tv Meet the Press NBC August 22, 2010 10:00am-11:00am EDT
this sunday, our special focus on the midterm race and what it will mean for the balance of power in washington. >> there will be in washington, d.c. a democratic majority in the house and a democratic majority in the senate. that will be the case. and we're not illegal, i would make book on it. >> the referendum on president obama and the democrats takes center stage as races heat up across the country. we discuss the issues that may affect how you vote in november. the economy, jobs, the deficit, the war in afghanistan and the
withdrawal of troops from iraq. with us, our top news interview this morning, senator mitch mcconnell and then the debate of the influence of the tea party on national politics. the former house majority leader and author of the new book about the movement "give us liberty." republican dick armey and jennifer granhold. our political round table on the fight over the islamic mosque near ground zero. the growing controversy and uncertainty about president obama's own religious beliefs. with us, jeffrey goldberg of the "atlantic's" magazine, jeffrey goldberg, paul gigot, and katty kay. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
good morning. the president and his family are on day four of their ten-day vacation. before leaving for martha's vineyard, he made the case for democrats in tough races
this november. here this morning, the current minority leader, the leader of the republicans, mitch mcconnell of kentucky. leader mcconnell, welcome back to "meet the press." >> good morning. >> we will talk politics but i also want to talk about the controversy surrounding plans for build a mosque and a community center in lower manhattan near the site of ground zero. here is "time" magazine out on newsstands now, is america islamaphobic? we know that it is their right to build a community center and mosque near ground zero. my question for you is, is it the wise thing to do? >> obviously this is not about freedom of religion in america.
typically these kinds of decisions are made by local officials. what's been different about this one is you have the president of the united states weighing in on this issue on each side of the issue within 24 hours, which helped stimulate a great national debate and not about freedom of religion, but about the appropriateness of the location. >> what's your view about whether it should be built? >> ultimately that's going to be decided by the people of new york, but i think because of the nature of the attack on 9/11, a lot of people not just in new york but around the country have strong views about this. i hope the people of new york who make the decision take into account public opinion not only locally will you around the country in making a final decision about the location of this facility. >> that would suggest you think it should be moved because public opinion is squarely against it. >> well, i would suggest that what i said a minute ago, the local officials in the end will
make this decision. it's a symbol to a lot of americans because of the 9/11 attack. governor paterson is weighing in trying to work something out. i hope they'll weigh public opinion in the united states in making a final decision about the location of this center. >> do you think the president appropriately stepped into this debate? was that leadership? >> it certainly made it a much bigger issue. it was a developing issue but it made it a much bigger issue when the president of the united states decides to weigh in on a local zoning decision or site selection decision made by local officials in most communities in america. >> this is more than a local zoning decision. president bush went out of his way after 9/11 to talk about the way america should relate to the muslim world. this is about the looms of 9/11. it's not just a development
project. doesn't it require republican lieders like you to be faces of this? >> the president has been ignoring public opinion all year long on a variety of things. people were not in favor of the stimulus bill. they were not in favor of the health care bill. they certainly are not in favor of the spending, the debt, the washington takeovers and not in favor of the tax increases they have in mind in september. one of the reasons the president's approval rating is so low now is he doesn't pay a lot of attention to public opinion. >> let's move onto something that's related to this that got a lot of attention this week. this is the poll about the president's own faith from the pew research center. among republicans this is striking. 31% believe he's a muslim. of course he's not. why do you think these views prevail? >> i think the faith that most americans are questioning is the president's faith in the government to generate jobs. we've had an 18-month effort here on the part of this
administration to prime the pump, borrow money, spend money, hire new federal government employees, sending money down to states so they don't have to layoff state employees, people are saying where are the jobs? the president's faith in the government to stimulate the economy is what people are questioning. >> that's a sidestep to this particular question. as one of the most powerful republicans in the country, do you think you have an obligation to say to 34% of republicans in the country, 31% rather, who believe the president of the united states is a muslim? that's misinformation. >> the president says he's a christian. i take him at his word. i don't think that's in dispute. >> how do you think it comes to be that this kind of misinformation gets spread around and prevails? >> i have no idea. i take the president at his word. >> let's move to domestic matters. this was a headline in a "the washington post" editorial on
friday. with tax vote, republicans fail in their attempt to appear fiscally responsible. the president wants to repeal the bush tax cuts except those on wealthy americans. those taxes would go up. what are you prepared to do to pay for an extension of tax cuts for everybody? >> this has been tax law in america for almost ten years now existing tax law. what the administration is proposing and majority in the house and senate is to raise taxes on the top two brackets, which will affect 50% of small business income and impact 25%
of the workforce. for example, if you look at the last quarter of last year, 84% of the jobs that were lost were lost in small business. i think it is outrageous to suggest that raising taxes in the middle of a recession is a good idea. >> point taken.
