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Video: How bin Laden’s killing and women voters impact the presidential race

updated 4/29/2012 1:19:01 PM ET 2012-04-29T17:19:01

DAVID GREGORY:

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This morning, Romney versus Obama, and what I consider to be the two questions at the heart of this week and of this race.  Who exactly is Mitt Romney and what did his victory speech this week tell us about how he's gonna run?

(videotape)

MITT ROMNEY:

It's still the economy and we're not stupid.

(end videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

Two, the deciders in this election? One key group I can tell you is women and the big question is still: how will they be won over? I’ll discuss it with two top campaign insiders this morning. Ed Gillespie, Senior adviser to Governor Romney And Robert Gibbs, Senior adviser to President Obama's campaign.

And with my roundtable, after the firestorm she started by going after Ann Romney, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen is back and only here with a few more things to say. Also here, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Vice Chairman of the House Republican Conference Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Plus it's the morning after a big night in Washington. The White House Correspondents Dinner adds a little glitz in town. And it gives the president a chance to use some comedy as a political weapon.

(videotape)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

Anyway, it's great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom -- or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper.

(end videotape)

(INTRO OMITTED)

DAVID GREGORY:

And let me start with the Romney campaign.  Ed Gillespie, you are no stranger to presidential politics.  Former head of the party, counselor to President Bush and now a senior advisor to Mitt Romney in a new role.  And so as you settle in here is the Obama campaign very much going on the offensive.  And I mention Osama bin Laden.  One year later.  They are certainly using that issue against Governor Romney.  Here was the vice president on Thursday.

(videotape)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:

Thanks to President Obama, bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. You have to ask yourself, if Governor Romney had been President, could he have used the same slogan --- in reverse?

(end videotape)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

The argument's clear.  That Governor Romney would not have made killing Osama bin Laden a priority.

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

You know, David, this is one of the reasons President Obama has become one of the most divisive presidents in American history.  He took something that was a unifying event for all Americans, an event that Governor Romney congratulated him and the military and the intelligence analysts in our government for completing the mission in terms of killing Osama bin Laden.

And he's managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan, political attack that former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci for President Reagan called "sad."  John McCain called "shameful."  I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

It's interesting, though, if you compare it to the president you worked for, President Bush, and some of the same sort of tactics that were used in a lot of people's eyes.  Here's an example back in 2004 of an ad that he ran as he was running for reelection.  Let me show it to you.

(videotape)

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.

NARRATOR:

The last few years have tested America in many ways. Some challenges we've seen before, and some were like no others

(end videotape)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Using images from the World Trade Center.  A lot of people see that as the very same thing.  Is it not?  Focusing on--

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

I say--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--leadership moments of a president?

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

Yeah, I think there's a little bit of a distinction here, though, David.  I think if President Obama had said-- even though he said we wouldn't spike the football at the time of this momentous occasion regarding Osama bin Laden.  Had said, "I'm proud of this."  I think people would have said he should be proud of this.  We're proud as a country that this happened.

It's the extra iteration.  It's the attack that Governor Romney wouldn't have done it.  I can't envision having served in the White House, any president having been told, "We have him.  He's here.  Should we go in?" saying, "No, we shouldn't."  So the difference here is you see in the Bush ad saying he's a strong leader.  You don't see him saying, "And that guy would have done something different."  I mean I think that's--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.  But I come to the 2004 campaign and Vice President Cheney made it very clear that his view was that America's defenses would be down and it would be vulnerable to a terrorist attack if John Kerry had been elected president.

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

Well--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

So is it any different?

                             

ED GILLESPIE:

David, what we talked about-- and, again, we can go back and talk about, what's that now?  Eight years ago.  The record of Senator Kerry, which is what I remember talking about on this show a number of times, was the record.  This is an attack on something that might have not happened.  It's a bridge too far.

Again, I think the American people will see through it and I think that Secretary Carlucci, when he said it, sad and Senator McCain said it's shameful, I suspect most Americans would look at those comments and probably not disagree with those assessment.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Is America safer because of President Obama's leadership?

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

I think that America is not as strong as we should be.  And I think that if you look at the perceptions of America across the country, you look at our relationship, the reset button with Russia and police tell people we'll be more flexible later, our relationships with Israel, I don't think that under President Obama America is as strong as it should be or will be under a President--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But my question--

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

--Romney.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--is America safer under President Obama's leadership?

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

I think we're safe.  We haven't been subject to attack.  But I don't know enough in terms of the intelligence.  I used to know that.  But I don't believe that under President Obama we are as strong as we should be as a nation.  And I believe that under a President Romney we would be stronger.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you, you mentioned Russia.  Does Governor Romney believe that Russia or, as some of his advisors still call it, the Soviet Union, is the number one threat facing America today?

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

I believe that Governor Romney believes that Russia has not been conducive in terms of trying to contain Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  They've undermined the U.N. Security Council efforts to stop that.  And the fact is I think that when you heard President Obama say we're going to have a reset with Russia, I don't think that actually his policy toward Russia has an improvement for the United States.  And I believe that we need to understand that Russia is not helping us relative to containing Iran.  And that's probably one of the most important priorities we have as a nation right now.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me move to the economy.  As I said at the outset, I watched Governor Romney's speech very carefully this week.  And there were parts of it that I think got a lot of people talking about the sort of campaign he's going to run and what the major messages will be.  He went on the offense during this victory speech, talking about the president's record.  And let me play one portion of that.

