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Video: Economic upheaval impacts 2012 campaign

updated 6/3/2012 2:52:04 PM ET 2012-06-03T18:52:04

DAVID GREGORY:

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A dismal jobs report for May has a sudden impact on an already tight race for the White House.  Is it a game change for the economy? Just 69 thousand jobs created last month sending the unemployment rate up to 8.2 percent and stocks sliding. Is this another spring slump or worse a sign of another global slowdown?

(videotape)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

The economy is growing again, but it's not growing as fast as we want it to grow.

(end videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

Mitt Romney, who just this week clinched enough delegates to claim the nomination, sees an opening.

(videotape)

MITT ROMNEY:

The president is always quick to find someone to blame: first it was George Bush, then it was Congress, ATM machines, Europe, but the truth is the job of the president is to get America back to work.

(end videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

It is about the economy, but President Obama also wants to make it about Governor Romney's record in Massachusetts. This morning a campaign debate

current Massachusetts Governor, Democrat Deval Patrick and Republican Governor of all important Ohio, John Kasich. Patrick and Kasich square off.

Then, analysis from our political roundtable on the state of the campaign and strategy on both sides.

With us, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, Senior adviser to Governor Romney Kevin Madden, Democratic Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed and from the Center for American Progress, former policy adviser to President Obama's 2008 campaign, Neera Tanden.  Finally, was this outburst from an Illinois legislator more than just a YouTube moment?

(videotape)

STATE REP. MIKE BOST:

You should be ashamed of yourselves. I'm sick of it.

(end videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

Beyond the screaming, the problem with our politics and with Washington in this election year, as seen by former Senator Bill Bradley, author of the book, “We Can Do Better.”

(INTRO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Welcome to both of you.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Good morning, David.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

So Governor Patrick, here we are--

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

We're just-- we were just giggling at the setup.  We didn't know we were here to face off.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah, well, that's it.  You're here.  Like it or not, you're facing off.  And it is about the economy.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

We'll attack you, David.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, that's always an option.  Let's look at the record here.  Because we're look at the economic record of President Obama.  And here's the jobless rate as you go back to when he came into office.  Up and down we go.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Right.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

And now it's going back up in terms of the unemployment rate.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Right.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

8.2% for May.  His perhaps the most daunting chart, if you look at three straight months, where we've seen this decline in job creation.  In February, it was looking better.  Then you see March, April, and May.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Right.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Not very many jobs being created.  Governor Patrick, is the president, because of the economy, the underdog again?

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Isn't it funny that we talk about the economy in political terms, or about the unemployment rate in political terms first, without talking about the impact on working people and families and the communities they live in?  Job gains are always good news.  27 straight months of job gains is great news.  But we're never going to have the rate of job gains that we need until the Congress passes the jobs bills that the President's put before them.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

And we know that that's the silver bullet how?

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

But you know, we need to talk about that.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Because it's-- I know from my business experience and my government experience that investment is what creates jobs.  In Massachusetts, we're investing in education, in innovation, in infrastructure.  And that show we moved from 47th in job creation to one of the national leaders today, and why we've turned around an income decline when Governor Romney was in office to an income gain today.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, you had stimulus, though.  Right, Governor Kasich?  We had federal stimulus from this president.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

And it helped.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, look.  I mean the problem we have, David, I would tell you honestly the numbers that just came out, they frighten me because I believe we're going to see, in all probability, some unemployment increases in Ohio.  I mean we're down to 7.4% down from 9.1%, which is great.  But these job numbers are terrible.  And I agree with Deval when he says it's about families.  Because I mean if you don't get families to work, you create real moral problems in your country.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, but we--

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Here's the problem, David.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But we understand that it's about families.  I mean this is a debate in the campaign about who's got the chops to turn the economy around.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, that is a problem.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

That is the political debate.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Look, here's the problem.  When you have uncertainty that people face today, when you're talking about higher taxes, when you have this enormous debt, when you over-regulate, people are uncertain.  If you're a small business person, you can't deal with uncertainty.  So you sit on the sidelines.

If you're a big company, you don't know what you're going to do, you sit on the sidelines.  So the talk about higher capital gains, higher income taxes, this enormous debt, highest debt we've ever seen in our history, which leads us to conclude, or business people to conclude, that means higher taxes.  You've got an EPA that is overly zealous.

You have Obama Care.  No one knows even what the rules are.  You have Dodd Frank, no one knows what those rules are.  I mean the rules are so thick you could write many encyclopedias with them.  Companies see that, and they say, "We're out of here."  And this is the problem.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--confidence.  The governor talked about lack of certainty.  Where is the confidence that people have in this president?

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

I think John is right, there is a certain amount of uncertainty.  And that comes, in part, because the plans that the president keeps putting before the Congress get ignored.  Those are plans we know work.  The business community is expecting higher taxes because they understand that that is part of the solution to dealing with the deficit.

Every economist understands that, as well.  But we can't get the Congress to act.  And that's a problem.  What we have right now is a Congress which has decided that there is a political advantage in stymieing this president, putting ideology ahead of country.  And that is what this election is about, and what has to be rejected.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

David, in 1997, I was the architect, one of the chief architects, of the balanced budget.  We didn't raise taxes.  In fact, we cut capital gains.  We also balanced our budget, paid down the largest amount of debt in history.  And, you know, we were running huge surpluses.  And, you know, raising taxes, that's not the problem with Congress.