senator, my question is, how do you pay for an extension of tax cuts. if you are concerned as republicans say they are about cutting spending and the deficit, you have to acknowledge that tax cuts are not paid for. >> what are you talking about paid for? this is existing tax policy that's been in place for ten years. they are talking about raising taxing, impacting 50% of small business income in the middle of what most people think is a recession. that's not a responsible thing to do. >> it's still borrowed money. alan greenspan on this program august 1st said the following. watch this. >> look, i'm very much in favor of tax cuts but not with borrowed money. the problem that we've gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day that proves disastrous. my view is i don't think we can
play policy here. >> you don't agree with republican leaders that say tax cuts pay for themselves? >> they do not. >> the cbo made it clear that the long-term picture for the economy, for the deficit, is very dark if you extend the bush era tax cuts without somehow paying for them. >> what we're talking about here is tax increases in the middle of a recession. we are going to have the third year in a row under this administration of an annual deficit of more than $1 trillion. that's not because we're taxing too little. it's because we're spending too much. >> senator, you are being unresponsive to a question. are tax cuts paid for going forward or is it borrowed money at a time when you and other republican leaders say we must get serious about the deficit. it's a straightforward question. >> i know. i gave you a straightforward
answer. what we're talking about here is raising taxes in the middle of what most americans think is a recession. that won't produce more revenue. we have a serious job loss problem in this country. they have primed the pump. they borrowed money. the spent money for the last year and a half. unemployment is still almost at 10% and now the job creators, the small businesses in this country, they are suggesting their taxes go up. the president called in a bunch of small businessmen to the white house a few weeks ago and asked why they weren't expanding. their answer was, mr. president, with all due respect, your agenda. health care mandates, tax increases headed their way, more and more burdensome regulation. look at the new health care bill for example. there's a provision in there that requires that small businesses send a 1099 form to the irs for every vendor they do $600 worth of business with. that's a massive amount of paperwork and problems.
this administration is extraordinarily anti-business and raising taxes in the middle of a recession is not the way to go. >> for a final time i go back to my question which is extension of tax cuts would cost $3.2 trillion. that is borrowed money that adds to the deficit. do you have plan to pay for that extension? >> you are talking about current tax policy. why did it all of a sudden become something that "paid for." the problem is the spending problem. if we grind down the spending, we will begin to get a handle on this mounting debt. and if you push this economy further backward, we'll get less revenue for the government and not more. raising taxes in the middle of a recession on the major job generator in the nation, small business, is a bad idea. >> you talk about spending. that's interesting. this is what's called a road map for america's future. a plan to solve america's
long-term fiscal and economic crisis written by paul rain of wisconsin. it lays out steps to balance the budget, to cut spending in both social security and medicare. i'm wondering why is it if republican leaders are serious about cutting the deficit and cutting spending, why there aren't more than 13 co-sponsors in the united states congress for this plan. >> let me tell you what we are doing right now in the united states senate. the majority leader, harry reid, told me on the floor of the senate a couple years ago that they're going to come down to the top line that we offered for this year's appropriations bill. the difference between that top line and annual spending and what the president asked for over ten years will be $300 billion which is not chump change. number two, the president appointed a deficit reduction commission. this is not going to be your typical commission. it's going to issue a report, sit on the shelf and gather dust. i put three members on it.
