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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  January 6, 2013 9:00am-11:00am PST

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biden's reality show. we didn't hear anything about that from the president when he landed back. of course, it will be among our top questions when we do get to question the president and vice president now back from vacation. more specifically about the former nebraska law maker chuck hagel and the reports he will be picked as early as tomorrow as the secretary of defense choice to replace leon panetta by the president. the white house has been mum, said nothing more specifically about that. there have been a lot of rumblings about this. it would be a contentious nomination battle, as we noted on the sunday morning shows, for a variety of reasons. for one, we heard from senator lindsey graham of south carolina today, who said, among other things, that chuck hagel was, quote, out of the mainstream on foreign policy issues and said, in reference to the potential that he would be picked, for the president it would be what he called an in your face selection, saying that it was just more -- a greater effort to get sort of up against the republicans and to continue the battle lines as they have
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already been drawn. that goes specifically, lindsey graham's concerns, to some past comments that chuck hagel had made about israel. he referred to the jewish lobby that offended some in that community in 19 -- i guess it was in 2006. i should note, here was mitch mcconnell, the senate minority leader, speaking about the very topic today on "meet the press." >> i think he will be subjected to the same kinds of oversight hearings that any nominee for such an important position would expect. and his views with regard to israel, for example, and iran, and all the other positions that he's taken over the years will be, i think, very much a matter of discussion during the confirmation process. i think it would be a the lot of tough questions of senator hagel, but he'll be treated fairly by republicans in the senate. >> reporter: the president was asked specifically about chuck hagel last week by david gregory on "meet the press." he referred to hagel as a
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patriot and said, he has done extraordinary work in the senate and on an intelligence advisory committee. alex? >> hey, peter, just a quick question. are you ready for your office politics interview on wednesday? >> reporter: we're going to bring you down here in a couple of days. the office needs some scrubbing, but we'll try to find the time. >> we'll get a behind the scenes when you were on the campaign trail with romney. we're looking forward to it. joining me now, white house reporter for "the washington post" david nakamura and editor for the huffington post, rachel. mitch mcconnell said the president should lead on spending cuts. the president said no compromise on the debt ceiling. where is this all headed? >> round two of this new year, basically the same fiscal kind of fight. the republicans, which some people say the republicans lost this first round by allowing the tax rates to go up for the first time in a couple of decades on the wealthier americans. they're saying, look, this is our chance to sort of gain back
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some of what we might have lost and really make an impact on the spending cuts. they're saying we want to hold the president to the lineup as we go towards this debt ceiling. if the president wants to raise the debt ceiling, we want an equal dollar per dollar spending cut if we want to raise the debt ceiling. within the two months, if you see a fight over the debt ceiling and sequester, these automated spending cuts, they're mandatory right now. republicans are really going to hold the line. now it's going to be a question of who is willing to blink first or who doesn't want to blink first. i think it's going to go down to the wire, just like this last one did. >> rachel, a lot of what i talked about this weekend with democratic congressman john harmuth. are we going to see another nightmare in february at raising the debt ceiling. here's what he said. >> i suspect they are. it's essentially distortion. what they're trying to do and have been trying to do is use the debt ceiling or basically any other blackmail leverage they have to strip the social safety net in this country. >> so in terms of details,
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rachel, the president says he will not treat an increase in the debt ceiling for equal spepding cuts. speaker boehner has so far maintained, well, that's exactly what republicans are going to demand. who blinks first? >> that's the key question. president obama has shown new toughness in his negotiations with congress since his re-election, coming off a stronger than expected victory, of course, and also feeling like he learned some lessons from past fights with the congress. he has said he will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. at the same time, republicans feel like they have much more leverage in this debate. they felt like they were kind of on the losing end of the last fiscal cliff fight with their position that could have caused some tax increases on everyone, including middle class americans. so they were in a tough spot. they feel like this is an issue where they have more public support. the issue that we need to cut spending and that we shouldn't just keep raising the debt ceiling. so those are the dynamics going into that fight. add into that that speaker boehner is in a somewhat
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weakened position coming out of a tighter than expected fight for him to be reelected speaker. he will be speaker again but had to overcome some dissension in his own ranks to get in that position. and it's not just the debt ceiling fight. rolled into that was the sequester, which was pushed back only two months as part of the fiscal cliff deal, and we have part of a government funding bill that's going to expire in march. we have a lot rolled into one fight here. >> we do, and we have another issue that we've got to keep our eyes on because, at the same time, david, "the washington post" has this article about the white house weighing a broad gun control agenda in the wake of the newtown shootings. vice president biden's task force reportedly considering these measures. it requires a universal background check for firearm buyers, tracking the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthening mental health checks, and stiffening up the penalties for
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carrying guns anywhere near schools or giving them to minors, in fact. what do you think the president's strategy is for getting support for this? >> my colleague phil rutger, that was his story. he talked to folks in the room with vice president biden. biden told them, don't worry about the politics. let's go for what makes the most sense. let's not rule anything out what can get through washington and what can't. you went through the list. what was also interesting in the story is the white house, looking for ways to get around the pressure of the nra, and one of the ideas they have is go to places like walmart and other places that sell guns that actually have somewhat of a business interest in the way guns are regulated in that there's a loophole. if you buy guns at private gun shows, you don't have to get a permit for that. that would put a different pressure in the game. you already have folks coming out today, republicans saying a lot of these are nonstarters in their mind. it's going to be tough. the story basically said the white house has not ruled any of these things out. they're looking at strong
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measures, maybe stronger than anyone thought. >> bringing walmart on board would be a big pr approach to do it too. thank you. coming up, congressman charles rangel on new york on the struggle for sandy relief, and who's paying the price for the rancor on capitol hill? a new and defiant call to war from the leader of syria. listen to that cheering and chanting crowd which greeted president bashar al assad in damascus, as he gave a rare personal speech to the country, his first since june. assad called for mobilization in this fight, compared rebel forces to al qaeda, and dismissed national efforts to mediate the crisis, saying syria refused to be, quote, puppets of the west. west coast headlines are next with a price strike in a new health care law, which was supposed to prevent any kind of
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strike. plus the challenges for chuck hagel's nomination as defense secretary. is he worth fighting for?
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some head linlines making n out on the west coast. the yakima herald republic in washington state has this headline. "gop looks more divided post cliff." it's about how headlining party may not be able to negotiate the debt ceiling.