Frankly, this whole city is dysfunctional, you know.  And the executive is not leading.  You can't-- it's like blame.  I'm an executive in Ohio.  I can't blame the legislature for things not getting done.  I have to accept responsibility.

And you know what?  I've led.  And I've worked well with the legislature.  And we've gone from 48th in the country in job creation to number six.  We've created over 70,000 jobs.  You have to lead.  And frankly, here's where I think the problem is, Deval, you being a businessman.  I don't think they know what they want to do.

Some temporary jobs bill, that was what stimulus was.  It didn't work.  The idea that we're going to have a temporary tax cut, that doesn't provide any certainty.  You know what they need to do?  They need to say, "We're not going to raise taxes.  We might close some loopholes.  We should bring down the rates.  We're not going to kill investment.  We're going to streamline our regulations.  And we're going to have certainty."

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, so part of--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But part of the debate here, part of the debate is who's got the skills to turn the economy around?

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

That's correct.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Now you're saying the Congress has got to do its job.  You're not really talking about the president's record, the positive or the negative.  You've also been dispatched this week to go after Romney's record in Massachusetts.  He came out of a tough economic environment.  The unemployment rate dropped while he was governor.  But he was 47th in the country--

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

That's right.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--in job creation.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Right.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Not good enough, in your view.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

That's right.  Well, that's not good enough.  And frankly, you know, no executive in government can do their job without the partnership of a legislature.  That's been true in Massachusetts, that's been true in Ohio.  The president needs that partnership here.  The president has bucked the trend.  He's turned job losses into job gains.  That's important.

No one, including the president, believes that these job gains are coming fast enough.  But it's clear that he has bucked the trend, and it's succinct (?) from Governor Romney, who rode the trend, in fact, trailed the trend when he was governor of Massachusetts.  Doesn't mean he was a failure as governor.  But the fact is that we had a stronger economy then.  We were out of recession when he came to power.  And he trailed the country in job creation.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But help me understand the logic here.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Can I just-- help me understand the logic here.  There was a recession.  Massachusetts came out of that with rather anemic job creation.  But the unemployment rate did fall.  You say that that's a failed economic record.  You're saying, in President Obama's case, that that's his calling card, that that's a success.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

I'm saying that--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Does that make sense to you?

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

--that, in point of fact, when Governor Romney was governor of Massachusetts, incomes were declining in Massachusetts while they were increasing across the country.  That we were behind 47 or 46 other states in Massachusetts in job creation at a time when the economy was--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--you look at this.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

--just to finish.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Go ahead.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

And the difference is that Governor Romney was following a trend of relatively good economic conditions in the country at a time very different from now, where President Obama has turned that trend, has bucked that trend, and we're getting job creation, where we're getting job losses.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Let me, first of all, he wasn't 47.  When he took over, he was 51st, counting DC.  When he left, he was 30th in the country.  He created tens of thousands of jobs and the unemployment went down.  But here's what I find really interesting.

You have a president, he opens up with Bain Capital, attacking on that.  Now they're trying to attack Romney.  Let me ask you a question.  What is the president for?  I mean unemployment has gone up.  We have a half a million Americans lost their jobs, the largest debt.  The politics is terrible.

When I started in Ohio, it was terrible.  You know what?  We're now getting bipartisan support for our bills.  And that's called leadership.  And I don't dislike the president.  You know, I've been with him, I like him.  But I don't understand what their plan is.  So when you don't have a very good record, you know what you do in politics?  You attack your opponent and try to shift the blame.  What the president needs to do is come out and say, "How are we going to repair this economy?  Stop blaming Congress."  Remember, he was the guy was going to unite the country.  And--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

--class war for everything--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, but that's rhetoric.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

But--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you think Congress has a role to play now?

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Of course they do.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, what is the role that they can play to stimulate the economy now?  If we're heading toward a spring/summer slump, what can government do?  You believe in--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--government intervention in Ohio.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

If I was a Congressman-- you're doing it.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

David, look.  The town's dysfunctional.  Okay, it's dysfunctional.  And without leadership from the top, you know, what they really need to do is, the president and Harry Reid and John Boehner need to put the country first.  I mean they got very close, I think, to being able to reach an agreement.  If they had just agreed on--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

I think that's true.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

If they had closed loopholes, and had they lowered rates, instead of talking about class warfare and, you know, the top 1%, that's just nonsense stuff.  Class warfare has never worked in American politics.  It didn't work with McGovern.  It didn't work for Gore.  Stop demonizing and separating--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--accountability?

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Of course they do.  I mean you think I'm happy with the fact that I left Washington and the Republicans that controlled everything blew the budget up?  No.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Look, I mean but the fact of the matter is, David, I hate to tell you this, I'm not voting for anybody for president who has never been an executive. In business and in government, you have to be an executive.  You don't run a company from the board of directors.  You don't run a government from the legislature.  It is up to the president to lead.  He's not led effectively.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Governor Patrick?

