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updated 11/17/2013 12:00:32 PM ET 2013-11-17T17:00:32

“MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY”

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November 17, 2013

DAVID GREGORY:

Good Sunday morning. This is the headline in the weekend edition of the USA Today: "Health law shakes the presidency." It seems to sum up the effect of Obamacare on the state of the White House at the moment, and with a kind of crisis in confidence, the pressure to make changes to the health care law is growing.

On Friday, the House passed a GOP plan to allow the removal of millions of policies required to be canceled under the current law, and also sell similar policies to new customers. The bill goes farther than the president's announced fix, and he has threatened to veto it. Thirty-nine Democrats defected and voted with the Republican majority. Joining me now, the leader of the Democrats in the House, Nancy Pelosi. Welcome back to the Meet the Press.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Morning.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good to have you here in studio.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

It is.

DAVID GREGORY:

There is a crisis of confidence, and the country feels it, about Obamacare. But it seems to go deeper. Thirty-nine Democrats voting with the Republicans on this bill that doesn't look like it's gonna go forward. Has it reached a point where Democrats don't believe the president can pull this off and can make Obamacare work?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No, I remind you that, now, 39 voted for this resolution the other day; the number has been in the 30s when it was to agree with them on the mandate for businesses, the mandate for individuals. So this is approximately the same number.

DAVID GREGORY:

But there is some real frustration among your Democratic--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

This is true.

DAVID GREGORY:

--caucus there.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

True, but you focused on the number, and the number is approximately the same of two, three months ago, as it is today. When the Republicans put forth a political initiative, people respond to it politically.

DAVID GREGORY:

But I think the question is really are they losing confidence in the president's--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No.

DAVID GREGORY:

--ability to make Obamacare work?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No. Let me just say this, because on all these specifics, we have to completely step back and see the bigger picture. What I love about health care professionals is that they're calm, and we must remain calm when we talk about the health of our country. The Affordable Care Act, as I call it, as I always called it, is right up there with Social Security, Medicare: Affordable care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege.

The rollout of the website, that's terrible. But the fact is that will be fixed. And that is the instrument of enrollment, as you know. What the Republicans did on Friday is not a fix. And if I just may, the law does not demand that all of these cancellations go out. The law says if you had your plan of the law, you can keep it, and that's what the president said. So there's a distinction between those who had it before, and what this law does is say other people can be enrolled in these bad initiatives, which the rules--

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay, I don't want to get too far into the weeds on that, but I want to come back to it. But I want to stick with a point about Democratic frustration.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

I know.

DAVID GREGORY:

But the bottom line is, and you know from talking to your colleagues about this, they've got to be worried about reelection next year.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Well, right--

DAVID GREGORY:

Are you and others going to go campaign on Obamacare in swing districts around this country? And if so, what's the message going to be?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Well, the fact is I'll get back to the Affordable Care Act, and the "affordable" is named that because it makes it affordable. And the experience in states where it is working, in Kentucky and California and the rest where we have our own state marketplace, it's working very well.

And I have full confidence, as to my members, however they voted on this-- this is political. They respond politically. But the fact is that, when this website is fixed, many of these people in these bad policies that are costing too much-- now, what the president did, and it's really important to mention this, what he did in his statement the other day was to allow people who have been in the plans since the enactment of the Affordable Care for there to be a delay in enforcement for those.

The others can always stay in. There's nothing in the law that says they can't stay in. But what he said was that the insurance companies must tell the policyholder what they are deprived of, that they're not getting pre-existing conditions--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, but there are cancellation notices going out. There's a million of them in California.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Yes. And what they have to do now is send another letter that says, "This is what this is going to mean to you in terms of you won't get pre-existing conditions, this condition, and here are the other options that are available--"

DAVID GREGORY:

Now, wait a minute--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

--"to you in the marketplace."

DAVID GREGORY:

But the president has been apologetic, he's been accountable for saying something that was not the case. You are speaker of the House. You in many ways were seen as an architect and a key ally on this. And this is what you said back in June of 2009 on MSNBC. Watch.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

What we are talking about is affordable, quality, accessible health care for all Americans. It`s about choice. If you like what you have and you want to keep it, you have the choice to do that.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Are you accountable for saying something that turned out not to be correct?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

But it's not that it's not correct, it's that if you want to keep it, it's important for the insurance company to say to people, "This is what your plan does. It doesn't prevent you from being discriminated against on the basis of preexisting conditions. Lifetime limits, annual limits in the--"

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

There's a bottom line to this, which I think people understand, and the president has acknowledged, which is the government is deciding there have to be minimum standards, minimum requirements in any health care plan.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

So if you have something and you like it, and it doesn't meet what the government says you have to have, you cannot keep it.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

If you have--

DAVID GREGORY:

And that's not what you said here.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

If you had your plan before the enactment of the law in 2010. if you had your plan before. There is nothing in the law that says you have to-- but, you know, again, we can go back and forth in this--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is important deal (?) because the grandfathering has changed. And the bottom line is the president acknowledged (it doesn't seem like you're acknowledging) that saying to people back in 2009, "Hey, this is going to be easy. If you like what you have, you can keep it--"

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

And you could.

DAVID GREGORY:

--"this is all about choice."

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

You could if you had your plan until the enactment of the law in 2008. Grandfathering is for those before 2008. But let me say this, and I commend the president. He's gracious and he's taking responsibility. But that doesn't mean that there was anything in the law that said if you like what you had before 2010 you couldn't keep it.

DAVID GREGORY:

You ma--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

But I think it's really important to make that point. He took responsibility for the big picture, and that's important for him to do because that's what people see.