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and the press democrat has "health care rates spike," it's about health care companies seeking big premium increases for customers even though one of the biggest objectives of the health care law was to stem the loss to consumers. and the mail tribune in medford, oregon, has this headline. "despite our best efforts, folks keep moving here." it's about how national migration statistics show oregon is the second highest place where people keep moving. only washington, d.c., is higher. >> the level of dysfunction in the house of representatives on the respect an sirepublican side same week we're supposed to provide victims of superstorm sandy, they're all suffering. a bipartisan bill passed in the senate of over 60 votes, republicans and democrats, to provide the $60 billion in relief debt. governor cuomo and governor christie, both republicans, said
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we need. the republicans in the house would not allow that bill to come to a vote. >> new debate over controversial gridlock in congress after republicans stalled a vote to approve billions in aid to victims of hurricane sandy. yesterday new york congressman gregory meeks told me the deliberate denial of disaster relief is a new political low for the gop. >> maybe some of the reasons is the 67 individuals who voted against the basic $9 billion that only would give flood insurance. it may be some within the republican party who are so mean spirited that they don't want to move forward to help individuals who happen to be maybe, some say, because those are blue states. they're still playing politics. >> joining me now is democratic congressman charles rangel of new york here in studio, of course. welcome, sir. awfully good to have you here. >> thank you. >> this vote over sandy relief has triggered a lot of anger on both sides of the aisle. let's take a listen to people speaking out on this. >> we cannot believe that this
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cruel knife in the back was delivered to our region. >> i think it's inexcusable that we did not have this vote. >> the federal government doesn't have a role in this? absurd. absolutely absurd! we demand nothing less than we have given the rest of the country, an emergency and disaster means emergency and disaster. >> we have been devastated, and i would hope that the speaker would bring this to the floor as quickly as possible. >> i don't have to tell you, but we've got people freezing in the streets at breezy point. you have thousands of people homeless from staten island into long island into new jersey. where do you stand on all this? >> oh, my god, congress is the first place people should expect this is where we come together as a nation. no matter what area, whatever your party is, if you have been struck by some disaster, whether it's natural or otherwise, you can depend on us coming together as a team. this is the first time that
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politics ever has entered as the issue. when i say the issue, there has never been any opposition to whether or not we deserve the money, whether or not people talk about poor, that has been stripped. anything that was there that was controversial -- and even when you hear these people speaking out when the speaker said that this would be on the floor for a vote, no reason has been given even as you and i talk as to why a vote was not taken. now there's a new congress. there's going to be some 84 new members of the new congress studying this for the first time. why should we have to go through this? >> it's essentially -- i mean, it buys up more time. you have to almost reset the whole conversation because they have to get on board, these new members of congress. >> and you have to understand what it's all about. i don't expect the problem. they got the $9 billion, and we hope then to be getting the $18 billion, which will be for the immediate emergency needs
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they're dealing with, and then the other $33 billion which would deal with mitigation and long-term recovery. but that shouldn't happen in our congress, and that's why there was so much pain there because it wasn't new york, new jersey, connecticut, and pennsylvania. that's not what we're talking about. we're talking about anywhere you are that you are in america. this happens overseas, you expect that we're going to respond to other people. >> we were talking on the commercial break, and i asked you, is there a geographical political divide on this? >> well, our democratic conservatives become republican conservatives. they do basically come from the southern states. you can see whether it's red and whether it's blue. i heard congressman meeks as saying some people may vote against victims because -- and i don't want to believe that. i just don't want to believe that. i do believe there are some people, just because the president won, just because he
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supported it, that they can't get over it, and they say no, no, no, no, no. but they can't go home to their family and constituents and explain their behavior. it's un-american is what they've done. there's no politics that's so serious as you can forget your fellow man. when you lose this as a member of congress, you lose it for the nation. we're too strong for that. our history is too strong to allow 50 members to work their will against the will of the country. >> i want to bring up what you said and play it back for you, what you said on martin bashir's show back in september about speaker boehner's leadership. >> what on earth is speaker boehner doing? he decides taxes aren't going to rise in the top 2%. they're not even going to rise in the top .2%. >> if he thinks he can get unity in his party, then he has to resign as speaker. >> do you still think he should resign? >> no, he won, but that is the
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worst type of leadership support that any leader would have. when you are in power because of a handful of people that you don't believe in what they believe in, but they're keeping you there because they can manipulate the program through you, i'm certain. boehner's a good man, and what he's been through, i don't know why he would want to return to that office. >> maybe because there's nobody else who wanted to step up. >> that could very well be. they are fragmentized. what's happening is not just political in terms of republican and democrats. the traditions of america are being shattered. the whole idea that we're going to have a debt ceiling dispute. what is the debt ceiling? it says that a president of the united states tells the world of investors you can count on us to pay our bills. it's no more, and it's no less. they're going to hold him hostage over an issue like that? it's ridiculous. >> and i made a very oversimplistic analogy that it's like running up a credit card bill and then refusing to pay it.
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i grant you, there's a lot more parameters around that, but the root of it, it's kind of like that. and, in fact, members of the gop are talking about a partial government shutdown to get what they want in terms of negotiation for the debt ceiling. do you think that's going to happen? >> it could. it could because it's abundantly clear the speaker doesn't have control over the votes. what the president has done and effectively is to outreach to the american people and to tell boehner, don't wait until you have the majority of republicans agreeing on any given issue. let the congress vote. let some of your diehard republicans do what they have to do, even if it appears to be against republicanism and americanism, but allow a vote to take place. it's not just economically there's a shutdown. there are people on dialysis. there are people waiting for operations. when you say close down the government and you say it's a matter of life and death, you
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are not joking. you can actually attribute a number of americans and people here that die because of this type of political thinking, and it's wrong. >> we're going to hope it doesn't come to that. congressman charles rangel, you're welcome any time. >> thank you so much. you do good work. now number four of our five web stories. hockey could be back. this morning in new york, the nhl and players association agreed on a tentative deal to end the 113-day lockout. details of the new season, though, have yet to be announced. [ male announcer ] this is sheldon, whose long dy setting up the news starts with arthritis pain and a choice. take tylenol or take aleve, the #1 recommended pain reliever by orthopedic doctors. just two aleve can keep pain away all day. back to the news.
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welcome back, everyone, to "weekends with alex witt." a team in alaska is preparing to pull a ship off the island. water got inside the vessel last month during a storm darmaging the electrical system. backup generators are not working. in strategy talks, politico reports that president obama has settled on chuck hagel as secretary of defense with the announcement expected tomorrow. we're getting new reaction today to both parties to this likely nomination. >> chuck hagel, if confirmed to be secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards israel in our history. this is an in your face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of israel. >> chuck hagel was a republican senator from nebraska, a decorated veteran of the vietnam
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war, a person who has a resume that includes service on the foreign relations committee as well as the intelligence committee. yes, he is a serious candidate, if the president chooses to name him. >> joining me now, msnbc contributor and democratic strategist jimmy williams, and republican strategist chip saltsman. hello, guys. good to see you both. jimmy, i'm going to begin with you here. sources are telling nbc's chuck todd this. as many as ten democratic senators could vote no if hagel is getting the nomination, as we expect. why would the president nominate someone with that much potential opposition from his own party. >> i think the president trusts former senator hagel, and i think that they have a relationship and a camaraderie and a friendship. listen, i find this fascinating that lindsey graham, my birth state senator, has a problem with, "a," the president nominating a republican to be the secretary of defense. i bet, if this were bush and you had chuck hagel, who held the
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same views when bush was in the white house, if he had nominated him for secretary of defense, if he'd have the same opposition. i doubt it seriously. it's because this president is nominating him. listen, i think hagel will be asked serious questions, and he should answer those questions, and the senate should vote him up or down. >> ip chip, you're the republican strategist here. why would republicans oppose his nomination? there are reports as many as three republican senators will oppose him. >> now, i know one for sure will be deb fisher, the newly elected senator from nebraska, because chuck hagel endorsed her opponent. that would definitely probably be one. >> bob kerrey, right. >> i think the past few years, chuck hagel has been moving away from the republican party. what lindsey graham was talking about, his views on israel and that sort of thing, these interviews will be tough and challenging. we'll see what happens. >> jimmy, why not nominate a democrat for this position? is it really important that the president gives this rather bipartisan view of doing this?
