is an effective way to deal with it, and we have to put up with some of this.
MR. DRAPER: Absolutely. And I'm, I'm really struck listening to Congressman West of the--of how this is not so much a debate between laissez-faire, libertarian, tea party types and the Obama administration. But a debate between them, the former group, and the former head of the Republican Party, President George W. Bush, who in the wake of 9/11 really believed that no price was too dear for security. And so, granted, there are a lot of arguments we could make in the margins about what's working and what is not. But, but finally this is about the price that we pay to be secure.
MR. GREGORY: Congressman, is there--do, do tea party candidates, or the tea party sentiment within Congress now...
REP.-ELECT WEST: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...of which I think you are a part, is there going to be a battle with the, with the Republican Party on issues like this that are--become more about libertarian concerns?
REP.-ELECT WEST: Well, I wouldn't say it's about libertarian concerns. I think that when you look at the tea party, it is about a grassroots, constitutional, conservative movement. And one of the critical parts of that is national security. But I think that we need to focus our efforts and focus our national security efforts, and not come up with a lot of these somewhat seemingly knee-jerk reactions that we're seeing with this pat-down procedure. And once again, I think that we need to understand--define who the enemy is, first and foremost, and then make sure that we have the security apparatus and procedures in place...
MR. GREGORY: Do you think profiling is appropriate?
REP.-ELECT WEST: I don't call it profiling.
MR. GREGORY: What do you call it?
REP.-ELECT WEST: Let me tell you, I call it trend analysis, because having been a commander in the battlefield, what you look for are trends, and you focus your resources on those trends. You know, profiling has become this negative, connotative phrase. But if we continue--and I do think, you know, from the previous administration to this administration, we have been somewhat lucky in, in the, in the thwarting of some of the attacks that we have seen. But we've got to be able to focus our security apparatus and resources.
MR. GREGORY: Richard Wolffe, let me, let me go a little bit broader here. This was a snapshot of our NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in terms of the view toward what's going to happen in Washington here between the president and Republicans. It's a pretty, pretty dire view.
Americans think there's going to be a lot of division, a lot of gridlock, little willingness to compromise by a margin of 76 percent to 19 percent. Whether it's the START treaty or the tax cuts, what's, what's going to give here? Are Republicans saying to the president, "Look, the price is now a lot higher to do business with us"?
MR. WOLFFE: They've been very explicit, haven't they? Mitch McConnell has said he wants the president to be a one-termer. The question is, if this plays out, especially for independent voters--if you think that independent voters are what swung the last election, where the Obama administration has lost support in the last couple of years, what do they want to see? And now you have an alignment between Democrats and independents, they want the two sides to work together. If the Republicans are serious about this stuff, about moving to this more libertarian side of things, whether it's on START or it's on this TSA pat-down stuff, you're going to have a serious threat for Republicans about giving up their national security credentials. As we saw in 2004, that's a pretty risky position against an incumbent president at a time of war and terrorist threats.
MR. GREGORY: Look at the headlines, Paul Gigot, from The Hill newspaper and others about liberals in the president's party. The Washington Times headline, "Liberals prod Obama to show some muscle in the tax-cut battle." "Angry left to Obama: Stop caving," that was in The Hill. So now, I mean, the president's in a position where he probably--he realizes he's got to move a little bit on the tax cut debate, extending the Bush-era tax cuts. But the left--and Nancy Pelosi's back as leader of the Democrats--is saying, "Not so fast here."
MR. GIGOT: No. The president's interests now are separate from the Democrats on the Hill. When you're in the minority, you're going to want to oppose everything that the Republicans in the majority do because your interests are becoming the majority again. The president, on the other hand, and Senate Democrats, many of whom are up in 2012, have an interest in accomplishment and getting things done. So what I think you're going to see is the president is going to have to move to the center, at least symbolically and substantively. Symbolically, I think, in a, in a, in a tonal sense, but substantively on some issues. And I would look for it
to happen on taxes, I would look to it to happen on some spending cuts. And Richard and the Democrats might not like this, but the truth is, he's going to have to do that if he wants to get re-elected.
MR. GREGORY: The--Congressman, the--on the issue of tax cuts, do you buy the president's argument, "Look, let's extend those Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class first, then we can come back and do the upper earners, or at least have that conversation"?
