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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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MR. TODD: Joining me now, the Republican governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels.

Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.


MR. TODD: All right. Well, I saw welcome back because you've been here before as budget director. And, in fact, it is as budget director I want to ask you something. During your confirmation hearings--we were talking about these budget shutdowns--you had talked about that you wanted to see some way to sort of change the way so that, that, that there wasn't politics being used--the government shutdowns weren't being used as political leverage. And you also referred to riders this way, you said, "so that there aren't things like extraneous measures that could otherwise upset the normal appropriations process." We're watching that right now. Is this the type of things you were warning about? And on these riders, are Republicans in the wrong for attaching these things right now?

GOV. DANIELS: You probably think I'm paying more attention to this than I am, Chuck, and your memory is a little better than mine. But, yeah, I think probably, as a general rule, it, it is better practice to do the people's business, try to concentrate on making ends meet, which Washington obviously has failed to do for a long time, and, and have other policy debates in other places if you can.

MR. TODD: So your advice to Speaker Boehner would be, "You know what, we've made some political points here, but take these riders out. Take these political--have--save it for another part of the discussion."

GOV. DANIELS: He doesn't need any advice but me, but I would, I would simply say this: The financial and fiscal problems facing this country are of a level that, I believe, threatens, not just our prosperity, but the survival of our republic. And really, I'm hoping and I--that the Congress and the administration will engage very seriously. I mean, to see them arguing over nickels and dimes like this is--especially from the vantage point of people who are making big changes to make end meet--in state Houses seems a little--it's almost comic.

MR. TODD: I want to go to the debt ceiling because in, in, the first time you were on MEET THE PRESS, you were asked about the debt ceiling, the fact that it needed to be raised. This was in June of 2002. You said it's a responsible government--what a responsible government must do. And you said, "You know, what, it's really a housekeeping matter." That's about to come up in about six to eight weeks.
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MR. TODD: We don't know the exact time when it's going to happen here. Do you still think it's a housekeeping matter?

GOV. DANIELS: Well, less, less so now that we've doubled and we're on our way to tripling the national debt. And so it's a heck of a lot more serious than it was back then. But it is certainly true that the debt ceilings are rearview mirror exercises in paying for the, as I would see it, excesses of, of recent years. And at some stage you have to do it and honor the country's obligations. But I definitely think, in the really critical fiscal corner we've painted ourselves into, it's entirely appropriate to use that moment to surface these issues. And I hope for some leverage to get some real change and not just cosmetic.

MR. TODD: Did your former boss, President Bush, make a mistake about not trying to pay for the wars in some form of another, asking for some temporary tax hikes, if necessary, to pay for the wars? Or to pay for the prescription drug benefit? Because, obviously, you were there when, when the debt also went up, when the deficit went up. And it was because, among other things, those two things were not paid for then.

GOV. DANIELS: Well, we'll never know. If you'd done that and you'd hurt the economy, you'd have had less revenues than, than you expected, maybe less than you had, anyway. You know, by 2007, the deficit was tiny compared to now. It was well under 2 percent of GDP. So we would love, wouldn't we, to be back to that level now. So...

MR. TODD: But you're an executive now. If you--you believe in paying for things. If you are going to offer something, you should pay for it.

GOV. DANIELS: Yeah, don't offer what you can't pay for. That'd be a good principle to return to in the federal government.

MR. TODD: So the prescription drug benefit probably shouldn't have been offered without being paid for.

GOV. DANIELS: Well, it's cost a whole lot less than anybody thought. But it is part--there's no question--it is part of the biggest problem we face, which isn't even these massive annual deficits we're running, it's the unaffordable promises we have made to--in what we call the entitlement programs.