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>> i mean, listen, if he nominated a democrat, fine. we already have a current democrat, former house member leon panetta, sitting over it at the pentagon. listen, the president is allowed to nominate whomever he wants. however, the senate is also allowed to say yes or no. if the senate wants to castigate and say no to one of their own, they are certainly welcome to do that. but i don't care if a president -- and, listen, barack obama has had republican cabinet members. george bush had democratic cabinet members. i like bipartisanship. i would like to see more of it. i think we need more diversity in the next cabinet, and so far what we're seeing is a lot of white men, but the president is allowed to pick whom he chooses, and if he chooses a former republican senator to be his next secretary of defense, the senate ought to have a hearing, investigate it, and give it an up or down vote, period. >> chip, in terms of the bipartisan appeal, do you think that is a significant factor here? do you think by doing this the
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president tries to rise above the rancor that exists on capitol hill? >> trying to do bipartisan support by nominating a former republican senator who balked his own party and backed the democratic candidate in his own state is not the way to do it. senator graham said we'll have a hearing and see what happens. it's going to be tough to get chuck hagel confirmed. when a few senators decide it's not going to happen, it usually doesn't happen. >> there is word, first up, that timothy geithner is going to step down as treasury secretary before the last week of february. this would happen by the end of this month reportedly. what kind of impact do you think that would have on president obama and his leverage overall in this debate? jimmy? >> i don't think it has much impact, frankly. the president is going to negotiate this with both john boehner and with harry reid and
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mitch mcconnell, the three people that he's supposed to have this negotiation with. secretary geithner has been saying he was leaving all along. the question is when he would do it after the elections. so he's now going to do it. and by the way, i am more interested, instead of the debate, the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff debate, i am far more spinterested in who his ne nominee will be for the treasury post. that will be very telling. if he goes ahead and sends someone up to the united states senate now, if you think the hagel nomination is going to be a fight, wait until you see who he sends up as the next treasury secretary. that will be one heck of a fight, i can promise you. >> the word is that it will be his current white house chief of staff. do you think that's likely? >> i don't know. i don't have any inside knowledge from the administration on that fact. if he sends up jack lew, that will be a tough nomination. >> chip, what do you think? tim geithner stepping down. how do you think it's going to
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impact? do you think, either of you, if the president were to ask tim geithner to stick around at least through that, like, listen, friend, can you extend this another six weeks because i don't want to go through a nomination fight in the middle of all of this as well, don't you think tim geithner would say okay? >> one thing i learned in politics, if the president of the united states asks you to do something, you usually do it. you do it enthusiastically. i think timothy geithner, i agree with what jimmy was saying, i think he knew for a long time he was leaving. they've had a long time to get their successor in place. i think it is going to be jack lew for a variety of reasons. in this fiscal cliff debate, we saw jack on the sideline and not fighting with the senators. think he was saving him for this nomination process. i think it is going to be jack. >> good to see you both. thanks, guys. today's twitter question is how much control should congress have over a president's cabinet pick? here's some of your tweets on
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that. "congress should have minimal control. the president and his selection committee are doing sufficient vetting to determine qualifications." "none. every president is entitled to the cabinet they want." "they should check with criminal history, relationships with foreign governments or interests. that's all." and "appointed cabinet not responsible to people. so some oversight of the appointment process by legislature seems important." thanks so much for your thoughtful replies, everyone. you can always tweet me any time @alexwitt. in today's office politics, my conversation with nbc's al roker. in this segment, we talk about al's new book, "never going back," which chronicles his ups and downs battling weight issues and how there are no shortcuts. he also shares the charming role that food played when courting his wife, deborah roberts. but first i asked him how he deals with the dangers of reporting from the middle of a hurricane, literally. >> nobody goes into this thinking, oh, boy, i want to get hurt.
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so that you take as many precautions as you can. but, look, in the average day, you could be walking along the street, and a bus hops the curb and takes you out. this is one of the things you do. like i said, you take necessary precautions, but you can't life proof yourself. things happen. knock on wood, so far nothing has. >> talk about "never goin' back." >> i've worked at it very hard. about four years ago, my mom got sick. i lost my dad about 11 years ago. he was kind of instrumental in me having the gastric bypass. he made me promise -- he was literally on his death bed. he said, look, you've got to take care of yourself because i'm not going to be here to help you and your children. and made me promise that i would. and so i had the bypass. and i felt pretty good, and i think i got a little cocky eight years into it, and then my mom
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got sick. she was out at a hospital out on long island. so i was driving back and forth every day and kind of in a three-month period fell back into old habits. i had gained back 40 of the 140 pounds that i lost. but then a good buddy of mine kind of hit me to something that changed my life. i did a cleanse and actually ended up changing how i workout, and that made a big difference. so i think -- other than that three-month period, this is the longest i've been dedicated to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, incorporating exercise. it's a lifestyle change. it's kind of cliche, but it truly is. >> so there's no shortcuts. >> no, there aren't. look, it's very simple. it's less going in and more exercise. >> is it a challenge, though, every day? >> oh, yeah. >> but have you changed your lifestyle? >> i've changed, but it's still work.
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again -- and my wife, deborah roberts, who's on 20/20 and abc, she's a person who eats, but she's a size 4. she works out. she runs. there's a certain mindset, i think, that naturally thin people have that those of us who are not don't have. we were at the chicago airport a few weeks ago coming home, and we're walking down one of the terminals. and we're walking by a mcdonald's, and i went, ooh, mcrib is back. she didn't even see that sign, but i saw mcrib is back. >> probably some beautiful picture. >> my old friend, mcrib. hello, mcrib, i've missed you so. >> what i think is fun is that you actually use d food to woo your then friend into being your fiancee. >> deborah was going off to do the olympics and asked me --
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look, we're friends. she's a beautiful woman. we're friends. we don't want to ruin it. >> ruin the friendship. >> just a friend. so, guys, you know, if you're in the friend zone, i mean, it's like trying to break -- >> good luck with that. >> it's like trying to break out of the phantom zone. anyway, she was gone. she asked me to look after the apartment and the water the plants. i immediately went into the kitchen. i wanted -- most guys would check out her bedroom. i went into the kitchen, and it was just -- it was appalling. there was like nothing in the fridge. it was like a bottle of champagne, a bottle of mustard, and some old cheese. there was nothing in the pantry. i opened up the oven, and it was -- i was flummoxed for a moment because there was cardboard on the oven rack. oh, my god, she's never used this oven. >> no. >> she had never used the ov, been in the apartment for a year. had never used the oven.
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she could have stored sweaters in there. anyway, the day before she got back, i stocked her fridge, stocked the pantry, left fresh flowers on the table. >> you're good. >> and i got a date out of it. >> i bet you did. >> for the next week. so it worked out. >> and a couple of kids later. you can check out al's full weight loss story on "dateline's new year, new you" at 7:00/6:00 central on nbc. next weekend we get all the details of life on the campaign trail, peter alexander with life on the campaign trail with mitt romney. and then on the side of the president's campaign with nbc's kristen we will kerr. season 3 of "downton abbey" just hours away. will it live up to prior seas ones? [ male announcer ] at scottrade, you won't just find us online, you'll also find us in person,
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excitement is building for the return of the hit series "downton abbey." after a long wait for some of us, season three premieres tonight. t the series is an obsession. the entire series has already showed outside the u.s. here's a look at season 3. >> she would have gone anyway. >> we've got to go with what we've got to minimize the scandal. >> joining me now, dana kennedy, "huffington post" correspondent. we promise no spoilers here. my cousin sherry e-mails me, i will stop watching you. >> this is my biggest challenge. i have seen it. i know what you don't know. there's some shocks this season. be very careful. >> people can't stop talking about "downton abbey" here in the states. what's this all about? >> you cannot discount americans feeling that the continent is somehow more chic than american
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savages ever will be. it's a really good show. it's classic medical dlodrama. and julian fellows borrowed heavily from american shows. he injected "upstairs downstairs," which is our parents "downton abbey" from the '70s really didn't have. it brings american energy. >> it's aired in europe, aired in britain, and it's now coming here. that hasn't stopped some people from getting a hold of it. it's kind of a new phenomenon. >> it's relatively new. ask the music industry. you can go onlip, if you're wicked, and download it illegally. i saw it because i live overseas. but if you want to go on the internet, you can see something. the headlines of "the guardian" will tell you everything that happened this season. don't do that. >> i'm a big fan. i'm certainly not doing that. shirley maclaine, she is coming on board.
