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WALLACE: Carl, thanks for that.
With the battle for the Republican nomination starting to take shape, we want to take a look at what lies ahead in the general election.
Joining us to preview that race are the heads of the two parties. From Racine, Wisconsin, Republican National Party Chair Reince Priebus. And here in New Hampshire, Democratic Party chair and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
And welcome to both of you.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ, DNC CHAIR: Thank you.
WALLACE: Chairman Priebus --
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIR: Good morning.
WALLACE: -- we've got some good news for the nation on Friday -- 200,000 jobs created in the last month, the unemployment rate down to 8.5 percent, the lowest in almost three years. But while it's good news for the country, isn't it taking away your strongest argument to replace Barack Obama.
PRIEBUS: Well, not at all, Chris. I mean, obviously, 8 1/2 percent is unacceptable. Now, clearly going -- taking down 1/10 of 1 percent is better than at 8.6 percent.
But, look, I'm talking to your from Racine, Wisconsin. And what people feel out here in Racine and Kenosha is that we're losing manufacturing jobs and people don't feel better off today than they were two or three years ago. So, I'm not sure if an F-minus to an F is good news.
Now, certainly, it's better, but this president has failed in his major promises when it comes to jobs, the economy, the debt, the deficit. And look, Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz herself in 2006, they were bashing George Bush over 4.6 percent unemployment.
So, look, this is a great country. We can do better than this. And our candidate is going to make the case for the American people that 8.5 percent, 8.6 percent isn't good enough for the --
WALLACE: All right. Let me bring in Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.
Yes, the numbers are better -- 200,000 jobs created, 8.5 percent. But 13 million Americans are out of work and the fact is that no president has been reelected with unemployment over 7.2 percent since FDR back in the 1930s. So, better yes, not good.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, certainly not where we want to be. And it's important to look at where we were when President Obama took office. I mean, he did inherit an economy and largest set of problems of any presidents since FDR and was in the situation where we were bleeding 750,000 jobs a month when he took office.
Now, three years later, we've had 22 straight months of job growth in the private sector. You know, Reince, it's amusing -- disappointing actually that he seems disappointed in the progress that we've been able to make. But we've had 22 straight months of job growth. We've had as you said almost 3 million jobs created in the private sector, 200,000 alone in just the last month.
And now, in manufacturing, let me just correct what Reince just said, we've actually had the largest growth in the manufacturing sector that we've had since 1997.
WALLACE: All right.
WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. Guys, I said I was going to play traffic cop, I'm going to do that.
Congresswoman, President Obama was interviewed in early 2009, about a month after he took office and when he was pushing his $800 billion stimulus, here's what he said about fixing the economy. Take a look.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If I don't have it done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition.
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WALLACE: Congresswoman, the president has clearly failed to meet that test.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think the president certainly has been -- should be credited for pushing hard, fighting to get the economy turned around, fighting to create jobs without any help from the Republicans at all. I mean, the Republican Congress --
WALLACE: But you would agree -- he hasn't gotten it done in three years.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, he inherited a huge set of problems at once and it's very clear that --
WALLACE: But that's what he said, get it done in three years.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I understand. But I certainly think he deserves credit, he should give himself some credit and does for beginning to get the economy turned around, for bringing us as far as he has. We have gone from an unemployment rate that was over 11 percent at one point. Now, it's below nine and we are beginning to move in the right direction.
WALLACE: But, and let me just quickly say, it was 7.8 percent when he took office.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, but he had inherited a huge set of problems with the economy that was on the precipice of disaster. Thanks to Republican policies.
Remember, George W. Bush presided over the turning of a record surplus into a record deficit -- a financial disaster because no one was minding the store. Almost no regulation that was appropriate over the financial services industry. Now, we have Wall Street reform that makes sure that consumers had protection, makes sure that banks can't be too big to fail. We begun to get things --
WALLACE: All right. I am going to get --
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: President Obama deserves some credit.