(videotape)

MITT ROMNEY:

He's asking us to accept that Washington knows best and can provide all. We've already seen where that path leads. It erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit. And it hurts the very people it's supposed to help. Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty around.

(end videotape)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me focus on freedom as he uses it in that particular portion of the speech.  And we know that taxes are going to be a huge issue in the fall campaign.  Will freedom be eroded for wealthier Americans if they resume paying tax rates that they paid under President Clinton, a time of low unemployment and high economic growth for the country?

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

Well, David anytime you take from someone by virtue of taxation there's an erosion of freedom.  Anytime you impose excessive regulations there's an erosion of freedom.  Anytime you impose a government mandate there's an erosion of freedom.  And what you have in a government-centered economy like President Obama has put forward are fewer jobs, stagnant incomes, higher prices for gas and electricity.

What you would have under a President Romney in a pro-growth economic agenda would be more jobs, rising incomes and lower prices for gas and electricity.  The fact is we have 23 million Americans today who are either underemployed or unemployed as as result of President Obama's policies.  You just saw that the GDP rate for the first quarter of this year was 2.2%.  Very disappointing.  We would have a much more vigorous recovery.  Most Americans, it's not surprising, don't even believe we're in a recovery right now because of this president's policies.  So--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Be he didn't--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--free enterprise when you had the Bush tax cuts over a course of eight years.  You say we have--

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

There were jobs--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

--there were 52 months of uninterrupted job creation under President Bush as a result of those tax cuts.  That's the longest actually in American history.  The longest period of uninterrupted job creation.  Under this president what we're seeing is the stifling effect of excessive government regulation, constant call for raising taxes, a tax on businesses and major employers and that's the reason that we're not able to actually generate job creation in this country today is because of this excessive government intervention in our economy that-- that-- we would be better off with a little more freedom and there'd be a lot more growth.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

I asked the question who is Mitt Romney really when it comes to how he's going to present his case to the American people.  You are an insider in terms of your experience in Washington, but now you've come to this campaign as an outsider, watching a hard fought primary.  What damage from the primary to Governor Romney do you think has to be undone as he tries to center himself for the general election?

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

Well, I think, you know, there's kind of a difference in terms of the approach to a general election versus a primary campaign.  He's gone through a primary campaign with four pretty vigorous contenders along the way.  Somebody said he's had five Octobers already in this primary.

And in a primary like that, inside your party you're trying to magnify minor differences between the candidates.  There are major differences between President Obama and Governor Romney when it comes to the direction we would go as a nation and the policies that would be put  in place.  And I think highlighting those major differences and the impact they have on the American people is actually in so many ways a lot easier to do than to do in a primary campaign with people of your own party.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But is it hard when he described himself as a severe conservative on the one hand and then an advisor talking about that Etch-A-Sketch moment that you sort of reset for the general.  Does he still have to define for the American people just who he is?

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

I think you saw in the speech in New Hampshire who he is and what he believes.  And he believes that we'll have a better America if we have a more prosperous economy.  And that more prosperous economy that creates jobs and raises incomes and brings down the cost of gas and electricity will result from policies that free up entrepreneurship in this country.  Don't stifle it.  That allow for people to have more choices in terms of how they invest their money and spend their money rather than have people in Washington, D.C. make those decisions.

The American people are going to have a very clear choice in November.  And if they want to continue down a path that we've seen with this president where the government is making decisions on our healthcare and on the kind of cars we can drive, the kind of energy we can use, the investments in Solyndra and that kind of thing and the wasteful spending that we're seeing now and higher taxes.

I don't believe most Americans think that that is going to result actually in economic growth.  I think they think it'll continue what we have now, which is a pretty stifled economy that's limping along.  And we need to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit and allow for job creation and rising incomes in this country.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Finally, I want to ask you about the deciders, the key group being women, and a fight over which party is best going to represent the interests of women in this campaign, issues that they're caring about, issues particularly that have to do with their health and healthcare.  The president talked about this at an event just on Friday.  Here's a portion of what he said.

(videotape)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

Now we've got governors and legislatures across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania, all across the country saying that women can't be trusted to make your own decisions.

The days of male politicians controlling the health care decisions of our wives and our mothers, and our daughters and our sisters, that needs to come to an end.

(end videotape)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Republicans on the defensive here?

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

Actually, David, when you look at the facts there are 2.7 million more women without health insurance today than when Barack Obama took office.  858,000 fewer women working today than when President Obama took office.  We have actually now the highest number of single mother families living in poverty than at any time in recorded history.  A 14% increase since President Obama took office.

His former communications director that worked with your next guest said that the White House was a hostile workplace for women.  Unlike with Governor Romney, by the way, who when he was governor, according to the Center for Women in Government at the University of Albany, had the best record of all 50 governors in terms of hiring and putting senior women into his government.

