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NBC "Meet The Press" - Transcript

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I want to bring in our political roundtable. Joining us, the Democrat governor of Michigan,
Jennifer Granholm; chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, Senator Lamar Alexander;
chairman of the House Republican Conference, Representative Mike Pence; and the Democratic
governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson.

First of all, welcome to our new digs. Very nice...

REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Thank you.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): It's very nice.

GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D-MI): Beautiful.

MR. GREGORY: ...to have all of you here. Thank you very much. We've had a lot of
breaking news here, so--and still a lot of issues to get to. We'll get to as much as we can on a
busy Sunday morning. I do want to start with politics.
Senator Alexander, you didn't get a commitment from the governor of Florida, who's now a
Republican, to caucus with Republicans. And the leadership, of which you're a part, has said,
"Thanks but no thanks." You don't want much association with Governor Crist at the moment.

SEN. ALEXANDER: Well, when he changed his mind, I changed my mind
about him. I'm very disappointed by that. I mean, it really undermines the ability of people to
participate in our, our, our politics. We've got a lot of alienated people in America right now.
They want a place to have their say. So we say, "Come on in to our primary if you want to put a check and a balance on runaway government." So he did, and now he says, "I'm not doing so
well by the rules, so I'm going to go another direction." That's what primaries are for.

MR. GREGORY: But why--you know, when Senator Lieberman ran as an independent, the
Democratic Party did not push him away. They said, "No, we're still, still--stay with us here."
And yet the Republican leadership has said, "No thanks, Governor." You know, "We've
changed our mind about you," as you just said. Is that a right strategy?

SEN. ALEXANDER: Senator Lieberman was different. First, he ran as an independent at the
same time he was running as a Democrat. Second, he had a very strong principled opposition to the Iraq war. And third, the Democratic leadership in that case said that they didn't, they didn't support him. So Marco Rubio has shown to the people of Florida that he's a better candidate than Governor Crist, apparently, and Governor Crist has said, "I'm not doing too well by these rules. I think I'll try some other rules."

MR. GREGORY: On the other side of the aisle, Governor Richardson, from the Rocky
Mountain West and New Mexico, a place where independents have certainly flexed their
muscles, what's going on here from your vantage point? This was somebody, Governor Crist,
who was on the short list to be a vice presidential candidate for John McCain, and now he may
not survive within his own party?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM): Well, I think the case is, with the exception of our two
Republican guests who I know are moderate, this is a Republican Party that is basically driving
moderates like Charlie Crist out of the party. I mean, these--this was like an ideological litmus
test, and there is a dramatic increase in independent voters throughout the country. I think as an outsider, the true outsider in this race, Governor Crist, has a chance. But I want to say that we have some very strong Democratic candidates, and I believe that the entrance of Governor Crist has helped candidates like Congressman Meech--Meek, who has been very active, crisscrossing the state. But he certainly, Governor Crist, has, has turned the tables around in Florida. It's a wide open race.

MR. GREGORY: But Congressman Pence, the bigger question is, is it safe to be a moderate in
the Republican Party? Or no longer?

REP. PENCE: Well, David, I'm still trying to recover being called a moderate by
Governor Richardson.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

REP. PENCE: You know, I'm a, I'm a conservative.

MR. GREGORY: Something tells me he didn't really mean that.

REP. PENCE: Yeah, I...

GOV. RICHARDSON: I was trying to be nice to you.

REP. PENCE: Yeah, yeah, it was nice. I endorsed Marco Rubio in February. I think the real
story here is that Marco Rubio won the primary early. I mean, he, he, he launched a campaign,
a come-from-behind campaign that was really built on what is a broad American rejection of the borrowing, the spending, the bailouts, and the takeovers of this administration. It was really born of the famous hug, that appeared as Republicans were fighting against or to call...

MR. GREGORY: His--the, the stimulus plan.

REP. PENCE: Yeah. The so-called stimulus bill that has taken us from 7.5 percent employment to nearly 10 percent unemployment nationwide; worse in Michigan. I mean, I mean, Governor Crist, different from Republicans in Washington, D.C., decided to embrace the president's policies, literally embrace the president. Marco Rubio courageously stepped forward. He gave Republican voters in Florida a choice for a principled conservative committed to fiscal responsibility and the principles of growth and conservative values, and he won that primary without anybody having to cast a vote.

