WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 17, 2012 – In this week’s “Meet the Press” mid-week “PRESS Pass” conversation, David Gregory sat down with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to discuss the effect Paul Ryan will have on the race, Mitt Romney’s tax returns, and Vice President Biden’s “mental capacity” – plus some baseball for good measure. Highlights, video links, and a full transcript are below.
On the Ryan effect: Romney “has now set the agenda for the campaign”
GIULIANI: I think it’s been a positive effect for both sides, in the sense that the selection of Paul Ryan was like selecting an issue, as much as selecting a person… Whether you agree with him or not, I think in a very powerful way Romney, rather than the President, who should be setting the agenda, has now set the agenda for the campaign.
On Biden: “Joe’s a laugh line on Jay Leno”
GIULIANI: Joe’s a laugh line on Jay Leno. He’s not a Vice President, just a joke. You never know what he’s going to say; in one week, he thought he was in the wrong state, he thought he was in the wrong century, he didn’t know that Paul Ryan was a congressman, and of course he said this awful thing. The other three: I don’t know, everybody makes mistakes, but Joe seems to make a disproportionate number of mistakes.
On Romney’s tax returns: releasing more would give Democrats “the opportunity to divert this campaign”
GIULIANI: If you take 10 years of somebody’s tax returns who’s made the kind of money that Mitt Romney has, anybody, you can spend 3 months making that person look bad and getting them off-message. I don’t there’s anything wrong with his tax returns, I don’t think there’s anything, like a crime or a fraud or anything like that — this man’s an honest man, been an honest man all his life. I think it’s the feeling that this will give them the opportunity to divert this campaign for three or four more weeks, if they give them too much more material.
A full transcript is below and the embeddable video of the complete interview is online here: http://nbcnews.to/S4WYIi
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PRESS Pass: Rudy Giuliani, Former New York City Mayor
Mandatory Credit: NBC News
GREGORY: I’m David Gregory and this is PRESS Pass, your all-access pass to an extra Meet the Press Conversation. This week, I’m here in New York with one of the city’s most famous former mayors, of course Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Mayor, welcome, thanks for having us here in New York, and it’s great to see you. I want to talk about the campaign.
GREGORY: You’ve been outspoken already on some of the big issues. Here we are nearly a week into Paul Ryan being on the ticket for Mitt Romney. What is the Ryan effect?
GIULIANI: Who can say? First of all, here’s the good news for Mitt Romney: no major problem. When you think about it, that already puts the vice presidential choice at the 75 percent range of vice presidential choices. It’s in that first week that the problems start to emerge — I don’t want to mention former people but you remember what I’m talking about. Second, I think it’s been a positive effect for both sides, in the sense that the selection of Paul Ryan was like selecting an issue, as much as selecting a person. He was selected not for his home state, not for any perceived political advantage, not for some ethic group he was going to connect to, but because he can speak very powerfully on a particular issue, which is how to reign in the federal government, how to deal with our budget, how to deal with our economy. And whether you agree with him or not, I think in a very powerful way Romney, rather than the President, who should be setting the agenda, has now set the agenda for the campaign. It may be a bad gamble, may be a good gamble. But I think it’s going to make it a better campaign.
GREGORY: Well you’ve actually worried that it’s too much of a gamble. When you said one issue, I thought you meant Medicare, because Paul Ryan certainly wants to overhaul how Medicare is run, and Romney would make those decisions at the top of the ticket. Are you worried that the gamble on Medicare is tough for a Republican to win?
GIULIANI: Well sure, yeah. I am worried about it. I’m worried that the gamble might not work; every gamble might not work. Do I think it should have been done? Yes. Do I think it will work? I believe it’ll work. But I can’t guarantee that. I mean, it’s –
GREGORY: Well how does it work? What does Romney have to do to make sure putting Medicare on the agenda, changing Medicare, in a presidential election cycle is something that doesn’t actually hurt the Republicans?
GIULIANI: Well if he has to do it, right, then picking Paul Ryan was the best way to do it. In other words, if that were going to be held against him anyway and hurt him, he’s better off having Paul Ryan be the missionary and the advocate for it than anyone else. You’ve got to explain to people that this is not about taking away Medicare, it’s about saving Medicare. The Democrats are going to try to frighten them with, ‘No more Medicare, Granny’s getting thrown off the cliff’ – ridiculous ad. And I think what our job has to be: ‘This thing is going bankrupt. You’re going to have nothing. We’re going to save it, we’re going to make it better. Maybe you’re not going to get quite as much, but the difference is going to be miniscule in comparison to the fact that we will be able to save it for you.’ That’s actually a truthful message. Democrats believe that. Democrats believe it, Republicans believe it, everyone’s been afraid to say it. Now we have a candidate who’s got the guts to say it. Let’s hope it works.
