“MEET THE PRESS” CLIPS & TRANSCRIPT — SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14

NBC News

October 14, 2012 — Today’s “Meet the Press with David Gregory” featured a roundtable discussion with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA); Mayor Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta); Fmr. Gov Jennifer Granholm (D-MI); GOP strategist Alex Castellanos; and NBC’s Tom Brokaw; and a one-on-one interview with Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and author of the new book, “America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t.”

Below are highlights, video, and a rush transcript of today’s program. All content will be available online at www.MeetThePressNBC.com.

# # #

Brokaw: Democrats’ “The Big Dog and The Boss Tour” is an attempt to stop Romney in Ohio
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/SUe9vy

TOM BROKAW: We’re moving rapidly to the second and third act to find out how this is all going to play out. … The president has got to be on his game at this next debate or it could slide even more for him. On the Democratic side they do think that some of the movement is all overstated at this point. On the other hand, look at what they’re going to do next week in Ohio. They’re going to have The Big Dog and The Boss Tour. They’re going to have Clinton and Bruce Springsteen appearing together. So that’s an attempt to really kind of stop whatever movement there is toward Governor Romney in Ohio, which is going to be a battleground state, as it always is.

Castellanos: “Mitt Romney was not the guy that Barack Obama has been painting for the past few years”

ALEX CASTELLANOS: I think something big happened in that first debate that’s beyond President Obama not showing up. And that was that President Obama hasn’t really been trying to get elected again. He’s been trying to stop Mitt Romney from getting elected. And that cracked. Mitt Romney was not the guy that Barack Obama has been painting for the past few years. He’s not this radical baby eating, grandma killing Republican. He’s a very reasonable, practical problem solver. That campaign collapsed.

Reed: Biden “dominated” Ryan; “I thought he offered him an internship after it was all over.”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/Rry8i2

MAYOR KASIM REED: People who are in the middle and who were undecided, Joe Biden won 51/30. He dominated it. I thought he offered him an internship after it was all over. The fact of the matter is he dominated him. Now people can talk about Joe Biden and what I think people like about him is he’s authentic. The one thing about Joe Biden is you believed what he was telling you.

McDonnell: “What we learned about Paul Ryan is he is thoughtful.”

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL: What we learned about Paul Ryan is he is thoughtful. He understands the budget better than anybody else. And that the top issue facing the country isn’t Bain Capital. It isn’t Mitt Romney’s tax returns. It isn’t Big Bird. It’s how do we get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work.

Castellanos: “the house is on fire”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/Ozp6lI

ALEX CASTELLANOS: The word the Democrats don’t seem to understand is growth, which is what the country’s looking for. Growth and jobs. Two very different philosophies. It’s like a house. And the Obama strategy seems to be rich people are in a nicer room than poor people.” Hispanics are not in as nice a room as Anglos. Women are not in as nice a room as men. And you back up and the house is burning down. Somebody here needs to put out the fire, grow this economy. That’s what we’re talking about. And I think that’s what voters are seeing in this debate. Romney has a plan for growth. Democrats have a plan to kind of redistribute what we already have and that’s not enough.

Granholm on Libya: The Romney team is “politicizing this issue for their benefit.”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/W8Ty9p

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM: No, let me just say, the Romney team is politicizing this. They’re politicizing this issue for their benefit. And they’ve got a lot of nerve when the Republicans in Congress actually were the ones to cut $300 million from the administration’s request for security for embarrasses.

Castellanos on perception of American strength: Obama is “more of a judge than a leader”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/T2xs7Z

ALEX CASTELLANOS: Well, I think that’s why we have a campaign, is to pick a strong president who can center this country’s foreign policy. Look, some of this is policy but some of it is the perception of American strength and strength in the Oval Office. The world looks at this very bright president but sometimes he’s a man of a temperament– more of a judge than a leader. … He weighs everything and sometimes believes in nothing. … We see him leading from behind, which most people call following. And the world sees weakness here and of course they take advantage of it.

Reed on next debate: “it’s a challenge…the president has to step up”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/RIEfPx

MAYOR KASIM REED: I figure it’s a challenge. I think the president has to step up. I mean I think of the first Mohammed Ali fight in 1971. People thought he was going to beat Joe Frasier. Got hit in the jaw in the 15th. But you know what, he went on to win the second and the third. History remembers winners.

