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updated 12/15/2013 12:04:23 PM ET 2013-12-15T17:04:23

“MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY”

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December 15, 2013

DAVID GREGORY:

Good Sunday morning.  So how is it that only in Washington can an agreement be so divisive?  That's how it works around here.  That was House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, challenging fellow GOP critics on this budget deal that passed overwhelmingly by the House this week with support from both sides of the aisle.  The deal is expected to pass the Senate coming up.

I spoke exclusively to the architects of the deal, both Ryan and Senate Budget Committee chair, Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington State.  We're going to show you that interview in just a couple of minutes.  But I wanted to start on this, to me, the more provocative question, with our roundtable:  former New Mexico Governor, congressman, and U.S. ambassador, Bill Richardson; Kathleen Parker, columnist for the Washington Post; Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine; and NPR's Steve Inskeep.

Steve, that is the question.  Only in Washington can a sign of life maybe be a sign that things are gonna get worse.  They're gonna get more entrenched if you look at this fight on the right.

STEVE INSKEEP:

Well, you're going to have some lawmakers who are going to complain about this because they've got constituencies to satisfy and because it's safe to complain about it because they know it's going to pass anyway.  This is a deal that doesn't address a lot of the big problems that the United States faces, but a lot of them are being addressed anyway.

The deficit's going down, taxes have gone up a little bit, spending is going down a little bit.  And that actually I think does create room for lawmakers to address some issues that they want to pass.  Even though some will complain, it's safe to complain.  They may actually--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

You're gonna hear, Kathleen, in just a minute, I mean, it's a different conversation that I had with Murray and Ryan on the Hill.  More respect for one another, for each other's views.  But you look at that furious response on the right, it makes me wonder whether things get worse, whether the right gets more entrenched on some of these questions.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, I've been talking to people on the Hill and, on both sides, there's actually not much public interest in the budget, to tell you the truth.  The conservative groups, yes.  But, you know, John Boehner made a very bold statement when he came out against those conservative groups, which he's needed to do for a very long time because they have been using these more junior members to advance what they want to do.

DAVID GREGORY:

Why now, was my question.  Why did he decide now was the time to strike back?

BILL RICHARDSON:

Well, my view is this is a positive turning point.  I mean, this is a substantial budget agreement, not forever, but at the same time I think it shows that the grownups in the Republican Party have basically prevailed.  The vote, three to one in the House, Boehner taking on the Tea Party in a successful way, basically sending a signal that, "We are losing votes, we the Republican Party are losing votes"--

(OVERTALK)

BILL RICHARDSON:

--by the shutdown.  And so I see it as a positive turning point on immigration coming up; if Boehner does the same thing on the debt limit.  John Podesta coming in, I mean, I served in the Clinton administration when he was chief of staff.  He talks to the Congress.  He will do executive orders, he's good on process.  I think it's a good turning point.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, we're going to come back with the rest of the round table, Nancy and the rest, in just a couple of minutes. But let me take you to this interview I had this week, exclusive with Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Paul Ryan.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Welcome, both of you, to Meet the Press.  Thanks for having me to the room.  This is where Republican and Democratic peace was actually achieved, in this room?

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

This is it.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

In the center of the Capitol.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, what does this represent?  Is this a breakthrough or a sign of how little can be accomplished in this environment?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

I guess it depends on your perspective.  What do you think?

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

(LAUGH) I think it's a step forward that shows that there can be other breakthroughs and compromise if you take the time to know somebody, know what their passions are, and know how you can work together.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

That's exactly right.

DAVID GREGORY:

Because there's been a lot of government by crisis.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

That's right.  We spent a lot of time just getting to know each other, talking, understanding each other's principles, and we basically learned that if we require the other to violate a core principle, we're going to get nowhere and we'll just keep gridlock.

So, then we spent a number of weeks finding where the common ground existed.  You know, we went through this budget.  You know, where's the waste?  Where's the corporate welfare?  What reforms can we do?  What do we agree on?  And then, we put that together and that's what this resulted.  So, we also wanted to try to make this divided government work, at least at a minimum, basic functioning level.  And, so, we had that impetus to do that.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you feel like that's a change for you, for the conservative caucus?  I mean, you said on the floor that you've been at each other's throats, elections have consequences, you were on the ticket to try to defeat the president, you felt you needed something different.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Well, sure.  I wish I could go back and change the result of the election.  But it is what it is.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

But no, we disagree on that.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Right, that's where we disagree.  But government has to function.  And we saw the specter of two possible government shutdowns in 2014, one in January and one in October.  I don't think that's good for anybody.  It's not good for the country.

DAVID GREGORY:

Liberals and conservatives are both upset.  Liberals say, "Look, you're negotiating on Republican terms."

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

They couldn't I believe I walked into a room with him.

DAVID GREGORY:

For a starting point.  But, I mean, Republicans have dictated budget negotiations over the last couple of years.  We're talking about these across-the-board cuts.  There's nothing in here, big spending programs to get the economy going, that Democrats think are really important, and jobless benefits don't get extended.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

Well, we didn't get everything we wanted.  But I'll tell you what we did get, is certainty for the next two years.  We have a point now where we're not going to tell everybody that we're going to throw the economy in a tailspin because we have to have something.

And importantly, a budget agreement really is about how we can manage this country's resources so we can have the things I do care passionately about, whether it's education or health care or transportation infrastructure.  We were not managing our country in a way to get the things I cared about.

