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MEET THE PRESS Sunday, November 14, 2004
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: the British prime minister meets with the newly re- elected American president. What are their plans for the Middle East, Iraq and our European allies? With us, in an exclusive Sunday morning interview, the prime minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair.
Then, George W. Bush's second term, and what now for the Democratic Party? With us: for the Democrats, James Carville; for the Republicans, Mary Matalin. Carville and Matalin, only on MEET THE PRESS.
And in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, Yasser Arafat buried amid chaos in Ramallah. Twenty-eight years ago he appeared on MEET THE PRESS and talked about terrorism.
But first, I sat down with the British prime minister on Friday after his meeting with President Bush.
Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.
PRIME MIN. TONY BLAIR: Thank you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me read to you what The Washington Post said on Thursday. "Last week, Blair said achieving Middle East peace is `the single most pressing political challenge in our world today' and critical to winning the war on terrorism--a link that Bush in the past has rejected."
Do you now believe that, after your meetings on Friday, President Bush accepts your vision that solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the most pressing issue and necessary to win the war on terror?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: I think he certainly accepts that it is one of the most; whether it's the most is for him to answer. But as a political challenge, I think it is the toughest we face, and it is vitally important, because the single biggest blow that we could deal to the terrorists, along with democracy in Afghanistan, democracy in Iraq, is to take away this cause on which they prey and they feed and deliver a viable and a democratic Palestine alongside a secure and democratic Israel.
MR. RUSSERT: Did you see a new George Bush on Friday when it comes to the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Well, I thought the press conference was interesting, in the sense that there was a very powerful, confident expression of his desire to get this done, but his saying the condition on which it has to be achieved is that the Palestinian state is a democratic state and then we set out some steps as to how we get there. But I think it was a very passionate plea to make progress in the Middle East, but also a very realistic and hardheaded assessment of the fact you aren't going to get that progress unless we can build democratic institutions on the Palestinian side.
MR. RUSSERT: Tell us about the summit after the president's inauguration. Will it be focused on the Middle East? And do you know where it will be and who will be there?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: No. I mean, I think it's for us to decide exactly how and where it's done, but I think the important thing is you're not going to get a viable Palestinian state unless you have the democratic institutions in place, unless you have the economic development in place, and unless you have the security infrastructure that means that we can bear down on the terrorism that threatens the process. Every time you start to make a bit of progress, then someone comes and kills a whole lot of innocent people and the whole thing comes back again. So, you know, the Israelis, as you know, are going to disengage from the Gaza and from parts of the West Bank. When that happens, we've got to be ready to step into that with these democratic, economic and security structures, ready to make a go of it.
MR. RUSSERT: Did the president talk to you--or did you urge him to appoint a special envoy from the United States?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: No, I think that's premature at the moment. I mean, I think, as he said, you know, we'll do whatever it takes, but let's get these first steps in place first.
MR. RUSSERT: The British papers have been very hard on you. The Independent said, "This is your challenge: Are you a favored ally or are you a poodle?" And they will make that judgment based on what you come home and report to the British people about what you got from George Bush during this trip. What did you get from George Bush?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Yeah, but as I often say to The Independent and some of the other papers, that's not my view of the American relationship. I think we get an immense amount out of this relationship, because we believe in the same things, we share the same interests. And, you know, where would we be, as Britain or as Europe, if America disengaged from the world and said, "Well, you guys go and sort out all the problems of the world. You know, if al-Qaeda's a problem, you go and sort it out"?
I mean, I remember a few years ago when we had Kosovo, the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, on Europe's doorstep--major problem. Without America we couldn't have sorted that. We sorted it. We got rid of Milosevic, the Serbian dictator. We've now got that place making progress towards democracy. Seven hundred thousand people died 10 or 12 years ago in that part of the world.
So, you know, when people say to me, "Where's your payback from this relationship," my answer is: My payback is the relationship. It is an important relationship for Britain and America. And, you know, some of these criticisms are just--you know, well, they're what you expect in politics, but they're not--if they really think about it for a moment, they wouldn't make them, I don't think.
MR. RUSSERT: But can you tell the British people anything today that George Bush agreed to do that he wouldn't have done before your trip?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Well, what I can say is what he's agreed to do is immensely important and that's reinvigorate the Middle East peace process. Now, I'm not saying he wouldn't have done it anyway. I believe he would have done it, but nonetheless, that's important. It's important that when we came to deal with al-Qaeda and Afghanistan, we said, "We're going to have a democracy in Afghanistan. We're going to do it not just by kicking the Taliban out of Afghanistan but as you give the Afghanistan people a vote." When we came to Iraq, we decide, "No, we're just not going to replace Saddam Hussein and his sons with another brutal dictator, we're going to have a democracy in Iraq." Now, what do we get out of this relationship in Britain? We get out of it the ability to stand shoulder and shoulder with our ally in achieving this and in doing so deal a blow to the world terrorism that affects my country, not just your country.