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

But you said earlier, "If the law says that you must--" it can't. The law doesn't say that. But, again, neither here nor there. How do we go forward?

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes, the bottom line is people are getting policies that are cancelled and that was not the representation that was made.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

And the--

DAVID GREGORY:

And it was also foreseeable; it was part of the debate that this would actually happen.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Well, now, I would agree with you for the policies since 2010, but not for before. But the president has also said that the insurance companies, and many of them have been very responsible and some not so, the insurance company has to say to you, "You're not getting the pre-existing conditions; you will have lifetime limits; you will have annual limits." And, by the way, you have to tell people that they can go to the exchange, the marketplace, where they may qualify for a subsidy or they may just get a better--

DAVID GREGORY:

The big--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

--price.

DAVID GREGORY:

--picture on this is that it doesn't seem to be working right now. And you argued at the time, you said, "Look, there is a lot of controversy around this. It's politically hot." And that people don't understand--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Right. And that people don't understand the good things that are in it. But then you said this in March of 2010. Watch.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

And hasn't that idea, that you have to pass it before you know what's in it, isn't that really the problem, as you look back on it? That the-- there was such a rush to get this done, no Republicans voting for it, and now there are unintended effects of this that were foreseen at the time that you couldn't know the impact of it. And now this is coming home to roost.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No. What I was saying there is we are House and the Senate. We get a bill. We go to conference or we ping-pong it, and then you see what the final product is. However, I stand by what I said there. When people see what is in the bill, they will like it. And they will.

And so, while there's a lot of hoop-di-doo and ado about what's happening now-- very appropriate. I'm not criticizing. I'm saying it took a great deal for us to pass this bill. I said if we go up to the gate and the gate is locked, we'll unlock the gate. If we can't do that, we'll climb the fence. If the fence is too high, we'll pole vault in. If we can't do that, we'll helicopter in, but we'll get it done.

We had to pass the test of the courts, and we did. The first rollout in the first part of the first year of the implementation went very smoothly. The website did not work; that has caused problems complicating people transitioning from those policies to the other.

But, again, this is never thought to be easy. And the fact is, it doesn't matter what we're saying here: What matters? What happens at the kitchen table of the American people. And how they will have more affordability, more accessibility, better quality care, prevention, wellness, a healthier nation honoring the vows of our founders of life, a healthier life. Liberty to pursue their happiness, not be chained by a policy.

DAVID GREGORY:

I understand what the arguments are. The administration is saying--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--this will considered a success if 80% of the people are able to get on the exchanges and get signed up. Is that an acceptable--

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No, that's just by--

DAVID GREGORY:

--threshold?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

--the end of this month. This just by--

DAVID GREGORY:

That's acceptable?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No. Well, it's not acceptable ongoing. But they're saying with the fixes to the website, they're anticipating that 80%, by December 1, as we go forward. No, it has to be improved upon then. But, again, the measure will be how many more people can sign up? Have fewer mistakes and glitches. And, again, the shortening of the time for people to get on. But the thing is, is this is a big deal. This is a very important pillar of economic and health security for the American people.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, all the more important to get it right.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

That's right.

DAVID GREGORY:

Why aren't you concerned at this point that this is in grave danger of not being done right?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Well, I'm very unhappy about the website, as you can just imagine the president is. But I know the makings of the legislation, and what it does for people. And, again, look, this Republican measure on Friday, what makes matters so worse, allows the marketplace to be deprived of people who should be there getting lower prices with better benefits and perhaps even a tax credit.

So that wasn't a fix, it was a make matters worse. But they're running a political arena and you expect that. But you can't be knocked for a loop just because somebody's playing politics. If that was the case, we would have never passed it in the first place.

DAVID GREGORY:

Final point: Democrats won't lose seats next year over Obamacare?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

I don't think you can tell what will happen next year. But I will tell you this: Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act. We have great candidates who are running, who are concerned about our economy, and are concerned that government was shut down because of a whim on the part of the Republicans, costing us $25 billion to our economy and 0.6% of our GDP growth.

They're concerned that overwhelmingly the American people support immigration reform, support background checks, support ending discrimination against people in the workplace; all of these kinds of things are the concerns of the American people. Jobs will be the major issue in the campaign, as they always are.

And this is an issue that has to be dealt with, but it doesn't mean, "Oh, it's a political issue, so we're going to run away from it." No, it's too valuable for the American people. What is important about it is that the American people are well served, not who gets reelected.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Leader Pelosi, thank you very much for your time. Nice to have you here.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

My pleasure to be here.

DAVID GREGORY:

Joining me now, Republican senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte. Senator, welcome back.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE:

Thanks, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

I know there's a delay between us, so we'll bear through that. Respond to Leader Pelosi, who in effect says that there is some hysteria politically around all of this; these things will get righted, and ultimately people will see the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Do you not see it that way?

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE:

No matter how much Congresswoman Pelosi tries to spin this, this is a mess, David. I'll tell you what I'm hearing from my constituents. They're writing me about cancellation notices of plans they wanted to keep, rising premiums so their deductibles, some of them, are doubling. They're paying much more for health care. People losing hours because of the definition of the work week as 30 hours. And then less choice. I mean, in New Hampshire, there's only one insurer on the exchange; ten of our 26 hospitals are excluded.

So this really is a mess. And so she can try to spin it, but I think it's time-- you know, the president said that he fumbled the rollout. It's time for a timeout, which I've been calling for, so that we can go back to the drawing board and really talk about bipartisan solutions for health reform in the country.

