tv Meet the Press MSNBC September 15, 2013 11:00am-12:01pm PDT
this sunday morning, the breaking news on a chemical weapons deal in syria. could president obama win without a fight, or is the deal just a stall tactic? with no end in sight to the syrian civil war, the question remains, will syria's president assad comply? the view from key members of the senate this morning, plus "the new york times" columnist tom friedman with his analysis and our roundtable on president obama's search for a solution. authors bob woodward and richard wolffe, "washington post" columnist kathleen parker and republican strategist ana navarro analyze the president's decision-making. plus, the fifth anniversary of the financial meltdown, the great disconnect.
the dow was up and so were corporate profits, but income inequality is bigger than ever. are we better off than we were five years ago? former treasury secretary hank paulson is here in a sunday morning exclusive along with former congressman barney frank and cnbc's maria bartiromo. i'm david gregory. all that ahead on this edition of "meet the press" for sunday, september 15th. >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, the world's longest running television program, this is "meet the press." and good sunday morning. secretary of state john kerry is on the ground in israel right now where he's meeting with prime minister benjamin netanyahu, whose reaction to the deal is cautious but supportive. we're going to get a response from senator john mccain in a moment. but first our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell just back from her travels with the secretary of state with the very latest on this deal. andrea, it amounts to this, assad and the russians committing to say exactly all
the chemical weapons that he's got. >> right. >> and to get rid of them by the middle of next year. so why shouldn't that be universally cheered? >> well, it is a very big deal. it's a sweeping deal, but there are a lot of ifs. is it going to work? the russians say they're speaking for assad. assad has not personally committed to this. he spoke to disclose in a week. what if he doesn't meet that deadline? the only enforcement is up to the u.n., and that has still to be negotiated, and russia has ruled out the use of force as a threat. that doesn't mean the president couldn't use force, but with congress leaning against that, with the american people against that, how credible a threat is that? >> i don't want to get into the weeds on the united nations, but, again, when comes to force, if somebody wants to plays cat and mouse, if somebody wants to gum up the works, the u.s. is in a position to go to the u.n. and say, hey, if that happens, then we're going to threaten force and are in a position to use it. >> that's correct. in fact, tomorrow there's going to be this big report from the
u.n. inspectors, not literally tying it to assad, but it will build international pressure. at the same time, though, the only threat of force, if it's credible at all, will be u.s. unilateral force. the brits have said no. the french have now huge public opinion against it. there will be some arab support, but the u.s. would have to stand alone, and is it really credible this president would do that now? one other quick thing, libya, voluntarily gadhafi gave up his weapons. after he was gone we found more. the u.s. is still and russia still destroying weapons 15 years after we agreed to. it takes a long time. this is very challenging. >> andrea mitchell, more from you. joining me now, senator john mccain, republican from arizona, member of the armed services committee, as you know, one of the most outspoken voices in the senate about u.s. policy in syria which is why i wanted to have you here, senator. look where we've gone in a week. i've talked to the chief of staff at the white house. he says, look, russia was not on board a week ago.
assad denied even having chemical weapons a week ago, and now they're both on board to destroy these weapons, and yet you've called this deal an act of provocative weakness, why? >> well, if -- suppose that this deal is made and then bashar al assad does not comply and continues, by the way, the slaughter of over 100,000, the problem, by the way, in syria is not chemical weapons, although as horrible as they are, the 100,000 that have been killed, but suppose that he doesn't comply. they go to the united nations. let me give you the quote from mr. lavrov. he said, "nothing is said about the use of force or sanctions." so they go to the united nations. it's clear they would veto again. it is now in the hands of russia to decide whether bashar al assad is really complying or not. >> can i ask you then how might we be in the united states in a different position if the goal -- if the goal was to prevent him from ever using chemical weapons again?
