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Notes from the December 5, 2010 broadcast of Meet The Press

December 5, 2010

Today’s first guest was Senator Mitch McConnell(R-KY). He said negotiations on extending the tax cuts are ongoing, but refused to say what was evolving in their talks. He predicts Congress will extend expiring jobless benefits.

On the START treaty, he “has no idea” if it will be ratified, and he has not made up his mind on how he will vote.

Regarding the Deficit Commission report, McConnell says the message is that you cannot do entitlement reform with just one party. He would not commit to backing the full package from the Commission even though host David Gregory pushed him hard.

On Wikileak’s Julian Assange, “I think the man is a high tech terrorist. He has done enormous damage to our country.”

When asked, do you think Barack Obama can become a born-again moderate?, McConnell answered, “I hope so.”

Finally, McConnell does not think there will be a Senate vote on “don’t ask, don’t tell” before the end of the year.

Next up was Senator John Kerry (D-MA). One production note first: When Meet The Press has two leading Senators as guests, why interview them sequentially? I think the audience would benefit more from seeing them questioned side-by-side. On Face The Nation this morning, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) were interviewed together. Did McConnell and/or Kerry refuse to talk at the same time?

Kerry began by saying the Republicans are fighting to keep in place a tax policy which has failed. Furthermore, they are willing to hold unemployment benefits hostage in order to give millionaires tax cuts.

On our future economy, Kerry said 90% of global investment in green jobs is being done outside the United States. “Two years ago, China produced 5% of the world’s solar panels. Today they produce 60%. We are not even in the game,” he said.

Back on the tax cuts, Gregory asked Kerry to explain why the president is caving. Kerry said, “He’s not. He insisted on the votes yesterday so the American people can see what we are fighting for.” If you give a tax break to a top earner, 30 cents of the dollar goes back into the US economy. But with unemployment benefits, you get 1.60 back into the economy for each dollar given.

Kerry also said Wall Street should be singing the praises of this president. We have had a 60% increase in the stock market in the last two years. When does that happen?

Finally on Wikileaks, Kerry said this is nothing like the old Pentagon Papers. This is just voyeurism, and it has done damage.

In the roundtable, David Brooks said 65% of Americans think the US is in decline. “I can’t remember a sense of decline that has lasted this long.”

Mike Murphy predicts we will get a deal in Congress on tax cuts, unemployment benefits, and the START treaty.

Gregory mentions that Tom Friedman’s “WikiChina” column was very popular this week. Friedman said the point was that Americans are polarized about all the wrong things. (You can read the column here. I recommend it.)

Brooks agrees there is a reluctance among politicians to publicly talk about sacrifice. But, he adds, there are private, serious conversations happening all over Washington (including at the White House and in Congress) about serious entitlement reform and serious tax reform.

Friedman: We are doing things that are small and easy. Americans want DC to do things that are big, hard, and visionary.

For the second time today, Gregory displayed a poll showing that at this point in their presidencies, Reagan and Clinton both had a 43% approval rating while Obama’s rating is at 45%. So perhaps the president is not a politically weak as some people think?

Brooks dumped cold water on that idea. He said those numbers are national, and we don’t elect presidents nationally. Obama is weak in Ohio and Indiana, where it matters. And, according to Brooks, the other big story regarding the president’s political standing is the collapse of liberal morale. They are disappointed that Obama is not fighting for their beliefs.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

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