The fact is what we have now is the U.S. economy is a hostile workplace for women under President Obama because it's harder to get a job.  And we have, like I say, single mother families at the highest level in poverty.  People losing insurance.  And according to the Pew Research Study women are the only group that as a group have lagged their population growth in terms of their employment growth.  So we look forward to this debate as, to paraphrase the governor from the other night, it's still the economy and women aren't stupid.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Ed Gillespie, we'll be following this debate very closely.  Thanks so much for being here.

                                 

ED GILLESPIE:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

I want to turn now to former White House press secretary, senior advisor now to the president's reelection campaign, Robert Gibbs.  Robert, welcome back.

                                 

ROBERT GIBBS:

Good morning, David.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

I want start with just--

                                 

ROBERT GIBBS:

Thank you for having me.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes.  Good to have you here.  We've got a little bit of a delay, which we'll work through as you're in Detroit this morning.  I want to talk about the politics of Osama bin Laden.  One year later after he was killed at direction by the raid by this president.  And here's a campaign ad that is being run that features former President Clinton.  Here's a portion of it.

(videotape)

SLATE:

The commander in chief gets one chance to make the right decision.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON:

That's one thing George Bush said that was right, the president is the decider in chief. Nobody can make that decision for you. Look, he knew what would happen. Suppose the Navy SEALs went in there and it hadn't been bin Laden. Suppose they had been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him. But he reasoned: I cannot in good conscience do nothing. He took the harder and the more honorable path, and the one the produced, in my opinion, the best result.

SLATE:

Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?

SLATE:

"Mitt Romney criticized Barack Obama for vowing to strike al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan if necessary." Reuters, August 4th, 2007

(end videotape)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

So you've heard Ed Gillespie.  You've seen Senator John McCain saying, "This is over the line."

                                 

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, certainly it's not over the line.  Look, just a few years ago President Obama, then a candidate, said in a speech that if we had actionable intelligence of a high value target in Pakistan we'd go in and get that high value target.  Mitt Romney said that was foolish.  He wouldn't do such a thing.  That he wouldn't move heaven and Earth to get Osama bin Laden.

Barack Obama, as our commander-in-chief, asked our intelligence community to find him.  He was brought actionable intelligence, directed the brave men and women in our military to go in and kill Osama bin Laden, which is exactly what they did under extraordinary circumstances.

And Osama bin Laden no longer walks on this planet today because of that brave decision and the brave actions by the men and women in our military.  And, quite frankly, Mitt Romney said it was a foolish thing to do a few years ago.  And, look, there's a difference in the roles they would play in commander-in-chief.  And I certainly think that's fair game.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But I want to be very clear about what the president believes.  You're saying that President Obama believes that a President Romney, if he was working with the same non-partisan professionals in the counter terror realms of the government, who came to him with intelligence saying, "We have an opportunity to capture and kill Osama bin Laden," you're saying President Romney wouldn't take that shot?

                                 

ROBERT GIBBS:

I don't think it's clear that he would.  Again, he criticized Barack Obama a few years ago when Barack Obama said, "If we have actionable intelligence about a high value target--" and let's be clear.  Nobody was bigger, nobody was a more high value target than Osama bin Laden.

David, do you have any doubt that if the mission had gone poorly, as Bill Clinton said, that Mitt Romney wouldn't be out there attacking the president for it?  Look, maybe the comments he made a few years ago he admits are wrong or he's flipped flop on yet another issue.  All I know is this:  the president made a clear, brave decision, empowered the remarkable men and women in our military to go get and kill Osama bin Laden.

And, look, Joe Biden's right.  I sit in Detroit this morning, David.  Osama bin Laden is indeed dead and G.M.'s not just alive, it's the number one automaker in the world.  And I can assure you that too wouldn't have been the case had Mitt Romney been president of the United States.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

So it's a question, though, of whether President Obama's being consistent about his belief about all of this.  Back in 2008 you were facing Hillary Clinton in a hard fought primary campaign and she ran an ad that featured an image of Osama bin Laden.  It was part of an ad questioning whether Senator Obama was prepared to be president.

And at the time, the spokesman for the Obama campaign, Bill Burton, said the following about that ad.  Quote, "It's ironic that she," meaning Hillary Clinton, "would borrow the president's," President Bush's, "tactics in her own campaign and invoke Bin Laden to score political points.  We already have a president who plays the politics of fear and we don't need another."  Is President Obama being hypocritical with this ad today?

                                 

ROBERT GIBBS:

No, this isn't the politics of fear.  This is the politics of brave decision making.  That's what commander-in-chief is all about.  Look, I would love to go through about half of what Ed said, because I think he has temporary amnesia when it comes to being commander-in-chief for foreign policy.

