Transcript: Newt Gingrich and Howard Dean
"This Week" Transcript with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean
Aug 9, 2009
ABC NEWS, THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS INTERVIEW WITH FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH AND FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN HOWARD DEAN
STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
Health care town halls gone wild.
(UNKNOWN): I don't want the government to do it for me!
STEPHANOPOULOS: Passionate questions.
(UNKNOWN): I want to know if it's coming out of my paycheck.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Raucous crowds. Both sides dig in.
(UNKNOWN): Health care now!
STEPHANOPOULOS: This morning, the debate sweeping the country with our exclusive headliners, Newt Gingrich...
GINGRICH: I don't want the government to try to run things.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... and Howard Dean.
DEAN: If you're not going to have a public option, don't pretend you're doing health care reform.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Gingrich and Dean, face to face, a "This Week" debate.
CLINTON: The pictures were worth a million words.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... Bill Clinton's mission.
CLINTON: I'm not a policymaker.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the breakthrough with North Korea another comeback for him? That and the rest of the week's politics on a special expanded roundtable with Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haas, Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, Matthew Dowd, and Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal.
And, as always, the Sunday funnies.
CRAIG FERGUSON, TALK SHOW HOST: After the journalists landed, Al Gore gave a speech. Now, I don't want to say that Al went on too long, but about half way through the speech, the women are like, "We can go back to prison if you want."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, "This Week" with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, live from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hello again. Health care may be the most personal issue Washington confronts, and this week there was plenty of evidence to back that up.
Town halls on health care went viral. Members of Congress everywhere got tough questions. Some got shouted down. As the rhetoric heated up, we even heard Nazi Germany invoked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You be the judge. They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care.
LIMBAUGH: There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And with that, let's have our own debate with two men at the center of the conversation, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Vermont Governor and DNC Chair Howard Dean, also the author of a new book, "Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Health Care Reform."
And, Mr. Speaker, let me begin with you. I wonder, are you comfortable with the tone of these town meetings? As you know, Democrats have said that a lot of this grassroots activity is manufactured AstroTurf, and they say the goal is to shut down conversation, not encourage it.
GINGRICH: You know, I -- I spent 20 years doing town hall meetings. I once had 800 machinist members on an Eastern strike for three hours, and they got to shout all they wanted.
I thought Senator Tom Harkin was the model this week. His staff got nervous. They wanted to close down the meeting. And Harkin said, no, these are Americans. They have every right to talk. And he just listened, and he engaged, and he conversed.
People are very, very upset. They're upset because the stimulus was passed unread. They're upset because, at 3 o'clock in the morning, Pelosi introduced a 300-page amendment for an energy tax increase and voted on it at 4 the next afternoon. They have this sense of a thing -- of a machine running over them.
And so there's -- there's a substantial number of people who are genuinely upset. The American way is let it hang out, talk to them. Members ought to go back home, hold as many town hall meetings as you have to, let people get it out of their system. And by September, we could have a genuine dialogue in this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I know your allies, Governor Dean, have been -- have been saying that this is just all, you know, paid for, people recruited by lobbyists here in Washington, but you can't create -- you can't force people to go out to a town meeting. You can't manufacture that kind of anger, can you?
DEAN: Well, there actually is a lot -- there is a lot of orchestration. There's the Brian MacGuffie memo, which actually tells people to do -- do what they're doing, which is sit in the front, jump up and interrupt. You know, one -- one thing...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's got like 23 friends on Facebook, though.
DEAN: Well, yes, but he's also -- there's a lot of other organizations, including some pretty reputable companies, who are -- formerly reputable companies that are financing all this stuff.
Look, I'm with the speaker on this. I think you want to have dialogue. I think shouting people down doesn't create dialogue, and it's not really -- not really dialogue.
But, you know, the true thing is, you know, I disagree with the speaker. You've got the spectacle of Republican congresspeople running around handing out stimulus checks which they voted against the stimulus. The stimulus has done good things.
It's cut -- CBO estimates that it's cut the reduction in the GNP by at least 1 percent -- that's a significant number -- and that the stimulus is going to do better things.
So I disagree. I don't -- I think this is a handful of angry people who've been angry for a long time. Don't forget: The Republican playbook for a long time was get people angry. They succeeded. There are still a lot of angry people. I think they're out -- vastly outnumbered by the people who really want something done about health care reform.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you disagree -- you disagree on the stimulus, but you -- and you also disagree on health care with this whole idea of whether or not to have a public health insurance option in the bill. And, Governor Dean, you've said that health reform is not worth having...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... without this. And your organization is actually running ads against Democrats who don't support the public...
DEAN: That's not -- that's not my organization.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats -- you found it. You were a founder.
DEAN: I founded it. I don't run it anymore. I do some consulting work for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me get to the ads then, because one of the Democrats you went after was Ben Nelson.
DEAN: I did not go after him, just to correct you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democracy -- Democracy for America went after him.
DEAN: And I've talked to Ben since that, just so...
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Well, let's see the ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Now I hear that Ben Nelson, the senator that I voted for, is leading the charge to delay health reform this summer. That's exactly what they want. The health and insurance companies that have given Senator Nelson over $2 million know that, if they can stall reform, they can kill it. I have to ask: Senator, whose side are you on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to hear about you talking to -- to Senator Nelson, because, as you know, the White House has been pretty angry about these ads. President Obama says it's counterproductive, yet your allies are not stopping.
DEAN: There are a lot of people who are very upset about the incredible reach that the insurance company has. Look, this bill -- the CBO scores it at $60 billion a year on the House side. I think putting $60 billion a year into the health insurance industry is insane. I really do.