                                

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

I want to agree, David, with some of what John says, except, obviously, the last part.  But the point about needing the Congress to do its role.  When John was head of the budget committee, he worked with a Democratic president, and they got good stuff done.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

And it was important.  That's fluorotic politics we have in Massachusetts, excuse me, in the capital today.  It's not about a blame grain (SIC), that's a fact.  And everyone has to take some responsibility for that, including--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, but let me ask.  I want to pick up on this point.  Okay, Governor Kasich says he wants somebody who's got that business background, who's run something.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

An executive.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

An executive.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Even a governor like--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

--Patrick for president.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Now here was an important moment this week.  Not just the jobs report.  But the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, in an interview, taking exception, as you did, as Cory Booker did on this program, as Ed Rendell and others did with the Obama campaign, attacking the Bain record of Governor Romney.  This is what President Clinton said.

(videotape)

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON:

I don't think that we ought to get in the position where we say this is bad work. This is good work. //

There's no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and you know, basically performing the essential functions of the office. A man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.

(end videotape)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Sterling business career, he was talking about Governor Romney.  It seems to undercut one of the big arguments that the president has against Romney, does it not?

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

It undercuts the spin on the argument that the president has made.  The president has never attacked Bain.  It's not about Bain.  It's never been.  Bain's a fine company.  And--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

You're telling me the president agrees--

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

I--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--that Governor Romney has a sterling business career?

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Private equity has a role in the economy.  But Governor Romney's experience in creating jobs in the private and the public sector is fair game.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

That's not the issue, governor.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--sterling business career that he brings to the task of turning the economy around--

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

He had--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--in your judgment.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

He had a terrific career creating wealth.  There is very little evidence that, either in the public or the private sector, he's had a terrific career creating jobs.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Let me tell you this, David.  In Ohio, we faced a huge deficit.  We balanced the budget, we cut taxes, we streamlined regulation.  And we're up over 70,000 jobs.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Uh-huh.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Why am I for Romney?  I am for Mitt Romney because I'm working with the wind in my face.  These unemployment numbers, this job growth number, 69,000, out of 300 million Americans?  It means the wind is stronger in my face in Ohio.  You know what Romney will do?  He'll fight to balance the budget.  Can't do it overnight.  He'll cut taxes.  He'll provide certainty.  He'll streamline regulations.  And that's what I need in Ohio.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But you mention Ohio, you mention the strength in Ohio.  I want to put some figures up on the screen--

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Sure.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--about (UNINTEL) states, unemployment numbers then and now.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Yeah.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

And then let's talk about Ohio.  In Ohio, in the third quarter, the last three months, of 2010, you were at 9.8%.  You see Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia.  Look at the numbers now.  As you pointed out earlier in the program, you're at 7.4% in Ohio.  Florida's down, Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia.  What you didn't mention, and what the president would, is that the auto bailout, particularly in the northeastern part of your state, created jobs.  Not just in that sector, but in sectors--

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

David.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--that rely upon it.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

David.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Is there not some credit--

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

David.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--to the president there?

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

David, look.  I mean the fact is, we're thrilled with the auto jobs.  I'm glad the auto industry has been--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Mitt Romney would not have bailed them out.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

But--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Mitt Romney would not have bailed them out.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

I'm not here to debate--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

No, but that's a fact, is it not, governor?

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

You said what turned Ohio around was several things.  You did not mention the auto bailout.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

But wait a minute, first of all--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

The president would, would he not?

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Let me tell you, we are thrilled with the auto industry.  But giving the facts:  73,000 jobs created, okay, in the last, since '11.  Do you know how many direct jobs in the auto industry?  1,800.  You know what our biggest areas of job growth is right now?  Business and financial services and medical.

See, what we've done in Ohio is we've diversified the economy so that we have multiple ways to grow jobs.  I am really happy that the auto industry's strong.  I'm happy with the suppliers.  It's great.  But you can't say that Ohio's doing that great just because of that, because when you look at the other states in the Midwest, they're not performing like we are.  We're now the number one job creator in the Midwest.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

David--

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

And it's because of the diversity and a stable environment where businesses can feel they can invest in the state of Ohio.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

May I say?  We've had a similar turnaround in Massachusetts in the last six years, following Mitt Romney.  We followed very similar strategies as John has followed in Ohio.  The reason I'm supporting the president is because that partnership with the federal government has been enormously important to us, as well.

It's not a substitute for the private sector and for private job growth, by no means.  But government has a role to play.  And investing in our infrastructure, investing in education, is a key role for government.  It's something we believe in, in Massachusetts, something the president believes in nationally.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But it is interesting.  You have not once, in the course of this interview, come out definitively for the President's economic record.  Your main point has been to blame Congress.  Can the president win reelection if he does not persuade--

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

First of all--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

-Ohioans and others that his economic record is something that they should build on and vote for him again?

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

First of all, they should vote for him because of his economic record, because it's extraordinarily strong.  When you consider what this president has been dealing with, the headwinds that he has faced, just like John and me, and that he's turned around, quarter million jobs lost month after month after month in his first, when he first comes into office, and turn that around to job gains, that's incredibly important.

What will accelerate that, and what we all believe will accelerate that, is the plan he has put before the Congress.  And he has to have those tools.  When he hasn't needed tools, when he's been able to act on his own, great things have happened.  And the auto bailout is a prime example of that.  That's been good for Ohio and for the whole industry.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

You know what?  I really like him.  The middle of a tornado in Ohio, he calls me out in the blue, okay, and says, "Is there anything I can do to help?"  He's a fine man.  We need more guys like this.  But when we talk about the record of the president, this is just a fact, unemployment has gone up since he's been in office.  A half a million people have lost their jobs.