i realize your goal is different. work with me. don't use chemical weapons again. how might the situation have been different had the president stayed on course and been bombing by now? >> of course, the president probably wouldn't have been bombing, and if it had been an unbelievably small attack, i'm not sure -- >> secretary kerry said -- >> how much difference it would make. it's not scary and unbelievably small attack. the point is if the agreement had said that there will be the use of force automatically or the russians had agreed that they could go under chapter 7 to the united nations security council, that puts an entirely different cast on it. right now it's up to the russians to decide that. and, by the way, they didn't even assign blame for this attack. in fact, putin in his op-ed piece, stirring piece said that it was the rebels, it was the free syrian army that committed this. there is not a seriousness on the part of the russians, and,
again, here we are going to see, if it works, we're going to see the russians facilitating the departure of chemical weapons while planeload after planeload of russian aircraft coming into damascus full of weapons and devices to kill syrians of which there is over 100,000. whatever happened to the president's red line where he said, if they use these chemical weapons, whether we will respond and -- >> okay, but as you know, i think the president would say to you, okay, the reality is that red line was to prevent him from using weapons, and we have the prospect here, even if we don't completely trust the russians of getting to a point where he no longer has weapons. why shouldn't that be seen as victory? >> it's not a matter of trust. it's a matter of whether it will be enforced or not when the -- mr. lavrov said there is nothing in this agreement about the use of force, i.e., they will not agree to the use of force no matter what bashar al assad does. >> two points that i want to try to pin you down on.
>> sure. >> which is, if the russians stand in the way, if they're gaming the president and the united states right now, and this is -- >> they're in charge. >> they're in charge, so if they stand in the way of any potential force, what would you do as president in the interim in case they do that and if that eventuality happens? >> well, first of all, i would step up our support for the free syrian army. the president two years ago said bashar al assad has to go. where is that statement? and i would do -- give them the support that they need to change the momentum on the battlefield to lead to the negotiated departure of bashar al assad. that has always been the goal, at least certainly stated by the president of the united states. now there is no comment about that. now he is able to have killed 1400 people and he has killed over 100,000. where is the u.s.' response to that? and up until a few days ago, not one single weapon had reached the hands of the free syrian
army except for some mres whose time was about to expire. >> your goal is the president's goal ultimately -- >> that bashar al assad -- >> should go. should be out of power. >> yes. >> what should the united states sacrifice in order to achieve that goal? >> sacrifice some of our weapons that are viable like anti-tank and anti-air weapons, which we have not given them. ak-47s don't do very well against tanks and give them the support that they need to succeed. look -- >> do you have a partner on the other side on the opposition that you are prepared to say is going to lead syria in a democratic future? >> then we'll have to help the syrian national council get rid of the jihadists and extremists, and two years ago, by the way, they weren't there. a year ago with the momentum on their side, until 5,000 hezbollah, iranians stepped it up. it's going to be tough, it's
going to be difficult, but to believe that the syrian people who are moderate are willing to be governed by al nusra is a misreading of -- >> this deal, which the president supports, a winner or a loser in your mind? >> i think it's a loser because i think it gave russia a position in the middle east which they haven't had since 1970. we are now depending on the goodwill of the russian people if bashar al assad violates this agreement, and i am of the firm belief given his record that is a very, very big gamble. >> senator mccain, thank you very much. as always, i appreciate your time. i want to bring in the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, democrat from new jersey, robert menendez and senator roy blunt will join us in a moment. chairman menendez, you heard senator mccain, and you said this past week anything short of punishing assad would be a mistake. well, he's not getting punished. not at the moment. >> well, david, look, this is a
diplomatic breakthrough that is full of opportunity and fraught with danger. the opportunity is that we actually end up in a better place than we envisioned with the use of force, which is the elimination of all of assad's chemical weapons and his production facilities, in essence, closing down these factories of death. the fraught part is that, in fact, assad, who has still not said whether he has signed on to this agreement, ultimately even if he begins to move forward with some of the beginning elements of the agreement doesn't fulfill elements of the agreement as we move along, the russians find, as they often do, saying some -- in their mind some plausible reason why there should be no enforceable action at the united nations, and we're back to where we started except that assad has bought time on the battlefield and continued to ravage innocent civilians,
that's the challenge here, and so i'm looking forward to keeping the use of credible force on the table because that's the only reason we've gotten to this point even to this possibility, and it is the only reason, for example, in the past that gadhafi and libya and saddam hussein in iraq when the issue was giving up chemical weapons initially believed the force was real and gave up those weapons at that time. >> senator roy blunt is here, as well. before i ask you what you would have done, you opposed a military resolution and opposed military force in syria. that's what the president was after. do you think congress will keep the threat of military action alive as this process goes on? >> you know, i think it depends a lot on what kind of military action the president is talking about. in fact, until -- >> we know precisely what it's not. >> but we also know precisely what he said he was going to do, and this is not the president coming to us and saying, i'd
like to do something in syria. this is the president coming to us and saying, here are the two things i'd like to do. i'd like to do something that is incredibly small but consequential, whatever that means, and assad will still be there when it's over. that's a different verification. as late as march this year i was for establishing a safe zone of some kind in syria for the refugees and probably the insurgency. that as the insurgency got more complicated, i'm not sure that was still as viable in march of this year as it was a year earlier when i thought it was the right thing to do. but i didn't think what the president was proposing in such specific terms was the right thing to do, and i think it would have been a mistake for us to have a small attack that assad was still, said, look, the americans took their best shot at me, which it wouldn't have been, but he could say whatever it would be, and i'm still here. i think assad is a lot stronger today than he was two weeks ago. >> chairman menendez, for you, as well, look, senator mccain disagrees about this.