And so you want a public option. Look, we've -- what the president wants to do is very straightforward. Sixty -- or roughly sixty -- fifty or sixty million Americans have what Newt has called socialized medicine or government-run health care. They're over -- over 65. They're Medicare. That's what Medicare is.
Now, what Obama is essentially saying is, "Let's give the choice of getting into a system like that or staying with what they have to the American people."
So if you're voting against having a public option, what you're voting against is something that 72 percent of Americans in two polls want, which is the choice. Most of them aren't going to sign up for the public option, but they think they have the choice.
Why shouldn't they have the choice? Why should the health insurance companies have that choice?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the answer to that question?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, the government option we're talking about -- let's look at where government runs the health system entirely. The Indian Health Service is a disaster. Medicaid is so corrupt and run so badly -- we just published a book at the Center for Health Transformation called "Stop Paying the Crooks," because our estimate is that government fraud between Medicare and Medicaid is between $70 billion and $120 billion a year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Veterans care works pretty well.
GINGRICH: Veterans care is the one system that actually works reasonably well. But the others do not. I mean, Medicare is basically a private system with a government funding.
An amendment was offered in every committee to have the -- to have the members of Congress and their staff in any government option as a mandate. And if this is good enough for the American people, it's good enough for the politicians. In every committee, the Democrats voted no. Now, why is it they want to insist on a government-run system for -- for people other than the Congress, but the Congress and their staff would be exempt?
Second, it's not -- it's just, I think intellectually not honest to suggest that this is going to be a matter of choice. The way the bill in the House -- and we're talking about a specific bill -- the way the bill in the House would work, if your company didn't offer any insurance, they would pay an 8 percent tax on their personnel cost.
For most companies, that would be a net savings of 3 percent, 4 percent or 5 percent. One estimate by Lewin Associates (sic) is 131 million Americans will lose their private insurance and be pushed into a government plan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Dean, those arguments seem to have taken hold, at least in the Senate, where even Democrats say you're not...
DEAN: Look, let's be fair. Lewin Associates is owned by a health insurance company. So let's -- let's -- let's -- the CBO, which I think is a more reasonable organization, says 5 million or 10 million people are going to end up there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Depends on the amount of subsidy...
DEAN: Second of all, what the speaker didn't tell you is, let's just suppose you get forced out of your employer-based system, which I think is unlikely, but let's suppose that you do. You've got a choice. The government will pay your subsidy to either go into -- based on your income, either to go into the public option or a private option. Nobody is forcing you in to the public option.
Now, a third thing is that nobody talks about is this bill is terrific for small business, and the Blue Dogs made it a better bill, and I hope (inaudible) gets through, it gets even better.
Right now in the House bill, if you have a payroll, if you're a small business with a payroll of less than $500,000, you have no responsibility whatsoever to give your employees health insurance. That now becomes a subsidy based on your income, and then you can choose either a private or a public sector.
DEAN: This is -- this is choice. This is real choice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's in the House bills, but the Senate has made it pretty clear they're not going to include this public health insurance option, at least as contemplated in the House bill. The most they're going to get is co-ops...
DEAN: No, actually, the Senate Finance -- this has already passed four out of the five committees. The Senate Finance Committee has said that, not the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but you need 60 votes to get it through.
DEAN: We need 51 votes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're saying...
GINGRICH: But if you want to see why the -- why a substantial number of Americans are very frightened, that's a good example. The Senate rules on passing reconciliation were clearly designed for budget items.
If we're now going to try to rewrite 17 percent of the economy, life and death for every American, by pretending that massive health reform is a reconciliation item and ramming it through with 51 votes, first of all, I don't think -- I think a lot of Senate Democrats (inaudible) I think the idea of stripping the Senate of its ability as a Senate to operate with some sense of discretion and ramming through something on this size will go down very badly with many senators, will go down very badly with much of the country.
But I -- I talked to Senator Grassley as -- as late as yesterday, and he made quite clear that he believes there will be no government plan and there will be no rationing in any bill that the Senate passes and that he would certainly not in any way support that. And I think Grassley's very key to Republicans.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me follow up. Senator Baucus, the Democratic chair of the Finance Committee, seems to agree on that, and he's produced a draft that gets to 95 percent coverage, 94 percent, 95 percent coverage without a public option. Why wouldn't that be good enough?
DEAN: Let me just say, A, there's no rationing in any of these bills, so we don't have to worry about that. Secondly, 95 percent coverage is good. That's terrific. The problem is, you can't afford it unless you have a public option. There's no cost control on that. Again...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He says it would come in under $1 trillion.
DEAN: Well, the House is at $60 billion a year, and the Senate would be at $100 billion a year. I don't think -- look, here's the problem with -- this is why I think the public option is so important. The fundamental problem is that Medicare has gone up around 2 percent over the rate of inflation. That's bad. But the health care -- the private sector has gone up at two-and-a-half times the rate of inflation for 30 years.
Our economy is uncompetitive because we have an employer-based health care system. Now, I'm not advocating getting rid of an employer-based health care system, because a lot of employers like it and people in it like it. But I am advocating giving people the same choice that Congress has.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to -- really quickly, because I want to get to another issue here...
GINGRICH: Well, I just want to say, this is one of the great tragedies of how we've approached this, this year. Cost control doesn't work. I had a major hospital tell me last week they would literally go bankrupt under the House plan, because if you apply the kind of cost control without real health reform, it doesn't work.
At the Center for Health Transformation, we've outlined health reform after health reform that would save hundreds of billions of dollars, but it's fundamentally different than the way Washington thinks. And it's -- it's very frustrating to watch people -- when you say cost control, you're either ripping off the hospitals, you're ripping off the doctors, or you're ripping off somebody because cost control defined by the government means somebody gets...