Let's take our relationship with Russia.  Ed knows this because Ed was in the White House when they couldn't get Russia to go along with crippling sanctions as it dealt with Iran.  This president came in, changed that and now we have the most severe, most crippling sanctions on the regime in Iran that we've ever had.  That wasn't possible when Ed walked in the White House or Ed walked out of the White House.  It was possible because this president knows clearly what he wants to do as commander-in-chief and in exercising a strong foreign policy for this country.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

The question of who is Mitt Romney is on my mind throughout this program today and I asked Ed Gillespie about that.  The kind of campaign he would run.  Whether he would just focus on the president's record or would he be a guy to present big solutions to the big challenges that the country faces.  I guess the same question is also applicable to President Obama.  Will he spend his time simply tearing down Governor Romney as an alternative or is he going to run on a big idea for his second term?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, look, the biggest idea that we're running on is to continue moving in the right direction of fixing this economy.  Look, the last six months of the Bush administration we lost 3.5 million jobs.  And we know this about Mitt Romney.  He's not a job creator.  When he was governor of Massachusetts they were 47th out of 50 in job creation.

His experience is in downsizing and outsourcing jobs and bankrupting companies and walking away with a lot of money for himself.  His economic ideas are the failed economic ideas that we tried for eight years.  Tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and letting Wall Street going back to writing the rules all over again.  That is the policies that got us into this mess.

This president wants to build on 25 consecutive months of private sector job growth, 4.1 million jobs.  And to really institute some strong values of fairness and responsibility.  Build an economy that lasts.  Invest in our children and in their college education.  Make this country strong.  Make this economy vibrant.  And continue on the path to adding jobs in it.

DAVID GREGORY:

The question of the deciders and the women's vote.  You heard Ed Gillespie.  You've heard Governor Romney say this is squarely going to be an issue of the economy and how women in this economy, if you want to focus on that particular voting group, how they are faring.  And you heard Ed Gillespie go through his version of the record for President Obama when it comes to women.  As he said, women are not stupid and they are going to still vote on the economy.  How do you respond to that?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, I think sometimes you listen to the Romney campaign and they do think a lot of people in this country are stupid, because, David, their message is, "You didn't clean up our mess fast enough."  As I said, we've had 11 consecutive months of positive economic growth.  25 consecutive months of positive private sector job growth.

The Republicans, again, they want to return to the policies not of strengthening the middle class but instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.  They want to make healthcare and contraceptive decisions.  They want to put those decisions in the hands of the boss that women work for.

I don't think we want to to go back either to eight years ago or, quite frankly, 30 or 40 years ago, whether it's the economic decisions that women have to make or the healthcare decisions that women have to make.  I think there's a clear contrast.  We're at a make or break moment for the middle class here in America.  And let me tell you, Mitt Romney would be nothing short of devastating for middle class Americans on a whole host of issues.

DAVID GREGORY:

The issue of comedy came up a lot this weekend.  You had the president making some jokes last night at the Correspondent's Dinner.  And Jimmy Kimmel as well.  And he brought up an issue that sort of also uses satire as a weapon to raise a serious question about President Obama's leadership.  Let me show you that clip.

(videotape)

JIMMY KIMMEL:

"Mr. President, remember when the country rallied around you in the hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious."

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

If some of that hope and enthusiasm surrounding President Obama has abated four years into his first term, why does he deserve another four years?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, he deserves another four years because the direction this country is moving is in the path toward a stronger country, a safer country and a better economy.  As I said before, we inherited the biggest economic mess and the worst economic times of our lifetime.  We're making progress in turning that corner.

I'll give you an example.  In the so called Bush economic recovery we lost a million and a half manufacturing jobs.  Again, I sit in Detroit this morning where we've added 230,000 manufacturing jobs to this economy, the first manufacturing jobs that we've added since the late- and mid-1990s.  Those are significant steps that we're taking.  And now is, quite frankly, not the time to turn back.  Time to turn back to somebody who's experience is in outsourcing and downsizing and bankrupting, but instead on somebody whose experience is in strengthening this middle class in this make or break moment for them.

DAVID GREGORY:

Robert Gibbs, thanks very much for being here.  We'll continue to follow the debate.

ROBERT GIBBS:

David thank you.

(commercial break)

(videotape)

JOHN BOEHNER:

This is the latest plank on the so-called war on women, entirely created, entirely created by my colleagues across the aisle for political gain.

(end videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

That was House Speaker John Boehner on the House floor on Friday talking about the student loan debate and how it gets paid for, which brought in some of these questions about health services and taking it out of the healthcare bill, which is ultimately what the House bill has in it, which has rekindled some of this debate about, again, what the deciders of this race, women, are going to be voting on when it comes to the fall.  And Hillary Rosen, here you are.  This issue is not going away.  And neither are you.

HILARY ROSEN:

Neither am I.

DAVID GREGORY:

You're back.

HILARY ROSEN:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

I do want to remind people about your comments about Ann Romney that started quite a debate.  Watch.

(videotape)

HILARY ROSEN:

What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing. Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we -- why do we worry about their future?

(end videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

How much damage did that do?

HILARY ROSEN:

Well, I apologized to Mrs. Romney because I don't believe her life is the life that voters should judge.  This debate took a wrong turn and I'm sorry if I was the cause of that.  This debate is not about the choices that moms make.  95% of the women in this country have economic struggles, whether they are the ones bringing home the paycheck or whether they're the ones trying to stretch that paycheck to take care of their families.  And Mitt Romney's policies are what we should be debating.  And that is, in my view, still a woeful, woeful record.