GREGORY: But you have worries, as a lot of Republicans do.
GIULIANI: I’m sure Mitt Romney has worries. When you make a choice like that, you know there’s a downside possibility that it might not work. It has nothing to do with the quality of Paul Ryan as a candidate, he’s a fantastic candidate. But I think it is going to work, and the good thing for the country is once the election is over we’re going to have an answer on this; we’re going to know whether we can in fact fix these things or we can’t.
GREGORY: You think there’ll be a mandate on either President Obama’s prescriptions on say, taxes, or Mitt Romney’s on taxes and spending after this election?
GIULIANI: One vote is a mandate. A lot of people think, ‘well, to get a mandate you gotta win by eight or ten.’ When you’re the President of the United States, the country’s been turned over to you; it’s your job to move the country in the direction you believe is best. We select Obama, we’re going I think in the wrong direction, but that’s the direction we’re going in. We select Romney, we’re going in the direction of lower taxes, lower regulations, less attacks on business, more encouragement for business. So, and on the other hand, we are going for higher taxes, more regulations, much more of a government solution to problems. I think we’ve never had a clearer choice since 1980. And I think even 1980 wasn’t as clear. Because in 1980, I don’t know that we understood the economy as a country as well as we do today.
GREGORY: One more on the VP pick: You thought Marco Rubio would have been a better choice for Mitt Romney. Obviously you’re going to support the Romney-Ryan ticket. Why do you think that would have been a better way to go?
GIULIANI: I thought Marco Rubio would’ve been the better choice because Marco, first of all is, like Paul Ryan, a fantastic spokesman. I mean he’s terrific on the stump, he’s terrific in interviews, one-on-one with you and others. I like the extra added value of being able to have outreach to the Hispanic vote. I know there are polls that show it may not affect Hispanics rather than Cubans – I don’t believe that. I ran as mayor, and one of the reasons I won was the growth of my Hispanic vote. First time I won it was less than 40 percent, I lost by 2 percent. Second time I won, I got up to 42, 43 — I won by two percent. Third time, I won by 18 percent, I got 50 percent. So, the Hispanic vote is there for a Republican to get if we know how to reach it, if we know how to make Hispanics feel included. I think just the mere selection of Marco, talking Spanish, talking to them directly, might work. On the other hand, I though Paul Ryan was a bold choice, and I love people that show courage. And I think he’s going to be a terrific candidate. I think that he’s going to be the best spokesman for that point of view.
GREGORY: Talk about the tone of this campaign. It appeared we were going to be in a big debate on issues when Ryan was selected, and we’ve seen one of the nastiest weeks on the campaign trail yet. How much of an impact does this have for both sides in this race?
GIULIANI: The campaign has been horrible. And it’s horrible almost by definition. And I think it will change. Up until Paul Ryan’s selection, both sides had a strategy that makes it a very, very difficult campaign. The Obama strategy is: ‘I don’t want the people to go into the voting booth voting on me because if they do –‘ I think, he probably doesn’t say it this was to himself, but — ‘I’ve got a record where I’m in real jeopardy of getting defeated. I want them to think about Romney and that Romney’s a bad guy.’ The Romney approach, if you’re giving him good advice, is: Keep the focus on Obama. Keep the focus on ‘Are we better off than we were four years ago?’ Obama loses. So they’re both going at each other; I believe Obama is going at Romney more viciously, and in some ways more effectively, and hurting the Romney campaign.
GREGORY: How so? Where is he hurting do you think?
GIULIANI: Given the state of our economy, I would not have been surprised if Governor Romney was ahead by four or five percent right now. Given the terrible job numbers and the fact that unemployment just won’t move, and it stays at eight percent for now a record period of time since the Depression. I think the personal attacks on Governor Romney, personal attacks over Bain, taxes, all this other stuff – none of which is really relevant to what people are interested in — it’s gotten the campaign off-message. I think putting Paul Ryan in, even this week with how nasty it became with the whole Biden situation, there still has been much more discussion about Medicare, much more discussion about taxes, much more discussion than there was before Paul Ryan.
GREGORY: Is it a mistake for Governor Romney, he said he’d pay no less than 13% in taxes – he was talking about Medicare at the time, he answered a question about that, and now there’s new focus on whether he should release more tax returns. Is this an issue that means something? Do you think voters hear this and say, ‘Yeah I got a problem with that’?