DEAN: Wait a minute. You -- you -- not you personally -- but the Republicans have had times over the last -- since the last time we tried this, was 15 years, where you had the president, the House, and the Senate, and nothing happened.
GINGRICH: And they failed. I agree.
DEAN: So, OK, so we've got to do something.
GINGRICH: I'm not defending that.
DEAN: We think this will work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other claims being made about the bill -- and it's related to cost control -- is an -- and opponents are spreading the idea that the president's plan will encourage euthanasia. Most recently, Sarah Palin, on her Facebook page yesterday -- I think it was Friday night actually -- said that, "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."
Now, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the president called that outlandish. He said...
GINGRICH: But why -- why didn't you put up what Dr. Zeke Emanuel said? Because Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who's the chief adviser to the president and brother of the chief of staff, said in writing...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's not the chief health care adviser. He's written three articles between 1996 and 2008 that include some of those phrases...
GINGRICH: ... standards.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those phrases appear nowhere in the bill. The only thing...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... but let me just explain what's in the bill and then get you to respond to that. The only thing in the bill is they would allow Medicare to pay for what they say is voluntary counseling on end-of-life issues.
GINGRICH: I think people are very concerned, when you start talking about cost controls, that a bureaucracy -- we don't -- you're asking us to trust the government. Now, I'm not talking about the Obama administration. I'm talking about the government. You're asking us to decide that we believe that the government is to be trusted.
We know people who have said routinely, well, you're going to have to make decisions. You're going to have to decide. Communal standards historically is a very dangerous concept.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's not in the bill.
GINGRICH: But the bill's -- the bill's 1,000 pages of setting up mechanisms. It sets up 45 different agencies. It has all sorts of panels. You're asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there clearly are people in America who believe in -- in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.
DEAN: Well, look, this is something Newt and I agree on. I don't want somebody in between the doctor and the patient. I don't want the possibility of losing your health insurance. I don't want people setting standards or denying care. That's all what we have now under the private health insurance system. That's what happens.
Look, I've practiced -- I've practiced for 10 years. My wife is still practicing. Never once did I have a Medicare bureaucrat tell me what I could or couldn't do for a patient, but all the time we have bureaucrats from the insurance companies calling up and saying, "We're not going to cover this, and we're not going to pay for that, and we're denying coverage of that."
The system we have right now is broken. We need to fix it. I think giving the American people some choices about how to fix it makes sense.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, we're going to have to end it there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're going to go straight to the roundtable. So as our panelists take their seats, a reminder that this is not the first time health care has heated up the August recess.
Roll back to 1989. Congress had just expanded catastrophic coverage under Medicare paid for by a surtax on seniors. They let the powerful sponsor of the bill, Chicago's Dan Rostenkowski, know just how much they hated it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): This man is a coward. He ran away. This is what you're voting for, representation?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not long after that, the surtax was repealed.
Now we're going to bring in the roundtable. I'm joined by Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, Matthew Dowd, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, also the author of a new book, "War of Necessity, War of Choice," Sam Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts.
And, Peggy, let's start out with this whole town meeting phenomenon. This week, you -- you wrote that the message that constituents are sending members of Congress is, "You're terrorizing us"?
NOONAN: Yes, I think this whole thing is turning into a domestic political disaster for the administration, the town hall stuff, the agitation stuff, the sense of unrest in opposition.
I also think the president has managed through this drama to do one thing that I never imagined would be done at that -- at this point, and that is unite the Republican Party.
You've got economic Republicans, libertarians, the social right, social conservatives all together in opposition to this big, formless blob of a thing called the health care that's coming that you're not going to like.
So that's been extraordinary to me. This has been a lot of action for a sleepy August, you know, big political action.
ROBERTS: I actually think -- I think it's really too bad. This is complicated stuff that affects everybody, and -- and change is needed. And to have it turn into this kind of screaming, yelling fight when -- at a time when people really need to be listening and learning is -- is just a shame.
And I -- you know, I keep wondering how this happened. I mean, those pictures you showed earlier of all those yelling, screaming people, it's just -- it's so unpleasant. And I just have to believe it has to do with the shortage of nuns, because anybody knows that nuns would not behave in that fashion.
DONALDSON: You say listening and learning, but that's the problem, I think, one of the big problems. They came home to talk about, what, Silly Putty. There's no bill. Someone says, "Oh, euthanasia," well, that's silly.
ROBERTS: Well, that's ridiculous.
DONALDSON: But -- but you can't say, "Look at article eight of this bill that we're proposing." There's no...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, you can. It's section 1223, but one of five bills.
DONALDSON: Exactly. Exactly. What's the Senate going to do? What's the Senate going to do on the government option? We think we know it's not going to do it.
So the members are out there trying to defend what? Now, a lot of people are angry, and a lot of it's organized, but that's OK. Organization is the American way. But the people who want health care reform that's real don't really have anything to argue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Matt, it does seem that the White House has gotten that message. They want to send people out during the August recess and answer that question, what's in it for me?
But given -- and also this phenomenon, what you're seeing is, health care still has majority support. Reform still has majority support. But the opposition is so much more intense than those who support it.
DOWD: Well, when you watch this -- when you watch this debate, when you start attacking the people that show up for town hall meetings, it means you've lost the message part of this debate. They have no message, as far as I can tell right now, on what they want to do on health care. It's, "Let's attack the opposition."
STEPHANOPOULOS: They want to get it done.
DOWD: To me, in having been through this with President Bush, it reminds me a lot -- many of this reminds me a lot about Iraq, because what you had there, the first thing that happened was, you took your eye off the ball. Instead of being Afghanistan, it became Iraq. So instead of being about the economy, we're now talking about health care, which is where I think Barack Obama should be focused on, is the economy.
