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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

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MR. GREGORY: Joining me now, governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, and governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. Welcome to both of you.

GOV. BOB McDONNELL (R-VA): Thanks, David.

MR. GREGORY: There is a developing story from overseas this morning that we're tracking this morning. In Afghanistan, a U.S. service member has apparently open fire on Afghan civilians in a village near a military base in southern Afghanistan. An AP photographer has reported seeing 15 bodies, including women and children. Obviously as details develop on this there'll be more. Governor McDonnell, you have a daughter who served in Iraq. We know as both a policy matter and a political matter that these kinds of things can really start to shape public opinion about after all the country being at war. What kind of impact do you think this is going to have after the Quran burnings just a couple weeks ago...

GOV. McDONNELL: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: ...and in terms of the national debate?

GOV. McDONNELL: Well, it's tragic because we have so many brave men and women, David, for now 10-plus years in the global war on terror have done marvelous work for the cause freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. And winning, doing good work.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. McDONNELL: And yet one incident like this in the minds of the civilian population who we're trying to win their hearts and minds, as well as the battle against the terrorists in Afghanistan, can change the equation. So it's too bad and we'll have to see the details. But I'm really proud of what our kids are doing there.

MR. GREGORY: Unforeseen circumstances, Governor. The debate over Iran that's heating up on the campaign trail with the president responding to Republican candidates. These are some of the unknowns that could really affect this presidential campaign here in the months ahead.

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D-MD): Oh, absolutely. I mean, there are many things that happen in this very tightly and interconnected world of ours that, that no one president can control.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. O'MALLEY: But what we all look for in the president of the United States is someone with steady, capable leadership, a calm hand at the helm, and President Obama has provided that leadership. I think this latest incident underscores how important it is for us to conclude our involvement in Afghanistan, as we have in Iraq.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. O'MALLEY: And I agree with Governor McDonnell. I mean, so many, so many young men and women are serving so honorably and so well, but incidents like this do happen in war zones, and it's very important we bring our troops home as soon as possible.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the economy, as well. You know, it was just about five months ago President Obama said he was an underdog, and now you look at the job numbers and the trajectory of unemployment over the course of the president's term here, the dark days of 2009 and '10, with unemployment up in double digits, 10., 10 percent now. In 2012 we've seen it holding steady at 8.3 percent. Over 700,000 jobs created since the end of last year. Is he now the favorite given the optimism about the economy?

GOV. O'MALLEY: Well, I, I think that there is more important issue than the good news that we're seeing in our economy. President Obama, under his leadership, we've had 24 months in a row of positive job creation every month. An auto industry that many thought had gone the way of the dinosaur is now adding 200,000 jobs. We see foreclosures have been driven down thanks to the president's leadership to the lowest levels we've seen in four years. So I do believe that the overriding issue in this race is jobs and the economy, and clearly things are getting better and they still need to improve, and we could make it--we need to accelerate our jobs recovery.

MR. GREGORY: And yet the man you're supporting, Governor McDonnell, is Mitt Romney, who's making the case that he could do a better job with economic growth. Is the argument going to be more difficult to make if we continue on the path we're on with job creation?

GOV. McDONNELL: Well, job creation, economic development is the issue in this campaign, and all of us as Americans ought to celebrate the progress that's, that's been made. And I give the private sector the credit for doing that. But listen, we've lost 864,000 jobs since the beginning of this administrating. Eight percent to 9 percent, 10 percent, that may be the best that Barack Obama can do, but that's not as good as Americans really, really need. This issue, this election is about jobs, economic development, taxes, spending, debt and deficit. And I think on each of those issues, this president has really failed. We've added to the national debt by $5 trillion, and the unemployment rate being over 8 percent for the entire Obama presidency, that's not a good record to run on.

MR. GREGORY: But it's going to become a choice, right?

GOV. O'MALLEY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: And the question is whether Romney has really broken through with an economic message that says this is a distinctly different path and a more acceptable path for Americans. You would argue it's not.

GOV. O'MALLEY: And, you know, what we see, it'll be a choice between two alternatives, and both of these gentlemen now have records. And when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, David, a state that by any measure is pretty strong to be, create jobs in a new economy...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. O'MALLEY: ...instead, under Governor Romney's leadership, they ranked 47th out of 50 states in job creation. So I think you're going to have a pretty clear contrast here. And if you look at the presidential campaign, I mean, let's be honest, there's been a lot more time spent pandering to the extreme right wing ideologues of the new Republican Party than has been spent talking about jobs and the economy. Rick Santorum in the Arizona debate mentioned the word jobs not once, not a single time. So I believe that the president is looking strong, is strong, is focused on the economy, and that's going to carry him through this election.

MR. GREGORY: Governor?

GOV. McDONNELL: Well, I think that's a manufactured issue. I think the Democrats and this president are trying to do everything they can to take the issue off of jobs and the economy, debt, deficit, energy, because they don't have a plan. I would say that Republican governors have had something to do with that. The seven out of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates are governed by Republican governors. But the fact is, David, when you go back to the beginning to the this administration, gas prices have doubled. The number of new proposals for taxes and spending are through the roof in this Obama administration and with Democrat governors. The number of people that have actually lost a job, over 800,000. So while we're making some progress, I can't think of a thing that this administration has done other than stimulus spending that would be responsible for that. I'd say we can do better. Eight percent, not good enough. We can do a lot better. There's 25 million Americans that are underemployed or, or unemployed. That's not good enough. Mitt Romney in the private sector created over 100,000 new jobs, showed he could turn the Olympics around. That's the kind of change that we need.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about social issues because in some cases in the, in the Republican race, this has overshadowed talk about the economy and you, in fact, in Virginia, have been at the center of some of this. You backed an abortion bill initially that included a very invasive procedure as part of an ultrasound that the state would have required and then you backed off of that. Were you wrong to support that initially or did you simply back off because the political heat got turned up the way it did?

