April Plouffe, Ryan, roundtable - Meet the Press - Transcripts | NBC News
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Will he lay out a plan to reform entitlements? Medicare, Social Security, the biggest drivers of our debt. Well, I'll let the president speak for himself later in the week, but I will say this Why is this a secret? We know that these are huge issues. If you're serious about debt--tackling the debt, don't you have to do that? Well, in terms of specifics, let me say this, he has said--he said this in the State of the Union, even though his healthcare reform plan which, by the way, many Congressional Republicans want to repeal, so they'll have to explain how they're going to make up the trillion dollars in deficit reduction.
So we've had a lot of savings in health care, we have to do more. So you're going to have to look at Medicare and Medicaid and see what kind of savings you can get. First, squeezing them out of the system before you squeeze seniors. Secondly, on Social Security, what he said is that is not a driver right now of significant costs, but in the process of sitting down and talking about our spending and our programs, if there can be a discussion about how to strengthen Social Security in the future, he's eager to have that discussion.
Is this plan, Congressman Ryan's plan, dead on arrival? Well, listen, certainly the president is not going to support a lot of what's in that plan. Any chance that this gets passed? It may pass the House. It's not going to become law. So that's a choice you're making. You--but you bring up taxes, though.
Is--in the president's plan, as he envisions tackling the deficit, do taxes have to go up? Does that have to be part of this equation across the board? Well, this is part of his budget for next year. Can you tackle the deficit without raising taxes on even the middle class? I think the president's goal, and he's been clear about this, is to protect the middle class as we move forward here.
So people like him, as he'll say, who've been very fortunate in life, have the ability to pay a little bit more.
So this is the important thing, you're making a choice. You're asking seniors and the middle class to pay more. You wouldn't be having to do that if you weren't giving the very, very wealthiest in this country just enormous tax relief. So no--still, no new taxes on the middle class. That's a re-election pledge. Well, the president's been very clear. And first of all, I'd say, in his term in office, he's cut taxes for the middle class over and over again. Just at the end of last year, the parties came together to extend tax cuts for the middle class.
Also passed a payroll tax cut, giving the average family thousands of dollars this year, which has been a huge driver in terms of helping the economy. But also as families are dealing with higher gas and food prices, the ability to shoulder those a little bit easier.
I want to follow and close here on another pledge that the president made in the course of the campaign, having to do with the prison down at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This is what he said in the course of the campaign. He has not closed Guantanamo, one of his first promises as president. Was that promise a fundamental misreading of the practicalities and all of the issues, very difficult issues involved in shutting down that prison?
And I think the president has tried to follow through, and with great success in most areas, on the commitments he made to the American people. In this particular case--and listen, the president's been clear and we've had some success with civilian trials, with terrorism suspects. But he also said there is a place for military commissions. It was clear--here we are almost 10 years fromwith K.
And so that was the decision that the attorney general made and the president concurred with. But he misread his ability to shut down Guantanamo in a time of war against terrorists. Well, I think he's tried very hard to do it, as you know.
There's obviously steep resistance in the Congress. And what the president has to do is make a decision. So you could either have K. We'll leave it there.
Plouffe, thank you very much. Thanks for having me. Good to be here. I want to start with you where I started with Mr. How much responsibility do Republicans take for this spectacle of a near shutdown of the government? And shouldn't you all be embarrassed? Well, we're here because the Democrats didn't pass a budget last year.
I mean, for the first time sincethe House didn't even bother to try passing a budget last year. So that's why we're here. Now, I feel like we had a pretty good outcome. We represented one-third of the negotiators, but we got two-thirds of the spending cuts we were asking for.
This is really still a drop in the bucket. We want to move from talking about saving billions of dollars to going on to saving trillions of dollars. And that's, indeed, what's in the substance of your budget. But what about the debt ceiling fight? The front page of the paper this morning, that's the next big fight ahead. You heard Senator Hutchinson say that's going to be Armageddon. What has to happen for you and others to be satisfied that, OK, we can raise the debt ceiling?
Well, I'm pleased with what David Plouffe just said because I think that was a policy change. Tim Geithner's always been saying he wants just a stand-alone debt ceiling increase.
We've never been in favor of that. Now he's saying things can go as a part of this. So we believe, accompanying any debt ceiling, you need real fiscal reforms, real spending cuts, and real spending controls going forward so we can deal with the debt in the future. The debt ceiling is hitting 14 trillion in probably the end of May because of past spending. We want to make sure that future spending doesn't give us this problem in the future.
But will there be specific reforms or cuts that have to be in place? Yes, I think so. I think that is what we're looking for. Well, we--I don't want to get into our negotiations, but real spending cuts and real spending controls, real caps on spending going forward so we can take pressure off the debt and get this country on the right fiscal path. But what's to think that we're not going to be right back to where we were this week when the next bigger fight over bigger numbers comes to pass?
I'm not saying we're not going to be.
Transcript for May 16
I think there will be some kind of negotiations. And, yes, it probably will go up to some sort of a deadline. The debt ceiling deadline is a moving deadline.