MR. TODD: All right, let's talk about your record as governor of Indiana. I want to put up a basic thing here on jobs. When you took office, the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent. Now it's 9.1 percent. When you took office, nearly three million Indianan--Hoosiers were employed, now it's 2.8. I say this--so it's a loss of 144,000 jobs. I say this because you have made a huge effort to pay down the state's debt, to really pinch the budget down. But that has--job creation hasn't come with it. And we've heard arguments among Republicans here in Washington and across these statehouses that you shrink government, it will create jobs. When did--we're not seeing evidence of that in Indiana.

GOV. DANIELS: You could put up that same graphic for probably 48 or 49 states in America. A national, catastrophic recession will do that to you. Before that recession started, we were at essentially full employment. It was well below what it had been when we got there. But, listen, you do what you can do. On every measure--everybody's survey, everybody's rating--of a great place to invest and do business and create jobs, Indiana is now in the top tier. It's the only state anywhere in our neighborhood. It's basically us and a few Sunbelt western states. And that's what government can do, create the best conditions you can. But just as tsunamis overwhelm the best preparations, so do economic tidal waves like the one that we experienced and which we're still recovering from.

MR. TODD: All right, I want to talk about what we saw--look at these pictures yesterday in Wisconsin. There were massive protests about these--this battle in Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker. He has won the legislative battle. He got what he wanted, he passed this. You made a decision on similar legislation. It wasn't quite with collective bargaining with public employees. This had to do with a right-to-work legislation, and you said something interesting. You said you chose not to pick this fight because you didn't campaign on it. And you believed if you hadn't made a case to voters about right-to-work legislation that you shouldn't be trying to do it once you've--in office and in the legislative session. Governor Walker, do you think, loses the political fight here?

GOV. DANIELS: I have no way of knowing. I think the taxpayers of Wisconsin won. Seems to me that he committed to do the sorts of things he's trying to do, and we ought to--agree or disagree with people--we ought to respect them when they do try to live up to their words. But...

MR. TODD: But he didn't campaign on the, on the collective bargaining aspect of this. He campaigned on asking public employees to contribute more, but he didn't campaign on that aspect. Do you think that was a mistake?

GOV. DANIELS: I don't know. But I would say that from our own experience that if you have a serious fiscal problem, which we did six years ago and don't today, that having the flexibility to manage government, not only to save money, but to serve people better--and I could illustrate this in a hundred ways--is pretty important. And before we discontinued government union collective bargaining in Indiana, you really couldn't make any of the changes.

MR. TODD: Do you not believe in collective bargaining?

GOV. DANIELS: I do believe in collective bargaining in the private sector. And--but only within very...

MR. TODD: You don't believe public employees should have it.

GOV. DANIELS: Don't take it from me. Some of the greatest defenders and champions of labor--Samuel Gompers, George Meade, Franklin Delano Roosevelt--said it had no place in government. Now, it's there now in a very big way. In a, I think a very cynical fashion, it tilts our politics, and so I think there are very serious problems with it. But, you know, I would just say, it's not just about saving money. The Indiana experience says it's also about serving the public better.

MR. TODD: All right. I want to move to presidential politics a little bit and the...

GOV. DANIELS: Do we have to?

MR. TODD: ...and the Republican Party--oh, do we have to?


MR. TODD: We'll twist your arm, we'll talk about that in a minute.

GOV. DANIELS: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. TODD: Somebody's been twisting your arm, clearly, there.


MR. TODD: I want to go to your comments about calling a truce on social issues. One thing that's happened with your comments is that it's certainly made some folks pay attention. This week in Iowa you had a few critics about calling for a truce on social issues. Take a listen.

(Videotape, Monday)

MR. RALPH REED: You know, some have suggested that we call a truce on the social and moral issues. I don't know about you, but I seem to remember Ronald Reagan fighting and winning the Cold War at the very time that he was restoring values and growing the economy.

(End videotape)

(Videotape, Monday)

SEN. SANTORUM: ...these moral issues that everyone says, "Oh, maybe we should set to the side and have a truce on." You can't. It is who we are. It is the purpose of our country.

