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MSNBC Meet the Press - Transcript

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MSNBC Meet the Press - Transcript


LT. GOV. STEELE: I'm not running away from him. I'm running for the United States Senate. I've been outed; OK, everyone, I'm a Republican. I think after four years as lieutenant governor, elected as a Republican, and certainly serving with Governor Ehrlich, a Republican, I think people know who I am. This is the point, Tim, you know, I found it somewhat amusing that I have to put on my material that I'm Republican, but no other candidate running for office has to put their party label on their material. I mean, I'm not running away from George Bush. I'm not running towards George Bush. I'm running for the United States Senate. And one of the things that I, one of the things that I wanted to do differently in this race, to be very straight up about it, was to get away from the polarization, to get away from the labels.

Look, since 2000, we've watched our country divide itself along red and blue lines — Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative — and what have we got to show for it? All we've got is a lot of noise. Now, you know, you know, everybody in the world knows I'm a Republican, so that's part one. But part two is, what are you going to do as a senator? And part of what I've seen in Washington is exactly what's represented here today. Old Washington, old ways, an old mind-set that polarizes, that wants to say, you know, "When we take control." You know, how about the country? How about the interest of the country? How about we creating a bipartisan — what I did not hear on the Iraq subject, for example, is a move towards a bipartisan consensus. You've got a commission out there with, with Baker and Hamilton that are looking at a strategy to help us resolve some important difficulties in Iraq on a bipartisan consensus. This is about taking control of the Congress and not so much about solving the problem. So when I look at this race, and when I looked at it, I wanted to do something a little bit differently, and I wanted to label it a little bit differently. I'm not running away from my party. And you know what? It has not been the easiest thing in the world to run in this cycle.

MR. RUSSERT: Are you running as a proud Bush Republican?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I'm a proud Republican.

MR. RUSSERT: Why not proud Bush Republican?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I'm a proud — I'm a proud Republican. I mean, because my orientation is the Republican Party, it's not just one individual in the party. And so, you know, President Bush is the president of our party — of the United States, he's the leader of our party. Ronald Reagan, I'm a Lincolnite. If anything, I consider myself a Lincoln Republican. And so my reality is, you know, we can talk about and try to get me boxed in on, you know, he's this type of Republican or that type of Republican. What I'm trying to show the people of Maryland was what kind of senator I'm going to be, and that I'm going to have the ability to reach across the aisle and, and work with those who are on the other side.

MR. RUSSERT: Here's the one thing that did confuse me.


MR. RUSSERT: Someone — this bumper sticker, paid for by your campaign.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Right, right.

MR. RUSSERT: And I'll put it on the screen. "Steele Democrat."


MR. RUSSERT: That's not truth in advertising.

LT. GOV. STEELE: You've never heard of "Reagan Democrats"? Have you ever heard of the term "Reagan Democrats"?

MR. RUSSERT: It doesn't say "I'm a Steele Democrat." It says "Steele Democrat."

LT. GOV. STEELE: Did it say "I'm a Reagan Democrat"? It said "Reagan" — it always referred to Reagan Democrats, right?

MR. RUSSERT: So you're not passing yourself off as a Democrat?

LT. GOV. STEELE: No, I'm not. I — look, I am Michael Steele. I am, I am, you know, Maybelle's son and — who was raised in Washington, D.C., and became a Republican, worked in the party, and is now Lieutenant Governor running for the U.S. Senate. I have a lot of Democrat friends in my state who support me, and what I thought was cute about that was they could put that on their bumper sticker and when you said it, they're still Democrats, but they're Steele Democrats.

MR. RUSSERT: What about Steele Republican? Do you have a sticker like that?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Yeah, well, we don't have that sticker because...

MR. RUSSERT: Because you said the R on — is a...

LT. GOV. STEELE: That's not a bad idea, actually. Maybe we should get some of those made up.

That's not a bad idea. I didn't think of that.

MR. RUSSERT: You said, you said the R is a scarlet letter and that if this is a choice between

Democrats and Republicans, you lose.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely, Tim.

TEXT: "I've got an ‘R' here, a scarlet letter. ... If this race is about Republicans and Democrats, I lose."

-- Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-MD)
Washington Post
July 25, 2006

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely, absolutely. And that's exactly what Ben Cardin wants this race to be about. That's exactly what the Democrats want this race to be about. Because when this race is about Democrats and Republicans in a state like Maryland, which is two to one, all they have to say is "The boogeyman's Republican and all you guys remember, you've got to vote for us D's." What I'm trying to do is break through that noise and say I represent something different. I represent, represent, I think, a different challenge for my state and for my country.

MR. RUSSERT: But you will organize with the Republicans if you won. You would vote for a Republican majority leader?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Yeah, yeah, I guess, yeah. That would make sense, wouldn't it?

MR. RUSSERT: And would you — and would you be...