How do you say that's a good economic record?  And the fact is, we still have uncertainty.  We don't know what the heck is going to happen tomorrow.  They do not have a good economic plan.  And I'll tell you why.  They don't have the experience as executives over time to understand how to make it work.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

--the strange thing is to criticize the president for not doing enough, from people who don't think government should do anything at all.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, that's not where I-- that's not where I--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

David, we've got-- I know that's not where you come from.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Yeah.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

But that has been a lot of the rhetoric in the national (INAUDIBLE).

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me do a couple of quick things before we go.  On our trend tracker of top stories this morning on the web, number two on that list is the Wisconsin governor recall.  This is happening Tuesday, Governor Kasich.  You're, no doubt, watching this as a Republican, as somebody who took on collective bargaining unsuccessfully in your state.  Walker may prevail here.  What's the larger political impact, do you think?

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, I think the public is recognizing that some of the benefits are out of line.  Deval's had to deal with it in his state.  You know, we didn't get our referendum, but we've reached agreement with all of our state workers.  And you're beginning to see local governments reign in some of these costs.

I think it's a matter of balance between those in the public sector and those who pay the bills.  And I think Walker's probably going to win.  I mean but it's really amazing, he's done a fantastic job, and I think he's going to win this.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

In your state, Elizabeth Warren running for the Senate.  She's concerned about this issue of her ethnic background being a distraction in the race.  You have endorsed her.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

I have.

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

How has she handled this, poorly, in your judgment?  Will it hurt her?

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

You know, I'm-- I've-- I've only run for two-- for one office two times.  So I'm an amateur for that kind of thing.  But I'll tell you I think she's a terrific candidate.  She's going to win.  She's got a fantastic grassroots organization, which is absolutely key, both philosophically and politically.  She's got a strong case to make.  And at home, folks aren't focused on her ethnic background, they're focused on whether she can be a real partner for us--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

And they're focused on basketball.  So we know you're for the Celtics.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

He was-- you know what?  If he was really a great governor, the Celtics would beat the Heat.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, that's what--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Everybody in Ohio is rooting against the Heat.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

That's it, you hold a grudge.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

You don't root for LeBron, and you hold a grudge.

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

(UNINTEL) does not deliver.  I believe in forgiveness.

                

(OVERTALK)

                                 

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

--deliver the Celtics, he's going to be a failed governor.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

We're going to leave it there.  The political debate continues.  Thank you both very much.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Good to be with you.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Appreciate it.

                                 

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK:

Thank you.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

We'll end on a handshake.

(LEAD-IN AND COMMERCIAL OMITTED)

DAVID GREGORY:

Before we get to our political roundtable, we want to go inside the battlegrounds again this morning and give you a sense of the map and where we think the real tossups are.  Our political team, Chuck Todd and company, have redone the map.  And we're focused here on the big battlegrounds:  New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Ohio, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada in the west.  110 electoral votes up for the grabs.

Now, what else is notable about this map, these were all Obama states from four years ago.  Some battleground polls:  in Nevada, look at this.  Very tight race, 48-46.  This is a target of opportunity for Governor Romney.  They think they might be able to pick this one up.  We move on, you go to Iowa, 44-44.  Keep your eye on the Midwest here as an area of vulnerability for the president.

Colorado, 46-45.  This has got to be an important hold.  You've got Independent voters, have got Hispanic voters.  So the Obama wants to hold onto that.  We're going to talk about it all with my roundtable.  Joining me for the first time, actually, this morning, president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos is here, as well.  The mayor of Atlanta, Democrat Kasim Reed is here, and senior advisor for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, as you see me coming into frame there, Kevin Madden.  Welcome to all of you.

So Kasim Reed, Mayor Reed, you see the economic reports.  You're down in Atlanta, but you're also around the country advocating on behalf of this president.  Was this a low moment for the campaign, a jobs report like this, that really puts this on the territory, on the terrain, that Mitt Romney wants to fight on?

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

I don't think it will be, at the end of the day.  We all knew this was going to be tough.  But when I watched the comments from the governor of Ohio, I think that the slogan that Mitt Romney (UNINTEL) out where they mispronounce-- or misspelled the name American (UNINTEL) Marcia (PH), it really should be "amnesia."  Because these folks have amnesia.

When you talk about Barack Obama's economic record, he's created 4.2 million jobs, 27 straight months of growth.  Folks don't have any conversation in all of this debate about the two wars President Bush funded and put them on a credit card.  They're not talking about the expansion of health care, and not talking about the fact that we lost eight million jobs going into this president's leadership.

And to have an entire conversation without putting those facts on the table is really stunning to me.  And then, not to add Mitt Romney's own record, going from 36 to 47th in job creation.  Everything he said about what a wonderful job he would do because of his experience as an executive, he said in Massachusetts.  And the fact of the matter is it didn't happen in Massachusetts.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, Kevin Madden--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--pick up on that.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

That was a point that came up in the debate between the governors.  Similar circumstances, and Romney did not deliver as governor, did he, in the way he says he would, taking over for President Obama.