he would have done a no-fly zone. he would have sent lethal weapons a lot earlier. he would have tried to bolster that opposition in a way this administration did not. but the reality is the goal this president has is not to get involved in civil war and to try to stand up for a principle which is that you shouldn't use the worst weapons in the world no matter what kind of conflict that you are in. that's it. that's the limited american goal, and the public is not even for that. chairman menendez, to you first. >> well, look, david, number one is i think i've heard the president say there are two goals, the immediate goal is the punishment of assad, and in this case, if you can achieve giving up all of the chemical weapons and production facilities, then you've even gone beyond that for the use of chemical weapons and to send an international message that do not cross that line and also my view strategically sending a message, for example, to the ayatollah in iran, do not think about marching towards nuclear weapons, there is a consequence, or to the dictator of north korea.
the other one independently that the president has said apart from the specific set of contemplative actions he had, he said assad must go. now, that is through hopefully a diplomatic process, part of the -- when i say this is full of opportunities, if we could not only eliminate the entire chemical weapons program, eliminate all the chemical weapons, it might also create a foundation in which you could finally go to the negotiated agreements that russia and the united states were going to pursue, what they call geneva 2. that's an opportunity, but there's a lot to go before we realize the opportunity, but i have heard the president say that assad must go. now, i agree with senator mccain in this regard. dramatically more assisting the vetted moderate syrian opposition is i think incredibly important to achieve the first goal, and i also hope that we will pursue assad for war
crimes, even the comments of ban ki-moon, the secretary-general of the united nations are very significant. he's very reserved most of the time. the comments that he has committed crimes against humanity is something i'd like to see pursued. >> that's interesting. i want to underline that because i've heard others and heard from some viewers too about that being a big issue, whether he's pursued for war crimes. let me give you the last word here, senator. >> i think -- senator menendez mentioned iran. i think we should -- iranians should understand that what has happened in the last two weeks is not the template for iran. a nuclear capable iran is not acceptable. this would be a totally different debate in the congress. i hope the administration's reaction would be totally different, and, frankly, i think what's happened in the last two weeks is going to take us a while to recover from. our friends wonder what we'll do, and our adversaries have taken heart in seeing the uncertainty of the last two weeks. >> all right. we're going to leave it there. senators both, thank you very much. andrea, you're sticking around and be right back along with tom friedman, jeffrey goldberg and robin wright with analysis on america's role and what are americans saying about what they want out of u.s. leaders in the
world. the debate over intervention versus isolationism coming up. plus, five years ago today, the u.s. economy was near collapse after the worst financial crisis since the great depression. are we any better off today? former treasury secretary hank paulson is here, along with one of the chief wall street watchdogs at the time, former congressman barney frank. later, our political roundtable on what the crisis in syria means for the president's broader agenda. we're back here in one minute. . we're back here in one minute. hey linda!
