tv Meet the Press NBC July 23, 2012 2:05am-3:05am EDT
we still love america, we're so glad we're here. i think that spirit has got to triumph in the end. >> there is this picture emerging of the victims from this massacre, and some of the stories as well of some of the incredible acts of heroism and just some of the raw pain that people are experiencing as well as they learn more about who's perished. >> it's hard to describe the pain that folks are going through, especially the families of those who didn't make it through. but the acts of heroism. a guy who -- his son's girlfriend, who is i think 22, gets shot in the hip and he falls on her and they're in the front row. so the shooter is right over them. instead of running away, he stays there and saves her life in the end, kept her from bleeding to death. story after story. two girls, both injured but one helping the other out of the theater while the shooting was still going on, making sure she got to safety.
outside, a woman taking her belt off. we still don't know who she was and taking a soldier's leg that had been shot with a high-powered bullet through the thigh and creating a tourniquet. one after another acts of heroism. even heroism isn't strong enough a word. >> i know you were at the apartment, james holmes' apartment in aurora yesterday during that controlled detonation. what can you say this morning about what you're learning about him? is he cooperating in custody? >> well, he is -- what they describe to us, he lawyered up. he is at this point not cooperating. the robot watching it defuse -- or not defuse, but make the -- be able to deactivate the system of the trip wires and potential threats, a, it gives you tremendous confidence. i mean the fbi is working with the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms with the local
police, the state patrol. everybody was working together, as they did on thursday night. one of the real bright lights of this is that before 9/11, i don't think we could have ever responded to this level of tragedy, 70 people that had been injured or killed, and get such efficiency and get everyone working together almost seamlessly. so even that safety and then also how they worked with this bomb thing. we're getting through this, but we still can't get into the mind of this twisted, really delusional individual. >> and there's no sense of what caused him to go off of the path he was as a doctoral student in neuroscience, somebody who may have been isolated and private but had a lot going for him on the outside. nothing that gives you some insight into motive? >> yeah, so far nothing that i've heard, not an iota, nothing. >> the picture of what he was carrying is of course striking. he was armed to the teeth. here's a picture of the weapons
that have been recovered from the scene. he had two glocks, a 12-gauge shotgun, a smith & wesson shotgun, and it was mayor bloomberg, a former colleague as mayor in new york, who spoke out about taking this moment and refocusing some debate about guns in our country and any reasonable controls over their use and their purchase. this is what he said on friday. >> instead of the two people, president obama and governor romney, talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place, okay, tell us how. and this is a real problem. no matter where you stand on the second amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them concretely, not just in generalities, specifically what are they going to do about guns. >> you as a leader as you get past the grief of what's happened, would you like to see a re-evaluation of state laws or
even a debate about how you can have a circumstance like this? >> i think that debate is going to happen. it already has started. but you look at this person that, again, almost a creature. if he couldn't have gotten access to the guns, what kind of bomb would he have manufactured. we're in a time and information age where there's access to all kinds of information. he was diabolical, demonic in this twisted sense that he just -- i think of a terrorist. he wanted to take away not just the people in that theater but from the country our ability to enjoy life, to go to a movie theater, which for most of us is a refuge where we can get away from the rest of some of the pressures of life. you know, i'm not sure -- it's a human issue in some way. how are we not able to identify someone like this who is so deeply, deeply disturbed. >> i'm sure you have a message and the president will as well to folks in your own state who feel that sense of
vulnerability, who are perhaps even afraid to go out and see a movie after something like this. and of course the memories so hauntingly familiar of columbine. what do you want to say to people to reassure them after an event like this? >> well, you know, i think part of it you've got to recognize and mourn all the losses. you can't do anything without recognizing how deep that is. but we've been in tough spots before. i mean the west is legendary for the resilience of the people out here who really have come from not just all over the country but all over the world. we will rise above this, right, that we will not let -- the response to terrorism is not to shrink away, it's to rise up and face it. you know, my chief of staff, her daughter is in her early 20s and she took a group of about 20 kids to go see batman last night, just as a political statement. and i think that's -- the sense i'm beginning to get in the hospital rooms with the
families, among the community, is we're not going to let this son of a gun win, we're just not going to let him. >> governor, thank you very much for taking the time in the middle of everything you're doing. again, our thoughts are with you and with all the folks in colorado and aurora. i appreciate it very much. >> thank you. in just a moment we're going to have a conversation about how as a country we can do more to protect against these kinds of threats, including a discussion about a potential renewed debate about guns. but first to get the very latest, i want to go to aurora. my colleague kate snow is there. she's been reporting from there since the very beginning. kate, your reporting has to do about more of what we're learning about the victims and some of the really difficult stories and agts cts of heroism well. >> reporter: yeah, that's right, david. we have the full list of the 12 victims of this tragedy and they range in age from 51 years old at the oldest down to a 6-year-old girl.