MR. RUSSERT: You talk about President Bush's standing in the world and particularly in Great Britain. The Gallup organization did a poll and 73 percent disapprove of George Bush's performance as president, only 19 approve. After he was re-elected, this headline greeted readers, The Daily Mirror: "How can 59,017,382 people be so DUMB?"
What does that say to you?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Well, it doesn't say a great deal for the particular headline and the newspaper 'cause think it's very arrogant of people to dismiss a democratic election like that. And I think--look, it's been a divisive time in the international community, and I got the backwash of that politically, you know, as happened with other people that have supported this action, but if you believe in what you're doing, you have to follow it through and getting criticism in politics is what it's about.
MR. RUSSERT: How does President Bush turn around his standing with the British people and with Europe in general?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Well, I think the most important thing is to keep explaining to people why we're doing this 'cause you can have two views of the world. And this is--at the root of the problem is this. Some people say, "You've got these terrorists who are doing these terrible things, but is it any worse than what the IRA used to do in Britain or, you know, what that Baader-Meinhof gang did in Germany or"-- and that's one view. And then you've got another view which is the view I happen to take which is, yes, this is fundamentally different. When these people killed 3,000 totally innocent people in an unprovoked slaughter on the streets of New York, if the world doesn't wake up to that and say something, "What is going on here? Something different is going on," then it's certainly not facing up to reality.
Now, it's the clash of those two views and what sometimes people in Europe find hard to understand is that the American world view changed on September the 11th. And that's what I keep trying to explain to people, and I also explain to them, "Understand this as well. They didn't attack America because it was America. They attacked America because of what it stood for in the world."
So the attack on America was an attack on us, too, 'cause we stand for the same things. And, yes, we could protect ourselves from this if we gave up our ability to influence world events, said that these people could Taliban-ize and make into fanatical states any of these states around the Middle East region. But I said we shouldn't do that. So that's the problem and you've got this disagreement. Is this a problem that we've overreacted to so that we are provoking these people now, or is it actually a fundamental worldwide movement for terrorism of a different nature from before that we have to confront? And that's--you know, often when you get a situation like this, you get division because people--you know, there are passionate views held on either side, and our task, I think, is to get out and persuade people.
MR. RUSSERT: On the Middle East, will the Israelis need to concede certain things? Will they have to give up their settlements?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Well, they already should stop the process of settlement going further, and there are certain settlements that over a period of time everyone has said they have got to get rid of. But the Israelis themselves, to be fair, in the Gaza, in their disengagement from the Gaza, are for the first time going to remove settlements. Now, I've always said to people, this disengagement plan of the Israelis, to pull out of Gaza and the West Bank, unilaterally in a sense, gives us an opportunity, so let's use that when the Palestinians are in sole charge of those parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip there, that's a significant amount of what would be a viable Palestinian state, let's go in there and help them build the institutions that make it work.
And I think for Israel, they want one thing. They want to know that if there's going to be a state next door to them, a Palestinian state, that it is a viable state in the sense that it's democratic and not a security threat to them, and I think that's a reasonable position. I think it's unreasonable position that they say the Palestinians shouldn't have their state. It is a reasonable position to say their state mustn't threaten us.
MR. RUSSERT: In 2000, President Clinton sat down with former Israeli Prime Minister Barak, Yasser Arafat, basically offered Mr. Arafat 94, 96 percent of the West Bank and he said no, and in effect died a terrorist rather than the first leader of a Palestinian state. What gives you any hope that the Palestinians will make any concessions which can bring about a true peace?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: I think because people know now that that was a mistake. Many of the Palestinians that I've talked to over time recognize that it would be rather good to have turned the clock back and accepted that offer.
So, you know, I mean, you're right, it's going to be difficult. There's a lot of negotiating to do, but on the other hand what's the alternative? The alternative is you just keep this situation, which it creates a sort of poison in the relations to the rest of the world, apart from its terrible impact on the lives of Palestinians and, of course, Israelis who suffer from terrorism.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think there will be a time when it will be necessary to have United States troops working with the Palestinian Liberation Authority in order to help guarantee their security and also protect Israel?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: I don't think that, but I do think there is a need for us to get alongside them with the security advice that they need. You see, part of the problem is, which is why the president and myself set out some steps to get there, one of those steps is you've got to have proper robust security on the Palestinian side. Otherwise, what happens is, you make a bit of progress in the negotiation, a terrorist comes along, plants a bomb or blows himself up in an Israeli cafe or bus or restaurant, and then everyone says, "Right. That's it. We're not negotiating anymore." So without that robust security infrastructure, you're not going to make progress.
MR. RUSSERT: So U.S. advisers?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Well, I mean, we can debate exactly the nature of that at a later time, but I think what we've got to do is to say we'll stand ready to help you in any way that's sensible to make sure that you can handle your own affairs.
MR. RUSSERT: In Great Britain, the question was asked by The Times about military action in Iraq: "the right thing to do 31, the wrong thing to do, 57." Why has popular opinion in British--in the British papers and with the British public turned against the war in Iraq?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Well, it was always a divisive issue, I should say, and actually before the war some of the polls were pretty tough as well. But I think it's because people see what's happening there now and are trying to make sense of it. And what I've tried to say to people is, "Look, getting rid of Saddam Hussein meant liberating Iraq from this very brutal dictator. We've now got to liberate it from terrorists who've come in, stopped the country from making progress towards democracy."
