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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

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Welcome to both of you.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thank you.

MR. REINCE PRIEBUS: Good morning, David.

REP. SCHULTZ: Good morning.

MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, let me start with you.

REP. SCHULTZ: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: What, what led to the change? Why now call for him to resign?

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, I think that since this story broke we were giving Congressman Weiner some breathing room to be able to be, be circumspect, do the right thing, make a--you know, reach the conclusion that, that he needed to step back and step down on his own. And as of yesterday, when that didn't happen, it was important to, to weigh in.

MR. GREGORY: But before his actual admission, you spoke about this during an interview, and this is what you said.

(Videotape, June 2, 2011)

REP. SCHULTZ: Anthony Weiner is dealing with a personal matter, and it should be left as a personal matter.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: When did it become less a personal matter and more an issue of public trust?

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, I made that statement before it had been revealed that Anthony had not been truthful, and that, that, that he was engaged in the conduct that he had been denying at the time. And once he crossed that threshold, acknowledged that, that he'd been lying, had engaged in conduct that is, you know, completely unacceptable and indefensible...

MR. PRIEBUS: Well, here's the problem, David.

REP. SCHULTZ: ...that's where I thought that the--that's where I thought the line was crossed.

MR. GREGORY: Well, I'll come to you in just a second.

But is this enough that he seeks treatment, or would you still like him to straight out resign?

REP. SCHULTZ: The statement I made speaks for itself yesterday. I think Anthony Weiner needs to resign so he can focus on his family, focus on his own well-being, and make sure that...

MR. GREGORY: So there's going to be more pressure from top Democrats to say this is not quite enough, leave of absence is not enough, he should step down completely.

REP. SCHULTZ: I think Leader Pelosi, Steve Israel, myself, we all came together yesterday...

MR. GREGORY: Well, what, what is it you can do? I mean, he's obviously not listening to the admonitions of his colleagues.

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, at, at the end of the day, you know, a member of Congress makes their own decision, and that, that's certainly going to be up to Anthony Weiner. But we have made clear that he needs to resign, he needs to focus on, on getting his, his own personal issues in order...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

REP. SCHULTZ: ...focus on his family and, and do the right thing...

MR. GREGORY: From your, from your...

REP. SCHULTZ: ...by his constituents.

MR. GREGORY: From your--you talk about constituents. Reince Priebus, look at the, the polling that was done this week, the Marist poll indicating a majority of his constituents in Representative Weiner's district say that he should remain in office, 56 percent. What do you say?

MR. PRIEBUS: David, here's the problem. This is a question of leadership. It always was a question of leadership. We didn't--I mean, Anthony Weiner was lying from the very beginning. He turned this town and this country into a three-ring circus. What we called for is for Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leaders in this country to do what every American knew had to be done immediately and call for his resignation. Now, it seemed to me that for the first 10 days in this circus that the only job that Nancy Pelosi was interested in saving was Anthony Weiner's. We've got crushing unemployment in this country, we've got a president that's, that's whistling past the graveyard, we've got families that are struggling, and instead we've got leadership in a Democratic Party that are defending a guy that deserves no defense.

MR. GREGORY: Is it a difficult...

REP. SCHULTZ: But it's...

MR. GREGORY: Is it a difficult place for the party leadership to be that you call for resignation, he doesn't listen? I mean, does it say something about, the, the leadership?

REP. SCHULTZ: What, what Reince is saying doesn't pass the straight face test, from a chair of a party who--none of whose leaders called for Senator Vitter, who actually broke the law, to resign, who is still serving in office. Chairman...

MR. GREGORY: Hired prostitutes.

REP. SCHULTZ: Hired prostitutes and evaded the truth. Chairman Priebus was chairman when Senator Ensign was also embroiled in unethical, unacceptable and probably illegal conduct, and he did not call for Senator Ensign's resignation.

MR. PRIEBUS: Yeah. Yeah...(unintelligible)

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask the bigger question, because this...

REP. SCHULTZ: So it's not--it can't be...