DAVID GREGORY:

So the political headline this week was that the latest GOP Obamacare strategy, "Keep out of the way." Is that right? Is this being viewed as a new way to try to end Obamacare, end the Affordable Care Act altogether?

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE:

Well, I think what we're interested in is actually there are areas we need to address, rising costs in health care. That's a timeout for this thing. Let's go back to the drawing board. Let's not forget how this was passed, David. It was passed on purely partisan lines, no input from Republicans. And so that's what you get when you try to push it through.

And as the former speaker said on your show, and said previously, today when you played the clip for her, "We have to pass it so that you can find out what's in it." Well, now the American people know what's in it. My constituents are very unhappy with the notices they're receiving and higher premiums.

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is what the New York Times wrote this week about what the president's up against. The failures getting this rolled out, but also this: "Mr. Obama is battling a Republican opposition that has refused to open the door to any legislative fixes to the health care law and has blocked him at virtually every turn. There is no Republican proposal that I'm aware of that would seek to address the problems, basically 40 million uninsured Americans, that the Affordable Care Act seeks to address." Isn't that true?

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE:

Well, David, I would say this: Let's start with the principles that, in medicine, the first rule is to do no harm. And politicians addressing health care need to do no harm. We would like to get to some bipartisan solutions. Let's allow a greater competition. Why can't people buy insurance across state lines? If we can drive down costs, we can give people greater access.

Why not allow people to be treated the same in terms of tax treatment? Let's address pre-existing conditions. There were state high-risk pools we can buttress. But there are many ideas I think that Republicans are willing to work on a bipartisan basis on, but they have been so stuck on this law and trying to implement it, no matter what the cost, no matter what they hear from the American people.

DAVID GREGORY:

So what do you plan to present? What is a viable alternative that really solves the problem?

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE:

Well, I would say let's get to the table on a bipartisan basis and let's make sure that we have a plan that has more choice, not less. Let's have one where we're driving down costs and increasing competition. Have the insurance companies compete in a way that they aren't right now.

Let's get together and figure out what are the best models from the state law on the high-risk pools to address pre-existing conditions. There are many ideas I think that we could do that won't harm people who have policies now that they would like to keep. And I think that's the problem that we're seeing, is a law that harms so many people who right now were trying to do the right thing and have health insurance, and now they're receiving these cancellation notices and higher premiums. And it seems to me that we should work together to address this health care reform instead of the way this was done on party lines.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, we're going to leave it there. Senator Kelly Ayotte, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

COMING UP: WE'RE GOING TO GO BEYOND THE POLITICIANS' TALKING POINTS AND TALK ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE LAW. THAT'S NEXT.

AND LATER -- 50 YEARS AFTER THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK -- HOW THE WORLD MIGHT BE DIFFERENT HAD HE LIVED. TOM BROKAW AND CHRIS MATTHEWS ARE HERE TO REFLECT ON THAT.

WE'RE BACK IN A MOMENT…

(***Commerical Break***)

DAVID GREGORY:

A lot of confusion over some of the latest Obamacare developments, what they actually mean. Joining me to break it down: Columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Dan Henninger, and editor of the Washington Post "Wonkblog," Ezra Klein. Different views about the wisdom of Obamacare and its future. Let me start with you, Ezra. Is Obamacare falling apart?

EZRA KLEIN:

It isn't working at the moment. I don't think we know yet what the long-term consequences for the law are. So the big thing you would worry about is that, because people can't sign up now, the folks who do persist in trying to sign up are older, are sicker, because they need the insurance more, the young people you need to balance out the risk pool to keep premiums low don't sign up. And so in the second year, you have premiums going up in the insurance market.

But, look, if they get the website up and running in a much better way in the next two weeks, the next month, you've got a number of months after that until at least March for folks to sign up to get the 2015 risk pool okay. So we've seen this kind of bad launch before. The Medicare prescription drug benefit was a disaster for its first few months, and it eventually righted itself. I think it's much too early to say whether or not this will follow that trajectory, or some other.

DAVID GREGORY:

Dan, a friend of mine who's in college said, "You know, I'd be willing to sign up for something the government told me I should sign up for if they could run it right. They're not running it right."

DAN HENNINGER:

They're not running it right, and I think Ezra put his finger on the issue which is this website and whether they're going to be able to reconstruct it. Not merely the portal where people get into it, but from front to rear where you go into the exchanges, price the insurance policies, interact with the insurance companies and with the medical providers.

This is extraordinarily complicated. There's no way they're going to get this done in two weeks, or a month. And so if they continue to fail like that, I think that at the margins the young people, the healthy people who of course are running around using iPhones and applications successfully to redesign their own lives, they're the ones who are going to fall off Obamacare and lose faith in it. And I think to some great extent, their faith in the government's ability to deliver an entitlement like this is also being put at risk by the problem--

DAVID GREGORY:

Because--

DAN HENNINGER:

--with it.

DAVID GREGORY:

--ultimately, I'm trying to find one or two things to kind of keep our eye on because any one of us can get lost in a level of detail that, if you don't have experience in the policy, a health care background, you just can't keep up with it. Are premiums going to go up or not. Because the insurance companies will be happy to just raise premiums if this thing doesn't work out. They were told they'd get more people signed up so it's good for their business. If not, they'll just raise premiums.

EZRA KLEIN:

Well, so there may not be. This is actually one of the things that's really interesting in the next couple years. So Obamacare was begun in its first three years with a couple of protections against what we call adverse selection, right? Against too many sick people coming in and not young people coming in.

