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Video: Durbin, Rogers, roundtable

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    MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, where does the fight in Libya lead? The rebels suffer setbacks against Colonel Gadhafi 's forces as Washington debates how deeply to get involved in Libya 's future .

    SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): Seems to me and I think everybody else that we are clearly involved in a regime change .

    MR. GREGORY: Can and should the U.S. force the Libyan dictator out? Should the United States provide arms to the Libyan rebels ? Back home, the standoff over the budget talks risks a government shutdown this week, while tea partiers stand firm.

    REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): It stops here. If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shut down the government instead of making a small down payment on fiscal discipline and reform , I say shut it down .

    MR. GREGORY: Or will there be a deal? With us, the assistant majority leader Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois ; and the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee , Congressman Mike Rogers , Republican from Michigan . Then, the political debate . The president outlines a broad view of when to use military force and seizes on the crisis in the Middle East and Japan to argue for energy independence . With us for

    perspective on that debate, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the book "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil , Money Power ," Daniel Yergin . Plus, the rest of our roundtable on the falling jobless rate and GOP infighting over spending. With us: Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy , columnist for The Washington Post E.J. Dionne , presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin , and president of the National Urban League , Marc Morial .

    Announcer: From NBC News in Washington , MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory .

    MR. GREGORY: Good morning. First, some news. In a statement just released this morning, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan , General David Petraeus , condemns the burning of the holy Quran by Florida Pastor Terry Jones last month. The incident has sparked deadly anti- American protests throughout Afghanistan , undermining U.S. efforts there. This as the focus back home is on the jobless rate. It dropped to 8.8 percent as a Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown looms.

    PRES. BARACK OBAMA: If these budget negotiations break down, we could end up having to shut down the government just at a time when the economy 's starting to recover.

    MR. GREGORY: All this as Republicans ready a long-term budget plan that will slash spending, reduce the size of government and tackle entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid . Joining us now for the very latest on these negotiations, the assistant majority leader in the Senate , Democrat Dick Durbin . Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS .

    SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Thanks, David .

    MR. GREGORY: I want to get to the budget and Libya in just a moment, but I want to start with this news out of Afghanistan , it's significant. You have these protests going on this week and they have been deadly, seven foreigners killed. Not just General Petraeus , but the president issued a statement saying that any act of destruction of the Quran is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. You have conducted hearings about anti-Muslim bias in this country . How concerned are you about what's happening and the response to what's happened in Florida ?

    SEN. DURBIN: I'm very concerned about it. I understand what the First Amendment says, the rights that are given to American citizens when it comes to speech and assembly and religion. But I want to tell you , this pastor, with his publicity stunt with the Quran , unfortunately endangers the lives of our troops and a lot of innocent people. It is time for him to accept the responsibility as an American to help our troops be safe.

    MR. GREGORY: Why -- what's different in this circumstance? He did this kind of underneath the radar. Before you had Secretary Gates and Clinton , the president himself speaking out in advance of him doing this, and yet here he just sort of did it and nobody noticed.

    SEN. DURBIN: Well, they did notice. And unfortunately, people have died as a result of it. And that's the reality. You know, you can't stop a person from exercising their constitutional rights , but I hope it is roundly condemned by everyone in America . This sort of hateful conduct, endangering the lives of innocent people and our troops , is totally unacceptable.

    MR. GREGORY: Do you think it's going to ratchet up, though? Because Pastor Jones has a scheduled rally against Muslims coming up later in the month.

    SEN. DURBIN: David , I wish there was a way that you would never mention his name again on the air, but I know that you have to report the news. He's looking for publicity, and as long as he gets that publicity he will continue this irresponsible conduct.

    MR. GREGORY: We will move on. But I do want to stay in Afghanistan and look at the map of the region , of course , and remind our viewers, lest we forget, what our troop presence is there, 100,000 troops . There is talk about a drawdown come this summer. The Washington Post reported this this week about what that might actually look like, and some dissension in the

    White House. The headline: "A Battle looms over the pace of the Afghanistan pullout. General Petraeus ," who I just mentioned, "has not presented a recommendation on the withdrawal to his superiors at the Pentagon , but some senior officers and military planning documents have described a July pullout as small to insignificant, prompting deep concern within the White House ." What are you comfortable with, what do you have to see as a beginning of that withdrawal in July to be satisfied?

    SEN. DURBIN: I want to see a clear trend line that suggests that American troops are coming home . The longest war in our history has to come to an end. We have to transfer responsibility of this war to the Afghan people , either their police force or their military . And we have to acknowledge the obvious, we cannot stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. It is too costly in terms of Americans lives and treasure.

    MR. GREGORY: So if this is just a -- what might be described as a small or a token withdrawal , that's not enough.

    SEN. DURBIN: Well, I think it has to be the beginning of a withdrawal that is significant. The president made that promise. I know he will keep it. He understand that our role in the world has to be defined and specific -- we see that in Libya -- and that we can't engage, as we have in the past, in these massive troop commitments that go on indefinitely.

    MR. GREGORY: Would you put a number on what the withdrawal has to be by July?

    SEN. DURBIN: It's hard for me to say that. I don't want to endanger the troops that are there. But I think what America 's looking for, what the president's looking for is a clear indication that we're coming home .

    MR. GREGORY: We'll get to Libya in just a moment, but I do want to talk about the big budget battle . We could have a government shutdown this week if the two sides don't come together. Is that where this is headed?

    SEN. DURBIN: I hope not. You know, this is the warm-up, David . As important as it is to finish the appropriation for the next six months of this year, we have a much, much bigger battle ahead of us in the next few weeks. We don't want to see the government shutdown . Speaker Boehner 's in a very delicate and tough political position. I understand that, even though I'm in the other party. I can see the problems that he's facing. But we have to put this behind us. We have agreed on a number as to the cut. Now we have to agree on the component parts of it and move forward. At the end of the day , the American people don't care who has bragging rights at the end of this. They want to make certain we are responsible and work together, both political parties , to meet a real national challenge.

    MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, but people understand that. But go behind the curtain here. What has to give? For instance, Democrats are pretty upset with the so-called riders in the spending cut legislation that would deny funding, say, for health care or would block the EPA from putting in certain environmental regulations, deny funding to Planned Parenthood , for an example. Would you be willing to vote for a compromise that included those, those bans on, on certain kind of spending?

    SEN. DURBIN: David , I think the House Republicans lose all credibility when they decide that this fight isn't over the deficit, it isn't over the amount of spending cuts, but rather it's to debate and relitigate political issues that have been in Washington for decades. For goodness sakes, let's get our job done. Let's fund the government . There's plenty of opportunity in the House and Senate to debate every other issue. That's what we're there for. But let's not tie up our government and close it down, to the embarrassment of both political parties , by insisting on these riders that are totally political .

    MR. GREGORY: Well, I understand your position. But could you vote for a compromise that included those riders?

    SEN. DURBIN: I can tell you, there are some that are totally unacceptable. The idea that we are going to close down the Environmental Protection Agency 's efforts to keep our air clean and our water pure, I mean, that sort of thing is irresponsible. To close down Planned Parenthood funding -- it is not for abortion, it's for family planning -- that's a step way beyond what the mandate of the last election called for.

    MR. GREGORY: So no vote from Senator Durbin , no yes vote, if those are still in there.

    SEN. DURBIN: Absolutely not.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me talk about the politics of this. You sounded sympathetic toward Speaker Boehner and what he has to deal with. Senator Schumer , your colleague, was on a conference call with Democratic colleagues on Tuesday, and some reporters -- didn't realize that, I guess, his microphone was open, the reporters could hear him. This is what he said about how to talk about the other side, how to talk about Republicans in this spending fight .

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I always use the word "extreme." That's what the caucus instructed me to do the other week. Extreme cuts and all these riders, and Boehner 's in a box. But if he supports the tea party , there's going to inevitably be a shutdown.

    MR. GREGORY: Look, you're in the leadership in the Senate here. I know from my own reporting that a big part of the White House strategy is to draw Republicans over the line and cast them as extreme. Are you going to win that battle ?

    SEN. DURBIN: Well, I think some of the spending cuts they're suggesting go way, way too far. Chuck Schumer , I think, is an indication of what happens in both political parties , in both caucuses, House and Senate . We talk about how to get a message through to the American people , as tough as it is in this day and age . And, and Chuck was instructing folks as to what he felt the best way was to deliver that message. But here's what it comes down to . We cannot go so far in our spending cuts at this moment as to jeopardize this recovery. We have good news, David . Last Friday more jobs are being created, the lowest unemployment rate in two years. But it's slow going and we don't want to kill off jobs. The House Republican budget would eliminate up to 700,000 jobs in America instead of 200,000 on the plus side, as we showed this month. We would be moving backwards, and we don't want to. We want to move out of this recession by creating jobs.

    MR. GREGORY: Let's stick with the politics. E.J. Dionne , the columnist with The Washington Post who will be on our roundtable in just a few minutes, has made the argument that President Obama has been sort of missing when it comes to framing the debate over spending cuts. Why?

    SEN. DURBIN: Well, you have to put it in this context. If the president asserted himself with the Obama plan, it would be summarily rejected. Congress would say, "Wait a minute. Separate branch of government . We'll call you when we need you." At this point, this is our responsibility. So a president walks a very delicate line here. He doesn't want to go too far in pushing his idea, but he wants to be there to encourage Congress to come to the right conclusion. President Obama 's doing that. I can tell you this, he has been working behind the scenes with both political parties for a long, long time. He -- yesterday he spoke to Speaker Boehner and, and Leader Reid , encouraging them, don't let the government shut down . So yes, the president's playing a role. It may not be as visible in public as some would like, but I think he's done the right thing.

    MR. GREGORY: Let's talk more broadly about the economy . You mentioned the jobless number . We'll put the graph up on the screen here to give our viewers a sense of where unemployment has gone since 2009 . The peak, of course , October of that year. Now back down to 8.8 percent. Certainly an improvement, with private sector jobs being created. But Christine Romer , who is an adviser, of course , to the president on the economy , gave a speech a couple of weeks ago where she was still critical. This is what she said. "Nearly 14 million Americans currently are looking for a job but can't find one. Unemployment remains an absolute crisis . ... I frankly don't understand why policymakers aren't more worried about the genuine suffering of so many families. We have tools we can use to bring the unemployment rate down, and I think it is shameful that we are not using them." That's a pretty significant piece of criticism from someone who is in the president's ear on the economy . Is he not doing enough?

    SEN. DURBIN: Well, I think the blame could be passed around not just to the president, but certainly to Congress . For the longest time we debated whether to extend unemployment benefits . Listen, I meet with these people who are out of work, desperately looking for jobs, sending resumes out five and 10 a day in hopes of finding one, and it's very, very difficult and it's slow going. So we not only have to provide the safety net of relief for those who are out of work, but we also cannot cut off funding for basic education and training programs. That was one of my grievances against the House Republican budget . We cannot cut off education and training and basic research when it comes to job creation .

    MR. GREGORY: What about Medicare and Medicaid ? As you know, Congressman Ryan is going to talk about cuts for, for Medicaid , also a voucher program for Medicare .

    SEN. DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that this group of six senators, three Democrats and three Republicans , which I've been part of, we're trying to come up with a bipartisan approach in the Senate to address the same issue that Paul Ryan addresses in his budget . I think we'll come at it differently. What we need to see is everything on the table and real balance. The idea of sparing the Pentagon from any savings, not imposing any new sacrifice on the wealthiest Americans , I think goes way too far. We have got to make certain that it's a balanced approach and one that can be sustained over the next 10 years.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me spend a couple of minutes on Libya , a major area of focus for this administration. The president sat down with Brian Williams on " Nightly News " this week and he talked about where Gadhafi is at this point.

    PRES. OBAMA: What we've also done is put Gadhafi back on his heels. And so our expectation is, is that as we continue apply steady pressure not only militarily, but also through these other means, that Gadhafi will ultimately step down.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me go through that a little bit. That was Tuesday. As the week wore on,

    you and I both know what happened: setbacks for the rebels . Did the president speak too soon about mission accomplished , in effect?

    SEN. DURBIN: No. But don't ignore the fact, David , that this week there were major defections from the Gadhafi regime when his foreign minister left, and an indication that even though it's been a seesaw in the battle , that the opposition forces have a strong position in the eastern part of Libya . The most important thing to recall is that we have gathered here in an international coalition started by the Arab League , working with the United Nations , to make sure that Gadhafi 's days are numbered. He clearly is under pressure and will continue to be. The United States ' military role will change and diminish over the next week or two as we really walk away from some of the air cover and some of the missile activity that we've been involved in, but we'll still be there in a supportive capacity dealing with intelligence and logistics and refueling. And I think Gadhafi has to understand , the days when he could lord over Libya and do the outrageous things like killing American troops and bringing down Pan Am 103 are over. His days are numbered.

    MR. GREGORY: But what about -- but that may be more hope than reality. We simply don't know yet. The Washington Post had an editorial on Tuesday, I want to put a portion it of -- up there, speaking about Libya and the endgame. "The president is not wrong," they write, "to try to limit the costs and risks of intervention in Libya when U.S. forces are still deployed in two other Muslim countries and a fiscal crisis presses at home. But a policy that curtails American involvement at the expense of failing to resolve Libya 's crisis may only lead to greater costs and dangers." The plan B. What is the U.S. commitment if things don't go as planned, if things get worse, if there is a stalemate?