tom, here was the cover of "the week" magazine, and i thought it was a good one, "sick of the job." that is the u.s. as the world's policeman, and you wrote something in your column this week that really struck me, and i'll put that on the screen, as well. you said, "give obama credit for standing up for an important principle in a chaotic region, but also give the american people some credit. they're telling our leaders something important. it's hard to keep facing down middle east hitlers when there are no churchills on the other side." where are we this morning with a potential deal at hand and a real statement of nonintervention on the part of this president and the american public? >> well, let me take it from several perspectives, david. one is i think the deal that's been proposed would be, if it can be implemented, would be a great deal. the president will have affirmed the ban on chemical weapons. we will have avoided a military strike. we also may have laid the foundation for a cease-fire, maybe through further
negotiation with the russians. if this can be implemented, i think it's an unambiguous win for the united states and for the region. at the same time, you know, what was i talking about there, the american people. we know that in the last few days people were overwhelmingly opposed to the use of force. i say a couple of things. one is this has not been a left/right issue. this has been an elite base focus. you have the elite focused on this story. i don't think the base -- i think the base has concluded something. they've done the math on iraq, afghanistan, libya, now syria, and i think what they've said is, okay, every time we face these issues, you ask three questions, do we have an interest, can we accomplish what we want to accomplish with a reasonable price and in a reasonable time? i think the american people are saying, there's a fourth question we need to start asking. do we have real partners? do we have partners for when we actually bomb or strike or whatever that will actually take
ownership of what we've done and make it self-sustaining, and i think a lot of people might not articulate this exactly that are asking do we have people there who really share our values because what happened in the whole middle east with the arab awakening is that people got their freedom from these regimes, but, you know, one of my teachers said, well, there's freedom one, but there's freedom too. what do you want freedom to do? some want to be free to be more islamist or more tribal. some want to be more sectarian. some want to be free to be citizens but not a critical mass here. >> jeffrey, you were writing this morning as you were coming in saying, wow, this looks like a pretty big victory for assad given where things stand. >> i think it's an unambiguous victory for assad and maybe for obama too but, look, a year ago, a year ago we were talking about removing assad. now in a kind of perverse way we're partnering with assad on
this huge project, which i think is an outlandish project, given that there's a war going on to remove all of the chemical weapons from syria. so now he's invested in this. we're invested in this process in the same way, and what is off the table is working to remove the regime because, remember, chemical weapons are ultimately not the problem. the problem is the people who use the chemical weapons, and they're not only in place but they are now endorsed, they are part of a process. >> robin. >> well, look, this is something that concerns me a great deal because we are involved in what is just a sliver of this problem. and it's not just syria that's at stake, it's really the whole middle east in the middle of a transition to a new order, and we are being very kind of political and parochial in our views of what we do kind of with each country. there's no grand principle. there's no helping design whether it's using our aid, using our -- the kind of infrastructure we have to assist people in writing constitutions, in getting there. now, one of the messages out of the middle east today is they want to be the ones to make the decisions of what their future
looks like, but at the same time this is where when you look at the middle east, you can argue we haven't had a real success since jimmy carter. even the gulf war in 1990/'91 was a tactical victory but a strategic failure in that it unleashed, you know, al qaeda, osama bin laden and a period where islamic extremism really began to define the region. we need something much bigger to put out there to deal with the issue of syria, the issue of egypt, the issue of the middle east. >> well, andrea, the question for everybody, but andrea started this, we are at a similar point at where we've been in other points of history. >> have we empowered vladimir putin and what are his self-interests? clearly he has interests in making sure the chemicals don't go to the caucasus, chechnya. he had a real interest in working with the united states here, but does he now hold all the cards on the timing and implementation and to all of your points, my colleagues here, what is the big vision?
we've drawn a red line on chemicals. belatedly we are trying to enforce it. we're not enforcing it with force, but what are the other red lines? what is the message that tehran is receiving and netanyahu is receiving in jerusalem here? you know, how is the world viewing us, as strong, as weak, and what is the big picture regarding not only syria, as you say, but the rest of the region? >> andrea makes a good point. there is a red line about friendship in a kind of way. you have a situation going to strategy in which every american ally in the region, turkey, jordan, united arab emirates, saudi arabia and israel, they don't know what the obama administration is doing precisely. they don't know how friendly they are. they don't know if they have their backing. a great deal of confusion, and so i think one of the things that the obama administration has to do is reassure its friends. it doesn't mean we've abandoned you.