GIULIANI: I think it’s a tradeoff. I mean I think, and I’m guessing, I don’t know the inside answer on this, but you know, being a lawyer and representing a lot of clients, representing a lot of people with very big tax returns, having pretty big tax returns myself: If you take 10 years of somebody’s tax returns who’s made the kind of money that Mitt Romney has, anybody, you can spend 3 months making that person look bad and getting them off-message. I don’t there’s anything wrong with his tax returns, I don’t think there’s anything, like a crime or a fraud or anything like that — this man’s an honest man, been an honest man all his life. I think it’s the feeling that this will give them the opportunity to divert this campaign for three or four more weeks, if they give them too much more material. And therefore, he’s following what McCain did, he’s following what Kerry did. If it was good enough for McCain and Kerry — and Kerry was a very, very rich man, and John McCain’s a pretty rich man too – if it was ok for them, why does he have to give out more just so the Obama people can go and look at some investment that he made five years ago, and maybe that investment went bad, maybe a business he invested in closed, he’s going to get blamed for it, I think that’s the real –
GREGORY: But most Americans don’t pay 13 percent in their income tax. So I mean that makes him just sort of different.
GIULIANI: It does, except for the fact that he earned his income on capital gains. And here’s what hasn’t been explained about capital gains: 35 percent has already been paid on capital gains, because it comes out of a corporation. You would have gotten 35 percent more, had it not been taxed by the corporation. So in fact you’re paying about 50 percent tax on a capital gain. You don’t pay it right on the tax return, but you’ve paid it in the money coming through to you. So that’s a pretty hefty tax, that’s a pretty hefty tax.
GREGORY: You mentioned the thrust and the parry of the campaign this week, and Vice President Biden raising a lot of eyebrows, talking about how Romney Ryan would ‘put y’all back in chains,’ was his quote. He went out of his way to say there was no racial implication in all that. You’ve been tough on Vice President Biden, you’ve said he doesn’t have the mental capacity should he become president, that he’s not too bright. What’s the impact of something like this, this week?
GIULIANI: Well I was astounded by his remarks. When I first heard it, I didn’t see the tape, I just heard it. And I was really startled by it, it was just a really dumb remark. And that’s why I said he’s not so bright and you wonder. I mean it’s not just that comment; Joe, Joe’s a laugh line on Jay Leno. He’s not a Vice President, just a joke. You never know what he’s going to say; in one week, he thought he was in the wrong state, he thought he was in the wrong century, he didn’t know that Paul Ryan was a congressman, and of course he said this awful thing. The other three: I don’t know, everybody makes mistakes, but Joe seems to make a disproportionate number of mistakes. And I really do believe, don’t get offended, because Republicans believe this, we all believe this, we believe we’re treated more unfairly by the media than Democrats. I truly believe if that were a Republican, Sarah Palin made that level of mistakes, Dick Cheney, he’d be plastered all over the media, the New York Times would go nuts, they’d be raising questions, about ‘Is he smart enough, what’s going on, how does a guy make so many mistakes, is he fit to be president.’ That’s really why I said it, because I wanted to even up the score.
GREGORY: Let me ask you a couple more before I let you go. You have experience, back in 2008 being the headline speaker, the keynote speaker at a Convention. Excuse me, 2004. Talk about that role and what advice you’d have for Governor Christie.
GIULIANI: Well, Chris is a close friend of mine. I have this very proud boast that I make: I was the first Republican to support Marco Rubio when he ran, and I was the first to support Chris Christie. I stood with him when he announced, when Chris Christie announced outside of John Corzine’s apartment. So that, you can see the political career started right in your face, let ‘em have it. My advice to Chris is going to be: ‘People love you for who you are — plain-spoken, tough, no foolin’ around, no bull.’ That’s what he should do; he should go give a really, really tough Chris Christie speech about what he really thinks the state of this country is and what this country needs. And we’re going to be hugely entertained. And I think it will help Governor Romney because there’s nobody else in the party — we have a lot of articulate people, a lot of really smart people, Marco and Paul Ryan — nobody quite like him with that fight, ya know, that almost like Harry Truman, go after them and kick ‘em around.
GREGORY: And I correct myself: it was 2008 when you gave the keynote. But, the issue of guns: Do you agree with Mayor Bloomberg, who criticized both campaigns, saying after the Aurora shooting, we should make gun control a bigger issue in our political discourse?
