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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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Governor, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R-IN): Thanks, Savannah.

MS. GUTHRIE: Sir, before we turn to politics and the state of the economy, just want to offer our condolences. We know it's been a really difficult week for the people of Indiana, the accident at the state fair. We really appreciate your time all the more so this week, sir.

GOV. DANIELS: Thanks for mentioning it.

MS. GUTHRIE: Let's talk about politics, and I'm going to put on the screen the Republican candidates for president as it stands right now. You've got Romney, Perry, Gingrich, Paul, Cain, Santorum, Bachmann and Huntsman. My question to you, sir, is there a president on that screen?

GOV. DANIELS: I think there could be several of them. These are good people with a lot of character, and a lot of them, I think, have the right skill set to be president.

MS. GUTHRIE: Would you campaign for all of them?

GOV. DANIELS: I'd campaign for whichever one emerges from our, from our process.

MS. GUTHRIE: You know, there's a sense, though, governor that some Republicans aren't quite satisfied with the field we just showed. There continues to be speculation about someone else in the race. Maybe New Jersey Governor Chris Christie,

Congressman Paul Ryan. Rudy Giuliani has talked about it. Sarah Palin is hanging out there. Does all of this translate to a sense among some in the Republican Party that they look at the Republican field and they ask themselves, "Really, is this the best we can do?"

GOV. DANIELS: Well, there's nothing wrong with searching for the best we can do. I, I think that's what all Americans are hoping for. And my own view has been that, although I like all those folks, there's something to like about each one of them, that this is a more the merrier situation. That's why we have an extended nomination process. And, you know, I look forward to how these candidates develop their messages. And...

MS. GUTHRIE: But, Governor, wait a minute. If you really felt strongly that, in the current slate of candidates there was somebody who could take on President Obama and win, why would you be saying the more the merrier, come, come one, come all, let's get more candidates in?

GOV. DANIELS: Because I, back to your previous question, I would like to see the very, very best. You know, I think we know that these folks have great personal qualities. I'm waiting to hear their message. I personally hope that our party will speak the language of unity. We are all in this mess together. You know, the American people, as your previous interview showed, don't need a lot of instruction from anyone about how failed these policies have been, how bad, how deep the problems we're facing are. And I think that the best candidate, the one people are searching for, will be one who speaks specifically and candidly about what we ought to do about it. They--we don't need to bash the president, the failure of what he's done, the misdirection of this country is pretty obvious to us all. So let's talk about the important question. What do we do now? And I think maybe one of the existing field is going to emerge as the, as the person who speaks most affirmatively and appealingly in that way.

MS. GUTHRIE: Well, I know you're close to Congressman Paul Ryan who is said to be, once again, weighing a bid for president. Are, are you encouraging him to run? Have you spoken to him lately? Do you think he may run?

GOV. DANIELS: I've not spoken to him lately, and I've not encouraged him. When asked about him as a candidate, I said if Paul Ryan ran I thought he would really enrich this debate in many of the ways I just talked about. He understands that an, an affirmative pro-growth, pro-jobs message that says everything else must take second place to that, is the one hope for low-income people in this country. It's the one way we restore a stable and hopeful middle class. And he would be a very effective and clear spokesman with a heart for people that I think our party must display. But others have...

MS. GUTHRIE: Are you sending him a message this morning? I mean, do you think he makes up for, for lack of a better word, a deficit in the current field?

GOV. DANIELS: It is not for me to say. He's got a young family, and he's fairly young in his career. And that's a highly personal decision, and I wouldn't attempt to intrude on. But I'm just telling you that I think that now or in the future, this is an American who has a lot to offer and, and to whom I hope people will listen, whether he's a candidate or not.

MS. GUTHRIE: Well, let's talk about the rhetoric among the candidates who are in the field. And here you are talking to conservative activists back in February about your concerns about rhetoric in our politics in general.

(Videotape, Conservative Political Action Conference)

GOV. DANIELS: I urge a similar thoughtfulness about the rhetoric we deploy in the great debate ahead. I suspect everyone here regrets and laments the sad, crude, coarsening of our popular culture. It has a counterpart in the venomous, petty, often ad hominem political discourse of the day.

(End videotape)

MS. GUTHRIE: And yet it would appear, sir, that many of your Republican colleagues in the presidential race aren't necessarily heeding that warning. Here is Texas Governor Rick Perry this week accusing the Federal Reserve chairman of near treason.


GOV. PERRY: If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what you all would do to him in Iowa, but we'd--we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, or treasonous, in my opinion.

(End videotape)

MS. GUTHRIE: Governor, did Rick Perry cross the line?