It's not a date certain deadline like the government shutdown. Our strategy is not to default. Our strategy is to get spending under control. Let's talk about--I mean, this is the political environment that you're operating in as you produce the Path to Prosperity And it was very interesting.
I've heard this before. Look, it really doesn't matter to me. What matters is we try to fix the country's problems. Look, let me just show you. This is the debt that the CBO says we're going to have. We're giving our children a lower standard of living. Our plan pays the debt off. So we really believe we need to own up to the fact that the country is on an unsustainable path and we've got to do something to fix this. But you're the budget chairman, you have your charts, I understand.
I've got many more if you want me to I know you do. But I know you also have a reality. You just heard David Plouffe say This might pass the House, it's not going to pass the Senate. It's certainly not going to become law.
Is this more of a campaign document for ? No, not at all. We need a clean break from the politics of the past. Both parties do this to each other. Both parties use hyper rhetoric, both parties use all of this demagoguery. We have political paralysis and we don't fix the country's problems, but we have a debt crisis staring us in the face.
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And that's what's got to get fixed. Well, let's--and let's talk about some of the details and then, and then go through some of the items that are in your plan, just to give our viewers some context. We'll put it up on the screen. With regard to Medicare, starting inwould no longer be an open-ended entitlement, which we'll talk about. Medicaid would also be changed. It would become a block grant to states, billion cut over 10 years.
The Bush tax cuts would be made permanent. Something you should know the president opposes. And for individuals and businesses, the top rate would be cut to 25 percent from 35 percent. Now you can expect that Democrats would come out and oppose this. And to your mind, even demagogue it. Let me put it on the screen. As a result, [it] relies on much larger reductions in domestic discretionary spending than does the Commission proposal, while also calling for savings in some safety net programs - cuts which would place a disproportionately adverse effect on certain disadvantaged populations.
This is not a shared sacrifice document. Actually, if you read that earlier part of their statement, they said it's an honest, serious, incredible proposal. A couple of things: We basically take the thrust of the--I was on the fiscal commission, we agree I believe we should accelerate the date of the elections. I think that many parts of the country, including in Baghdad, that we could have these elections. They may be flawed but the quicker we turn the government of the Iraqi people over to the Iraqi people, the more it will be then the insurgents verses the Iraqi government rather than the insurgents against us.
And I would accelerate the timetable for the elections and I would certainly enter into the status of forces agreement so that we would know exactly the relationship between the U.
About the same as John. I would make this about the Iraqi people, not about us. Look, it's real simple. Why are we there? We're there now to make sure the Iraqis end up with a government.
What kind of government? One that's secure, its own borders, is representative, is not a threat to its neighbors and does not have weapons of mass destruction. How do you get there? You get there by an election.
An election is going to take place, hopefully in November or December of What do you need to do that? You need more security and more legitimacy. Right now, 82 percent of the people don't want us there. This new government we're going to get, they're not going to be happy if they wake up on July the 1st and there are stillAmericans and no one else.
We need a contact group. We need to get to the major powers and, say, "Look, here's the deal, guys. Sign on to Brahimi's plan. Help us pass a resolution that is a NATO-led multilateral force to be in place for Iraq," giving an excuse to the Iraqi government to be able to cooperate. This is about presidential leadership.
That's what it takes. It needs a president. I don't believe this is lost. I believe it will be lost if the president does not lead. Senator McCain, should the president embark on such a mission, meeting with Putin, Chirac and Schroeder?
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As well as Blair. I think he should. I think he should at every opportunity and I think that we should encourage more U. I think the likelihood of that happening is not good. We have to increase U. But let me just say that the Iraqi people don't want Americans there as occupiers. But if the Iraqi people saw us there as a way to provide security and to bolster the government and help them make this transition, I think these numbers would be very different. I'm sorry to tell you, because of many of the errors in the past, the bulk of the responsibility is going to lie with America.
But should President Bush seek help wherever he can? But it's still going to be America's mission. Tim, it is America's mission.
Ninety percent of the troops will remain American. We've got to change the face of it, though. I want a NATO label on it. That, in turn, will get additional likelihood of Muslim countries being willing to participate. But the additional U. But you need legitimacy along with it, Tim. And the legitimacy requires to give the new Iraqi government excuse to say, "It's not the same old deal.
Senator McCain, you know politics is politics. If 82 percent of the Iraqi people don't want U. And what happens in those elected Iraqis say, "We don't want you here? Well, again, I just have to repeat what I said before. I believe that the religious leaders, the Shiites who have now turned on al-Sadr, and others understand that they cannot let an insurgency take over their country in ensuing chaos and return to some kind of authoritarian government.
I believe that if there's a relationship where the United States of America and our allies--and I'm not that much in disagreement with Joe--do provide the security to make that government function well, then I think the Iraqi people would appreciate it.
Eighty-two percent of them want us out because they don't want us governing their country, and I understand that. Senator Biden, we have a situation where Mr.