DAVID GREGORY:

You're a political pro.  You know politics.  And in the political debate over women voters this had an effect.  The president of the United States, everybody that you know very well within the Democratic party, people associated with this president's reelection campaign wasted no time running immediately in the other direction.  The president even said that was an ill advised statement by somebody on television.

HILARY ROSEN:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

Were you surprised at how quickly they distanced themselves from you?

HILARY ROSEN:

No, that was politics.  What I was surprised about was, and this is something we should always learn and I'll always know, people don't know you.  So really this isn't about me.  This is about that debate that, again, I caused taking the wrong turn.  The economic issues that Mitt Romney has to face and how it affects women are absolutely fair game in this debate.  That's where I intended to keep going.  And I think that's really where American people want it to go.

DAVID GREGORY:

In your judgment, Ann Romney has the standing to evaluate what women, what women need as they're looking for a president?

HILARY ROSEN:

I'll leave that the Mitt Romney to decide who he talks to.  I'm not going to go there.  Where I'm going to go is does Mitt Romney understand that when he's out there complaining that 40% of the people in this country don't pay taxes, what he's really talking about are poor working people, mostly women, who get away from paying taxes because of the earned income tax credit that he wants to take away while he gives his rich friends a tax cut.  That's the debate that I'm going to engage in.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me widen this discussion.  Political strategist, Republican Alex Castellanos is here.  And of course our own MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.  And also Congressman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, head of the Republican conference on Capitol Hill.  This is a wider conversation about how to win the women's vote, what women will care about and the kind of conversation ultimately that they're having as they evaluate this campaign.  Where are we after Hilary remarks and the debate that ensued?

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

Well, Hilary apologized.  And I think we've all made statements that we later regret.  The reason that it caused such a controversy, though, is that it exposed that the war on women is really a myth.  That it has been created by the Democrats in an effort to distract Americans, once again, from the real issues.

Democrats know that the Republicans won the women's vote in 2010.  It was the first time since Reagan that the Republicans won the women's vote and it resulted in the Republicans taking the majority in the House.  Eighty-seven new freshmen, a record number of women, Republican women, that were elected to the House.

And it could be argued that it was the American women that really voted out, fired the first woman speaker of the House because they didn't like the direction the country was taking.  They didn't like the policies promoted by this administration, by the Democrat majority at that time, whether it was the massive debt, record debt, $5 trillion now, whether it was the healthcare bill that women oppose.  They wanted a different direction.

DAVID GREGORY:

How, Rachel, should this conversation actually be framed?  I made the comment when I've done this topic before.  In a lot of ways, men bringing up this question it's almost a condescending question.  "Well, what is it that women want?"

RACHEL MADDOW:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

So what is the right way to be framing this conversation and this debate, which is a very serious debate, because we're talking about the real deciders in the race.

                       

RACHEL MADDOW:

Policy.  It should be about policy.  And all of our best debates are always about policy.  And it should be about policy that affects women specifically.  The Romney campaign wants to talk about women and the economy.  Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make.  So if--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Not exactly.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Women don't make less than men?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Actually, if you start looking at the numbers, Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Wait, wait.  No.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Well, first of all, we--

RACHEL MADDOW:

Don't tell me what the reasons are.  Do women make less than men for the (UNINTEL PHRASE)?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Actually--

FEMALE VOICE:

Not (UNINTEL).                       

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--because.

RACHEL MADDOW:

No?  (LAUGH) Okay.  No.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Well, for example--

(OVERTALK)

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--men work an average of 44 hours a week.  Women work 41 hours a week.  Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more.  Women want more flexibility--

(OVERTALK)

RACHEL MADDOW:

Listen, this is not a math is hard type of conversation.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

No, no.  Yes, it is, actually.

RACHEL MADDOW:

No, it isn't.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

We're having to look--

RACHEL MADDOW:

No, listen--

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, let Rachel--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--by the way (UNINTEL).

RACHEL MADDOW:

Right now women are making 77 cents--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And litigated--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--on the dollar for what men are making, so--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Well, that's not true.

RACHEL MADDOW:

--so--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

If so every--

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, let Rachel make her point.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--greedy businessman in America would hire only women, save 25% and be hugely profitable.

RACHEL MADDOW:

I feel like this is actually--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

That's it.

RACHEL MADDOW:

--and it's weird that you're interrupting me and not letting me make my point, because we get along so well.  So let me make my point.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I will.

RACHEL MADDOW:

But it is important, I think, the interruption is important, I think, because now we know, at least from both of your perspectives, that women are not faring worse than men in the economy.  That women aren't getting paid less for equal work.  I think that's a serious difference in factual understanding of the world.

But given that some of us believe that women are getting paid less than men for doing the same work, there is something called the Fair Pay Act.  There was a court ruling that said the statute of limitations, if you're getting paid less than a men, if you're subject to discrimination, starts before you know that discrimination is happening, effectively cutting off your recourse to the courts.  You didn't know you were being discriminated against.  You can't go.