And then you have a situation where people say it's going to pay for itself, like Iraq. Iraq was going to pay for itself. Health care reform was going to pay for itself. And then the American public begins to go bad on you, and then what you do is you start attacking the opposition. This has very similarity to what's happened, and I think...
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Well, then, let's -- let's extend the metaphor. What's the equivalent of the surge in health care?
DOWD: Well, I think what he has to do is he's got to go back. I think where he lost this message debate was when he -- it became all about covering people who were not covered as opposed to what it was in it for people that had coverage where the cost was too high.
And I think he has to go back and say, "This is about people that have coverage and how we're going to lower their costs," because that's where the American public is right now.
ROBERTS: And get your insurance company out of the middle between you and your doctor, because that is what people mind. I mean, people mind the cost and they mind having to hassle their insurance company.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But they're afraid the government is going to come in between them and their doctor.
ROBERTS: Well, but that's -- but that's the message that the opposition has managed to get out there, without the people who support health care reform answering it by saying, "But the person who's there right now is your insurance company."
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it does seem, Richard, that the thing -- when you add up this concern about government, along with the bailout of the banks, the bailout of the auto companies, a lot of this resistance is purely just, "We're seeing too much too fast"?
HAASS: Seeing too much too fast, not a clear sense of priorities, but also there's a critique that's being to crystallize out there, and I think the administration has got to be awfully careful about it, because you add up all the spending on the stimulus and not perhaps that much stimulus, you add up health care, you add up the cap and trade, which people haven't really yet focused on...
HAASS: ... on, on the climate change bill, you add up the deficits, and then you look at the federal debt, which is soon going to be greater than 100 percent of what America produces every year, and there's a sense that somehow we've got it wrong, we're going off the rails, we can't afford it. The growth in concern about the size of our indebtedness... (CROSSTALK)
HAASS: ... is now, I think, something to really watch, for the future of America politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... president has a majority against him on dealing with the deficit.
NOONAN: There's also the problem of trust, I think. Trust in the past few months got squandered by the Hill, by the president. There was so much double-talk and gobbledygook, and this plan, and that plan, and part five, and 4-D. All of that stuff looked like, "These people aren't to be trusted to take care of our new health care reform." And so, no matter what they say now, I think people are going to think, "I don't believe you."
DONALDSON: This is a complicated thing. It's not simple.
NOONAN: Of course it isn't. You can make complicated things fairly simple if you start out with clarity.
DONALDSON: Here's -- let me just tell you what I think is likely going to happen, and it's this. I can't conceive the Democrats, who have the majority in both houses, are going to let nothing happen this year. Their president, I'm one of those who believe would suffer immensely, and the party would suffer. They're going to pass something.
But in the watering down -- and you see the public, I agree, the public is angry and upset, and the president's lost the message -- what they pass may not get...
DONALDSON: It may not be health care reform.
DOWD: I'll take a slightly different thing than that. I think the Republicans soon have to be careful of something, that this could become -- I know Republicans are all patting themselves on the back and saying, "We've got the Democrats on the run, Obama on the run." I don't think it's necessarily a good political place to be in by November if you've defeated any health care reform...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well -- well, and that's what I wanted to...
DOWD: ... and the American public stuck...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The opposition now may be the best thing that happened to President Obama, Cokie, because it will lead to a couple of things. It will force them to go slower, which is probably a good thing. But the problem he may have is actually managing his liberal base going through...
ROBERTS: Absolutely. I think that is going to be the problem, because, look, you could -- you could sit here right now, and even though it's complicated, we could sit at this table and write a bill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Insurance reform, some cost controls.
ROBERTS: Right. And no -- but no public option, you know. And -- and it's a big that's actually been there for a very long time. You could take the Wyden-Bennett, you know -- it is a bipartisan bill.
DONALDSON: Which the CBO says actually would reduce costs.
ROBERTS: You know, and Howard Baker and Bob Dole have a bill, you know. I mean, there are bills out there that are doable. And -- and if I had to guess, in the end, I think that's probably what is going to happen, is something much more watered down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But will the Howard Dean wing of the party go along with it?
ROBERTS: No, they're going to be absolutely furious. And -- and that is the problem that he's got right now is that he's got -- he's already got the liberals...
DONALDSON: ... more if they don't pass something.
NOONAN: Maybe it would be good for the president if the left got absolutely furious about something.
ROBERTS: Well, I think that's -- I think that's...
NOONAN: OK, I understand what's going on.
NOONAN: We've got a little middle stuff going on here. We've got some centrism. That ain't so bad.
DOWD: Well, we -- as we talked a few months ago, I think his biggest test is always and will always be the left in the -- in the Congress, will always be the test, is how much -- how far he lets them go without restraining them in.
Because the country is in a place where they don't want the right-wing Republicans, they don't want the left-wing Democrats. They want to be a place where it's moderate and reasonable. And I think, so far, Barack Obama has shown an inability to restrain that...
ROBERTS: And that's -- yes. DOWD: ... on the stimulus package, on health care reform, on cap and trade, on many things. He's -- he's had great inability...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And now that the stimulus is working...
DONALDSON: I don't see how -- actually, interesting argument. Twelve percent of the stimulus package has actually been actually spent, so we had an $800 billion stimulus package and something around $100 billion has actually spent. I don't know of any economist who actually could say $100 billion in a $12 trillion economy...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it said the Goldman Sachs economists looked at it, say it made about a 3 percent difference in GDP.
ROBERTS: And the fact that -- that unemployment rate is going down instead of up, people are taking a big sigh of relief.