    SEN. DURBIN: Understand , the president has committed the United States , at the invitation of the Arab League , with their participation and with the approval and guidance of the United Nations . What he is saying, what we are doing is consistent with that international mandate. Now, perhaps the U.N. will step beyond that at some future time. But at the present moment you would have to say that Gadhafi has to feel threatened from every quarter. We have seized over $30 billion of his assets in the United States . We are closing down his oil exports . His cabinet ministers are resigning. He has lost control of the eastern part of his country . Put yourself in Tripoli in his position now and ask, what is your long-term prospects of leading Libya ? They're very limited.

    MR. GREGORY: Senator Durbin , before you go, I do want to end on a political note. There's some question about the future of the Democratic Party . If you were asked, would you be the leader of the Democratic National Committee ?

    SEN. DURBIN: Listen, that isn't on my bucket list of things to do. As a senator from Illinois and as a member of the leadership and a person who wants to have a life, too, the idea of traipsing all over the United States is not really on my agenda.

    MR. GREGORY: But if you were asked, would you do it?

    SEN. DURBIN: Well, I haven't been asked, and I'm not soliciting it. I've got a good job in the Senate and a great job representing Illinois .

    MR. GREGORY: And there's still a chance you could be shortstop for the Cubs , right?

    SEN. DURBIN: Well, they don't need me at this moment.

    MR. GREGORY: All right, Senator Durbin , thank you very much .

    SEN. DURBIN: Thanks a lot, David .

    MR. GREGORY: We're going to turn now to House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers , Republican from Michigan . Rogers was elected to Congress back in 2000 . Since the 9/11 attacks, he's had a major role in forming key legislation involving the intelligence community , like the Patriot Act , as well as developing counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan . He was a special agent for the FBI , also served in the Army . And he took over the gavel as the chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at the beginning of this year. The committee has operational and budgetary oversight over the country 's intelligence agencies . His appearance this morning comes on -- just as news is breaking this week of covert CIA operations on the ground in Libya . Chairman Rogers , welcome to MEET THE PRESS .

    REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI): David , thanks for having me.

    MR. GREGORY: Good to have you here. Let's pick up on Libya here and specifically about the CIA 's role. What are they doing on the ground? And is this part of the strategy to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Libyan rebels ?

    REP. ROGERS: Well, first of all, I can't comment on any intelligence operations anywhere in the world. They're classified for, for a reason. But let me back up. The CIA was developed and has grown into a pretty robust organization that's designed to go places, even where there are dangerous places, to collect information for policymakers like the United States Congress , like the president, like the military , so that they can make real-time, up-to-date decisions based on what we know on the facts on the ground , so.

    MR. GREGORY: But here the major facts are what are the, the rebels doing, what are they, and what do they need? You've said it's not a good idea to supply arms for the rebels . But without it, without the air cover , can they topple Gadhafi ?

    REP. ROGERS: Well, I supported the no-fly zone early on, as a matter of fact, and support the continuation of the no-fly zone with the ability to strike targets on the ground, armored columns, other things. But what we need to know is who they are. We know what they're against, the rebels .

    MR. GREGORY: Hm.

    REP. ROGERS: We know that they're against Moammar Gadhafi remaining in power . But we don't know what they're for.

    MR. GREGORY: Is there a terrorist element among them?

    REP. ROGERS: Well, in most Middle East countries there are elements of al-Qaeda . Now, that doesn't mean they're a part of the government , it doesn't mean they're the majority, it doesn't mean that they're having major influences in the, in the country that -- of which they reside. But yes, it's a concern. We know that they're there. They, in the past -- the Libyan al - Qaeda element, or al-Qaeda in the Maghreb -- provided foreign fighters in Iraq to target U.S. citizens . But that didn't mean that was a part of the Libyan government . It's very tribal, 140 tribes, 30 are which politically active. We just need to know a lot more before we give them advanced weapon systems .

    MR. GREGORY: Would you like to see Arab special forces units in a lead role, rather than the CIA on the ground?

    REP. ROGERS: Well, I mean, special forces and, and intelligence collection I think are two very, very different things. The special forces on the ground would be designed to, to go and hit targets and, and cause some chaos, if you will, for the enemy. If the Arab League is putting those types of forces on the ground, you know, good on them. The rebels could certainly use that help and support from the Arab League . And I think what you're seeing now amongst the rebels is a little bit organization. One of the good things I think has happened is we've found the, the thousand soldiers or so that have defected. They're getting organized, they're now interfacing with the rebels , getting them more tactically oriented. The pressure on the Gadhafi regime is intense. You know, the -- Moussa Koussa , his foreign minister, former head of intelligence , has defected. They're treating him well. He is providing, I think, valuable information to the British and the United States and to the rebels at this point, just by his fact that he is cooperating, being treated well. The pressure on the regime -- and more defections, I do believe, will follow -- is adding a lot of pressure .

    MR. GREGORY: Right. But you heard, you heard Senator Durbin talk, talk about pressure on the regime. The Wall Street editorial this week argued for a more robust, unified voice from the

    Republicans, saying this: " Republicans ought to prod Mr. Obama ," the Journal wrote, "to push for a faster resolution that ends with toppling of Gadhafi and his sons from power . Any result short of that guarantees a divided Libya that may well require international peacekeepers to separate the warring factions. If there is any leader whose terrorist nature the American people understand , it is Gadhafi 's." Should that be the view of the Republican Party , to topple him? Is that realistic?

    REP. ROGERS: Well, I, I do think Gadhafi remaining in power is not an option, it's not the -- an option. But this is -- shouldn't be a Republican issue, a Democrat issue, it shouldn't be an Obama issue vs. a John Boehner issue.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    REP. ROGERS: This is an American issue.

    MR. GREGORY: But how do you get him out? How do you get him out?

    REP. ROGERS: Well, continued sustained efforts here. The rebels are getting better organized. We're putting lots of pressure for defections. And people in the regime have to make choices. They're going to have to decide, do they want to be prosecuted when this is all over for war crimes , or do they want to defect early on and be part of the solution for the future of Libya ? And believe me, that's, that's an intense amount of pressure . He's running out of money. We -- the United States and Europe has seized some $60 billion -plus worth of assets of Libya that will be turned back over to a Libya to rebuild itself. All the components here and a smart way of going forward so that we don't get embroiled in, in owning the problem of the cleanup, if you will.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    REP. ROGERS: And we don't arm people that we don't know who they are and if they're going to use those weapons against civilians or maybe us in the future . And so you have this growing in the region fight for liberty so that these governments are less hostile to the United States . There are so many reasons for us to be here and show leadership . And I argue Republicans and Democrats ought to stand together with the president to get -- to make sure that this thing ends well for the United States and the people of Libya .

    MR. GREGORY: But are we in a conflict that it has at its core a vital U.S. interest? I posed that question to the secretary of Defense on this program last week, this is what he said.

    MR. GREGORY: Is Libya in our vital interest as a country ?

    SEC'Y ROBERT GATES: No, I don't think it's a vital interest for the United States . But we clearly have interests there. And it's a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States .

    MR. GREGORY: And part of that interest, as the president outlined it in a speech that a lot of people thought was about Libya but about something of an Obama doctrine , was humanitarian. And yet you read the papers this morning, about 800 civilians killed in the Cote d'Ivoire . I mean, how do we form a policy around when we intervene and when we don't if this is not a, a, a war that's in our interest?

    REP. ROGERS: Well, I argue it is in our interests , and we ought to stand with the president on making this a, a positive outcome for the United States , again, the people of Libya . Here's -- the humanitarian component of it was real and it was something we should have done, stopping the slaughter of tens of thousands of people that we knew was going to happen. But here's somebody who is a state sponsor of terrorism; the bombing of the German discotheque killed American soldiers , planned thought Gadhafi 's regime, the Pan Am bombing. This is somebody who still has a chemical weapon stockpile and he has other weapon systems that keeps me up at night thinking about if these things were to, to happen to fall into the wrong hands.

    MR. GREGORY: Is Libya a terrorist threat?

    REP. ROGERS: Listen, I think if you have a stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi still in power , when you have this split country where he still possesses stockpiles of some pretty awful stuff, I think you have to worry that he is a terrorist threat.

    MR. GREGORY: That's significant...

    REP. ROGERS: I believe...

    MR. GREGORY: ...that this is what the endgame is about for the U.S. is preventing a terror strike by a, by a cornered Gadhafi .

    REP. ROGERS: Well, it's a whole host of things. I think that clearly has to be one of them. I mean, we know he has it. He used chemical weapons in his fight against Chad in 1987 , that's a fact.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    REP. ROGERS: We have seen -- I've been in Libya , I have seen his chemical stockpile . We know it's there, it exists. He has other weapon systems that concern us. But it can't be just that, it has to be all of the other factors.

    MR. GREGORY: Just a couple more points in our remaining time. I want to ask you about what I asked Senator Durbin about...

    REP. ROGERS: Yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: ...these protests that we're seeing throughout Afghanistan because of the Quran burning here in the United States ; a publicity stunt for sure, but also an act of extremism. It has real consequences.

    REP. ROGERS: Absolutely has consequences. And we've asked Americans in every tough conflict we've had in the history of this country to be thoughtful and mindful of each citizen 's responsibility to make sure that you're doing your part for our soldiers to come home safely with an accomplished mission . When you do something like this, clearly the First Amendment has -- protects that individual from doing that. But when you jeopardize our soldiers and the folks who are -- and our civilians who are trying to put Afghanistan back together so we can come home, I would hope that you would stop with that bit of extremism and pull yourself back and look at the bigger, broader, more important picture as a unified and successful United States overseas.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about Iraq because the politics there, the sectarian division is started to tear at the seams a little bit. Of course , we have 47,000 troops there, they're due home by the end of the year. The Washington Post 's editorial just this morning poses a pretty

    provocative question, which is "Iraq's ticking clock: What will happen when the last U.S. troops depart?" If we leave, does Iran become the dominant player in Iraq ? And what does that mean for the U.S. ?

    REP. ROGERS: I don't think it becomes the dominant player in Iraq . It certainly has the potential and they have been a very bad actor in the entire region -- which I think is why you saw many Arab countries , both overtly and quietly, support the United States from keeping check on Iran 's ambitions in the region . That's not going to go away anytime soon. Their proxy state , Syria , clearly is acting on Iran 's behalf. Their activities in Bahrain , very concerning of what they're doing. We're going to have to watch it in Iraq and around the rest of that region . Again, why Libya 's important? Imagine now a change where you have Libyans, free democracy of some sort, at least of their choosing, that is less hostile to the United States and more inclusive of other Arab League partners. That's a positive outcome for the United States . When liberty is on the march, we ought to be with it in ways that we can, and responsibly, but we ought to be with it.

    MR. GREGORY: Just 20 seconds. You're a former FBI agent. What's the key quality the next FBI director should have?

    REP. ROGERS: They need to understand the agent culture. The next 10 years of the FBI are critical. Director Mueller has pulled, pulled the FBI along with some serious changes. Understand the agent culture, the core value of being an investigator first, and applying that to their new mission of counterterrorism and analysts.

    MR. GREGORY: Counter -- yeah, and counterterrorism.

    REP. ROGERS: Yes.

    MR. GREGORY: Really, that experience is important.

    REP. ROGERS: Yes.

    MR. GREGORY: All right, Chairman, thank you very much .

    REP. ROGERS: Thanks, David , for having me here.

    MR. GREGORY: We appreciate you being here. And coming up, was the president's prime-time address this week on Libya a blueprint for the Obama doctrine ? Also, all eyes on energy and the economy . Rising gas prices , unrest in the Middle East , and the disaster in Japan put the president on the offense as he tries to make the case for American energy independence . Our roundtable weighs in: Pulitzer Prize winning author Daniel Yergin , energy expert; plus, Republican strategist Mike Murphy ; also, The Washington Post 's E.J. Dionne ; presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin ; and the president of the National Urban League , Marc Morial . It's up next after this brief commercial break .

    MR. GREGORY: Coming up, has the president outlined the Obama doctrine ? And what will it mean for U.S. foreign policy ? The roundtable 's here. We've got Doris Kearns Goodwin , Dan Yergin , Marc Morial , Mike Murphy , E.J. Dionne . They're all ready to weight in coming right next after this commercial break .

    MR. GREGORY: We are back, joined by our roundtable : Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy ; columnist for The Washington Post E.J. Dionne ; president of the National Urban League , Marc Morial ; presidential historian and Boston Red Sox fan Doris Kearns Goodwin ; and author of "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil , Money Power ," chairman of the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates , Daniel Yergin . Welcome to all of you, and a lot to get to. Mike Murphy , the budget .

    MR. MIKE MURPHY: Yes.

    MR. GREGORY: There's going to be a big fight over the budget . We're still talking about just the spending for this year.

    MR. MURPHY: Right.

    MR. GREGORY: Take me behind the curtain , as I tried to get Senator Durbin to do. Are we headed for a shutdown?

    MR. MURPHY: Well, I think we've got a big game of chicken going on. And the leadership doesn't want to shut down, but the House Republicans won an election on cutting spending so there's a lot of internal Republican pressure . I don't think we're get one. And one of the reasons I think we will -- though it'll go to the end, there will be a lot of high drama and squawking. When the new budget comes out, which is the big fight , is going to make this look like a side show on Tuesday. And I think some of that fight and energy in the Republican Caucus is going to think, "Oh, wait a minute, let's not gum down the big fight with a six-month shutdown brawl. Let's reclock." Because this is going to be huge, and it's the first cannon blast to 2012 .