MR. GREGORY: All right. I want to move on. Governor Granholm, I want to talk about some of the other issues that we've been talking about this morning. This oil spill in the Gulf and questions of presidential leadership, the administration's role, you now have an oil spill the dimensions of which are not exactly clear. What kind of job has the administration done here dealing with the private company in BP, assessing the magnitude of damage here, and then responding?

GOV. GRANHOLM: Well, clearly, you had Janet Napolitano and Ken
Salazar on this morning. They outlined the steps that the administration is taking. This is
something I think that nobody could have anticipated or knew exactly what the scope was going to be. So they acted very swiftly to contain it. But I do think, to the bigger issue, it--and I'd be curious to know what this does in terms of the support for offshore drilling from the
Republicans who are on the panel here. I mean, I think that according to Governor Crist, we
should pause on that. But it does speak to the need to have an energy plan and policy that gets us to being independent of foreign oil, but also we should be careful about what sources of fossil fuels we're going after.

MR. GREGORY: Well, senator and the former secretary of energy is here as well. But,
Senator, this was the Tampa Tribune editorial on Monday on this point: "The tragic explosion
of a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana exposes the big lie espoused by the oil industry and its minions in the Florida Legislature: Modern drilling is harmless. ..."Americans have to accept some tradeoffs if we want an abundant and affordable energy. But we must balance the risks intelligently. "To permit drilling in Florida's coastal waters where there is no margin for error is unnecessary and irresponsible." This has to be seen as a setback for offshore drilling.

SEN. ALEXANDER: It is a setback, and we ought to stop for a moment and see if there's
anything we can do to make it safer. All 40 Republican senators, now 41, support electrifying
half our cars and trucks, the best way to reduce the use of oil. If we were to do that, we'd
probably take 20 years and we'd still need 12 million barrels of oil a day in this country. And
one-fourth of all the air--oil that we produce for ourselves comes from the Gulf of Mexico. So,
unless we want $14 a gallon gasoline and tankers bringing oil from Saudi Arabia, which has
been 99 percent of the oil spills in history, we're going to have to find a way to continue to drill
safely in the Gulf of Mexico.

MR. GREGORY: Governor?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, my view is that we need an overall oceans policy in this country
protecting the ocean just as we protect the land. I think the president was right in putting a
moratorium on new offshore leases. I think the Clean Water Act has to be expanded to provide
aid to the Gulf. I believe BP is to blame. They have to pay for this. This is something that,
obviously, they saw coming. They predicted wrongly. And the administration, I believe,
moved in rapidly. But, but I think across the board, David, we have to look at protecting our
fisheries, our coastal seabed, our seashores, and this means a national, a national policy on
oceans that we don't have.

MR. GREGORY: Let me spend our last few minutes talking about the domestic debate over
immigration reform. This is a debate that is very, very serious, the Arizona law. It is also
something that the president used for some pretty sharp-edged satire, as well, at our annual
correspondents dinner here in Washington, the White House Correspondents' Dinner, where he
talked about Senator McCain, who is actually supporting this measure after, you know,
spearheading comprehensive immigration reform with the late Senator Kennedy. Here was the
president last night.

(Videotape)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Unfortunately, John McCain couldn't make it. Recently he
claimed that he had never identified himself as a maverick. And we all know what happens in
Arizona when you don't have ID. Adios, amigos.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Some laughter, Governor Granholm, over, obviously, a very serious issue
that is talked about in terms of boycotts of Arizona, and it's certainly raising more calls for
comprehensive immigration reform.

GOV. GRANHOLM: Yeah, it sure is, and there should be comprehensive immigration reform.
And it's got to be tough on the violators, tough on those who hire illegal immigrants. It's got to
be practical. How do you do it? How do you do it with those who are here? How do you
ensure that it's fair to the taxpayers? And those three things, I think, have to all be a part of it.