Why do they want to do that? They want to do that because they know if Iraq becomes democratic, how can they go out to the Muslim world and say here are these Americans and the British, they're coming in to suppress Islam. If it's a democracy, you know, it's a big blow to them. So we've now got to liberate it from the terrorism, and I think we just--you know, there's a job of persuasion for me to do is to say to people, if they're trying to stop us doing this, our response has got to be not to retreat but to make sure that we see the job done. I think there's something else as well, which is that some people think Iraq was stable before we invaded it. Iraq was not a stable country. Sixty percent of the country was in food aid. There were thousands of people brutally killed. It was a country that, within the last couple of decades started two major wars. It was not a stable country.
MR. RUSSERT: There was a sense, however, that there would be stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and that we would be greeted as "liberators," as Vice President Cheney said. Neither has happened. Was there a fundamental mismanagement of the war and misjudgment of the difficulties we would encounter?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: No, I don't think there was a misjudgment about that. I mean, obviously, going through all the WMD issues, but I think that the thing that has taken us by surprise is the degree to which these outside terrorists have come in and formed a coalition with the former Saddam people. Now, they don't have any popular sport. When we've been cleaning people out of Fallujah in order to return it to the local townspeople there, I mean, some of the reports of what these people have been doing in Fallujah are absolutely barbaric. But what they've done is they've got a very--they've drawn up a very simple strategy. They basically kill anyone who tries to make the country better.
Now, what that does, especially when you're prepared to use suicide bombers, is it means the reconstruction's slower. You know, people are worried about their basic security in Iraq. The jobs don't come in the way that they should. If the terrorism stopped, Iraq would boom very quickly, and you know, well, it's happened. We've just got to make sure that we now defeat it, and, of course, in defeating it, we will defeat a large part of this terrorist movement worldwide.
MR. RUSSERT: An American diplomat was attacked on the road from the Baghdad airport to downtown. Even that is not secure. Is there a need for more troops in Iraq, and is there any possibility that European nations--the French, Germans, Russians even--would contribute to that military operation?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: I actually don't think there is a need for more troops now, Tim, from the outside. What there is an urgent need to do--This is the plan we've now drawn up with the Americans and the Iraqi government--is to, what I call Iraqi-ize security. In other words, make sure that the Iraqis themselves have the army, the police, the civil defense to do the job. Now, they are doing it. I mean, they've been taking a big part in the operations in Fallujah, and that's what we need to do. And by the back end of 2005, that should be pretty much complete as a plan. Now, once they have that capability themselves, of course, then they'll do the work.
MR. RUSSERT: We've lost over 1,100 American men and women, over 7,000 wounded or injured. What would you say to the American people about Iraq and how patient should they be and is there an exit strategy that can be seen?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: The first thing I would say to the American people is, as the British people are with the British troops, they should be very proud of their armed forces. They've done a magnificent job. They've shown incredible heroism and courage, as our own British forces have done also. And, you know, thank goodness there are people prepared to do this in the service of their country. That's the first thing.
And I think the second thing is to say the exit strategy is a democratic Iraq, and if that happens, the impact on the whole region and, therefore, on our security in America, in Britain, will be enormous, and you know, we've seen what can happen with democracy brought to Afghanistan. We can see--you know, the European Union today, you've got new countries coming into the European Union who were former dictatorships under the communism. And you see the powerful effect of democracy coming to those countries, and so this is--it is a tough battle. It is difficult, but it's one that it is worth seeing through to the end, because the end is one that will advance the course of America, of Britain, I believe of humanity.
MR. RUSSERT: And you're confident of democratic elections in January in Iraq?
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: I am confident that we will get the elections in Iraq, yes, I am.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Prime Minister, we thank you for sharing your views.
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, the political odd couple, Democrat James Carville, his very Republican wife, Mary Matalin. And our MEET THE PRESS Minute with Yasser Arafat, from 1976. He was right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: George Bush's second term, the fate of the Democrats: Carville and Matalin are next. And then our MEET THE PRESS Minute with Yasser Arafat.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
James Carville, Mary Matalin, welcome both. Before we turn to politics and revisit some of the things that were said on this promise--pledges promises, predictions--Mary Matalin, I want to show you the scene yesterday afternoon. This is Vice President Cheney leaving George Washington Hospital. What can you tell us about the vice president?
MS. MARY MATALIN: He's fine. You know, he had--I just tallied everything up after the campaign. He did over 280 events, just in the targeted races and the targeted areas, and it was a remarkable schedule, and there was, of course, governance still going on. Everybody on the plane had a cold, so I guess he got this one out pheasant hunting in South Dakota. But he's fine. But, you know, when you have--it should be an inspiration to people with heart disease that you can lead such a productive and constructive life, but you've got to pay attention to this stuff, and his doctors are very cautious, and he's very responsible.
MR. RUSSERT: He had shortness of breath, but there's absolutely no difficulties with his heart?
