On Sunday's "Meet the Press," host David Gregory continually pressed Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on the GOP being "too extreme" and "diabolically successful" at obstructing President Obama's agenda, while he chatted with Democratic Governor Deval Patrick about Obama finding his "voice" and the Red Sox firing their manager after a poor season.
Early in the segment, Gregory remarked to McDonnell that President Obama "must like the comparison" with the Republican 2012 candidates and wondered: "...do you worry...that the national Republican Party is fielding candidates who will ultimately have to be too extreme and will lose the opportunity to retake the political center, which is how presidential campaigns are won?"
Prior to that, Gregory asked Patrick about Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod describing the President's reelection as a "titanic struggle," but left the question as open-ended as possible: "What does he [Obama] have as a message? Has he found his voice to overcome that struggle?"
Gregory moved on to the economy. After running down a list of negative statistics showing that "the outlook is bleaker," the toughest question Gregory could manage to ask Patrick was: "What can and what should government do?"
After Patrick used the opportunity to praise Obama's stimulus bill, Gregory followed up: "...what are the consequences of inaction? Because the reality is the President's campaigning for a jobs bill. The outlook is not very strong. So what is – what are the consequences for doing nothing at the federal level?" Patrick lamented: "I think the consequences are dire and I think they reflect terribly on the folks who say no to whatever the President puts, puts forward."
Picking up on Patrick attacking Republicans as obstructionist, Gregory turned to McDonnell and declared: "You hear...from the President's advisers that the Republicans nationally have been diabolically successful in blaming all dysfunction in the government on the President and basically saying no to, effectively, everything. What are the consequences of inaction by the federal government to do something to jump-start hiring?"
McDonnell shot back: "Well, I don't buy that argument in the first place. I think that's a lack of leadership....We can't do what the president's doing, which is blaming the House, blaming the Tea Party, calling the American people soft. I'd say we need stronger leadership."
Perhaps the best example of the lopsided dual interview came at the end. In his final Gregory question to McDonnell, Gregory wondered if the GOP's "harsh stance on immigration reform" would hurt the party's chances in the election. By contrast, here was his final question to Patrick:
Governor Patrick, as you well know, the most important personnel decision in your state this morning is not about the presidency, it is about this man, Terry Francona, who is now out as manager of the Boston Red Sox. This was a man who reversed the curse, two world championships. How do you, how do you lose this guy even after this colossal collapse of the Red Sox?
Here is a transcript of the October 2 segment:
DAVID GREGORY: Boy, there's a lot to talk about on the political landscape right now. Governor Patrick, let me start with you. The President seems to be against the wall here as he begins this campaign for re-election. A top adviser, David Axelrod, now outside the White House, but he was his communications adviser, gave a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. This is what he said the stakes are.
DAVID AXELROD: We have the wind in our face because the American people have the wind in their faces. And so this is going to be a titanic struggle, but I firmly believe we're on the right side of the struggle.
GREGORY: "A titanic struggle." So what's the President have? What does he have as a message? Has he found his voice to overcome that struggle?
DEVAL PATRICK: Well, first of all, I think it's, it's important to point out the President is not taking this election for granted and candidates shouldn't. I hope Democrats are nervous. I think that, that's more consistent with how people are feeling in the general population. And I think the question is, do we want a government that is on the side of helping people help themselves, or do we want a philosophy, which the national Republican Party has been pushing anyway, which says that everybody's on his or her own.
I think, at the end of the day, the American people are going to choose a partnership with leadership in the, in the form of President Obama, which is about helping people help themselves. And the jobs bill is a--is just the most recent and, I think, very important example of that.
GREGORY: What is he doing now? Is this a base strategy? Is that where you think the President finds his voice?
PATRICK: You know, you might be asking the wrong person because I'm – I don't do all the strategies and all that stuff. I think the President is about trying to make sure that every American, regardless of party, those who see themselves as Democrats or Republicans or don't see themselves as aligned at all understand that he is on their side and, with his jobs bill, he can help. We can help.
GREGORY: Governor McDonnell, rhetoric matters and the President is in a new phase in terms of how he takes on Republicans. Earlier last month, he sat down with our own Brian Williams and, when it came to responding to Republicans, this is what he had to say.
BARACK OBAMA: I'm not going to start reacting to Republican rhetoric in a presidential campaign. Let, let them decide who it is that is going to be their standard-bearer and we'll have more than ample time to, to have a debate with them.
GREGORY: He was at 35,000 feet, now he's down at the tree-line, right? This is what he said just this past week at a fundraiser out West. The President saying, "I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately?...You've got a governor," he's talking about Perry here, "whose state is on fire denying climate change." He's engaging Republicans. He's calling them out by name. He must like the comparison.
BOB MCDONNELL: Well, all eyes are, of course, on the Republicans. There's no competition on the Democratic side. Let's – not for now. There may be if things don't get a little bit better.
PATRICK: Don't look at me, Bob.
MCDONNELL: But, look, this election's about three things. And the Democrats are on the wrong side of it. It's about jobs and economic development, sustained 31 months now over 8 percent. The President promised the stimulus would get us under 8, we're at 9.1 now. It's about spending and debts and deficit. We're at 14 trillion. With the approval of the debt limit increase, that's going to be over 16, greatest increase in the national debt in history. And it's about leadership. It's about who – what party believes in the American dream and American exceptionalism. And I think we're getting back at a period of malaise like Jimmy Carter.