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she's an american icon actress. she's playing the dowager. she's the american mother of this couple here. >> cora. >> talk about the significance of that because she and maggie smith are going to play mirror images of each other. >> this is the ultimate head to head. think of dynasty with joan collins and linda evans. it's very similar to that. i have to say, although i'm a proud american, when you see the first smackdown scene between maggie smith and shirley maclaine, i think maggie smith wins it because the zingers hit more with a british accent. but there's my low american self-esteem. >> we all love matthew and mary, getting them together. they finally get together. >> it's like luke and laura. >> here it is, everybody. really juicy stuff. >> lady mary crowley, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife. >> yes.
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>> oh. play it again. i mean, it's just perfect stuff. here's the bummer, though. dan stevens, who plays the character matthew, he's leaving the show. >> no comment. >> that's all you're going to say. >> you're not going to tell me what it means to the story line. >> no, i can't. there are shocks coming. that's all i can say. get your kleenex out. >> the castle there, it's actually part of the set. >> absolutely. >> they film inside. they don't go to other studios. it's become this tourist destination. >> it's only 60 miles west of london even though in the show it's in yorkshire. i read today it's actually four times the size of central park, and it costs $1 million per year to maintain. >> the property is four times -- >> that's what it said, yes. it's huge. >> that is huge. >> that's why so much british aristocracy have to dump their
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houses and give it to the public because they can't afford them anymore. that's how the english adapt. >> even complaining to the point that our first lady michelle obama was begging and pleading to get advanced copies. >> i bet she did without illegally downloading it. >> i bet she did. she might have got hooked up with someone who sent that to her. dana kennedy, thanks so much. should we let everyone know i call you my queen? >> isn't it obvious? >> in keeping with the series here. thank you. in their next hour, they can't get enough of the veep. we're going to tell you about the new push to get vice president biden a reality show of his very own. yeah, we're serious. oh this is soft. this is so so soft. hey hun, remember you only need a few sheets. hmph! [ female announcer ] charmin ultra soft is so soft you'll have to remind your family they can use less. ♪ charmin ultra soft is made with extra cushions that are soft and more absorbent.
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tomorrow president hamid karzai of afghanistan will meet with president obama of the white house. when to keep u.s. troops in afghanistan when their mission comes to an end, and if so, how
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many. it's an issue senator lindsey graham says is key to america's success in the region. >> the possible solutions have a small footprint left behind in afghanistan where they become sitting ducks and it will lead to failure. we've fought too hard, too long to not get things right. his decision about a 2014 force will affect national security for decades. i'd like to support the president if it's a robust number. tha thanh, good evening your time. karzai has a key role in the status of the troops in the region. what is that exactly? >> reporter: alex, a lot of what's going to happen here in afghanistan post-2014 may hinge on this notion of immunity and president karzai and what he decides to do with that. that immunity would basically give legal protection for whatever force is left behind here in afghanistan, and it would give legal protection for those troops in the event they
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break local law. it's a big deal because the u.s. decided not to leave any residual forces in iraq after the withdrawal there, when the iraqi government decided to not grant any immunity to troops there. let's talk about the numbers and what the scenarios are right now. reportedly, the obama administration is right now considering troop levels to be 3,000, 6,000, or 9,000. those numbers are considerably smaller than those numbers suggested by the head of u.s. forces in afghanistan, general john allen. he suggested that troop leflds would levels should be 6,000 to 20,000. the thinking, if there's a smaller contingent, 3,000 forces, that would be a more nimble force, special operations leaning, doing night raids. if there's a larger contingent of forces, 20,000, they'll assume the traditional roles, patrolling, working with afghan forces, and training as well. here on the streets, there are mixed emotions, quite frankly, about what's going to happen. many afghans actually welcome the idea of a smaller foreign
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footprint. on the other hand, many are also fearful that, if that happens, there's going to be a resurgence and outbreak of violence in a place that's already plagued by it. the taliban this weekend vowed more of what it called war destruction if the u.s. leaves behind a residual force. that's a sobering reminder of the instability here, alex. >> i appreciate the breakdown of the numbers and what they would be doing. the new headline this morning, the white house considering a broad gun control plan. i'm going to speak with civil rights activist reverend jesse jackson about it next. later nbc news presidential historian michael beschloss on whether the debt ceiling could be a legacy trap.
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for a professional cleansing device? join the counter revolution and switch to olay pro-x. get cleansing results as effective as a $200 system. guaranteed or your money back. olay pro-x. good day to all of you. welcome to "weekends with alex witt," it's 1:00 p.m. on the east coast, 10:00 a.m. out west.