MS. MATALIN: No, none whatsoever. They did--the EKG was the same. The ICD had not been triggered. It does a 90-day readout, so all of that's fine and there are no other pulmonary issues. So the long and the short is: The vice president had a cold, like everybody else did on his plane.
MR. RUSSERT: That's good news.
MR. JAMES CARVILLE: No, go ahead and ask her some more questions, if you want. So...
MR. RUSSERT: No, I want to ask about President Clinton...
MR. CARVILLE: Oh, OK.
MR. RUSSERT: ...who had heart bypass surgery. How is he doing? You've spoken to him.
MR. CARVILLE: He's fine. Opening the library...
MR. RUSSERT: Thursday.
MR. CARVILLE: ...next week, Thursday, and he's ready to go. He's rolling. I mean, he looks--he's lost some weight. He told me he gets a little--I campaigned with him in Nevada, right before the election, and I think he gets a little tired at night, but I think it's to be expected.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, that's good news for both men.
MR. CARVILLE: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: And that concludes our health report.
MR. CARVILLE: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, let's go...
MR. CARVILLE: Well, if you want to stay on the health...
MR. RUSSERT: No, no, no. Let's go...
MR. CARVILLE: ...I'll stay on health care.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's go to politics, Mr. Carville. I want to show you a map of these United States.
MR. CARVILLE: Go right ahead.
MR. RUSSERT: In red there, you will see, those are states carried by George W. Bush.
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: In blue, the states carried by John Kerry. Now, on MEET THE PRESS on March 7, 2004, we were having a discussion very much like we were having this morning, and let me share it with our viewers.
(Videotape, March 7, 2004):
MR. RUSSERT: The election is eight months from today, James Carville.
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: Give me your percentage prediction, Kerry, Bush, Nader.
MR. CARVILLE: I think that Kerry is going to get 52 percent. The Democrats in...
MR. RUSSERT: And Bush what?
MR. CARVILLE: ...52. Forty-seven.
MR. RUSSERT: And 1 for Nader.
MR. CARVILLE: One for Nader.
MR. RUSSERT: Fifty-two, 47, 1...
MR. CARVILLE: All right. Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Mr. Carville.
MR. CARVILLE: Well, Mr. Russert, everybody knows that I have dyslexia and what I really meant to say--I just transposed the numbers wrong. You know, that's all it was.
MR. RUSSERT: I see.
MR. CARVILLE: You know what I say, "I got egg on my face."
MS. MATALIN: Oh, my God.
MR. RUSSERT: I don't believe this.
MR. CARVILLE: I've got egg on my face.
MS. MATALIN: Oh.
MR. CARVILLE: It was a bad prediction.
MS. MATALIN: Oh, I love this man.
MR. CARVILLE: Whatever. I really thought--look...
MR. RUSSERT: Mary. Mary, here. Wipe the egg--wait a minute. This is awful. Here. Mary, here. Mary, wipe the thing off the man's...
MS. MATALIN: It's not that bad. It was a valiant effort.
MR. CARVILLE: You know what?
MS. MATALIN: Good Lord.
MR. CARVILLE: When you come on Sunday morning TV and you make a prediction and, you know, you're that far off, then you've got egg on your face.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you did make a bet. You bet $1,000...
MR. CARVILLE: Right. OK. Who am I paying?
MS. MATALIN: Boys & Girls Club.
MR. RUSSERT: Boys & Girls Club.
MR. CARVILLE: You've got it.
MR. RUSSERT: Start writing.
MR. CARVILLE: I owe it. I owe it.
MR. RUSSERT: But while you do that, Mr. Carville...
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...let me show you something you showed The Washington Times and the Roll Call newspaper. Put in on the screen. "If Bush wins, it will be one of the greatest political achievements of my lifetime."
MR. CARVILLE: Correct.
MR. RUSSERT: So you were willing to...
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...to say this morning...
MR. CARVILLE: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: ...the re-election of George Bush...
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...is one of the greatest political achievements you've ever seen?
MR. CARVILLE: I've said it consistently. I said it after the election I think that they deserve an enormous amount of credit. I think Mary does. I think Karl Rove does--everybody. I don't want to start naming names. And it was an election that, you know, I think it spoke of a lot of things. It's an election I think that the Democrats should have won. We didn't. It says something about the Bush campaign. It says something about the Democrats and I was distressed at the result. I thought they were going to win. I didn't make that prediction just as some kind of bolsterism and I was disappointed Election Night. I'll be honest with you.
MR. RUSSERT: Why did George Bush win?
MR. CARVILLE: Well, I think the problem is I think we shouldn't just look to what happened to Senator Kerry. I think that the Democratic Party really is at a precarious moment here. And what we do is is we produce a litany or we go from election to election. Now, we don't control any branch of government. We've lost three out of 10, or if you want to call it count the tie in 2000, that's fine, too. I mean, we've won three out of the last 10 presidential elections.