PRIEBUS: Can I respond?
WALLACE: Chairman Priebus, go ahead.
PRIEBUS: Yes. Let me respond.
First of all, the president is going to be held accountable to the standards and the promises that the president made himself. This is not Reince Priebus' standard or the RNC standard. He promised 8 percent unemployment. In fact, it's even worse. His transition team promised at this point, we'd be at 6 percent unemployment.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, that's just simply not true.
PRIEBUS: Now, the other piece of all this is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz likes to add up all of the people who are hired, but she doesn't subtract all of the people who have been laid off number one, all of the people in every other month, hundreds of thousands of people, that aren't added into the 8.5 percent number who have that said, look, the economy is so bad, I'm not going to be looking for a job across this country.
The president will be held to the standards that he set himself. And right now, he's failing to meet those standards. And, in fact, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Pelosi were out there pounding the pavement for Hillary Clinton, warning us this was going to happen. They called him a hypocrite from the very beginning.
WALLACE: OK. All right. Let's Chairman Priebus -- Chairman Priebus, let's move on. We don't need to go back to the 2008 election. The president says and, you know, this is one of the lines that he's going to use in the general election -- that he is looking out for the middle class while Republicans are protecting the wealthy.
WALLACE: This week, Mr. Obama made a recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Now, Chairman, I understand that the GOP has problems with this, but doesn't your party run the risk of looking like you are more concerned about protecting predatory lenders and debt collectors than you do protecting consumers?
PRIEBUS: Well, there's two different issues here, Chris. I mean, there's one issue which is the agency itself, and Dodd-Frank and that debate. But I think what --
WALLACE: But if I may. But if I may, and I -- if I may, sir -- and I also interrupted Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz -- the fact is, the Republicans have been blocking appointing somebody to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for months.
PRIEBUS: Well, here's the deal, there are rules and there is a Constitution. You know, if you want --
WALLACE: No, no. But the party blocked Elizabeth Warren first and Richard Cordray second. Long before the recess appointment was made.
PRIEBUS: But, look, the president -- but, Chris, the president has to live within the rules and within the confines of something called the United States Constitution. Now, he may not like it, but the reality is, is that this president is making -- they are not even recess appointments, but he's making appointments when the Senate is not in recess.
This is all about -- this is another chapter. I'm not saying that we're going to win an election on this issue. But when it comes to power, when it comes to the growth of government, this president takes the cake. He gets the blue ribbon.
And this is just one more chapter in Barack Obama's book of trampling on the Constitution, on growing a government that we already can't afford, and he doesn't seem to want to stop. That's what --
WALLACE: OK. Let me -- Chairman, let me give Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz a chance.
The fact is, the Democrats, who came up with this idea of these pro forma sessions to block George W. Bush for making recess appointments. Wouldn't you be howling if Bush made this kind of appointment, during a recess appointment and was ignoring Congress the way Barack Obama is now?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What we are howling about on behalf of the American people is what -- is the basic premise of your -- exactly what your question was, is that the Republicans didn't question Richard Cordray's credentials, didn't question that he was qualified. They simply don't like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So, as a result -- because they have no interest in protecting consumers, they refused to bring his -- to allow his nomination to come up for a vote.
President Obama has allowed that process to go on for long enough and he went to bat for consumers, used his authority to recess-appoint Richard Cordray so that the Financial Consumer Protection Bureau can get up and running. And, quite frankly, what the Republicans are trying to do is used a pro forma process to try to block his nomination and his appointment. That's unfair and it's anti --
WALLACE: I want to move on to something else.
PRIEBUS: You know what?
WALLACE: Wait, wait. Let me -- Chairman, let me move on.
Congresswoman, Republicans are just beginning to pick your nominee -- their nominee, rather, your party is putting out ad after ad targeting Mitt Romney. And, in fact, during the debate last night, the DNC sent out several e-mails going after Romney but no one else.