her name is veronica moser-sullivan. we're told she liked to swim, she was just taking swimming lessons, she loves to eat ice cream, just a cute little 6-year-old. her mother is in the hospital critically wounded with a gunshot lodged still in her neck, so a terrible story there. but among the dead, mothers, fathers, students. a remarkable number of young people, david, when you look at the list. students who had just graduated -- one of them just graduated from high school, wanted to be an art teacher when he grew up. there were members of the military service. and as the governor mentioned, acts of real bravery. several stories about men who threw themselves on top of their girl friends in that movie theater in order to save their girlfriends. and there are still people in the hospital this morning, david, 26 still hospitalized, nine of them in critical condition. >> there are very few morsels of information about what may have motivated james holmes, but a
couple more details about the actual act of shooting, right, kate? >> reporter: i don't know too many details about the acts of shooting, david. what i can tell you is that his apartment has been cleared now. the governor mentioned this or you mentioned this. they detonated a number of devices yesterday. it was booby trapped and the police chief here said it was meant to kill police officers who responded to his apartment. when they went in there, they found a number of softball-size ieds, improvised explosive devices. i'm told 30 softball-sized ieds were inside. police called it sophisticated and intricate. what we can tell you is that james holmes is now in jail. he's been segregated from the other prisoners. he has his first court appearance tomorrow. he is represented by public defenders. they have cleared the theater behind me now and gone through and done forensic investigation, but tomorrow the defense team for james holmes will be in the theater looking around for their own purposes to defend him. >> interesting details. kate snow, thank you very much from aurora, colorado.
we'll continue to follow your reporting from there. joining me now, congresswoman carolyn mccarthy, democrat of new york, whose husband was tragically killed in a 1993 massacre by a deranged gunman on a long island train. former new york city police commissioner and los angeles chief of police bill bratton during his time pioneered the theory of community policing that became a model around the country. also the former secretary of homeland security michael chertoff whose firm consults with how to deal with some of these security threats. thank you all for being here. if there are some bigger lessons to take away, it's what i want to try to focus on. chief bratton, i was reading this morning as i was preparing, law enforcement officials fear more than anything else the lone gunman like you had right here. >> that's correct. for the longest time now, we have been concerned with the incident that just happened, that single individual who operates below the radar, most difficult to detect, whether
inspired by terrorism or whatever inspiration caused this young man to take so many lives. he remains the most difficult one to try to deal with. >> congresswoman, you have experienced something like this, the grief that comes with it, the shock that comes with it, and the search to do something productive afterward. >> well, and it is, you know, i get up really early in the morning. the first thing i put on is tv. and i saw all the news. it just brings you back to a place most victims don't want to go to, but incidents like this and knowing what the families are going to be going through, not only today and tomorrow but the weeks down the road. but, you know, when bill talks about the lone gunman, he's absolutely right. but there's one thing that they all have in common, and they had a gun with large magazines so they could take down as many people. the police responded in 90
seconds. and yet he was able to take down 70 people. >> and secretary chertoff, one of the striking details that we've come across this morning is that in fact his -- one of the guns jammed in the act of shooting. so you can imagine a carnage like this actually being even worse. we've talked about sort of being able to detect a threat like this maybe less important than how law enforcement can respond when we come to try to understand mitigating these kind of threats. >> i think that's exactly right, david. i think governor hickenlooper really was correct in talking about the heroism of the people in the theater and the effectiveness and swiftness of the response. the truth is as horrible as this tragedy is and as much as our hearts go out to the families that have been affected, it could have been worse. and as we've looked at these events over time, those which
are the worst are those in which the response is delayed or ineffective. so i give a lot of credit to law enforcement, which was very quick in responding, and to the people who -- it's kind of like what we saw on 9/11. they took matters into their own hands and did the best they could to protect themselves. >> chief, congresswoman giffords was shot and there were a lot of questions about both mental illness potentially with the shooter. and who in his life was noticing some kind of behavior. we don't know in this particular case. but is there anything law enforcement can do better to catch the james holmeses of the world who are isolated and are disturbed in ways we don't understand and are operating and building an arsenal to go after innocent people. >> so frequently we find lone gunman who are both mad and bad. the ability to detect that in some suspects, if you think of the current campaign coming out