The purpose of a political party in a democracy is to win elections. We're not doing that well enough, and I think that we can't deny that the problem exists. I think we have to confront the problem. And by and large, our message has been we can manage problems, while the Republicans, although they will say we can solve problems, they produce a narrative. We produce a litany. They say, "I'm going to protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood." We say, "We're for clean air, better schools, more health care." And so there's a Republican narrative, a story, and there's a Democratic litany. And, you know, at a point, you look at 45 Senate seats, you look at a lost presidential election, and you say, "We have to rethink this thing." I really believe that.
MR. RUSSERT: But you're suggesting the Democrats lost, that George Bush didn't win.
MR. CARVILLE: Well, I'm suggesting--look, I said both. I gave him enormous credit. I said it was the signature political achievement of my life, but it wasn't just this election--and I think it's an election that people wanted change. I think if we had produced--the party itself--I just don't want to focus on Senator Kerry or his campaign. This is not the first election that we've lost. There's--something is setting in here.
Now, having said that, my friends caution me, and they're right. I mean, 48 percent--I mean, we're not starting in terms of shambles here, but I think this is a message to the Democratic Party: We need to produce a narrative. We need to be more about solving problems as opposed to managing them, and I think it's going to be interesting to see how it comes out.
MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, let me show you another Electoral College map. This one is based on population and vote rather than land, and you'll see there how evenly divided the country is. George Bush did win 51 percent of the vote, but 48 percent of Americans said, "No, we prefer not to have George Bush re-elected. We want John Kerry." And yet the White House is being very forceful in saying, "We have a mandate. We have political capital." Is that accurate, and is it fair to the 48 percent of Americans who did not support George Bush?
MS. MATALIN: Yeah, it is accurate, because that map doesn't tell the true story. It's not just that he increased his margin--it's the first majority since 1988--he doubled his increase in his vote over what Clinton did, who was a very popular president for them, but it's the first president since 1936 who won seats in both chambers coming in, and he ran on specific issues.
This wasn't a re-election like "Morning Again in America" or the 1996 re-election of "We're Crossing the Bridge to the 21st Century." He ran on 21st-century specific reform agenda, tort reform, Social Security reform, tax reform, so people knew what they were voting for. He ran specifically on an aggressive and new and 21st-century national security strategy. So people knew what they were voting for. And he increased his margin in a greater proportion than anyone has done in many, many decades and brought both chambers with him.
But there's also a generational thing going on here as well. It started about in the '60s but accelerating in the '80s when I came to town with President Reagan, the Democrats controlled every level of government and now the Republicans control the Senate, the House, the governors, and most importantly the legislative chambers. It's 50-50 now, which is the bench. And in the Democratic Senate chamber, 15 of the--a third of the Democratic senators are from red states. So those people--Bush increased his margins in the red states. He also increased his margins exponentially in the blue states, in New York, in Massachusetts, in New Jersey, in Rhode Island, in Hawaii, in Connecticut.
So I think he ran on an agenda, he increased his margins everywhere with every--almost every demographic in particular for the future, Hispanics and the black vote, women, seniors, across the board. So that is pretty much grounds for a mandate, and we're predicting some progress on that agenda.
MR. RUSSERT: George Bush have a mandate?
MR. CARVILLE: The only politician in America I know with a mandate is Jim McGreevey, Tim.
MS. MATALIN: Oh, gee.
MR. CARVILLE: No, of course he does. I mean, he's going to...
MR. RUSSERT: Who's running this guy's material, Mary? This...
MS. MATALIN: Oh, I'm not. I'm not getting up anymore.
MR. CARVILLE: Well, look, he said whether he has one or not, they're going to do it, and stand by, America, you're getting ready to get one civics lesson. You're going to see the most conservative--he's already said that his two favorite judges of all time are Scalia and Thomas. You're going to see changes the likes of which you've never seen before, and I don't--he's got 51 percent. Mary argues that; President Bush said that he'll reach out to anybody that agrees with him. Well, I'm not sticking my hand out, because I didn't agree with him before the election, I still don't agree with him.
But we're going to see--one thing to remember in a democracy is that a 51 percent election is going to produce an 80 percent result. This is not going to be a 51 percent result. And you're going to look at things--now I can sit here and say, "Well, here I am, 60 years old, this is summertime for me with a large income, my tax cut's going to be permanent, my Social Security benefits are going to be guaranteed, and the next generation is going to pay for all that." And I think there's great opportunity for the Democrats in these kinds of things. But the interesting thing is to see how much that the party acts like a minority party in how they stick counterproposals up, but we're going to lose votes after vote after vote after vote. I mean, it's coming. I guarantee you that. And the only reaching out is going to be that we're going to get slapped upside our face.
MR. RUSSERT: Mary, you mentioned that the agenda that George Bush ran on. You didn't mention any of the social or cultural issues. And Christian evangelicals believe very deeply they were very responsible for the re-election of George Bush. This is a letter that Dr. Bob Jones, III, the president of Bob Jones University, sent to the president.
"Dear Mr. President, in your re-election, God has graciously granted America--though she doesn't deserve it--a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. ... Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. ... If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them."
Liberals who despise Christ? That's pretty strong stuff.