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

(UNINTEL), we have to remember, Governor Romney came into office, there was a $3 billion deficit in Massachusetts.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Similar to what this president faced.

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

And he wiped away that deficit.  We were 50-- as Governor Kasich alluded to before, 51st in job creation.  And when he had left office, he had advanced the state to 30th.  So he had advanced 20 places on that particular list.  40,000 net jobs created, thousands of jobs created over the term of his office.

And I think what he did was he came in and changed the culture of the way Massachusetts was not working.  And everything that Governor Romney has done, whether it's been the Olympics, whether it's been as governor, whether it's been in the private sector as a businessman, he has helped turn around malfunctioning organizations.  And nothing is as big a malfunctioning organization right now, and I think the American people agree, as Washington D.C..

We have to change the way our outlook is.  And we get back to a more optimistic outlook as a country as it relates to creating jobs in this country.  And I think that is something where the American people have felt really let down by President Obama.  He promised to change the culture of Washington.  He promised to put the economy back on track.  He's failed on both of these.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  So what did we see this week?  We saw dueling stunts, really.  You had the president's campaign in the person of David Axelrod, his senior campaign advisor, talking about the Romney record in Massachusetts.  Contrast that with Mitt Romney out at the failed Green Energy Plant Solyndra, which went belly up, even after some government intervention.  And this was the exchange this week.

(videotape)

DAVID AXELROD:

Romney economics didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

MITT ROMNEY:

Well, you can see that it's a symbol of something very different today. It's a symbol not of success but of failure.

(end videotape)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Neera, is this the campaign debate that Americans have really been waiting for?  Is this really shedding light on how tough the economy is and who's going to turn it around?

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Look, I think Americans want a real debate on the policies.  And I think that would be-- that should be a debate the president welcomes.  Because essentially, the president has support (?) a real proposal to create jobs.  And the problem with Mitt Romney is that it's not just where he stood, although that's important, but where he stands now.

And his policies really do double down on the policies of the Bush administration.  He's calling for massive tax cuts.  And we know that has not worked as a strategy.  And I think the challenge for Mitt Romney is also some of these debates because an issue of hypocrisy.  He goes to Solyndra on Thursday.  And we find out yesterday that a company precisely like Solyndra that he funded, Kinarca, is going belly up on Friday.  And so I think the real argument here is not only about the policies that we're pursuing, and we should have a debate on that, because it is the case that Mitt Romney is proposing solutions that have failed before and will fail again.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Well let's-- I mean we can go tit for tat here, sort of on ideological grounds.  Could also be analytical about this.  Alex, be more counterintuitive about this.  If you're President Obama, do you see a need to go more at your record and prop up the record?  I mean I do think the exchange with Kasich and Patrick is interesting.  I mean the auto bailout has helped Ohio.  It's not something that Governor Kasich wants to talk about.  But the Romney campaign knows that's true.  And that's one of the things they're worried about in Ohio.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

You know, that's the-- let's just talk about the politics of it, David.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

As you were suggesting.  Political malpractice is for the guy with the 8% unemployment rate to attack the guy with the 4.7 unemployment rate in Massachusetts.  I think the Obama campaign is looking like the campaign that is trying too hard.  Well, it's the wrong kind of success.  It's Mitt Romney creates profits, he doesn't create jobs.

And I think what that's doing is it's lessening the president.  It's making him look very political.  He's not only able not to fix the economy, he's throwing rocks at the people who say they have an idea.  Ultimately, this president has to say, "Look, I'm going to take you to a better place."  A president is Moses.  His job is to lead the country to the promised land.

And shooting the other guy, who says, "Look, I've got a great idea," shooting him in the leg when he's trying to do that ultimately lessens the president.  I was really surprised to see David Axelrod out there.  You know, the front man for the government shouldn't be the political guy.

                                 

MALE VOICE:

Uh-huh.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

It should be somebody of stature.  Should have been a businessman.  It should have been a governor.  But it's all politics all the time.  And I think it's costing the Obama administration.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Hmm.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

I would say I think that this election actually will be about who has the best vision for the country going forward.  And I think that's an area where the president should-- that's a policy or a debate the president should really embrace.  I do think we spend a lot of time on the records and looking at Mitt Romney's record because he's made it a centerpiece.  But I do think the issue for both candidates is what are you going to do to move the economy forward?

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

But David great

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

And it's not just a criticism, it's actually what you're going to do.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

But if you--

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

And I think that's-- I think that should actually be welcome ground.  Because Mitt Romney hasn't talked about his policies in the last few weeks.  He's only been criticizing the president.  And I think if the president actually has a debate about, you know, the policies that Mitt Romney has supported, which are actually not just the policies of the Bush administration, but actually, far to the right of those.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But do you have a problem, Mayor, with going after Bain Capital when surrogates have not stuck to the script, notably President Clinton, who's talking about a sterling business record for Governor Romney, who's--

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

No.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--who's offering that as--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

I don't have the problem at all.  Actually, I've been amazed by it.  The fact of the matter is we know about Bain Capital because of Senator Ted Kennedy.  Ted Kennedy was locked in a race 48-46 against Mitt Romney in 1994 on his first foray into politics.  Ted Kennedy ended up beating the bark off of him, 58-42.  And the centerpiece of his assault was Bain.  This has been used by Mitt Romney's own competitors in gubernatorial races.  It's been used in the Republican primary.  So for Democrats to be having a conversation about whether this is fair game is really--

OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But they're having that conversation.