DAVID GREGORY:

On the Right, my colleague, Kelly O'Donnell, spoke to your colleague Marco Rubio.  He calls this an un-American deal.  There are other conservatives from outside groups who are saying, "Look, you and others made a promise, across-the-board cuts.  You're going back on that promise now and there'll be consequences," they warn.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Well, my reaction to that is the Budget Control Act which created this sequester, these across-the-board cuts, said to replace the sequester one for one, a dollar of mandatory savings from this autopilot setup spending for a dollar of sequester.  We've exceeded that.  This results in net deficit reduction.

DAVID GREGORY:

But not much.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

No.  We're not saying this is a massive agreement.  It just gets government working.  But it has $85 billion of savings from what we call mandatory spending, the autopilot that Congress all too often ignores, to pay for $63 billion of sequester relief, half of which goes to defense, which is a big concern of many Republicans.  And, so, you don't get everything you want in a divided government.

DAVID GREGORY:

But when Senator Rubio says it's un-American, is that just because he's running for president?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

I'm not going to go into what Marco's rationale is, or his motivations are for that.  I know what I think.  And I know what I think is the right thing to do.  Getting a budget agreement that reduces the deficit without raising taxes and prevents two government shutdowns from occurring in 2014, in my opinion, is the right thing to do and it's a good thing to do.

DAVID GREGORY:

There does seem to be this revolt on the Right.  The Speaker of the House really teed off this week on some of these outside groups.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER (ON TAPE):

You mean the groups that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?  They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals.  This is ridiculous.

DAVID GREGORY:

Lot of people saw that and said, "Why now?  Why didn't he lay down that gauntlet before?"

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Well, look.  I think John just kind of got his Irish up.  He was frustrated that these groups came out in opposition to our budget agreement before we reached a budget agreement.  I was frustrated, too.  But I think these are very important elements of our conservative family.  I would prefer to keep those conversations within the family.  And I think he was just basically voicing his frustration with their opposition before we had reached our agreement.

DAVID GREGORY:

But do you share that?  Are you going to keep pushing those groups and say, "No.  You've got to compromise more.  We've got to work with our colleagues across the aisle more on some of these big things"?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

I think these taxpayer groups are indispensable to keeping taxpayer interest accounted for, keeping people accountable.  And we sometimes have difference of opinions on tactics.  We all believe the same thing with respect to our ultimate goal.  With the budget I passed in March, that's what I really want.  Balance the budget, pay off the debt, don't raise taxes.

But I know that in this divided government, I can't get the budget and she can't get her budget that she passed.  To her credit, she passed a budget.  She can't get that into law.  We know that.  So, we could either just keep doing this and have shutdowns, or we could look for common ground and get something down and keep things moving.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  So, there's a lot of what we haven't seen much before, right?  I don't know.  This is quite the Kumbaya moment.  But it passes, for one, from what we've seen on Capitol Hill.  So, people watching this have to say, "Okay.  That's a start."  But now, let's talk about the big, hard stuff.  Because, as your other colleague Rand Paul said, "This doesn't solve the debt problem, over $17 trillion.  This doesn't even deal with the debt ceiling.  It certainly doesn't deal with our entitlements that are drivers of the debt."  So, you haven't taken on the hard stuff here, Senator.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

I think what both of us feel very strongly, and I know I do, is that we can't take on the tough discussions unless we can learn to use the word "compromise" so that we can have that be a respected, trusted word in this Congress.  I come here with passionate things I care about.  I know that Chairman Ryan comes with passionate things.

But if we just sit in our corners and yell at each other and that's all we get rewarded for, we'll never get to those big discussions about tax reform, or strengthening our entitlements, or how we fund things in the future, or immigration reform, or any of the other really big challenges of our country.  So, what we're trying to do is bring some respect to the word "compromise."  And if we can do that, I think it does pave the way for other people to do what we've done.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, surprise me.  Meet in the middle on something really hard.  Maybe it's Medicare, which you've worked hard on, or tax reform.  Where could you two reach common ground on something that you would at least mark as a starting point.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Well, first of all, we're actually starting to talk to each other, which is kind of new for this day and age.  I think that's step number one.  Step number two, this isn't a large agreement, but this is a symbolically large agreement.  I would love to throw a few more zeros at the end of these numbers.

But the fact that we're doing this, prevent shutdowns, passing bipartisan legislation, it passed the House-- 332 to 94, majority of both parties.  That's a good step in the right direction.  You gotta, you know, crawl before you can walk before you can run.  I'm hopeful, as a Ways and Means member as well, that we can start moving tax reform legislation. I think --

DAVID GREGORY:

But Republicans don't seem to want to move on it.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Yes, we do.  Tax reform?  Watch the Ways and Means Committee in the first quarter of next year.  We're going to be advancing tax reform legislation because we think that's a key ingredient to getting people back to work, to increasing take-home pay, to --

DAVID GREGORY:

Again, I--

REP. PAUL RYAN:

--grow this economy.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is there something that would surprise me?  Is there something on tax reform that you could agree with Chairman on?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Well, I would agree with the chairman that we do need to do tax reform.  Ron Wyden, friend of yours, said the other day that the tax code is 100 years old and it looks like it.

DAVID GREGORY:

And could you actually raise money from tax reform and actually bring down the debt?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

We'll have to disagree about that.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

Okay.  So, where the divide comes is what you would do with any revenue that was generated from that.  But that doesn't mean we couldn't ever find a compromise with that.  It would be an intense discussion.  There was intense discussions in here, in this room.  But yes, you can find that ground.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, what's going to happen on the debt ceiling?  Because this comes up again in a few months.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

And we'll--

DAVID GREGORY:

Another fight over that?