REP.-ELECT WEST: No. I think that we need to extend those tax cuts permanently across the board. Look, I come from a--an area down in South Florida where unemployment is at 13 percent, foreclosures are absolutely high. We are seeing closed upon closed storefronts. But yet, when you walk around here in Washington, D.C., you don't see people getting laid off, you don't see, you know, anyone suffering, you don't see the foreclosures. There is a belief that things are not going well down on Main Street, and they need to be heard. There is a belief that it has to start from up here with the right type of cuts in the spending, the right
type of cuts in the growth of government. So I think it's so important that we understand that we have to invigorate the, the growth of this country, the long-term, sustainable growth of this country, which comes from our small businesses and comes from our corporate business growth.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, leadership moment here. Look at some of the responses to the deficit commission and whether folks are uncomfortable with some of the proposals. Look at our polling and what it finds, pretty big numbers. Seventy percent uncomfortable with cuts in
spending for Medicare, Social Security and defense. Fifty-nine percent uncomfortable with increased taxes, eliminating some deductions. Fifty-seven percent uncomfortable raising the Social Security retirement age to 69 over the next 60 years. Is it--does all that have to be on the table for you as a freshman congressman coming in, all those cuts on the table?
REP.-ELECT WEST: I, I think everything has to be on the table. I think that we need to have an honest conversation with the American people. And I think that when you look at some of the things up here with the, the public sector compensation--you know, we could find about $47 billion if we aligned government compensation with private sector. We need to look at our Defense Department. We need to look at, you know, how do we, you know, reform--not reform, but how do we repair Social Security? How do we get Social Security back into that independent trust fund account? We need to look at how do we set the conditions economically so maybe we have less people that have to be on Social Security, Medicare and
Medicaid? And I think that's one of the critical challenges we have to make going into this 112th Congress.
MR. GREGORY: Richard, do you see the president advocating for some of this, this tough medicine here?
MR. WOLFFE: I...
MR. GREGORY: I mean, if the commission was political cover, I don't know. It doesn't look like a lot of cover yet.
MR. WOLFFE: I think he was serious about the deficit stuff. You know, one of the stories I tell in "Revival" is how they had to game out whether or not they would get any Republicans at all to get on this deficit commission. That's how bad the politics of this are. But the
president's talked about the deficit a lot. He, he knows that's what voters care about. This is a moment when he can actually say to these incoming members of Congress, "You talk about the deficit, but if you take taxes off the table, how are you going to be serious about doing
that? That's not a reasonable discussion." His position, his natural default, is to say, "The left is over here, the radical right's over there, I'm the serious grown-up in the middle." That's where he's got to play this deficit.
MR. GREGORY: Is there a grand bargain that's possible, either one of you, with regard to taxes and spending, that they're both part of an equation?
MR. DRAPER: I mean, I, I think on taxes, it's a, it's a politically winning argument for the Republicans to say let's keep the Bush tax cuts. But as Richard is saying, it presents President Obama with an opportunity to say, "You've just left $300 billion of, of a way of lopping off the deficit. You, you've left that off the table, so show me something that's worth $300 billion." You can't say earmark reform, that's $18 billion, that's chicken feed.
MR. WOLFFE: Right.
MR. GIGOT: But beyond that, beyond the Bush tax cuts and extending those, which I think won't happen for at least two years, the real opportunity for bipartisan agreement I--here, I think, is tax reform.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. GIGOT: And you saw the reaction to the deficit commission proposal to lower the top rates...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. GIGOT: ...lower the rates and the corporate rate to as low as 23 percent at one option. And then you broaden the base, giving up certain deductions, which would be hard to do, but I think both parties see that this as a possibility to get together. I don't know if it'll happen in
the next two years, but I think this is something--and you saw it in the reaction. The Republican reaction to this, from Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling and others, was, "Let's talk about this." And Nancy Pelosi said, "No way. We can't talk about it."
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let's...
MR. GIGOT: But the president has an interest in doing so.
MR. GREGORY: Let me take a break here. We're going to do that, we're going to come back, talk about the battleground 2012. The campaign's already started, whether we like it or not, and we'll talk about specifically the "Sarah Palin effect." Some news on that this morning,
thanks to Mr. Draper. Our roundtable continues right after this.
MR. GREGORY: We are back. I want to talk about the battleground 2012. I thought Governor Jindal said he doesn't want to be president yet. Didn't rule out being on a ticket in 2012. And when you write a book like "Leadership in Crisis," I think you're positioning yourself, but we'll
put that out there.
