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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript -

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(Videotape)

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI): We understand in this country that the true way to live the American dream is not to grow up someday and dream big about being dependent on the government, it's about empowering people through the dignity of work to control their own destiny through the benefits of a job in the private sector that brings true freedom and prosperity!

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
We are back now with more from our roundtable, and joining the conversation is Republican Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker. Governor, good to have you back. That was you at the gathering of conservatives, and I want to talk about the future of the party.

First, let me get some reaction to this debate about the budget from where you sit, as a governor. Here you have this tension right now between the parties and the president I thought really sort of clarifying his position this week saying, "We don't have a debt crisis. We are not in a hurry to balance this budget. Let's focus on the economy first."

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
Well, I think we need to do both. I mean, in our states, when I ran, I talked about both the economic and fiscal crisis we faced, and then we acted on it. And I think most governors, Democrat and Republican alike, not only because we have balanced budget amendments in all but one state but more importantly because we understand a balanced budget. Balancing is spending within your means, actually connects you to the economy. I think we need to do both: Create jobs, create a better environment for jobs, but also do it in a way that lives within our means.

DAVID GREGORY:
But let's just talk about reality as well. I mean, you just heard it. There is no ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases that Republicans will accept. Democrats are not going to cut entitlements or reform entitlements on their own. So there is no grand bargain to be had.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
Well, that's the problem overall. It's one of the frustrations when we look from the outside in, here in Washington, is the fact that you've got, you know, one hand, you've got the entitlement issue and you've said Democrats aren't going to move that direction without more tax revenue. On the other hand, you've got Republicans saying, "Hey, if we're going to have tax reform, we should reform it. Get rid of those loopholes but put it into lowering the rate so we stimulate the economy."

DAVID GREGORY:
Chris Matthews, you made a point this week when we were on a panel discussion saying that you think Republicans are not telling the whole story of what they believe, that they don't want to really be cutting Medicare and Social Security.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:
I think the problem is that both are really in positions they're happy to be in. That's why I think they'd all prefer a sequestration to the next situation which is, if you're a Republican, the Democrats are basically saying-- and I'm speaking to you here. They're basically saying that, "Okay, why don't you raise taxes on people that have big tax loopholes like home mortgages and charitable contributions?" which is never going to happen. Carried interest would only raise a few bucks anyway.

So they're really talking about raising revenues, raising taxes. And in exchange for that, we're going to let you take responsibility for cutting Medicare. I mean, why would any Republican ever seek reelection saying, "Yes, I did raise taxes on people that are (UNINTEL), and I'm also screwing you on Medicare." I mean, why would anybody want to do that?

DAVID GREGORY:
Ana Navarro, this is part and parcel of where the Republican Party is going. You, as near as I can tell, have been hanging out in Maryland at the CPAC conference. You've got trinkets, you're standing with Rand posters. I know it's not necessarily an endorsement but--

ANA NAVARRO:
I'm still twitching, just so you know, some three days after--

(OVERTALK)

ANA NAVARRO:
--I just want you to know that Rand Paul had an entire campaign going on. This did not happen by accident.

DAVID GREGORY:
So here's what I want to do. Here are two sound bites from this week, two different visions of the road ahead. Let's play that and get some reaction.

(Videotape)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): We don't need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea is called America. And it still works.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered. I don't think we need to name many names, do we?

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
One of the things he means, I think, is Senator McCain. He's picked a fight with hawks in the Republican Party. What does it say about who's the face right now? What does it mean to be a conversation in the party right now?

ANA NAVARRO:
I don't think we know. I think that if we learned something in these last three days is that you can see it one of two ways. Either there's a very healthy debate going on, or the conservatives are suffering from multiple personality disorder. Because I heard both some panels and some speeches that were very pro immigration reform, and then I heard some that were very against.
I heard panels that were very strong on national defense and having a strong role for the U.S. in international security, and I heard some were utter isolationists and saying, "We need to back off." So I think there was a lot of debate going on. You could either see it as healthy or you could see it as not healthy.

DAVID GREGORY:
Frank Keating, where are you with all this?

FMR. GOV. FRANK KEATING:
Well, I mean, CPAC, I was the emcee once for one of their--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
Former governor, of course.

FMR. GOV. FRANK KEATING:
Yep, for one of their dinners several years ago. I mean, it really is a spring stew. You have conservatives; you have social conservatives, you have economic conservatives, you have libertarians. And Rand Paul won the CPAC poll; what is his viewpoint? His dad's, I guess, would be legalize heroin, get rid of NATO. I mean, it's a very, very--

ANA NAVARRO:
Well, he wants to cut the Department of Education and he wants--

(OVERTALK)

FMR. GOV. FRANK KEATING:
It's all over the place. That, to me, as a conservative is not the common denominator of the party. What is the common denominator of the party, I think, is growth, opportunity, incomes. Making us finally address this very serious debt deficit. I think--

(OVERTALK)
DAVID GREGORY:
Well, you're to Iowa. Would you like to be a nominee of the Republican Party?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
I've been to Michigan, I've been to Illinois, I've been other places. I'm perfectly satisfied being governor of Wisconsin. I had to do it twice in the last two years to run for that office. But, you know, per both the senators you mentioned, there's somewhere in between. There's the principles that are timeless, combined with the fact that we need to be more relevant as conservatives, as Republicans.
What I mean by that, and it actually goes to your point, you know, who in America grows up wanting to be dependent on the government? Who moves in from another country, who comes as an immigrant, and doesn't want to live the American dream? We need to be the movement, we need to be the party that says we're not the ones that not have you become dependent on the government but rather empower you to live your dreams for more freedom and--

ANA NAVARRO:
But, you know--

DAVID GREGORY:
--prosperity.