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

Well, we agreed that the debt ceiling would not be part of this.  I don't think that our country wants to see another crisis and to send our country into a tailspin.  And, so, we'll take that road when we get there.  But, you know, I’ll defer to you (TO RYAN).

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

You're asking things that are unresolved.  And the reason we did this agreement is we didn't want to bring those controversies into these talks.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.  But I guess one question is whereas I talk to people around Capitol Hill, there's a sense, probably truer among Republicans, that the chance for a grand bargain, if this is a mini bargain, is probably not going to happen with this president, especially with the overhang of health care and how divisive that still is.  Do you think that's fair?  You think that's accurate?

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

I think the grand bargain, you know, puts everything in a whole lot of tough votes on the table is impossible to find at this point.  But I do think that we can take steps toward reaching a point where we deal with those tougher issues.

DAVID GREGORY:

You said earlier, because you were just nodding, you didn't think the president was willing to moderate.  Is that still your view?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

It actually is. I don’t think --

DAVID GREGORY:

He's behind this, though, right?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

He is behind this.  And I think it's because we made this a common-ground agreement.  And we're not tackling the really big challenges, which we have been offering budgets to do that for years now.  I just don't think that it's his interest to do that.

I don't think he wants to do that.  But I would rather not focus on the fact that we're not going to agree on these things.  And that's why we talk about tax reform.  Max Baucus and Dave Camp, a Democrat and Republican, are trying to work on tax --

DAVID GREGORY:

But let me press you on this one point --

REP. PAUL RYAN:

--reform.  There are a lot of things we're trying to find where we can get things done.  And what we're looking for is get a foundation under this economy.  Get a foundation under this economy, create some stability--

DAVID GREGORY:

But here's the challenge.  But here's the hard thing --

REP. PAUL RYAN:

--see where we can work together, and then we'll agree to disagree on these other things.

DAVID GREGORY:

February of this year, you were on Meet the Press:

PAUL RYAN ON TAPE: Here's the issue, if we keep kicking the can down the road and we don't face up to these great fiscal challenges we have, we have a debt-fueled economic crisis ahead of us.  And if we don't address them now, then it gets ugly like Greece and then you have to impose the kind of austerity that they're imposing in Greece.  We're saying let's, let's fix this now where we can do it on our own terms.

DAVID GREGORY:

Here we sit in December.  That was February.  That hasn't happened.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Far from it.  I'm worried because the Federal Reserve is going to start tapering, we call it.  They're going to start going back to normalizing their policy.  Interest rates have a tendency to rise under those kinds of situations.  And that makes our fiscal situation even worse.

So, I'm very worried about that.  There are two ways of tackling this fiscal problem.  One, grow the economy, get people back to work, and solid through economic growth.  Two, do this kind of comprehensive entitlement reform that we've been long advocating, but we have a huge difference of opinion on.

DAVID GREGORY:

Were you too alarmist about this?  You hear a lot of progressives saying, "These guys have been warning about this, this austerity where they become Greece.  It hasn't happened yet."  You can talk so honestly to each other now.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

I'll tell you what people I know feel and businesses I know feel, is the instability caused by Congress to not even find a path forward together creates uncertainty in their families.  They've been furloughed because of sequestration.  They don't know what we're going to do.  Businesses, I have a lot of really important businesses in my state, tell me that our credibility globally has been damaged by governing by crisis.  And I think that people want us to focus on that.

DAVID GREGORY:

Health care is the big battle still between Republicans and Democrats.  50% of those in our poll think it's still a bad idea.  How does this survive politically?

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

I am not one of those rooting for the failure of Obamacare.  I think it's incredibly important.  I can tell you as chair of the Budget Committee that we get a handle on our health care expenditures in the future, this is an important step forward.  No one wants to go back to the point of having our insurance companies decide whether or not we get health care or not.  I'm rooting for us to be able to make this work.

DAVID GREGORY:

Understood.  But how does it survive politically?  50% in our poll, they're not necessarily rooting for failure.  They just think it's a bad idea.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

This is an area where we will disagree.  But I will tell you this:  I think as it is implemented and as people do, like a woman told me last weekend, that for the first time her 29-year-old son with a disability has insurance.  She said, "For the first time in a long time, I sleep tonight."

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Look, I think we have to replace this law.  I believe we can have a system in this country where everybody has access to affordable health care, including people with preexisting conditions, without a costly government takeover, with more freedom.  But we didn't yell at each other about this issue because we knew we would never agree on this issue.

DAVID GREGORY:

But do Senate Democrats go down next year, especially in the South, on this issue?

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

I do not believe they will.  I think people will see the results of this law, meaning more security for themselves, in terms of their own health care coverage.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

And on our side of the aisle-- we like the fact, for the economy, no shutdowns.  We also don't want to have shutdown drama so that we can focus on replacing Obamacare, so that we can focus on showing better ideas than what this is coming in.  Because we don't think people like this law.

We don't think it's going to get any more popular.  We don't agree on that.  So, each of us gets something out of this agreement the we think is good.  But most importantly, the country is not going to see these shutdowns and Congress is going to get back to the business of paying the bills and prioritizing spending.

DAVID GREGORY:

You had a chance to interact with each other differently than a lot of legislators now have a chance to do.  You can disagree about football and you can talk about fishing and things like that. And you do that.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

We do disagree about football.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

On that, I mean, the Seahawks are doing a lot better than the Packers.  But we found common ground in Russell Wilson.  You know, because he played for Wisconsin, we like him.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

That is true.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

So, there's something we agreed on.