So one thing is this thing called a risk corridor. If they mis-price their insurance, right? If they price it too low for the sickness of the people they get, the government will in years one, two, and three reimburse them about half the difference. So that's a very big deal; it essentially subsidizes a bad risk pool.

The other thing is that let's say they think in 2014 this thing is just going to be a mess, right? You're going to have exactly the problem with young people we're talking about here. But by 2015, you've got a tighter individual mandate, you've got the website up and working (because I don't think anybody thinks you can't get this up in a year), well, all of a sudden insurers have to make this decision: Do they want to just keep all these sick people they got in the first year, or do they want to price it such they get the healthy people?

And it might make a ton of sense for them to keep premiums low in 2015 in order to get the healthy people because, otherwise, they've got the worst of both worlds. They've got a terrible risk pool. So I don't think it's automatic what they do, we just don't know yet.

DAVID GREGORY:

You know, Dan, you and I had an exchange this week and you made the point that this president has gone way too far in his quests to use government to do good. That it's become coercive. That the idea of the mandate is the centerpiece of Obamacare. Is that kind of what's the big test of all of this?

DAN HENNINGER:

I think so. I mean, the theory behind progressive or liberal politics, at least going back to F.D.R., was that they could come up with ideas to do good, like Social Security or Medicare and Medicaid. And that although it might be inefficient, that they could just make it work. The administrative state, the bureaucracies could make it work. That's been the theory.

We are seeing a test case now with Obamacare whether this grand entitlement can be made to work by the administrative bureaucracies. And if it continues to have the sorts of problems it is, I think a lot of voters for whom government is on the bubble right now, make no mistake about it, are going to start pulling back to support for this basic idea that liberals and progressives have pushed for the last 80 years.

EZRA KLEIN:

I think there's a lot of truth to that. The one thing I would say is I think that sometimes we underestimate how much everybody has a stake in government being able to do these kinds of things well. So if you look at Paul Ryan's health care plan, right, that he brought out in 2009, it had exchanges. The federal government and the states had to set up exchanges. If you look at his Medicare plan, right, which is in the Republican budget, it also moves Medicare over to exchanges.

So Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, they both on some level need the government to be able to function well. And it's bad for both sides if the government can't construct these basic administrative tasks that are needed for any kind of reform, be it liberal or conservative, effectively.

DAVID GREGORY:

I'd like to be able to check in with both of you as this goes on to get a reality check beyond what the politicians are saying, which I think leave a lot of people kind of in the confusion of doing arguments. So Ezra and Dan, thank you both very much for being here. I appreciate it.

COMING UP: THE PRESIDENT'S LEGACY -- IS THE ROUGH ROLLOUT OF OBAMACARE THE PRESIDENT'S OWN HURRICANE KATRINA? THE COMPARISON HAS BEEN MADE THIS WEEK. WE'LL TALK ABOUT IT WITH OUR ROUNDTABLE - TOM BROKAW, KATHLEEN PARKER, CHRIS MATTHEWS AND MIKE MURPHY.

(***Commercial Break***)

ANNOUNCER:

Meet the Press is back with our political roundtable. Here this morning: Tom Brokaw, Chris Matthews, Chris Matthews and Mike Murphy. Now, David Gregory.

DAVID GREGORY:

And we’re back with our roundtable. So much to get to on the politics of Obamacare. A really big moment this week, unusual to see President Obama, or any president, coming into the White House briefing room and to lay it all out there, the mistakes that have been made on this. And here's a compilation of it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Clearly, we, and I, didn't have enough awareness about the problems in the website

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Ultimately I'm President of the United States and they expect me to do something about it

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

That's on me, we fumbled the rollout on this healthcare law//

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

We should have done a better job getting that right on day one//

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Tom Brokaw, is this a low point of the presidency?

TOM BROKAW:

Well, there have been several low points, but this is certainly a low point at a critical time, coming into the 2014 elections, and a lot of Democrats beginning to bail on the idea of Obamacare. What was striking to me about that statement, "We should have been aware."

I would think, given the importance of Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, eight months ago the president would have started every meeting with, "How are we doing? Is that going to be ready? That's going to be our big play for the second term," and demanding from Kathy Sebelius and other people who are involved in it that they were ready. And sending people over there to take a look at the rollout. That it suddenly landed the way that it did, in utter chaos, and it's not going to be an easy fix, is just inexplicable.

DAVID GREGORY:

I think that's the key point, and we're going to talk about Kennedy in just a minute. You were making the point to me this week about, you know, where's his Bobby Kennedy? Who's got the muscle? When the president says, and he did say, "The user experience of this website is everything," who had the muscle in the White House to get it done and make sure--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Yes, I--

DAVID GREGORY:

--the president gets what he wants?

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--everybody goes to their battle stations when there's chaos. You always go to where you've been arguing before. But I've always been arguing this president doesn't have a chain of command, a very clear line of authority and unique responsibility.

I remember Sebelius, who I like of course, most people do like her, she's a public servant. But when she was asked, "Who's in charge?" in that committee, under oath, she started to talk about someone, the head of C.M.S., who handles Medicare and Medicaid. Among 30 or 40 other responsibilities, this person had the rollout responsibilities.

Look at Japan, the occupation of Japan, it simple: Put one guy in charge, Doug MacArthur. You put somebody in charge and they're uniquely responsible for its success or failure. Obama doesn't do things that way. He's got floaters, like Valerie Jarett, floating around. He doesn't want to have a real chief of staff, like a Jim Baker. He doesn't want to give authority to people, and I think it's been a real problem.