    MR. GREGORY: But, E.J. , where has the president been? That was the question you asked this week.

    MR. E.J. DIONNE: Well, first of all, I think Mike just laid out what the leadership is going to argue .

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. DIONNE: I mean, Democrats have offered, depending on how you want to count it, 33 billion or 73 billion in cuts. Republicans want 61 billion , 100 billion. Democrats have gone

    more than halfway. They think they can cut 33 billion without hurting their big priorities: Head Start , scholarships and the like. This puts a burden on Boehner . Boehner wants to get out of this round into the next one. He is going to argue that the Ryan budget , which they accelerated, is a slash and burn budget -- my words, not Boehner 's.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    MR. DIONNE: And that this should really satisfy the tea party . I think it's going to be a terrible budget . The more people like me say that, the more the tea party will like it.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. DIONNE: And that's the test of Obama . I think he's let the Republicans have too much of the running on the first round. He's got to come in on the second round against this Ryan budget .

    MR. GREGORY: You've studied, Doris , how this has looked before. We had a shutdown when Bill Clinton was president.

    MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: And I think history shows, when you look at that shutdown, that the side that is more partisan, the side that looks like it wants the confrontation, loses. You know, I was reading Bill Clinton 's memoir the other night before going to bed . I supposed that's somewhat pathetic, but you're a presidential historian.

    MR. DIONNE: Come on....

    MR. GREGORY: Right, come on.

    MS. GOODWIN: You're reading these things. And anyway, he did it brilliantly. Like Obama , he stayed out of it at the beginning, but he said, "I want a deal," but they'll be lines in the sand I will not cross. So I think it's up to Obama , if there are lines in the sand that he will not cross, if the environment gets gutted...

    MR. GREGORY: Hm.

    MS. GOODWIN: ...if the education gets slashed, like, like Clinton , he says, "No, I won't do it," and then he's got to run a PR war like Clinton did. Clinton put ads on showing elderly people losing their Medicare .

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MS. GOODWIN: It was brilliant.

    MR. GREGORY: Well, that...

    MR. MARC MORIAL:

    MS. GOODWIN: And then he goes to that State of the Union ...

    MR. GREGORY: Let me get Marc in here. That could be coming. I mean, the Ryan budget -- Paul Ryan 'll be here next Sunday -- includes vouchers for Medicare , cutting Medicaid , some serious attempts to deal with entitlements.

    MR. MORIAL: And it, it also involves an effort to really, really, really put a lot of pain on important constituencies of the president.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. MORIAL: And I think that the, the key is that -- is that the president has to work to change the discussion so that the discussion is not just about cutting domestic discretionary spending , but putting everything on the table, as Senator Durbin said. Whether it's entitlements, tax loopholes...

    MR. GREGORY: Hm.

    MR. MORIAL: ... military spending, it's got to be across the board or there won't be a serious plan.

    MR. MURPHY: But this is how it's different this time. I mean, nothing clarifies the mind like a hanging in the morning. And the entitlement spending crisis we face in both parties behind closed doors is a serious matter . So as we head into 2012 , you're seeing the beginning of the big fight . Republicans are going to be for politically painful spending cuts, Democrats are going to easily demagogue that. But you saw in Durbin 's remarks, they're starting to hint at taxes, which is the other way to solve the problem. You either raise taxes or you cut spending.

    MR. DANIEL YERGIN: Or it might...

    MR. MURPHY: That could be the big battle of 2012 .

    MR. GREGORY: Dan Yergin , the other -- you know, it was interesting, the president gave a big speech on Libya . The big focus, though, was what was happening in Japan , right?

    MR. YERGIN: Mm-hmm.

    MR. GREGORY: The environmental impact of it, the future of nuclear energy . You know, we're talking about an economic recovery. You're seeing gas prices go up. The president gave a big speech on your area of expertise, which is our energy independence , and this was the key goal that he has in mind.

    PRES. OBAMA: When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third. That is something that we can achieve.

    MR. GREGORY: Is he right?

    MR. YERGIN: Well, yes. We're already about two-thirds of the way to that. We've made a lot of progress, in fact, in our domestic energy over the last few years. Domestic production is up. That was what was really interesting in his speech is the theme that you haven't heard about domestic oil production is up, gas production is up. At the same time, of course , there's a political demand, do something about gasoline prices . And I think the other thing is the worry that we have good news about the economy and jobs, but high oil prices may be the biggest threat out there to the economy .

    MR. GREGORY: Look at domestic oil production where -- it was interesting, we looked at this top oil-producing states in the U.S. , and we'll put it up on the screen, and you ranked them there. Texas is number one; we've heard so much about drilling in Alaska ; California and North Dakota . The president talked about expanding -- or existing oil companies using the existing leases that they have. Can we get more production going with what's already been allotted for?

    MR. YERGIN: Well, I think so. I mean, you have you to keep in mind, it takes a long time. You get a lease in the Gulf of Mexico , it's seven to 10 years before you get production because you've first got to establish the supplies there. But one of the states that's up there is, is North Dakota is the boom area for oil in the United States , and people don't think about that. That's where we're getting our new growth from new technology in terms of oil production .

    MR. GREGORY: How important is this, we have this rupture with Saudi Arabia , we -- the president talked about keeping commerce going. I mean, a big part of this Libya strategy is about protecting our oil interests , of course .

    MR. YERGIN: Well, yeah. I mean, we still import a significant amount of our oil. We're down to about half, where we had been higher. But, but there is still -- I mean, the Libyan disruption is a sort of -- not a huge disruption, but it's a disruption. But what's also driving prices is the fear about everything else that's happening. Yemen is a country , small oil exporter, that happens to share an 1,100-mile border with Saudi Arabia , and that's kind of fear or risk premium that's in the oil price now.

    MR. GREGORY: Hm . Doris , there is this question, though, about collective political will. The president may be trying to insulate himself from attack, but is there really the will to move forward on exploration? Natural gas has been talked about a lot. Daniel Yergin wrote about that yesterday.

    MS. GOODWIN: I mean, it's so frustrating when you think about the fact that Nixon talked about we have to have like an Apollo mission .

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MS. GOODWIN: We have to have it like the Manhattan Project . And Jimmy Carter talked about the moral equivalent of war. And we still, whenever the gas prices go down we don't seem to have that collective will. You know, when I look back at World War II -- I don't know why I keep going back to that, because I lived so long with it -- we were able to get -- as I'm sure you know, our natural rubber supply was cut off from Japan and the Far East . Somehow, within 18 months, we get synthetic rubber that takes up that huge gap because we had the will, because we had the desire.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    MS. GOODWIN: Do we need that kind of crisis to move? It's nuts.

    MR. GREGORY: Do we, do we have something possible here?

    MR. DIONNE: Well, obviously, the threat of Hitler and Imperial Japan does wonders for the national will.

    MS. GOODWIN: Exactly. But...

    MR. GREGORY: But we had a gulf oil spill.

    MR. DIONNE: Which we don't have now, but we...

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: We have, you know, Japan and the Mideast .

    MR. DIONNE: And we have terrorism.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. DIONNE: And we have the Middle East mess.

    MS. GOODWIN: Right.

    MR. DIONNE: And, you know, the president was trying to talk about production here. The whole idea of conservation has receded. I think it's receded because of the nature of the, the Congress and the words missing in that speech , among words missing, were cap and trade. Now, you can argue politically, there's no way you will get any kind of increase in the price of carbon out of this Congress . I still think some day we're going to have to come back to a combination of production and conservation.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. MURPHY: Well, you know, there's one huge problem, which is long-term it's my view that an expensive price of oil 's a good thing. It moves us to other technologies, it declines our use. Short-term , politically, it's a nightmare.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. MURPHY: Because as gas prices go up, politician approval ratings go down.

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MR. MURPHY: So it's a hard cycle to break. And there's no magic answer. That's where the politicians cheat to, particularly on the Democratic side. "Oh, we're going to snap our fingers, instant solar." We've got to look at nuclear. The new generation plants are a lot safer than what we had to face in Japan . We have to look at domestic drilling. It's a diversified approach. But, you know, an oil price that's high is in the long-term a good thing.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me take a break here. I want to come back and talk more about Libya , which flows from this discussion. And also, more about the economy , with those jobless numbers coming out on Friday. More with our roundtable right after this.

    MR. GREGORY: We're back. More from our roundtable . Doris Kearns Goodwin , the president addressed the nation this week about Libya , and a lot of people thought this was in many ways not just about Libya , but about the president's doctrine for overseas involvement. Here's a portion of what he said. "There will be times," the president said, "though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are. In such cases," he went on, "we should not be afraid to act -- but the burden of action should not be America 's alone. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone or bearing all the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs." But isn't America still the indispensable nation in terms of influence in the Mideast ?

    MS. GOODWIN: Well, I think what he was arguing is that on the one hand, when there is something like Libya -- a unique set of circumstances, an imminent scale of a humanitarian crisis -- that we have to take the leadership in order to avoid that kind of slaughter. Yet on the other hand , we cannot be the world's policemen. So he was able to get the coalition together, the U.N. , the resolution, and I think that's what he's saying for the future . It's not sustainable for us to be the only ones involved, but we still are the leader in starting the process. And that could be a way of looking at the world at large , and I think that's a good way of thinking about it. You need both our leadership to prevent humanitarian crisis , but you need these other countries to get their muscles going to really be part of it all. We can't do it all alone.

    MR. GREGORY: But, Marc Morial , we can't expect that the government is going to, you know, apply this to other areas. How about the Cote d'Ivoire ? I mention it again.

    MR. MORIAL: Very concerned about the Cote d'Ivoire . But I think the president prayed -- played this brilliantly. In one, in one sense, he was making a comment about Iraq . In another sense, he worked in unison with a resolution of the Security Council , the Arab League and the African Union . And he defined it as a special set of circumstances, that is the prospect of 100,000 people being slaughtered. But the broader thing is, when you look at Cote d'Ivoire , is whether or not other means other than military means could avert...

    MR. GREGORY: Hm.

    MR. MORIAL: ...a -- further catastrophe in those countries. So I think it's a broader statement about foreign policy , not just military intervention .

    MR. GREGORY: But, David Yergin , this was also a statement that the Powell doctrine of "if you break it, you own it" need not necessarily apply. John Dickerson wrote in Slate magazine that this is not an Obama doctrine , this is a Libya doctrine only.

    MR. YERGIN: Well, it does seem to be very focused on that. It's not addressing everything going on in the whole Middle East . But the other difference is in contrast to Iraq , France is in the lead here.

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MR. YERGIN: France is not sitting on the sidelines complaining.

    MR. GREGORY: And this is oil interests . I mean, can you expect France to step up meaningfully because they do want to secure that, that flow of commerce, especially from that sweet crude that comes from Libya ?

    MR. YERGIN: Well, well, I think that the oil is important. I mean and, you know, there is other oil to make up for it. The other thing that's very important to Europe is immigration from North Africa ...

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. YERGIN: ...and coming through Africa , and that is something that is actually the politically dangerous issue for somebody like Sarkozy .

    MR. GREGORY: Mike Murphy , what do you make of the speech ?

    MR. MURPHY: Well, I'm in a weird position because I support the policy. I thought the speech was a little muddled and unclear. It's hard to give a war speech about limits. But I'm sympathetic to what they're trying to do, and I think there could be more clarity in the discussion about it. It's gunboat diplomacy, and I think it's pretty good gunboat diplomacy. They're putting a thumb on the scale of a civil conflict between a dictator who stays in power with force, not much popular support, who is a destabilizing person to the entire region . So I think our, our values are with the rebels , and I think our interests are; not just to stop Gadhafi , because even a stalemate I think he loses in the end. We have to align our policy to this amazing resurgence of a reform movement that could be breaking out in the Muslim world . Now, we don't know how it'll turn out, it could go very bad or very good. But it's vital because of the demographics of the young people who are the overwhelming population that would be aligned there, and I think this does that in a meaningful way in a place where we can make a difference.

    MR. GREGORY: E.J., it's interesting, in terms of war fatigue in the country , I alluded to a poll that showed just 15 percent following the Libya story as compared to 57 percent the Japan disaster.

    MR. DIONNE: No, I had a soldier in a class I teach at Georgetown write a paper about the declining coverage of all the wars that we have people still involved in.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: But in terms of Libya , first of all, I think only a medieval scholastic can discover an Obama doctrine . He is anti- doctrine , and that is sort of his basic principle. But I think he -- I liked the speech because if there was muddle in it, it wasn't muddle in the thinking, it was muddle in the situation in Libya . And I think he made the core point on humanitarian intervention . Just because you can't act everywhere doesn't mean you can't act anywhere.

    MS. GOODWIN:

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MR. DIONNE: Nick Kristof , I thought , said it well this morning in The New York Times : Isn't it better to inconsistently save lives than to consistently save none? And I thought if you support humanitarian interventions, which I do, Obama did pretty well in that speech .

    MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to the economy , and I want to put the unemployment chart back up on the screen that I showed earlier to show you where we've been and where we are now, at 8.8 percent. But, Marc Morial , the Urban League put out a new report just this week about the state of black America , which we'll show the cover of on, on the screen when we can, and there's the report. One of the disturbing findings is if you look at unemployment among the various groups, whites at 7.9 percent, African-Americans at 15.5 percent, it has actually gone up a little bit. How do you look at this, this war on joblessness right now?