As it relates to Governor Romney, what we know is we sat on this program three weeks ago, 15 days ago, and everybody thought that Mitt Romney was done. He had a very strong debate performance, but it took the stench of defeat to free Mitt Romney from the far right of the Republican party. So he got to move away because he was in such a desperate position that he got to say whatever he wanted to say. … And the president of the United States has got to stand up and every time sharply address him and not let him get away with it.

Brokaw: “These debates have reenergized the country”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/RryntF

TOM BROKAW: I see it as good for the country. I think that these debates have reenergized the country. I think that the two candidates are going to have to have big ideas and they’re going to have to be explained not only coherently but practically speaking. And they’re going to have to be candid with the American public.

Brokaw: the town hall format “becomes very personal”

DAVID GREGORY: You moderated the town hall format. This is not mano a mano slugfest. This is different. You got to have some range.

TOM BROKAW: This becomes very personal. And it’s tricky for the moderator. I said that Candy Crowley ought to get combat gear after I went through that four years ago. And the candidates, as we saw in the first debate, tend to run over on their own rules. But does it work for one or the other? I think it’s a chance for Governor Romney to identify with the common man, the common woman, if you will. If he can do that. I think for President Obama he’s got to go to back to how he was so effective four years ago and he has to offer a lot more detail than he has in the last debate.

Colbert: “Satire is parody with a point.”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/Ozpil7

STEPHEN COLBERT: Satire is parody with a point. That all it is. And so, if I was doing satire and didn’t have a point of view, then that would be truly, like, schizophrenic. That would be, like, trying to establish patterns that aren’t really there.

I always have a point of view. I care about the news. … I do not imagine that I’m a newsman. I really admire newsmen. I really enjoy good news. And I’m not a politician. But I like playing political games to see what really happens in them. Like, that’s why I formed a Super PAC or that’s why I ran for president or formed an exploratory committee…

Colbert on exposing and embodying absurdity by falsely reconstructing the news

STEPHEN COLBERT: I don’t know if I expose it. But I try to be– I try to be aspects. I try to put myself in the news or to embody the thing. Rather than, like, Jon does, like, what’s called pure deconstruction, where he picks apart what’s happened in the day’s news and he kinda lays it out for you like a cadaver, you know? But I falsely reconstruct the news, you know. And so that’s a different way of doing the same kind of job.

DAVID GREGORY: To make a point of the absurdity, right?

STEPHEN COLBERT: Right, exactly. Exactly. And if I do it and something in the news is doing it, that thing, that real thing is probably bull. Because if I can go out and do it, and it’s happening in the real world — the closer it is to me, the less you should trust it.

Colbert: “Comedy just helps an idea go down.”

DAVID GREGORY: Why do you think so many people think you and Jon Stewart are more effective at exposing hypocrisy, getting to real truths than the news media is?

STEPHEN COLBERT: I don’t know if that’s the case. I–

DAVID GREGORY: Well, I think there are certainly people who believe that.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Okay. They’re entitled to their beliefs. … Jokes make things palatable. I would say that. Comedy just helps an idea go down. That’s all. And just makes you listen for a minute.

Colbert: “There’s got to be a difference between these two men or we’re all part of a huge cruel joke”

DAVID GREGORY: Does the outcome of this election change anything significantly?

STEPHEN COLBERT: Well, sure. … I don’t think that there’s no difference. There is a difference. I don’t know what the difference is, though.

Because I think that there is a possibility that Obama would be, say, more aggressive– a more aggressive reformer or changer in the second act of his presidency. And I don’t really know how– I also don’t know how Mitt Romney would govern. He might govern as a technocrat. You know, that sort of seems to have been his career– as, like, the guy from Pepsi who comes in to run G.M. You know, he can’t tell us what he’s going to do, because he hasn’t seen the books yet.

But we don’t know, because he seems absolutely sincere as a moderate. And he also seems pretty sincere as a severe conservative. That’s not a dig. It’s honest confusion. Because he’s got a good shot of winning. And if he does, I hope he’s a good president. And if Obama wins, I hope he keeps some of the promises he didn’t keep the first time. I have no idea how it changes for us, but I know there’s got to be a difference between these two men or we’re all part of a huge cruel joke.

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Web clips from today’s program:

One-on-one with Stephen Colbert from show

http://nbcnews.to/TPshbr

Extended PRESS Pass with Stephen Colbert

http://nbcnews.to/RIDXbo

David Gregory’s post-show analysis

http://nbcnews.to/QlObz6

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Below is a RUSH transcript of this morning’s broadcast — mandatory attribution to NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” A final transcript of the program will be available at www.MeetThePressNBC.com.

“MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY”
October 14, 2012

DAVID GREGORY: This morning on Meet the Press – the fight next time: Obama-Romney round two this coming Tuesday as the race has tightened. Our issues this morning …. The debates in the closing weeks of this campaign, the economy, the looming fiscal crisis by years end, and the debt fight with big entitlement programs center stage. They were the backdrop of a feisty debate between the VP candidates Thursday.

(Videotape)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Nobody is–

REP. PAUL RYAN: Mr. Vice President, I know…

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No, this is…

REP. PAUL RYAN: Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground–

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Ahahahaha!

REP. PAUL RYAN: But I think people would be better served if we don’t keep interrupting each other.

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY: What did swing voters think of the high octane face off??? Will the President After a poor channel the aggressiveness of his running mate? And what about the escalating political battle over the Obama administration’s handling of the 9/11 attack in Libya?

(Videotape)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: “We weren’t told they wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again.”

(End videotape)

(Videotape)

MITT ROMNEY: “When the vice president of the United States directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony, of State Department officials, American citizens have a right to know just what’s going on, and we’re going to find out.”

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY: We cover it all this morning with our own debate …..

Joining us now for our own debate of sorts, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell. He is the Republican governor of Virginia and he’s seen frequently on the campaign trail with Mitt Romney. The former Democratic governor of Michigan and now host of Current TV’s The War Room, Jennifer Granholm.

Rounding out the roundtable for the hour, the mayor of Atlanta, Democrat Kasim Reed, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw, who, by the way, moderated the town hall style presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama back in 2008, so we’ll have some perspective on what to expect on Tuesday from that point of view.

Welcome to all of you. Governor McDonnell, let me start with you. The framing of this is that things are moving on Romney’s direction. If you look at the polling in the battleground states there has been a movement toward him after that first debate. What makes you think at this point that is sustainable?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
Because it was based on I think a sharp contrast between the vision of Mitt Romney and the record of Barack Obama. It’s the first time that 50 million Americans live got to see the two and another 60 million or so through social media got to see him. So I think it is the sustainable trend. And Virginia, I think that it’s all about jobs and energy and the economy and debt. That’s what the independent voters, that last 7% or 8% of the swing voters are going to vote on. And I think Mitt Romney did a great job showing why his ideas for the next four years are going to beat the record of Barack Obama over the last four.

DAVID GREGORY:
Governor Granholm, here’s the cover of The Week magazine. It seems to sum up a lot of the anxiety among Democrats. “Game Change: Has Obama Lost His Mojo and the Election?” I imagine you don’t see this movement toward Romney as being sustainable.

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM :
No, I think it’s temporary. I think that it was a question of Mitt Romney’s style that I think got a lot of people looking again. But honestly when it comes to this choice that Governor McDonnell has pointed out, the choice is so clear. And I think the momentum will be slowed not just by the president’s performance at the second debate but by the economic numbers that are coming out that demonstrates that there has been clear progress.

When we’ve got the lowest unemployment rate since the president took office and he’s got a huge boost in consumer confidence. Highest in five years. Highest housing starts in five years. Lowest foreclosure rate in that amount of time. The number of jobs that have been created. I think that will seep in. Now, granted, we’re not arrived at the promised land yet. No one has said that. But we’re on the right track and we can’t go back to the same policies which Romney has been espousing that got us into this mess in the first place.

DAVID GREGORY:
But you see this back and forth, Tom Brokaw, as you step back and you look at where the race is, you talk about a lot of critical moments. This really is, with two more debates in the last eight days.

TOM BROKAW:
Yes, we’re moving rapidly to the second and third act to find out how this is all going to play out. Talking to both campaigns they thought that the vice president race was probably a draw on substance, but the Republicans think that Joe Biden’s kind of over the top behavior helped them because the country is not happy with the division in politics and the lack of respect that one shows to the other.

I don’t know how that plays out. I’ve always believed the vice presidential debate are kind of a separate factor. One doesn’t move the other. The president has got to be on his game at this next debate or it could slide even more for him. On the Democratic side they do think that some of the movement is all overstated at this point.

On the other hand, look at what they’re going to do next week in Ohio. They’re going to have The Big Dog and The Boss Tour. They’re going to have Clinton and Bruce Springsteen appearing together. So that’s an attempt to really kind of stop whatever movement there is toward Governor Romney in Ohio, which is going to be a battleground state, as it always is.