We have a situation where Saddam's military is in charge of Fallujah. When you look at the situation in Iraq now, are you optimistic that it can get to a democracy anytime soon? I've never been of the view, never once said that I thought there could be a democracy in the terms of a liberal Western democracy. My greatest hope would be that there'd be a representative government, secure within its own borders, where the bulk of the Iraqi people thought they had a stake in the outcome of that government.
I still think that's possible, but, Tim, I'm not playing a game here. It requires presidential leadership. I met with the president on Wednesday and he asked me the same question. President, you sit in a chair that commands worldwide respect and you have a reputation for moral clarity.
It's time for you to lead, Mr. I want this administration to stop walking and reacting. They walk and they react. There's no sense of urgency here. Senator McCain, do you think the Bush administration understands the sense of urgency necessary to deal with Iraq at this moment?
I think they're beginning to. I think the increase in troops, which actually has taken place and more may be needed, is an indication of that.
I believe this commitment to hold firm to the June 30 date. As was mentioned earlier, mistakes happen in war. That's why we try to avoid them. Mistakes have been made. I think we all acknowledge that. The important thing is, we are in a crucial time. This is the point where we can still achieve success in Iraq if we get a legitimate election and a legitimate government in power. And now's the time that, yes, we need presidential leadership and we need congressional leadership, and we have to understand that if we lose this conflict, the consequences are enormous.
And the benefits of success are also enormous. Let me turn to the whole issue of the alleged torture of Iraqi prisoners. Senator Ted Kennedy on Monday took to the floor of the Senate and made this observation: On March 19,President Bush asked: Who would prefer Saddam's torture chambers still be open? Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U. Is that appropriate, Senator Biden?
I think it's a little harsh. Look, I don't think they're nearly equivalent, but I do think that the damage done by the treatment of Iraqi prisoners, and we saw the pictures and John--look, I yield to John totally on this. I think John has been absolutely eloquent about the lack of facility, the lack of success that comes with this kind of treatment. And it just undermines us.
Big nations can't act small. Noble nations can't act meanly. It is not comparable to say that, "Well, they do it; therefore, we can do it similarly. But it is as damaging to us as Saddam's actions were to his reputation. Senator McCain, there is a debate within your Republican Party as to how to deal with this particular issue.
Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma on Tuesday offered this: I have to say--and I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment. End videotape Advertise Russert: You were someone who was tortured in a North Vietnamese prison cell.
Can you talk about torture of a soldier and how you see it as relates to this particular allegation against U. Tim, I believe my view is shaped more by my view of the role of America and the world than whether I was in a prison camp more than 30 years ago.
I adhere to Wilsonian principles. I believe we are the noblest experiment in the history of the world, and now we are the world's superpower and we have the opportunity to bring democracy and freedom to every part of the world, not through bullets and Humvees but through our example. With all our problems and flaws that we have, which I point out almost every day, we are an incredible example to the world.
We are a shining city on a hill. And what this does is that it diminishes our reputation so dramatically. You're going to see pictures of that guard with a leash on an Iraqi in Burma and in Belarus. And that's a huge penalty that we'll be paying for the sins of a few or some. We still don't know how systemic this was and all the ramifications of it. We've got to get to the bottom of it. We've got to prove that we as a nation punish those--another difference between us and Saddam Hussein In many countries that are criticizing us today, it is common practice.
But that doesn't matter. We distinguish ourselves by our treatment of our enemies. And there are conventions for the treatment of prisoners of war. And my view in Iraq, they were violated and we cannot let this happen again. And you got to get everything out as quickly as possible. Take remedial action and move forward and take the measures that we were talking about earlier in the program.
So you are not outraged by the outrage? I'm saddened by what it hurts the reputation of our brave young men and women who are serving with such honor and sacrifice. But I'm also saddened by the image of America in the world. There are prisons all over the world that are looking for our adherence to human rights, the people are, and that we will bring about their freedom.
This diminishes our ability to achieve that goal. Senator Biden, as I mentioned to Secretary Powell, New Yorker magazine has an article today talking about Operation Copper Green, which suggests that this coercion was instructed by the highest levels of the Pentagon. The Pentagon is denying that. Newsweek reports, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales wrote a memo back in suggesting that the Geneva Accords' strict limitations had become somewhat obsolete and rendered quaint.
How high up do you believe this scandal may go? It's much higher than these young guards. Look, there's obviously, at a minimum, a policy of a studied ambiguity here, Tim. There is plausible deniabilities built in everywhere here. There's sort of the morphing of the rules of treatment. We can treat al-Qaeda this way and we can't treat prisoners captured this way, but where do insurgents fit, etc.? This is a dangerous slope. And, look, we're talking about democracy in the Middle East. The single most essential element of democracy is accountability.
There is no accountability so far. It cannot be just those people in that prison. It doesn't seem rational, based on my experience.
And another piece of this is, where is this notion of the for the good of the country? Where's the nobility of this administration, somebody, coming forward and saying more than, "I take responsibility but I have--but there are no consequences here"? I mean, look, it's not merely whether or not they were involved, it's whether or not they should have known and didn't do anything.
The rest of the world, as John is saying, is looking for who is responsible. Are we different than other nations?