GIULIANI: Well I think it was the wrong time to do it. I think that that was a bad case for arguing for gun control. Simply because a year before, it was in Norway, 67 people were killed by a maniac, even more damage than Colorado, in a country that has gun control, in a country that has no guns, in a country where it’s really hard to find a gun. Having been a prosecutor, seems to me if we’re going to argue gun regulation, gun control, it’s gotta be more in the context of drug crime, street crime — not the crazy, nutty crime which can be carried out with explosives, carried out with all kinds of other things. A guy like the guy in Colorado is not committing that crime because of gun control. If we took all the guns away, he’d go get TNT and do it with TNT. So I thought he picked a bad situation to do it. And I don’t like arguing gun control in the wake of these tragedies because I think people have an honest disagreement about it and it kind of demeans the tragedy. Where I think we can do some work on control is these automatic weapons. I have been — it hurt me when I ran for President of the United States — a proponent of a waiting period. I think licensing guns should be on almost the same basis we license automobiles. I think those are all very reasonable things to talk about. The NRA resists everything that you might want to do, and some people want to do so much it’s unrealistic, and they don’t accept the Second Amendment. I mean I agree with the Second Amendment. But it doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not; people in this country have a personal right to bear arms, to protect themselves. We can regulate that, but we can’t regulate it out of existence. And I think some people would wish it away, and you can’t do that.
GREGORY: Final question: are you done with presidential politics or not?
GIULIANI: Well not as a — I expect to spend about half my time on the road. I’ve been in Michigan, I’ve been in all of South Florida, I’ve been in Nevada. I was just in New Hampshire — I wasn’t there just to see my friends, I was campaigning. I expect to campaign very, very heavily.
GREGORY: Would you run again?
GIULIANI: I don’t think so. You never know, but I don’t think so. I’m very, very happy with what I’m doing. I get my fill of politics by helping lots of candidates. I’m going to have a very busy schedule between now and November, September is all booked. The only thing I’ve blocked out time for in October — a little bit for my business and law firm Bracewell-Giuliani — but I’ve blocked out all the playoff dates for the New York Yankees. I do that every year. And you know I say it, like in election years when the Yankees don’t get to the playoffs, the Republican Party gets the benefit of it. Because then I’m out there, then I’m looking for engagements.
GREGORY: Hey, Washington Nationals, as a fan, I’m excited, but we’re worried about the conflict in some of these playoff dates with these presidential debates — why did nobody think about this?
GIULIANI: I don’t know, but I know where I’m going to be.
GREGORY: Alright, so here’s the bigger question, beyond how the Nationals and Yankees would stack up if it came to that. What do you do with Stephen Strasburg? Do you shut him down if you’re running the team?
GIULIANI: I don’t.
GREGORY: You don’t do it.
GIULIANI: I’m not a big pitch — I was a catcher. You know, never at a high level but that’s why I love baseball so much, I caught for twelve years. If he’s tired you shut him down. We took pitchers out, you know, back when they played baseball without gloves and all that (laughter). We took pitchers out. The manager would come out and would look at me — I was the catcher — and he would say ‘has he got anything left?’ And I would try to be honest. I would say ‘no he does, yes he doesn’t’. If I said no he doesn’t the pitcher would punch me usually. But you took the guy out when he was tired. Some guys could go 120, 130. And I like David Cone’s suggestion, he says ‘As a pitcher I never minded 120, 130. I thought I should get an extra day off if that happened.’
GIULIANI: ‘Rather than restrict my pitch count if I’m going well in game,’ he says, ‘sometimes my best pitches are my last 20. Let me, stretch me out.’ And he said he thinks a lot of these young pitchers are getting hurt because starting in the minor leagues, we train them to be six-inning pitchers. My God, Bob Gibson would have gone crazy if you had tried to train him to be a six-inning pitcher.
GREGORY: Absolutely, absolutely.
GIULIANI: I would do the opposite with Strasburg. I’d stretch him out. I’d let him pitch. I wouldn’t give up maybe a home field advantage in the playoffs. Guy’s a big strong guy, the operation seems to have worked. A lot of guys for a hundred years have been pitching until the end of the season. Maybe I’d give him a day off here and there. I’d maybe drop him a turn, then drop him another turn, but let him get to the end and definitely have him for the playoffs.
GIULIANI: I mean you sit him out for a month and you bring him back in the playoffs, that’s really unfair to do to the kid. I mean, you can’t just come into the playoffs and just start pitching if you haven’t pitched for a month.
GREGORY: You heard it here: the advice from the mayor.
GIULIANI: Great pitcher.
GREGORY: Yeah, he is terrific.
GIULIANI: I love the Yankees — out of control Yankee fan. But I also love baseball. I can go to any — we gotta go to a game together.
GREGORY: Yeah, I’m ready. Down in DC. That’s where the action is. Mayor, thanks so much. Really appreciate it, thanks so much.
GIULIANI: Good to see you.
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