DOWD: Well, I don't know if they have, because we've -- we lost $250,000 jobs. There's been 2.5 million jobs have lost since Barack Obama has been president. I remember trying to make this argument when Bush was president, where he said the unemployment rate went down, even though we lost jobs, and never was very successful.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, and that September unemployment number is going to make a big -- have a big impact on the fall debate.
We're going to have to take a quick break, and we're going to come back. Bill Clinton's mission to North Korea, more troops for Afghanistan, and what we can expect from Justice Sotomayor. We have more roundtable and the Sunday funnies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBSON: Former President Clinton on a secret trip to North Korea.
LING: When we walked in through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton.
OBAMA: The reunion is a source of happiness not only for the families, but for the entire country.
H. CLINTON: I want to be sure people don't confuse what Bill did with our policy.
B. CLINTON: My job was to do one thing which I was profoundly honored to do as an American and as a father.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STEPHANOPOULOS: President Clinton humble and concise coming off of that mission from North Korea. Let me bring our roundtable back in: Peggy Noonan, Matthew Dowd, Richard Haass, Sam Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts.
And, of course, the pictures that we all wanted to see here this week were those two journalists coming home. The picture that Kim Jong-il wanted everyone to see around the world and in North Korea, here it was, the picture of President Clinton greeting him, shaking his hand.
And, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who got the better end of the bargain?
HAASS: Both sides gained. It was good for the United States to get these two people back. It was good for the North Koreans to get the picture.
The bigger story, George, this is irrelevant. Nothing changes in terms of North Korea. This is still the most opaque country in the world. It's got a dozen nuclear weapons. It's a threat to the region. Bill Clinton can't change that; Barack Obama can't change that.
There's only one place that can change it, which is China. Until the Chinese use their leverage over North Korea, we are going to be living with a North Korean threat, a country that has nuclear weapons. So what Bill Clinton did, however nice it is and good it is the other day -- and this is not a criticism -- it doesn't change any of the fundamentals.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So there's no sign that by Kim Jong-il inviting him that he actually wants some kind of a broader conversation?
HAASS: Oh, he'd love a broader conversation. He'd love to get all sorts of reduction in economic sanctions, have North Korea somewhat less isolated, but he's not going to do anything significant on the nuclear side.
And, again, more important, China, which has most of the leverage -- three-quarters of North Korea's trade goes across China, in and out. China won't use its leverage against North Korea, because China is scared to bring down this country, because what would happen, you would then have Korea united under Seoul within the American orbit. That for the Chinese would be a big strategic setback. It'd be almost like another unified Vietnam. So China will not...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So we've seen as many sanctions as we're going to see?
HAASS: Anything more would be at the margins. We're not going to -- look, let me put it this way. We're not going to see enough that's different in the sanction area that will affect one way or another the trajectory of North Korea.
ROBERTS: But, you know, what Richard's saying there about China relates back to what we were talking about earlier, because we can't put the kind of pressure on China that we would like to put on China to cooperate with us in terms of North Korea or in terms of Darfur or all kinds of other places, because they own so much of our debt and we are not in a position to really pressure them, because they -- because there it is. We are beholden to them as long as we're driving up these kinds of debt.
DONALDSON: I -- I don't understand -- I don't understand the angry people who say this was a terrible thing for Bill Clinton to do. I mean, we got the two young ladies back. They got the picture of Bill Clinton. For my money, let's send Bill Clinton to Tehran where we have three hikers, give them a picture, get the three hikers back. Send him to Robert Mugabe, if we've got somebody there. To say that there was something wrong with this negotiated behind-the-scenes deal to get the two women back...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, unless they had no choice. The concern, though, is that it's going to create a precedent that will encourage others to take...
DONALDSON: Well, what precedent? In 1994, Jimmy Carter went to this man's father. It's the young son, Un, that we've got...
DONALDSON: ... with, and we don't know what he's going to do.
HAASS: But the advantage of using outsiders is it's easier to compartmentalize this. You don't want to encourage countries to kidnap Americans, and that's the reason you don't want to send U.S. government officials, because then it's more tightly integrated. Bill Clinton is a bit of a gray area, because...
HAASS: But, still, it gives a bit of a compartment. It gives a little bit of deniability. It's easier to say for the president, for this president, Mr. Obama, that this is not going to lead to policy changes. That's why it's OK to use...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and that's exactly the thing you saw. The White House went -- they were vehement that there -- Bill Clinton didn't talk about anything, anything, anything except humanitarian aid, getting those journalists back. He had no message for President Obama.
DOWD: Well, I know. But I think anybody -- it's hard to make that distinction when Bill Clinton goes over there. His wife is the secretary of state. Anybody around the world is going to think no matter what we say that Barack Obama either permitted it or sent him on this -- on this trip.
And so I think there is a fear about a policy thing that, did this stand for U.S. policy? And are we going to go around the world apologizing to people in order to get captives back? I think that's the problem.
You cannot separate Bill Clinton from this administration, no matter how...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Impossible, even though he's had a very tense relationship, not a close relationship to President Obama at all.
DOWD: Nobody around the world sees it that way.
NOONAN: Oh, he's big dog. He's big dog.
NOONAN: Big dog got the girls back. It's fine.
DONALDSON: Excuse me. If there's a fear...
DONALDSON: ... not be right. Have your fear, but there's no reality yet. Is there going to be a reality? Will we change our policy because...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Sam, you mentioned the hikers in Iran. What was interesting about that is that the Iranians moved the hikers...
DONALDSON: To Tehran.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... from the Kurdish border to Tehran after the North Korean mission...
DONALDSON: All right, fine. We'll send Bill Clinton.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... so they've taken control.
DONALDSON: I'll be happy to send -- let's send...