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new today, republicans and democrats ratcheting up the rhetoric over the next looming battle, the debt ceiling. republican leader mitch mcconnell says the tax issue is behind us now, and the president needs to lead on spending cuts. but democratic leader nancy pelosi says cutting spending and raising the debt ceiling are two separate issues. >> i wish the president would lead us in this discussion rather than putting himself in a position of having to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table to discuss the single biggest issue confronting our future. until we adjust the entitlements so that they meet the demographics of our country, we can't ever solve this problem. >> if you say to somebody, shall we cut spending in order to reduce -- to raise the debt ceiling, it sounds almost logical, but the two are completely separate. the debt ceiling is about spending that has already occurred. you're going to say, i'm not going to pay my bills unless you
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stop buying stuff, well, then, stop buying stuff so you don't have future bills. but right now we have to pay the bills that have been incurred. >> joining me now, contributing editor for "newsweek" and the daily beast eleanor. and david o'sullivan. what is your reaction to what you just heard from senate leader mitch mcconnell and republican leader nancy pelosi. is there any common ground? >> it's way too early for common ground. that won't happen until the last minute. they're both staking out their ground. what surprises me about leader mcconnell is when he says the tax debate is over. i thought the campaign, both candidates talked a lot about tax reform and getting more revenue from closing loopholes. i don't think the tax debate is over and the need for more revenue is not over. and leader pelosi makes an excellent point that the debt ceiling fight is about paying our bills, and it's been raised
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numerous times under previous presidents without anybody squawking. the president said he won't debate, he won't negotiate, but what is he backing that up with? i think he's got to really martial the business community in this country, if not the global business community, because defaulting on our debt would be a huge blow down to the world economy. >> andy, just in the last hour, i spoke with new york democratic congressman charlie rangel, and i asked him about members of the gop who are talking about a partial government shutdown to get what they want in terms of negotiation with the debt ceiling. here's what he said about that happening. >> it could because it's abundantly clear that the speaker doesn't have control over the votes. >> what do you think about that comment, andy? >> well, i mean, i think he's right. it's not exactly a partial government shutdown. it would be much more catastrophic than that. if we were to stop paying our bills, all of a sudden, our debt, which is the sort of foundation of the global financial system, would be
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completely called into question. you would sort of have unforeseen catastrophic circumstances in financial markets and also what we would be paying. would we be paying the salaries for our troops or social security benefits? would we be paying all that stuff? so that's much worse than we expected. and he's referring to the 2011 vote on the debt ceiling, which if you recall, 67 republicans voted against even though it cut spending by $2.5 trillion. so he's saying, if this is a deal that gives them what they want and a lot of them won't even vote for it, what will make them happy? >> eleanor, we have congressional democrats. they've suggested the president can invoke and should invoke the 14th amendment and raise the federal debt limit without seeking approval from congress. that's a move backed by some liberal lawmakers during the last debt ceiling fight. do you think the president would seriously consider this option,
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given what lies ahead? regardless of what he said he might do. might that be something he has to do? >> you're right. he has said he wouldn't do it, but i think, if it came to that, he could do it. it would be challenged in court, but that would take months, maybe years. so i think, as a last ditch effort, that's a real possibility. but i think his preferred method of action is to bring the hammer down on the republicans through their corporate and business benefactors, and the republican caucus is really divided on this. it's not like they're all going full steam ahead and saying, let's do this. you have outside advisers like newt gingrich, who normally comes down on the conservative side of most things, saying that this would be a really dangerous path to pursue. so this may end up being a lot more talk than action in the final hours. >> what about in terms of the talk about leverage, andy? both sides claim to have some sort of leverage on the debt
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ceiling? whom do you see as leaning that way? >> in terms of lemplliverage, t republicans have more leverage because they can block the debt ceiling vote. they feel like they lost the last round in that we've addr s addressed discretionary spendings and addressed action at thats, but we haven't addressed entitlement programs, medicare and social security, which republicans say need to be reformed to be successful. i think they're going to be digging in their heels, but i think eleanor is right that this argument will be petty and down to the wire. >> just want to remind all of you that "meet the press" airs at the top of the hour. tomorrow president obama will host afghan president amid karzai at the white house. the two are scheduled to hold a strategy session about the president's plan to withdraw troops from afghanistan in 2014. the pace of that drawdown is still in question, along with how many troops will remain
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behind. cheers and chants as syria's president issues a new and defiant call to war. president bashir assad gave a rare address from damascus earlier today. nbc's stephanie gosk is joining us from cairo with the latest on that. good evening, your time, stephanie. what exactly did president assad say, and how is that being received in the region? >> alex, it has been rare to see assad in recent months. this is a momentous occasion, but he didn't really say anything all that new. he did propose a new potential political solution, talking about a new government and reconciliation talks and possibly a new constitution. but it seemed the bulk of what he had to say really proved how almost impossible it would be to reach that end given his other points that he made, including the fact that he called all of the opposition fighters terrorists. he said they are made up mostly
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of al qaeda. he gave little or no mention to the fact that syrians themselves had picked up arms against his country. and he said he would not negotiate until countries in the region have agreed not to find and give them money. the other interesting point he made is that the west is really trying to kill two birds with one stone. he said, they want to destroy syria, and they want to distract the terrorists, and that's what they're doing by sending al qaeda into syria. alex? >> can i just ask you, stephanie? with regard to the numbers of syrians killed in this war, we got numbers last week. they're pretty disheartening, saying it's vastly more than we had thought. has there been any addressing of that number? upwards of 60,000 they're saying. has there been any addressing of that by the president's administration? >> reporter: well, he doesn't address that. what he says is that all the hardship right now being felt by the syrian people is the result of the opposition and not the government themselves. he takes no responsibility for
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that whatsoever. that number that you mention, the united nations estimate, 60,000. and it's interesting because the u.n. envoy lakhdar brahimi said last week, if no political solution is reached in this country, that number would skyrocket by 100,000 more next year, a point that the fighting continues and continues intensely right now in that country. alex? >> nbc's stephanie gosk, thank you very much for the sobering report. now to a story dividing a small town in ohio. two high school football players are accused of raping a fellow teenager. adding to the outrage, the friends were apparently joking about the incident on video and online. nbc's ron allen has the story from ohio. >> shame on you! >> reporter: hundreds of protesters converged on steubenville about the rape of a 16-year-old girl by two high school football stars last august. the two men, both also 16, are
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scheduled to stand trial next month, but that doesn't satisfy the crowd that now includes activists associated with anonymous, the internet-based group known for hacking into government websites. >> there was more than two kids involved. the kids that have money in this town have not been arrested. >> reporter: outrage is going because of tweets, video, pictures posted on social media from the night in question. apparently showing other partygoers and football players making fun of the female accuser. this picture is believed to show the girl unconscious, being carried by her alleged attackers. there are demands for more arrests and charges of a cover-up to protect the town's beloved football team. the big red, a perennial state powerhouse, reason for tremendous pride in a community hit by economic decline. >> you can hide no longer. >> reporter: some activists have warned they'll release private
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information about people they think should be arrested. local police say they have no evidence to press charges against anyone else, but prosecutors brought in from out of town, because everyone here is so connected and devoted to high school football, now say the investigation continues. >> it's well along, but it's not concluded, and it is active, and it's ongoing. >> reporter: the two defendants have entered pleas of not guilty. a lawyer claims all the information released on social media makes it impossible for the two defendants to get a fair trial. >> there is an atmosphere of fear. there is an atmosphere of coercion here. >> reporter: and there's no sign the demands for justice on the internet, on the streets will soon end. for "today," ron allen, nbc news, steubenville, ohio. in just a moment, firearms in the cross hairs. a call for an immediate ban on assault weapons. the reverend jesse jackson urging the nation's lawmakers to take action. how far will the president and congress go to rein in guns in the face of stiff opposition.