very responsible members. john boehner put three members on it. we expect them to send up a recommendation no later than december of this year to deal with our long-term debt problem and we do know that we have a serious long-term debt problem unfunded liabilities related to social security, medicare, medicaid. i don't think we make what they're doing a political football. we'll wait for their report. if it's a responsible report that i can support, i will encourage my members to support it and the president will do the same thing. we could before the end of this calendar year actually have a significant impact on our long-term debt problem. >> why is it that you need a democratic president's commission on cutting the deficit to figure out what it is as republicans you think should be cut from federal spending? >> i don't think that it ought to be a political football between now and november. we have a bipartisan effort here. a serious bipartisan effort supported by the president, by
leader boehner and myself. they'll report later this year. we'll treat that report seriously. i hope it's the kind of recommendation we can support on a bipartisan basis. >> the political question as you look into the midterm race and issues that are heating up, we talked about a few of them, what is your prediction for the senate in november? does it remain in democratic hands? >> look, i'm not going to make a prediction. i will say this. if the election were tomorrow we would have a very good day. there are at least 12 seats in the senate where democrats are on defense. that's unusual because we had a very bad results on our side in '06 and '08. so we're on offense. american public has taken a look at this administration. they think it's spending too much, borrowing too much, taking over too much of the private sector and now raising taxes on top of it. i think we're going to have a very good day. >> you cautioned against irrational exuberance about your
chances in the senate. >> it's not appropriate. there are 70 some odd days between now and the election. i'm optimistic. >> the tea party debate which we'll have in a moment with former majority leader of the house, dick armey, is very much a factor in this race. tea partiers talk about a hostile takeover of the republican party. what is their impact do you think in the fall? >> i think it's been entirely positive. it's an indication of broad public support for doing something about too much spending and too much debt. and this genuine popular uprising against excessive government spending has been extremely helpful. it's produced a lot of energy in our primaries and i think it
will produce victories in november. >> thank you very much for being here. >> thank you, david. >> coming up next, the influence of the tea party on national politics. we'll look more in-depth.
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sir, are you ok? what? oh, this? it's probably nothing. i'm sure it'll go away. go away? but, sir, that can't be good. no, it's cool. really. do you want a napkin or something? everything's fine. thanks. announcer: you wouldn't ignore this, so why ignore the signs of a stroke? at the first warning signs, call 911 immediately. because time lost is brain lost. the influence of the tea party and government spending on national politics coming up. i'm gonna take allison jenkins to the senior prom
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prospects are for republicans and democrats. i do want to start -- when we think about issues that voters will be thinking about, some of the larger questions that arise out of this mosque debate, about whether it should be built in lower manhattan, the president did speak out about this as senator mcconnell indicated. this is what he said this week. >> as a citizen and as president, i believe that muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances. this is america. our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. >> that was last friday. the very next day he appeared to hedge his views on all of this. watch. >> i was not commenting and i will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a
mosque there. ways commenting very specifically on the right that people have that is what our country is about. i think it's very important that as difficult as some of these issues are, we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about. >> governor, a lot of people felt this was a hedge. an attempt to walk back his previous support. has this been an example of strong leadership by the president to walk into this issue and make statements on this? >> any time someone stands up for the constitution which is what he did. there's no disagreement that they have the right to worship and build on private property. the question is whether it is a good decision on their part. the question is what is the
nature of this particular ahman. it's a sect that's supposed to be the most peaceful of all. that sect is under attack by al qaeda. the question is we need to hear from the ahman. it's a teachable moment. in anticipation of this question i called -- michigan has the largest arab american population outside of the middle east. i called one of our imyam yesterday. what can you tell me about it? he said he's the most bridge building imyam -- one of the most in the country -- he's an american of course. we ought to hold that kind of leadership rather than brushing all muslims with this brush that affiliates them with al qaeda. they're being attacked by al qaeda too. they're just as offended or maybe more so because of what the splash back is on all muslims.