of the events of 9/11 see something, say something, the idea that family acti, friends, there's an ability on the part of law enforcement if given information about somebody whose condition seems to be deteriorating to actually take a look at that individual. so some of these instances, this individual, for example, as we're learning more about him, there was a phenomenal deterioration over the last several months, an isolation. unfortunately, he was a significant loner, but could he have been detected and reported upon. i think that's the direction we're going to have to go, the idea of people understanding that if you see something, say something, as simple as it sounds. >> congresswoman, one piece of information to put this in context, if you look at some of the high-profile massacres that have occurred over the past several years, of course columbine in colorado, 13 killed at virginia tech, at ft. hood 13 killed and then the most recent
in tucson in january of last year, striking congresswoman giffords and others. the debate about guns and a circumstance where you have armed to this level committing this kind of act leads to the response you had, it also leads to a different response among gun rights advocates. one of your colleagues, congresswoman gomert from texas, saying on friday the following. it makes me wonder with all these people in the theater was there nobody that was carrying? meaning carrying a gun. that could have stopped this guy more quickly. so he's on the opposite spectrum of where you're coming from which is to limit access to firearms. >> but david, that argument goes back even to 1993 when the nra basically said that someone else had been on the train, so many people wouldn't have been killed. believe me, i've talked to an awful lot of police officers, commissioners of police, they say it's the worst scenario you can possibly think of.
can you imagine in that theater, smoke, it's dark and everybody starts shooting? i think the massacre would have been a lot worse. >> but secretary chertoff, the governor made an interesting point. this is a democrat, former democratic mayor of denver. he, like colleagues like mayor bloomberg may believe in greater gun control laws, but he also references the fact that everything was purchased legally here and we live in an age where if he couldn't have gotten to guns, he was building bombs in his apartment as well. so the notion that somehow you eliminate that danger in a gun ntrol debate is going to be bitterly fought. >> well, that's what's striking is you look at what we've heard about the apartment and the sophistication of the devices that were disarmed or disabled there, and you realize that even the kind of ingredients that you can find in your own kitchen can be used to make bombs. so the problem here is with the people and not with the tools. but i want to go back to something bill bratton said which i think is really
important. we need to understand more about the signs that show somebody is either becoming deranged or becoming a terrorist, because there's a commonality we see again and again, which is a sudden change in behavior, usually some element of becoming more isolated and changing the way you relate to people. we've seen that with terrorists who became radicalized in europe and we've now seen it of course in this terrible tragedy. so we need to understand better how we detect the early warning signs. the last thing, david, is by coincidence this week there was a report on the ft. hood shooting. and the question there again was how come major hassan was not detected earlier before the horrible shootings in ft. hood. it was in a sense of failure of imagination. here's somebody who was getting radicalized, who was communicating with a terrorist over the internet and yet the people looking at that somehow they couldn't get their heads around the assumption that somehow because he was an army
officer, he couldn't be turning in a bad direction. so we need to rethink our approach to this. >> a lot of points there, but chief, can you comment on the gun issue and the coming gun debate? >> two comments, if i may. the congressman who made the comment about if people in the theater had been armed they may have been able to stop this individual. he was armed to the teeth with all types of bullet protection materials. the ability of a citizen to try and take that individual down equipped the way he was would have been de minimus. the responding officers -- it seems his semiautomatic weapon jammed, otherwise they would have been outgunned, the responding officers. he would have been able to basically the way he was equipped take them on. first responding officers weren't s.w.a.t. officers so this issue of arm everybody, i'm sorry, in this circumstance i don't know that that would have made a difference. >> can i say something.
