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MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS
Sundays: (202) 885-4200
NBC News MEET THE PRESS
Sunday, January 16, 2005
GUESTS: Dan Bartlett, counselor to President Bush
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman
Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historial
Jon Meacham, Newsweek
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: On Thursday, George W. Bush will be sworn in for his second term as president of the United States. How will he deal with Iraq, Social Security, and more? With us, a man who has worked with George Bush for 12 years, and just promoted to counselor to the president, Dan Bartlett. Then, a Democratic view from former presidential advisor, now congressman from Illinois, Rahm Emanuel.
And which presidential inaugurations have been the most memorable, colorful, forgettable? We'll ask presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and the managing editor of Newsweek magazine, Jon Meacham. And in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, tomorrow we celebrate a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. He appeared right here on MEET THE PRESS August 13, 1967.
But, first, joining us now is the former communications director of the White House who has just become counselor to the president, Dan Bartlett.
MR. DAN BARTLETT: Thank you for having me.
MR. RUSSERT: One week from today, the Iraqi elections. We see reports in the newspapers this morning that some candidates for office are afraid to even publicize their names. What do you expect to happen one week from today?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, Tim, this is a historic moment for the Iraqi people. People, who were looking at this issue a year ago, probably thought it wasn't even possible that there'd actually be an election. So the fact that an election is going forward on the 30th is a very important, critical step in the process for the Iraqi people. As you know, this is just the first step. An assembly will be elected. Leadership will then be appointed by that assembly. They will choose a prime minister. Then they'll start the constitutional process, yet another opportunity for the people's voice to be heard. And then later in this year, early next year, there will be an actual vote for a permanent government.
So the security environment in Iraq right now obviously is very difficult. But one thing we do know, from assessments on the ground, that is the Iraqi people want to participate. As you said, there are candidates filling slates. There's over 7,000 candidates who are running for office. As you know, it's different than here in America. Specific candidate names may not be well-known but they're voting for parties or constituencies. And we believe that there will be a vote on January 30 and we think it's one that will be a launching pad for the Iraqi people to have their voice heard for the first time in many, many decades.
MR. RUSSERT: It's exactly two weeks from today. What kind of turnout do you expect?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, it's hard to tell exactly. We know that millions of people want to vote. It'll be different in different parts of the country. But we think there'll be a robust turnout and one that will demonstrate that the Iraqi people do believe in democracy, do believe in having their own voice heard. We are working, as has been demonstrated with the security forces on the ground, as well as with the Iraqi interim government, that we're going to take every step possible to help secure the polling places to make sure we have as safe of an environment as possible.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you an article from The Washington Post on Friday. "Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of `professionalized' terrorists, according to a report released by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank. Iraq provides terrorists with `a training round, a recruitment ground opportunity for enhancing technical skills,' said David Low," who heads it up. "President Bush has frequently described the Iraq war as an integral part of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. But the council's report suggests the conflict has helped terrorists by creating a haven for them in the chaos of war."
And the president was asked about this. He said this could happen. We could have in Iraq something worse than Afghanistan, a haven for terrorists.
MR. BARTLETT: Well, I actually read the report in the last couple of days, and I find it to be a very fascinating assessment of where the U.S. and world climate may be 20 years from now. In this particular case, they're talking about the opportunity that terrorists see to try to wreak havoc on a democratic process in Iraq, much like they got training in other parts of the world, including Afghanistan. These people are bent on changing the way of life, not only for America but for other freedom-loving societies. And what President Bush is talking about is he understands the stakes in Iraq. The enemy understands the stakes in Iraq. And it's critical that we win there. And that's why we've called it one of the central fronts in the war on terror. And that's why it's so critical that we get it right.
MR. RUSSERT: There seems to be, Mr. Bartlett, however, a recognition now by the president that there were some fundamental misjudgments made about Iraq. On May 1st, the president said major combat operations were over. According to Pentagon analyses, we were going to have zero American troops in Iraq right now. I want to bring you back to when the president was asked about the attacks on U.S. troops--this is July of 2003--and come back and talk about it.
MR. BARTLETT: Mm-hmm.
(Videotape, July 2, 2003):
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.
MR. RUSSERT: "Bring them on." Was that too macho by the president?
MR. BARTLETT: I think the president later has realized that his words mean something. Now, the intent of those words was showing that he has full confidence in the soldiers who are fighting on the ground in Iraq and in other parts of the war on terror. His point was we have the finest, most well- equipped, best-trained soldiers in the world fighting. The war on terror is one that has to be fought on offense on distant lands as opposed to in cities here in America. And his point was, "I have full confidence in the military." He recognizes that probably wasn't the best choice of words to use at that time, but his point remains the same.
We have a strategy. Our strategy is to allow our security forces to train Iraqis to make sure they can defend themselves. And it's a critical step in being successful in Iraq. And when that takes place, when Iraqis can control and secure their own country, then our troops can return home. And that's a critical part of the mission that's under way. We have an assessment team there headed up by General Luck, who is looking at how, at this critical juncture where we're having an election, that we can maybe accelerate aspects of the training of security forces. And that's going to be a critical aspect of us completing the mission in Iraq. But President Bush has been very steadfast in supporting his troops on the ground. And the point of those remarks was to basically say, "I've got confidence in you."