The first law passed by this administration is the Fair Pay Act.  To remedy that court ruling.  The Mitt Romney campaign put you out as a surrogate to shore up people's feelings about this issue after they could not say whether or not Mitt Romney would have signed that bill.  You're supposed to make us feel better about it.  You voted against the Fair Pay Act.  It's not about--

(OVERTALK)

RACHEL MADDOW:

--whether or not you have a female surrogate.  It's about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don't believe is happening.

DAVID GREGORY:

It's policy is the argument.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

It's policy.  And I love how passionate you are.  I wish you are as right about what you're saying as you are passionate about it.  I really do.

RACHEL MADDOW:

That's really condescending.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

For example-- no.

RACHEL MADDOW:

I mean this is a stylistic issue.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I'll tell you what--

RACHEL MADDOW:

My passion on this issue--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Here's a fact--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--is actually me making a factual argument--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Can I share one--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--on it, Alex.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

May I share one fact with us?

RACHEL MADDOW:

Please share.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

When you look at, for example, single women working in America today between the ages of, I think, 40 and 64, who makes more?  Men or women, on average?  Men make $40,000 a year.  Women make $47,000.  When you take out the marriage factor, look at some economics.  My point here is that we're manufacturing a political crisis to get away from what this election really wants to be about.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Well, let me bring it back--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And that's the Obama strategy in this election.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, but--

RACHEL MADDOW:

No--

DAVID GREGORY:

--I want to pick up on this point, which is does policy matter?

FEMALE VOICE:

Absolutely.

DAVID GREGORY:

The Romney campaign would like to make this strictly about the economy.  How women fare in the economy.  As opposed to what a lot of Democrats, the president and others-- and you heard him make the point.  I brought this up with Ed Gillespie.  This idea of turning the clock back on some settled issues that Republicans bring up.  That got to the healthcare fight.  That got to the access to contraception.

HILARY ROSEN:

Well, I think the economic issues matter a lot, obviously, to everybody.  And we're going to talk about whether tax cuts affect women more and men more and how women are faring and the facts Rachel talked about.  Let's look at this other place.  What did men do with all that power that women helped elect them to in 2010?  Over 1,000 bills were introduced in state legislators and Congress across this country since then to take away women's reproductive health.

There's just no question.  Whether the Republicans want to call it a war, and I don't particularly love that word, there is a concerted effort to change settled policy in the area of contraceptive rights, in the area of healthcare rights.  When men have medical issues, they're medical.  When women have medical issues, they're political.  That is going to be a huge issue in--

DAVID GREGORY:

Congressman.

HILARY ROSEN:

--this campaign.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

These are all distractions from the real issues.  Let's look at the policy.  Let's look at the real issues that face all Americans, including women.  And it is.  It's the economy.  Women make the majority of the purchasing decisions.  They're out there.  They understand the price of gas right now.  It has doubled under this administration.

They understand when food prices go up.  They make 85% of the healthcare decisions in this country for themselves, for their family, for their parents, for their children.  They do not like the president's healthcare bill.  It was signed into law two years ago and the opposition has actually increased.  And it is more women than men even oppose this bill because they are frightened by the idea of the federal government coming in and taking away their ability to make those decisions that are--

(OVERTALK)

RACHEL MADDOW:

--other priorities--

DAVID GREGORY:

(UNINTEL) Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW:

--in the Republican controlled legislatures in  Iowa and South Carolina what they did this week was they started working on the very difficult problem of rape victims and people who become pregnant through rape or incest being exempted from some of the anti-abortion laws--

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

You come--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--in those states.  Why are the Republican legislatures in those states prioritizing cracking down not on rape but on rape victims?  If the priorities are as you say, why have we had more anti-abortion legislation in the last year than we've had since Roe vs. Wade?  What you're saying and what you're doing as a party are two very concepts.

DAVID GREGORY:

Congressman and then Alex.  Go ahead.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

When you highlight just a few of the bills out of the thousands of bills that are introduced at any time at the state legislative level you're picking and choosing.  I could pick out some bills on the left that are just--

RACHEL MADDOW:

(UNINTEL PHRASE) in the Congress.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

--in Washington state--

RACHEL MADDOW:

This anti-abortion bill.  It's the first bill that you introduced to the Congress.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

--this year there was legislation introduced that passed the House to require abortions be included in every healthcare plan moving forward.  So that doesn't reflect the priorities of the party.  It doesn't reflect the priorities of the majority in Congress.  We have been focused on the economy, on bills that will get Americans back to work.

RACHEL MADDOW:

There are more--

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

Get people--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--anti-abortion bills--

(OVERTALK)

RACHEL MADDOW:

--now than at any time--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Yes, if I may though--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--since Roe vs. Wade was (UNINTEL).

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--if I may though--

RACHEL MADDOW:

I'm not focusing on that in a disproportionate--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

If I may--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--concern to the quantitative measure by which they have been introduced.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Which is (UNINTEL) our--

RACHEL MADDOW:

It's become the priority of the party and that's what I understand.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

This is how far the Democrats, Obama and Rachel have to go to try to win this election.  We're sitting here talking about the next president of the United States.  And I don't know if Rachel knows this, but our nominee is this named Mitt Romney.  He's actually running for president.  And you're talking about legislatures in Iowa.