you know, as horrible as this tragedy was and is, you have to remember how many people are killed every single day. >> 55. >> are getting illegal guns. and so when people say and the nra will say that also, oh, she's going to try to talk about gun control, gun safety issues, i do it because this happens every single day. >> right. but you're a politician now. and the political debate seems to be frozen on the issue of guns. mayor bloomberg was trying to, you know, get people to focus again. here was the headline after congresswoman giffords, one of your own colleagues, was shot. the headline, president obama saying we must seek agreement on gun reforms. his own advisers saying, yes, we're going to get that conversation started again. there's been nothing. even after your own colleague was shot. i mean for democrats, it seems they don't want to -- they really don't want to take on this issue. >> i personally think that it was a fallacy after -- when
president clinton was able to pass the assault weapons bill. everybody forgets about that time in history. we also raised taxes so there was a lot of things going on. i personally don't think that members that lost that following year actually lost because of the gun issue. myself and several other people were elected the following year on the gun issue. so i think that there's a lot of myths out there as far as that goes. and i always look at it this way, no one from the nra is ever going to vote for me. they're just not. they might even come after me on other issues. but the thing of it is, as a politician, a lot of politicians know it's the right thing to try to fight for something to save lives. they don't have the spine anymore. they pander to who's giving them money. >> secretary chertoff, you've worked in a political administration, you deal with counterterror threats but you also paid attention to somebody
who thinks about threats around the country to political dialogue, the dialogue across the media spectrum from entertainment to news and commentary. and i was thinking, harkening back to president obama's words after gabby giffords was shot and anthony bill clinton back in 1995 after oklahoma city, and i'll put something he said up on the screen. he said back then, president clinton, we hear so many loud and angry voices in america today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. they spread hate. they leave the impression that by their very words that violence is acceptable. we know nothing about motivation in this particular case, political or otherwise. but president clinton's words back in 1995 could be true today, couldn't they, about how some of the public discourse can fall on more vulnerable ears? >> i think that's right.
and if anything, i think the temperature has gotten even more heated in the years since president clinton made that statement and it's been amplified by the internet. look, no one can say that any particular comment leads a madman to decide to do this. but i do believe that the general coursening and aggravation of the dialogue, the fact that disagreement is often characterized as a matter of people having enemies or wanting to commit acts of violence does affect some minority of individuals. and that raises the danger to everybody. >> congresswoman? >> i absolutely agree. you know, since i've been in congress, i've seen over the last several years the deterioration of working with each other. it's really a shame, because many of us, republican and democrat, do work together. we actually get legislation passed working together. we still go by the old way of compromise. but when you listen to the words of some of my colleagues that
are inflammatory, i mean it's something that goes out there. look at these politicians. i mean just in the last past week, a few of my colleagues came out with statements on other people, which are absolutely not true. >> and it's -- unfortunately it's kind of a bipartisan deterioration. chief, this will come down to something that michael chertoff mentioned a couple minutes ago, better detection of people like this. there's also just a heartfelt reaction that people have which is, wow, are we safe even in movie theaters for a movie premiere. to the extent that there is an overreaction here about kind of a security clampdown, does that make any difference? >> we are safe, that's the reality, safe from terrorism, safe from these events. there are 300 million of us. and while we all feel for this event, reality is 300 million people did not experience it. the tragic irony of this and the continuation of these types of incidents, and they will continue, is that the outrage is expressed against the