    MR. MORIAL: The, the war on joblessness needs to accelerate. It's premature to claim victory. There is the beginning of a recession, but it's just seedlings beginning to sprout. We've had four months of job growth , about 150,000 jobs per month, but the worst thing that we could do now is take on budget cuts that would cost us more jobs. The predictions are that HR 1, the Ryan budget , would cost us 700,000 more jobs. And I think we've got to recognize that the reform of the economy , the rebuilding of jobs, is not going to happen serendipitously, it requires continuing policy interventions. Here's the thing. With almost 16 percent unemployment in the African- American community, that translates to broad unemployment in urban communities across the nation .

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    MR. MORIAL: And I think that until we can find a way to target and bring those numbers down, the jobless recovery 's going to continue. We really, really have a continuing crisis .

    MR. GREGORY: But, Mike , on the politics of this, is the president beginning to see light? Is he beginning to make the argument that it's morning again in America ?

    MR. MURPHY: Well, we have to get some more data points.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. MURPHY: I mean, generally, the more economic and unemployment pain a country 's in, the worse the president does. And that's why you see guys like Mitt Romney talking 100 percent about the economy . We don't know yet. But the trend is a bit encouraging to Democrats . It's frankly good for incumbents. Republicans in Congress are going to say "we helped bring this about" a year from now if we have a better economy . But he's not out of the woods yet because one thing we've learned in campaigns is perception of the economy and the statistics lag. So it takes a long time, if things are getting better , for it to really feel better to people.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. Daniel Yergin , the question about what $100-plus barrel of oil means to a fragile economic recovery, are we going to see more on this as the summer rolls on?

    MR. YERGIN: Well, I think if it is -- if, if it's a short-term thing, it's -- the economy can deal with it . If it's -- if the -- if it's longer term and you can feel the concern here, then it is going to be a drag on the economy . And I think the thing is in the Middle East , what we heard before is it's -- they have a huge age bulge, they have people without jobs, they have people without a future , and I think that that means that we're probably going to be -- have a pretty uncertain Middle East , at least for the next several months.

    MR. GREGORY: I want to get another break in here, and we come back I want to talk about the changing demographics of America and what that means now for politics and the political campaign that is unfolding around us. L......T.....................................................................R. We'll do that, look at the 2012 field as well when we're back in just a minute.

    MR. GREGORY: We're back. We want to talk politics in our few minutes left. During our midweek conversation in my office that is the MEET THE PRESS press pass, I talked to Reince Priebus -- see, I did get it out correctly -- who's the chairman of the, the Republican National Committee . We're talking about the economy with him, and I asked him what is the theory of the case for how a Republican does in 2012 ? Here's what he said.

    MR. REINCE PRIEBUS: Are you better off today than you were three years ago? And I think the answer's going to be no. And if you look a little bit beyond the numbers and you start talking about whether or not this president has taken the country in the right direction as far as our national debt , I think the answer's going to be no. And as far as deficits, the answer's going to be no. As far as unemployment, I think the answer's going to be no.

    MR. GREGORY: You can watch all of that on our Web site , by the way. Is that going to carry the day?

    MS. GOODWIN: I don't think it will. I mean, it's a -- generally a great thing. That's what Reagan did that won him in 1980 , to say, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" But I think people's memory of the hole that Obama was in before he took over the financial crisis means that they're not going to blame him for where we were at the start. And on the other hand , the auto industry was nearly bankrupt, they're now making a profit. And if the trendline on jobs is up, I'm not sure that that general argument will work as well because people may feel, "Yeah, we're better off than we were in that horrible moment. We're not where we want to be, but he's helped to get us there."

    MR. GREGORY: There's another potential drag, Mike Murphy , on Republicans , and the National Journal captures it. I'll put the cover up on the screen. "The Next America ." It says, "Non-whites are rapidly becoming a larger share of the nation 's population. That has big implications for the 2012 presidential race ." Reporting by Ron Brownstein of the National Journal which makes the point that if Republicans don't have greater inroads among minorities, particularly Hispanics around this country ...

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: ...that's a huge drag on their chances.

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah. No, I, I get a lot of criticism...

    MR. GREGORY: And we're not just talking about Arizona and California . We're talking about...

    MR. MURPHY: I, I hear you. I, I wrote a thing for Time a while back called " The Coming GOP Ice Age ," talking about presidential election demographics , similar argument. And it is a problem. When the number one name for male babies in Texas is Jose , and Texas is the absolute linchpin of our electoral college strategy, it is a problem. Now, the good news for the Republican Party is we have time to do some things to ameliorate it. And we have to get a better position on immigration, nativism is not in our party interests . And second, the key electoral college states are still pretty competitive.

    MR. GREGORY: Hm.

    MR. MURPHY: You see polls now where the president is way under 50 and vulnerable in the Floridas , I think we'll be competitive in Ohio . We are in the hunt presidentially. The economy will be a big issue. But if we don't face some of these bigger economic -- excuse me, bigger demographic problems, I -- it could be my favorite statistics. You run the 1980 Carter - Reagan race over again with the current demographics in America , Reagan wins by a whisper and you can argue it's too close to call.

    MR. GREGORY: There's also, E.J. , the status of the Republican field right now. Kim Strassel writes this in The Wall Street Journal in her column. "Yes, it's early," she writes. "Then again, contenders ought to be concerned that even at this stage they're already -- they've already earned

    some sticky labels. Mitt Romney: Unreliable. Newt Gingrich : Yesterday. Sarah Palin : Flighty.

    Tim Pawlenty: Boring. Mitch Daniels : Bush's guy. Jon Huntsman : Obama 's guy. Haley

    Barbour: Southern guy."

    MR. DIONNE: I thought that was a good column, myself.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. DIONNE: The -- just...

    MR. GREGORY: I thought you might.

    MR. DIONNE: I just want to salute Mike on immigration because there is another idea in the Republican Party to deal with this, which is to stop people from voting, which is why you have these voter ID laws being put up all over the country . But on the...

    MR. MURPHY: ...saluting, I get e-mails.

    MR. DIONNE: Yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: Right, right.

    MR. DIONNE: The, the -- on the Republican field, what this reminds me of is '88. The Republican -- the Democratic field in '88, they were called the seven dwarfs. It wasn't fair, but it caught on. And I think what you see here are some decent enough candidates with, I think, Tim Pawlenty in the role of Mike Dukakis . I'm from Massachusetts , I don't mean that negatively, as others do. Dukakis was the least flawed candidate, in a sense, and survived to win the primary but lose the election . But I do think they have a problem. I think Mitch Daniels , if he runs, could be a really interesting candidate, but I'm not sure he's running.

    MR. MORIAL: You know, David , I think what'll be interesting is to see whether serious Republicans bypass the race in '12 thinking towards '16, number one.

    MR. GREGORY: Right, right.

    MR. MORIAL: And number two, whether or not the Republicans shift to a ideologue or think -- step back and say, " Let's not nominate the person who we think would have the best general election chances against President Obama ." So it's going to be fascinating. I think what's interesting is it's taken a long time for people to sort of get to the starting gate and say, "I'm going to run."

    MR. GREGORY: I'm...

    MS. GOODWIN: Maybe that's merciful for us to not have to go through too many months of this thing.

    MR. GREGORY: Oh, but we like -- we like it. We like that.

    MS. GOODWIN: We've got time off.

    MR. GREGORY: And we also like baseball, Doris . And I 've only got 20 seconds left, I don't even know if I have time for my Jason Worth Nationals video. Opening day is here and all eyes were on Washington , of course . And we're playing 500 baseball here in Washington , and the Dodgers have taken two out of three against the Giants . Is there any time left for you to talk about -- who's your team again?

    MS. GOODWIN: Oh, this is terrible. We'll be fine.

    MR. MURPHY: We'll come back.

    MR. YERGIN: ...at the beginning than the end.

    MR. GREGORY: Is baseball back as strong as ever?

    MS. GOODWIN: No question. As long as it's passed from a parent to a child to a grandchild and the memories of those stories you tell your kids of what you saw when you were little , it will never go away. Never.

    MR. GREGORY: A.m., a.m. Spring -- amen. Yeah, amen. Spring has sprung. We're going to leave it there.

    MR. MORIAL: Let's go Yankees .

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah, Yankees .

    MS. GOODWIN: Oh, no!

    MR. MORIAL: Yankees .

    MR. GREGORY: All right, we got -- we got to leave it there. Before we go, a quick programming note. Our exclusive guest next Sunday, we've been talking about it, the man who will present the Republican budget this week, the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan . That is right here next Sunday. That is all for today. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS .

updated 4/3/2011 12:40:47 PM ET 2011-04-03T16:40:47

MR. DAVID GREGORY:  This Sunday, where does the fight in Libya lead?  The rebels suffer setbacks against Colonel Gadhafi's forces as Washington debates how deeply to get involved in Libya's future.

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(Videotape)

SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA):  Seems to me and I think everybody else that we are clearly involved in a regime change.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Can and should the U.S. force the Libyan dictator out?  Should the United States provide arms to the Libyan rebels?

Back home, the standoff over the budget talks risks a government shutdown this week, while tea partiers stand firm.

(Videotape)

REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN):  It stops here.  If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shut down the government instead of making a small down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say shut it down.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Or will there be a deal?  With us, the assistant majority leader Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois; and the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers, Republican from Michigan.

Then, the political debate.  The president outlines a broad view of when to use military force and seizes on the crisis in the Middle East and Japan to argue for energy independence.  With us for perspective on that debate, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the book "The Prize:  The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power," Daniel Yergin.  Plus, the rest of our roundtable on the falling jobless rate and GOP infighting over spending.  With us:  Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy, columnist for The Washington Post E.J.  Dionne, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial.

Announcer:  From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

MR. GREGORY:  Good morning.  First, some news.  In a statement just released this morning, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, condemns the burning of the holy Quran by Florida Pastor Terry Jones last month.  The incident has sparked deadly anti-American protests throughout Afghanistan, undermining U.S. efforts there.

This as the focus back home is on the jobless rate.  It dropped to 8.8 percent as a Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown looms.

(Videotape, Friday)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:  If these budget negotiations break down, we could end up having to shut down the government just at a time when the economy's starting to recover.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  All this as Republicans ready a long-term budget plan that will slash spending, reduce the size of government and tackle entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.  Joining us now for the very latest on these negotiations, the assistant majority leader in the Senate, Democrat Dick Durbin.

Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL):  Thanks, David.

MR. GREGORY:  I want to get to the budget and Libya in just a moment, but I want to start with this news out of Afghanistan, it's significant.  You have these protests going on this week and they have been deadly, seven foreigners killed.  Not just General Petraeus, but the president issued a statement saying that any act of destruction of the Quran is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry.  You have conducted hearings about anti-Muslim bias in this country.  How concerned are you about what's happening and the response to what's happened in Florida?

SEN. DURBIN:  I'm very concerned about it.  I understand what the First Amendment says, the rights that are given to American citizens when it comes to speech and assembly and religion.  But I want to tell you, this pastor, with his publicity stunt with the Quran, unfortunately endangers the lives of our troops and a lot of innocent people.  It is time for him to accept the responsibility as an American to help our troops be safe.

MR. GREGORY:  Why--what's different in this circumstance?  He did this kind of underneath the radar.  Before you had Secretary Gates and Clinton, the president himself speaking out in advance of him doing this, and yet here he just sort of did it and nobody noticed.

SEN. DURBIN:  Well, they did notice.  And unfortunately, people have died as a result of it.  And that's the reality.  You know, you can't stop a person from exercising their constitutional rights, but I hope it is roundly condemned by everyone in America.  This sort of hateful conduct, endangering the lives of innocent people and our troops, is totally unacceptable.

MR. GREGORY:  Do you think it's going to ratchet up, though?  Because Pastor Jones has a scheduled rally against Muslims coming up later in the month.

SEN. DURBIN:  David, I wish there was a way that you would never mention his name again on the air, but I know that you have to report the news.  He's looking for publicity, and as long as he gets that publicity he will continue this irresponsible conduct.

MR. GREGORY:  We will move on.  But I do want to stay in Afghanistan and look at the map of the region, of course, and remind our viewers, lest we forget, what our troop presence is there, 100,000 troops.  There is talk about a drawdown come this summer.  The Washington Post reported this this week about what that might actually look like, and some dissension in the White House. The headline:  "A Battle looms over the pace of the Afghanistan pullout. General Petraeus," who I just mentioned, "has not presented a recommendation on the withdrawal to his superiors at the Pentagon, but some senior officers and military planning documents have described a July pullout as small to insignificant, prompting deep concern within the White House." What are you comfortable with, what do you have to see as a beginning of that withdrawal in July to be satisfied?

SEN. DURBIN:  I want to see a clear trend line that suggests that American troops are coming home.  The longest war in our history has to come to an end. We have to transfer responsibility of this war to the Afghan people, either their police force or their military.  And we have to acknowledge the obvious, we cannot stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.  It is too costly in terms of Americans lives and treasure.

MR. GREGORY:  So if this is just a--what might be described as a small or a token withdrawal, that's not enough.

SEN. DURBIN:  Well, I think it has to be the beginning of a withdrawal that is significant.  The president made that promise.  I know he will keep it.  He understand that our role in the world has to be defined and specific--we see that in Libya--and that we can't engage, as we have in the past, in these massive troop commitments that go on indefinitely.