MR. RUSSERT: And they're now being used by the terrorists in recruiting videos, so they backfired.
MR. BARTLETT: Well, again, he said that at the time it was a confidence in the people on the ground, the troops on the ground. He still has confidence in them. And our troops have performed magnificently on the ground, and they're going to be successful there in Iraq. And I think it's important for people who were for the invasion in Iraq or who are against it all understand now that the stakes are high. We must get it right. The enemy understands the stakes, and it's important that us and all our allies do as well, and we think they do. We do know the Iraqi interim government knows that. So it's important that we prevail.
MR. RUSSERT: Leading up to the war, the primary rationale given to the American people by the president for going into Iraq was weapons of mass destruction. He said there were chemicals weapons, biological weapons, that Saddam was on his way to nuclear weapons. And in May of 2003, the president said, "We found the weapons and we'll find more." And now reports that after $1 billion and research attempts for over a year and a half, no weapons of mass destruction. Just looking back, no weapons of mass destruction, we were not greeted as liberators, as has been suggested by the administration in terms of insurgency. The head of the Iraqi intelligence said that there are now 200,000 insurgents. Looking back at all that, was there a misjudgment made about Iraq and whether or not we should have gone in?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, Tim, you know that there was a body of evidence over a decade that not only the American government had but also many governments from around the world, that estimated that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons, of chemical and biological weapons and was trying to pursue a nuclear weapon. We knew when we went in in 1991 that our estimates far underestimated his capabilities in what he was trying to achieve, particularly in the areas of nuclear weapons. As President Bush has said very forthrightly, he thought we were going to find stockpiles of weapons. We haven't. That's why he has commissioned a bipartisan group to look at why that was the case.
But what we have learned and what the David Kay report has learned and what the Charlie Duelfer report has learned is that he did maintain his capabilities that could be turned on a moment's notice to produce those types of weapons, that he did have remaining ties to terrorist organizations. He was funding suicide bombers in the Middle East. This was a very dangerous man in a very dangerous part of the world. And it was right then and it was right now that we removed him from power.
In the course and conduct of a war, not everything goes exactly as you plan. "Every plan," as they say, "is perfect until it meets the enemy." And we have adjusted, and we will continue to adjust. But President Bush believes it was right strategically to remove Saddam Hussein from power then, and he believes it today.
MR. RUSSERT: Is Iraq more dangerous now as a terrorist haven than it was under Saddam Hussein?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, I don't believe it's more dangerous now than it was under Saddam Hussein. It's--over the course of months and years, people forget about the type of brutal dictator he was in which he was killing people indiscriminately, men, women and children, at a whim. He invaded neighbors. He was a destabilizing force in a very critical part of the world. Our country, our world is safer without him. We now have a new challenge with defeating this insurgency. The numbers fluctuate, I know, the number of people we're tackling. But the way we're going to defeat them is to stand up a government by the people and for the people in which the American government and other allies around the world help give them the capabilities to protect their own people. And that's the mission and we will complete it.
MR. RUSSERT: Front page of The New York Times today about Social Security. Employees at the Social Security Administration are complaining that they're being used in a propaganda campaign to support the president's policies to privatize part accounts in Social Security. Will you allow that to happen?
MR. BARTLETT: The Social Security Administration is an independent organization that has a duty to fulfill the obligations of making sure that checks go out and that the solvency of the actual system itself. There's no expectation that career employees would be asked to advocate on behalf of any specific prescription for Social Security. But one thing they can do and what anybody can do is to look at the numbers, and they're undeniable, Tim.
The fact of the matter is is that the Social Security system that was created in the early part of last century is no longer able to keep up with the demands of this century. In 1950, there were 16 workers paying into the system for every retiree. Today there are three workers per every retiree. And by 2040, there will be two workers for every retiree. This is a matter of math, not ideology.
MR. RUSSERT: But privatizing part accounts, partial accounts in Social Security won't solve that problem. There's going to have to be other changes, reduction of benefits, raising the income where people pay tax on Social Security. Simply privatizing accounts will not solve Social Security problems, correct?
MR. BARTLETT: President Bush has put on the table his ideas and principles that will guide a Social Security reform effort. First and foremost, benefits for those on retirement or near retirement will not change. He also said it's important that we don't raise taxes. It would be disastrous for our economy and it would be disastrous for American workers. He also believes that personal accounts are a part of the solution to the problem, to help give people a greater sense of return.
MR. RUSSERT: Part of the solution but not the total solution.
MR. BARTLETT: And he's going to work with both Democrats and Republicans to come up with a plan that will fix the system for good and he's willing to lead on this issue. He's willing to work across party lines to get that accomplished.
MR. RUSSERT: If you were to pay payroll tax on, say, your first million dollars of income, would that be an increase in taxes in the president's mind?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, again, President Bush has talked about the caps, has talked about the issues of payroll taxes. We're not going to be in a position where I, here today, are going to negotiate the details of the plan with ourselves. The president is going to work with Congress to do that.