LT. GOV. STEELE: I wouldn't vote for Ben.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you be a reliable vote for President Bush?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I would be a reliable vote for the people of Maryland because, at the end of the day, I'm going to evaluate every issue as it comes to me and where my party is wrong, I'm not standing with it, I'm not voting with it. And I've been clear on that. I've disagreed with my party on the minimum wage. I've called for an increase in the minimum wage. I disagreed with my party on No Child Left Behind.

MR. RUSSERT: You endorsed No Child Left Behind at the convention in ‘04.

LT. GOV. STEELE: I sure did. And, and since that time, I sat down and I've talked to a thousand teachers in, in my state, and I've listened to them tell me what the problem is. This is the problem with Ben Washington — Ben Cardin's world, his Washington, Ben's Washington. I like that. This is the problem with it. They don't listen to people. They pass policy. They implement reforms, so they say. But then they don't go back and see if they're working. And I want to be one of those leaders who actually goes back and follows up on the bills and on the laws and make sure that they're having the impact that we intended.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Cardin, you vote against President Bush 70 percent of the time and you said to MSNBC's "Hardball" back in September, "I think we need to investigate this president. I'm very disappointed that this Congress has not instituted any investigations of this president." What does that mean?

REP. CARDIN: Well, first I'm trying to figure out the 30 percent where I agreed with President Bush, so I'll try to figure those out. Let me first correct the record, state of the record.

MR. RUSSERT: You don't think you should ever vote with the president?

REP. CARDIN: Oh, I do. I absolutely do. I'm just mak — look, I've, for the record, I have — my literature has Democrat on it. Just want to correct Mr. Steele on that. And for the record, I'm one of those Democrats who's been able to work across party lines to get things done. I've been able to get major bills passed in a very partisan environment, because I know how to work with Republicans to bring about results for the people of Maryland. I've done that in health care, I've done that in pension changes, I've done that in tax code. So I know how to get things done. And I'll stand by my record in that regard. Mr. Steele was recruited by the Bush administration. You look at what he's, what he's done. I'm concerned about what he will bring to Washington. He supported the president in the war in Iraq, and still supports that decision today. I think that causes pause for the voters of Maryland. I oppose that. He supported George Bush's attempts to privatize Social Security. Marylanders do not want Social Security privatized.

LT. GOV. STEELE: You, you, you...

MR. RUSSERT: You've also talked about privatizing Social Security repeatedly.

REP. CARDIN: No, I didn't.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Yes, you have.

REP. CARDIN: What I said, what I said was — what I said was, and what I did was to set up separate accounts outside of Social Security. And in fact, Portman-Cardin, our legislation has done that. I have never supported taking any money out of the Social Security system. I made that clear from day one.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you again about the investigations. "I think we need to investigate the president." About what?

REP. CARDIN: What I — what I've said is, Congress needs to exercise its oversight function. It needs to do — act as a check and balance on the executive branch. Yes, we need to look at what the facts are, without any predetermined...

MR. RUSSERT: On what issue?

REP. CARDIN: On several issues. On the NSA wiretaps that the president did, that I believe was done without lawful authority. And the information we knew before we went to Iraq and the way that that information was presented to the American people. There's a list of issues. It's interesting, when Bill Clinton was president and the Republicans controlled Congress, at anything they would have at least an investigation to figure out what the facts are. Congress has a responsibility to the American people to oversight the executive branch of government. It shouldn't be partisan. It should be bipartisan. This is a responsibility of the legislative branch of government.

MR. RUSSERT: Should we consider impeachment of the president?

REP. CARDIN: Should not consider any options, should just consider an investigation.

MR. RUSSERT: But aren't you concerned the American people listening will say, "If the Democrats win, it'll be one big investigation"?

REP. CARDIN: No, not at all, not at all. I want — it's oversight. Yes, part of the responsibility of the Congress is oversighting the executive branch of government. And this Congress has not done that. It's failed in that regard.

LT. GOV. STEELE: This, this...

REP. CARDIN: And when you look at that, as you look at what this Congress has done, and allowed the president to do things unilaterally without the oversight that was — that's envisioned in our Constitution, this Congress did not carry out its constitutional responsibility.

LT. GOV. STEELE: So where was your resolution in the House calling for an investigation? So where was your resolution calling for all these things that you're now talking about? That's number one. Number two...

REP. CARDIN: Can I answer that?

LT. GOV. STEELE: ...we should not — we should not be in a — I'll let you in a second.


LT. GOV. STEELE: You — we should not be in a position during a time of war running up the flagpole all these investigations and, and, and you — members of your own party — I assume you're stepping away from them now — calling for impeachment.

REP. CARDIN: Wait a minute. I never said impeachment. I mean, just use the right words here.

LT. GOV. STEELE: No, I'm saying — I'm saying — no, no, I'm saying — I'm saying you are stepping away from the members of your call — your party who are calling for the impeachment of the president.

REP. CARDIN: I have not seen — each, each individual member may express their views. But let me say when the NSA wirecept...