MIKE MURPHY:

You know, you can have a crisis of credibility as a president, where people think you aren't telling the truth, and you can have a crisis of confidence where they think you can't run anything. When you have both at once, it is a massive crackup. And now we've got midterm elections coming, which I think the geography is bad for the Democrats; this is going to make it worse.

DAVID GREGORY:

So did you guy Nancy Pelosi's argument? That was what you were thinking this morning, which is, is she going to go out there and defend it? And what's the speech--

(OVERTALK)

MIKE MURPHY:

As a Republican, I had a good morning because it's fun to watch Nancy retreat faster than a French general. It was something. So I think they've got a problem. But what interests me is what's going to happen next, because politics is dynamic. What are the Republicans going to do?

Huge opportunity here. But if we just sit around and high-five each other for being right about this, that's a mistake. It's time for us to come up with our policies going forward so we can run the table, which we now have the opportunity to do all the way through 2016.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

I thought what was interesting, what Nancy Pelosi said, was there was nothing in the law saying that people could keep their policies. But that seems sort of irrelevant since the president did say it over and over and over again.

What the Republicans are going to do, I talked to Speaker John Boehner's office just yesterday, and they are planning to continue to apply severe oversight and, you know, being very aggressive at targeting legislative moves to sort of fill in gaps and to help Americans deal with some of the flaws. But this is I think just a colossal mess. You know, the president made the first promise, with which everyone's familiar. Then he said, "Okay, now you can get it back," and there's no real clear evidence that that's--

DAVID GREGORY:

How he does that.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

--true. That might be another promise broken.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

But there's a big "but" here, and I think it was the Katrina comparison. All comparisons are imperfect, and it is right in terms of a screw-up, generally speaking. But I think it would be more apt to say if George W. Bush had rushed in to New Orleans with a lot of action, a lot of effort, and had failed initially, that would be more like it.

The problem with Katrina was apparent indifference. One thing you can't hold against the president is indifference about health care. He's the guy that rushed in, pushed through a program with pure Democratic support, and took all the risks involved in it. It's a different kind of screw-up, that's what I think--

TOM BROKAW:

Right, but--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--but they're both screw-ups.

TOM BROKAW:

David, it's also got two really important parts. We're talking about the politics of it now. But what has not changed are the enormous economic consequences of leaving health care where it is. 17.5% of our economy now goes to health care, and it's only going in one direction.

And the fact is, a lot of leading businessmen, who are Republicans, say the Republican Party is not doing its part because they are standing around and applauding, and they're not coming forth with a workable plan that will drive down those costs. Not just for individuals who are trying to buy insurance, but for companies that have to provide it as well. This is an enormous part of the American political and economic scene as well, and we'll see whether the Republican Party now does come forth with it.

MIKE MURPHY:

That's totally right. But we've got the opportunity now because part one had to be to show we're right about this thing, and we have been proven right. Six months ago, when Republicans were talking about delaying it a year, you know, there was ridicule. Now it's looking pretty smart. But part two is it's a jump ball now.

TOM BROKAW:

What is it?

MIKE MURPHY:

We're going to have to go-- and we need this for middle-class economic policies. You know, there's a lot, but it's open. If we freshen up our policy and we go to the American working middle class about how, "We're the party on your side going forward," we can overcome our demographic problems, which are tremendous.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you do have--

MIKE MURPHY:

That is a question.

DAVID GREGORY:

--this reality, and this is even Mitt Romney's case last go-around, which you said, "Look, a lot of things (the pre-existing conditions, keeping your kids on your insurance till you're 26), those are good things. We don't want to mess with those things." The idea that you're going to go in-- it may collapse. Portions of this may collapse, but there doesn't seem to be an overriding idea about how to get to the ultimate goal of insuring most Americans because conservatives don't believe that government ought to try that.

MIKE MURPHY:

And there's a fiscal bottom. I mean, what is going to happen-- the website will get fixed. But the next thing is going to be how to actually operate this with rising costs. And when they recalculate the cost of these risk pools, a year from now, right before the midterm elections, when people are looking at huge increases or at huge new government subsidies to pump these things up, the issue's only going to get more salient.

(OVERTALK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

You are so right. And the big political question, right before the elections next November, will be when Obama goes to the Republican House and says, "I need more financing here."

VOICES:

Right. Right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

"Because younger people are not joining the system. They've been scared away."

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, "We need more subsidies to--"

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

And they're going to say, "Niet."

(OVERTALK)

KATHLEEN PARKER:

You can be totally sure of that.

DAVID GREGORY:

So here's the other political question. Look at the president's standing in a Quinnipiac poll on personal attributes: Is it trustworthy, honest and trustworthy? Look at the change. He was at, in October, 54/41; now, 44/52. So that's completely changed. And people will say this is like Katrina; I think it's more like Iraq. That was about life and death, this is not. That's not the comparison. The comparison is everybody looked at Bush through the prism of Iraq. Here, I think people are going to look at Obama through the implementation of Obamacare. He wants to talk about something else.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, the war is such a huge deal and so separate from everything else, but I do think that people lost faith. I mean, it was the straw finally that broke the back in terms of--

DAVID GREGORY:

But it was managed--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

--whether people felt that the administration was competent. And that is the comparison that has some merit, which is that now people look at Obama and say, "Well, gosh, not only can't he be trusted, but do these people even know what they're doing?"

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

And I think it's even tougher-- I'm sorry, Tom.