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

Yes.  But you asked me my opinion.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

So you've had some other folks' opinions.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

So I want to give you mine.  At the exact same time Democrats have been asking the president to fight with one hand behind his back, Mitt Romney's in Nevada with Donald Trump.  He lets Ted Nugent make incendiary remarks about the country and the president, doesn't say anything.  He lets Rush Limbaugh speak disparagingly about a woman at Georgetown Law.

                                 

MALE VOICE:

Yeah.

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

And nobody says anything.  We spent eight days talking about what--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, I don't think that's true that it hasn't been covered.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

I mean we just had Mayor Reed talking about something in 1994 that Democrats are still talking about in 2012.  We have Neera practically imploring the president to talk about the future and provide his vision for the country.  If we had a president who had a record to run on, he would do so.  He hasn't.

Governor Romney has talked very intently, he's talked acutely, about what he would do to move the country forward.  The reason that Governor Romney is in the race is to fix the economy.  He's made that very clear to every single voter out there who's yet to make up their mind.  We don't even know what President Obama would do in a second term.  And here we are, five months away from him asking for a judgment from the American people.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Yeah, but I have to say, how does Mitt Romney differ from George Bush?  He has his big proposal, which he has endorsed, is the Ryan budget, which has slashed Medicare and Medicaid for 30 million people to lose health insurance.  That's to the right of where George Bush was, actually.  I'm--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

--on the ballot in November.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Yeah, Mitt Romney--

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

It's going to be President Obama and Governor Romney.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Right.

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

And I think that's--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Hold on, hold on, Al?

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I can tell you how he differs from George Bush.  And so can Bill Clinton, whom we just saw on tape.  This president is telling the American people that the biggest problem we have is other Americans that are holding the economy back.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

That's not true (?).

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And Bill Clinton was a new business Democrat, a new Democrat.  He wanted to grow the economy.  The President's job, Bill Clinton felt, was to grow it for everybody, not just to redistribute what some Americans have.  That's why the biggest split, I think, that's hurting Barack Obama now is a split in the Democratic Party.  It turns out Hillary Clinton is still running in the 2008 primary.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, let me you ask this, though, Alex.  Because here's the problem for Governor Romney.  He does have to create distance from a Republican Party that is in trouble.  He has to create new opportunities for the fact that there is a coalition of young Hispanics and women--

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Yeah.

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

--who has a severe disadvantage with.  And he has to do that with this kind of vision for the economy that is different than, "How's it going with the other guy?"  Which is basically what his message has been so far.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And all you have to do, I think, is look at the world around you and describe it.  Which is what I think you're going to see not only Mitt Romney but new Republicans do.  And that is, "Look, how do we grow this economy?  The old way?  The way Barack Obama still wants to do it?  Send our money to Washington and try to grow it top-down politically and artificially from Washington?  Or take--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--money out of (UNINTEL) slow government, put it in the American people's pockets, invest in 300 million dreams and plans, and grow the economy naturally and organically bottom-up--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Mayor, let me ask you this.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--a new Republican agenda.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But what is the--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

--that's very different.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

What is the bold economic idea that you would like President Obama to run on?  You're in a big city.  You see the impact of the economy every day.

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

Sure.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

What's the big idea he should be running on?

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

The big idea he ought to be running on is making sure that he gets the Congress to pass the infrastructure investments that we've been talking about for more than two years that Republicans and Democrats have traditionally agreed upon, and that will get the country moving again.  Republicans didn't traditionally vote against infrastructure.

We know verifiably that infrastructure generates jobs.  And facts have to matter in this election.  Alex just referenced Mitt Romney's record of 4.7 unemployment.  Think of the time that we were in when Mitt Romney was governing.  Then he talked about the president at 8.2.

The president had to deal with the worst economy in 80 years.  He had much tougher challenges than Mitt Romney ever had.  And the fact of the matter is, 40 months in to Barack Obama's presidency, 21,000 jobs were generated in Massachusetts.  40 months in to Mitt Romney's term as governor, 6,000 jobs were generated in Massachusetts.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

Mayor, with all due respect, we had a trillion dollar stimulus that was put into infrastructure.  We had a trillion dollar health care bill.  And we haven't see the economic growth that we need.  Federal spending--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--tax cuts.

(OVERTALK)

                             

KEVIN MADDEN:

We're not going to tax our way to prosperity, we're not going to spend our way to prosperity.  We have to put in place the policies that are going to help us have long term growth.  And we have to address our deficit problems.  This is a president who's rung up trillion dollar deficits every year in office.  These are big problems that we have to have somebody--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But aren't we--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

And I think the president keeps referring to the Congress.  And I think Governor Kasich earlier made a very important point that presidents have to lead.  And he hasn't done that.  He's always mastered the pageantry of bipartisanship.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But here is--

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

The pageantry of--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But here's a contrast.

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

--executed it.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Governor Romney's talking about 6% unemployment if he gets into power as president at the end of his first term.  You can't know that anymore than he says the president could know, based on the stimulus.