Now, one thing I will say about the issue of payroll taxes, if you were to remove the cap all together, my understanding of the math shows that only fixes the problem for four years. So that is not a long- term solution in and of itself. But the details like this and like the other ones that were mentioned previously are things that President Bush is willing to work with the Congress on to make sure that we do what is necessary to protect the next generation of retirees from the type of precarious situation we face today.
MR. RUSSERT: Including raising the retirement age for future generations?
MR. BARTLETT: Tim, again, the details of this are going to be worked out between members of Congress and President Bush.
MR. RUSSERT: A lot of concern about this article about using Social Security Administration employees because of the incident involving Armstrong Williams, where the Department of Education gave Mr. Williams and his company $240,000 to help publicize the No Child Left Behind. Did Secretary Paige make a mistake in doing that?
MR. BARTLETT: President Bush has spoken to this issue, and he's made it clear that he believes there ought to be a bright line between those who are journalists and those who are advocates for particular issues. Now, the specifics of the contract itself and who was obligated to do what, I think Armstrong Williams himself has come forward and apologized, saying that he should have fully disclosed...
MR. RUSSERT: But Secretary Paige says it's been reviewed and it's perfectly legal. Did he do something wrong?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, we're going to--there's--he also has said there was an inspector general investigation at the Department of Education. I think we ought to see what that conclusion comes to, and then we'll make judgments based on whether the contract itself was right or wrong. We do believe we shouldn't be doing these things in the future because for appearance sakes, it does leave a cloud or a distinction over whether somebody is being a journalist or an advocate.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Williams said that other journalists have also received money to promote administration policies. Will there be an investigation by you or will you be willing to present to the American people any other journalists who have received money?
MR. BARTLETT: I'm sure there is a review going on within the administration to determine just that.
MR. RUSSERT: There is?
MR. BARTLETT: I believe there to be. I know the Congress has already expressed interest in knowing this issue, and we will work with Congress to see--because the president has made very clear that there ought to be a bright line between journalism and advocacy.
MR. RUSSERT: The president had an interview with The Washington Post and he said he will no longer push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which was quite surprising because in the middle of the campaign in February of 2004, the president said, "We must enact this." In his convention speech, he talked about it. The party platform pledged it. And now he gets re-elected, and he seems to be backing off it. Was this a wedge issue to galvanize evangelical Christians and, now re-elected, the president saying, "Well, you know what? I'm not going to push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage"?
MR. BARTLETT: Absolutely not.
MR. RUSSERT: He'll push for it?
MR. BARTLETT: He has said publicly and he will continue to say publicly that he is for it. What he was speaking to in that specific interview was the vote counting in the United States Senate. Remember, it requires 67 votes to get this passed in the United States Senate. And what the reality there, as this issue was brought forward and debated in the United States Senate, or at least attempted to, was that too many senators believe that the Defense of Marriage Act, the current law on the books, should be challenged or overturned before we take that next step. So President Bush was talking about a legislative reality. That is not going to stop him from spending political capital or continuing to express his position, which he believes, that marriage ought to be between a man and a woman and that we ought to protect this sacred institution from courts that do not reflect the people's will. And that's something that he will continue to advocate and continue to push for.
MR. RUSSERT: But he will push a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the Congress?
MR. BARTLETT: He's for it and he will continue to push for it.
MR. RUSSERT: Hard?
MR. BARTLETT: He will spend political capital to do so. He was just speaking to the legislative reality in the United States Senate.
MR. RUSSERT: What's the biggest problem President Bush will encounter in his second term?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, as we learned in the first term, sometimes you can't predict what's going to happen during the course of a presidency. And that's something President Bush is going to speak to this week, that as president during a time of war, we have to hold true to our ideals, to our values. And he's going to promote a doctrine and agenda and vision that speaks to bringing liberty abroad, to protect our security here at home and to give people here at home more opportunity and more control and more of a stake in our future. And that's a critical point.
So we don't necessarily know what may be the biggest challenges of his second term. What he does know is that there are some big issues that we must confront, this generation of leaders must confront. We must win the war on terror to protect American people. We must continue to grow our economy, to make sure that everybody who can find a job can get a job. We must make sure we do the necessary work and necessary responsibilities when it comes to issues like the retirement system so we don't pass on a broken system to our children and grandchildren. These are big issues, Tim. It's going to require the president to work with members of both parties. He's pledged to do that. It's time for us to put politics aside from the election and get here and do the work of the people.
MR. RUSSERT: Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica Lewinsky--is he aware of the perils that can await someone in the second term?
MR. BARTLETT: He is aware of it, and he is somebody who is holding his staff and his administration and himself to high ethical standards. It'll be a critical message he gives to us as he embarks upon his second term. He feels humbled by the support of the American people and he won't let them down.
MR. RUSSERT: Dan Bartlett, we thank you very much for sharing your views.
MR. BARTLETT: Thanks for having me.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, former advisor to President Clinton, now congressman from Illinois and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Congressman Rahm Emanuel. Then, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and Newsweek's managing editor Jon Meacham talk about presidential inaugurations, past and present, coming up right here, next, on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel, plus our special inauguration roundtable with Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham, after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we're back with the new head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Congressman Rahm Emanuel.