perpetrator and the act, is not then reflected in the part of the general public about wanting to do something about the instruments that are used to kill so many, the guns. all the polls i've seen recently indicate that the american population is following the political leadership who are missing in action, most of them on this issue, by increasingly being in favor of, if you will, relaxing of gun laws. isn't that the tragic irony out of this. the more of these we have, seemingly, we have less interest in trying to focus on trying to control some of it in terms of some type of effort to control guns. >> right. and of course the opposite view would be to emphasize that these guns were purchased legally and that we have to focus on the individual. there will be more of this discussion to come. thank you all for being here and commenting on it this morning. when we come back, we're going to talk politics as well. we'll talk about the political campaign, which was shut down, as you know, because of this tragedy. still a lot to talk about as it
resumes tomorrow, including some of the turning points in the race in the weeks ahead. the round table is here and up next david brooks of "the new york times." strategist democrat bob slum and steve schmidt. also michelle rhee. political round table is coming up next. we know why we're here. to chart a greener path in the air and in our factories. ♪ to find cleaner, more efficient ways to power flight. ♪ and harness our technology for new energy solutions. [ female announcer ] around the globe, the people of boeing are working together, to build a better tomorrow. that's why we're here. ♪
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schools, david brooks, columnist with "the new york times," republican strategist steve schmidt and democratic strategist bob schrum. welcome to all of you. this was the scene on friday at the white house. flags there lowered to half staff in the wake of the massacre at aurora at the movie theater there. the campaigns, as i mentioned, came to a complete halt. it's as if the political world really shut down. we heard from both president obama and mitt romney on friday. >> there are going to be other days for politics. this, i think, is a day for prayer and reflection. >> each one of us will hold our kids a little closer, linger a bit longer with a colleague or a neighbor, reach out to a family member or friend. >> david brooks, we come after events like this and hope that there's some kind of constructive national moment that can occur. what is that? >> right. well, the theme of the show so far has been do we focus on the guns or do you focus on the
person. and i think the candidates are going to have to figure that one out. i personally think the focus should be on the person. there are 250 million guns in this country. if somebody wants to get their hands on a gun, they're going to be able to do it. it's just not that practical. but we also have the situation where we have a lot of 20-year-olds who are living in this underinstitutionalized world, lonely. at the same time a tremendous hunger for fame. you see the rise of these spectacle killings. i'd like to see a debate about that. there's not an obvious political solution, but some of the people like mr. bratton said there's a civil society solution where we look out for people drifting between the cracks. >> if anybody has got experience like you do, michelle, trying to identify vulnerabilities in especially younger people and they can manifest themselves at such an early age, particularly in school. >> yeah, i think one of the challenges that comes about in a tragedy like this is people want answers. why did this happen or what is the solution. and so too often people want to identify one thing that can be changed that will ensure this
never happens again. we do the same in education, what is the silver bullet. the fact of the matter is i think when you hear these conversations go on, there is no one thing. it's actually going to be a complicated solution. it's not just the availability of guns, it's not just how violent video games are. this -- you know, in order to solve this problem in the long term, it's going to take a very comprehensive approach looking at lots of different angles. >> i mean the person versus the gun, bob schrum, you heard congresswoman mccarthy say look, it's a myth that the '94 assault weapons ban hurt democrats politically. the reality is that we may believe that it's just lunacy for somebody who arm up like that but there's not really a gun control debate in politics anymore. >> no, it isn't. i think the issue is settled. i was on a phone call with house speaker south po eer foley, dicd the president when he decided to push ahead with the assault weapons ban and the brady bill, which have now both expired.