GREGORY: But as a – as a Republican-
MCDONNELL: That's not what's going to win it for the President.
GREGORY: Alright. We're going to talk about the economy in just a moment. But as a comparison, do you worry, as a sitting governor, as chair of the Governors Association, that the national Republican Party is fielding candidates who will ultimately have to be too extreme and will lose the opportunity to retake the political center, which is how presidential campaigns are won?
MCDONNELL: No. Because they're talking about jobs, spending, leadership, energy. They're talking about the kitchen table issues that people really care about. And so, after this inner-squad scrimmage is done over the next six, seven, eight months, of course they'll be people beating each other up a little bit.
MCDONNELL: But Republicans have a great desire to win and they will rally around the candidate big time this year.
GREGORY: Let, let's talk about jobs. And for both of you, I want to point out The Wall Street Journal survey that was done from the Business Roundtable about hiring. I'll put it up on the screen. "Top business executives are less confident [now] about the U.S. economic outlook and their ability to hire new workers than in previous quarters this year....Only 36% of [CEOs] thought their company's U.S. employment would increase in the next six months; 24% thought it would" increase – it would decrease, rather. And that's according to a survey of 140 CEOs done by the Business Roundtable. This goes on to point out that in the second quarter, the numbers were different, 51 percent thought they'd be hiring more, only 11 percent thought it would decrease. The outlook is bleaker. What can and what should government do?
PATRICK: Well, let me just say that in – at home in, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, we're growing jobs faster than 44 other states. Our unemployment rate is well below the national average, as it is in Virginia, and going, and going down. And we've moved up. We're chasing Virginia, which is first in the nation in – as best places to do business. We've moved up to fifth or sixth at this point. That's because we have a strategy. And it's a strategy about investing in education, in innovation, and in infrastructure. And, frankly, that's exactly what the President's been talking about at the national level. That's what the stimulus bill has been about, and that's what the jobs bill accelerates.
So I don't think that simply, you know, this notion of – that you hear sometimes from national Republicans of cutting spending, shrinking government, crushing unions and waiting is a strategy that's going to get us anywhere. What we have to be about is a wise partnership, public and private, investing in our future and lifting us all.
GREGORY: Alright. But as the governor of Massachusetts, what are the consequences of inaction? Because the reality is the President's campaigning for a jobs bill. The outlook is not very strong. So what is – what are the consequences for doing nothing at the federal level?
PATRICK: You know what I think, David, if I could just say, I think the consequences are dire and I think they reflect terribly on the folks who say no to whatever the President puts, puts forward. You know, we, in both of our respective states, if I may say of, of Governor McDonnell, we have worked in partnership with people who differ from us politically because we understand that people look to us to help. Not to solve every problem in everybody's life, but to help people help themselves. And we're all looking to the federal government that way. I think the President has shown over and over and over again, sometimes to the dismay of his supporters, that he's willing to reach across the – to the other side.
GREGORY: You hear, Governor McDonnell, from the President's advisers that the Republicans nationally have been diabolically successful in blaming all dysfunction in the government on the President and basically saying no to, effectively, everything. What are the consequences of inaction by the federal government to do something to jump-start hiring?
MCDONNELL: Well, I don't buy that argument in the first place. I think that's a lack of leadership. Deval's right. When you're a governor, you got to balance the budgets, get stuff done on time, you can't make excuses, you're held directly responsible for outcomes in your state. We can't do what the president's doing, which is blaming the House, blaming the Tea Party, calling the American people soft. I'd say we need stronger leadership. That's what's, that's what's wrong. And so I think what you've got here is an administration that's very much anti-business.
Look, look at this week. The president of Coke saying it's easier to do business in China that it is in America. The president of Google saying that all this regulation from Washington is stifling innovation. I don't think this is the right approach to be able to recapture the American dream. We ought to be more positive about what a great nation we've got, and I don't hear that from this White House.
GREGORY: Well, a quick one for each of you before you go. Governor McDonnell, immigration. Your state, as you well know, has a, has a big increase, almost 19 percent since 2008...
GREGORY: ..of Hispanic voters who are now voting age. This was a state that the President carried. If you look at the party stance, a harsh stance on immigration reform, do you see him re-carrying – carrying Virginia again based in part on the reaction among Hispanic voters around the country to Republicans on immigration?
MCDONNELL: No, I don't. I think the President is so way underwater. The last poll 39 percent approval rating. I carried the state by 18. Three new congressman elected last year. I don't see it happening. I, I do think that Hispanic voters, while they lean towards the Democratic Party, are largely self-identified as conservatives. I think we got a great chance to reach them because our message on job creation and economic development, restoration of the American dream is exactly why people come here in the first place. Because we are this shining city on the hill, and that's going to be our message over the next 14 months.
GREGORY: Governor Patrick, as you well know, the most important personnel decision in your state this morning is not about the presidency, it is about this man, Terry Francona, who is now out as manager of the Boston Red Sox. This was a man who reversed the curse...
GREGORY: ...two world championships. How do you, how do you lose this guy even after this colossal collapse of the Red Sox?