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

But you can have the optimism about your policies.  You can have--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Go ahead, Alex.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

What about (UNINTEL).

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

No, I was just going to say that I think the problem for President Obama is his campaign message has devolved down to, "This is as good as it gets.  I'm doing the best that I can."

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

Well, you couldn't be more wrong.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And which leaves Mitt Romney, I think, a tremendous opportunity to be Moses, to say, "Follow me, we can do better."

OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, let me go around.  I know there's disagreement about that point.  I want to get in here, and I want to cover some other topics as we go around the table a little bit more quickly on some of these topics.  The first one is GOP (UNINTEL), which we have our eye on here.  And this caught my eye from The Wall Street Journal, Jerry Sides' (PH) piece this week.  He talked about the buzz around Rob Portman from Ohio, the "un-Palin.  The case for Ohio's Rob Portman is fairly simple.  He wouldn't hurt the Romney cause in any significant ways, and could help it in others.  If the goal is to avoid a Palin-like experience, well, Portman is the un-Palin of 2012.  His résumé is sterling.  No chance his credentials would be questioned, little chance he would hurt the ticket, and only a slim chance he would commit a distracting gaffe."  Is this where you see Romney ultimately going, going the other direction from a game-change moment with a VP?

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I think Romney would probably be wise to pick the dullest guy he could pick, a suitcase with no handle.  Because you want the spotlight not to be on your VP pick, you want it to be on Barack Obama and his economic failure.  But Portman has a problem:  George Bush.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

He gives Democrats (UNINTEL) campaign on.  I think somebody to watch would be a Bobby Jindal, who has been vetted, who's been out there, who has a terrific record.  But at the end of the day, you don't want the vice presidential choice to draw the spotlight.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you see him as formidable or a target-rich environment?

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Bobby Jindal?

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

No, no, no, I'm talking about Rob Portman.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Oh yes.  Well, I think either Portman or Ryan allows Democrats to make a very strong argument about either the economic past or the economic future.  And so I think both of those would be very interesting for Democrats and allow a lot of fodder.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Kevin, will you give us anything on this, or are you going to clam up?

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

I always say that you're very smart to ask, I'd be very dumb to answer.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--recently, (UNINTEL PHRASE) here.

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

I have a tradition of avoiding those questions.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah, okay.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

I will say this.  I think that it will be a lens to look at Governor Romney on the type of decision he makes.  This would be essentially his first decision as a potential president.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.  When is he going to make it, by the way?

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

That I don't have an answer for, either.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

We could rule out Donald Trump.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

I don't know, can we?

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let's go next up, the items on our list of around the table.  And that's Bush back at the White House.  The portrait unveiling.  This is a rare moment of bipartisanship in Washington.  And it's also pretty humorous, too.  Listen to the former president with this president.

(VIDEO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Mayor, if only we had a few more moments like that here in Washington--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--the place might work a little better, right?

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

Yeah, you're right.  We need more of that.  We're going to need it to move the country forward.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

These are-- having covered when President Clinton came back, when Bush was president--

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Yeah.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--you'd see these similar moments of great humor.  And this is a rare and exclusive club, the president.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And there's a certain generosity of spirit to George Bush and personal warmth that does seem to be missing in our politics today.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Yeah.  And I would say on that, one thing that we really do miss is President Bush had a lot of leadership on immigration issues, and really spoke out to have an open tent for Latinos that has been sorely missing and I think will be a big challenge for Mitt Romney.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I got along with him just fine.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Our last item here, and that is John Edwards, a second act for him?  Of course the trial wound up this week, there was a mistrial on most counts, an acquittal on one.  And here was John Edwards after the fact.

(videotape)

JOHN EDWARDS:

This is the last thing I`m going to say. I don`t think God`s through with me. I really believe he thinks there`s still some good things I can do.

(end videotape)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Is there a second act here, Neera?

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

I hope not, honestly, just to be blunt about it.  I think that John Edwards should do really good things outside the spotlight, and really not call on any attention for himself or anything like that.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

He doesn't have a second run in him anywhere?  He's--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

I hope not.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

God may not be through with him, but the American people are.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Absolutely.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Kevin, let me ask you this.  And one of the other issues that came up was Mitt Romney, the image of Romney coming down with the Trump plane in the background this week.  Was this much more cost than it was worth to go out there and raise money with Donald Trump, with all this Berther (PH) nonsense still floating out there?

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

Well, I think there's other people are focused on that.  I think as a campaign, you try to ask yourself the question, "What really matters to the American people?"  And I don't think they're focused on that issue.  I think it's an absolute distraction.  I think what's really important is that the governor has, every single time that issue has come up, he's made it very clear that he disagrees with Donald Trump on that issue.

And he's very focused on talking about the economy.  That's what people are really animated about out there, who haven't made up their mind about this election, who care about the direction of the country.  So it's just a distraction.

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

I just want to say, I think on the (UNINTEL), it does speak to a bigger character issue, which is, if you can't stand up to Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh when he's attacking Senator Flock (PH), and you can't say, "You know, that's really wrong," and just step away from it, you know, it raises question as a president.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

We always talk about moral character.  We talk about more--

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

I think every second we waste talking about that is--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

KEVIN MADDEN:

--the American people grow more and more frustrated with the process--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Because Donald Trump--

                                

KEVIN MADDEN:

And we talk about the economy, we talk about growth, we talk about what we're going to do to move this country forward versus what's constantly what divides us or what may not bring us together--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

NEERA TANDEN:

Absolutely.