foley and gephardt said this is going to cost us a lot of democratic seats in the midterm and it did. the situation has gotten worse. you can't even get congress to prohibit people who are on the terrorist watch list from buying weapons, they won't accept that. david, you're right, we're going to have to focus on the person because we're not going to be able to do anything about the guns. we've reached a state of stopping on this issue and we're not going to move on. >> it a lot of gun rights advocates say that's where we ought to be. even the democratic governor of the state said forget the guns, the guy was building bombs, he could have done either if he wanted to carry out this attack. >> that's right. it's orthodoxy in the democratic party that the majority was lost because of the pass of the assault weapons bill. there is not going to be any further gun control measures passed by the u.s. congress, it's an absolutely settled issue. people absolutely will not take on the nra. it's the most powerful interest
group in washington, d.c. let's talk about politics more generally. the president has got a moment here as he'll go out to colorado, as he did after tucson and speak and help people grieve and that's very much his role. mitt romney is headed out on a foreign trip. here is the latest breakdown of where this race stands and the head-to-head couldn't be any closer as we put it up on the screen. it is romney 45 and president obama at 43% according to "the new york times"/cbs poll. bob schrum, does somebody have an advantage beyond the numbers that shows this is a razor-tight race? >> i think there are a couple of things underneath these numbers that are actually pretty good for the president. first of all, as nate silver from the "times" has pointed out, the president has led in 80 pgt of t 80% of the polls in the swing states. secondly, romney is losing hispanics by 48 points. as steve will tell you, you can't lose hispanics by 48 points, be a republican
candidate and get elected president. thirdly, i think romney insisted so strongly that this was purely a referendum. if you feel badly about the economy, vote for me, i'm not going to tell you much else about myself, that he opened a way for the president to define him during what i regard as a critical summer season. >> i think when you look at the numbers there's some news in there that's very bad for president obama. the fact is that the approval level for people -- his handling of the economy is now in the 30s. the pessimism in the country is rising. the wrong track number is increasing. mitt romney has been on the defensive for the better part of a month. he has been pummeled, he has been defined. the media narrative in washington has been terrible for him. the only thing that's happened is the race has gotten even tighter. so i think fundamentally, the economic argument that the president is making is not working. we wouldn't be talking about mitt romney's taxes if the
president was able to talk about an economic recovery, which clearly he can't. >> and michelle, you're focused on education reform, what all politicians say is an incredibly important issue but don't talk about it in the course of the campaign very much. the one thing that people want fixed, the economy, is not fixed. how much trouble is that for the incumbent president? >> we talked earlier about whether we should focus on policy or the individuals. in the president debate we should focus a little less on the individual bickering and more on the policies. as it pertains to the economy, one thing that people are missing in this is that we are never going to be able to fix this country's economy in the long run until we fix our public education system. you know, if we were just to be able to cut the number of high school dropouts in one year in half, we could add $45 billion to this country's economy. why aren't we having the conversation around that. >> the olympics are about to start, your group has a new ad out. i want to play a portion of it to give people a sense of what
the message is. >> if the u.s. is going to catch up to the rest of the world, it has to be now, but frankly it's not looking good. >> it appears the once-proud u.s. program is relying too much on its reputation. i'd say they're completely unprepared. >> wow, this is an embarrassment. >> oh, the u.s. can't be satisfied with this performance. >> the sad truth, this is our education system and it can't compete with the rest of the world. we need reform now. to see what you can do go to studentsfirst.org/olympics. >> it's a pretty tough message. >> right. the olympics are going to start in five days. it is a time of incredible pride for this country. our young people are out there, you know, number one, beating everyone else, and yet educationally our kids are 25th out of 30 developed nations in math and nobody is paying attention to that fact. >> david brooks, you're writing in part about just the gamesmanship of the campaign, but it goes to something i think michelle is saying about a real focus on alternatives. why mitt romney wants to be
president, after all. and you wrote this in a column on tuesday that i'll put up on the screen. you talk about his capitalist narrative. it's been the business of his life to take companies that were mediocre and sler oughtic and make them efficient and dynamic. it's been his job to be the corporate version of a personal trainer, take people who are puffy and self indulgent and whip them into shape. that's his selling point, rigor and productivity. if he can build a capitalist vision around that, he'll thrive. if not, he's a punching bag. is he a punching bag right now over releasing his taxes? >> i don't care about the issue. can you think about a president who was qualified or disqualified about taxes? what's relevant is who the guy is. his family had gone across the west, poverty, building an empire, poverty, building an empire.