MS. MATALIN: Liberals have said--in the agony of defeat here, they've said some pretty outrageous things and they've said some pretty outrageous things during the campaign, not the least of which that the president was brain dead. But over the course of the participation of evangelicals and Christians and people of faith in the election process, they have been demonized and they have been treated with disdain and contempt.
And, you know, the separation of church and state is one of the great achievements of this republic, but the disdaining and contemptuousness of religious values that underpin our institutions is just rejected. And, you know, postelection polls were--the biggest concern, a third of the people--over a third--were concerned about national security issues. Another third were concerned about economics. And about a fifth were concerned about moral issues. They mischaracterize what values voters are--and try to tie it to--and demonize people of faith as opposed to thinking of the broader panoply of issues for values voters, which include the coarsening of our culture and the PC in schools and Janet Jackson and commercials on TV--yeah, it's the stuff we deal with every day.
MR. CARVILLE: Let me...
MR. RUSSERT: But--but--but...
MR. CARVILLE: Let me just make one point here, please?
MR. RUSSERT: All right.
MR. CARVILLE: President Bush and Mr. Jones have a long history with each other. Let's not forget that. This guy didn't just--this is not just some guy coming out of South Carolina. Remember, he campaigned at Bob Jones University at the invitation of Bob Jones with the support of Bob Jones. So this is not--this is a guy who's influential. This is not some guy out here, you know, that just cropped up out of nowhere.
MR. RUSSERT: But here's a--Richard Lamb, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said this. "As we say in Texas, [President Bush] is going to dance with the one who brung him. ... We haven't come to this place to go home and not push our values and our beliefs."
Four years from now, will the president say to the evangelical Christian community, we have a permanent ban on all abortion, we will have a constitutional amendment banning all gay marriages, we have no change in our policy on embryonic stem cell research?
MS. MATALIN: Well, unlike how the Democrats practice democracy, which is to say a disdain for the process, the president cannot, as judges do, by fiat, declare all of the aforementioned. What can happen, what should happen and what would be good for the country to happen is for these issues to be brought into the democratic process. And yes, he can promise that, that there will be--that we will have a discussion on this. But I will say again--and what he ran on at the top of his agenda is national security.
We have a very barbaric enemy, as Prime Minister Blair just pointed out, and we're making great progress against it. We have an economy--a global economy in transition. We have archaic systems-- domestic systems that were put in place in the industrial age that need to be updated so our kids do have Social Security and we have tort reform that's bogging down the economy. We have a lot of issues that he can do and he will be concentrating on. But these values issues do need to be discussed and do need to be discussed in the democratic process, not just foisted on people by judges.
MR. RUSSERT: Is the president honor bound to appoint someone to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe vs. Wade?
MS. MATALIN: He's honor bound to do what he ran on in 2000, in 2004, and has always said, there's no litmus test. He wants judges that aren't activists, that know what's in the Constitution and are not being activists on the bench. That's what he's going to do.
MR. RUSSERT: James, let me show you what Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats, had to say: "We have to define what values are. Values are, of course, being persons of faith and family and love of country. They also are about ministering to the needs, as it says in the Gospel of Matthew, of the least of our brethren."
Are we now going to see the Democrats trying to embrace the language of values and faith?
MR. CARVILLE: You know, first of all, I want to go back as--the president ran on a constitutional amendment to ban abortion nationwide. The president ran against gay marriage. The president said that he wanted to appoint people like Scalia and Thomas, who both want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, some of the Bush people are acting like these religious conservatives are akin to Ross Perot's crazy aunt when he talked about the deficit. These guys, you ramp up the culture wars and let me tell you, bro, the Bob Joneses of the world, they're out and they're in an open field and they're going to be looking for something.
And what Congressman Pelosi said--we can't match them, OK? Nobody becomes a Democrat because they want to ban gay marriage. It's just not--and you can't--Kerry's position was he was against gay marriage, he was against amendment for civil unions. That's about where you can go.
I think what happens here is that a lot of Democrats feel like that--this whole definition is about somebody, a particular branch of Christianity's view of what it is. I mean, I think you can make a very good argument--in fact, there's a much better argument--that Jesus was very sympathetic; in fact, he never said a word about the gay--and in the whole New Testament, Jesus Christ himself was so concerned about the issue he never uttered a single word about it. He did utter a lot of words about helping the poor, about "Love your neighbor as yourself," etc., etc.
I think what Congresswoman Pelosi is saying is, if you're bringing a values debate to the table, let's talk about all of the values there. But Mr. Jones has got one--he's got one set of values, and right now he's the dominant force in the Republican Party.
MS. MATALIN: This is why they're going to remain a minority party in perpetuity. If you have misgivings in this country about abortion, that does not make you a misogynist. If you support traditional marriage, which has been the bedrock of our civilization since the dawn of civilization, that does not make you a gay basher. There are extreme positions. They are partial-birth abortions. They are by judicial fiat demanding that everybody go along with this agenda, and that is a misunderstanding of what values voters are. And that is not the path to the future.