REP. RAHM EMANUEL, (D-IL): Thank you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: How do you think President Bush has handled the situation in Iraq?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, Tim, we have a situation in Iraq. You know, there was basic presumptions made that--I think--and, you know, as Dan said earlier, Dan Bartlett, that, you know, plans go awry. I don't think we had a plan for when after the statue of Saddam Hussein came down. There was not a plan. We thought we were going to go in there, and, you know, on this show, Vice President Cheney said we're going to be greeted as liberators. Well, let me just say this: Iraqis have a very funny way of greeting liberators.
They said it was going to be easy and quick. It's turned out to be long and hard. There was not a plan for the occupation. There was not a plan for an exit strategy. And so at every step of the way, the United States Congress has provided the president the resources he's asked for, the resolution he's asked for. I think the one thing we've asked for back, and one thing the American people deserve, is a modicum of competency in the management of this war. None of the things that we face today in Iraq had to be this way. It's because of the way this has been managed at the Defense Department, in my view.
MR. RUSSERT: You voted--you said you would have voted for the war if you had been in Congress.
REP. EMANUEL: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, knowing that are no weapons of mass destruction, would you still have cast that vote?
REP. EMANUEL: Yes. Well, you could have done--well, as you know, I didn't vote for it. I still believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, OK? But how you go about it and how you execute that war is the problems we face today.
MR. RUSSERT: So even knowing there are no weapons of mass destruction, you would still vote to go into Iraq?
REP. EMANUEL: You can make--you could have made a case that Saddam Hussein was a threat, and what you could have done also, Tim, is worked with other countries, go through the U.N., take the time to do it. Again, the problems with our troops and the country today faces in Iraq isn't about whether we should or should not have gone to war, whether we should or should not have removed Saddam Hussein, it's how they have pursued this war, the lack of planning, the lack of processing, thinking about there was no plan, as you know, for after we removed Saddam Hussein, what would you do. There was no plan for--as you know, before war, you had to have an exit strategy. One has not even been annunciated. There's been a presumption that we were going to be greeted as liberators. There was a presumption this would be quick and easy, and then we can turn the country over. None of that has been laid out, and that has to do with the competency and the planning that goes in, and they did not have a plan for the day after "hostilities ended."
MR. RUSSERT: This is the way Democrats are talking in 2005. But back when they were voting for the war, and three-fourths of both houses of Congress voted to authorize the president to go to war, as a candidate you said you would. And in March of 2003, Congressman Emanuel, your tone was strikingly different. This is what you said.
"I had the fortunate experience of serving in the White House; I knew firsthand what a solitary and difficult decision it is for a President to send our Armed Forces into harm's way. I will remember some of the members of this body, in the midst of conflict, attacking the President--the commander-in-chief-- even even as he worked day-and-night to complete that mission and bring our servicemen and women home safely. It was wrong then. It would be wrong now. I, for one, will not do that to our President ... to our commander-in-chief. I want him to succeed. We should all want him to succeed. So as long as our troops [are] engaged, we should suspend the debate over how and why, focus on the mission, unite as a country, in prayer and resolve, hope for a speedy resolution of this war with a minimum of loss. God bless America."
That's far different than what you're saying today, criticizing the president.
REP. EMANUEL: No. In fact, Tim, what I actually believe it's consistent in this perspective. Not the how and why--not the why about whether we should have gone, but how we pursue that war. And the fact is, I don't think the war today has been handled to date. I think the president came, as you know, for resolution to Congress. He got that. Second, he asked multiple times for the resources to fight that war. He has got that. What we ask in return is a plan.
Now, let me go forward a little on two points. One, he's going to come and ask for now an additional $100 billion. Is that to fight this war the same way? Is it going to be any different? Because if you do it the same way, you're going to get the same results. And second, as that statement referred to, I worked in the White House when the United States Congress did not give the president, as we were on the way to fighting in Kosovo to liberate it and to deal with mass genocide in Europe, and I know what it means when the president of the United States doesn't have the support of Congress.
MR. RUSSERT: What should the president do? What would you do differently?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, first of all, I'm not the president, but what I would do is I would not have happy talk. Stop talking about how everything is just going swimmingly. Level with the American people. Level with the Congress. Tell us the truth of what we're going to do, what it's going to take to do that because the American people and the Congress will then support it.
MR. RUSSERT: What would you do?
REP. EMANUEL: On Iraq?
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah.
REP. EMANUEL: What I think that we have talked about is I think he needs, at least from the American people's perspective, he needs to level with us about what it's going to take, where is the point on the horizon? We still don't have a point on the horizon of what our exit strategy is. Second is if France and Germany won't go to Iraq and participate in the training of the forces, which is what is essential to turn over the country to Iraq, let's set it up, maybe ask Jordan to do it, maybe they'll go into a country there. But we've got to get that police and security force up and running, which it has not been...
MR. RUSSERT: Should we have a specific plan for troop withdrawal?
REP. EMANUEL: I would hope they would have some point on the horizon to think about it.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Social Security and put a quote up on the board.