Let's talk about Sarah Palin. Here is The New York Times Magazine that folks are waking up to around the country, and on the cover, "The Palin Network: How the GOP's Leading Shadow Candidate Runs Her Guerilla Organization."
Robert Draper, you wrote this piece. You talked to her. A portion of this is from your interview with Governor Palin. She says this, "I know that a hurdle I would have to cross, that some other potential candidates wouldn't have to cross right out of the chute, is proving my record.
That's the most frustrating thing for me - the warped and perverted description of my record and what I've accomplished over the last two decades. It's been much more perplexing to me than where the lamestream media has wanted to go about my personal life. And other candidates haven't faced these criticisms the way I have." Her record does matter. Her ability to be seen, as Karl Rove says in his piece in The Wall Street Journal this week, can folks look at her and imagine her in the Oval Office?
MR. DRAPER: Well...
MR. GREGORY: She's not there yet.
MR. DRAPER: That's the big question. I mean, what she was referring to was her record as governor of Alaska. But I don't think that moves the needle on her approval ratings. I mean, I think that, that, you know, the, the question that she's going to have to answer is, if "commonsense conservatism" is shorthand for "I haven't learned the issues." And, and, you know, she has done more to close the substance deficit. I mean, her--she's had increasingly wonkish speeches. But yeah, there's this cognitive dissonance of seeing her climbing a glacier. It's kind of a cool visual, but is that the same visual of being in the Oval Office? I
mean, she's got a ways to go on that.
MR. GREGORY: She, she spoke, as well, in this new show that she's got on TLC, five million viewers, an interesting clip from her reality show. I want to show that.
MS. SARAH PALIN: You know, having every word, every action scrutinized and, in some cases, mocked, I can handle it. I, you know, I kind of have asked for it, right?
MR. GREGORY: Congressman, it is interesting. I mean, she's certainly out there in the arena. Look, she endorsed you.
REP.-ELECT WEST: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: What kind of impact did that have? And what is your assessment of her strength after the midterms?
REP.-ELECT WEST: Well, I have to tell you this, right now I haven't even been sworn in, so I think the most important thing we need to be focused on is, how do we take care of the problems that are facing this country? Because if we don't do that, if this Republican Congress and the House of Representatives does not do that, it does not matter who you put up for
MR. GREGORY: Fair enough.
REP.-ELECT WEST: ...in 2012.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP.-ELECT WEST: So that's what the people are looking for. Now, I will tell you this, you know, she did endorse me with four other military candidates back in March of this year. It was good to have her endorsement because she does have a, a reach to the grassroots movement, but it is also incumbent upon me to be able to, once I get that trust and confidence, to come up here and prove myself worthy of what the people have shown. But this is also important: The, the world is Machiavellian, not so much Kantian, and the next president of the United States has to understand that there are wolves out there. And the next president of the United States is going to have to sit down at a table and stare down some very tough customers.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
REP.-ELECT WEST: And I think that's the number one criteria we need to be thinking about as we move forward.
MR. GREGORY: It's interesting, Richard Wolffe, if you look, Ron Brownstein has written some about this for the National Journal, the idea that there are some similarities, if you look at the, the landscape on the right of how a candidate Palin could draw votes away from a Mitt
Romney or another candidate that, that he describes it as a "beer-wine track phenomenon." But in other words, the working class white voters, in the way that Hillary Clinton got those voters in her primary fight with Obama, that that's the space that she could occupy as well.
MR. WOLFFE: Right. But her basic problem is that she has a 35 percent approval rating among independents.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. WOLFFE: When you start that that low among a group that has essentially decided every election in recent memory, you've got a huge problem, a mountain to climb. And combine that with the popularity of the grass roots among the primary voters in the Republican party, it's a
dynamic that is going to tear this thing apart. And it reminds me of Howard Dean. I covered Howard Dean in 2004. Strong grassroots support, people looked at the numbers and said he's not going to make it. I think that's one of the reasons why Sarah Palin did well in the House level, but not so well in the Senate race. I mean, her Senate-backed candidates did not perform well and that's because the wider appeal is not there.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. She's going to shake things up, though, for Iowa, that's for sure.