we ought to be hearing from them. >> back in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks you went to the floor and you were outspoken saying that there are muslims around the world, arabs, who are as horrified as u.s. citizens and we ought to treat them with equal respect and decent treatment. in that vain, do you think it's a wise decision to have the mosque here as a sign of living our values? >> i believe the folks that want to build a mosque here are making an unwise decision. when i look at the 18% of the american people that are enthusiastic about this grassroots movement, we see this as while it's an important issue, it's an issue that ought not to be distracting the president from the critical issues of unemployment, fiscal responsibility, a nation headed for bankruptcy, and the larger issues that affect the future of our children make this issue pale. on the question should the president stick up for the constitution? our folks say, great, i love him
sticking up for the constitut n constitution. wish he had done that on medicare where he tharashed the constitution in the view of many of our folks. this president is whimsical and doesn't know where he is on the subjects, even larger subjects driving our folks in the street trying to make change in america. >> you are talking about tea partiers around the country and movement you have written about. one of the arguments that democrats make about candidates supported by the tea party is that they are frankly too extreme for even mainstream in the republican party. i want to go through top races and have you respond to that. ken buck, republican nominee wants to eliminate education and energy department and says separation of church and state strictly enforced. rand paul. critical of the minimum wage laws and civil rights laws.
nevada, sharron angle, for senate, talks about no adoption for same-sex couples. privatize medicare and social security and in utah in the senate race, you have mike lee. he wants to repeal the progressive income tax, supports changing the 14th amendment of birth right citizenship. if this is the tea party's impact on national politics, there's certainly a lot of democrats who say too extreme for mainstream of the -- >> one of these candidates won a republican primary as a republican candidate with different stresses on different issues. i won't take the democrat party's characterization of republican party candidate's position on any issue as gospel truth. politicians say insincere things. voters paid attention to candidates and made their choice. the democrats are -- they have a
guy down in south carolina who wins the primary and is then convicted of a felony. they have to concern themselves with what is the quality of our candidates and can we meet the challenge of trying to race against these candidates who are going to beat their person in the fall. >> governor, is this an example of what they called a mainstream political movement some of these candidates and their views? >> no. i think it's far outside of the mainstream. in fact, one of the things you just held up paul ryan's proposal regarding medicare and social security. i think a lot of which you've jumped on to as well. there was a recent poll out that says 85% of americans don't want to see social security cut to solve the deficit. the reality is as a governor of the state that's had the toughest economic go over the past eight years, i'm just really interested in what works to create jobs. what works. the proposals that are coming from these candidates are not proposals that work. this is a laboratory of the
states right here. i can tell what you has worked, what has worked is the government smartly intervening to save the auto industry smartly strategically to invest with the private sector to create the electric batteries for the vehicles. smartly intervening with the private sector to be able to do the breakthrough technologies that the private sector doesn't have the funds to be able to do. that's what other countries are doing. and we've got to realize that these economic models that say we have to cut, cut, cut, cut, you know who is acquiring most? china. they are happy this movement is happening. >> the role of government, is it part of the problem or part of the solution? this is what drives the tea party movement. >> absolutely. and this mischaracterization once again of paul ryan who is probably the most creative thinking and most courageous guy
in washington, all paul ryan is saying is let social security be voluntary. let medicare be voluntary. if these are such great programs, why do you have difficulty with people being free to choose. paul ryan and i will give every social security recipient in america that chooses to stay in this system, a better guarantee that will be as they know it today than the democratic party will because the democrat party is going to make changes -- >> there's certainly a separate debate to be had about medicare and social security. senator mcconnell doesn't appear to be on board with what paul ryan is talking about. when you talk about a hostile takeover of the republican party, are leaders of republican party today part of the problem? >> the fact that he only has 13 co-sponsors is the big reason why our folks are agitated against the republicans as well as democrats. the difference between being a co-sponsor with ryan or not is a