(End videotape)

MR. TODD: Look, you have a great political mind. You were in--you were one of the--in the political shop in Ronald Reagan's presidency. Let's be purely pragmatic here. Can a Republican running for president ignore social issues and succeed in Iowa, in South Carolina?

GOV. DANIELS: I don't know. I--you know, I don't sit around calculating the political pluses and minuses of every little word I utter. I've--just sort of tell people what I think makes sense, and I'm prepared to respect disagreements. I don't have any disagreements with these folks. I happen to share their views, and I respect their passion. You know, some of it, however, Chuck, comes to this: Are you more committed to results or to rhetoric? And in pursuit of the results that matter, that I think are fully consistent with a commitment to limited government and individual liberty and freedom in this country, I think we're going to have to do some very, very big things. We're going to have to make changes, at least moving forward, that will permit us to maintain a growing economy and the American dream of upward mobility for folks at the bottom. And we're going to have to get together people who disagree on other things. That's all I've said. So I respect those who disagree. And it's ironic because, as the record will show, I've done the things that they say they'd like to do.

MR. TODD: Let's get to your own future. In fact, politically you had said you weren't going to have another future. Take a look.

(Videotape, Mitch Daniel's political ad)

GOV. DANIELS: Whatever your outlook on politics, here's some good news. This is the last time you'll have to watch me in an ad like this. See, governor's the only office I'd run for, or ever will.

(End videotape)

MR. TODD: Is that ad going to be out of date and a lie by the time the Iowa caucuses come in January or February?

GOV. DANIELS: Well, I'm not sure. I, I wrote it, as I wrote, I guess, almost all my own stuff, and I meant it, every word of it. And others have said over the course of the last year and a half that I ought to consider something that never entered my mind. I've agreed to consider it. That's...

MR. TODD: What's your time--what, what's the latest you think you can enter this race, in your mind, you know? I know you don't want other people setting deadlines, but what's your own deadline?

GOV. DANIELS: People have been asking me that question for over a year now, and they always thought the deadline was immediate. And here we are in the middle of March. I think it's a blissful occurrence that the darn thing hasn't started two years ahead of time. So I don't know. I will tell you...

MR. TODD: Can you wait all summer?

GOV. DANIELS: I have no idea. I will tell you this. I am completely committed to the job I'm in now.

MR. TODD: Sure.

GOV. DANIELS: We're trying to do some very exciting things in Indiana to make our state better, and that comes first. And if, if deadlines pass, they do.

MR. TODD: Quickly, you had said the field has--"the pickings are slim" when you were describing the field. Do you still feel right now, in what you've seen out there, that the pickings are slim in the Republican race?

GOV. DANIELS: Well, I said if people were talking about me, then the pickings must be slim. And, you know, I, I still think there's time. And there's some really good people running. I like them all.

MR. TODD: Mm-hmm.

GOV. DANIELS: And, you know, I'm hoping that our party will simply step up to the issues of the day. And it could be any one of those folks.

MR. TODD: Very quickly, Senator Lugar, your friend, Indiana senator, senior senator, running for a seventh term. I know you've said you were going to vote for him. Are you supporting him? Are you going to endorse him? Will you do whatever he asks you to do in his re-election effort? And he's facing a primary challenge from a state office holder and a tea party favorite.

GOV. DANIELS: Yeah. Who's a good friend of mine, by the way, and been a good ally. But, no, I'm for Dick Lugar. He's the role model I've had in politics for a long time.

MR. TODD: You'll appear for him, if he asks?

GOV. DANIELS: Well, I've never intervened in primaries. I'm not sure what good it would do if I did. But folks in Indiana know that, that I am for him, and that I admire him, and think if he wants another term, he ought to have it.

MR. TODD: Well, we are packed this show. I wish we had more time. Governor Mitch Daniels, thank you for coming on MEET THE PRESS.

GOV. DANIELS: Good being with you.

MR. TODD: All right.


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