The values are a whole panoply of issues, not the least of which is--I think there's a big values issue they always miss: Americans are aspirational and hopeful. They don't hate rich people. They aspire to success and wealth. The people they know in their town that are "rich" are the local construction company owner or the car dealer or people who are the first guys to line up when their library needs a new wing or there's a charity event, or they're the ones that hire people. They don't--you demonize your enemy as a--to delegitimize him, as opposed to coming up with some idea.
MR. CARVILLE: We--that...
MS. MATALIN: You have not put one idea on the table, not one 21st-century idea. You gave people nothing to vote for.
MR. CARVILLE: Oh, hey, we're--banning abortion is a 21st--that's what this president is for, a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, all across this country. This president is for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages. We're never going to be able to--and, you know, I want to be...
MS. MATALIN: Their party is for partial-birth abortion.
MR. CARVILLE: Again, let me--Mary, can I finish?
MS. MATALIN: Their--this is an extreme position.
MR. CARVILLE: Can I finish? I'm not going to be--in most Democrats, the nature of being a Democrat is we're just--that's just not--we won't be--we're not going to be an anti-gay party. We're not going to be. We're--I can be conflicted about abortion, but I'm not going to be a member of a political party that tells some 32-year-old single mother of two that, you know, "You can't have an abortion," whose ex-husband might beat the living dickens out of her. I can--we can say we can have a better alternative, we can be about different things but that's not the nature of being a Democrat.
And, certainly, I think that Congresswoman Pelosi, who, by the way, raised her kids before she went to Congress, who I think is a very fine human being--we can talk about other things. But the point here is, if one--if you win an election by 3 points, and one-fifth of these voters--you've ramped up these culture wars and got these people out to vote. They're going to be at the table. And let me tell you, they're not going anywhere. And that guy in Colorado Springs, Dobson, and Bob Jones and them, I guarantee you, they're coming to the party, bro, and they want a seat at the table.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me broaden the discussion to include some other issues. The Democratic Leadership Council, which was the centrist organization within the Democratic Party, if you will, wrote an essay which--as follows: "What Happened? ...we have to face facts: We got our clocks cleaned up and down the ballot. ...We didn't effectively make the case for firing the incumbents and replacing them with Democrats. ...The dynamics cf this campaign have confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that Democrats suffer from three persistent `trust gaps' in our message. The first...was on national security. [Kerry] could not overcome the party's reputation for being weaker. ...The second...was a `reform gap.' ...We never conveyed a positive agenda for reform. The third...was...values and culture. ...The problem is that many millions of voters simply do not believe that Democrats take their cultural fears and resentments seriously, and that Republicans do."
Do you agree?
MR. CARVILLE: I particularly agree with this--I agree with everything. I disagree with the--if people are looking for a party--for the most anti-gay party, it can't be us. If people are looking for the most anti-abortion party, it's not going to be the Democrats. It's not the nature of being a Democrat. I do think--and I think that Al From and Will Marshall--I agree with what--I think this was a wake-up call. I agree completely with them. I think what the part--one of the things that we get through is we have to really be for something. I think we can be a very, very reform-oriented party. Now, it's particularly easier that you're out of power. Or we can be for a big idea that encompasses things. I think our problem is that we talk too much about managing problems, move from thing to thing, and I think Al and Will have done a...
MR. RUSSERT: But in a post-September 11 world, James, will the American people ever trust the Democrats with national security?
MR. CARVILLE: Tim, why would--but the CIA's a completely dysfunctional agency under this administration. There's a story in yesterday's paper that everybody is resigning and, believe you me, there's more coming than there was before. But if you make a larger overreaching case--for instance, if we made the case for energy independence, if we made the case for a national project to do something like that, then you would be more for national security. The problem is we tend to have a litany of issues and that we don't push these forward. Now, I think Al and Will make a really good point on the reform element. Why can't the Democratic Party be a party of reform? Why can't we be a party of political reform, corporate reform, of reform up and down the ballot? I don't know. But we're going to have to come up with something that identifies what it means to a Democrat as opposed to just, like, good schools and better health care.
MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, on the issues of reform, the president talked about tax reform. He talked--and that is being suggested by some Republicans to be a national sales tax or a flat tax, doing away with the IRS, Social Security reform, which would be talking about taking some of the money rather than paying it in the payroll tax, putting it in private accounts, but when you have specifics, the cost of doing that private account of Social Security could be up to $2 trillion, or if you do a national sales tax, it becomes very regressive against poor and middle-income people. You lose charitable deductions. You lose a whole lot of--mortgage deductions. What about the specifics of reform? Is the president really going to try to take on those big issues?
MS. MATALIN: Well, yeah, this president came to town and has taken on big issues. Nobody said he could do tax relief. In the first administration, he passed it with, by the way, a quarter of the Democrats. This will be a bipartisan effort. There has been a lot of bipartisan thinking led by your old boss, Senator Moynihan, on Social Security. Everyone keeps talking about the transition costs of Social Security. They never talk about the cost of inaction. The cost of doing nothing is not just a failed system. It's a collapse of pension security that this country has depended on...
MR. RUSSERT: But people were talking about that when there was a $2 trillion surplus. The surplus is now gone. We have about a $500 billion deficit.