MR. GREGORY:  Would you put a number on what the withdrawal has to be by July?

SEN. DURBIN:  It's hard for me to say that.  I don't want to endanger the troops that are there.  But I think what America's looking for, what the president's looking for is a clear indication that we're coming home.

MR. GREGORY:  We'll get to Libya in just a moment, but I do want to talk about the big budget battle.  We could have a government shutdown this week if the two sides don't come together.  Is that where this is headed?

SEN. DURBIN:  I hope not.  You know, this is the warm-up, David.  As important as it is to finish the appropriation for the next six months of this year, we have a much, much bigger battle ahead of us in the next few weeks. We don't want to see the government shutdown.  Speaker Boehner's in a very delicate and tough political position.  I understand that, even though I'm in the other party.  I can see the problems that he's facing.  But we have to put this behind us.  We have agreed on a number as to the cut.  Now we have to agree on the component parts of it and move forward.  At the end of the day, the American people don't care who has bragging rights at the end of this. They want to make certain we are responsible and work together, both political parties, to meet a real national challenge.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  Well, but people understand that.  But go behind the curtain here.  What has to give?  For instance, Democrats are pretty upset with the so-called riders in the spending cut legislation that would deny funding, say, for health care or would block the EPA from putting in certain environmental regulations, deny funding to Planned Parenthood, for an example. Would you be willing to vote for a compromise that included those, those bans on, on certain kind of spending?

SEN. DURBIN:  David, I think the House Republicans lose all credibility when they decide that this fight isn't over the deficit, it isn't over the amount of spending cuts, but rather it's to debate and relitigate political issues that have been in Washington for decades.  For goodness sakes, let's get our job done.  Let's fund the government.  There's plenty of opportunity in the House and Senate to debate every other issue.  That's what we're there for. But let's not tie up our government and close it down, to the embarrassment of both political parties, by insisting on these riders that are totally political.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, I understand your position.  But could you vote for a compromise that included those riders?

SEN. DURBIN:  I can tell you, there are some that are totally unacceptable. The idea that we are going to close down the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to keep our air clean and our water pure, I mean, that sort of thing is irresponsible.  To close down Planned Parenthood funding--it is not for abortion, it's for family planning--that's a step way beyond what the mandate of the last election called for.

MR. GREGORY:  So no vote from Senator Durbin, no yes vote, if those are still in there.

SEN. DURBIN:  Absolutely not.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me talk about the politics of this.  You sounded sympathetic toward Speaker Boehner and what he has to deal with.  Senator Schumer, your colleague, was on a conference call with Democratic colleagues on Tuesday, and some reporters--didn't realize that, I guess, his microphone was open, the reporters could hear him.  This is what he said about how to talk about the other side, how to talk about Republicans in this spending fight.

(Audiotape, Tuesday)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  I always use the word "extreme." That's what the caucus instructed me to do the other week.  Extreme cuts and all these riders, and Boehner's in a box.  But if he supports the tea party, there's going to inevitably be a shutdown.

(End audiotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Look, you're in the leadership in the Senate here.  I know from my own reporting that a big part of the White House strategy is to draw Republicans over the line and cast them as extreme.  Are you going to win that battle?

SEN. DURBIN:  Well, I think some of the spending cuts they're suggesting go way, way too far.  Chuck Schumer, I think, is an indication of what happens in both political parties, in both caucuses, House and Senate.  We talk about how to get a message through to the American people, as tough as it is in this day and age.  And, and Chuck was instructing folks as to what he felt the best way was to deliver that message.  But here's what it comes down to.  We cannot go so far in our spending cuts at this moment as to jeopardize this recovery.  We have good news, David.  Last Friday more jobs are being created, the lowest unemployment rate in two years.  But it's slow going and we don't want to kill off jobs.  The House Republican budget would eliminate up to 700,000 jobs in America instead of 200,000 on the plus side, as we showed this month.  We would be moving backwards, and we don't want to.  We want to move out of this recession by creating jobs.

MR. GREGORY:  Let's stick with the politics.  E.J.  Dionne, the columnist with The Washington Post who will be on our roundtable in just a few minutes, has made the argument that President Obama has been sort of missing when it comes to framing the debate over spending cuts.  Why?

SEN. DURBIN:  Well, you have to put it in this context.  If the president asserted himself with the Obama plan, it would be summarily rejected. Congress would say, "Wait a minute.  Separate branch of government.  We'll call you when we need you." At this point, this is our responsibility.  So a president walks a very delicate line here.  He doesn't want to go too far in pushing his idea, but he wants to be there to encourage Congress to come to the right conclusion.  President Obama's doing that.  I can tell you this, he has been working behind the scenes with both political parties for a long, long time.  He--yesterday he spoke to Speaker Boehner and, and Leader Reid, encouraging them, don't let the government shut down.  So yes, the president's playing a role.  It may not be as visible in public as some would like, but I think he's done the right thing.

MR. GREGORY:  Let's talk more broadly about the economy.  You mentioned the jobless number.  We'll put the graph up on the screen here to give our viewers a sense of where unemployment has gone since 2009.  The peak, of course, October of that year.  Now back down to 8.8 percent.  Certainly an improvement, with private sector jobs being created.  But Christine Romer, who is an adviser, of course, to the president on the economy, gave a speech a couple of weeks ago where she was still critical.  This is what she said. "Nearly 14 million Americans currently are looking for a job but can't find one.  Unemployment remains an absolute crisis.  ...  I frankly don't understand why policymakers aren't more worried about the genuine suffering of so many families.  We have tools we can use to bring the unemployment rate down, and I think it is shameful that we are not using them." That's a pretty significant piece of criticism from someone who is in the president's ear on the economy.  Is he not doing enough?

SEN. DURBIN:  Well, I think the blame could be passed around not just to the president, but certainly to Congress.  For the longest time we debated whether to extend unemployment benefits.  Listen, I meet with these people who are out of work, desperately looking for jobs, sending resumes out five and 10 a day in hopes of finding one, and it's very, very difficult and it's slow going. So we not only have to provide the safety net of relief for those who are out of work, but we also cannot cut off funding for basic education and training programs.  That was one of my grievances against the House Republican budget. We cannot cut off education and training and basic research when it comes to job creation.

MR. GREGORY:  What about Medicare and Medicaid?  As you know, Congressman Ryan is going to talk about cuts for, for Medicaid, also a voucher program for Medicare.

SEN. DURBIN:  Well, I can tell you that this group of six senators, three Democrats and three Republicans, which I've been part of, we're trying to come up with a bipartisan approach in the Senate to address the same issue that Paul Ryan addresses in his budget.  I think we'll come at it differently. What we need to see is everything on the table and real balance.  The idea of sparing the Pentagon from any savings, not imposing any new sacrifice on the wealthiest Americans, I think goes way too far.  We have got to make certain that it's a balanced approach and one that can be sustained over the next 10 years.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me spend a couple of minutes on Libya, a major area of focus for this administration.  The president sat down with Brian Williams on "Nightly News" this week and he talked about where Gadhafi is at this point.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

PRES. OBAMA:  What we've also done is put Gadhafi back on his heels.  And so our expectation is, is that as we continue apply steady pressure not only militarily, but also through these other means, that Gadhafi will ultimately step down.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Let me go through that a little bit.  That was Tuesday.  As the week wore on, you and I both know what happened:  setbacks for the rebels. Did the president speak too soon about mission accomplished, in effect?

SEN. DURBIN:  No.  But don't ignore the fact, David, that this week there were major defections from the Gadhafi regime when his foreign minister left, and an indication that even though it's been a seesaw in the battle, that the opposition forces have a strong position in the eastern part of Libya.  The most important thing to recall is that we have gathered here in an international coalition started by the Arab League, working with the United Nations, to make sure that Gadhafi's days are numbered.  He clearly is under pressure and will continue to be.  The United States' military role will change and diminish over the next week or two as we really walk away from some of the air cover and some of the missile activity that we've been involved in, but we'll still be there in a supportive capacity dealing with intelligence and logistics and refueling.  And I think Gadhafi has to understand, the days when he could lord over Libya and do the outrageous things like killing American troops and bringing down Pan Am 103 are over.  His days are numbered.

MR. GREGORY:  But what about--but that may be more hope than reality.  We simply don't know yet.  The Washington Post had an editorial on Tuesday, I want to put a portion it of--up there, speaking about Libya and the endgame. "The president is not wrong," they write, "to try to limit the costs and risks of intervention in Libya when U.S. forces are still deployed in two other Muslim countries and a fiscal crisis presses at home.  But a policy that curtails American involvement at the expense of failing to resolve Libya's crisis may only lead to greater costs and dangers." The plan B.  What is the U.S. commitment if things don't go as planned, if things get worse, if there is a stalemate?

SEN. DURBIN:  Understand, the president has committed the United States, at the invitation of the Arab League, with their participation and with the approval and guidance of the United Nations.  What he is saying, what we are doing is consistent with that international mandate.  Now, perhaps the U.N. will step beyond that at some future time.  But at the present moment you would have to say that Gadhafi has to feel threatened from every quarter.  We have seized over $30 billion of his assets in the United States.  We are closing down his oil exports.  His cabinet ministers are resigning.  He has lost control of the eastern part of his country.  Put yourself in Tripoli in his position now and ask, what is your long-term prospects of leading Libya? They're very limited.

MR. GREGORY:  Senator Durbin, before you go, I do want to end on a political note.  There's some question about the future of the Democratic Party.  If you were asked, would you be the leader of the Democratic National Committee?

SEN. DURBIN:  Listen, that isn't on my bucket list of things to do.  As a senator from Illinois and as a member of the leadership and a person who wants to have a life, too, the idea of traipsing all over the United States is not really on my agenda.

MR. GREGORY:  But if you were asked, would you do it?

SEN. DURBIN:  Well, I haven't been asked, and I'm not soliciting it.  I've got a good job in the Senate and a great job representing Illinois.

MR. GREGORY:  And there's still a chance you could be shortstop for the Cubs, right?

SEN. DURBIN:  Well, they don't need me at this moment.

MR. GREGORY:  All right, Senator Durbin, thank you very much.

SEN. DURBIN:  Thanks a lot, David.

MR. GREGORY:  We're going to turn now to House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, Republican from Michigan.  Rogers was elected to Congress back in 2000.  Since the 9/11 attacks, he's had a major role in forming key legislation involving the intelligence community, like the Patriot Act, as well as developing counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He was a special agent for the FBI, also served in the Army.  And he took over the gavel as the chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at the beginning of this year.  The committee has operational and budgetary oversight over the country's intelligence agencies.  His appearance this morning comes on--just as news is breaking this week of covert CIA operations on the ground in Libya.

Chairman Rogers, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI):  David, thanks for having me.

MR. GREGORY:  Good to have you here.  Let's pick up on Libya here and specifically about the CIA's role.  What are they doing on the ground?  And is this part of the strategy to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Libyan rebels?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, first of all, I can't comment on any intelligence operations anywhere in the world.  They're classified for, for a reason.  But let me back up.  The CIA was developed and has grown into a pretty robust organization that's designed to go places, even where there are dangerous places, to collect information for policymakers like the United States Congress, like the president, like the military, so that they can make real-time, up-to-date decisions based on what we know on the facts on the ground, so.

MR. GREGORY:  But here the major facts are what are the, the rebels doing, what are they, and what do they need?  You've said it's not a good idea to supply arms for the rebels.  But without it, without the air cover, can they topple Gadhafi?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, I supported the no-fly zone early on, as a matter of fact, and support the continuation of the no-fly zone with the ability to strike targets on the ground, armored columns, other things.  But what we need to know is who they are.  We know what they're against, the rebels.

MR. GREGORY:  Hm.

REP. ROGERS:  We know that they're against Moammar Gadhafi remaining in power.  But we don't know what they're for.

MR. GREGORY:  Is there a terrorist element among them?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, in most Middle East countries there are elements of al-Qaeda.  Now, that doesn't mean they're a part of the government, it doesn't mean they're the majority, it doesn't mean that they're having major influences in the, in the country that--of which they reside.  But yes, it's a concern.  We know that they're there.  They, in the past--the Libyan al-Qaeda element, or al-Qaeda in the Maghreb--provided foreign fighters in Iraq to target U.S. citizens.  But that didn't mean that was a part of the Libyan government.  It's very tribal, 140 tribes, 30 are which politically active. We just need to know a lot more before we give them advanced weapon systems.