ROBERTS: Expecting somebody to come and...
DONALDSON: Clinton and Carter and Bush, and the other Bush, and get...
DOWD: I just don't think it's necessarily in the United States' interest to have somebody, Bill Clinton, out on an apology tour, just to run -- no matter what public policy...
DONALDSON: What did he apologize for?
DOWD: He went to North Korea, and he apologized on their behalf for having violated...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Matthew, I mean, what...
DOWD: ... for having been violated their law and them coming into the country. He went and made an apology in order to get them back.
DONALDSON: Well, if they violated their law...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Put yourself back in...
DONALDSON: Just a minute. If they violated their law, what's wrong with saying, "We're sorry it happened"? Should we stand up throughout the world and say we were wrong...
DOWD: That's all I'm saying, is do we want the U.S. -- it's a question to be asked.
DONALDSON: ... and we'll admit it?
DOWD: Do we want the U.S. government to be put in the position where they wander around the world apologizing in order to get captives back?
DONALDSON: I think we have more respect today because this president is realistically saying, "We've made these mistakes, and we acknowledge that, and we're going to do a little better here, and we're going to have a different tone in the world rather than, 'We're the United States of America. We have nothing to apologize for.'" What a bunch of hooey. That will get us with 305 million people of the 7 billion in this world.
DOWD: You've got your wish. You've got your wish. We've done a great job in the six months apologizing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But my question is...
DONALDSON: We have 305 million people, and there are 7 billion people in the world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on.
DONALDSON: I'm shouting you down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One second. What was the alternative? I take your point about the apologizing. But what was the alternative, when the North Koreans come to the United States and say, "If you send Bill Clinton, we're releasing the women"? The president has no choice.
HAASS: This is a good outcome, because he didn't apologize about policy. We didn't make policy concessions. We didn't agree to reduce sanctions. We didn't agree to bilateral talks as opposed to six-party talks. This is OK.
NOONAN: He got the women home. He removed it. He took this little agitating issue off the table. It was not a big propaganda coup for North Korea. Once again, everybody looked at the pictures of North Korea and Kim and thought, "Oh, that's not a good place." Bill Clinton made everybody smile again. It ended fine.
DONALDSON: If I had known you were on my side, I would have...
(UNKNOWN): You would have stopped?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Also this week, the administration considered that a foreign policy success. They were even more excited about this killing in Pakistan at the end of the week of the Taliban leader in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud, who had become the Taliban leader in Pakistan, killed by a drone attack.
Apparently, he was on the roof of his father-in-law's house with his second wife getting some treatment for diabetes. The drones came in. He was killed. Even though it hasn't been 100 percent confirmed, the administration officials believe it.
And -- and, Richard, I was struck at the end of the week, the White House, the Pentagon, State Department, they were really, really buzzing about this as the news started to come out, and we kept hearing again and again and again this is a really big deal. Explain that.
HAASS: It is a big deal. It's a really good day. It helps legitimatize some of these missile attacks, which we've been taking a lot of criticism for, because it does show they can be quite discrete and quite effective.
He was incredibly important within the Pakistani Taliban orbit psychologically, as well as operationally and politically. This is a big setback.
But all that said, it wasn't the decisive day. It was a good day, but not a decisive day. This is not the end of the beginning; this is not the beginning of the end. This is simply one good day for us.
But the fundamental problems of Pakistani governance, the fact that they're not in control of large chunks of their western territory, the realities of the war in Afghanistan are all with us, but you don't have decisive days in struggles against terrorism.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But this drone attack did appear to also set up a fight among his subordinates...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... the two deputies getting into a gun fight. One or both of them may have been killed.
HAASS: No honor among thieves or terrorists. And that -- again, a good day, and the fact that they have these internecine fights is good. But this is the sort of thing that's going to still play out over time. These are not organizations where getting rid of one or two people are transformational. It's just simply -- it's a long-term struggle.
ROBERTS: And a really long-term struggle. I mean, Afghanistan is looking like this is going to be an incredibly long slog. And -- and seeing how the American people deal with that and how much they continue to support it, as more and more people get killed, is going to be something that's going to be...
DONALDSON: Well, I know there are people...
ROBERTS: ... for the administration.
DONALDSON: ... pretty close to the president who worry about the slippery slope here. General McChrystal we think may ask for another 4,000 or 5,000, just another 4,000 or 5,000 troops. And after that, we'll be -- Lyndon Johnson-like -- another 4,000 or 5,000 troops. And here we go into the big muddy (ph) again.
Now, maybe we can tame Afghanistan. The British couldn't; the Mongols couldn't; the Soviets couldn't, all of that. Maybe we can do that. Maybe we can show them democracy, whereas I don't think we've been able to do that in Iraq, but maybe we can do it in Afghanistan. I don't think so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Matthew, you mentioned the previous administration took the ball -- eye off the ball in Iraq and ignored Afghanistan for too long. Now Afghanistan appears to be coming, particularly after this mission that Sam mentioned, General Stanley McChrystal likely to come back with a recommendation for more troops in the next month. This is becoming Barack Obama's war.
DOWD: Yes, it's...
ROBERTS: Oh, absolutely.
DOWD: ... totally become his war. It's an interesting situation. When you look at three or four years ago, who would have thought we would have debate that Iraq seemed to be all settled and Afghanistan would be out of control? That was totally opposite of what it was three or four years ago.
He's in a situation now where it sounds like rumors that the Pentagon wants to double the troop strength in -- in Afghanistan and from what you hear. I think it's a much more difficult situation than Iraq.