DAVID GREGORY:

But what else did you learn in this process that you'd like to drive forward?

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

You know, I think one of the things that doesn't happen and hadn't happened in a divided Congress is people listening to each other.  One of the things we had to learn to do is to listen to each other and to respect each other and to trust each other.  A lot of the discussions in this room, either one of us could've taken out and blown up and killed the other person on politically.  We agreed from the start we wouldn't do that.  Very important to where we are today.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

That's right.

DAVID GREGORY:

You agree?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Yes.  She's right.

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you both very much.

SENATOR PATTY MURRAY:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

Appreciate the time.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN:

Thank you.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

My conversation with the budget chairs, Ryan and Murray.  We're going to talk more with the roundtable about the budget and the politics of the moment, especially with the president's second term, coming up a little bit later on.  But when we come back here, government spying and Edward Snowden.  One of this country's top experts joins me:  General Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency during 9/11.  I'll ask General Hayden what proposed changes in the N.S.A. mean for the privacy of Americans in the future.  Plus, does Edward Snowden know even more than the U.S. government thinks he knows?  We'll talk about it, coming up.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Now to the spying debate in America.  News this morning that a presidential task force is recommending a sweeping overhaul of the National Security Agency, including limits on how it gathers electric info on Americans.  So what does this mean for the future of U.S. intelligence gathering?  I'm joined by former National Security Agency Director General Michael Hayden, who was also formerly director of the C.I.A.  Now he's a principal at the Chertoff Group.  General Hayden, good to have you back here.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Good morning.

DAVID GREGORY:

So my big question is the president is apparently thinking a lot about how to change the way that all the spying goes on and the collection of data on Americans.  Once you build a security state to the extent this has been built, how do you dismantle it?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

That's a great question and, David, it's actually a question I've been asking public audiences for the last two or three years.  At what point do the things that were necessary at one time become less necessary?  And then who has the political courage to step back some of the things that were quite appropriate for the situations of danger in which we found ourselves, but as we get better at this, as the threat changes, how do you draw back?  It's a great question, and the element there that's required is courage.

DAVID GREGORY:

Edward Snowden is still a controversial figure.  He was runner-up to Pope Francis as Time Person of the Year.  We'll talk to Nancy Gibbs about that in just a couple of minutes.  But as criticized as he is, and do get that, who else was exercising a real check and balance on the excess of this security state?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Yes.  Well, first of all, and it's probably not surprising to you if somebody of my background says I didn't see the excesses.  I see the potential for problems because we have built up tremendous--

DAVID GREGORY:

You don't see abuse?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

No, no.  There is no abuse.  And, by the way, I don't see any unlawfulness either.  This is all done according to the Madisonian formula:  President authorized, the legislature legislated, and the courts oversaw.  Now, we can have a legitimate argument among free people as to whether or not it's wise, as to whether or not we generally agree it's a proper balance between liberty and security.  But there were no abuses.

DAVID GREGORY:

But there is a fundamental principle that's embedded in our revolutionary founding, in the Enlightenment, the inalienable rights of each individual for liberty, for privacy.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

And that the government cannot invade my privacy without some reasonable suspicion.  Now, Ryan Lizza wrote what I thought was a compelling piece in the New Yorker about whether the president would rein in the intelligence state.  Here's something he writes:  "The N.S.A.'s collecting of data looks a lot like what Facebook does, but it's fundamentally different.  It inverts the crucial legal principle of probable cause that government may not seize or inspect private property or information without evidence of a crime.  And what the government has been doing is putting together a haystack"--

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

--"with no reasonable suspicion."

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Well, I'm going to have to challenge a couple of premises, both in how you form the question and how the article was written, all right?  We're protected against unreasonable search and seizure, all right?  It doesn't say that all searches must be based upon reasonable suspicion.  So now, unreasonable search and seizure depends upon the totality of circumstances in which you find yourself.

And, David, I fully admit, look, Snowden is important:  He accelerated a debate.  I think he misshaped the debate, but he certainly accelerated it.  But the debate was coming.  Look, there are three things that are changing.  Number one, the nature of our enemy is changing.  It used to be nation states; now it's individuals.  That requires tremendous granularity that you didn't quite have to have when the problem was the Soviet Union.  The second thing that's changing is technology, and that seems to be self-evident.

The third thing is an understanding, a cultural understanding, as to what constitutes privacy and a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Look, privacy is that negotiated line between ourselves, as unique creatures of God, and ourselves as social animals.  That negotiation continues all the time, and it's actually accelerating right now.  So you have N.S.A. trying to deal with all three of these tectonics moving.  That's really hard.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, right, but really it's not terribly worried about that.  What the N.S.A. is worried about, what the government is worried about is not having another terror act on anybody's watch and having the political repercussions.  So the safe thing to do is say, "You know what would be great is if we just gather everything up, because that way we're covered."

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

But if I'm a senator and I say to you, (you're head of the N.S.A.) "I don't think this is legal.  I'm concerned about this," what ability do I have as a representative of the United States, of the people, in Congress, to shut you down?  I can't even talk about it with anybody, these private programs.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Now, that's been overstated, in terms of the ignorance of the legislative branch of knowing what was going on.  Jim Clapper wrote letters to Congress in '09 and 2011 in which he explicitly said, "Hey, guys, we're getting it all," in terms of the meta data of phone calls made within and to and from--

DAVID GREGORY:

And they could have voted against--

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

--the United States.  Absolutely.