thing called courage. we have watched american public policy dominated by democrats that don't care and republicans that don't dare for a long time. we're saying to the republican party, you know, get some courage to stand up for the things that are right for this country. don't stand here and hide from the issue because you are afraid of the politics. the issue of public policy that governs the future of my children is more important than your politics. if you can't see that, we'll replace you. >> if you care about democracy and what every citizen believes and you want to empower them, and they don't want the social security system to be dismantled, and they don't want the medicare system to be dismantled because your picking and choosing and this is a contact between generations to be able to make sure all of our seniors have the funds when they retire, that they're not going to be homeless, that they're not going to have to go to a shelter. i'm not kidding you, the idea that -- 85% of people --
>> this is a badly needed system. >> if you do that, every actuarial says you badly hurt the system. >> if you happen to be a christian scientist and have never seen a doctor in your life and don't intend to go to a doctor in your life and never bought insurance in your life, is it right to be told at the age of 65, if you don't sign up for medicare, we'll take away your social security? that's not in the law, that's not even a regulation. it's some whimsical thing that has been adopted by america. >> this needs to continue. we have about a minute left and i want to address the tax debate. to move forward and extend the
bush tax cut, is it borrowed money and they don't pay for themselves? >> i was a young graduate watching all my faculty celebrate the genius of john f. kennedy as he taught us you cut taxes, revenues increase. what was the first most important critical thing for the american economy is to cut the size of the federal government. this is a big, fat, sloppy, inefficient, obstructionist porky pig that is standing in the way of the american people. it is extra weight, and it needs to be cut or this economy can't carry the weight. >> this is the argument. >> this is the argument and it's a 20th century argument. it's not a 21st century argument. when we're competing with the global economy, you have to partner to cut jobs. very quickly, last year the vice president came to michigan, said
we were going to get all these battery grants. we have 16 companies now in michigan just in the past year because we partnered with the private sector, creating 62,000 jobs. strategic investment with the private sector is what we are about in the 20th century. the question s should the tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 2% so we can make the investment that will grow jobs? that's the most effective way of creating job growth and cbo has said that cutting taxes for the wealthy is the most ineffective way of creating job growth. >> i'll give you anywhere from a minimum of 2 trillion to a possible $8 trillion worth of real stimulus in the economy from the private sector if we can just relieve the private sector that is sitting there for the fear that this administration is going to screw up the future of this economy. let us understand this administration is going to stand down from any new cockamamie
ideas from raising taxes in america. >> this debate will continue as we go into the fall campaign. governor, thank you both very much. coming up next, the growing controversy over plans to create an islam center near ground z o zero. our round table sorts it out. jeff goldberg of atlanta magazine. a republican candidate for governor in new york. station break.
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we are back with our political roundtable. joining us, jeffrey goldberg, a republican candidate for governor of new york, former congressman rick lazio, the bbc's katty kay and from "the wall street journal," paul gigot. welcome to all of you. i want to explore this mosque debate in greater depth. it's striking one of the more
powerful republican figures in the country, mitch mcconnell, does not want to take a stand on it. rick lazio you are running for governor of new york and you have taken a stand. you have made a point of politicizing this issue. you have a web ad that i want to pay a portion of on the screen here. >> it just hit me in the gut. it doesn't have to be right here. it doesn't have to be at this site. >> you've been criticized by firefighting unions for using those images of 9/11. why is it that the mosque does not belong where they say it should go? >> i would say, david, there are millions of peace loving good muslims in america. this imam is not one of them. he's not a bridge builder. this is a man who in the same month people were burying their loved ones lost in 9/11 he said
america was an accessory to the crime of 9/11. he said that osama bin laden was created in the usa. he refused only months ago to distance himself from hamas and in fact protecting them and only recently one of the developers said they would consider taking money from iran. i don't know exactly what we think we're talking about but 70% of the new york people in new york believe that we are not supportive of having this mosque, this imam in this location. let's be precise about this. we're not talking about a whole religion. we're not talking about prayer. m there are over 100 mosques in new york. no one is saying people shouldn't have a place to pray. this imam we want to open up the books and show transparency and where is this money coming from? that's what we've been calling on the attorney general -- he's got jurisdiction over registered charities which is what this