MR. PRIEBUS: And Senator Ensign resigned.

MR. GREGORY: Well, wait a second. But this is a--look.

REP. SCHULTZ: But you never called for his resignation, so it's a double standard and it's unacceptable.

MR. GREGORY: But here's the question. This is unseemly to a lot of people...

MR. PRIEBUS: It's not a double standard.

REP. SCHULTZ: Ah!

MR. GREGORY: ...but there is a question of where there's a line.

REP. SCHULTZ: So you only call for Democrats' resignation, but not for Republicans' resignation.

MR. GREGORY: Wait, wait a minute.

MR. PRIEBUS: Just hang on a second.

REP. SCHULTZ: OK.

MR. GREGORY: Senator, Senator Vitter, nobody called on him to resign. Senator Ensign was brought up. Where is the line then?

MR. PRIEBUS: Well, listen. I mean, Senator Vitter, that's a, that's a five-year-old story. Chris Lee, how long did he last? About 30 seconds. How long--Senator Ensign resigned within six weeks of me becoming chairman. Look, I'm not defending these guys, but the fact of the matter is, we have big issues here to tackle in this country. We have unemployment that rivals the Great Depression. We have gas prices that are out of this world. We have crushing debt. We know what's happening to this economy. And here's the problem. It's not so much as much as "the economy, stupid," as people say, it's "the policy's stupid" too. And the president's policies in regard to saving this country, getting our economy back on track are not working.

MR. GREGORY: All right--OK, we'll--we're going to get to those.

Final question on, on Weiner. Have you spoken to him personally?

REP. SCHULTZ: I did speak to him personally the other day.

MR. GREGORY: What's his state of mind? I mean, what's he thinking?

REP. SCHULTZ: He's--you know, he's incredibly apologetic, devastated that, that, that this is conduct that, that he has been engaged in, and I think...

MR. GREGORY: But it sounds like he's stubborn, too.

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, I didn't speak to him very long. I, I just know that he was, he was--he's remorseful. I just hope that Anthony goes and gets the help that he needs, and that he does the right thing and, like the--Leader Pelosi said yesterday, removes himself from, from office so he can focus on, on the important things that he needs to do for his family.

Let, let me just add, though, David, that it is so disingenuous for Reince to be saying that jobs are their priority. I mean, we've got a party who've, who've been in charge of the House of Representatives for the last six months, haven't brought a single jobs bill to the floor. So, I mean...

MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, let's talk more, let's talk more about the economy in some more detail. This is the president's standing in terms of handling the economy in the public's eye, and it's pretty negative right now. Sixty percent almost, 59 percent, disapprove of the president's handling of the economy. And there are facts that back that up that are difficult for this administration and for the Democrats: unemployment's up 25 percent since Inauguration Day for President Obama; the debt's up 35 percent, over $14 trillion; a gallon of gas up over 100 percent, with gas $3.75, higher than that in certain parts of the country. Why should Americans trust Democratic governance right now on the economy, and particularly the president's?

REP. SCHULTZ: Because we were able to, under President Obama's leadership, turn this economy around. When President Obama took office...

MR. GREGORY: Whoa, whoa, let me just stop you there. Clearly, the economy has not been turned around. I mean, you just saw those numbers.

REP. SCHULTZ: It, it certainly--it has...

MR. GREGORY: Americans don't believe that's the case.

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, we, we were--when President Obama took office, the month before he was inaugurated, the economy was bleeding 750,000 jobs a month, David, and we were not headed in the right direction. Now, I know we--and President Obama has said we have a long way to go. We'd like the pace of recovery to, to, to be picked up. But we have definitely begun to turn the economy around. You, you fast-forward two and a half years later now, and the economy has created 2.1 million private sector jobs, a million of those jobs just in the last six months. We've had 15 straight months of job growth.

MR. GREGORY: Nobody believes that you can throw--nobody believes that the pace of job creation is anything close to robust enough to lead to, to economic growth...

REP. SCHULTZ: Including...