MR. GREGORY:  Would you like to see Arab special forces units in a lead role, rather than the CIA on the ground?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, I mean, special forces and, and intelligence collection I think are two very, very different things.  The special forces on the ground would be designed to, to go and hit targets and, and cause some chaos, if you will, for the enemy.  If the Arab League is putting those types of forces on the ground, you know, good on them.  The rebels could certainly use that help and support from the Arab League.  And I think what you're seeing now amongst the rebels is a little bit organization.  One of the good things I think has happened is we've found the, the thousand soldiers or so that have defected. They're getting organized, they're now interfacing with the rebels, getting them more tactically oriented.  The pressure on the Gadhafi regime is intense. You know, the--Moussa Koussa, his foreign minister, former head of intelligence, has defected.  They're treating him well.  He is providing, I think, valuable information to the British and the United States and to the rebels at this point, just by his fact that he is cooperating, being treated well.  The pressure on the regime--and more defections, I do believe, will follow--is adding a lot of pressure.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  But you heard, you heard Senator Durbin talk, talk about pressure on the regime.  The Wall Street editorial this week argued for a more robust, unified voice from the Republicans, saying this:  "Republicans ought to prod Mr. Obama," the Journal wrote, "to push for a faster resolution that ends with toppling of Gadhafi and his sons from power.  Any result short of that guarantees a divided Libya that may well require international peacekeepers to separate the warring factions.  If there is any leader whose terrorist nature the American people understand, it is Gadhafi's." Should that be the view of the Republican Party, to topple him?  Is that realistic?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, I, I do think Gadhafi remaining in power is not an option, it's not the--an option.  But this is--shouldn't be a Republican issue, a Democrat issue, it shouldn't be an Obama issue vs.  a John Boehner issue.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

REP. ROGERS:  This is an American issue.

MR. GREGORY:  But how do you get him out?  How do you get him out?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, continued sustained efforts here.  The rebels are getting better organized.  We're putting lots of pressure for defections.  And people in the regime have to make choices.  They're going to have to decide, do they want to be prosecuted when this is all over for war crimes, or do they want to defect early on and be part of the solution for the future of Libya?  And believe me, that's, that's an intense amount of pressure.  He's running out of money.  We--the United States and Europe has seized some $60 billion-plus worth of assets of Libya that will be turned back over to a Libya to rebuild itself.  All the components here and a smart way of going forward so that we don't get embroiled in, in owning the problem of the cleanup, if you will.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

REP. ROGERS:  And we don't arm people that we don't know who they are and if they're going to use those weapons against civilians or maybe us in the future.  And so you have this growing in the region fight for liberty so that these governments are less hostile to the United States.  There are so many reasons for us to be here and show leadership.  And I argue Republicans and Democrats ought to stand together with the president to get--to make sure that this thing ends well for the United States and the people of Libya.

MR. GREGORY:  But are we in a conflict that it has at its core a vital U.S. interest?  I posed that question to the secretary of Defense on this program last week, this is what he said.

(Videotape, last Sunday)

MR. GREGORY:  Is Libya in our vital interest as a country?

SEC'Y ROBERT GATES:  No, I don't think it's a vital interest for the United States.  But we clearly have interests there.  And it's a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  And part of that interest, as the president outlined it in a speech that a lot of people thought was about Libya but about something of an Obama doctrine, was humanitarian.  And yet you read the papers this morning, about 800 civilians killed in the Cote d'Ivoire.  I mean, how do we form a policy around when we intervene and when we don't if this is not a, a, a war that's in our interest?

REP. ROGERS:  Well, I argue it is in our interests, and we ought to stand with the president on making this a, a positive outcome for the United States, again, the people of Libya.  Here's--the humanitarian component of it was real and it was something we should have done, stopping the slaughter of tens of thousands of people that we knew was going to happen.  But here's somebody who is a state sponsor of terrorism; the bombing of the German discotheque killed American soldiers, planned thought Gadhafi's regime, the Pan Am bombing.  This is somebody who still has a chemical weapon stockpile and he has other weapon systems that keeps me up at night thinking about if these things were to, to happen to fall into the wrong hands.

MR. GREGORY:  Is Libya a terrorist threat?

REP. ROGERS:  Listen, I think if you have a stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi still in power, when you have this split country where he still possesses stockpiles of some pretty awful stuff, I think you have to worry that he is a terrorist threat.

MR. GREGORY:  That's significant...

REP. ROGERS:  I believe...

MR. GREGORY:  ...that this is what the endgame is about for the U.S. is preventing a terror strike by a, by a cornered Gadhafi.

REP. ROGERS:  Well, it's a whole host of things.  I think that clearly has to be one of them.  I mean, we know he has it.  He used chemical weapons in his fight against Chad in 1987, that's a fact.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

REP. ROGERS:  We have seen--I've been in Libya, I have seen his chemical stockpile.  We know it's there, it exists.  He has other weapon systems that concern us.  But it can't be just that, it has to be all of the other factors.

MR. GREGORY:  Just a couple more points in our remaining time.  I want to ask you about what I asked Senator Durbin about...

REP. ROGERS:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  ...these protests that we're seeing throughout Afghanistan because of the Quran burning here in the United States; a publicity stunt for sure, but also an act of extremism.  It has real consequences.

REP. ROGERS:  Absolutely has consequences.  And we've asked Americans in every tough conflict we've had in the history of this country to be thoughtful and mindful of each citizen's responsibility to make sure that you're doing your part for our soldiers to come home safely with an accomplished mission. When you do something like this, clearly the First Amendment has--protects that individual from doing that.  But when you jeopardize our soldiers and the folks who are--and our civilians who are trying to put Afghanistan back together so we can come home, I would hope that you would stop with that bit of extremism and pull yourself back and look at the bigger, broader, more important picture as a unified and successful United States overseas.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me ask you about Iraq because the politics there, the sectarian division is started to tear at the seams a little bit.  Of course, we have 47,000 troops there, they're due home by the end of the year.  The Washington Post's editorial just this morning poses a pretty provocative question, which is "Iraq's ticking clock:  What will happen when the last U.S. troops depart?" If we leave, does Iran become the dominant player in Iraq? And what does that mean for the U.S.?

REP. ROGERS:  I don't think it becomes the dominant player in Iraq.  It certainly has the potential and they have been a very bad actor in the entire region--which I think is why you saw many Arab countries, both overtly and quietly, support the United States from keeping check on Iran's ambitions in the region.  That's not going to go away anytime soon.  Their proxy state, Syria, clearly is acting on Iran's behalf.  Their activities in Bahrain, very concerning of what they're doing.  We're going to have to watch it in Iraq and around the rest of that region.  Again, why Libya's important?  Imagine now a change where you have Libyans, free democracy of some sort, at least of their choosing, that is less hostile to the United States and more inclusive of other Arab League partners.  That's a positive outcome for the United States. When liberty is on the march, we ought to be with it in ways that we can, and responsibly, but we ought to be with it.

MR. GREGORY:  Just 20 seconds.  You're a former FBI agent.  What's the key quality the next FBI director should have?

REP. ROGERS:  They need to understand the agent culture.  The next 10 years of the FBI are critical.  Director Mueller has pulled, pulled the FBI along with some serious changes.  Understand the agent culture, the core value of being an investigator first, and applying that to their new mission of counterterrorism and analysts.

MR. GREGORY:  Counter--yeah, and counterterrorism.

REP. ROGERS:  Yes.

MR. GREGORY:  Really, that experience is important.

REP. ROGERS:  Yes.

MR. GREGORY:  All right, Chairman, thank you very much.

REP. ROGERS:  Thanks, David, for having me here.

MR. GREGORY:  We appreciate you being here.

And coming up, was the president's prime-time address this week on Libya a blueprint for the Obama doctrine?  Also, all eyes on energy and the economy. Rising gas prices, unrest in the Middle East, and the disaster in Japan put the president on the offense as he tries to make the case for American energy independence.  Our roundtable weighs in:  Pulitzer Prize winning author Daniel Yergin, energy expert; plus, Republican strategist Mike Murphy; also, The Washington Post's E.J.  Dionne; presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; and the president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial.  It's up next after this brief commercial break.

                               (Announcements)

MR. GREGORY:  Coming up, has the president outlined the Obama doctrine?  And what will it mean for U.S. foreign policy?  The roundtable's here.  We've got Doris Kearns Goodwin, Dan Yergin, Marc Morial, Mike Murphy, E.J.  Dionne. They're all ready to weight in coming right next after this commercial break.

                               (Announcements)

MR. GREGORY:  We are back, joined by our roundtable:  Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy; columnist for The Washington Post E.J.  Dionne; president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial; presidential historian and Boston Red Sox fan Doris Kearns Goodwin; and author of "The Prize:  The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power," chairman of the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Daniel Yergin.

Welcome to all of you, and a lot to get to.  Mike Murphy, the budget.

MR. MIKE MURPHY:  Yes.

MR. GREGORY:  There's going to be a big fight over the budget.  We're still talking about just the spending for this year.

MR. MURPHY:  Right.

MR. GREGORY:  Take me behind the curtain, as I tried to get Senator Durbin to do.  Are we headed for a shutdown?

MR. MURPHY:  Well, I think we've got a big game of chicken going on.  And the leadership doesn't want to shut down, but the House Republicans won an election on cutting spending so there's a lot of internal Republican pressure. I don't think we're get one.  And one of the reasons I think we will--though it'll go to the end, there will be a lot of high drama and squawking.  When the new budget comes out, which is the big fight, is going to make this look like a side show on Tuesday.  And I think some of that fight and energy in the Republican Caucus is going to think, "Oh, wait a minute, let's not gum down the big fight with a six-month shutdown brawl.  Let's reclock." Because this is going to be huge, and it's the first cannon blast to 2012.

MR. GREGORY:  But, E.J., where has the president been?  That was the question you asked this week.

MR. E.J.  DIONNE:  Well, first of all, I think Mike just laid out what the leadership is going to argue.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. DIONNE:  I mean, Democrats have offered, depending on how you want to count it, 33 billion or 73 billion in cuts.  Republicans want 61 billion, 100 billion.  Democrats have gone more than halfway.  They think they can cut 33 billion without hurting their big priorities:  Head Start, scholarships and the like.  This puts a burden on Boehner.  Boehner wants to get out of this round into the next one.  He is going to argue that the Ryan budget, which they accelerated, is a slash and burn budget--my words, not Boehner's.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. DIONNE:  And that this should really satisfy the tea party.  I think it's going to be a terrible budget.  The more people like me say that, the more the tea party will like it.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. DIONNE:  And that's the test of Obama.  I think he's let the Republicans have too much of the running on the first round.  He's got to come in on the second round against this Ryan budget.

MR. GREGORY:  You've studied, Doris, how this has looked before.  We had a shutdown when Bill Clinton was president.

MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:  And I think history shows, when you look at that shutdown, that the side that is more partisan, the side that looks like it wants the confrontation, loses.  You know, I was reading Bill Clinton's memoir the other night before going to bed.  I supposed that's somewhat pathetic, but you're a presidential historian.

MR. DIONNE:  Come on...(unintelligible).

MR. GREGORY:  Right, come on.

MS. GOODWIN:  You're reading these things.  And anyway, he did it brilliantly.  Like Obama, he stayed out of it at the beginning, but he said, "I want a deal," but they'll be lines in the sand I will not cross.  So I think it's up to Obama, if there are lines in the sand that he will not cross, if the environment gets gutted...

MR. GREGORY:  Hm.

MS. GOODWIN:  ...if the education gets slashed, like, like Clinton, he says, "No, I won't do it," and then he's got to run a PR war like Clinton did. Clinton put ads on showing elderly people losing their Medicare.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MS. GOODWIN:  It was brilliant.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, that...

MR. MARC MORIAL:  (Unintelligible)

MS. GOODWIN:  And then he goes to that State of the Union...

MR. GREGORY:  Let me get Marc in here.  That could be coming.  I mean, the Ryan budget--Paul Ryan'll be here next Sunday--includes vouchers for Medicare, cutting Medicaid, some serious attempts to deal with entitlements.

MR. MORIAL:  And it, it also involves an effort to really, really, really put a lot of pain on important constituencies of the president.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. MORIAL:  And I think that the, the key is that--is that the president has to work to change the discussion so that the discussion is not just about cutting domestic discretionary spending, but putting everything on the table, as Senator Durbin said.  Whether it's entitlements, tax loopholes...

MR. GREGORY:  Hm.

MR. MORIAL:  ...military spending, it's got to be across the board or there won't be a serious plan.

MR. MURPHY:  But this is how it's different this time.  I mean, nothing clarifies the mind like a hanging in the morning.  And the entitlement spending crisis we face in both parties behind closed doors is a serious matter.  So as we head into 2012, you're seeing the beginning of the big fight.  Republicans are going to be for politically painful spending cuts, Democrats are going to easily demagogue that.  But you saw in Durbin's remarks, they're starting to hint at taxes, which is the other way to solve the problem.  You either raise taxes or you cut spending.

MR. DANIEL YERGIN:  Or it might...

MR. MURPHY:  That could be the big battle of 2012.

MR. GREGORY:  Dan Yergin, the other--you know, it was interesting, the president gave a big speech on Libya.  The big focus, though, was what was happening in Japan, right?

MR. YERGIN:  Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY:  The environmental impact of it, the future of nuclear energy. You know, we're talking about an economic recovery.  You're seeing gas prices go up.  The president gave a big speech on your area of expertise, which is our energy independence, and this was the key goal that he has in mind.

(Videotape, Wednesday)

PRES. OBAMA:  When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day.  By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third.  That is something that we can achieve.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Is he right?

MR. YERGIN:  Well, yes.  We're already about two-thirds of the way to that. We've made a lot of progress, in fact, in our domestic energy over the last few years.  Domestic production is up.  That was what was really interesting in his speech is the theme that you haven't heard about domestic oil production is up, gas production is up.  At the same time, of course, there's a political demand, do something about gasoline prices.  And I think the other thing is the worry that we have good news about the economy and jobs, but high oil prices may be the biggest threat out there to the economy.