Why all of the focus by your party on Mitt Romney?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Mitt Romney has earned that scrutiny. He had spent his entire campaign relentless attacking President Obama, distorting his record, decategorizing his record.
WALLACE: Forget about distorting. That fact is all of the Republicans are going after Obama. But you guys are going after Mitt Romney.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, Mitt Romney is one of the candidates who was near the top, or at the top of their field. And so, he invites and deserves that scrutiny because he has been distorting and mischaracterizing the president's record.
And you know what? Other presidential candidate has taken that lying down and we're not going to. The fact is that this president has a remarkable record of beginning to getting the economy turned around, of fighting for the middle class and working families. Hold on one second.
WALLACE: No, no, I am trying to be fair.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: OK. Well --
WALLACE: No, I am trying to be fair. I understand --
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Why the scrutiny, because Mitt Romney has no convictions. He's someone who has flip flopped on every major issue and voters need to know.
WALLACE: Let me ask you a question. You go after -- let me ask you -- you go after Romney for laying off people at Bain Capital, correct?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, for a lot of things, related to his role at Bain Capital.
WALLACE: But that's one of them.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: For that. For outsourcing jobs --
WALLACE: Let me ask you about that. Is the president responsible for laying off the people at Solyndra?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, because the president wasn't the CEO of Solyndra.
WALLACE: Well, Romney wasn't the CEO of these companies, either. The president was --
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, Romney --
WALLACE: Excuse me. The president was a venture capitalist. He put taxpayer money into Solyndra and a thousand people lost their jobs.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: OK.
WALLACE: So is the president responsible for the thousand people who lost their jobs at Solyndra?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Not even close. But Mitt Romney is responsible for being CEO of companies that he took over. That --
WALLACE: No, he wasn't the CEO.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: He was the CEO of Bain. Bain bought these companies, took them over --
WALLACE: Well, the president is the CEO of the country.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But he's not the CEO of Solyndra.
WALLACE: And Mitt Romney wasn't the CEO of AMPAD or these other companies.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But Bain Capital owned those companies. He made the decision --
WALLACE: So, you are saying the president had no responsible for what happened in Solyndra? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What I'm saying is that Mitt Romney, as the CEO --
WALLACE: I'm asking you about the president.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No. Mitt -- no, the president --
WALLACE: Has no responsibility for Solyndra?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The president has responsibility for the green jobs programs where he made investments.
WALLACE: And how about the company Solyndra that went bankrupt?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But the decisions that were made at Solyndra that ultimately led to their bankruptcy were those of the people who worked at Solyndra. Mitt Romney -- Chris, let me answer you a question, please.
WALLACE: Well, I think you did answer the question.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Mitt Romney, it's total apples and oranges comparison.
WALLACE: But you made the point. You think that one is he is the CEO of Bain and the other one you say yes. And I just would like to give -- we got a minute left.
Chairman Priebus, your response for that, sir.
PRIEBUS: Well, you know, I learned in law when the other side is losing the argument, sometimes you quit talking and you let them continue.
But I mean, the reality is the president is the CEO, the first rots that they had, millions of Americans don't feel better off today than they were three or four years ago.
Look, you know, if the Democrats think that Mitt Romney is so weak, it's curious as to why they keep attacking them. I'll leave that up to the candidates.
But the fact of the matter is, this isn't about Republicans and Democrats. I think we should kind of put that on hold and start talking about America. And our country is on the brink of an economic disaster that is very predictable and we have a president --
WALLACE: Sir, you got 10 seconds.
PRIEBUS: And we are going to hold his presidency accountable to the words and promises that he made himself and he has failed this country.
WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Chairman Priebus, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, I know you both would like to talk more about this. And you know what? We're going to have them 10 or 11 months to do so. So, we welcome you both back then and we'll see how the battle lines lay out as we head to the general election this fall. Thank you both.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
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