MS. MATALIN: And we've had a recession. We've had a war. And the last deficit accounting was less than was projected. Why? Because revenues are growing. Why are revenues growing? More taxes are coming in because the economy is growing. The deficit as a percentage of GDP is historically not just manageable, but below what it's been in previous recessionary periods. So this economy is growing, 14 straight months, over two million jobs. It's a great economy, better than it was even in the Clinton years, and we will grow ourselves out of this and we will control spending. But we can't just keep putting off these problems. We can't put off Social Security. We also can increase our economic growth by getting some litigation reform, some tort reform and tax reform, which is a burden. So, yes. Will he work on it? Yes. Just like he worked on education reform, which nobody said we could do, he got done; tax relief, nobody said he could do, he got done. This president and vice president came to play, said what they were going to do, did it, ran on what they're going to do in the second term and got an historical vote for that and are going to deliver.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. James Carville...
MR. CARVILLE: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...what's the Democratic Party's position going to be: cooperate with the president, try to help bring about these reforms, or stand in resistance...
MR. CARVILLE: I think...
MR. RUSSERT: ...and hope for the midterm elections?
MR. CARVILLE: ...that what--my suggestion is is that they have an alternative proposal, and as I put in my book, the idea that they're going to spend $200 trillion--OK?--on this, there's going to be a huge boom to Wall Street and then we're going to dig the country $2 trillion more in the hole, then they come up and they say, "We're going to reduce the deficit," there's not one idea that they've put forward to reduce the deficit. It's ludicrous. And I think what the Democrats need to do is we, as a party, need to decide, and, you know, hopefully as people emerge and ideas emerge and people like the DLC and people like that started coming up with ideas, there will be things that the party can rally around. I don't think it's enough just to oppose, and they'll be able to point out any number of things in what they're going to try to do with this Social Security, this $2 trillion. They're going to try to claim it doesn't exist by putting it off budget, which is not going to pass muster with anyone. But I come back to the Democrats. We really need to have a narrative. We need to have something that rallies us together.
MR. RUSSERT: You said they have to be born again.
MR. CARVILLE: I do. Well, I meant that the party--look, in October, the Congress of the United States passed, during the time of war, with unprecedented deficits, $158 billion in special interest tax breaks. And I said the fact that the Democrats didn't come out of their chairs at this, that to me that's the day the old Democratic Party died. And the idea that we're fighting a war, that people like me are getting a tax break, that interest groups are running wild in Washington and you know what? We don't know the kids, we don't know the people fighting this war. And I think it's wrong and I think Democrats, as opposed to getting bought off on these tax bills, ought to stand up and say no and we ought to challenge America to do something about it. I really believe that.
MR. RUSSERT: Mary, will you give him the check made out to Boys & Girls Club, $1,000?
MS. MATALIN: There it is. I gave him one check. There you go. Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: The man paid off his debt. Mr. Carville, your prediction was wrong.
MR. CARVILLE: Right. But I hope that the charitable deduction stays, but I don't know. If we go...
MR. RUSSERT: James Carville, Mary Matalin, thank you as always.
MR. CARVILLE: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be right back with our MEET THE PRESS Minute. Yasser Arafat, 28 years ago, right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: On Friday, the helicopter carrying Yasser Arafat's body approaches the West Bank, a scene of chaos and grief on the ground, as 20,000 Palestinians flood the compound, climbing over concrete walls, as security forces fire wildly into the air.
Throughout his life, Arafat was branded a terrorist, a label he talked about with NBC's Bill Monroe on MEET THE PRESS 28 years ago.
(Videotape of MEET THE PRESS, February 8, 1976):
MR. BILL MONROE: Are you proud of shooting up civilians in a hotel in Israel?
MR. YASSER ARAFAT: It is not hotel. They are fighting in different places, in the hotel, in the street, but they were obliged to gather in this hotel. And don't forget that this hotel had been blasted by Rabin and by Peres himself, as has been declared. Rabin has.
MR. MONROE: Sir, are you saying terrorism is all right if it is promoted inside Israel by your people?
MR. ARAFAT: Not terrorism, not terrorism. Military operations. Like same have been other military operations, resistance operations, which have been done against the Naziism in France, in Italy, in Belgium.
MR. MONROE: But in this case against civilians.
MR. ARAFAT: Not civilians. We are not against civilians. We are doing our best to avoid any civilians. But not to forget that not me who give the order for the Israeli army to shell the school in Malot. It is Rabin--it is Peres himself who give the...
Unidentified Man: Dayan.
MR. ARAFAT: And--no, Dayan? Why Rabin is not a terrorist? Why in the same time he is sending these American Phantoms, making savage raids against my people in these camps...
MR. MONROE: So...
MR. ARAFAT: ...he's not a terrorist, but still I am a terrorist.
MR. MONROE: Mister...
MR. ARAFAT: I am a terrorist.
MR. RUSSERT: And we'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: We start tomorrow on "Today" with Katie and Matt, then the "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.
Go, Bills. We beat the Jets, beat the Pats.
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