initiative is, to post transparency. >> jeffrey goldberg, you have reported on this extensively. you have a different view. >> this imam spoke at a memorial service for daniel pearl, the reporter killed by al qaeda in pakistan. he got up there and said i am a jew. i identify with judaism. he was declaring in front of an audience, which is very dangerous for a muslim cleric to do, saying i stand against al qaeda what they've done. i know him from different venues and dialogue groups. the man in my experience is a bridge builder. >> this is an issue where there is debate about this, paul gigot, has thrust into the political debate. newt gingrich using language comparing this episode to putting swastika outside of the
holocaust museum. karen hughes has among the more thought out responses to this. she writes this in an editorial this morning in "the washington post." a mosque at the edge of ground zero would be more than a house of worship. it would be a symbol interpreted differently by different audien audiences. for some it would be an expression of freedom of religion and for others the deaths at terrorists calling themselves muslims. how is this being used politically on all sides? >> on both sides it's being abused. it's a destructive debate and unfortunate debate that's why i wish the president hadn't elevated it above a local issue. don't know the imam. he said things about hamas i wish he hadn't said that he won't condemn it as a terrorist and he a also said what you says he has. he's been in between. the one thing this mosque is not doing right now is achieve his goal of cross cultural
understanding. if that's the case -- >> whose fault is it they're not achieving understanding? many think this is salt on the wounds and don't do this. we don't want this close to the site of 9/11 of ground zero. >> right. striking during the course of this week how few really public defenders are there of muslims in america at the moment when you have newt gingrich come out and equate muslims. there would have been a huge public outcry. there hasn't been that. it does lead some muslims to question what america's relationship with islam is. and the risk for america is that the war against islamic extremism will be won with intelligence on the ground and
partly by persuading muslims that path of religious tolerance and openness is preferable to the path of -- >> congressman lazio, general petraeus who we spoke to in afghanistan last week, tells his soldiers, american soldiers fighting for america to live our values. are we living our values in this debate? >> we're saying absolutely that the people of the islam faith or muslim faith absolutely want people here. we want to make sure they have places to worship and make sure people understand that they are great americans and that they are patriots and muslims that lost their lives in 9/11. it's not about religion. it's about this location and this imam. why don't people question and why aren't they offended when someone will not characterize hamas as a terrorist organization? one of the leaders of hamas came out recently this last week to support this ground zero mosque. doesn't that raise -- i just have questions. i'm saying, let's get behind this. let's understand where this
money is coming from. is it from foreign governments? are they from radical organizations? we don't know. why can't we find out? it seems to me again if andrew cuomo did his job as attorney general, we wouldn't have this debate right now. >> the broader issue is this. we have serious problems with aspects of the muslim world. we have a problem with sunni extremism. we have a problem with shia muslim extremism. but those people don't represent the majority of muslims in the world and what we're doing here is signaling to the majority of muslims who don't like those people and sometimes actively work against those people and fight on our side against those people, it's your religion that's somehow not as good as our religion and that is a terrible message. this is a national security problem. >> we're not saying they can't
build mosques all over the country and the world. we say we don't want it at that spot. >> the analogy is what john paul ii did with the nuns. he said this is a special place for special meaning for people. stand down. it's not that the nuns had anything to do with the nazis. >> there was a very specific reason. >> why is it inappropriate to say, look, religious freedom is protected in america. it's not wise to consider that you had terrorists in a per version of islam that crted this atrocity in the name of islam and with respect to victims of 9/11, it's just not appropriate to put it there. maybe 30 years from now, okay. right now we can't get there. >> isn't that the point? you are saying there are terrorists, extremists, a small
group who acted in the name of islam. the risk for this country and it's been a risk since 9/11, muslims here moderate muslims in america have felt this that you start lumping all muslims in with that group. that's a very dangerous strategy. not just in modern time america but political america. rand paul came out and said that america's foreign policy is partly to blame for the war on terrorism against america. would you say that rand paul supported terrorism? of course not. he said it. >> i would say the developers of this 9/11 ground zero mosque say that they will consider taking money from iran. we should be concerned. let's open up the books. why are we not outraged by that? what does it say about the intent of the developers of this one mosque by this one imam. we need to be precise. >> final point and then i want
to move onto a couple other things. >> the point is i try to put myself in the shoes of an american muslim in iraq right now. he's working hand in hand with afghans and iraqis who are risking their lives to advance legitimate american interests in those cases. and he looks back and he reads the papers and he goes on the internet to see that politicians are equating his religion to naziism. how does that person feel? >> that's what's more alarming about this debate than the subsequent conversation. >> if this is a defining moment in terms of our relationship with islam, there are areas of conflict like iran and iraq. jeffrey, you have written a cover story on this one that we'll put up on the screen. israel is getting ready to bomb iran. how, why and what it means. this may be one of the legacies