"...the looming fiscal crisis in Social Security. ...If nothing is done by 2029, there will be a deficit in Social Security trust fund, which will either require...a huge tax increase in the payroll tax, or just about a 25 percent cut in Social Security benefits."
Do you agree with that?
REP. EMANUEL: What I believe--let's talk about Social Security in complex and all that we have to do. Democrats believe in individual retirement plans as a supplement to Social Security. Republicans believe in individual retirement plans as a way to supplant Social Security. Fundamental difference.
MR. RUSSERT: But do you believe there is a looming fiscal crisis in Social Security?
REP. EMANUEL: Looming--I think the crisis--if you want to use the word "crisis"--that we have today, it applies to the fact that people do not have retirement plans on top of Social Security. What crisis implies, Tim, is immediacy. OK? What we have today, 80 percent of the workers in small business have no employer-based retirement plan. Nearly 40 percent of the households have no type of savings plan outside of Social Security.
MR. RUSSERT: But I'm going to bring you back to that quote. Do you agree that if we do nothing, we'll have to either raise taxes or cut benefits?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, no. I think first of all, we're ready to do something on Social Security. But I want to say this. What we can't do, Tim, what we can't do is take the guaranteed retirement benefit for seniors and replace it with a guaranteed fee for Wall Street. As my grandmother would have said, "Such a deal." What the president's talk...
MR. RUSSERT: But the question--what that quote said...
REP. EMANUEL: Who's that quote--the quote is from?
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you.
REP. EMANUEL: No. Who's it from I asked.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you.
REP. EMANUEL: OK.
MR. RUSSERT: William Jefferson Clinton.
REP. EMANUEL: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: "There is a looming fiscal crisis. We either have to cut benefits or raise taxes."
Do you agree with your former employer?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, since you want to bring up President Clinton, my former employer balanced the budget, worked with Democrats and Republicans to do that, had an economy that was growing by 2 1/2 percent to 3 percent. He also created for three years in a row a surplus. Right now what we have is a $7 trillion deficit. In the first four years of the Bush administration, we went from a surplus to adding $2 trillion to the debt of this country. On top of the $7 trillion the economy is carrying today, this president is now talking about borrowing another $2 trillion. And I will say this. One thing you can say about George Bush and the economy is we'll forever be in his debt.
MR. RUSSERT: But let's go back to the issue of Social Security. Here's something else that President Clinton said after he was elected. He was asked by The Wall Street Journal, "Let's run a couple [of deficit cutting measures] by you just to see if you would entertain them: raising the retirement age for Social Security benefits?" "I think it's something we ought to look at, I sure do. ...Now, with the fastest growing group of the population over 80, by the turn of the century the average person could literally spend 20 years in retirement. I think it is something that definitely has to be looked at."
REP. EMANUEL: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree?
REP. EMANUEL: I'm not going to negotiate and talk about the points here. Tim, what I want to tell you is, one, President Clinton talked about a U.S.A. account, which I believe in a universal 401(k) plan, direct deposit of tax-free funds into that plan. Second--the third is a server's credit that is fully refundable. We have a shortage of people saving for their retirement. We need to do that. But the notion that we are going to borrow an additional $2 trillion on top of the $7 trillion of debt that the economy's carrying, the notion that we're going to cut benefits by 40 percent and give millionaires a permanent tax cut, the notion that we're going to privatize Social Security by pulling money out and doing a crap-shoot on it, that takes the security out of Social Security. And I do not believe if you want to say the word "crisis," we have one when it comes to people saving for their retirement. Social Security has a challenge. We're ready to work and meet on that. But we will not participate in scaring people to accomplish some ideological or political objective.
MR. RUSSERT: All right.
REP. EMANUEL: We're going to strengthen Social Security by meeting that challenge.
MR. RUSSERT: We know that President Clinton said it was a looming crisis that either had to cut benefits or raise taxes. George Bush is saying the same thing. George Bush is proposing an alternative of private accounts in part, and the rest of the plan we're not sure of. We do know that the number of people on Social Security is going to double in the next 20 years.
REP. EMANUEL: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: We do know that life expectancy has gone from 65 to 80, so that 80 million people will be on Social Security for 15 to 20 years. Will the Democrats come forward with a specific plan to save Social Security and what will it encompass?
REP. EMANUEL: Yeah. What the Democrats will do is we stand ready to work on the retirement security. I've laid out here just briefly some of the things we are going to deal with helping people establish a retirement plan for themselves in addition to Social Security.
MR. RUSSERT: No, but specifics.
REP. EMANUEL: All right.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me go through a checklist.
REP. EMANUEL: All right.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you consider raising the retirement age?
REP. EMANUEL: Tim, I'm not going to sit here and negotiate it. To quote...
MR. RUSSERT: But why won't the Democrats or the Republicans level with the American people?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, no, we will. Well, first of all, Tim, you talk about leveling with the American people, as you just said, Social Security right now is--in 2042 we face the challenge. He wants to use the word crisis. I think when 80 percent of the workers who work at small businesses have no retirement plan, that to me has an immediacy that uses the word "crisis." When literally nearly 40 percent of the households, 27 million households, have no retirement plan outside of Social Security, that has an immediacy to me. We stand ready to work on that. On the notion of Social Security, on the notion that when you blow all the smoke away, we're talking about raising--borrowing another $2 trillion, cutting benefits up to 40 percent...