>> we tend to focus because we're in america and this is an american show, and we do, but my own feeling is much are important is what they do, okay and that, you know, we didn't have a problem worrying about the transition of south africa because there was a nelson mandela there. about 30,000 young arabs and muslims have come from all over the arab world all over the muslim world to fight with the jihadists. we know that. how many have come to fight for a multisectarian multi-party that empowers women and has education. the middle east only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them. we can amplify that, but if the underlying thing is completely fractured between jihadists, tribalists and those who want to be democratic, i have a lot more sympathy for the administration because what do we do but who are you? why is it we need all these people to tell us who the syrian opposition really is? did anyone need to tell us who mandela is? >> that's the problem going to
the next phase. can you translate this into something that's a real peace process? we're faced with a deeply divided opposition, a thousand different militias, a political opposition that hasn't been able to get its act together in 2 1/2 years to form a shadow government, which would be an interlocutor for us or create a shadow government operating inside as we saw in libya. there's nothing valid or viable -- >> i interviewed the general idris on friday. i was in geneva. he was in syria, and he is today, you know, condemning this -- >> the rebel commander. >> john kerry is going on to meet in paris tomorrow morning with the british, the french and the saudis and to try to reassure them, but there has been, as we've all suggested, a lot of zigzagging here, and the rest of the world is looking to american leadership, but americans are looking to what's happening at home. >> button it up this way, this
part of the conversation, unfortunately, we didn't get to talk about the breakup of the ottoman empire. >> next week's show. >> but the stakes here of where america is, where congress is, this level of apprehension which we see, the stakes are what? >> well, the stakes are in a slightly narrower frame, but important, the stakes are that the next big issue, which is iran, right? i mean, that's what we're all thinking about, even though we're talking about syria. >> right. >> and the question is, are we signaling to the iranians that, hey, we could put down a red line, but we don't actually mean it? this is what all of america's allies in the middle east are worried about and very important. >> this morning the iranian press announced putin is going to tehran to talk about a nuclear deal. putin volume 2. >> thank you all very much. after his prime time push this week, our political roundtable on whether president obama is actually winning the debate on syria and what are the implications for the rest of his agenda. bob woodward, richard wolffe,
>> what "the new york post" had to say about the news that twitter is going public. when we come back, our political roundtable is here. we're back in 60 seconds. let's do some serious curb appeal. let's size up this. spruce up that. and let's not do any of this. let's go to school. let's go to save. and then, let's go to town. so then we can go do, absolutely nothing. let's do this. more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. earthgro mulch. 4 bags, just $10. she took an early spring break thanks to her double miles from the capital one venture card. now what was mrs. davis teaching? spelling. that's not a subject, right? i mean, spell check. that's a program. algebra. okay. persons a and b are flying to the bahamas. how fast will they get there? don't you need distance, rate and... no, all it takes is double miles.
[ all ] whoa. yeah. [ male announcer ] get away fast with unlimited double miles from the capital one venture card. you're the world's best teacher. this is so unexpected. what's in your wallet? if you have a business idea, we have a personalized legal solution that's right for you. with easy step-by-step guidance, we're here to help you turn your dream into a reality. start your business today with legalzoom. "meet the press" continues with our political roundtable. joining us this morning, bob woodward, kathleen parker, ana navarro and richard wolffe. now here is david gregory. >> welcome to all of you. let's talk about the pure politics.
let's talk about how president obama is handling this, the leadership test. kathleen parker, in your column this morning in "the washington post," i think you capture something, the two styles america is now dealing with going back to president bush and president obama. you write, "we can't seem to get it quite right at the helm. either we're saddled with a cocksure decidinator, i had to say that -- who is feared for his lack of pause, or we're stuck with an overthinker so afraid of making the wrong decision that he paralyzes himself into a pose of ineptitude." so then for everybody, and i'll start with you, how has obama handled this? >> well, it's been painful watching, really, because we've been witness to i think what seems to be his internal struggle, i mean his superego are at odds with each other, maybe his inner hawk and inner dove, but in any case he can't quite get to where he needs to be, and i think in a way he's almost thinking out loud, and we all do that in this business and
appreciate when people reflect and are self-aware. if you're the president, it is taking an awfully long time to decide what it is, and there's great freight in the world. it could turn out well in the end, and then we'll have to reappraise how he led. >> right. i mean, the way he's led up until now could be dependent upon the outcome. your new book, richard wolffe, is "the message: the reselling of president obama," so how does his leadership look? >> what we're seeing is the president, as he puts it, sent a message about his leadership and red lines and it's very confusing because there has been a pattern all along with this president whether it's health care, the recovery act and what i'm reporting, as well, in the campaigns where his message has been muddled. but actually the campaigns were anything but a smooth glide path
