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MSNBC "Morning Joe" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. SCARBOROUGH: Republican Senator from Pennsylvania and the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Arlen Specter.

Senator, it is good to have you here.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Nice to have you.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: And you're looking good.

SEN. SPECTER: Nice to be back. I feel good.

MR. SCARBROUGH: That coif of hair. You've got a wave.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Looking good this morning.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Looking good.

SEN. SPECTER: Well, it's especially good for me because I had a bout of Hodgkin's, chemotherapy, lost all my hair and now that it's back, I feel great and the top of my game.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: All right. I love it.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Looking better than ever, too. You heard Barack Obama. Barack Obama was just telling a group of students in Prague that he wanted to try to get rid of nuclear weapons. Newt Gingrich calls that a dangerous fantasy. What do you think?

SEN. SPECTER: Well, I think he doesn't want to get rid of them; he wants to reduce them and with the threat of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea developing nuclear weapons and other countries wanting to get them, I think it's a good idea to reduce them.

I think you have to keep enough in the United States. We've got a lot. We can reduce them and still have a deterrence and still be safe. I think it's a move in the right direction. Ronald Reagan moved that way with the Soviets and if it's good enough for Ronald Reagan, I think it's good enough for America.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: There are echoes of Reagan here, but let me read from this Politico.com Web chat with the former Speaker. Newt Gingrich says this. "The embarrassing repudiation of the United States' appeal to the U.N. Security Council on Sunday afternoon is a vivid demonstration of weakness. The Obama speech on nuclear disarmament is a dangerous fantasy that runs an enormous risk. It's part of the Obama administration's substitution of words for thoughts and fantasies for achievements. Not since Jimmy Carter have we had an administration this out of touch with reality."

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Ouch, Ms. Brzezinski, that hurts.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: It hurt to read. It hurt to read.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, it did.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: For personal reasons, but no, what do you think, sir?

SEN. SPECTER: Well, President Obama is not talking about disarmament. He's talking about reduction. We have an enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons and when President Reagan came into office, Mika, one of the first things he did was to have a summit with a Soviet leader and to have an arms control agreement, and at that time it was really just the Soviets as a potential threat. Now, you have a lot more threats.

So I think it's something that ought to be explored. I think diplomacy is the key to the future. Once we establish bilateral talks with North Korea and we made some progress. I think we have to approach other countries, treat them in a dignified, respectful way, don't have to agree with them and when we face a threat of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea and others, I think it makes sense to try to put a lid on and still maintaining the tremendous superiority which we have and we'll keep.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you about the Republican Party. You obviously are going to be involved in a race next year in the Republican primary. Can you explain why in your mind you have survived as a Republican in the Northeast and so many other Republicans that I knew when I got into Congress in '94 have been wiped out and I mentioned this all the time. In New England, there's not a single House member, not a single human being in New England is represented by a Republican in the House of Representatives.

Why is that?

SEN. SPECTER: I've survived because I've been willing to part from the party line when I think it's wrong. I believe that people who are elected to the United States Senate ought to be independent when their conscience tells them that the interests of the nation or their state require that they buck the party line.

Listen, we've just had this stimulus package -- along with the two Maine Senators to carry the burden of $800 billion, but I was convinced we were on the brink of a potential economic meltdown in this country and another Depression and I wasn't going to stand by and cue to a party line in the face of that kind of a product.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Do you think you may be paying for that in the upcoming primary with some of the more conservative members in the Pennsylvania primary?

SEN. SPECTER: Joe, I know I am. Mr. Toomey was going to run for governor and when I voted for the stimulus, he saw an opening and has come into the Senate race and had a very tough race with him last time, but it's a different year.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Right.

SEN. SPECTER: It's a different year for him because of his background, a Wall Street trader was in the House of Representatives for six years, fought against regulation and wanted to deregulate everything, took a position that there ought to be individualized Social Security accounts where people could invest in the stock market.

Now, Social Security is supposed to have security and if you followed Mr. Toomey's idea, you'd be where the 401(k)s are at about half the value. So when you take a look at his record, he's contributed to the problem and now he wants a promotion, he wants a bonus like those AIG guys.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Don't say that.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: That is a bumper sticker. You know, thank God nobody on Wall Street would ever hire me. I think I have a future in politics.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Oh, yes. I think that might be true.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Well, it's going to be a tough race, but also the Northeast has changed so much since your last race with Congressman Toomey. It's become much more moderate, hasn't it?

MS. BRZEZINSKI: New landscape.

SEN. SPECTER: Its been very tough. The Democrats now in Pennsylvania have a much bigger registration advantage, a lot of moderate Democrats, Republicans changed to Democrats and who voted for either Obama or Hillary Clinton. So I'm trying to bring back those voters to the Republican Party. We need balance and I'm trying to get people to register Republican. We need a second party.

Look here, our country is built on checks and balances. The only check and balance in America today are the 41 Republican Senators who can talk and filibuster, otherwise, the White House, the House of Representatives be a streamroller and if Mr. Toomey is the nominee, you can be sure he'll lose; he's to the right of Rick Santorum. Santorum lost by 18 points, spent $31 million and was a two-term incumbent and if Toomey is the nominee, there will be 60 Democrats and when I was able to stem the tide against card check, to eliminate the secret ballot, if there's a Democrat in my place, then they'll have anything they want. It will be a bulldozer.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Oh, gracious. Senator Arlen Specter, thank you very much for coming in. Of course, you're the author of Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate.

Thank you very much.

SEN. SPECTER: Great pleasure to be here.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much. It's great to see you.


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