Sunday, March 1, 2009

Robert Gates: Obama more Analytical than Bush

While on Meet The Press Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, comparing his former boss, Bush, to Obama, said the later was more analytical when it comes to advice given to him by his cabinet. Read the transcript. Excerpt below:

MR. GREGORY: You've always said it's important to be a realist about Iraq. President Bush originally thought that the U.S. would be able to get down to 30,000 troops by September of 2003. Tom Ricks, the author, as you know, of "Fiasco" and now "The Gamble," has covered the Pentagon in this war extensively, said this about the plan to end the combat phase: "I don't think it's going to happen. Why doesn't he [President Obama] just say as they stand up, we'll stand down. He is walking in the failed footsteps of his predecessor, which is being persistently overoptimistic about Iraq." Let's be clear here. Has the president said that if things get worse, if things go bad, that all bets are off? That he would stop the withdrawal?

SEC'Y GATES: What the president has said is that as commander in chief he always remain--retains the flexibility and the authority to change a plan or adjust it if he thinks it's in the national security of the United States. The fact is, I don't think any of us believe that that will be necessary.

MR. GREGORY: But again, it's possible if there's a deterioration, he reserves that right to end the withdrawal.

SEC'Y GATES: I would characterize the likelihood of significant adjustments to this plan as fairly remote.

MR. GREGORY: Fairly remote.

But let's talk about where there are potential flash points in Iraq. People I've talked to say there are three real areas. In the north you've got tension between the Arabs and the Kurds; the prospect of the Kurds, perhaps, trying to split off from Iraq. In Mosul, a large al-Qaeda in Iraq presence. In the south, in Basra, oil-rich area, as you know, militia groups fighting over that oil revenue. In your judgment, what are the prospects of civil war once U.S. forces come out in large numbers?

SEC'Y GATES: Well, first of all, I think it's important to remember we have another 18 months, and we are going to have a substantial force there. I would disagree that there is a, a significant instability in Basra. I think Basra is one of the real success stories from Prime Minister Maliki's offensive down there last year. So I--Mosul is a problem. The Arab-Kurb tensions are a problem. The need to get an oil law is a problem. So, so there are problems. We have the, the concerns associated with a national election at the end of this year, is one of the reasons why General Odierno wanted to keep those troops there as long as possible, or a significant number of troops. So there's no question, we've had a significant military success. There has been real progress on the political side, but there is clearly unfinished business in that arena as well. But we will still be there with a significant presence for another 18 months. And, and as we've seen just over the last six to 12 months, what we have mostly seen is significant progress. And I think most of the people most closely associated with that expect--with Iraq expect that progress to continue.

MR. GREGORY: There is an agreement between the United States and Iraq to pull all forces out by 2011. That's what the president alluded to.


[...]MR. GREGORY: What's the difference between working--what's different between working for President Obama vs. President Bush?

SEC'Y GATES: That sounds like the subject of a good book.

MR. GREGORY: Is that a book you're planning on writing? Are they different presidents? Do they have different styles, different temperaments?

SEC'Y GATES: Oh, sure.

MR. GREGORY: What's the major difference to you?

SEC'Y GATES: I--that's--it's really hard to say. I think that, I think that probably President Obama is, is somewhat more analytical, and, and, he makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue. And if they don't speak up, he calls on them.

MR. GREGORY: A marked difference from his predecessor?

SEC'Y GATES: President Bush was interested in hearing different points of view but didn't go out of his way to make sure everybody spoke if they hadn't, if they hadn't spoken up before.

Top Republican Rejects Limbaugh's Hope-Obama-Fails Argument

House Republican minority whip, Eric Cantor, while appearing on ABC's This Week rejected Limbaugh's hope that Obama fail with his stimulus plan. Read the show Transcript (Also appearing was OMB head, PETER ORSZAG). Excerpt below:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, for the Republican perspective, we go to Congressman Eric Cantor . He comes to us from Richmond, Virginia.

Let’s start where I just ended with Mr. Orszag right there. You heard it. The president’s not taking your advice on the omnibus spending bill.

CANTOR: Good morning, George. Listen, I mean, the president was elected by the people of this country to institute change in Washington and to finally demand a federal government that is accountable to the people. We have a -- almost a $500 billion omnibus bill that came out of the House that will be considered by the Senate.

You know, I think that we need to put our money where our mouth is and not just do as I say, not as I do. We have got to institute reform so that the public can regain their confidence. The fact that there are 9,000 earmarks in this bill and the fact that the vetting process just doesn’t take place the way it should, we ought to stand up and draw the line right now and stop the waste.

I mean, George, we cannot continue to afford to throw trillions of dollars out a week on the backs of the people of this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you oppose the president on the omnibus spending bill. Obviously, you opposed the president on the stimulus package. Your colleagues give you a lot of credit for executing the strategy whereby no Republicans in the House voted for the president’s recovery package. Will any House Republicans vote for the president’s budget?

CANTOR: Listen, George, this budget obviously has raised a lot of concerns and a lot of different areas. But let’s remember what the priority should be right now. The priority should be focused on preserving and protecting creating new jobs.

I mean, I talk to small-business people in my district all the time. They’re hurting right now. They’re not even taking home a paycheck, and they’re struggling to make the bills at the end of the month and to keep the lights on. That spells real danger for our economy.

So we need to focus our efforts to make sure that what we do in Washington does one thing and one thing first, and that is to focus on economic growth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the president...