MR. GREGORY: ...even to match the economic growth projections that this administration's made. I want to get Chairman Priebus on this.

MR. PRIEBUS: David, the chairwoman's living in fantasyland. We know that the facts are the facts, and we can't get away from that. And Barack Obama is defenseless to the truth on what's going on in the American economy. We have lost as--two and a half million jobs since Barack Obama's been president. And of that two and half million jobs, almost 45 percent of those people have been out of work for six months. That number, that number rivals the Great Depression.

REP. SCHULTZ: And yet...

MR. PRIEBUS: This, this president has been a disaster to this economy, and that's why, when you ask Americans whether or not they're better off today than they were three or four years ago, they say no. When you ask Americans, has this president followed through on his promises to cut the deficit in half by the end of the first term as he's promised...

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. PRIEBUS: ...the answer is no. The debt is out of control. He's on pace to accumulate more debt on his watch than every single president before him combined.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you this as, as the top Republican in the party, is there something that Republicans who control the House can do to accelerate job creation now, through tax policy, through other kinds of policies, aside just looking at the question of whether or not you're better off now than you were four years ago?

MR. PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, certainly. I mean, I think that for one thing we've all--we're all in agreement that we have a debt crisis in this country. We're all in agreement that we can't keep sending...

MR. GREGORY: I'm asking for a specific policy, not just talking points.

MR. PRIEBUS: Well, I think that we need to--I think we need to cut taxes on small businesses. I think we need to spur growth there.

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, that's great because we've done that.

MR. PRIEBUS: I think that we need, I think that we need...

REP. SCHULTZ: Seventeen times.

MR. PRIEBUS: ...to get, I think we need to get the president from stopping from whistling past the graveyard and introduce a budget...

MR. GREGORY: OK, hang on one second.

MR. PRIEBUS: ...which they haven't done in 700 days.

MR. GREGORY: Let me--on the question, Congresswoman, the issue of taxes. Is there a specific tax policy, tax cuts for example, that the Democrats would be open to, to specifically target job creation in the shorter term?

REP. SCHULTZ: Absolutely. Beyond the 17 tax cuts, if the chairman had been actually paying attention in the last two years, the 17 different tax cuts that President Obama proposed and the Democratic Congress passed to support small businesses, including a cut in the capital gains tax. The compromise that we reached during a lame duck Congress that made sure that we could give a payroll tax deduction to, to, to Americans making about $50,000 year. Excuse me. We focused on striking a balance between making the investments that we needed to make to be able to jump-start the economy again and get it moving back in the right direction and also insuring that we could reduce spending and--in the tax code so that we could give incentives to businesses to be able to create jobs and be able to make investments in their businesses again.

MR. PRIEBUS: So much so--so much so that we've lost two and half million jobs.

REP. SCHULTZ: That's been done and more needs to be done. And we need to come together. Excuse me. We need to do that.

MR. GREGORY: Well, I...

REP. SCHULTZ: And added a million in the last six months. We need to do that by coming together, David. What, what the Republicans have refused to do is sit down around the table with Democrats to forge a regional--or a reasonable approach and a compromise to get our economy...

MR. GREGORY: All right, let's...

REP. SCHULTZ: ...in even more high gear.

MR. GREGORY: Let me move on to some of the political landscape questions. The Republicans will meet tomorrow in New Hampshire, an important debate. Mitt Romney will be part of it. As you look at the landscape right now, are the Republicans, who will be on that stage, is one of those ultimately the nominee?

MR. PRIEBUS: Well, I'm not sure if one of them is ultimately the nominee. But certainly some of them can be the nominee, depending on who gets in. I think that obviously this president is going to have a tough road to hoe. I mean, he's got these deficits that we've talked about. The, the chairwoman's spoken about the fact that she's somehow espousing these great tax policies that they've put forward, but yet we've lost two and a half million jobs...

MR. GREGORY: OK.

MR. PRIEBUS: ...since he's been president.

MR. GREGORY: I'm...

MR. PRIEBUS: So I think that clearly...