GOV. DANIELS: He made a serious point in an unfortunate way. I think everybody, including, I guess, the president has given him a mulligan on the, on the adjective. You know, the point he's making about flooding the world with printed money, borrowing unlimited quantities, using it for trickle down government, which is the policy of this administration, is a bad one. But sure...

MS. GUTHRIE: But is this a...

GOV. DANIELS: Sure, he shouldn't have said it. And I still, I still believe very much--you know, I went on in that, in that talk that you just played a sliver of to say we can't beat the other side. There's nobody more effective than the president and his allies at vilifying people, challenging their character. And they've a...

MS. GUTHRIE: Are you sure about that? I mean, Rick Perry just accused the Fed chairman of near treason.

GOV. DANIELS: And I join the, the--those who agree that that was the wrong thing to say. But I'm just, I just told our folks as a matter of effectiveness, you can't. You can't outdo them. Besides, here's the more serious point, Savannah, we sure have found in Indiana if you want to make big change, you need big majorities, you need a big consensus, and you need to try and unify and reach out to people. And, you know, that's what I hope that our party would do. If the, if the goal is results and not just scoring points, and not just the emotional satisfaction of zinging somebody, or not even just the very, you know, partial victory of winning an election, if we're going to save this country, if we're going to redeem the American dream, then we're going to have to gather together people. Once again, we are in this together. The, the, the dangers we face are, are of equal, I think, threat to every one of us. And, and I just hope that we will find a vocabulary, first as a party, then as a nation, for saying so.

MS. GUTHRIE: You know, recently at the Republican debate the candidates were asked whether they would accept a deal in which there were $10 of spending cuts for every $1 of tax hikes. And every single candidate raised their hand saying they would not take such a deal. My question to you is, is this tenable? I mean, you're a former budget director, you know the deficit problems better than anyone else. I mean, does that convey a sense that Republicans are so intransigent on this issue that this problem they profess to care about, i.e. the deficit, can't be solved?

GOV. DANIELS: Well, first, there's tons of intransigents on the other side. The Democrats have been utterly I'd say, not only stubborn, but cynical in their protestations that they won't touch, they won't, they won't modernize or rebuild the safety net programs, and everyone knows that has to happen. No. I would say this. I've, I've answered this question before. Seems to me that someone who would be our next president should take one pledge and one only, and that's the one that involves the Bible and the west front of the Capitol building. And, at this point, my view is that we should address our economic issues and, for that matter, our debt issues without at least raising tax rates. We're going to have to raise a lot more revenue, and I think that means a new tax system: fewer loopholes, lower rates. But the--I think that, at this stage, if you could get such a deal, you know, the problem with these bargains in the past is the taxes are real and immediate and somehow the spending cuts never happen. So there's a reason to be very skeptical about them. But, no, I think that we ought to be open. We've got to solve this problem in the interest of us all, and we ought not rule anything out in pursuit of doing that.

MS. GUTHRIE: Well, Republicans have certainly successfully made deficit cutting a primary subject of debate here in Washington. But how is deficit cutting a jobs creation strategy? Which is the thing Americans are most concerned about.

GOV. DANIELS: Because we're going to have a crushing debt load, therefore higher interest rates in a--it's now very well demonstrated that past a certain level of debt, which we are rapidly approaching faster than anyone ever expected under this administration, growth is permanently stagnated, and therefore the American dream of upward mobility permanently stunted. And so I do not agree with those who say, you know, it's like, wasn't it St. Augustine, "Lord, make me chaste, but not today." You know, who say that, "Yeah, yeah, we'll cut some spending but not for a good while." I don't buy that. Who thought the federal government was too small, for instance, in 2008? You know, I believe the first step in a growth strategy is to say to the world, "America's not going broke. Our credit is going to be good. You can loan us money at rates we can afford." And I believe it's part and parcel. It ought to go, if you, if you'll permit me, it, it ought to go hand in hand with a full throated nothing else comes first commitment to jobs and growth. That means energy. That means stopping the overregulation we're facing, and I already mentioned tax reform.

MS. GUTHRIE: Well, we, we're almost out of time here. I've got to ask you, I know you carefully considered a run for president. Do you have any regrets saying you won't? Would you reconsider and enter the race?

GOV. DANIELS: I've been asked that question an awful lot lately, publicly and privately, and, and I think our family is at peace that we made the decision that, that is right for us. And it was made as a, as a family. And so I, I think this race can do fine without me. I do hope to be constructive in some way or another, and I'll, I'll look for some supporting role.

MS. GUTHRIE: Would you consider a vice president as a supporting role?

GOV. DANIELS: I think it's such a far-fetched question, I never answer it.

MS. GUTHRIE: All right. Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, it's good to have you here, sir. Thank you.

GOV. DANIELS: Thank you.


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