MR. GIGOT: Well, I--well, I think so, if she does decide to run. Politics, though, is additive, as Richard points out. You've got to build on your base. I think the field is wide open, the Republican field, and I think she has a chance to get the, to get the nomination if she runs. She has a lot of likeability, people really think that--they love her sincerity. She comes across as real, not practiced, not canned. But she does have to make the case to people that she can do the job. She has to look presidential, and that will--and particularly, to people in the suburbs around Philadelphia and the suburbs. Republicans did very well in Wisconsin, for example.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. GIGOT: How are you going to make the sale to those swing voters and independents? You want a state like that.
MR. GREGORY: What did you learn about how the Palin world operates, though, that is clearly unconventional and is not following any script? I mean, if Republicans are known for the next one in line and a lot of order...
MR. DRAPER: Sure. Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...this is--she's not playing with that script.
MR. DRAPER: It is the polar opposite of, say, the Bush organization of 2004. I mean, it's people playing outside their lanes. No one has a title. People essentially do what's in front of them. And Paul and I were discussing it before, I mean, there's--it's--those of us in the media who tried to reach out to the Palin organization are faced with, you know, endless delays and, and often pocket vetoing. And, and, and it is not an organization that can any way transfer itself to a campaign structure. Palin herself recognizes that. She said as much to me. But the question is, will she be able to bring in people whom she trusts, who are capable of doing this sort of thing. Trust is a huge issue with the Palins. They feel like they were really burned in 2008. And the question is, how much of an informing characteristic will that be going forward?
MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to take another break here, quickly. We'll come back. We'll have some final thoughts in just a moment from our roundtable. Don't go away.
MR. GREGORY: We're back with our roundtable. Some closing thoughts. Richard Wolffe, the book is "Revival." How does the White House, how does the president think about the road to recovery politically right now?
MR. WOLFFE: Well, for a start, there's a reason, one of the reasons I called it "Revival" is because 10 months ago this guy was written off for dead. Health care was dead. He was finished. Two months later, he gets health care and, incidentally, a treaty with the Russians. It's happened time and again. Through the primaries, when Sarah Palin was nominated,
this guy was over. There is something of the comeback about him, and they're hoping it's going to happen again. How does he do it? He's got to get back to where he was in 2008, the change guy, change the way business is done. If he's just another inside Washington politician, he's going to be in trouble.
MR. GREGORY: But everybody I talk to, Congressman, says this is not somebody who tacks to the center, doesn't play small ball, was not a tactical player. And that, that becomes a choice for him, just as conservatives have a choice about how they want to use this power they've
REP.-ELECT WEST: Absolutely. And I think the critical thing is to look at the first 90 to 120 days. What is the relationship between the House GOP, the Senate, and the administration? I think you have to look and see what is going to be the impact of this incredible freshman class
that's coming in that's one-third of the House GOP. I think it was very--the historical metaphor I use comparing Nancy Pelosi being brought back in as minority leader, Pickett's charge. I mean, if we had given Picket another division and told him to go and try it again. So I think that those three things are going to be the interesting dynamics.
MR. GREGORY: What is your mandate as you come to town? What is your mandate?
REP.-ELECT WEST: My mandate is to listen to the American people, the people that sent us up here. And the mandate is to do something about the, the growth of government, the, the spending of government, and get back to a constitutional based principle of governance.
MR. GREGORY: Paul Gigot, quickly, do Republicans have a mandate to actually cooperate at some level. Do they have something? Do they need something tangible at this point?
MR. GIGOT: I think they do need something tangible on taxes, and I think in terms of spending cuts. They need to show a reduction in the growth of government. I don't think they need to get a huge, all encompassing budget deal, but they need to show that they're attempting to do that in the House.
MR. GREGORY: Right. And are they willing to...
MR. GIGOT: Put that on the table in the House.
MR. GREGORY: Are they willing to advocate really draconian cuts in the face of the headwinds here?
MR. DRAPER: This is what interests me.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. DRAPER: I will be very curious to see. You know, we've been hearing a mantra from a lot of the incoming freshman about blowing up the appropriations process from the inside. So I'll be very curious to see if they actually do that or if they succumb to the temptation, when some of them seated on the Appropriations Committee, to throw that money around for pet projects for their constituents.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We are going to leave it there. Thank you all very much.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Before we go, a little piece of history. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the election of John F. Kennedy, NBC News has launched JFK: 50 Days, an iPad app that highlights 50 select moments from Kennedy's presidency. The app combines text and NBC News archival video, some not seen in 50 years, if ever at all.
That's all for today. We wish you all and your family a very happy Thanksgiving. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.