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in the wake of last month's horrific events in newtown, connecticut, a new poll by the hollywood reporter finds parents now more aware of violence in the media. 70% of those over the age of 30 say there is too much violence shown in ads promoting tv shows and movies. but 75% say it's not the job of congress or the president to pressure hollywood to make less violent content. new details today about president obama's approach to
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slowing the country's gun violence. "the washington post" writes, "white house weighs" broad gun control agenda in wake of newtown shootings. sources tell the post the white house is looking to go beyond reinstating the assault weapons ban, including requiring universal background checks for firearm buyers, a national da database to track the movement and sales, strengthening mental health checks, and stiffening up the penalties for possession near schools. joining me now, the reverend jesse jackson, president of the rainbow push coalition. we did -- i'm just getting word from my producer we just lost him in terms of our satellite signal, everyone. this is a really important conversation we need to have with him, though. why don't we take a short break. we'll get things all hooked up again. [ male announcer ] how do you trade? with scottrader streaming quotes, any way you want. fully customize it for your trading process -- from thought to trade, on every screen. and all in real time. which makes it just like having your own trading floor,
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it's another reason more investors are saying... capella university understands bright students are getting lost in the shuffle. need. and administration's work gets more complex every year. when you look at these issues, do you see problems or opportunities? with an advanced degree in education from capella university, you'll have the knowledge to meet these challenges and make a difference in the lives of students. let's get started at we're back, everyone. we got everything straightened out there. those are the president's proposals for broad gun control agenda in the wake of newtown
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shootings. joining me now, reverend jesse jackson, chairman of the rainbow push coalition. i'm glad we're having this conversation because i know you're behind this. what is your reaction, first of all, to the report and the proposals being considered. are you on board with all of them? >> yes, the president should be congratulated. this is bold leadership in the right direction. remind you, he is not talking about gun control. he's talking about assault weapons control. a gun for your house, you got it. gun for hunting, you got it. these assault weapons threaten national security. they invite the view of homeland security. you can literally destroy railroads and bring down airplanes. there's no purpose for these assault weapons except to kill people and infrastructure. >> lawmakers really blasted the purported plans today. first republican congressman richard hudson. then north dakota democratic senator heidi heidkamp. here they are. >> i'm not a big believer that
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this is a one size fits all. what can you actually get passed? what can you actually get done that's going to make schools and communities safer in america? i don't think that that proposal necessarily, as you described it to me, fits the bill for me. >> i will not support any of the measures i'm reading about. you look at places like detroit, new york city, places that have the most stringent gun control laws in the country are some of the most violent gun crime areas. >> obviously, we played those sound bites in reverse. how much of a battle do you expect from capitol hill on this? >> as i listen to the references they use in chicago, for example, we don't have gun sales in chicago. we don't have gun ranges here. they make the guns in the suburbs, barrington and rock island. so guns are coming in as a target market, and drugs are coming from mexico. so guns in and drugs in, and for the fact of unemployment, jobs
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out. in that battle zone, chicago becomes a theater for an international drug, gangs, job war. that's different than what's happening, say, in the great northwest of dakota or as the case may be. we maybe near to hear each other. no one's talking about taking away your guns for your house or for your hunting. there's no functional purpose in our society for these assault weapons. that was an ak-47 that hit the white house two years ago. none of us are safe with these weapons on the street. >> reverend, when we talk about th this, just off the top of my mind, you have columbine, virginia tech, tucson, aurora, newtown -- after each one of these incidents, there's always been a call to get rid of assault weapons, always. is there anything that's different about newtown, the fact that 20 little first graders were mowed down and their teachers in their classrooms? is this enough, do you think,
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that this could change? >> i think that newtown could be the tipping point. here were 20 babies so innocent, who never saw morning time. these babies cannot open their christmas presents on the street. they'll never see the easter bunny. there's power in the blood of the innocent. so something touched the world differently about newtown. it illuminates the darkness in other places. chicago, 146 killed, 75 under the age of 18. we've become increasingly violent and no weapons make us increasingly secure. the president proposed background checks. should that be objectionable? checks on the mentally ill. should that be objectionable? or the national database. should that be objectionable? or removing assault weapons. should that be objectionable? the president deserves credit for bold leadership on these issues. >> you know the president is going to field a lot of
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opposition from the nra. how can the white house work around them? >> well, leadership is defined by how it takes on the issues that matter. issues that take on poverty and violence and some plans for redevelopment matter. when you speak of chicago and detroit, you're talking about 50% unemployment. that matters. you speak of a drug subculture, that matters. you speak of the impact of drug cartels and gun manufacturers making money at the expense of american security. so i think the president, he puts a case to his allies and people who are victims of gunfire. his allies, the police chiefs, many nra members support the nra for gun training but not for weapons police cannot even defend themselves against. i think this move to make it less accessible to weapons and less violent, we need gun control and self-control because certainly not just gun, but assault weapons controlled and, of course, background checks, i think, is very important.
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>> how about from a pr perspective? does the president need to go and sell this strategy to the american people? >> i think he does. you know what, it's one thing to go up to newtown where this does not happen often. there's been two killings there, a killing ten years ago, and the massacre. i wish you could come to chicago. the neighborhood where he was an organizer in is one of the areas, roseline, engel wood on the west side, lawndale and austin. these are where the most killings take place, where you have the subculture of drugs and gangs. gangs meaning uneducated, unemployed youth. his presidency and the joe biden commission could eliminate just how different, say, chicago is from rural north dakota, for example. that's why when someone says one should not fit all. i think they're right. that's why we should talk to each other, just react. you may have a different zone for hunting and for house security than have these weapons on the streets where we see they've gone from individual
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shots to shooting police, they shot up theaters, shot up children. if they escalate to shooting down our infrastructure, what does it matter, if you, in fact, have securities at the airport, if you're going to the airplane, and someone can shoot airplanes down? that is too great a risk at a time like this with terrorism on the loose. we really are talking about a plan. >> i want to get your thought on what the nra had proposed, wayne lapierre, the head of the nra. he said, we should put an armed officer in every school in america. is there anything about that that works for you? >> no, it's impractical. first of all, more guns make us less secure. if you were in the theater in the dark and someone opens up a semiautomatic weapon, you cannot get to your weapon. you get to the floor. if a principal has a gun or a security guard has a gun, what can they do to stop semiautomatic weapons as an attack? we should get rid of the power to destroy at such an amazing level. what is the function of semiautomatic weapons and dynamite except to destroy
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infrastructure and to destroy people? in the name of national security, homeland security has a role to play in this. with this bold leadership step, the president deserves, in my judgment, great credit. >> reverend jesse jackson, credit to you as well, sir, for a good discussion. thank you so much. >> thank you very much. still ahead, four more years, two critical months. do the looming fiscal fights put president obama's legacy on the line? [ female announcer ] think you need a department store counter
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gallston gallstones. mandela is being cared for at home after a two-week hospitalization. near los angeles, folks expected to attend a gun show. it's california's first gun show since the handy hook shootings. crews in alaska are hoping for better weather so they can tow a ship 30 miles to shelter. it looks like there will be a national hockey league season after all. the nhl reached an agreement with the players association, ending that 113-day lockout. video coming early this morning after a marathon bargaining session. the length of the season has yet to be determined. and a year long celebration centennial celebrating richard nixon's birth begins today with military honors and a wreath laying on his grave. his 100th birthday is wednesday. president barack obama will be sworn in for a second term at his inauguration in two weeks. both elections proved to be historic, not just the man himself, but for what he has
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done in the first four years. from the auto industry rescue to health care reform to the killing of osama bin laden and many more accomplishments, president obama's place in history is certainly assured, but how much more will his second term bring? joining me, nbc news presidential historian michael beschloss. god to see you. >> same here, alex. >> let's talk about the debt ceiling fight because that seems to be front and center. could that be a legacy trap for the president? could that rob him of his image to redefine relationships with republicans? >> oftentimes, second term presidents wish for a minute they hadn't kept the job, but only for a minute. often, they're amazed how little power they have with congress. lbj in '65 in an enormous landslide controlled both houses of congress. yet he said my first year i have exactly six months to get what i
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want passed. if you look back at the great society, most of that was passed in the first six months of his term. >> when nbc's david gregory asked the president to name a single goal for the next four years. >> there are a couple of things we need to get done. i've said that fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority. the second thing we've got to do is stabilize the economy and make sure it's growing. number three, we've got a huge opportunity around energy. we are producing more energy, and america can become an energy exporter. >> this is clearly an ambitious president. again, david said, just one goal please, sir, and he gave three right there. let's go ahead and add on the agenda gun control, rebuilding infrastructure, preventing tax hikes. the immigration. any of these issues, do you see as being his legacy legislation? do you see that as being the things he will be most remembered for? >> depends how it turns out. but you know, you mentioned gun control and public safety. if it had not been for newtown,
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that would not have as high a place on this agenda. that's another factor here. we can't predict what kind of crises might emerge during the next four years. oftentimes, presidents are remembered for how they respond to votes. >> look at george w. bush right there. >> indeed. >> how many big items can a second term president actually get through? >> usually a president has to be extremely sparing. ronald reagan in his second term did tax reform with the congress. he also did what many second term presidents do, which is to say i have limited influence with congress, and certainly not after my first or second year of this term. i'm going to turn to foreign policy and do a lot of things that i can do without congress' sanction. >> i want to ask you also about the relationship between president and vice president. i know you've studied at great length the relationship between jfk and lbj. >> sure. >> and the very different working relationship between president obama and vice president biden. i mean, we look at just recently the vice president did at the
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end of the year, helping negotiate the fiscal cliff deal, actually probably was doing that on new year's actually. >> right. >> how about vice president biden be beneficial to this president these next four years? >> i think he's proved it this week. jfk had the master of the senate famously, lyndon johnson, as his vice president. never wanted to use him on the hill because he thought that johnson would freelance too much on his own and get out of kennedy's control, maybe even take kennedy's own influence away from him in congress. barack obama does not have that kind of insecurity, and the result is that he's been able to use joe biden on the hill in a way that he would not have been able to operate had he done this on his own. >> coming into you, michael, we mentioned that it is the week long celebration, centennial celebration of president nixon's birth. is his legacy going to forever be the watergate scandal and his resignation? >> i think with nixon you always have to have a split screen. half of it is going to be watergate.