MR. RUSSERT: What is your alternative?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, the alternative, as you well know, is we work here, we have an alternative as it relates to retirement plans and helping people develop retirement plans on top of Social Security. I will not tell you what we don't do, and as you know on this show, Tim, and you're smart to what happens in this town, the president proposes and Congress disposes, he'll come forward with his plan. We'll work from there. We stand ready to help strengthen people's retirement security...
MR. RUSSERT: Is this a lesson that you've learned from Mrs. Clinton's health-care plan, where she proposed a plan, the Democrats did not propose any viable alternative, they just sat back and watched that sink? Is that your plan for the president's Social Security plan?
REP. EMANUEL: No, we stand ready to work with him. We will do what we have to to help strengthen retirement plans. But I will tell you--let me just say one cautionary note from the first term to the second term. Go ahead.
MR. RUSSERT: Go ahead.
REP. EMANUEL: No. What I was going to say--if the president's plan and desire in the second term is to work on reform and robust reform, we as a party of reform stand ready to work with that, with the president. On the other hand, if, as in the first term, like on the prescription drug bill, his intention is to reward the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of seniors, or on the corporate tax bill, take a $5 billion problem and make it a $150 billion giveaway that the taxpayers had to pay, or like on the energy bill, help the energy companies and not do anything for America's energy independence, that is a reward for the special interests. It is not a way to resolve issues.
We stand ready to reform, to resolve those issues, but we will not be a partner in a political process that rewards the special interests in this town. And so we will fight him on that, but we stand ready to work with him if it's true reform, like he did when it was Leave No Child Behind. That was the--and so if that president shows up, he's got a partner in the Democrats. If it's the president that did the prescription drug bill that was a $150 billion giveaway to the prescription drug companies at the expense of our seniors, he'll have a fight.
MR. RUSSERT: Having gone through the second term with President Clinton, what advice would you give President Bush for his second term?
REP. EMANUEL: What advice would I give President Bush? I think that...
MR. RUSSERT: What should he watch out for?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, I always used to say at the White House, if we knew in the first year of the first term what we knew by the second year of the--first year of the second term, history would be different. Nothing prepares you, whether you're a vice president and then become president, for the White House. It's a different place. And by the second term, you kind of got that combination, etc. I suppose the one piece of cautionary tale--and it's not cautionary. There is a notion that you don't really accomplish anything in the back half of your second term, back two years. I think that's absolutely wrong. Ronald Reagan did welfare reform. President Clinton did the China WTO, which was a major trade negotiation. And it all happened in the second part of the second term. He also did the war in Kosovo, bringing stability to that part...
MR. RUSSERT: So full speed ahead? That's your advice?
REP. EMANUEL: The notion that it's one year and then it just kind of wanes down, absolutely wrong. And this is a president that clearly stays engaged and looks forward to those fights. He will have--and battles. He will have a Democratic Party ready to work with him if he wants to resolve the issues facing the country, but he will have a fight on his hands if it's an attempt to reward the special interests and call it a crisis when, in fact, it's not.
MR. RUSSERT: Rahm Emanuel, we thank you very much for sharing your views.
REP. EMANUEL: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, we'll talk about the second inauguration of George W. Bush and other inaugurations throughout our history with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham of Newsweek magazine. Then our MEET THE PRESS Minute from almost 38 years ago. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Presidential inaugurations--Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Meacham. Welcome, both.
MR. JON MEACHAM: Thanks.
MR. RUSSERT: Reading through the books of history, it seems that the two that historians put a big asterisk next to saying, "Read this one": Abraham Lincoln's first, March 4, 1865: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
And Franklin Roosevelt, March 4, 1933. We have the audio of that.
(Audiotape, March 4, 1933):
PRES. FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: But the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
(End of audiotape)
MR. RUSSERT: Doris, you agree, disagree?
MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: I agree totally. I mean, taking FDR's first, I mean, it wasn't simply those words that he said but he brought with him this confidence, this boldness, this sense that "You people out there may feel that you are being hurt individually by the Depression. I'm going to make you an army, and I'm going to lead the army, and I'm going to get you out of this." It was incredible. I mean, thousands of letters came into the White House. One guy wrote to Roosevelt after that, and he said, you know, "My roof is falling off, my wife is mad at me, my dog has bit me. It doesn't matter; you're there. Everything is going to be all right."
And what happens with Abraham Lincoln's--obviously, those words last in history. No one could write like Abraham Lincoln, except maybe Thomas Jefferson. And it's more than that, though. Here he could have been triumphant. The Union was on the verge of winning the war, and he reaches out with empathy to the other side, which is probably the most important thing that a political figure can do. So those are the two that I'd choose.
MR. RUSSERT: Lincoln, Roosevelt?
MR. MEACHAM: Absolutely. The interesting little detail about Lincoln is when he raised his right hand, his left hand was on Revelation 16:7, which is a line from the Bible that says, "And out of the temple came a voice saying, `It is done.'" And, of course, he died six weeks later.