DAVID GREGORY:

--reauthorization.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

That's right.

DAVID GREGORY:

So in terms of reform-- but, first, let me ask you about Snowden because this is top of mind for me.  Should there be any kind of deal for him, any kind of amnesty?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Yes.  I would strongly oppose that.  Now, look, I know there's a great theory he's got a lot more out there and we don't--

DAVID GREGORY:

Will we ever know what he's got?  The New York Times says we may not, this morning.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

I don't think we will.  I really don't.

DAVID GREGORY:

What are the repercussions of that?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Well, the repercussions are that he seems to have a negotiating edge on us because he can hold this overhang over us, in terms of negotiating.  But I wouldn't do it.  And I understand the attraction, David, but I wouldn't do it because that simply motivates future Snowdens to do these kinds of things.

DAVID GREGORY:

So if the government has all of this data, our electronic fingerprint as it were, into this haystack, what's the best reform?  Is there a way to encrypt that data?  I've heard something about that.  You can encrypt the data, and if the government wants access to it then they need a warrant, essentially, to crack the encryption to be able to look at it.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Well, first, it doesn't have all that data.  The only parts where we're really exhaustive or comprehensive is in the meta data of phone calls.  And I'm obviously comfortable with it, but I understand others not being comfortable with it.  I think the key, David, is what do you do with that data?  How do you access it?  Under what provisions are you allowed to ask that data a question?  I think that may get closer to this appropriate balance between security and liberty.

DAVID GREGORY:

To be the United States of America, to protect democracy, do we have to be less safe in order to preserve our freedoms?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Yes.  Obviously.  Look, we can do more.  And those who say it's a false choice between our liberty and security, those folks aren't responsible for either.  We make these kinds of choices all the time.  The thing that we have to do is make it an informed and mature choice so we understand what is reasonable and not reasonable, based upon the totality of circumstances.  Look, David, the afternoon of September 11th I changed some things at N.S.A., within my authority, but based upon my understanding as to what was reasonable and unreasonable that afternoon compared to that morning.

DAVID GREGORY:

And the public does have to engage in this debate and make some decisions, put pressure on politicians as a result, whichever direction that goes.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Sure.

DAVID GREGORY:

General Michael Hayden, thank you very much.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

I really appreciate it.  When we come back, our roundtable comes back.  They'll weigh in on Edward Snowden as well, and this debate.  Should he have been chosen as Time magazine's person of the year instead of the pope, in terms of impact this year?  That debate has been going on this week.  We'll have it right here on the program, coming up next.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Coming up, the roundtable's back.  We're going to talk more on the future of government spying.  Will the new limits on the N.S.A. have any real impact on America's privacy?  What's the president going to do with the recommendations?  The roundtable talks about it in one minute.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back here with our roundtable.  Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine, you devoted some time.  He's not the person of the year, but Edward Snowden is a significant figure.  Could we be having this debate without him?

NANCY GIBBS:

No.  And, you know, we interviewed him over email for our piece, and he pushed the point that you were just talking about in your interview, that the public has to have an informed debate about the surveillance capabilities.  And when the public doesn't even know what the government is capable of doing, that debate is impossible.  He felt like his purpose was to make it clear, "This is what's going on.  This is what government is capable of.  And these are the implications for the possibility of free citizenship."

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you feel there would be too much political heat to choose Edward Snowden over Pope Francis?  It had to lurk in your mind a little bit.

NANCY GIBBS:

You know, I honestly think both men put essential conversations center stage.  In the case of the pope, it is the one that the president was talking about just again this week, about income inequality and the implications of the growth of poverty around the world, and the responsibilities that people have about that.  I think it's hard to argue that that is not also a crucial conversation.  There are a lot of other reasons too I think the pope is a very significant figure, but there's no question that Snowden has had a huge impact.

DAVID GREGORY:

So why didn't we have this debate, Governor?  Why didn't we have a real debate in this country about the kinds of measures that the government was taking in the name of our security?

BILL RICHARDSON:

Yes.  Well, we should have that debate.  But I don't think Edward Snowden is a hero, by far.  I think he's caused a lot of damage to national security.  Who is he, at 30 years old, a contractor, to decide that he discloses the strongest secrets in the U.S. government?

So my view is that, yes, there should be a debate.  It should be a debate in the Congress.  I think it's legitimate, for instance, to have this new foreign intelligence court that decides who gets kind of spied upon.  But let me also put another word in.  (I'm not going to be very popular.)

I was a policymaker for a while.  What our intelligence community and the N.S.A. gives policymakers is very useful for the national security of the United States.  Sure, you have to stop excesses.  And I thought Time's selection of the pope was great.  But to even have Snowden as somebody that is even being considered, I just don't see that.  I think that's wrong.  I don't think he's a traitor, but I think he should be prosecuted.  Nobody should have the right to disclose secrets, negotiations between our government, on behalf of the country--

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay, but so then we have a cloak-and-dagger judicial system with regard to checks and balances here.  And you have a Congress that either is just not courageous enough or informed enough to oversee this stuff.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, that's a good point, David.  I mean, nobody's informed enough to make a decision about it, and certainly not Snowden.  I agree with you, you don't consider him a hero, but I understand Time wanting to consider him because he has--

(OVERTALK)

KATHLEEN PARKER:

--impact.  It's about impact--

NANCY GIBBS:

About impact.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

--and his impact is significant, not only in terms of our diplomatic relationships around the world, but putting it on the table, he has shifted the conversation politically as well.  We do need to have this conversation, but he's had perhaps an unexpected effect which is to alienate the millennials from the president.  And they're less enchanted with him now, primarily because of this surveillance issue.  And I think the key, what's missing from the conversation up to this point, has been transparency.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

You know, you might be able to convince Americans that some of this is necessary, but you ought to tell them you're doing it, and why you're doing it.