I think Iraq has been used to, even though Saddam Hussein was bad, a central government-imposed solution. Afghanistan -- the history of Afghanistan -- and Richard probably can talk about this -- has never been a situation where a central government solution has ever worked in the history of Afghanistan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, Peggy, Matthew mentioned this idea of doubling the troops. A Pentagon officer I talked to said that's probably too high. But the only question is, how many more troops McChrystal is going to ask for.
NOONAN: Yes. It is interesting to me, where we started was the -- the drone killing of this Taliban chieftain and what followed, the internecine fighting since. It is interesting to me that the American people didn't seem to notice it a great deal, this interesting, good progressive movement.
The American people, I think, have been under the impression that Afghanistan and Iraq are sort of quiet and sort of secondary at this point, but I think it's coming back in a big way. It's come back in Britain where they've taken some real losses in people, and it's a front page story now, Afghanistan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the losses -- the American losses are going up, as well.
ROBERTS: The polling is showing people very concerned about Afghanistan.
DONALDSON: There are bombings in Iraq every day.
NOONAN: You can see it in normal human conversation now. People are really starting to talk about it.
DONALDSON: They lose 50, 75 people every day.
NOONAN: So it's going to shape part of our future. Obama does own it now, in part because he took it on himself to implant his face on the age.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now that he owns it, what does he do?
NOONAN: He owns everything.
HAASS: Well, what he's going to do is what you've suggested. This has, as you said, become not just his war, it's his war of choice. We didn't have to go this way. He's decided to increase our force levels. He's going to increase them more gradually in order, as he put several months ago, to take the fight to the Taliban. The United States has essentially become a party to Afghanistan's civil war. We're going to try to push them back out of Afghanistan into Pakistan. What we're going to try to do is continue to use this time to build up the Afghan police and military forces. The real question, quite honestly, is whether we -- that can go fast enough.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But can I stop you there? You said, Richard, we're going to push them out of Afghanistan into Pakistan. But aren't we even more worried about Pakistan in some ways than Afghanistan, because they have nuclear weapons?
HAASS: Pakistan is far more important, but there at least you have some state capacity, which, though, again, we're -- we're -- we're building it up. The whole idea is to buy time in Afghanistan to build up police and military forces so the Afghans can eventually -- essentially fight their own civil war.
And to me, the real question is whether American patience, how that compares with the ability of the Afghans to build up. I think the jury's out on that; that's the real risk.
ROBERTS: Particularly since what we're -- when you're talking about sending in more troops, what you're talking about is sending the same people who have already been in Iraq back again for another deployment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, exactly. McChrystal actually wants the most experienced soldiers.
ROBERTS: And so -- so, you know, these families are really feeling it, because this is yet another lengthy deployment.
NOONAN: ... U.S. Army War College recently, and the biggest thing I came away with, being surrounded by young colonels and guys on their way to being general, is that they are being exhausted...
NOONAN: ... by their third and fourth and fifth tour in that part of the world.
ROBERTS: That's right.
NOONAN: And it's hurting their families. DONALDSON: But General McChrystal wants more soldiers.
NOONAN: Their kids are growing up without dads.
DONALDSON: He wants more troops. But he also publicly says -- and I think he means it -- that he understands the hearts and minds of the people. He understands that we've got to build an infrastructure within the country that makes people want to belong to something else other than the Taliban.
DONALDSON: How do we do that? We weren't able to do it in Vietnam. I don't thing we've done it in Iraq, although I realize that the jury's still out.
HAASS: And then, Sam, how do we do that in Afghanistan?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, correct me if I'm wrong, Richard, but that implies probably a 10- or 20-year effort. It's also a very different goal than the president laid out at least three months ago when he first asked for the troops. He wanted a very narrow goal, which is basically deny Al Qaida a safe haven. Now you're in a big counterinsurgency.
HAASS: This is classic nation-building. We are now in at least a decade-long, possibility a generational struggle to build up the greater Middle East. Pakistan is the scariest place, where there's probably the greatest gap between our interests and our influence.
And the reason, by the way, George, we can put more forces into Afghanistan, Pakistan, is the Pakistanis won't have them. And quite honestly, there we have to hope the Pakistani government essentially fights its own fight. Afghanistan, we have the luxury of putting in forces to build them up and...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Matthew, my question for you is, how much time do you think the public and the Congress are going to give them? The Congress has already signaled, basically, next year we want to see results or we're going to start to pull the plug on funding. How about the public?
DOWD: I think very little time. I think the public is in a position now, their lives are economically in a bad shape. Their health care system they think is broken and nobody's really -- they're all having a screaming and yelling match, and nobody is really getting it done.
Our deficit's out of control. They felt like, when are we going to get the money to do this? So we're going to recommit more troops to Afghanistan. We thought that was dealt with. Now we're going to have to go back and do it.
I think the public has very little patience for more investment of resources and men and women in Afghanistan, very little patience. ROBERTS: Now, one thing that is true is that, unlike Iraq, we have actually been on the ground in Afghanistan for a long time doing nation-building, doing...
HAASS: Very little, though. ROBERTS: Well, but -- but if we can protect the people who are there doing it, that is -- that makes a big difference, so that -- that is one function that the military can provide that would be very useful and not that difficult.
DONALDSON: But, of course, NATO is actually running Afghanistan, although we have half the troops there. And we're the fulcrum. We're the central point.
HAASS: With Barack Obama, what might be the biggest problem is these will probably not be his biggest foreign policy challenges over the next year. It's likely to be Iran and its nuclear program and quite possibly Iraq. As U.S. troop withdrawals start to happen, you could begin to see Iraq unravel. It could become an incredibly crowded and difficult national security inbox, just at the same time, all the things we were talking about earlier come to fruition.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Richard, now he's got to hope the economy comes back and at least gives him some relief.