to victory and these questions of leadership really come back to has he got the people in place where he's going to allow a debate? he has policy debates all the time. one thing he won't debate is about his messaging and his communications and his politics. on that he does not want to hear different opinions. >> so but i mean the question is, we heard senator mccain and others say this is weakness. the deal is weakness, you can't trust the russians. the other side of that is maybe the president has given space for something unexpectedly good to happen. >> that's possible but if you look at this in a sense he tried all the policies, in other words, we'll get assad out, oh, there's a red line if chemical weapons are used. oh, we'll strike militarily, oh, no, we're not, we're going to go to congress, and it was karl rove who always said, you have to measure things like this by outcomes, and if you think about judo, using the power of the other side against them, by drawing putin in and russia in on this, it's -- i mean, now
they are committed to something that it may not work, it may take months or even years, but the result is the stabilization almost by accident. >> i think that's a tough spot for president obama. we've seen the sausagemaking in the last two weeks and almost been like having a president who isn't a commander in chief but commander in confusion. at times it seems like dr. jekyll and mr. hyde. assad must go, there is a red line, then the next moment he's vacillating and trying to do anything but what he has said. what we've also seen for the first time is a congress abandon him including some of his staunchest supporters in the democratic party. you've seen people like the
congressional black caucus, members like the hispanic caucus members say we're not going with you, and you've seen a lot of criticism coming even from democrats on his administration, the lack of clarity, the lack of vision, the lack of position, the lack of strategy. i've had congressmen who left those classified briefings, i can tell you, mario diaz balart, he wanted to vote yes, but that briefing was like hearing from the keystone cops, and i might be offending the keystone cops. >> a friend said it's easy to be critical. someone said, look, i don't know what the answer is, but what would you have done differently at any stage along the way is the question. >> well, if i were president? >> yeah. >> oh, that's a good question. look, i've never been in favor of going in because i felt that the consequences were too severe, the unknowns were so problematic, i mean, what happens when our planes are shot down. >> wanton killing of innocents using chemical weapons go on. >> we can get into all of that over and over again, the 100,000
that preceded. there were gas attacks earlier and we didn't respond to that. i think just to segue a minute, if i may, one of the problems with the way obama has done this is that we are now having a conversation as equals with assad. i mean he's now got a place at the table along with putin and they're lecturing us and making demands on us, and it diminishes our president, our role in the world and how we negotiate these things. i don't envy the president. for heaven's sakes, i don't want to make that decision either, but i think i am also not privy -- >> use the last two years to arm the rebels to change the momentum on the ground. we've lost that window of the last two years. it's not like we woke up one day suddenly and assad was a bad guy with chemical weapons. we've known this for awhile, and yet it seemed like we were making up the policy as it went. >> it's this daily crisis management. it's a mentality that pervades
all white houses, but they don't do strategic thinking and say, what are our goals, now are how we going to get there? let's figure out where we want to be in six months and then move toward it, and so there is this ad hockery but, kathleen, you're saying that assad is making demands on us and the russians to a certain extent, but the big demand is ours, that something has to be done with the chemical weapons, and they have achieved buy-in at least rhetorically and, you know, if you go back two weeks or two months and you say, we'd be at this point, granted with all, you know, this and that and the back and forth, which is a problem, everyone would say, wow -- >> but, bob -- >> i'm sorry. >> but if the russians are saying use of force is off the table, what leverage do we have? it seems to me they decided a lot. >> we still have that option. >> one of the extraordinary things about this agreement is
that in the case of noncompliance, in the case of any chemical weapons by either side, there is a provision for the use of force under chapter 7 under the united nations. we can say that will never happen, but this is a substantial achievement. you say let's just arm the rebels. we don't know, and you certainly don't know who are the rebels we want to arm, never mind how this would spin out. we can talk about the politics of it and what this means for the president. i believe his leadership has taken a knock here, but the idea that there's a clean path if only we could have found the right people to arm is delusional. we tried the same path in afghanistan, and we ended up arming people who ended up, the mujahideen who were the core of al qaeda. now, we can say, well, we've got perfect clarity. we don't. we know that intelligence doesn't do that. syria is incredibly complex. there's a question of leadership but the outcome they have stumbled into is generally -- >> i don't think anybody is saying there is perfect clarity,
and it's equally delusional to think we'll go, if they don't comply to the security council where russia who not -- who doesn't even admit that assad has used the chemical weapons has got veto power. >> the russians -- >> yes, but any use of force requires their approval. >> no, it does not. no, it does not. as the commander in chief, and this was the whole debate a week ago, he said, i'm going to strike militarily without the u.n., without congress. now, whether that's a good policy or not, but, you know, this is stabilization by accident and maybe another case of obama good luck. we'll see. it may bite him. >> but without congress much less will he strike without the. u.n. -- >> but i want to bring up a point with about a minute left. you know, syria is now going to get mired in whether this agreement is lived up to or not. a budget battle brewing again with the debt ceiling. you think this is the next crisis that obama is facing with congress. are we going to raise the debt ceiling?