TOM BROKAW:

It also comes at the end of not a very good run for Obama because what happened is he kept moving the red line in Syria, and then the Russians bailed him out. He keeps getting cover from all kinds of places that didn't emanate at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And suddenly, that went away, and Obamacare and getting online blew up.

So he hasn't had, in the last year, one big triumph that you can turn to and say, "Man, he's on his game in his second term." And, as you know, in the White House staffing, there's still a lot of confusion and a lot of in-fighting going on.

MIKE MURPHY:

I think you're going to see the Democrats hurry to the turn-the-page theory pretty quickly. Right now, at Hillary Clinton headquarters, they're having a meeting saying, "We're not going to have to knock off the Obama bumper sticker anymore, with the circle and the moon rise, like every Democratic candidate has for two years, because we know where the Repubs (?) are." Now the question is where will the Democrats go? He's had 39 House members walk away for political survival. And you're going to see I think the progressive left of the Democratic Party go back to their argument, which is why don't we do single payer?

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But what about is there not a coming progressive fight? And I've talked to Democrats who say, "Hey, we finally get to talk about the budget again," and that's where Republicans seem to demonstrate this predilection to hurting themselves, which is on the budget. They're sort of counting on that coming up in a couple of months.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

It's been a very bad time politically. I understand why people are turned off to politics today because there are no good guys anymore. It used to be somebody won and somebody lost; now both lose. What happened during the shutdown is the Democrats stood on the sideline, like Tom said, and that was their time to applaud. "Let's laugh, enjoy this," like hyenas. And this time, it's the Republicans like hyenas laughing at the Democrats' foibles. Nobody ever looks good. Journalism's been replaced by "gotcha" politics. It's just catching--

TOM BROKAW:

Well, it's not been replaced.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

No, it hasn't been replaced--

TOM BROKAW:

They're side by side.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--been joined by. Joined by.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Think how different things would be right now, though, if President Obama had said, "Okay, we're going to delay one year." I mean, his quote, "Not enough awareness," there should have been, obviously. But they could have delayed it a year and just preempted the Republicans and say, "Look, we are not quite ready."

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Yes.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

"We've looked into this. We've got some glitches in the computer system. We're not going to roll this thing out until we're 100% sure we can serve the people." And, you know, the Republican Party would be wandering aimlessly, and the White House--

DAVID GREGORY:

But to be fair, if you're the president, it's not like when Republicans said that, you know, they were really there to help.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Yes, "We just want--"

KATHLEEN PARKER:

We know that. We know that but--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--"a delay so we can help make this work."

KATHLEEN PARKER:

--wouldn't that have been a better alternative to what's going on right now?

MIKE MURPHY:

Always one of the best sneaky tricks of politics when your opponents actually have a half good idea, steal it and take credit. But, you know, the problem the Obama guys have, and this has been the problem I think with how they've gotten in trouble on this: They won a campaign. So any problem they have, they reach into the campaign toolbox so they come out with the parsing, they won't release the numbers, all the disingenuousness; all the stuff that works great when you want to ruin Mitt Romney's reputation. But it's hurting them on this Obamacare thing. You know, the campaign is over, now it's time to face the real problem and try to move forward in a way. And still, they've been defensive--

(OVERTALK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

But there's another campaign going on now. You mentioned you don't think it's an apt comparison to Iraq. Nothing's a comparison to anything else; obviously everything's different. But the idea there was lying going on, the hard left will say Dick Cheney and the others lied us into that war. And they'll say, "Old neo-cons lied us into war," when of course it's grayer than that.

Did Obama systematically say, "You know what? I'm going to promise everybody who has health insurance they can keep it, although I know it's true"? He will argue, "I thought the market forces would work and just that it would offset that problem and I wouldn't have to deal with it." So this character issue is a real penetrating attack. If you can hit Obama on character, you can take that 40%, which is already eroding, down to about 20%. And that's what they're up to right now, the real hard charges like Dick Cheney, who has obviously a daughter in the race this time. So I think it is getting nastier.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Oh, the thing is they did know that these policies were going to be cancelled. It would have been so much simpler from the very beginning-- and I fault Obama's advisors, the president's advisors. They've given him horrible advice. But why not say from the very get-go, "Look, I can't guarantee you're going to keep the same policies. But under the Affordable Care Act, you're going to get better affordable policies."

TOM BROKAW:

And don't overlook the fact that there are enormous changes going on in Medicare at the moment. A lot of doctors are being pulled out of the system by the big carriers; that's below the radar at the moment because everybody's concentrating on this.

So we're in for a very tough year. And frankly, the health care of any country, and especially this country, is part of our national security. If you've got half the population or more terrified that they're going to get a terminal disease or something that will keep them from working, and they have no place to go to get coverage for that, it's more than just a political--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

And I asked somebody who's in the health care business, and I said, "What's your big question?" He said, "When does this all get settled?" Because the less certainty there is about all of this, it's going to affect who's spending where, what they're doing around health care. People just want to know what's the final answer. And I think that ultimately gets to the bigger question of economic recovery as well.

Alright, we’re going to take a break here and we’re going to come back and talk more with our roundtable a little later on about how things are shaping up for 2016. A possible nightmare scenario for Hillary Clinton as describe The New Republic. It has to do with Elizabeth Warren.

But first, a date that will forever be remembered in American history: November 22nd, 1963. Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw will be back with us to talk about the legacy of JFK on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. We’ll hear some voices -- big names -- Tom interviewed for his new documentary about JFK.

BILL CLINTON ON TAPE:

I thought he was pretty shrewd in making judgments about when not to take other people's advice. I thought the way he maneuvered through the Cuban Missile Crisis indicated that.