DAVID GREGORY:

And so here's one key reform that the president may or may not adopt, which is this meta data (basically the digital thumbprint, basically your calls, websites, things like that that you visit) could be warehoused, but by a third party, by a phone company, not by the government, which may be something that the president adopts.

STEVE INSKEEP:

That's a fascinating idea, David, but think about that.  We're now going to trust a phone company with all of this data.  This is a problem.  It's been a problem throughout history, it's been a problem since--

DAVID GREGORY:

But the phone companies always kept it.  The phone companies--

STEVE INSKEEP:

Yes, they've--

DAVID GREGORY:

--always had it.

STEVE INSKEEP:

--always had a certain amount of data. And you always have this push and pull.  It's almost like offense and defense in football.  Somebody develops a new play and then the defense comes back.  We're at a point now where General Hayden, in that very good interview that you had, acknowledged this might be a moment of having to pull back.

And I wonder if it's possible to say that two things can be true simultaneously, Governor Richardson.  It may well be that Snowden was wrong, that he should be prosecuted, and that, at the same time, he did a necessary thing because this is the only way that we find out.  Even though members of Congress do have information, they respond to public pressure.  Public pressure only comes from public debates, and you only have a debate when you have someone who does something that is wrong, like Edward Snowden.

BILL RICHARDSON:

Look, I think the big intelligence cover-up that I see is this Levinson case in Iran where the family of Levinson was not, I think, told the truth about the status of the husband.  I know we're not discussing it.  So there are cover-ups.  There are reforms that are needed in the intelligence community.  But I just think unilaterally, for somebody like Snowden, a contractor, to--

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Well--

BILL RICHARDSON:

--be a liberator?  I just don't see it.  I think--

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me--

BILL RICHARDSON:

--it's wrong.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let's widen this out a little bit because, Kevin, you brought up the disaffection that the president's own supporters have with him.  He is in a tough place right now, especially with Obamacare going the way it's going.  Our poll showed his job approval at a pretty dismal state:  54% disapproval.  A lot of people disappointed, 50% in our poll, about the Obama presidency.  He is at a moment here, in this second term.  How does he get out of it?

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, he's got to show leadership.  You know, that's the one thing he seems most reluctant to do.  And when these conversations come up, I always go back to this conversation I had with President George W. Bush toward the end of his administration.  And he said, "You know, I have done the unpopular things, the hard things," talking about the Patriot Act and other policies that were so unpopular at the time.  He said, "But the next president is going to be glad I did it, because he's going to need it."

And some of these policies that we dislike so much, and certainly this falls within that category, may ultimately be necessary.  But he's got to be the one who makes the case, and it's got to be made not only forcefully but with a true understanding of how Americans respond to these intrusions upon their privacy.  And Obamacare I don't think is going to get more popular, frankly.

NANCY GIBBS:

You know, I'm not a believer that there's such thing as a second term curse, but I do think it's a problem if the basis of your second term has to do with implementing the policies of your first if that initial implementation is such a disaster.  And the real challenge the president faces is that there are going to be new Obamacare deadlines that we're coming up against regularly.

And if the story doesn't get better, not just the technology, but the story of whether people are losing their doctors, whether their out-of-pocket costs are going up, if that does not improve, it's very hard to see how he turns these numbers around.  It isn't that second-term presidents haven't in the past; Ronald Reagan did, Bill Clinton did.  But for this president, I think it's even more challenging.  The only consolation is that this Congress, in your poll, ranks as--

DAVID GREGORY:

The worst ever.

NANCY GIBBS:

-- the worst ever.

DAVID GREGORY:

But he's swept up in this.  I mean, if you're out there and you don't think anything of Congress, you don't think Washington works, there's no good government, and then you've got, you know, Obamacare, you don't know what the future is of that, and you still feel like the economy is bad, it's hard for Obama to assert a legacy that's very positive.

STEVE INSKEEP:

It's hard right now.  It seems hard right now, but there have been a lot of presidents who had low approval ratings.  And one reality is he's still our president.  Every time he screws up, he gets the ball back again after the other side scores a touchdown.

And we're in a situation where the president's not running for reelection, and he's dealing with a lot of actors inside and outside of Congress who will act on their own interests.  So when they see cooperating with the president as something that might be in their interest, they're going to act and he's going to have opportunity to get things done.  It's not important there could be, for example, immigration legislation signed.  His approval rating won't make much difference in that one way or the other.  It also may not happen.  But being less popular at this moment is less important than--

DAVID GREGORY:

And I've been told that the speaker of the House would push on immigration, Governor, next year, even though there are some who think it would be better for the party to wait until 2015 when you need it for the 2016 cycle politically.  But he said there's never going to be a great time to do it; you might as well try next year.

BILL RICHARDSON:

Right.  And I think Republicans are going to be in deep trouble with Hispanic voters unless they push, and they get away from this piecemeal approach in the House.  Look, I'm going to be an optimist here.  I think this budget deal is a turning point.  Disaffection with the right wing, with the Tea Party, shown by these Republican leaders.