And so there was a kind of--he always had a tragic sense of himself, obviously, but one wonders when he picked that verse whether he had a certain sense of finality. And President Roosevelt, absolutely. You know, the bit of the sentence after, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," he calls it "nameless paralyzing fear." And he was putting a name on our problems, and by naming them and defining them he was mobilizing us to attack them.
MR. RUSSERT: It's quite interesting, also, John Kennedy's famous speech, what I remember so clearly, in January of '61, and then Richard Nixon in 1973 in his second term tried to imitate Kennedy's words.
MR. MEACHAM: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: It's fascinating. Let's watch John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
(Videotape, January 20, 1951):
PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY: And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
(Videotape, January 20, 1973):
PRES. RICHARD NIXON: In our own lives, let each of us ask not just, "What will government do for me?" but "What can I do for myself?" In the challenges we face together, let each of us ask not just "How can government help," but "How can I help?"
MR. RUSSERT: Jon Meacham.
MR. MEACHAM: And we all know how that term turned out. Perhaps we should have known then. I think it's a great example of really one of the things that drove President Nixon to the fate he met, which was an obsession with John Kennedy, who defeated him very narrowly, 50,000 votes or so, in 1960. Remember the great line of President Kennedy, when an aide had been described as "coruscatingly brilliant," and Kennedy said to Ben Bradley, "You know, remember, another 50,000 votes the other way and we'd all be coruscatingly stupid." But Nixon was always trying to sort of do something on tippy-toes and it didn't quite work.
MS. GOODWIN: You know, the story is told that when John Kennedy was going to a pre-inaugural concert the night before his inauguration, on the program it had Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural, and he turned and he said, "Better than mine, better than mine." I mean, that's the kind of wit and sort of humility and looking to the past, not to copy it but to realize that everyone has their moment and you've got to try and make it yours.
MR. MEACHAM: One thing about the Kennedy inaugural, too, is the last line of that speech is "On Earth God's work must truly be our own." And it's a very interesting speech in that it unfolds in a kind of Augustinian way, that we should be patient in tribulation, that we're fighting the long twilight struggle. It's a very interesting, religiously themed speech. You know?
MR. RUSSERT: "Let us go forth asking his blessing and his help."
MR. MEACHAM: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: "But knowing that here on Earth God's work must truly be our own."
MR. MEACHAM: Right.
MS. GOODWIN: Exactly. The other thing, I think, is that when he talked about the torch being passed to a new generation, if it hadn't been followed by the civil rights movement, by the young people joining Peace Corps and Vista, it wouldn't have the same historical meaning that it does to us now because we saw this extraordinary activism that produced the activism of the 1960s.
MR. RUSSERT: David Von Drehle, in The Washington Post, wrote a great summary of inaugural speeches way back in 1997. He referred to Warren Harding's speech, and this is amazing. I'm going to put it on the screen and try to read it.
"We have mistaken unpreparedness to embrace it to be a challenge of the reality and due concern for making all citizens fit for participation will give added strength of citizenship and magnify our achievement."
H.L. Mencken said it was a "sonorous nonsense driven home with gestures."
MS. GOODWIN: In fact, he said it was so terrible, Mencken did, that it had a certain grandeur to it.
MR. RUSSERT: Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, Doris and Jon, he spoke less than two minutes, it was 135--excuse me, George Washington, second inaugural, less than two minutes, only 135 words.
MS. GOODWIN: Would that we had more people following that today.
MR. RUSSERT: But his first inaugural, they really wanted to have a majestic ceremony for a king.
MS. GOODWIN: Oh, well, that was the whole question. Are we creating a king or is it some Republican kind of person? They say that George Washington originally wanted to come in with a gold costume on, and he wanted to come in on white horses. And they persuaded him a brown suit with gold buttons and brown horses coming in. But he had the dignity that we needed at that time without question. He didn't need the gold.
MR. MEACHAM: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Jon Meacham, let me get your reaction to this. William Henry Harrison, March 4, 1841. There he is. He spoke at his inaugural for nearly two hours. It was bitter cold. He contracted pneumonia 31 days later. He died in office. And there he is on his deathbed.
MR. MEACHAM: Well, the age of Harrison, Tim, has a lot of various dimensions to it, obviously. He was remarkable. One theory is that in the White House, he was so sick and he was being sought by office seekers, people wanting appointments. And this was the legacy of Andrew Jackson's spoil system, that he literally couldn't get well, that he had people coming into his bedroom. But brevity is often not only the soul of wit but the soul of state craft. I think the best inaugurals, the best speeches, Faulkner's Nobel Prize speech was very short. I think Franklin Roosevelt's 1945 address is an unjustly overlooked one in many ways, and it's about 750 words.
MS. GOODWIN: But, you know, what happens to Harrison is that he was 68 years old, and he thought he had to appear as a rugged frontiersman. So he wouldn't wear a hat. He wouldn't wear a coat. So he brought about the pneumonia that undid him in the end. Having these things outdoors is maybe something we should have thought twice about. Evidently in Monroe's time, they were all indoors. But they kept fighting in the Congress about who could have seats from the Congress or the Senate. So that's why they went outside. There are more seats. But it's led us to these very cold inaugurals.