(***Commercial Break***)

(BEGIN TAPE)

JOHN F. KENNEDY:

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The country and the world stood still on that afternoon of November 22nd, 1963. With the perspective of time, how might the country and the world be different had J.F.K. lived? Back to talk about that is host of MSNBC's Hardball, author of Jack Kennedy: The Elusive Hero, Chris Matthews. And Tom Brokaw, his special Where Were You? airs this Friday on NBC and features powerful interviews with celebrities, newsmakers, and witnesses from the day of the Kennedy assassination. Welcome to both of you. I want to start with this idea which I think this really gets to, "Where were you?"

TOM BROKAW:

You can hold up.

DAVID GREGORY:

I can hold it up. This has been great because I've been dipping into this all week long, transcripts or the companion to the documentary. This concept of there was a before and an after.

TOM BROKAW:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

Steven Spielberg, who you talked to, talks about the reaction of his mother. Watch.

(BEGIN TAPE)

STEVEN SPIELBERG:

My mom was in the kitchen. She was sobbing at the kitchen table. She was alone. There was no one else in the house. I remember putting my arms around my mother. She just turned around, she just embraced me. I remember standing up above her because she was at the table and I was standing and she was just holding onto me and she was shaking and she was sobbing.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

So before and after.

TOM BROKAW:

You know, I think Steven's mother was probably about John F. Kennedy's age, that's my guess, he was 16 at the time, so she identified with him. And this is a man, I think Chris will agree with this, who arrived at the perfect moment in American politics for all of his quality.

It was the television age. It was the end of the Eisenhower/Truman/F.D.R. era. He was hatless. He was charismatic. He came from this large, toofy family that was out there sailing every day and working hard to get him elected. So there were a lot of John F. Kennedys. He was the wealthy playboy, he was this iconic character, but he was also a reckless guy with his health and with women.

He came into office as a cold warrior, then he got very interested in world peace. He came late to the civil rights movement, and when he left the presidency in that violent way in Dallas, it was still a work in progress, David. His numbers had gone up, but that was primarily because of the Cuban missile crisis. But there was a lot of work still on the table. No civil rights bill, no tax bill had gotten passed. And what were they going to do about Vietnam?

DAVID GREGORY:

And we'll get to that in just a minute. Chris, I mean, for me and my generation, I liken it, the before-and-after idea is 9/11. That's what I identify with. Was it still different than even I can imagine?

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Tom said it so well, before and after. I can't put it together, at my age. I can't put the death of John F. Kennedy, and the autopsy pictures running in the tabs even now, with the life he led right up until the bullets in Dealey Plaza.

I wrote my book blinding myself on purpose to what happened to him, so I could write about his life. And what I worked on, certainly he was a playboy. All these things that Tom mentioned are totally true. But I tried to work on the working politician who was trying to get something good done for the country, that one part of him that was truly idealistic.

That day, in the car, with Jim Wright and John Connolly, he was trying to figure out the politics of Texas. He wanted to know why the Dealy press was so important in Dallas. Why was Fort Worth still yellow dog Democrat? And he's studying questions and getting these answers like he used to do with Tip O'Neill, trying to figure things out, because he was trying to get the civil rights bill through and he knew it exposed to the rest of the South. He needed Texas, he needed Georgia probably.

And just a couple weeks before he got killed, he was on the food with Dick Gaely, putting muscle behind trying to get a sure liberal to back him, not to try to be too perfect on the civil rights bill. He was working Billy Green, another political boss, in Philly to try to get the vote there.

He was really a working politician, as you said, late to civil rights, but trying to get something done. So when he died, he still was thinking, "How do I get this bill through and how do I get re-elected?" And that's what I like to think about, the working pol.

DAVID GREGORY:

And I mentioned the "what ifs" that you think about as such a student of history. I mean, he campaigns against Eisenhower as being soft on communism, Eisenhower, the great general. What does he do in Vietnam?

TOM BROKAW:

Well, remember his inaugural speech with the words, "Go forth, a new generation willing to meet anyone, anywhere in the pursuit of liberty." What does he do about Vietnam? That's still an unresolved question in my mind. I talked to all of his principal advisors before they died.

I think the most persuasive argument is that he was drawing the hawkish line right up until the time of his death. He told David Brinkley in an interview, "I believe in the domino theory," three weeks before he died. Because he wanted to get through '64. Going to run against Barry Goldwater. Has to be militaristic. The spread of communism, it's hard to describe to a current generation, it was a palpable fear throughout this country, Democrats and Republicans alike.

At the same time, he was in on the assassination of Diem. And we took out a leader in that country with a C.I.A. coups. So my guess is that he would have continued for a while, but not nearly as long as Lyndon Johnson did.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Yes, although it's amazing, listening to the tape of him taping to dictation, just for the record, about the death of Diem and how bad he felt about it because he had screwed it up. He knew that Henry Cabot Lodge wanted Diem dead; he knew how brutal he was. He had no sympathy for the guy. And yet, Kennedy sent bad cables over there, he sent bad information over that led them to believe they could get away with it.

But I'll tell you one thing, the day he died in Fort Worth, at that breakfast, he said, "The day we leave Vietnam, that government falls." So he was as hawkish as you could be right to the end. And yet, you've got to hold back and say wait a minute. Would he have put a half a million American troops in and aped the French, mimicked the French, knowing that disaster that would come if we turned it into an American war? I think he wouldn't have done it the way Johnson did it, but who knows? Who knows.