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this is the first president who had to resign possibly to avoid prison over things that certainly would have had him convicted and thrown out of office. on the other side, you have to look at his other accomplishments, epa and foreign policy, certainly the opening to china, which seems more and more important every year. >> i was going to say pick up on china. at one point, wasn't he regarded, as most presidents are, as the most powerful man in the world, the way he opened that up. if you look at that legacy these 40 years later, where would he be without that path being opened? >> that shows you why historians have to wait 30 or 40 years or more because we could not know that in 1972. let's say 40 years from now china becomes hypothetically, has the motive or ability to be a national security threat to the united states, if that happens, future americans, future historians will look back at each of these presidents and say what could they have done to avert that? >> michael, to ask you finally, with this president being elected the first black american to be elected president, is this
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something that will actually be a postscript, you think, 40, 50 years from now, we'll look at his accomplishments. while that is significant, no doubt, the accomplishments are what he'll really be remembered for. >> look at john kennedy as a model. he was the first catholic american to become president. when you think about him, when historians write about him, that's not by any means the first thing they say. one thing that barack obama has done in opening the door is to make the fact that he's an african-american less important later on. >> okay. michael beschloss, always great talking to you. amid all the wrangling in washington over the nangstion's finances, vice president biden is providing the levity that might land him a reality tv show of his very own. kristen welker takes a look at the west wing's jovial joe. >> anyone else want to be sworn in as senator today?
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hi, honey, how are you? >> reporter: it's comments like that that compelled thousands of people to log onto the white house's website to ask for a reality tv show starring the ever entertaining and unpredictable veep. >> mularkey, absolute mularkey. >> reporter: maybe not. the petition went up after biden gave an unforgettable performance during the latest swearing in ceremony to the senate. >> congratulations. you're going to be frisked. i want you next to me. i want you next to me. >> watch where you're walking. >> if you need any help on your picks, let me know. holy mackerel. >> reporter: in the hours after the petition went up, people took to social media and weighed in on potential names for the reality show. some of the popular titles. "literally joe," "ridin' with biden," and "biden time." the vice president's candor has at times backfired. who could forget this infamous hot mike time while congratul e congratulating the president on
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passage of the health care law? >> [ bleep ]. >> and his version of pressing the flesh became easy fodder for xheed not comedians who can't rt poking fun at his most memorable moments of the campaign. >> with all due respect, this is a bunch of mularkey. >> what does that mean? >> it's irish. >> no, no, no, irish is i come over there and smack that dumb look off your face. >> reporter: even those who don't agree with biden's politics often everyone joy watching him. >> vice presidents often get made fun of. but there's also a lot of affection for him. what would be better in a television show than a guy you can laugh at and someone you can laugh with? >> as we check the white house page, it has collected a little more than 1,200 signatures so far it looks like. it needs 25,000 by february 3rd to get an official response from the white house. log on and vote. we all want to see. my vote for the title, "jovial
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joe." i love alliteration. still ahead on today's big three, on the default lines, is the threat of a government shutdown real or merely a political game of chicken? but now, we're going to go to our ups and downs, and here's what's going down. it is actually up. the prices for flat screen tvs are continuing to drop this year. increased competition is one reason. smart money magazine says the cost of a 32-inch flat screen tv is now half of what it cost in 2011. being a country boy in west virginia is like living on a big playground. >> buck wild, west virginia's replacement for the jersey shore is an instant hit. it drew 2.5 million viewers for premiere despite the protests of west virginia governor joe manchin who says the show makes him look better. the field from the classic movie "field of dreams" has been saved. the investment group bought the field to turn into a youth
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baseball complex with 24 diamonds. neighbors think the development will hurt the area. they're trying to take legal action to stop it. finally, the man who created gangnam style says he's so over it. psy says he's never going to do it again. but it will live on on youtube. [ woman ] too weak. wears off. [ female announcer ] stop searching and start repairing. eucerin professional repair moisturizes while actually repairing very dry skin. the end of trial and error has arrived. try a free sample at [ slap! ] [ slap! slap! slap! slap! ] ow! ow! [ male announcer ] your favorite foods fighting you? fight back fast with tums. calcium-rich tums starts working so fast you'll forget you had heartburn. ♪ tum tum tum tum tums
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seems not all red jars are created equal. olay regenerist. president obama has settled on former nebraska senator chuck hagel has secretary of defense. an official announcement is expected for tomorrow. today's topics, digging in, mean spirited, and the must reads for this week. democratic strategist and former senior adviser to president hillary clinton campaign, doug hathaway. editor of nbc news hour. and former bush/cheney senior adviser robert trainham. welcome to the three of you.
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robert, i'll begin with you because i want to go first to that digging in one. the hill reports speaker john boehner has told fellow republicans he is absolutely done negotiating one-on-one with the president. at the same time, the president says no compromise. what kind of bargaining chips do republicans have at this point? >> oh, my goodness, alex, they have a huge bargaining chip coming up, and that's called the debt ceiling. congress racks up the bills, and congress has to pay those bills. we had this fight last year. we saw a huge, huge who was going to blink first, and obviously president obama blinked. this time around the republicans, i would assume, will most likely try to use that chit again and say, look, mr. president, look american people, let's have a philosophical conversation here about our debt and how much we really can afford. >> doug, same question to you relative to the democrats. what kind of bargaining chips do they have right now? >> i don't see the president backing down on the debt ceiling. it's something that has to be dealt with. we have to meet our obligations.