But I, I do say from my perspective as a governor in the north, for, for our citizens, really, we
are so focused on jobs that that for us is--has got to be the number one issue, which is why

I'm a very big proponent of the energy bill as a way to create jobs. So immigration is really
important. Obviously, it's much more important in states like New Mexico.

MR. GREGORY: But this is an interesting point because, Congressman Pence, the president
came out and said, you know, there was some debate about whether immigration would be an
agenda item that he would push before energy legislation. He said this week there simply aren't
the votes for it, particularly from Republicans.

REP. PENCE: Well, well, let, let's be clear for a second. This is no laughing matter for the
people of Arizona who are--have been profoundly affected by the fact that there's nearly a half a million illegal immigrants and, and a rampant drug trade and, and, and human trafficking trade that's been besetting. Phoenix, Arizona, is, is the kidnapping capital of the United State of America. I don't know if this law is perfect, but I knew--do know that it is wrong for officials in this government to throw stones at the people of Arizona as they're trying to, to reassert the rule of law in the wake of the fact that this administration and this Congress have been
systematically cutting funding to border security since the Democrats took control.

MR. GREGORY: Of course, it was Republicans who blocked comprehensive immigration
reform. Let's be clear about that.

REP. PENCE: Well, let--well, let, let's focus on border security first, David.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

REP. PENCE: In, in fiscal...

MR. GREGORY: The bill called for that. The Bush bill called for more border security,
Republicans were with him...

REP. PENCE: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...until they were against him on that.

REP. PENCE: David, here's the numbers. Fiscal 2007, the last year Republicans wrote a
budget, $1.2 billion for border security and fencing. By 2010 that was cut by--to $800 billion.
If you'd kept funding level...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

REP. PENCE: I mean, the Democrats have cut three-quarters of a trillion out of this...

MR. GREGORY: All right.

REP. PENCE: ...and the president wants to go to 50 percent of the level that Republicans...

MR. GREGORY: Governor...

REP. PENCE: ...spent on border security. We have got to take border security seriously.

MR. GREGORY: All right, Governor Richardson...

REP. PENCE: We can't blame Arizonans for trying to reaffirm the rule of law.

MR. GREGORY: ...final, final, final thought on this.

GOV. RICHARDSON: This law in Arizona is terrible. What the administration needs to do is
challenge it because it's unconstitutional. Immigration is a federal matter. One hundred
thousand demonstrators were out on the streets yesterday against this law around this country, dwarfing the tea party demonstrations. There's going to be an anti-immigration hysteria creeping up, and the Congress needs to act. But President Bush deserves credit for trying to move an immigration bill; Senator Obama's--President Obama's on the right path asking for a bill that says an earned legalization, those that have to pay back taxes, learn English, get to the back of the line, pay a fine. More border security, I agree with the congressman. But I think the congressman and many Republicans all they want to do is more border security. Yeah, we need it. I'm on the border, too. We need more technology, we need more border patrol, we need the National Guard. But you have to do it simultaneously as an earned legalization pack.

MR. GREGORY: Senator, can you get comprehensive immigration reform passed this year?
You're part of the leadership on the Republican side.

SEN. ALEXANDER: Well, the difference is right, right here. We need the secure--instead of
joking about the Arizona situation and suing Arizona, the president ought to work with the
governor and secure the border.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

SEN. ALEXANDER: That's his job, he's the commander-in-chief. It's a federal responsibility.
When the border's secure, then we can deal with the people illegally here and how they become citizens or not.

MR. GREGORY: We're going to make that the last word. Thank you all very much.
A special programming note, stay with NBC News for continuing coverage of that oil spill in
the Gulf, including a special edition of "Nightly News" with Brian Williams broadcasting live
from New Orleans Monday evening. We'll be back right after this brief station break with a
special look back at our set for the past 62 years.

(Announcements)

MR. GREGORY: Finally this morning, our new look. In television, this is what we do. We
evolve. And for a program 62 years old, it's not the first time changes have been made.

(Videotape)

Announcer: MEET THE PRESS, where you'll meet top news men in an unrehearsed,
spontaneous press conference.

(End videotape)

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