MR. GREGORY:  Look at domestic oil production where--it was interesting, we looked at this top oil-producing states in the U.S., and we'll put it up on the screen, and you ranked them there.  Texas is number one; we've heard so much about drilling in Alaska; California and North Dakota.  The president talked about expanding--or existing oil companies using the existing leases that they have.  Can we get more production going with what's already been allotted for?

MR. YERGIN:  Well, I think so.  I mean, you have you to keep in mind, it takes a long time.  You get a lease in the Gulf of Mexico, it's seven to 10 years before you get production because you've first got to establish the supplies there.  But one of the states that's up there is, is North Dakota is the boom area for oil in the United States, and people don't think about that. That's where we're getting our new growth from new technology in terms of oil production.

MR. GREGORY:  How important is this, we have this rupture with Saudi Arabia, we--the president talked about keeping commerce going.  I mean, a big part of this Libya strategy is about protecting our oil interests, of course.

MR. YERGIN:  Well, yeah.  I mean, we still import a significant amount of our oil.  We're down to about half, where we had been higher.  But, but there is still--I mean, the Libyan disruption is a sort of--not a huge disruption, but it's a disruption.  But what's also driving prices is the fear about everything else that's happening.  Yemen is a country, small oil exporter, that happens to share an 1,100-mile border with Saudi Arabia, and that's kind of fear or risk premium that's in the oil price now.

MR. GREGORY:  Hm.

Doris, there is this question, though, about collective political will.  The president may be trying to insulate himself from attack, but is there really the will to move forward on exploration?  Natural gas has been talked about a lot.  Daniel Yergin wrote about that yesterday.

MS. GOODWIN:  I mean, it's so frustrating when you think about the fact that Nixon talked about we have to have like an Apollo mission.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MS. GOODWIN:  We have to have it like the Manhattan Project.  And Jimmy Carter talked about the moral equivalent of war.  And we still, whenever the gas prices go down we don't seem to have that collective will.  You know, when I look back at World War II--I don't know why I keep going back to that, because I lived so long with it--we were able to get--as I'm sure you know, our natural rubber supply was cut off from Japan and the Far East.  Somehow, within 18 months, we get synthetic rubber that takes up that huge gap because we had the will, because we had the desire.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MS. GOODWIN:  Do we need that kind of crisis to move?  It's nuts.

MR. GREGORY:  Do we, do we have something possible here?

MR. DIONNE:  Well, obviously, the threat of Hitler and Imperial Japan does wonders for the national will.

MS. GOODWIN:  Exactly.  But...

MR. GREGORY:  But we had a gulf oil spill.

MR. DIONNE:  Which we don't have now, but we...

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  We have, you know, Japan and the Mideast.

MR. DIONNE:  And we have terrorism.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. DIONNE:  And we have the Middle East mess.

MS. GOODWIN:  Right.

MR. DIONNE:  And, you know, the president was trying to talk about production here.  The whole idea of conservation has receded.  I think it's receded because of the nature of the, the Congress and the words missing in that speech, among words missing, were cap and trade.  Now, you can argue politically, there's no way you will get any kind of increase in the price of carbon out of this Congress.  I still think some day we're going to have to come back to a combination of production and conservation.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. MURPHY:  Well, you know, there's one huge problem, which is long-term it's my view that an expensive price of oil's a good thing.  It moves us to other technologies, it declines our use.  Short-term, politically, it's a nightmare.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. MURPHY:  Because as gas prices go up, politician approval ratings go down.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MR. MURPHY:  So it's a hard cycle to break.  And there's no magic answer. That's where the politicians cheat to, particularly on the Democratic side. "Oh, we're going to snap our fingers, instant solar." We've got to look at nuclear.  The new generation plants are a lot safer than what we had to face in Japan.  We have to look at domestic drilling.  It's a diversified approach. But, you know, an oil price that's high is in the long-term a good thing.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me take a break here.  I want to come back and talk more about Libya, which flows from this discussion.  And also, more about the economy, with those jobless numbers coming out on Friday.  More with our roundtable right after this.

                               (Announcements)

MR. GREGORY:  We're back.  More from our roundtable.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, the president addressed the nation this week about Libya, and a lot of people thought this was in many ways not just about Libya, but about the president's doctrine for overseas involvement.  Here's a portion of what he said.  "There will be times," the president said, "though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are.  In such cases," he went on, "we should not be afraid to act--but the burden of action should not be America's alone.  Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone or bearing all the burden ourselves.  Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs." But isn't America still the indispensable nation in terms of influence in the Mideast?

MS. GOODWIN:  Well, I think what he was arguing is that on the one hand, when there is something like Libya--a unique set of circumstances, an imminent scale of a humanitarian crisis--that we have to take the leadership in order to avoid that kind of slaughter.  Yet on the other hand, we cannot be the world's policemen.  So he was able to get the coalition together, the U.N., the resolution, and I think that's what he's saying for the future.  It's not sustainable for us to be the only ones involved, but we still are the leader in starting the process.  And that could be a way of looking at the world at large, and I think that's a good way of thinking about it.  You need both our leadership to prevent humanitarian crisis, but you need these other countries to get their muscles going to really be part of it all.  We can't do it all alone.

MR. GREGORY:  But, Marc Morial, we can't expect that the government is going to, you know, apply this to other areas.  How about the Cote d'Ivoire?  I mention it again.

MR. MORIAL:  Very concerned about the Cote d'Ivoire.  But I think the president prayed--played this brilliantly.  In one, in one sense, he was making a comment about Iraq.  In another sense, he worked in unison with a resolution of the Security Council, the Arab League and the African Union. And he defined it as a special set of circumstances, that is the prospect of 100,000 people being slaughtered.  But the broader thing is, when you look at Cote d'Ivoire, is whether or not other means other than military means could avert...

MR. GREGORY:  Hm.

MR. MORIAL:  ...a--further catastrophe in those countries.  So I think it's a broader statement about foreign policy, not just military intervention.

MR. GREGORY:  But, David Yergin, this was also a statement that the Powell doctrine of "if you break it, you own it" need not necessarily apply.  John Dickerson wrote in Slate magazine that this is not an Obama doctrine, this is a Libya doctrine only.

MR. YERGIN:  Well, it does seem to be very focused on that.  It's not addressing everything going on in the whole Middle East.  But the other difference is in contrast to Iraq, France is in the lead here.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MR. YERGIN:  France is not sitting on the sidelines complaining.

MR. GREGORY:  And this is oil interests.  I mean, can you expect France to step up meaningfully because they do want to secure that, that flow of commerce, especially from that sweet crude that comes from Libya?

MR. YERGIN:  Well, well, I think that the oil is important.  I mean and, you know, there is other oil to make up for it.  The other thing that's very important to Europe is immigration from North Africa...

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. YERGIN:  ...and coming through Africa, and that is something that is actually the politically dangerous issue for somebody like Sarkozy.

MR. GREGORY:  Mike Murphy, what do you make of the speech?

MR. MURPHY:  Well, I'm in a weird position because I support the policy.  I thought the speech was a little muddled and unclear.  It's hard to give a war speech about limits.  But I'm sympathetic to what they're trying to do, and I think there could be more clarity in the discussion about it.  It's gunboat diplomacy, and I think it's pretty good gunboat diplomacy.  They're putting a thumb on the scale of a civil conflict between a dictator who stays in power with force, not much popular support, who is a destabilizing person to the entire region.  So I think our, our values are with the rebels, and I think our interests are; not just to stop Gadhafi, because even a stalemate I think he loses in the end.  We have to align our policy to this amazing resurgence of a reform movement that could be breaking out in the Muslim world.  Now, we don't know how it'll turn out, it could go very bad or very good.  But it's vital because of the demographics of the young people who are the overwhelming population that would be aligned there, and I think this does that in a meaningful way in a place where we can make a difference.

MR. GREGORY:  E.J., it's interesting, in terms of war fatigue in the country, I alluded to a poll that showed just 15 percent following the Libya story as compared to 57 percent the Japan disaster.

MR. DIONNE:  No, I had a soldier in a class I teach at Georgetown write a paper about the declining coverage of all the wars that we have people still involved in.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  But in terms of Libya, first of all, I think only a medieval scholastic can discover an Obama doctrine.  He is anti-doctrine, and that is sort of his basic principle.  But I think he--I liked the speech because if there was muddle in it, it wasn't muddle in the thinking, it was muddle in the situation in Libya.  And I think he made the core point on humanitarian intervention.  Just because you can't act everywhere doesn't mean you can't act anywhere.

MS. GOODWIN:  (Unintelligible)

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MR. DIONNE:  Nick Kristof, I thought, said it well this morning in The New York Times:  Isn't it better to inconsistently save lives than to consistently save none?  And I thought if you support humanitarian interventions, which I do, Obama did pretty well in that speech.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me turn to the economy, and I want to put the unemployment chart back up on the screen that I showed earlier to show you where we've been and where we are now, at 8.8 percent.

But, Marc Morial, the Urban League put out a new report just this week about the state of black America, which we'll show the cover of on, on the screen when we can, and there's the report.  One of the disturbing findings is if you look at unemployment among the various groups, whites at 7.9 percent, African-Americans at 15.5 percent, it has actually gone up a little bit.  How do you look at this, this war on joblessness right now?

MR. MORIAL:  The, the war on joblessness needs to accelerate.  It's premature to claim victory.  There is the beginning of a recession, but it's just seedlings beginning to sprout.  We've had four months of job growth, about 150,000 jobs per month, but the worst thing that we could do now is take on budget cuts that would cost us more jobs.  The predictions are that HR 1, the Ryan budget, would cost us 700,000 more jobs.  And I think we've got to recognize that the reform of the economy, the rebuilding of jobs, is not going to happen serendipitously, it requires continuing policy interventions. Here's the thing.  With almost 16 percent unemployment in the African-American community, that translates to broad unemployment in urban communities across the nation.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. MORIAL:  And I think that until we can find a way to target and bring those numbers down, the jobless recovery's going to continue.  We really, really have a continuing crisis.

MR. GREGORY:  But, Mike, on the politics of this, is the president beginning to see light?  Is he beginning to make the argument that it's morning again in America?

MR. MURPHY:  Well, we have to get some more data points.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. MURPHY:  I mean, generally, the more economic and unemployment pain a country's in, the worse the president does.  And that's why you see guys like Mitt Romney talking 100 percent about the economy.  We don't know yet.  But the trend is a bit encouraging to Democrats.  It's frankly good for incumbents.  Republicans in Congress are going to say "we helped bring this about" a year from now if we have a better economy.  But he's not out of the woods yet because one thing we've learned in campaigns is perception of the economy and the statistics lag.  So it takes a long time, if things are getting better, for it to really feel better to people.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.  Daniel Yergin, the question about what $100-plus barrel of oil means to a fragile economic recovery, are we going to see more on this as the summer rolls on?

MR. YERGIN:  Well, I think if it is--if, if it's a short-term thing, it's--the economy can deal with it.  If it's--if the--if it's longer term and you can feel the concern here, then it is going to be a drag on the economy. And I think the thing is in the Middle East, what we heard before is it's--they have a huge age bulge, they have people without jobs, they have people without a future, and I think that that means that we're probably going to be--have a pretty uncertain Middle East, at least for the next several months.

MR. GREGORY:  I want to get another break in here, and we come back I want to talk about the changing demographics of America and what that means now for politics and the political campaign that is unfolding around us. L......T.....................................................................R. We'll do that, look at the 2012 field as well when we're back in just a minute.

                               (Announcements)

MR. GREGORY:  We're back.  We want to talk politics in our few minutes left. During our midweek conversation in my office that is the MEET THE PRESS press pass, I talked to Reince Priebus--see, I did get it out correctly--who's the chairman of the, the Republican National Committee.  We're talking about the economy with him, and I asked him what is the theory of the case for how a Republican does in 2012?  Here's what he said.

(Videotape, Wednesday)

MR. REINCE PRIEBUS:  Are you better off today than you were three years ago? And I think the answer's going to be no.  And if you look a little bit beyond the numbers and you start talking about whether or not this president has taken the country in the right direction as far as our national debt, I think the answer's going to be no.  And as far as deficits, the answer's going to be no.  As far as unemployment, I think the answer's going to be no.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  You can watch all of that on our Web site, by the way.

Is that going to carry the day?

MS. GOODWIN:  I don't think it will.  I mean, it's a--generally a great thing.  That's what Reagan did that won him in 1980, to say, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" But I think people's memory of the hole that Obama was in before he took over the financial crisis means that they're not going to blame him for where we were at the start.  And on the other hand, the auto industry was nearly bankrupt, they're now making a profit.  And if the trendline on jobs is up, I'm not sure that that general argument will work as well because people may feel, "Yeah, we're better off than we were in that horrible moment.  We're not where we want to be, but he's helped to get us there."

MR. GREGORY:  There's another potential drag, Mike Murphy, on Republicans, and the National Journal captures it.  I'll put the cover up on the screen. "The Next America." It says, "Non-whites are rapidly becoming a larger share of the nation's population.  That has big implications for the 2012 presidential race." Reporting by Ron Brownstein of the National Journal which makes the point that if Republicans don't have greater inroads among minorities, particularly Hispanics around this country...

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  ...that's a huge drag on their chances.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.  No, I, I get a lot of criticism...

MR. GREGORY:  And we're not just talking about Arizona and California.  We're talking about...