RACHEL MADDOW:

I'm talking about what the--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

This is--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--Republican party stands for.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Well, as the Republican-- well, wait a minute.  If the Republicans have declared a war on women and half of the Republicans are women.  Some of us have even married them.  It's manufacturing a crisis.  But here's a political question for Obama.  When manipulating people becomes so obvious you lose your political credibility--

RACHEL MADDOW:

You're (UNINTEL PHRASE) manipulating?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--we were looking-- no, no.  The Obama campaign.  When people see the magicians' hands.  And this is such an obvious attempt to divide the country along every conceivable issue and access except the economy where he can't debate.  So--

RACHEL MADDOW:

Okay, well, let's go back to that.

(OVERTALK)

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Badly.  Even though we're seeing a debate, rich versus poor, right, men versus women, employer versus employee.  They're trying to divide the country everywhere because they can't litigate--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm going to get in here.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

We end up talking about (UNINTEL PHRASE) legislatures--

RACHEL MADDOW:

--distract--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--instead of the economy.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me get in here.  Let me get in here because I'm going to get one more word from Hilary and then I'm going to take a break and we'll move on to something else.  Go ahead.

HILARY ROSEN:

Let's go back to where Mitt Romney is here, because this is not about Iowa.  And even though Mitt Romney has embraced--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

It's not about Iowa.

HILARY ROSEN:

--every one of those state legislatures--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

On that we agree.

HILARY ROSEN:

--the governor is doing those activities.  But let's look at Congress.  Let's look at Mitt Romney and his alliance with Congressman Ryan.  And when you look at the economic issues and when you look at the priorities-- and, by the way, this is not a Democrat/Republican thing.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson, other Republican women have agreed that these attacks on women's reproductive health is bad for the party.  It's bad for America.  Let's look at where Ryan takes us and where Romney goes.  Cutting daycare.  What do women depend on?  They depend on working women.  Cutting education.  What are women depending on to--

(OVERTALK)

HILARY ROSEN:

--equalize us.  But of course it's true.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

Not what we're doing.

HILARY ROSEN:

Mitt Romney wants to decimate the Department of Education.  Paul Ryan wants to eliminate federal subsidies for families--

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Let me--

HILARY ROSEN:

--and their children.  That's exactly where Mitt Romney's taking it.  That's going to disproportionately--

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  I'm going to--

HILARY ROSEN:

--affect women.

DAVID GREGORY:

--curtail this part of the debate.  We know the debate is going to go.

(Commercial Break)

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back with our roundtable and we're going to go to Brian Williams, managing editor of Nightly News who was kind enough to join us this morning to talk about a special hour, Brian, you've got coming up on Rock Center.  Your exclusive interview with the president and his national security team, going inside the situation room one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden.  What did you take away from really going back one year later inside the decision making?

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

Thank you for having me.  We asked to recreate this picture.  I carried this particular photograph around and handed it to all the people in the picture.  We asked to talk all of them about the anatomy of this military mission.  Deconstruct what you knew to be the chances, what you knew to be the risks.  Those last 48 hours once it was in motion.

Including the atmosphere in that room.  We asked to go back into that room.  And as you'll see, as we discovered, the photographer for the White House, Pete Souza, who took the famous photo, followed us back in there.  It was kind of a fascinating way to reconstruct what happened a year ago.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, that sets up exactly the clip that we've got so we'll show that.

(videotape)

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

There you are.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Here I am, sitting right here.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

That's-- that's an intense-- look on your face.  And everyone is-- intently watching that screen.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

This is-- if I'm not mistaken, Pete, this-- this picture was taken-- right as the helicopter was having some problems.(pan to Pete)  But you may not remember.

PETE SOUZA:

I-- I can't say for sure.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

That's-- that's what it feels like, because I remember Hillary-- putting her-- her hand over her mouth at that point.  There's silence at this point inside the room

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

When you look at it, w-- what does it conjure up inside you?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, that's the way I usually look when my husband drags me to an action movie.  (LAUGH) You know, what it conjures up is all of the emotions that-- were running through my and every other-- person in that small group // even now, I feel (LAUGH) the adrenaline and the c-- I guess the cortisol course, you know, surging through my-- body.  It was-- just-- an extraordinary-- experience.  And-- and a great privilege to be part of.

(end videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

Journalistically, Brian, this is so much like other efforts in the past on anniversaries of 9/11 or ordering the war in Afghanistan or Iraq, to go back to the decision making which is what makes your reporting on this so interesting.  Separate from that there is the political context of how this reelection campaign is using the killing of Osama bin Laden against Governor Romney and the fallout from that.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

Right.  And I think everything, obviously, has to be viewed through the prism of election year politics.  We made a request to do the deconstruction of a mission.  The request was granted.  We were given access, first time in 50 years of being there in the basement of the West Wing, television news cameras have been allowed in the situation room.  Even when we pan to the other end of the room the fact that we can see what they have been watching that day and we'll deconstruct that, go into a little more detail, is so valuable.

