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Notes from the February 20, 2011 broadcast of Meet The Press

February 20, 2011

Today’s broadcast began with a recap of protests spreading across the Middle East. “We are seeing a yearning for change… and we support that,” said first guest, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. When asked about protests in Bahrain, home to an important US naval base, Rice said the US has been clear with the government there that they must show restraint and engage in dialogue with the opposition.

Host David Gregory says governments in the region must see us as inconsistent in our approaches to these protest movements. Rice disagrees.

Gregory asked about the investigation into attacks on CBS News’ Lara Logan in Cairo. Rice says we are pushing the new Egyptian government for answers, but nothing yet.

Gregory eventually asked Rice about the news story which has truly occupied most of her time over the last week: the US decision to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for building more settlements in disputed territory. Remember that the US is one of only five countries in the world with the right to veto any action in the UN Security Council, but the Obama Administration has not used that power until this week. This is one of those rare occasions when the foreign policy priorities of an Administration become very real and tangible. It deserved more discussion.

Next up were Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC). On the question of consistency in US approaches to Middle East protests, Graham says we should be encouraging old friends in the region to do better and working to replace old enemies.

On the budget, Gregory pointed out that the President has now submitted a budget proposal for next year, but Congress spent all week arguing about this year’s budget. Both sides say they don’t want a government shutdown to be a consequence of this debate. But it seems to be more and more inevitable. They engaged in a long discussion about the budget with no new ground covered.

On the battle in Wisconsin, Graham said the President should be more focused on DC. But both Durbin and Graham did a good job of separating out the Wisconsin budget woes from the debate over whether or not workers should have collective bargaining rights. The workers seem to have given in to the Governor’s budget requests, but the collective bargaining issue is a political matter which should be solved outside of the budget debate.

In the roundtable discussion, Gregory showed a quote from the the New York Times which said Wisconsin looked more like the Mid East than the Midwest this week. The opening discussion here was also about separating the politics of collective bargaining from the budget battle.

CNBC’s Rick Santelli was a member of the roundtable today, but I am not sure he adds anything constructive to the dialogue. In his first remarks he actually injected 9/11 into the collective bargaining discussion. Is this really the direction Meet The Press producers want to go?

The roundtable also spent quite a while chewing over the “leadership” issue on the budget process. This was more than a little tedious.

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm said the potential government shut down is a lose-lose proposition for both sides. She said that the public will dislike everyone if they allow this to happen.

The obligatory discussion of 2012 presidential politics started with a New Hampshire poll showing Mitt Romney with a large lead over all rivals for the GOP nomination. But no one in the roundtable had any predictions to make or original to say.

The broadcast closed with a tribute to former Meet The Press moderator Bill Monroe who died earlier this week.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

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