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Notes on the December 30, 2012 Broadcast of Meet The Press

December 30, 2012

All rights NBC NewsToday’s Meet the Press featured an exclusive discussion with President Barack Obama. The interview, taped Saturday afternoon, was only the president’s second Meet The Press appearance since taking office.

The president opened with a recap of what he understands the fiscal cliff to be and the instructions he gave to Senate leaders to try to work out a small-scale plan. He repeated that if they can’t come up with that small-scale plan, he will ask for an up or down vote on his plan.

“At a certain point, if folks can’t say yes to good offers, then I also have an obligation to the American people to make sure that the entire burden of deficit reduction doesn’t fall on seniors who are relying on Medicare,” said Obama. He went on to say that the voters made a clear choice and “…rejected the notion that the economy grows best from the top down.”

“The offers I have made have been so fair that some Democrats get mad at me,” said Obama. He later mentioned his proposal for changing the way inflation is calculated for Social Security payments as an example. “What the American people elected me to do was to put forth a balanced approach to make sure there is shared sacrifice,” said Obama

When asked about his second term priorities, he listed fixing immigration and stabilizing the economy to make sure it grows. He later added energy and gun-control as first-year priorities. He described the Newtown massacre as the “worst day of my presidency.”

The president defended UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and he said he hasn’t made a decision yet on the next secretary of defense. He added that there is nothing he sees that would disqualify Senator Chuck Hagel from that job.

When asked about overall frustration with Washington the president said that he and the Democrats have consistently tried to “put country first.” He said, “I am not driven by some ideological agenda. I am a practical guy.” He used the current fiscal cliff talks as an example. Obama said, “What I’m arguing for is maintaining tax cuts for 98% of Americans. I don’t think anyone sees that as some liberal, left-wing agenda. That used to be considered a pretty mainstream Republican agenda.”

In the roundtable, David Brooks of the New York Times said, “What is happening in Washington right now is pathetic.” He said most of the blame falls on the Republicans, but he also said that President Obama “…governs sometimes like a visitor from a morally superior civilization.”

NBC’s Chuck Todd said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would like to have a short-term deal on the fiscal cliff so they can get the tax issue off the table and fight the president on all the other issues over the next 6 to 8 weeks as we lead up to the debt ceiling debate. If McConnell can get there, then we will have a short-term deal before the fiscal cliff deadline.

NBC’s Tom Brokaw said he agrees with Brooks that the president “…doesn’t work hard enough” to build trust and find compromise.

Note: Sunday talk shows can no longer get away with taping interviews on Friday or Saturday and then treating them like news on Sunday morning. In this case the Senate leadership ended Saturday with no deal, putting the president’s comments far behind the curve by the time they were aired Sunday morning. Maybe this was okay 10 years ago, but in a new world of social media and 24/7 news, it makes no sense. The idea that the media can hold on to news, keeping it from the public even for a few hours, is gone.

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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