LT. GOV. STEELE: So you're distancing yourself from that.

REP. CARDIN: ...when the NSA wirecept occurred, I sent a letter to the speaker asking for a House inquiry as to the use of that power. That's the right role for a congressman to do. I was joined by other members who did similar things. Congress did not exercise its appropriate responsibility in looking at what this president has done.

MR. RUSSERT: We have to take a quick break. We'll be right back with a lot more of Ben Cardin and Michael Steele. The debate for the U.S. Senate seat from Maryland, right after this.


MR. RUSSERT: All on eyes on Maryland. Big differences on the big issues. The U.S. Senate Debate continues right after this.


MR. RUSSERT: And we're back with the two candidates for the U.S. Senate from Maryland: Democrat Ben Cardin, Republican Michael Steele. Stem cells has emerged as an issue in this campaign. You each have a commercial on the air talking about that issue. Let's watch them both and come back and talk about it.

(Videotape, Cardin campaign ad):

REP. CARDIN: I'm Ben Cardin and I approved this message.

MR. MICHAEL J. FOX: Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. But George Bush and Michael Steele will put limits on the most promising stem cell research. Fortunately, Marylanders have a chance to vote for Ben Cardin. Cardin fully supports life-saving stem cell research. It's why I support Ben Cardin. And with so much at stake, I respectfully ask you to do the same.

(End videotape)

(Videotape, Steele campaign ad):

LT. GOV. STEELE: I'm Michael Steele and I approved this message.

DR. MONICA TURNER: I'm Dr. Monica Turner. Congressman Ben Cardin is attacking Michael Steele with deceptive, tasteless ads. He is using the victim of a terrible disease to frighten people, all for his own political gain. Mr. Cardin should be ashamed. There's something you should know about Michael Steele: he does support stem cell research, and he cares deeply for those who suffer from disease. How do I know? I'm Michael Steele's little sister. I have MS, and I know he cares about me.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Cardin, is there any difference in your positions?

REP. CARDIN: There's a major difference, Tim. I support the expansion of embryonic stem cell research, Mr. Steele opposes that. I voted to override the president's veto, a bill that was bipartisan, worked out so that we could advance embryonic stem cell research. Mr. Steele supported the president's veto in that regard. So there's a major difference between the two of us on embryonic stem cell research.

MR. RUSSERT: Your sister said that the Michael J. Fox ad was deceptive and tasteless. Why?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, because it said that I don't support stem cell research, and I do support stem cell research. Where I have drawn the line is federal funding for research that destroys the embryo. And, and I've been very much an advocate and supporter of advancing research that will allow us to do the — do what we need to do without destroying that, that embryo. There's only one person at this table who's voted against stem cell research, and that's Ben Cardin. When there was a bill presented that was passed 100 to one--100 to zero, in the United States Senate, both, both Maryland Democrat senators voted for this, this bill that would allow for stem cell research that did not destroy the embryo. So we had Senator Sarbanes and Senator Mikulski support that. He voted against it the in the House. So this, you know, so this — I don't...

MR. RUSSERT: We'll let him respond to that.

LT. GOV. STEELE: You know.

REP. CARDIN: That bill was a — was put up by the opponents of embryonic stem cell research. The two House sponsors of the bill that, by the way, deals with embryos that would otherwise be discarded, Congresswoman DeGette and Congresswoman — Congressman Castle both voted against it. The advocates for the stem cell research urged us that this would do absolutely nothing to advance embryonic stem cell research. The reason is, quite frankly, that the technique just doesn't exist. It will advance embryonic stem cell research. It was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Santorum. I don't think I need to say more than that.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Wait, that, that — first off, Senate — Congressman, that's rude to say that. Number two, what, what, what...

REP. CARDIN: Senator Santorum has been opposed to embryonic stem cell research.

LT. GOV. STEELE: ...what, what does, what does, what does Senator Sarbanes and Senator, Senator Mikulski not know that you know, that caused them to vote for it, and you against it?

REP. CARDIN: The, the...

LT. GOV. STEELE: What, what do they, what do they know that you don't, that you don't know?

REP. CARDIN: Let me answer. In the United States Senate, that was the way in which they were able to get a clean vote on the embryonic stem cell compromise bill.

LT. GOV. STEELE: So you said they...

REP. CARDIN: They did that in order to accommodate the vote in the United States Senate.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Oh, so they have, they have no convictions on this issue. They have no beliefs.

REP. CARDIN: No, they, they certainly do. They certainly do. This bill would do nothing at all to advance embryonic stem cell research. The critical vote in the United States Congress was on the bipartisan bill, the bill that was worked out, that dealt with embryos that otherwise were going to be discarded. It was a compromise bill that allows our scientists to move forward. Listen to the scientists. They'll tell you that that was the vote, that was the key vote. You support the president, you supported the veto. We have a fundamental difference on this issue.


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