he can't talk about it because it involves mormonism. he is a decent guy but he is not willing to talk about it. he's a hidden man. so one of the turning points in this campaign is when he comes out and if he can come out. and i don't know why they're waiting so long. the second thing is, as michelle said, people -- i personally find this incredibly election incredibly boring pause the two campaign staffs are on their iphones and responding to whatever the other campaign did five minutes ago and rest of us just don't care. >> bob. >> i think romney for the reasons he was talking about does make him a hidden figure and a punching bag. my agreement with steve is that if you set a definition of somebody in the summer, they have got to live with that definition all through the campaign unless they use the convention to change it. i tell you, on this tax issue, steve and i have both been there. you sit down with the candidate and you say, look, we should release these tax returns. i mean we're going to get beat up if we don't release these tax returns. and either romney or people in
his campaign who have seen it said we'll take worse damage if we release these returns than if we hold on to them. so i think he's going to live with this issue all the way through. i think the narrative here is going to go from bain, outsourcing, taxes, offshoring to his policy. so it's going to be the guy who took over companies and made them lean by cutting people's health care benefits now wants to cut medicare, privatize it, has endorsed the ryan budget. it's going to cost seniors $6400 more a year. you can debate whether or not you agree with that, but there's a narrative here that the obama campaign is building, and so far i cannot find a narrative from romney beyond, gee, if you feel kind of lousy about the economy, give me a try. >> well, not a bad strategy when you're in a bad economy. >> but i think he's going to get a lot of pressure from a lot of republicans to go out there and say something more. i think he has to say something more about who he is and what he wants to do. >> steve, answer that but also start with the taxes. when you ran the mccain campaign
in 2008, he was vetted as a vp. he released how many years of tax returns to you guys? >> well, the reports are that he released 20 years of tax returns to the campaign. senator mccain released two years publicly. so that's exactly what mitt romney's pledged to do. what i would say is -- >> he gave your campaign 20 years. >> but no one has ever released 20 years of tax returns. look, again, i think if the president had a record of economic recovery that he could run on, we wouldn't be talking about mitt romney's taxes. i don't think there's an appetite among the electorate to talk about this the next 107 days. mitt romney has some big events ahead. the vice presidential selection, the convention speech where it's an opportunity to lay out a governing vision for the country. of course we're going to have three presidential debates. they're going to have audiences bigger than 50 million people, 90 minutes long, a vice
presidential debate and those are the important moments that lie ahead where mitt romney is going to have to make a case that he should be president of the united states laying out a vision. at the end of the day, i think people will say what is the plan to turn this country around? >> steve schmidt looking at my notes around because that's what i want to talk about when we come back from the break. talk about some of the turning events in this campaign how both sides try to win some of those moments and what it will mean to the campaign. more from our roundtable when we come back. ♪
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northrop grumman. we're back with our roundtable. i want to talk about the turning points in this campaign but i want to go back to you, steve, quickly. the obvious question, all those tax returns for mitt romney, is there anything in there that would be a real problem? >> well, he's an extremely wealthy man and his tax returns do not look like anything like the average american. >> did you see them? >> people in the campaign saw
them, i never saw them. but look, i think on the -- your common sense would tell you they're extremely complicated. at the end of the day no one is standing there to hand ou a gold medal to say, hey, congratulations, you've been really transparent there. >> anything in there that made senator mccain and his team -- >> mitt romney went through this process. what i can tell you is that he's a person of decency with the highest ethical character and background. there was nothing that was disqualifying that picking 2008 was not about any deficiency with mitt romney, it was a political decision that we made in a very bad political circumstance. let's go to our turning points and the first one, steve has already referenced, and that is that the governor will choose a running mate as early as probably after the olympics, maybe that week of august 5th. michelle rhee, as you look at all of this and the potential veep stakes, what do you think is important here? this is one of those campaign moments where it's a presidential level decision. >> well, as a democrat i don't
think it really makes a whole lot of sense for me to weigh in on this, but i think from a very layman, normal person standpoint, it seems to me that what the republicans need right now is some energy, some momentum, a real person who can help to bring some life to the campaign and some excitement. so i think that's what people are going to be looking for. >> you talk excitement, we go to some of the top candidates being discussed. you've got governor bobby jindal from louisiana who's on that list, tim pawlenty, former governor of minnesota and rob portman, the senator from ohio. justin bieber dined alone. such excitement. >> you know, i personally think portman is the right pick. look, something is going to happen in the world. the big political event that happened last week was the spanish bonds went crazy. that means the european crisis is more likely. the iranian crisis has gotten more likely as israel's patience has begun to wear thin. so two big things are possible over the next 107 days.