DAVID GREGORY:

Chris and Tom, thank you very much. Again, I want to mention a special, “Where Were You? The Day JFK Died” airs Friday on NBC at 9 p.m. And the companion book is “Where Were You?” also terrific. You wrote the foreword to the book, it goes along with the series, you can an excerpt of it in our Flipboard magazine. Just search for “Meet the Press” in Flipboard to find it.

Coming up here, the rest of our roundtable discussion. We want to return to give you your 2016 presidential fix. Three years away, but a busy weekend of potential candidates already jockeying for position. We’re back right after this.

(***Commercial Break***)

DAVID GREGORY:

We’re back here with a little bit more time with our roundtable. I want to talk a bit about 2016 because I thought there were some interesting maneuvers in the health care debate this week, and it had to do with Bill Clinton who was interviewed trying to defend the president on health care.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But he added this.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BILL CLINTON:

I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the President should honor the commitment that the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they`ve got.

(END TAPE)

KATHLEEN PARKER:

That was the sound of the--

MIKE MURPHY:

Words of a professional.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

--Clintons unlinking the wagon from the wagon train, don't you think?

DAVID GREGORY:

That's a big moment.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

I mean, is that Bill Clinton, for Hillary Clinton, saying, "This is how you get away from the Obama legacy"?

KATHLEEN PARKER:

"Not even anywhere near that. Had nothing to do with it. I was over there, saving women in the Middle East and Africa. I had nothing--"

TOM BROKAW:

Well, the other thing--

(OVERTALK)

TOM BROKAW:

--they do have a memory of their own experience with health care.

VOICES:

Right. Right.

TOM BROKAW:

And, you know, they got clocked by it. And they pushed forward very hard; she would not compromise, and got her head handed to her when she was doing it during his term.

DAVID GREGORY:

See, we were just talking about Kennedy. I mean, it was striking that Kennedy was running against Eisenhower in 1960, in effect, just like Obama ran against Bush in 2008. So does Hillary Clinton want this to be the continuation of the Obama legacy?

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Well, she wants it both ways, like George Herbert Walker Bush: "I'm going to have a kinder, gentler nation." Well, "kinder, gentler" than who? Ronald Reagan. But he didn't separate from him; he was the Reagan third term. But he also nuanced it enough to say, "I'll be a little bit more to the center than this guy."

And Hillary Clinton will be a little bit more to the right. She's only going to be a notch or two to the right on Middle East politics, we know that. That's where she staked her position. We knew it last war, in Iraq. And I think she's going to stake herself to some more practical-- the great thing about Bill Clinton is his hands are completely in touch with the average American. He's got his hands on the American experience in a way that Obama's probably lost for a while, that connection. He knows people are really bugged by this promise that wasn't kept. He knows it.

MIKE MURPHY:

There are two problems for Hillary Clinton-- and I agree with Tom. Health care's there in her world too.

TOM BROKAW:

Yes.

MIKE MURPHY:

But, 1) she's got the problem, for all her strength, of being up against new, which is often the most powerful thing in place. And, second, Chris is right: She is trying to hold the right side of the Democratic primary where there's less and less oxygen every day. Just look what happened to the mayor of New York in that primary. The energy is on the progressive left. So I actually think Elizabeth Warren is a credible candidate.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, here's the New Republic cover.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you for leading me right to it.

MIKE MURPHY:

I'm Mr. Transition.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

"Hillary's Nightmare: A Democratic Party that realizes its soul lies with Elizabeth Warren instead." Populist, really talking about social inequality, as she has for years. Is it a legitimate threat, or does the press just want--

(OVERTALK)

KATHLEEN PARKER:

No, I think it's a very legitimate threat because I'm sure you've met Elizabeth Warren. She's a very warm person. She can really connect with people. When she's talking to you, you feel like you're the most important person in the world. I think she has the ability, the same ability that Bill Clinton has, to reach out and really, you know, feel people's pain. And she is this amazing populist voice that's going to appeal to her base.

MIKE MURPHY:

They say that about Bond villains too. But, no, I agree. I think she is a super effective candidate. Ideologically, I'd love to have a race in the general election against her if the Republican Party get its act together and we can nominate somebody--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Tom, they should isolate, for the first time in a long--

TOM BROKAW:

I'd just remind you, it's the 17th of November, and it is the year 2013. We've got three years to go before we get there.

MIKE MURPHY:

Exactly.

TOM BROKAW:

And who's going to come out of the--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

We have an hour to fill.

TOM BROKAW:

--woodwork, what more we're going to learn about all these candidates, and what is going to happen in the world. So I love the parlor game, David, but, you know, I don't think that we're going to get it resolved here on a Sunday morning.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

It is great, though. I mean, here's a great question for Former Secretary Clinton: Would you like a crowded field? Would a crowded field, with lots of sparring partners that you could beat eventually, be better for you than a coronation?

I don't think the Democratic Party is the Republican Party. They're very comfortable with the idea of who's turn it is, like a really tight-knit organization. Democrats are crazy that way. They want a fight, they want turmoil. And they'd like to see how we win it, the nomination, not just get it.

And I think if Biden ran, I know people say he'll get embarrassed by it. I think he'll be embarrassed by not running, I think if Martin O'Malley runs, if some other people run. But I think if she runs, it makes Hillary more of a centrist, makes her more pleasant.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

It does make her more of a centrist, but it also dilutes--

DAVID GREGORY:

I've got to--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

--the Hillary card, which is she appeals to women. Now she's not the woman candidate.

DAVID GREGORY:

I've got to leave it there. Thank you all very much. We’re going to be off next week so we won’t see you then. An early happy Thanksgiving. If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.

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