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

--character enough to push back against that kind of language in a much more stronger way than he has to date.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Final point.

                                 

MAYOR KASIM REED:

He's trying to have it both ways.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Final thought, Al.

                                 

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I think when the economic house is on fire, you want-- you see your president putting out that fire.  And all the Obama campaign seems to be doing so far is talking about Donald Trump, and whether it's other peripheral issues that may be important.  But the house is burning down and--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me leave it there.  The debate will continue.  Thanks to all of you.  Coming up, more on what ails Washington and what's wrong with our politics in this election year.  Here for a special conversation, I'll spend a few minutes with author of the new book We Can All Do Better.  He's the man who has many roles over the years, former Senator Bill Bradley will join me for a few minutes right after this break.

(LEAD-IN AND COMMERCIAL OMITTED)

                                                     

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back.  Joining me now, the former Democratic Senator of New Jersey and author of the new book We Can All Do Better, Bill Bradley.  Welcome.  Good to have you on the program.

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

Good to be with you, David.

                                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

You are a Democrat, former presidential candidate for the party, and supporter of President Obama.  All of that said, you're also taking a critical look at both sides of our politics and how Washington works.  Do you think this is a campaign debate thus far that's worthy of the challenges we face?

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

I think-- the debate ought to be about the future, not a blame fest about the past.  I think that people ought to say what they think America's role in the world is.  How are we going to get middle income people making more money?  I mean the reality is that the median income in 2010 was the same as it was in 1996.  That's what it should be about, and not the blame fest.

                                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, what should government be doing?  I mean is there anything prescriptive that you see that a chief executive can be doing now to fix what appears to be another, at least downslide or worse, that it's just stagnant growth?

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

Sure.  Well, that's one of the reasons I wrote the book, to try to give people some hope that we can deal with our problems.  Yeah, the private sector, non-financial corporations, have $1.8 trillion on their books in cash and in liquid assets.  If 20% of that was used to hire people, the unemployment rate would be 5%.  When you ask CEOs, "Why don't you do that?"  They say, "Because of uncertainty."  You heard that earlier today.

                                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

And, "There's no demand."  So you've got to address those two things.  You address the uncertainty with deficit reduction and demand with a massive infrastructure program.  Immediately what you do is you say, "If you hire another worker, the government will pay 30% of that, as long as you don't lay off a worker."  And do that for two years, limited to $50 billion, not a taxpayer dollar would be spent unless a job was created.  Do that immediately, then you get the private sector hiring with the combination of deficit reduction and massive infrastructure, I'm talking about a trillion dollars, to create five million jobs.

                                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

You write in the book something that caught my eye, which is about what people so dislike about politics in Washington right now.  This is from the book.  You're talking about voters, "They're tired of seeing their presidents appear at fundraisers and hedge their bets and compromise their beliefs to raise campaign money.  The people are tired of being taken for granted.  They yearn for leaders who will level with them, not pander to them."  Do you see your party, your president, in the Democrat Party, leveling with the American people?  What should he be saying or doing that would require sacrifice, that would really take on the part in a more robust way?

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

Well, I think that he's leveling more than the Republicans are, because he's being honest about taxes.  We're not going to reduce the deficit a sufficient amount unless we deal with entitlements, defense, and taxes.  And he's leveling.

But I think that we need to step back and say, "We need a more comprehensive program to deal with middle class income."  And most important, we need a very specific effort to eliminate or reduce the role of money in politics.  Because of the Supreme Court, there will be massive amounts of money spent in this presidential campaign and in Congressional and Senatorial campaigns.

The result is the people don't get the work done in Washington that they want to have done.  For example, in 2009 and '10, the financial industry contributed $318 million to politicians in Washington, the health care industry, $145 million, the energy industry, $75 million.  It should not be a surprise that the financial reform bill was watered down, that, with the health bill, we did not get a public option to private insurance, and we did not even get around to doing an energy bill.  The role of money is corrosive and it's not government the American people what it wants.

                                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But you blame the president here for not leading, for not opting out--

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

No, I'm-- it's--

                                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--or for not staying in (UNINTEL) public financing.

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

It's too easy to say, "It's the president," or, "It's the Congress."  That's the old way.  We have to realize here that the power rests with the citizens.  You know, in the 1830s, when the abolitionists started, or in the 1880s, when the suffragists said women ought to have a right to vote, or in the civil rights movement in 1950s, or the environmental movement in the 1970s, they weren't saying the president doesn't or the House doesn't.  These were people that took responsibility--

                                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, so already, in 20 seconds, what changes the dynamic?  What breaks this cycle in Washington?

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

I think it takes, potentially, the way it's done in the past, if we don't have one party wipe the floor with the other, which is what I'd like Democrats to do, or we don't have bipartisanship, there's an emergence of a third Congressional party that shakes the system up with a very specific agenda that is the people's agenda that they want to have done.

                                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Senator Bradley, thank you so much.

                                                 

SEN. BILL BRADLEY:

Thank you.

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