MR. GREGORY: Let's stick to what I'm asking right now about the Republican field.

MR. PRIEBUS: Go on.

MR. GREGORY: Here is the perceived front-runner right now, Mitt Romney, and he's running in a dead heat, according to the Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Chairwoman, dead heat with Mitt Romney. That has got to be about the economy and the president's vulnerability on the economy, no?

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, Mitt Romney is pretty darned vulnerable on the economy himself. When he was governor he literally was 47th in job creation for someone who touts his own ability to create jobs. We're talking about somebody that never created and recovered the amount of jobs lost in Massachusetts from the 2001 recession when he was governor.

MR. GREGORY: Do you see him as a front-runner for the Republicans?

REP. SCHULTZ: I see that there is a collection of very flawed candidates on the other side of the aisle. We are concentrating on making sure that we can continue to boost this recovery. We want the Republicans to join us.

MR. GREGORY: All right, let's talk about...

REP. SCHULTZ: They, they have literally been absent from that process.

MR. GREGORY: ...the electoral map. It's very interesting. If you look at the states that president Obama won as a candidate in 2008, these are also states that President Bush won in 2004, so it's very interesting. From the Rocky Mountain West to the Midwest where the president can be most vulnerable on the economy. And then Virginia, North Carolina, Southern states and all-important Florida.

Chairman Priebus...

MR. PRIEBUS: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: ...how do Republicans get those states back, and then the question for you congresswoman, is how does the president defend those states?

MR. PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, I think the folks in those states have the same concerns that people across the country have in regard to this economy. I really think that it's speaking to the issues of the economy, it's talking about how this president's performed, whether the rhetoric matches the actual performance. I think that the, the victories that we've had in 2010 are going to be a big help in winning a lot of these states. I come from Wisconsin.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. PRIEBUS: Obviously we've had Republican governors across the country. We've got party activists that have built up around the country. But at the end of the day, this is going to come down to whether people believe that they're better off today than they were three or four years ago. And they're going to say no. And they're going to say no.

REP. SCHULTZ: (Unintelligible)...and...

MR. GREGORY: There's a demographic--there's--the economy is what gives him a glass jaw, the president, but the demographics, increasing Hispanic participation in elections and populations around the country may help.

REP. SCHULTZ: That's going to be incredibly important. But we've already gotten a glimpse. The 2010 elections, that's a nice thing to hang your hat on. Look at the most recent election. We just won--the Democratic candidate for mayor in Jacksonville, Florida, just won a special election a couple of weeks ago. First time we've had a Democratic mayor in Jacksonville, Florida, in 20 years. We won a state house race in New Hampshire. A tiny ruby red state house race where the right, right-wing policies of the New Hampshire governor and--of, of, of the New Hampshire legislature were on display. And the voters reacted and rejected that. We just elected a New York 26, a red, red congressional district in a special election because the Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it. The voters rejected that. So the most recent opportunity for voters to weigh in on the Republican policies have resulted in Democratic candidates.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

MR. PRIEBUS: The only...

REP. SCHULTZ: And that's how we're going to win those states.

MR. GREGORY: Quickly before--we're just about out of time, but I want to ask Congressman Wasserman Schultz about Gabby Giffords. New pictures on her Facebook page up today and they're remarkable.

REP. SCHULTZ: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: She looks terrific.

REP. SCHULTZ: Doesn't she?

MR. GREGORY: Of course, having been shot in the head earlier this year. One of your closest friends. What's going on?

REP. SCHULTZ: She is. I just got to talk to her on Wednesday on the phone for the first time. We really had a wonderful conversation. She spoke to me in, in full sentences. Initiated those sentences instead of just responding, which is what she'd really only been able to do recently. And she's making remarkable progress. We're so proud of her. She's working so hard. She's got a long way to go, but you can just see how beautiful she is. And we, we are longing and looking forward to her coming back.

MR. GREGORY: All right, we'll leave it there. The debate of course on the issues...

REP. SCHULTZ: Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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