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the problem here is i think that republicans in the house are dominated by a group of extreme ideologues who really don't care about the consequences of their actions. there's plenty to talk about in terms of bargaining chips, cutting billions in wasteful spending and military programs and corporate warfare that are needed, addressing means testing of medicare so the wealthier beneficiaries who don't need the help don't get as much help. there's plenty to be done. i think the problem is you have a group of republicans in the house who really aren't interested in governing the country so much as destroying the government. >> before we go to christina, i'm going to ask you, robert, as the ranking republican on this panel, your reaction to what doug just said about the small group of gop'ers? >> it's a small group. i think we have to underscore that. there's a vast majority of republicans, who most likely came out and voted for speaker boehner, who are moderate, who are reasonable. we keep having this conversation about president obama won the election, which he did and did
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very decisively, but the american people also deliberately chose to have a majority republican house in the u.s., and constitutionally, that is a co-equal, not a subservient, but a co-equal branch of government, and they have the right to insert themselves when appropriate. >> okay. but doug's assertion -- and he's not the only one who says this -- that this small group really just out to not compromise, not work with government officials, not get anything done, and basically being called obstructionists. is that true about them? is that their makeup? >> i don't want to go that far, but i will say this, as a federal legislator, regardless of whether you're republican or democrat, you have an obligation to compromise, look at all the facts, and try to come somewhere in the center. i don't believe in hard left or hard right thinking, especially as a federal legislature, because that's not how our system is designed to be. >> christina, now to you. a small but growing faction is saying a government shutdown could be necessary in this debt ceiling battle. do you think that's where we're headed?
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>> it will go down to the brink, just as every single other fiscal debate has, and that's something the american people are getting increasingly frustrated with. this group of fiscal republicans, particularly fiscal conservatives, that we've been talking about here, this is the group, particularly the new senators and the new members of congress coming in, they are more fiscally conservative than the 112th congress. they are saying take this to the brink. newt gingrich is saying this isn't a good idea. the conservatives who want to see this happen say the last time we had a government shutdown, you ended up with fiscal conservatives to come to the table, and you forced president bill clinton to do some compromising. there's really not a lot of give there, and particularly because they're not going to be the ones negotiating with the white house. it is going to be leadership, and leadership isn't necessarily in that same place. >> okay. guys, moving on to topic two, mean spirited. let's all take a listen to what democratic congressman gregory meeks told me this weekend about some republicans who voted
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against the superstorm sandy relief funds. >> maybe some of the reason is the 67 individuals who voted against the basic $9 billion that only dealt with fund insurance. it may be some within the republican party who are so mean-spirited that they don't want to move forward to help individuals who happen to be, maybe some say, because those are blue states. they're still playing politics. >> robert, what do you make of that characterization there by representative meeks? were the republicans who said no to sandy aid, were they mean-spirited or just playing politics? >> i can't speak to that specifically because obviously i haven't spoken to them. i assume what they're saying is of course we care about these flood victims, of course they're hurting, and of course we need to do something for them, but let's have a larger conversation here about how do we pay for this? i assume that. let me just back up for a second. obviously, our hearts go out to the individuals in tristate area of new york and new jersey and connecticut and so forth, and they do have -- we have a
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responsibility to make sure that we take care of them in their hour of need, not just yesterday, but today and tomorrow as well. >> doug, your reaction to that statement by representative meeks? is do you think the republicans who voted against sandy were just mean-spirited, playing politics? >> far be it from me what was in their mind to vote against people devastated by a storm like this. i do think a lot of these things do come down to ideology, and that was the topic we were getting into before. there are people who think government should not do anything to help people, even in extreme circumstances like this. that, to me, is the nature of ideology. you put your ideology ahead of actual impact on real people and their lives. yeah, i think that can get mean-spirited. >> christina, looking ahead to house votes the next part of th aid bill. democratic senator from new york says he is worried this could get tripped up. how likely is it that might happen. >> one thing i want to get back to is it not just ideology and
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also about regions. you can take this back to redistricting and the way that republicans are securing more seats in the south and they are losing seats in the northeast. and so the republicans that remain in the northeast holding elected office tend to be more moderate and you are seeing more tension between that and it is a long term effect from republicans or democrats or whatever party it is controlling a state legislature and being able to draw lines that last for a decade. it happens because if this storm had been in new orleans it would be a different debate. >> i find it so ironic that you get a pushback from the southern republican party and you are like what about the hurricanes that hit florida and katrina? that is in the south. they get the aid that they need. it is interesting. hold your thought because i am going to get a commercial break. we will have the big reads coming up, the best reads from the sunday baper. be you want to incorporate a business. or protect your family with a will or living trust. and you'd like the help of an attorney.
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signing the first part of the sandy relief bill. this is a picture of president obama yesterday putting a signature on that bill which provides funding for the national flood insurance program. the house will be taking up a larger relief bill in the amount of about $51 billion. we are back with the big three. my panel today, doug, you are up first. what is your must read? >> i am recommending the analysis on the growing divide within the republican party between those from the south and the rest of the country. you saw it in a really lop sided vote in the house in the fiscal cliff deal where southern republicans opposed it and it was a coalition of other republicans. his question is, is that the future of the party. >> we were just talking about that.
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christina, your turn. >> "wall street journal" scoop last night that the administration is actually considering even lower than expected troop levels in afghanistan and a lot of other news outlets matched that reporting today. that is fascinating as you have this fight ahead on chuck hagel as secretary of defense because obviously one of the critiques of him from conservatives that don't like him they don't like that he has been critical of our war policy but signals where the obama administration wants to go that he is probably the nominee here and that they are willing to have that fight on that issue. >> asking anywhere from like nine to 20,000 troops and then others proposing 3,000 or 6,000 or 9,000. i know this is going to be a big topic of discussion with the president and hamid karzai. this is an unorthodoxed story. as many people know season three starts and shirley mcclain is
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now in the mix. she is the mother coming over from america. even if you are not a fan. it is a must read, indeed. tune in tonight. >> i am so excited. we did a whole segment on this last hour. 9:00 to 11:00 on pbs. i am going to be watching pbs from 9:00 to 11:00. it is so good. thank you all so much. that is a wrapup of this sunday edition of "weekends with alex witt." coming up next we have "meet the press." i will look for you next weekend on "weekends with alex witt." have a good one. we've all had those moments. when you lost the thing you can't believe you lost. when what you just bought, just broke. or when you have a little trouble a long way from home...
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a new year, a new congress. washington is getting back to work as president obama ended his hawaii vacation and members of the 113th congress were sworn in earlier this week alongside their families. spirits high, but the battle lines for the tough fights ahead are already being drawn. chief among them whether congress will vote to raise the country's debt ceiling. shortly after lawmakers reached a down to the wire deal on taxes to pull the country back from the fiscal cliff earlier this week, the president tried to preempt the debt limit showdown by firing a warning shot at republicans. he reiterated that call yesterday. >> one thing i will not compromise over is whether congress should pay the tab for a bill already racked up. the congress refuses to give the united states the ability to pay its bills on time, the results for the global economy could be catastrophic. >> republicans have vowed to use upcoming votes to get more spending cuts to entitlement programs like medicare. some are threatening a government shutdown. in a moment, we'll talk to alan
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simpson and erskine bowles about where they see the fiscal cliff deal leaving the country. they say it falls short. but first, the man who brokered the deal with the white house on behalf of the republicans and no doubt will be a key figure in the battles ahead, the top republican in the senate, mitch mcconnell. he joins me now. leader mcconnell, happy new year. welcome back to "meet the press." >> good morning, david. >> let me talk about a preview of coming attractions and the fights ahead, including the debt ceiling that was so bitterly contested back in the summer of 2011. here is something you said in august of 2011 that i wanted to show our viewers and have you respond to. you said then, i think some of our members may have thought the default on paying america's bills issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. most of us don't think that. what we did learn is this. it's a hostage that's worth ransoming. is that the strategy for the coming fight over the debt ceiling? >> well, first, these last-minute deals are no way to


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