So I'll let others talk about motivation.  That was not our cause in going in there.  Obviously we will note it along the way.  We wanted to take apart this mission and look at what went into it, especially considering had it gone wrong, phone calls would have had to go out to 50 American families, two choppers full, who had come in over Pakistani air space, dwelled on the target and then successfully, of course, for all of us got out of there that night.

DAVID GREGORY:

Brian Williams.  The special for Rock Center is called Inside the Situation Room.  It airs Wednesday at 9:00, 8:00 Central.  Brian, thanks a lot for doing this.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

Thanks for having me, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Appreciate it so much.

(commercial break)

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back.  Giving you a chance to preview press pass.  I sat down with Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen, who play Governor Romney and President Obama on Saturday Night Live.  And I wanna show you a portion of that conversation on this big comedy weekend.

(videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

Guys, thanks for having us here and for bringing out all the best furniture.

JASON SUDEIKIS:

Absolutely, no --

DAVID GREGORY:

-- to do this interview.

JASON SUDEIKIS:

This is --

FRED ARMISEN:

This is from home.

DAVID GREGORY:

But I mean, look where we are. This to me is cool, because I'm a Washington guy --

JASON SUDEIKIS:

Yeah

DAVID GREGORY:

As we talked about, a place of great style and substance.

JASON SUDEIKIS:

Absolutely.

DAVID GREGORY:

But to be here in a show biz mecca --

JASON SUDEIKIS:

Yeah

DAVID GREGORY:

...is exciting.

DAVID GREGORY:

Alright, let's talk politics here. Obama and Romney. Jason, let me start with you. Is there any better fodder than politics, this time of year? Do you enjoy that?

JASON SUDEIKIS:

It is interesting. I would say that comedically what it helps is getting everybody on the same page -- like everybody's paying attention to the same thing -- so then it feels like you're making a bunch of inside jokes or observations that maybe people share with one another, or that are on the tip of their mind or tip of their tongue, if you will, that we get to actually portray as the people. I would say that that's where politics usually helps.

DAVID GREGORY:

what about the personalities? I mean Romney here is not exactly lighting it up on the campaign trail --??

JASON SUDEIKIS:

No.

DAVID GREGORY:

In terms of being an exciting figure. What does that do comedically?

??

JASON SUDEIKIS:

It, I think it makes it kind of

DAVID GREGORY:

Even better?

SUDEIKIS:

I don't know if it does make it better. I'd prefer that he did something scandalous or something, you know, incredibly stupid, as opposed to just boring. Because to play boring is a little bit boring. // we wouldn't want our president to be a wild man, but -- he's like a butter sandwich, with unsalted butter, and the crust cut off.

DAVID GREGORY:

Fred, you have the advantage of you've been impersonating President Obama now for some time, since he's come into office.

FRED ARMISEN:

Yeah. ??

DAVID GREGORY:

How has this developed for you? ??

FRED ARMISEN:

It's nice 'cause it's, you know, I think that as the public discovers who he is and finds out more about him, I'm doing the same thing. And that's the kind of fun thing about it, as all of that unfolds.

DAVID GREGORY:

But give me, the voice is key. Give me just a little something.

FRED ARMISEN:

I just, you know, there's little, that's hard to do because --

DAVID GREGORY:

I know.

DAVID GREGORY:

I don't want to put you on the spot --

JASON SUDEIKIS:

And yet here you are.

FRED ARMISEN:

And here I am. There's like little, there's little things.

JASON SUDEIKIS:

...give him one little thing, like whenever you do that --

FRED ARMISEN:

Sometimes when I'm getting ready I like to say 'Hello!' [In Obama voice].

DAVID GREGORY: Alright so this is kind of silly but, here just take a few seconds in character, sort of making the case for election. Mr. President, we can start with you.

FRED ARMISEN:

[In character as Obama]: Uh yeah. First of all.

JASON SUDEIKIS:

That's pretty good, he doesn't have to say much. Lets his record speak for himself.

FRED ARMISEN:

Yeah. I think, I think, yeah,

JASON SUDEIKIS:

Seems logical.

DAVID GREGORY:

And, meanwhile, Governor Romney.

JASON SUDEIKIS:

[In character as Romney]: You know this great nation of ours, yeah. I got to tell ya, so I go across this country, and I see so many, so many, happy and unhappy. You know, men and women and grandmothers and granddaughters and you know, sons --

FRED ARMISEN:

Uh if I could uh, interrupt for a moment --

JASON SUDEIKIS:

Uh well, I guess you're going to do it. If he's gonna do it, you gotta let him do it.

FRED ARMISEN:

Let me take an applause break.  Thank you! [waves arm]  Thank you! Thank you!

(end videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

They were good sports.  You can see the full press pass conference on our website, Meet The Press.NBC.com.  Thanks to all of you on the roundtable.  There's so much more to get to today with (UNINTEL) steaks and comparing Romney and Obama.  Unfortunately, we won't be doing that on television.  But you'll be on Twitter so you can be--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--if you run in any of these folks on the street, they'll be happy to talk to you about it.

FEMALE VOICE:

(UNINTEL) at the bar.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah, exactly.  Thank you all for being here.  Very much.  That's all for today.

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