the threat of the iraq war. based on months of interviews i have come to believe that the administration knows that israel will act against iran soon. if nothing or no one else stops the nuclear program. obama knows and his aides know, a nuclear armed iran is a threat to the interest of the united states which includes his dream of a world without nuclear weapons. where are we? >> where we are is we're at an interesting moment pre-crisis. i can't see a way this does not become a bigger crisis over the next year and a half unless iran takes an off-ramp that obama built for them. i think the obama administration's program is smart and prudent using promise of engagement and threat of sanctions to try to change iranian behavior. the plan has been criticized from the right. the problem is we don't know what happens if this obama plan
fails. secretary of defense gates says that iran is about a year to three years away from reaching a nuclear threshold. israelis hear that as nine months. if obama can't change iranian behavior and he's worked very, very hard at this. one of his greatest foreign policy successes is building this coalition to have strict strident sanctions on iran, but if those fail and people don't have great hope they will succeed, if they fail we would like to know what happens next. he said he's determined, that's a quote, to stop iran from going nuclear. this is a big looming question in foreign policy over the next year. what does that mean? how far will he go to stop iran? >> our own richard engel reported on the withdrawal. this is in part how it looked. >> reporter: the troops scan the roads weapons armed but mostly a
precaution. the threat is considered low. at sunrise we first see the road. the troops are driving down iraq's main north-south highway. smooth, wide black top. what a difference to how american troops entered iraq. in the 2003 invasion u.s. forces crashed through the desert to surprise iraqi forces. as they exit iraq, the strikers navigate through traffic on a road protected by iraqi troops trained by american forces. unlike the invasion, too, the helicopters over the convoy aren't providing protection but reporters taking pictures. >> it's a striking scene captured by richard engel. here's "the wall street journal" editorial on friday with headline victory in iraq. somewhere down the road the editorial writes we trust august 2010 will be remembered as victory in iraq today. there it is, paul gigot.
victory as defined how? >> i think as defined as united states leaving with honor, leaving with dignity, leaving a relatively stable government behind. not to say they don't have problems. not to say they're not disagreeing. the disagreements between the two factions, two people that figured so closely in the election is troubling but on the other hand they're debating. they're not killing one another. we've given them the chance in the words of benjamin franklin, you have a republic if you're willing to keep it. we can still get strategic benefits from this in terms of a democratic government in the middle east, one that's alive with our interests and can serve our purposes over there if things go dowell in the future. consider where they were three years ago, we would have left with defeat and seen as driven out. we put a defeat on al qaeda which tried to take over that country and we can leave with
honor. >> are there circumstances under which we send more troops back? we have 50,000 still there and there's a lot of uncertainty about the security and political future of that country. >> probably not. depending on what iran does and what surrounding nations do, you've got a situation which i think is still a fragile situation. you continue to see people -- we have 50,000 troops there. they will be in combat type roles. you will see pilots up in the air, american pilots up in the air and counterterrorist activity going on by american troops and how they get drawn in, nobody can say for sure. i do believe it's more likely that we're seeing an important step toward progress and validation of the fact that there is democracy beginning to take hold and to paul's point, there's a lot of good here in terms of having an honorable withdrawal from iraq which is always the plan by two presidents, two different parties, consistency of an
approach we can learn. >> katty kay, an afghanistan good enough to leave, is that how we went into this conflict? >> no. it's not how we went into this conflict. "the wall street journal" is feeling more triumphant than the white house feels. would you have a democratic iraq and then a domino effect throughout the rest of the middle east. that certainly hasn't happened. jordan in some ways is a author auth authoritarian country than it was. there are big questions about the political future of iraq. >> i'll make that the last word. a lot to debate. thank you all very much. we'll leave it there we'll be right back with news about our guests for next week's program.
>> this is all for today. brian williams will be here for a special edition of "meet the press" live from new orleans on the fifth anniversary of hurricane katrina. if it's sunday, it's "meet the ♪ an accidental touch can turn ordinary into something more. moments can change anytime -- just like that.
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