MR. MURPHY:  I, I hear you.  I, I wrote a thing for Time a while back called "The Coming GOP Ice Age," talking about presidential election demographics, similar argument.  And it is a problem.  When the number one name for male babies in Texas is Jose, and Texas is the absolute linchpin of our electoral college strategy, it is a problem.  Now, the good news for the Republican Party is we have time to do some things to ameliorate it.  And we have to get a better position on immigration, nativism is not in our party interests.  And second, the key electoral college states are still pretty competitive.

MR. GREGORY:  Hm.

MR. MURPHY:  You see polls now where the president is way under 50 and vulnerable in the Floridas, I think we'll be competitive in Ohio.  We are in the hunt presidentially.  The economy will be a big issue.  But if we don't face some of these bigger economic--excuse me, bigger demographic problems, I--it could be my favorite statistics.  You run the 1980 Carter-Reagan race over again with the current demographics in America, Reagan wins by a whisper and you can argue it's too close to call.

MR. GREGORY:  There's also, E.J., the status of the Republican field right now.  Kim Strassel writes this in The Wall Street Journal in her column. "Yes, it's early," she writes.  "Then again, contenders ought to be concerned that even at this stage they're already--they've already earned some sticky labels.  Mitt Romney:  Unreliable.  Newt Gingrich:  Yesterday.  Sarah Palin: Flighty.  Tim Pawlenty:  Boring.  Mitch Daniels:  Bush's guy.  Jon Huntsman: Obama's guy.  Haley Barbour:  Southern guy."

MR. DIONNE:  I thought that was a good column, myself.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.

MR. DIONNE:  The--just...

MR. GREGORY:  I thought you might.

MR. DIONNE:  I just want to salute Mike on immigration because there is another idea in the Republican Party to deal with this, which is to stop people from voting, which is why you have these voter ID laws being put up all over the country.  But on the...

MR. MURPHY:  (Unintelligible)...saluting, I get e-mails.

MR. DIONNE:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  Right, right.

MR. DIONNE:  The, the--on the Republican field, what this reminds me of is '88.  The Republican--the Democratic field in '88, they were called the seven dwarfs.  It wasn't fair, but it caught on.  And I think what you see here are some decent enough candidates with, I think, Tim Pawlenty in the role of Mike Dukakis.  I'm from Massachusetts, I don't mean that negatively, as others do. Dukakis was the least flawed candidate, in a sense, and survived to win the primary but lose the election.  But I do think they have a problem.  I think Mitch Daniels, if he runs, could be a really interesting candidate, but I'm not sure he's running.

MR. MORIAL:  You know, David, I think what'll be interesting is to see whether serious Republicans bypass the race in '12 thinking towards '16, number one.

MR. GREGORY:  Right, right.

MR. MORIAL:  And number two, whether or not the Republicans shift to a ideologue or think--step back and say, "Let's not nominate the person who we think would have the best general election chances against President Obama." So it's going to be fascinating.  I think what's interesting is it's taken a long time for people to sort of get to the starting gate and say, "I'm going to run."

MR. GREGORY:  I'm...

MS. GOODWIN:  Maybe that's merciful for us to not have to go through too many months of this thing.

MR. GREGORY:  Oh, but we like--we like it.  We like that.

MS. GOODWIN:  We've got time off.

MR. GREGORY:  And we also like baseball, Doris.  And I've only got 20 seconds left, I don't even know if I have time for my Jason Worth Nationals video. Opening day is here and all eyes were on Washington, of course.  And we're playing 500 baseball here in Washington, and the Dodgers have taken two out of three against the Giants.  Is there any time left for you to talk about--who's your team again?

MS. GOODWIN:  Oh, this is terrible.  We'll be fine.

MR. MURPHY:  We'll come back.

MR. YERGIN:  (Unintelligible)...at the beginning than the end.

MR. GREGORY:  Is baseball back as strong as ever?

MS. GOODWIN:  No question.  As long as it's passed from a parent to a child to a grandchild and the memories of those stories you tell your kids of what you saw when you were little, it will never go away.  Never.

MR. GREGORY:  A.m., a.m.  Spring--amen.  Yeah, amen.  Spring has sprung. We're going to leave it there.

MR. MORIAL:  Let's go Yankees.

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah, Yankees.

MS. GOODWIN:  Oh, no!

MR. MORIAL:  Yankees.

MR. GREGORY:  All right, we got--we got to leave it there.

Before we go, a quick programming note.  Our exclusive guest next Sunday, we've been talking about it, the man who will present the Republican budget this week, the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.  That is right here next Sunday.  That is all for today.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

Photos: 64 years of ‘Meet the Press’

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  1. First ‘Meet the Press’ photo

    December 4, 1947: The earliest photograph in existence of the longest running television program in history. Sen. Robert Taft was the guest on "Meet the Press" that day, less than a month after the program debuted on NBC television at 8 p.m., November 6, 1947. James A. Farley, the former postmaster general and former Democratic National Committee chairman, was the guest on the first broadcast. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. All women

    December 10, 1949: With Washington's leading male reporters otherwise occupied at the men-only Gridiron Dinner, "Meet the Press" presented its first all-female program. Moderator (and program co-founder) Martha Rountree, panelists Doris Fleeson, May Craig, Judy Spivak and Ruth Montgomery question the guest, Democratic politician India Edwards. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Billy Graham

    March 6, 1955: Rev. Billy Graham’s first "Meet the Press" appearance. He tells panelist (and program co-founder) Lawrence Spivak "anything that makes any race feel inferior ... is not only un-American but un-Christian." (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Jackie Robinson

    April 14, 1957: Jackie Robinson, the first man to break the racial barrier in Major League Baseball, also becomes the first athlete to appear on "Meet the Press." Robinson joins moderator Lawrence Spivak in a discussion about civil rights and Robinson’s work with the NAACP. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Eleanor Roosevelt

    October 20, 1957: Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in one of her six "Meet the Press" appearances. Here she talks about her trip to the Soviet Union. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Robert Frost

    December 28, 1958: Poet Robert Frost was introduced by moderator Ned Brooks as "the poet of all America. Indeed, it can be said that he is the poet of all mankind." Two years later, Congress awarded Robert Frost a gold medal in recognition of his poetry, saying it enriched the culture of the United States and the philosophy of the world. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Fidel Castro

    April 19, 1959: Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro appears on "Meet the Press" during his first visit to the United States since the revolution. Castro was annoyed that permanent panelist and producer Lawrence Spivak would not allow him to smoke cigars in the studio. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Martin Luthur King Jr.

    April 17, 1960: Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pictured here in one of his five "Meet the Press" appearances. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. John F. Kennedy

    October 16, 1960: After this interview, then-Senator John F. Kennedy calls Meet the Press the nation's "fifty-first state." (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Jimmy Hoffa

    July 9, 1961:This first "Meet the Press" appearance by Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa had to be rescheduled several times due to Hoffa’s string of indictments. After the interview, Hoffa was furious about being asked whether his insistence on dealing only in cash and keeping few records gave the appearance of impropriety. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Edward Kennedy

    March 11, 1962: Edward Kennedy’s first appearance on the program. The potential Senate candidate was coached by his older brother, President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy and his aide Theodore Sorensen prepared "Teddy" for his “Meet the Press” debut by staging a run through of questions and answers in the Oval Office. On the day of the program, President Kennedy delayed his departure from Palm Beach in order to watch the show, but later told his brother that he was almost too nervous to watch. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Bob Dole

    July 16, 1972: Bob Dole and "Meet the Press" moderator Lawrence Spivak prepare to discuss the break-in and bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate. Former Senator Dole holds the record for the most appearances on “Meet the Press” in a career that included service as a Congressman, Senator, RNC Chairman, vice presidential candidate, Senate Majority Leader and finally, Republican presidential nominee. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Prime Minister Wilson

    September 19, 1965: "Meet the Press" conducts television’s very first live satellite interview. The guest is British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Ronald Reagan

    September 11, 1966: Ronald Reagan, making his first bid for public office, appears on "Meet the Press" with his Democratic opponent for the governorship of California, the incumbent Gov. Edmund G. Brown. Reagan appeared on "Meet the Press" seven times -- all before he was elected president. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Robert Kennedy

    March 17, 1968: Senator Robert F. Kennedy makes his ninth -- and final -- appearance on "Meet the Press" with Lawrence E. Spivak. Kennedy was assassinated in California less than 3 months later -- shortly after claiming victory in that state's Democratic presidential primary. He was 42 years old. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. John Kerry

    April 18, 1971: John Kerry, then a former Navy Lieutenant, makes his first "Meet the Press" appearance as a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He has since appeared on the program as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts 21 times. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Golda Meir

    December 5, 1971: Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel, appears on “Meet the Press” with moderator Bill Monroe to discuss the continuing instability in the Middle East and the prospect of meeting and negotiating with Egypt’s leaders. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Prime Minister Gandhi

    August 24, 1975: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in one of her seven appearances on "Meet the Press" before her assassination in October 1984. After she was elected Prime Minister in 1966, Gandhi grew more concerned about her television image and contacted "Meet the Press" to request makeup samples used during her appearance on the program. The program’s makeup artist consulted her notes and sent Mrs. Gandhi a complete makeup set -- including sponges and instructions for application. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Gerald Ford

    November 9, 1975: President Gerald Ford becomes the first sitting American president to appear on the program. President Ford accepted the invitation as a tribute to "Meet the Press" co-founder Lawrence Spivak, who was making his farewell appearance as moderator of the program. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Jimmy Carter

    January 20, 1980: In one of the most dramatic newsbreaks in the history of "Meet the Press" President Jimmy Carter announces that the U.S. would boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics because of the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Despite initial outrage over Carter’s proposal, 60 nations eventually joined the boycott. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Richard Nixon

    April 10, 1988: In his first Sunday interview in 20 years, Former President Richard Nixon reacts to a comment on "Meet the Press. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Tim Russert's first show

    December 8, 1991: Tim Russert makes his debut as moderator of "Meet the Press." He has since become the longest-serving moderator in "Meet the Press" history. In the center of this photo is then-intern Betsy Fischer, who is now Executive Producer of the program. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Dan Quayle

    September 20, 1992: "Meet the Press" permanently expands from a half-hour to a one hour program. Vice President Dan Quayle is the guest. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Shaheen and Whitman

    February 2, 1997: The broadcast breaks television history as "Meet the Press" becomes the first network television program ever to broadcast live in digital high definition. Governors Jeanne Shaheen and Christie Todd Whitman share a light moment on the set that day. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Bill Clinton

    November 9, 1997: President Bill Clinton appears in studio on "Meet the Press" to mark the program’s 50th anniversary. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Al Gore

    December 19, 1999: In a live Democratic presidential debate, Vice President Al Gore challenges former Sen. Bill Bradley to a "Meet the Press agreement" to have weekly debates in place of running political advertisements. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Dick Cheney

    September 16, 2001: Five days after the September 11th attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney joins moderator Tim Russert in the first live television interview ever broadcast from Camp David. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Senate Debate Series

    September 22, 2002: "Meet the Press" kicks off its "Senate Debate Series" with the Colorado Senate race: Republican Incumbent Sen. Wayne Allard vs. Democratic Challenger Tom Strickland. At the end of the election cycle, the series of three senate debates was awarded the prestigious "USC Walter Cronkite Journalism Award" for "Excellence in Broadcast TV Political Journalism." The debate series continued in 2004 and 2006. (Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. George W. Bush

    February 8, 2004: President George W. Bush kicks off his re-election campaign in an Oval Office interview with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." Robert Novak went on to write about the interview, "no president ever before had been subjected to such tough questioning in the Oval Office." (Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. James Carville

    November 14, 2004: In another "Meet the Press" first, Democratic strategist James Carville cracks an egg on his forehead to demonstrate he's got "egg on his face" after his projected outcome of the U.S. presidential election was wrong. Carville predicted 52 percent of the vote for U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), 47 percent for President George W. Bush and 1 percent for Ralph Nader. (Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Jim Webb

    November 19, 2006: The first edition of "Meet the Press" to be available via video netcast on the show’s Web site. U.S. Senator-elect Jim Webb (D-Va.) joins moderator Tim Russert on that program. (Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Barack Obama

    November 11, 2007: "Meet the Press"celebrates its 60th anniversary live from Des Moines, Iowa with Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) for the full hour. (Eric Thayer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. June 15, 2008: The chair of late moderator Tim Russert sits empty on the set during the first MTP taping following Russert's death. He died June 13, 2008 of a heart attack while at the NBC News bureau in Washington. He was 58 years old. (Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Colin Powell

    October 19, 2008: A record-breaking 9 million viewers tune in to see Gen. Colin Powell, a Republican, announce his endorsement of Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. President-elect Obama

    December 7, 2008: President-elect Barack Obama makes his first Sunday morning television appearance since winning the election to discuss the challenges facing this country and the upcoming transition of power. (Scott Olson / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. David Gregory

    December 7, 2008: Interim moderator Tom Brokaw announces that David Gregory has been chosen as the new moderator of the show. (Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Rendell, Schwarzenegger & Bloomberg

    March 22, 2009: Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Penn.), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared exclusively on Meet the Press one day after meeting with President Obama to discuss the economy. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Hillary Clinton

    July 26, 2009: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears for a full-hour on Meet the Press. It's her first appearance on the program since joining the Obama administration. (William B. Plowman / NBC Universal) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. President Obama

    September 20, 2009: President Barack Obama sits down with David Gregory at the White House for Obama's first MTP appearance since taking office. (Pete Souza / The White House) Back to slideshow navigation
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