GOV. McDONNELL: No, I think--listen, that was one bill out of a thousand that we passed that was all focused on jobs and economic development, education, and a number of other things. That's my agenda is restoring the American dream for people in Virginia. We've got the lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast and surpluses for two years. That's what I'm doing. You know, this bill allows Virginia to join about 20 other--23 other states that have an ultrasound procedure.

MR. GREGORY: It's actually only about seven that have these kind of procedures.

GOV. McDONNELL: No, but there's 23 that require a, a, a woman to have an opportunity to see an ultrasound.

MR. GREGORY: But were you wrong? Were you wrong initially when you said this invasive procedure should be part of the bill?

GOV. McDONNELL: Well--no, I never said that.

MR. GREGORY: Or did you only bend in the heat?

GOV. McDONNELL: No, David, I think you're wrong with the facts. So what we said simply was that we support the concept of an ultrasound and through the committee process, I realized that there were some other things in the bill that needed to be admitted. I recommended that to the general assembly, they agreed to it. And so what I think is going on is the focus on this election is not about that. When people go into this voting booth in November, David, they're going to look at who's got the best vision to create jobs, who's got the best idea to get us out of debt and this constant focus on social issues is largely coming from the Democrats. Here's what I'm worried about...

MR. GREGORY: Well, hold on, I want to stop you there...

GOV. McDONNELL: ...there's a war on the...

MR. GREGORY: ...because I'm still, I'm still asking about this issue. Look, you ran in part talking about health care, the president's healthcare plan.

GOV. McDONNELL: I ran against it, so.

MR. GREGORY: You ran against it, precisely.

GOV. McDONNELL: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: This was the state of the Virginia mandating women have an additional procedure, a mandated health procedure. I thought that's exactly what conservatives opposed?

GOV. McDONNELL: David, this was about stating what informed consent is and saying that women have a right to know certain things before a procedure. Every invasive procedure has an informed consent requirement. So what I think this is is more of people trying to get the focus off the abysmal record of this administration on jobs and the economy, taxes and spending. I'm worried about the war of the administration and some Democrat governors on the American taxpayer. More taxes, more spending, more debt. Even in Maryland, you've got proposals to increase the sales tax, the gas tax, the tax on cigars, everything else that moves. This is the issue in the race is who's going to keep taxes low on the American middle class? And I think that's why we're going to win.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think the sense that certainly Democrats are talking about and that some women feel that there is a growing assault on reproductive rights, can it become a more central issue in the race? Or is that going to become a side issue, as the governor says?

GOV. O'MALLEY: Well, I think the central issue in this race is creating jobs and expanding opportunity. I think these cultural--don't like to use the term wars--these cultural divisive wedge issues, these sort of roll back of women's rights, roll back of women's access to contraception and other health, roll back of voting rights, roll back of workers rights, all of these things that take us back are not strengthening our economy and creating jobs. And I think that people start to see a pattern, David, emerging in states like Wisconsin, states like Ohio, states like Florida.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GOV. O'MALLEY: And sadly, recently even in Virginia, where these cultural issues are crowding out the things that really should concern us most.

GOV. McDONNELL: But, David, I would say...

GOV. O'MALLEY: Seven, seven out of 10--seven out of the best 10 states for creating 21st century jobs in science and technology, are governed by Democratic governors. Now Virginia, credit where credit is due, is one of those top states. The question is whether we're making the right investments in jobs, education, more affordable college, that will keep Virginia in that top ranking in the future. Maryland's there. We're making college more affordable, we're creating jobs at twice the rate of Virginia. And these cultural battles that drive people apart are not helpful to driving us forward.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think your counterpart here in Virginia would be a good running mate for Romney or would you cast him as an extremist?

GOV. O'MALLEY: Well, I think if you, if you look simply...

GOV. McDONNELL: This is your chance, Martin.

GOV. O'MALLEY: Governor, if you look simply at job creation, now while Maryland's had a better rate of job creation than Virginia...

GOV. McDONNELL: Martin, that's just not true.

GOV. O'MALLEY: ...the truth is Virginia...

GOV. McDONNELL: PolitiFact has said that's false.

GOV. O'MALLEY: ...Virginia ranks far higher than Massachusetts did under Mitt Romney. So for that reason...

MR. GREGORY: But would he...

GOV. O'MALLEY: ...I think Governor McDonnell would be a, actually a better job creator than Mitt Romney was.

GOV. McDONNELL: Thanks for that endorsement.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think he should be on the ticket? Do you think he'd be formidable?

GOV. O'MALLEY: Oh, I don't know. I think he's--I think he's a very skilled leader and he does an able job as the head of the Republican Governors Association.

MR. GREGORY: Governor, would you like to be president?

GOV. McDONNELL: No. I got the job held by Jefferson and Henry, I love being the governor of Virginia. But what I do want is a Republican president who can get us out of this malaise. We've gone from hope and change to division and malaise, that's what we've got over these last three years. So what I do want, though, is a President Romney who will have a vision on jobs...

MR. GREGORY: Could you be a help to him on the ticket?

GOV. McDONNELL: Well, I'm going to be. I've been traveling for him already. Oh, on the ticket? I'm not--that's for you pundits for decide, David. I'm just--I could be a help to him, I think, in making sure people see the difference between a President Romney and a President Obama on the things people care about: jobs, spending and taxes.

MR. GREGORY: We're going to leave it there. Governors, thank you very much.

GOV. McDONNELL: Thanks.

GOV. O'MALLEY: Thank you, David.

MR. GREGORY: Nice talking to you.

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