>> this is really serious. back in 2011 when the crisis visited them, the secretary of the treasury tim geithner was running around and saying, if we don't fix this, we could trigger a depression worse than the 1930s. and when i talked to obama about this, he said, it was the most intense three weeks of his presidency, more than osama bin laden and so forth, so -- and the republicans are out here, a group of them in the house essentially using extortion and blackmail methods to say, if we don't defund obama care, we're not going to do the routine things of government. >> well, we're at a game of chicken at this point, and there are not -- no one thinks they're going to defund obama, not even the people pushing for it. at some point, you know, the
republicans are going to have to blink, and they'll fund it. if they pass a bill that doesn't include funding for obama care, then the senate won't pass the bill, and, you know, somebody's got to blink. we're not going to shut down government. we can't. >> let's be i think fair to the republicans here. it's not all republicans saying let's shut down the government if we don't defund obama care. so i don't think it's fair to paint it as the republicans because the republicans that have been here today, including john mccain, have been very much against this and saying -- >> it's the 40 extremists. that's who's doing it. >> the insane caucus. >> you used it. >> we'll leave it there. >> you're going to get a lot of flack from mental health advocates. >> never had that happen. >> we'll leave it there. coming up next, the future of our economy five years after the biggest financial crisis since the great depression. among our guests, former treasury secretary hank paulson and cnbc's maria bartiromo along with former congresswoman barney frank on where we are five years later. first our political director chuck todd will be along with his "first read sunday."
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we're back with more we're back with more politics. chuck todd with his "first read sunday." we talked about the debt ceiling business. you're looking at it this week. >> we did. we have a poll and showed the initial gauge of the public, the default position is, don't raise it. look at this, 44% say no, 22% say yes. the white house pushing back saying you have to explain it to the people. this is the exact same place the debt ceiling was in april 2011. now, by the time it hit a crisis point, more of the public moved into in favor of raising the debt ceiling, but what this shows, the president has to use political capital and time to flip these numbers. >> we'll talk to hank paulson in just a minute. five years after the financial collapse and the next fed chair would be a bigger story if not for syria. is larry summers losing steam? >> politically it looks like he is. four now democratic senators against him. just in the banking committee that could be problems.
the assumption is it's his job to lose. the president feels like he's leaning toward him rather than janet yellen, who is in the fed, but if the president had his druthers, it would be tim geithner. geithner has said no to him multiple times. this could come this week. i know the markets are waiting for it. >> good there's no picture of geithner. i don't think he wants to come back to washington. meanwhile, talking about not only 12 years after 9/11 and the middle east, benghazi, back as a political focus this week. >> it is. the house republicans have not dropped this as an issue. they didn't talk about it last week during the one-year anniversary of the benghazi attack, but this week on thursday alone, three different hearings are going to be taking place on the same day on capitol hill. house republicans don't want to drop this. by the way, what happened in benghazi, this is a larger context in the syria debate where some people think if we had gotten involved in syria, it could look like what libya looks like. >> my sense is the president doesn't go back on it -- >> there is no interest in that unless assad does something else. >> chuck todd, thanks so much. we'll see you at 9:00 a.m. eastern on "the daily rundown" tomorrow.
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we are back. on the brink of economic collapse, that was the state of the u.s. economy five years ago. what is our economic reality now and our future? joining me former treasury secretary hank paulson, he is the subject of a new documentary on netflix called "hank: five years from the brink." also joining me, former congressman barney frank, one of the co-authors of the wall street legislation known as dodd-frank and cnbc's maria bartiromo. welcome to all of you. such a big topic, and, hank paulson, i think the obvious question, we staved off collapse, but five years later is the economy better off than it was? >> well, that's an easy question. it's much better off than it was. we avoided a very bad fate, things could have been as bad as the great depression, but today the economy is growing at 2%,
and although that's not enough, it's -- in many ways it's something we can take satisfaction in given the amount of deleveraging that needed to be done, consumers and institutions. and capital markets are behaving as normal. we still got some problems we need to address. >> barney frank, one of the issues that's coming up in asking better off or not question five years later, as senator elizabeth warren said, look, the banks are 30% larger than they were, too big to fail she asserted is still a reality. could what happened five years ago happen today? >> it could not happen in the same way. the biggest single cause of the problem last time, i think everybody agrees, was that mortgages were being given to people by institutions that shouldn't have given them to people who shouldn't have received them, and then they packaged them and sold them to people who didn't know what was in them. only one prohibition, mostly