And I think with the economy improving, with Obamacare getting better, some of the glitches getting fixed, with potential immigration bill, possibly something on the debt limit, the president scores with a deal with Iran, although I'm skeptical about it, I think he could turn things around.  With Podesta in the White House, I keep coming back to him because I served when he was chief of staff.  He makes things happen.  Talking to the president as a grownup I think is what is needed.  Expanding his base of advisors.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me get to another break here.  I also want to mention your new book, How to Sweet-Talk a Shark, such a sweet title.  Strategies and Stories from a Master Negotiator by Governor Bill Richardson.  We'll come back, talk a little bit more when we come back here.  He's called on his party to stop being the part of no:  Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker on the split within the GOP that we saw this week, and his own alternative to Obamacare out in the states.  Could he be on the GOP ticket in 2016?  I'll talk to him right after this break.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back here on Sunday morning.  It's been a familiar political campaign strategy:  You run as a Washington outsider who can actually get things done.  A lot of energy around GOP governors right now as we think about 2016, among them Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker.  He believes the best choice for the next president will be a governor from outside D.C.  Is he talking about himself?

He's out with a new book, Unintimidated:  A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge, and a big part of that story took place in the summer of 2012 when Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election.  Governor Walker is in Madison this morning.  Welcome back to Meet the Press, Governor.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Great to be with you, David.  Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

So let me ask you about the big debate here in Washington, which is about the budget.  I want to just remind people what we're talking about, this deal:  No government shutdowns for two years.  Deficit reduction of $23 billion, that's over ten years, so it's not a lot.  Reduces the amount of spending cuts, in other words allow for more spending in some areas, and reduces cost-of-living increases for military retirees.

So what I thought was significant about this is, yes, they're talking, it's more positive, government's working a little bit better.  But the reaction on the right's been pretty furious.  Marco Rubio calling it un-American and un-conservative.  What do you say?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Well, two things come to mind.  One, I think it shows the incredible leadership and respect that Paul Ryan brings to the table.  He's one of those guys that kind of steps out of the role of member of Congress and really stepped up to provide some leadership.

But I think for those of us who believe the federal government's too big, too intrusive, too involved in our lives, what it tells us is if we really want a budget deal we can wrap our arms around, we're going to have to win in the 2014 elections, particularly in key Senate races.  And things are much different a year from now if Republicans are in charge of the Senate.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you support this deal now?  Do you think it was the right thing for Republicans to do now, under these circumstances?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Well, again, that's why I give Paul Ryan so much credit for his leadership.  I think that's why hear few if any criticisms against Paul himself because people understand--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, but my question is do you think this is a good idea?  I mean, we know you like Paul Ryan, you guys are from Wisconsin and he's been showing leadership here.  But do you think this is a good idea?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

I do.  I think it is good to go forward.  But I also think we have to reinforce why, you know, races like the one we're going to have in Arkansas and Louisiana, North Carolina and Alaska, and others across the country, are so important.

If you're going to bring conservative activists to the table, they have to see this for what it is.  And it's really a big wakeup call for the fact that if Republicans, in particular grassroots activists, want to see a stronger budget in the future, we've got to have some help in the United States Senate.

DAVID GREGORY:

So let me ask you, as a governor dealing with the Affordable Care Act, you've got over 5,000 people who've signed up via the exchanges in your state.  Now, presumably you'd like to see the law go away, as a conservative, and yet you seem to be doing something different in your state where you take those federal subsidies and allow people to go directly to the insurance companies.  Is that a vote of support at some level for Obamacare?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

No, in my case, in this state, obviously I did everything in my power.  I allowed my attorney general on the first day I took office to join the federal lawsuit.  I didn't take the state exchange, I didn't take the Medicaid expansion.  But by the same token, I thought I wasn't going to let my citizens suffer, so we found a way for the first time in our state's history to cover everyone living in poverty, to transition people above poverty into the marketplace.

And ultimately, we're making the case to the federal government that people in many of our counties, where there are qualified health plans that aren't in the exchanges, that if they can buy into those on their own they should get the subsidy for that.

But in the long haul, I would very much prefer to have a patient-centered plan.  I think the American people, and clearly people here in my state, deserve to have health care and health decisions made by themselves and their families and not be predestined by the federal government.  So I think that would be a much better alternative.

DAVID GREGORY:

How does the Affordable Care Act affect 2014?  If we get into the new year, there's more sign-ups, it's going more smoothly, is it a losing issue for Republicans?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Oh, I still think it is.  I mean, this is all relative.  I mean, the fact that the federal website is actually finally starting to work, I don't know that that's a ringing endorsement of Obamacare as a whole.  Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, front page of our largest paper here in the State of Wisconsin, talks about the negative impact of Obamacare on small businesses all across our state where people are rushing out this December to renew their health insurance policies to avoid 25-30% or, in some cases, up to 50-60% increases for small businesses' insurance premiums.

I don't know about you, but in my state, the big thing I've heard from folks is overwhelmingly from small businesses who said they wanted access to affordable health care.  If anything, the facts are showing it's anything but affordable in our state, and I think that's going to be a problem not just for health care, and not just for the policy, but what it means to the economy.  It's tough to recover when so many small businesses are feeling the heat of rising premiums that the Affordable Care Act only exacerbates.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you about 2016 in this context.  I want to go back to what you said, heralding the leadership of Chairman Paul Ryan.  Is this the model for the Republican Party to win national elections again, to trim your sails, to find common ground where it exists with the Democrats so that you can actually accomplish something?  Is that the blueprint for how to win power again?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Well, I think leadership in general is.  It's what Paul's tried to do in Washington; it's what 30 Republican governors are doing all across America.  I point out in my book that austerity is not the answer.  I think that's oftentimes been the focal point of Republicans nationally, but in the states, in 30 states including most of the battleground states Barack Obama carried in the last two elections, Republicans are in charge as governors because we're talking about things that are about reform, not about austerity.  We're talking about them in ways that are relevant, and we're ultimately showing we have the courage to act on them.  And Paul is one of those rare people in Washington who's acting more like a governor than just a member of Congress.