CANTOR: And this budget -- this budget will have -- we will have to work on this budget a lot in order to get this spending plan into that type of focus.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So let me go back to the same question: Will any Republicans vote for this budget? CANTOR: Well, George, as you know, you know, this budget has to make its way through the House. And, again, we want to work with this president. We want people to regain their confidence in Washington. And what people are looking for is results.

Again, go back to that small-business person. People are hurting. They’re looking for policies that finally will institute job growth, not just transfers of wealth.

And what we see in this budget, frankly, is an attempt, again, to try and stimulate the economy through government expenditure. And, you know, at best what that can do is redistribute wealth. It can’t create jobs; it can’t create wealth. We’ve got to get back to focusing on job creation and creating prosperity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So it’s clear that you’re against this budget. You’re not going to make a prediction. But let me move on to the broader political question here. Right now, you’ve made your views on -- on the economy, on these proposals pretty clear, but the public seems to be siding with President Obama. His approval rating is still quite high on the economy itself.

Who do you trust to handle the economy? According to our ABC News poll, 61 percent say they trust President Obama. Only 26 percent trust the Republican Party. That’s the largest gap we’ve seen in a generation.

On who’s reaching out to the other side, 73 percent say that President Obama is reaching out to work with the Republicans, but only 34 percent think that Republicans are reaching out to work with the president.

Are you worried that the impression that you’re not working with the -- the president, you’re not trusted on the economy, and you’re rooting for him to fail is going to burn in and be burned in and locked in with the American public?

CANTOR: George, nobody -- no Republican, no Democrat -- wants this president to fail, nor do they want this country to fail or the economy to fail. What we did in the House during the first weeks of the stimulus debate is to come up with a plan. I personally handed that plan to President Obama at his suggestion. He said, “Bring us your ideas.”

We developed a plan that, frankly, we felt could create twice as many jobs at half the cost. Now, that plan did not make its way into Speaker Pelosi’s stimulus bill. But that doesn’t mean...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, the White House -- let me just stop you there, because the president says and the White House says that they did incorporate some of your suggestions. They incorporated some of the tax cut suggestions you had; they also incorporated your ideas on government transparency to put -- to put the spending up on a Web site so everybody knew what was going on.

CANTOR: Well -- well, George, again, on the transparency issue, when I met with then-President-elect Obama, I suggested that we put everything up online immediately so we could have some ventilation of ideas in this country. Unfortunately, what went up online was the finished product once everything was hammered out, and the public did not have enough opportunity to, I think, opine on what they felt their taxpayer dollars should be spent on.

But, look, at the end of the day, the public is looking for results. They’re tired of Washington just throwing money at a problem without having a well-thought-out plan.

That’s what we need to do. We need to focus on how we can return to an era of job creation, of more confidence on the part of small- business people, so that the middle class in this country can regain the financial security that they lost through regaining job security.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, it’s not just Democrats who say that the Republican response has been wanting. Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah made some -- made some headlines this week when he -- he talked about the approach of the Republican leadership here in Washington. Here’s what he had to say.


GOV. JON HUNTSMAN JR., R-UTAH: I’ve not met them. I don’t listen or read to whatever it is they say, because it’s inconsequential completely. The future of our party will be based upon what happens in the laboratories and the incubators of democracy, make no mistake about it.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are some pretty harsh words from a member of your own party, a governor of your own party.

CANTOR: Well, I cannot comment, because I haven’t spoken to the governor. But let me -- let’s say this, George. You know that the House Republicans have 178 members in the House out of 435. Speaker Pelosi does not need our votes to pass any legislation.

But what we need to do as a party is we need to be out there positing affirmative plans, positive alternatives to the problems facing this country. And, frankly, I believe that the people of this country think that we are spending entirely too much money, the money that we don’t have. And as we see in this budget that has been presented last week, it is proposing massive tax increases on people and on businesses that can’t afford to pay them.

So we need to get some balance. We need to have a focus on middle-class families to make sure that the uncertainty is lifted and they can regain their confidence, as well as the investing public, so we can see job creation again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Governor Huntsman says that you’re not going to be reaching out to broaden the base of the party, reaching out to young people who’ve left the Republican Party in droves, unless you do have that positive agenda on the environment, unless you move to the middle on issues like gay rights. Are you prepared to do that in the House?

CANTOR: There is no question the Republican Party has to return to be one of inclusion, not exclusion. And we are a party with many ideas. And we have in that a commitment to make sure that we have positive alternatives, if we don’t agree with this administration or the House Democrats, and to continue to put those ideas forward.

And, again, the problems facing this country and the problems facing the working moms in the suburban office parks, the problems facing small-business people across this country are not just Republican or Democrat problems. They are so big, they are so challenging we all need to join together, not only in Washington, but around the country, to put the ideas forward and let’s come up with solutions that actually produce results for a change, instead of making matters worse, which Washington is famous for.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the Rush Limbaugh approach of hoping the president fails is not the Eric Cantor , House Republican approach?

CANTOR: George, absolutely not. And I don’t -- I don’t think anyone wants anything to fail right now. We have such challenges.

What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today. And our common-sense, conservative principles of limited government, and the belief in free markets, and the belief that really opportunity can only be created by the private sector are going to undergird our proposals going forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Congressman Cantor, thanks very much for your time this morning.

CANTOR: Thank you, George.