MR. RUSSERT: Jon mentioned Franklin Roosevelt, 1945. It was in the middle of World War II. His son-in-law actually took video of that inaugural address, and here is a part of it.
(Videotape, January 20, 1945):
PRES. ROOSEVELT: Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, my friends, you will understand and I believe agree with my wish that the form of this inauguration be simple and its words brief. We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a period of supreme test. It is a test of our courage, of our resolve, of our wisdom, of our essential democracy. If we meet that test successfully and honorably, we shall perform a service of historic importance, of historic importance which men and women and children will honor throughout all time.
MR. RUSSERT: Roosevelt very much did not want a big parade, a lot of pomp and circumstance because we were in war.
MR. MEACHAM: He was in a press conference shortly beforehand. And Congress had appropriated $25,000. And he said, "I can do it for $2," and made a point of that. When someone asked, "Well, how long will the parade be?" He said, "Who's here to parade?" because so many people were overseas. I think that's a remarkable speech.
Robert Sherwood, the great playwright, wrote a good bit of it. One of the lines in is, "We have learned in this war that we cannot live alone at peace and that, with Emerson, the only way to have a friend is to be one." And in many ways I think that speech is kind of an encapsulation of the creed of the world that we've lived in since, that the world is a neighborhood with nations in it and that America is an unfinished experiment.
MR. RUSSERT: Doris, thinking of President Bush now, second inaugural. We're in a war with Iraq. In his second term, President Clinton gave a news conference shortly after his re-election. And he said there are three factors that can affect a second-term presidency: external events, a president thinking that he has more of a mandate than he does, hubris if you will, and simply running out of steam. What does George Bush have to do on Thursday? We are in a war and yet we are having an inauguration, and in terms of a second term?
MS. GOODWIN: Well, clearly I think he's not going to be one to run out of steam. I mean, it seems like he's already signaling to the country that he's going to have an even bolder agenda in the second term. So it may be that the worry will be for him overreaching rather than not doing enough. And I think it's a natural thing that happens. A person has been in the presidency for four years, "Hail to the Chief" is played. As they walk in a room, people stand up. Even though people may tell him the truth some of the times, a lot of the other people are telling him what he wants to hear, and he's not gotten an election to keep him straight after that. So they have to just look at themselves and say, "Did I really win this election on Iraq?" as he's now saying that people gave him accountability on Iraq, or, "Did I win it because they didn't like John Kerry as much as me on the war on terror?" I think they have to be straight about their strengths and weaknesses from the first term if they're going to learn from it for the second.
MR. RUSSERT: In his first inauguration, Jon Meacham, is handing the Bible open to a verse which you've written and talked about?
MR. MEACHAM: Well, it was actually raining so they couldn't open it, but he quoted a wonderful line from the Founding Fathers that "There must be an angel in this whirlwind directing this storm." And I think if you look back at that, you begin to see his theological views which have informed his presidency in many ways. And I think, to go to Doris' point, he sees himself as a soldier of democracy, as a transformative president, as a great president. Many great presidents, all of them I would almost argue, Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Reagan, inspire great hatred and great loyalty. And certainly this president does that. And I think he will want to lay out his vision, and if he believes he's on a mission for something as big as democracy, he is going to want to think big and talk big.
MR. RUSSERT: Beware of second terms.
MS. GOODWIN: Well, second terms traditionally have not done well. They call them the second-term blues. Think about it: Watergate, Iran Contra, League of Nations for Wilson, but on the other hand, the presidents who go down in history have a second term. The ones who don't get it do even worse.
MR. MEACHAM: That's true, but President Reagan also got Gorbachev and the arms control deal, so...
MS. GOODWIN: Right. Exactly.
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. Jon Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin. And we'll be right back. Our MEET THE PRESS Minute with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
Yesterday would have been Martin Luther King's 76th birthday. Tomorrow the nation celebrates his legacy with a federal holiday and a call to a national day of service. Dr. King appeared on MEET THE PRESS almost 38 years ago as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and spoke optimistically about his vision for race relations in this country.
(Videotape, August 13, 1967):
MR. SIMEON BOOKER: Dr. King, do you believe that the American racial problem can be solved?
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Yes, I do. I refuse to give up. I refuse to despair in this moment. I refuse to allow myself to fall into the dark chambers of pessimism, because I think in any social revolution, the one thing that keeps it going is hope, and when hope dies, somehow the revolution degenerates into a kind of nihilistic philosophy which says you must engage in disruption for disruption's sake. I refuse to believe that. However difficult it is, I believe that the forces of goodwill, white and black in this country, can work together to bring about a resolution of this problem. We have the resources to do it. At present we don't have the will. But certainly the Negroes and the decent committed whites--maybe they're in a minority now, but they're there--must work together to so arouse the conscience of this nation and at the same time to so articulate the issue through direct action and powerful action programs that our demands can no longer be eluded by the government or by Congress or all of the forces in power.
MR. RUSSERT: That was Dr. King's final appearance on MEET THE PRESS. Eight months later, on April 4, 1968, he was shot dead in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old.
And we'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Complete inaugural coverage all day Thursday on NBC and MSNBC. That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.
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