ANA NAVARRO:
--we used to talk about conservatism as a three-legged stool. And I can tell you at least one or two of those legs are awfully wobbly, if you judge it by the CPAC conference. Because the national security, the strong defense, is getting wobbly, and also social views, the social issues. You've got Rand Paul saying, "Let's back off from talking about that." So we're either down to being a bicycle or a unicycle, depending on who's speaking.

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, Kathleen, speaking about social issues. Rob Portman, senator from Ohio where there was a gay marriage, an effort on gay marriage back in 2004 that was a big part of turning out the base for George W. Bush. A change of heart on gay marriage this week; this is what he said about it to CNN.

(Videotape)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): I'm announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about that has to do with gay couples' opportunity to marry. //
I've come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I've had for over 26 years. That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay.

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
Something that he's known about for a couple of years, says it was not a factor, by the way, in Mitt Romney not selecting him to be his running mate. How do you react to that?

FMR. LT. GOV. KATHLEEN KENNEDY:
Well, I think there's just a sea change obviously in gay rights, and I'm very excited about that. And I think, as more and more people are comfortable saying, "My child is gay," "My best friend is gay," you know, "My niece, my nephew are gay," it's going to change. And it is changing.
And I think it's a wonderful opportunity. You know, America is saying, "We're going to allow everybody to come in, everybody to be able to participate." And I think that's very, very exciting. I would say about the question about the Republican Party talking about growth, I mean, just to go back to the other issue; growth really could occur, as Cain's (?) pointed out, by actually spending government money.
I mean, you can see what has happened in England when everybody's practiced austerity. The currency is going down, and the unemployment is worse. So I don't know if the Republicans are really interested in growth if they're not actually saying, "Let's spend money now." This is our biggest challenge.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
So, Governor, I want to stay on the gay marriage issue though, if I can, because I want your reaction to both.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
Governor Walker, is it a civil rights issue? Do you sense a sea change in the Republican Party on this issue?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
Well, I think the senator's announcement made the topic timely. But in our state, I mean, it was in the constitution years ago. They made a similar change that you talked about in Ohio. It rarely is an issue. It didn't come up in my 2010 election; didn't come up 2012.

DAVID GREGORY:
But you've said it's generational.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
I think it is. I think it is.

DAVID GREGORY:
Are younger conservatives more apt to see marriage equality as something that is, you know, what they believe, that is basic, rather than as a disqualifying issue?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
Well, I think there's no doubt about that. But I think that's all the more reason, when I talk about things, I talk about the economic and fiscal crisis in our state and in our country. That's what people want to resonate about. They don't want to get focused on those issues.

DAVID GREGORY:
Frank?

FMR. GOV. FRANK KEATING:
Well, I think the issue is sensitive, real, a challenge in families and in society. You know, there is a sea change going on I think federally, and certainly at the state level, over the course of the last 20 years. Thirty states still have a prohibition against same-sex marriages. And you can see generationally where that has changed.

I would hope we wouldn't have one bludgeoned federal solution one way or the other. But let the states-- which did not happen on the abortion debate after Roe v. Wade. Let the states resolve this state by state. My state, Oklahoma, would probably-- I don't think "probably;" would, in fact, have a traditional marriage view. Other states, Maryland, for example, just voted for same-sex marriage.

FMR. LT. GOV. KATHLEEN KENNEDY:
The first state in the country.

FMR. GOV. FRANK KEATING:
Right. Just--

FMR. LT. GOV. KATHLEEN KENNEDY:
By a few hours.

FMR. GOV. FRANK KEATING:
--very different. And I think that's federalism working as it should.

DAVID GREGORY:
Then I want to--

(OVERTALK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS:
--gets down to it as to whether it's a right or not. And I think you're going to see that with the court disposition. And we're all watching Anthony Kennedy, and we want to know whether we're going to get a decision like we saw with the Lawrence case where the liberty clause is really paramount.
And, you know, we do have a declaration in our founding document which gives us the right to pursue happiness. And we do have a liberty clause which is you can't take away a person's right to liberty or property without due process of law. Do we have a due process excuse for denying a person a right to marry someone of their own gender? Do we have that right?
This is a profound question. We can't just talk about it in practical terms like this. Do you have the right to follow your love? And this is a serious question. And I don't think we'll get away with it with just day-to-day politics. And I think the whole thing--

DAVID GREGORY:
Do you believe that, Governor, there's that right?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
Well, the interesting thing on the generational standpoint is I've had young people ask me-- I think an appropriate question is not expanding it to include folks who are not one man and one woman, but rather questioning why the government's sanctioning it in the first place? And that would be the alternative, say not have the government sanction--

ANA NAVARRO:
A very valid question I think that the Republican--

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
--marriage period. And leave that up to the churches and the synagogues and others to define that--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:
Well, you can't get away because here are issues of Social Security payments and all kinds of things involved in that. And--

ANA NAVARRO:
Well, so--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:
--rights of prisoners and rights of people in the military. You have to recognize spousal rights.

ANA NAVARRO:
As the youngest person--

DAVID GREGORY:
Quickly--

ANA NAVARRO:
--on this panel, I think it is generational. People like Will Portman are a lot more comfortable living their truth today than people were 20, 30, 40 years ago. But I also think it's a personal choice. And as Republicans, we are the party of personal freedom, of family values. I think it's a personal choice for everybody, and an issue of tolerance.
I want people who are pro traditional marriage to tolerate my views and don't think that that makes me less moral or less of a Republican. And I need to tolerate the views of those who think marriage is just a man and a woman, and know that that does not make them a bigot. It's a personal choice.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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