DAVID GREGORY:

Quickly, a lot of attention to Governor Chris Christie and his tough style, his brash style, blunt style, take on critics often in some colorful language.  You had this to say (the Associated Press a little bit earlier this fall):  "I just have a Midwestern filter, that's the difference.  I'm willing to speak out but I'm not going to call you an idiot.  I'm just going to say that's a ridiculous question and move on."  You know, the presidency, it's said, goes through the Midwest.  Is Midwestern nice the ticket to the presidency over somebody like a Chris Christie?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Well, I don't know so much about style.  I think the substance of it, whether it's Chris, or Bobby Jindal, or John Kasich, or Susana Martinez, or Nikki Haley, Rick--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

You can't name all the Republicans.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Yes.  I think in the end, there's some pretty good, outspoken folks out there that want to get things done, and that's what people want.  They want candor.  Whether it's with a Midwestern filter or not, I think they want candor and they want proven performers.  And that's what you get out of Republican governors.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Governor Scott Walker, thanks so much.  Good to talk to you.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Good to be with you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Coming up here, more whispers about 2016.  You've heard from Wisconsinites Scott Walker and Paul Ryan this morning, we're a little heavily tilted toward Wisconsin this morning.  But also, why Kathleen Parker thinks Paul Ryan is the guy for the future. She'll bring it up with us, right after this.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Here now, some of this week's images to remember.

(“IMAGES TO REMEMBER” SEGMENT)

DAVID GREGORY:

That last one remembering the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, one year later.  And it is striking, if you think about our politics and how much the gun control debate occupied the early part of this year, the president in an interview with me at the start of the year saying that the Newtown tragedy is the worst day of his presidency.  And yet, you look at our recent polling, support for curbs on gun rights has fallen away pretty significantly.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

It's down below where it was before Newtown, then it went up, it's down again.  And I think it's no accident that, you know, the focus this week, Joe Biden announced another $100 million for mental health services because that's where there is some agreement about addressing the new Newtowns because there just isn't anything about guns.  And they learned that over the course of the year.

DAVID GREGORY:

I mean, I don't know.  If it's not for Newtown, if that doesn't move the political needle, I don't know what can.

NANCY GIBBS:

Well, you know, now we've just had another recent event in Colorado--

DAVID GREGORY:

In Colorado, right.

NANCY GIBBS:

It goes on and on.  And you feel like, you know, you're a horrible person if you don't say, "Absolutely, let's get rid of all the guns."  But I think the hitch for most people is that none of these events could have been prevented by any legislation that's been proposed.

I don't know why anyone would have any objection to background checks, for example.  I mean, that seems minimalist.  As to the size of magazines, well, that's a symbolic gesture.  You can always change your magazines periodically, you know, when you need to.  I mean, it's just difficult.  I think Joe Biden's approach toward mental health is the thing he most wants to focus on because he understands that that's the thing that can unite people, and that it seems to be the core problem.

DAVID GREGORY:

So earlier in the program, you saw the exclusive interview with the architects of the budget deal, Congressman Paul Ryan, Senator Patty Murray.  So who are we going to be talking about tomorrow?  Here is the front page of this morning's Des Moines Register calling Ryan an early favorite, along with Hillary Clinton, in Iowa.  And, Kathleen, you do think that this is a model-- I mean, I asked Scott Walker that question.  You think he is the model of what we're going to see?

KATHLEEN PARKER:

I think he is.  I don't want to exclude any of these other long list of Republicans, especially the governors because it could end up being a governor, in fact.  But Paul Ryan is clearly emerging as the leader he is.  You know, when he was a vice presidential candidate, you have a tendency to seem minimized next to the presidential candidate.  Paul Ryan of course looked gigantic next to Patty Murray; his stature is physical as well as his political presence.  But in addition to creating this budget that has finally become somewhat popular, he just simply seems more mature.  He seems to have become seasoned during the year--

DAVID GREGORY:

Changed a little bit.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Yeah.

DAVID GREGORY:

You know, I wanted to clarify something, because I mentioned it a couple of times, about Senator Rubio this morning, did he call the compromise deal un-American?  That's not actually what he said.  We got the clarification and I wanted to make sure to do this, because I apologize for the confusion about it.

He was asked why he couldn't support the deal and he said it's not just as a conservative that he couldn't support it, it's an as American that he couldn't support it.  So he didn't actually call it un-American, but he said as an American he can't support it.  So that's his level of--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, people who did support it--

DAVID GREGORY:

--his opposition.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

--are un-American, in other words.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, very good, but I wanted to make sure that I was precise with the language, and we said it a couple times so I wanted to make that clarification.

STEVE INSKEEP:

Although there's the danger with Rubio, as well as the danger with Paul Ryan:  It is hard to run for the presidency out of Congress, even though there's a lot of people in Congress who would like to think they could be president.  It's easier to be governor and run.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, we're going to leave it there.  Thank you all very much.  That's our conversation, that's our program for today.  We're back next week.  If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

                                                         * * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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