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Notes from the December 9, 2012 Broadcast of Meet The Press

December 9, 2012

Meet the Press this morning opened with a discussion of developments in Syria. NBC’s Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel reported live from Aleppo, Syria. The Assad regime is increasing their attacks on the rebels, Engel said. The rebels are completely unprepared for the use of chemical weapons, like sarin gas, by the government. Engel also said the rebels are “not very encouraged” by the warnings they hear from President Barack Obama aimed at the Syrian government.

Host David Gregory next spoke with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic who said the rebels are “probably correct to doubt” that the US could do anything if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons. Goldberg added that there is no Obama doctrine here other than “passivity.”

Helen Cooper of the New York Times disagreed saying “It’s hard for me to imagine them not doing anything” in the case of chemical weapons. Goldberg said that the chemical weapon redline, if it exists, may also have the unintended effect of giving the Assad government free rein to do anything they want up to using chemical weapons.

All Rights NBC NewsNext up was the fiscal cliff with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Their opening comments summarized the overall problem: McCarthy said raising rates won’t solve the problem; Durbin said if you don’t raise the rates on the top 2%, you can’t have meaningful deficit reduction.

Gregory played a quote from Republican Senator Tom Coburn saying the final deal actually could include increased tax rates on the top 2%. Congressman McCarthy did not agree.

Gregory was tough on both guests in this segment. McCarthy tried to say that the proposed tax increases would hurt small businesses. Durbin countered that 97% of US businesses would be exempt from the increase, and 98% of individuals would be exempt.

In the roundtable, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said the president won the election, and he now wants to prove he can dominate. “So at some point we will either go over the cliff, or there’ll be some kind of dramatic concession to the president,” said Gingrich.

The Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward said, “It really is down to Obama and [Speaker] Boehner at the table.” Woodward predicts Republicans will give in on rate increases.

Bloomberg’s Julianna Goldman said that the president wants to hold firm in the short term but signal flexibility on many things in the long-term. Cooper reported the people in the White House are feeling “so much cockier than they were a year and half ago,” when it comes to these negotiations.

The group discussed the perception that the White House is prepared to go over the fiscal cliff if they can’t get what they want in negotiations. All seemed to agree that this path was politically and economically dangerous. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell predicted that, if we do go over the cliff at year’s end, there will be quick action by Congress to solve the mess, as soon as January 3rd or 4th.

The group concluded with discussion of the 2016 presidential prospects. A recent poll says 57% of Americans (including 60% of Republican women) would vote for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president. The roundtable had praise for Clinton’s role as Secretary of State, and no one doubted the conventional wisdom that she will be running for president.

Newt Gingrich added that, if Clinton runs with the support of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, it will be the equivalent of the Super Bowl for the Republicans. “And the Republican Party today is incapable of competing at that level,” said Gingrich.

The group mostly likes the political prospects of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Gingrich attempted to talk up the prospects of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but no one seemed eager to join him on that point.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

Also follow the show on the MTP Facebook page, track Twitter feeds from host David Gregory, Meet The Press, and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, watch the midweek PressPass interview, and don’t forget Gregory’s blog.

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