so you want a vice presidential candidate who seems up to that. so i'd go for the boring, brave guy. >> interesting. on that list you all can weigh in on whatever, but the other thing we'r talking about as a turning point is going to be the convention. bob, a lot of people watching. it is an opportunity not just for the candidate to make a big speech but to also have some high-profile speakers there to try to reinforce the message. >> it's also an opportunity to get in deep trouble by having high-profile speakers who do real damage. the first george bush had real damage done to him by pat buchanan at the 1992 republican convention. al gore in his acceptance speech in 2000 actually gained about 13 to 15 points. it doesn't happen very often, but those speeches can be defining. as can these, by the way, these vice presidential picks. i agree with david, i'd go with portman for one simple reason, he's serious, he's not a gimmick. he might help in ohio. everybody says it doesn't matter. the vice president doesn't matter unless it does damage.
some year that's not going to be true and he might help in ohio. by the way, joe biden, i think, helped a lot in pennsylvania and florida in 2008. >> i think there's a very small list of republicans out there who pass the threshold issue, that they're ready to be president of the united states on day one, god forbid something should happen to president romney. pawlenty and jindal and portman are all on this list. >> it's all about risk threshold and depends on what your standing is in the campaign. >> that's right. in 2008, for example, we were willing to take high risk because the political situation was very bad. four years later, very different political situation. i think it's going to be a very low-risk decision. >> you know, when we talk about turning points, michelle rhee, looking a bit ahead to the presidential debates, they really do matter because you get to a point, especially in a deadlocked race, where americans are really tuned in and watching these two interact with each other. it's not all the outside money and the ads. they are going to be forced to engage on policies, on direction, on vision, the things
that you're trying to be focused on and you'd like to see the campaign focused on. that could be a big moment. >> yeah. and we're, quite frankly, hoping that there is more of a focus this time on education and education issues. second to jobs, it is really a top of mind for americans and the vast majority of americans know that the public education system is broken and want to know what these two candidates think about how we're going to fix this, what the solutions are. >> is it too forward-looking a problem to be focused on? >> i disagree, michelle is a big hero of mine. but i would say please keep education out of the campaign. the campaigns kill subtly. and barack obama has a very brave education policy right now. if he had to campaign on that with the middle of the campaign with the nea, he would not have run on that campaign. >> but that's sort of saying of a democrat because he's going to take bold stands on education, we have to hide that or else the teacher unions are going to go nuts. to me that's sort of not the best argument. we have to be focused on what the american people want to know
and hear about. and what their everyday reality is, they need to send their kids to school every day knowing that they're going to get a great education so they can compete in the global marketplace. >> i've got a minute left. can i end on something i just read about this morning and that is the statue at joe paterno at penn state is going to be taken down. how do you react to that? >> my firm is involved in penn state and i should disclose that, but, you know, i think it's an appropriate decision for the school to have made. obviously it's a very sad chapter. it's a profound moral failing. >> we shouldn't put up statues of living people. you're going to make yourself a hostage to fortune. that's what's happened here. he became a symbol of penn state. on the basis of what we now know, i think they have to take the statue down. >> we put up statues of people we admire and it's hard to admire him right now. >> interesting, interesting. how does a community, an educational community rebound
from something like that, michelle? >> i think, again, what we have to do is focus just on the kids and what is in the best interests of the kids and that has to be the driving force of every institution, every administration is not about, you know, the institution itself. >> that was the big failing. i don't think anybody disagrees with that. michelle, all of you, thank you very much for the very interesting discussion. you can watch "press pass" a conversation online with anne-marie slaughter. she sparked quite a debate this summer that people are still talking and reading about, writing a piece entitled "why women still can't have it all." that's on the atlantic website. there's a link on our website as well, met -- meet the press.com. that is all for today. we're going to be away for two weeks during nbc's coverage of the olympics, but we'll return on august 12th with full coverage of the campaign as we [ male announcer ] the htc evo 4g lte from sprint is now available in white.
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