Almost unnoticed in all of this, Judge Sotomayor became Justice Sonia Sotomayor, only the 111th justice on the Supreme Court. She was sworn in yesterday by Chief Justice John Roberts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOTOMAYOR: I, Sonia Sotomayor, do solemnly swear...
J. ROBERTS: ... that I will administer justice without -- so help me God.
SOTOMAYOR: So help me God.
J. ROBERTS: Congratulations, and welcome to the court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Big day for Sonia Sotomayor, big day for the Latino community across the country. And, Peggy Noonan, I couldn't help but notice Judge Roberts had to read the oath this time.
NOONAN: And a good move that was.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Justice Roberts.
NOONAN: You know, I am one who thinks, this is still -- even though it's a cliche, a moving story, this young woman...
NOONAN: ... who grew up in the projects, who made her way in the world, who came forward, who in my judgment should have been confirmed, who is within the mainstream framework judicially of America, and -- and I thought it was very touching and good. And the third woman? Right on.
ROBERTS: Seeing the reactions of the groups that came together to watch the confirmation vote in the Senate -- and probably, again, yesterday for the swearing in -- I mean, these were -- these were women who were just, you know, overcome with emotion. And that's telling; that's -- that's an important thing.
But I also think that Peggy's point about Sotomayor's growing up in the projects, I think we're going to see some -- some toughness there that some of her opponents did not really anticipate. I think, you know, she's been affected by crime.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We know she's tough. We know she's a hard- worker. (CROSSTALK)
STEPHANOPOULOS: We know she was a prosecutor. But, Sam, what we really can't know is what she's going to do... DONALDSON: We don't.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... on the court.
ROBERTS: You never know.
NOONAN: No, you don't.
DONALDSON: ... Souter, I mean, whatever, they turn out to be something -- I suspect she won't, but...
DONALDSON: ... you don't -- you don't know.
NOONAN: They don't reveal themselves.
DONALDSON: The telling thing to me, George, was only two Republicans, conservatives, who had a possible re-election at stake, Alexander from Tennessee and, from South Carolina...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Lindsey Graham.
DONALDSON: ... Lindsey Graham voted to confirm her. I keep telling people to remind them that, when Antonin Scalia, seen now to be the -- the engine of the right wing on the court, was up for confirmation, 98-0. Every liberal Democrat voted for him. Times have changed.
ROBERTS: Yes, but that all changed.
DOWD: That's, I think, what's happened in the last 10 or 12 years, is the polarization of the Supreme Court process...
ROBERTS: That wasn't the case with Alito.
DONALDSON: It changed. DOWD: ... where Democrats line up like they did against Alito. Even though they knew he was qualified and they knew he was an intellect, they did it, just like Republicans did against Sotomayor. They knew she was qualified, and they knew she was an intellect. I don't think it's a good thing for the Supreme Court.
(UNKNOWN): No. STEPHANOPOULOS: But this is -- this is brand new. It wasn't just Scalia, Sam. Both Justice Breyer, Richard, and Justice Ginsburg had overwhelming votes, two or four votes against. But President Obama actually has himself in some ways to blame for this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was the one who led... ROBERTS: The filibuster. STEPHANOPOULOS: ... partly the filibuster against Justice Alito.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we have seen a new standard now. It's not enough, Peggy, to be qualified. That's not the standard. The president doesn't get his choice. Senators basically vote for who they want on the court, someone they think will agree with them.
NOONAN: Yes. HAASS: It's part of the larger...
NOONAN: A country can't -- can't operate that way. We need more give.
HAASS: But the country is operating that way, dysfunctionally. And we're seeing -- this is not, shall we say, a one-off or is not unique.
There's another thing, which I thought Matt was going to mention, which is why the Republicans are lining up against this Hispanic nominee. It's the fastest growing demographic group in America...
(UNKNOWN): It's crazy.
HAASS: ... 15 percent roughly. This is the future. How is the Republican Party ever going to become a majority party again, if it alienates...
DONALDSON: The party has a death wish.
ROBERTS: They're not.
(CROSSTALK) DONALDSON: This party has a death wish.
ROBERTS: This is shooting yourself in the foot.
DOWD: Well, I don't -- I think -- I think that Republicans figured that out. And when they're opposition, they pulled way back from where they were at the beginning of this and made it much more like, oh -- they spent more time talking about how great she was and then I'm going to vote against her than they did talking about how bad she was, because they were worried about that situation, because they know that if, unless they regain the Latino vote, they cannot be a majority party in this country.
But I do think this polarization is a bad effect on the court of law, because people sit there and say, "Justices decide by what party their -- whoever got nominated from, and it's not about the law, and it's not about what's right for the country. It's about like what's -- what's politically advantageous to either political party."
The other thing, I think, is people are going to be watching her. Sotomayor's first year or two is going to be very important, because people are going to say, whether we should have believed what she said at the hearings -- and she said, "I'm going to stick with the law or not." So when Justice Stevens or somebody else, the vacancy occurs, and somebody else, people are going to say, "Wait a second."
STEPHANOPOULOS: So this is all about the next choice?
ROBERTS: Oh, sure. But -- but a lot of people said, in this -- in this round, well, she doesn't change the make-up of the court. So it really is a -- you know, it's all right. We can go with this.
But the -- the next choice could be something that does change the makeup. And that -- that becomes a much tougher thing.
But, you know, I think, Matt, what really happened, I mean, it was already getting very polarized, but Bush v. Gore really crystallized that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's right.
ROBERTS: Because when you got to a court that basically decided an election and decided an election on a 5-4 decision, that was -- that's when people started to think they're just politicians. (CROSSTALK)
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to have to stop it right there. You guys keep going in the green room.