pro-market, doesn't tell the financial community they can't do this or that. we do try to say if you take risks, you should be responsible if they go bad. but we banned the bad mortgages. i very much admire senator warren, but she's wrong if she thinks that. here's what the law said, this is bipartisan as this whole thing should have been. secretary paulson suggested the basic approach. some large institutions too big to fail without taking account of the consequences, so have the power in federal officials to step in, put those institutions out of business. as i said, i have one disagreement with sarah palin. she was right we enacted death penalties for big banks, not old ladies, and the bank is abolished. some of the debts may have to be paid to prevent there from being contagion but any penny advanced by law has to be recovered by the secretary of the treasury from the largest institutions in america. what happened with aig and other institutions, that cannot happen
again. can you not if you are overly indebted receive help from the federal government paying your debts and stay in existence. >> here's the reality, maria bartiromo. you look at the favorability of wall street firms, still very negative, 42% on the negative side in our latest poll. as i talk to ceos this week and bankers, they say, look, one of the issues, we have to keep so much capital in reserve now, there's not enough capital to invest. that ultimately hurts economic growth. we're not able to make as much money. make as many deals and we have tremendous income inequality. "time" magazine said, did we win in all this? >> i agree with all that has been said. on the capital front, capital has doubled. liquidity has doubled or tripled. i think the industry is in much better shape. we need to get beyond the conversation of is wall street evil? are the bankers evil and causing pain and toward the conversation
of, how do you create sustainable economic growth? that will answer the issue of inequality because with growth comes jobs. so we need to come together and figure out how businesses, banks included, are actually going to spend that money. trillions of dollars on the balance sheet. you're right. they're sitting on it, but the idea that capital has been raised is absolutely a positive no, a negative the fact that -- >> hear, hear. >> i couldn't agree more. to me that's what it's all about, sustainable economic growth, and i think the best thing -- >> what we're still -- our growth is so sluggish, right? >> it is sluggish, and so what we need to see is we need to see democrats and republicans coming together to deal with some of the big structural reforms we need. immigration reform, we need a new tax system. i could go on and on, and so that's what washington really needs to focus on.
>> and these are the reasons that companies are sitting on cash. >> remember, by the way, america doesn't exist alone in the world. i mean i just listened to a group of people act as if syria was one of the 51 states and could step in there and run it. we deal in an international world. if you look at the developed economies, yes, we're not doing as well as we'd like, but we're doing better than any other just about. and these are our customers and there's a slowdown in china, so given the economic reality, i think we're doing well. i do want to add one thing, though, to your question about those beleaguered bankers who have been forced to do so much to keep from not being able to pay their debts, they can't lend money. if they really are running businesses that are so stressed that they can't do their basic work, why are they paying themselves so much money? where did these enormous salaries come from if they were, in fact, in such serious trouble? >> right. >> thank you for giving me that one. okay. >> but your point is to get beyond -- to get beyond some of the resentment of the bankers and get to a place where we actually have more hiring going on, more investment going on and washington plays a more
constructive role beyond whether it was the bailout of the banks which changed our politics. >> right, i would like to come back to that, david, because what we did was very unpopular. very unpopular because we never made the case. i was never able to make the case of what we did was for the american people to prevent economic disaster. it wasn't for the bankers. but i want to also make the point is we will have other financial crises. that's the history of mankind. as long as there are markets, there will be crises. most of them have been manageable. we want to avoid these big dislocations like, you know, the great depression or had a 2008 which easily could have been the great depression, but we have to continue to clean up our messes. we need to fix fannie and freddie, okay. that -- we should be focused on that.
we need to focus on some things in the shadow banking market that -- >> yeah, but before you make your point, i want to ask you one newsy question. who should be the next fed chair? i don't want that to go unanswered. >> i'm sorry to disappoint you. i'll be honest, i'm not in that position anymore. i have too many friends involved there. it becomes too deeply personal for me and, you know, there's a trade-off. you leave office. you don't have a lot of power and don't have to make decisions but you don't have to annoy a lot of other people either, so i'm going to duck that one. can i say -- >> very quickly. >> first of all, many of the banks didn't want this money. it's not -- secondly, the federal government made money on the advances to the banks. what cost us money was the automobile industry bailout. but we made money in the banks. >> i'm out -- i'm out of time. >> plus 32 billion. >> i'm out of time. we have to take a break. more right after this. >> okay. what are you doing? oh, hey.
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how can we ever recover from this? i know exactly inch by inch, mile by mile, community by community, they're taking this stuff back. they're doing it. >> between sunday afternoon. i'm craig melvin. developing right now, expanding the search in colorado. it's been the largest rescue effort since hurricane katrina. so far, crews have air lifted more than 1700 people, but many are still stranded. and officials now have a dire warning for those who are refusing to leave. we're live in boulder. what we can do is make sure that the worst
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