DAVID GREGORY:
You know, Alex Castellanos, so sometimes the criticism is fair. That there’s too much focus in these debates on style over substance. As a substantive matter, Mitt Romney is getting a second look. And we’re talking about the economy. We’re talking about the fiscal cliff. There’s a lot of focus on Libya, which we get to in just a moment. What do you think Romney is doing with this second look?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:
I think something big happened in that first debate that’s beyond President Obama not showing up. And that was that President Obama hasn’t really been trying to get elected again. He’s been trying to stop Mitt Romney from getting elected. And that cracked. Mitt Romney was not the guy that Barack Obama has been painted for the past few years. He’s not this radical baby eating, grandma killing Republican. A very reasonable, practical problem solver.

That campaign collapsed. So I think President Obama is likely, he can’t put out the fireman so he’s trying to break the other fireman’s knees. Mitt Romney showed up and was a very acceptable Republican. Barack Obama now has no campaign for the future why he’s undispensably needed. Now his campaign against Mitt Romney has cracked. This is a man with two empty holsters. His campaign could collapse.

DAVID GREGORY:
We talked about the vice presidential debate, Mayor. And a lot of focus here on the vice president and demeanor. A lot of liberals thought, “Hey, he was taking it to Ryan and that’s what people wanted to see. It’s what the president didn’t do the first time.”

But then there was the issue of the laugh. We’ve captured some of that just in video form as you see him laughing at all these different points throughout the debate. I thought at the time maybe he was watching something like Meet The Parents on the side that was making him crack up throughout the 90 minutes.

John Dickerson from Slate Magazine wrote the following, which I thought really captured what we saw. “In the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden found a way to be both a participant and the guy in the barka lounger at home yelling at the television. He interrupted Paul Ryan, moderate Martha Raddatz, even himself with interjections, sighs and quips.”

“He appealed to the heavens. He looked to the floor. With all the activity he surely shed calories. When he wasn’t engaged in those antics Biden laughed and smiled to himself as if Ryan had sold him something illegal that he’d just consumed. At times his treatment was so dismissive he seemed only a few threads of restraint from reaching across the table and patting Ryan on the head.” Does it matter?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
I think it matters. I heard all of that and I don’t agree with it at all. I think it’s the most manufactured theme for a guy who clearly won the debate among independents. That’s what counts here. People who are in the middle and who were undecided, Joe Biden won 51/30.

He dominated it. I thought he offered him an internship after it was all over. The fact of the matter is he dominated him. Now people can talk about Joe Biden and what I think people like about him is he’s authentic. The one thing about Joe Biden is you believed what he was telling you.

The only thing we really know about Mitt Romney that’s unchanging is that he wants to be president of the United States of America. At a time when people are craving authenticity I think Joe Biden delivered for the president, I felt that he activated the Democratic base and I think you’re going to see it in this week’s numbers.

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, Governor, what did people learn about Paul Ryan?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
Well, let me first say Joe Biden is authentic. And last week he said two things that are really important that every independent voter or undecided voter should remember. One, that the middle class has been buried during the last four years. Of course, he’s been in charge the last four years. Number two, that absolutely Obama and Biden are going to raise your taxes by $2 trillion over the next four years.

So what I would say is what we learned about Paul Ryan is he is thoughtful. He understands the budget better than anybody else. And that the top issue facing the country isn’t Bain Capital. It isn’t Mitt Romney’s tax returns. It isn’t Big Bird. It’s how do we get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work.

And when you look at 23 million Americans unemployed, $16 trillion in debt, doubling gas prices, no coherent energy strategy, it’s clear to me that the Romney-Ryan ticket have the only blueprint to get us out of this mess. Four more years of the same politics are going to get us four more years of the same results.

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM :
I think what we learned about Paul Ryan was that he is as good as his boss at obfuscating what their plan is. He could not answer how he was going to pay for this $5 trillion lowering of the tax rates. He couldn’t list a single dedication, a single loophole that they would close except he said, “We would go to Congress.” Now what they’re saying is that we’re not going to tell you. We’re going to go to Congress and, surprise, you’ll see it after the election.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
But Jennifer, what–

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM :
It’s the same stuff that they’re–

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
Where’s the Obama plan? He said four years. He can’t even get a budget passed.

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM :
Because why?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
In three and a half years.

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM :
Why?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
And with a Democratic Senate.

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM :
Because you have a Congress that has signed pledges not to cooperate.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
The Obama budget was killed 535 to nothing because it–

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM :
But that’s–

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
–raises the debt by about $7 trillion–

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM :
That is not true.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
Tom, the issue of the debt, the issue of taxes. I think it’s important to get to one of the big issues here. We have got to, in these final few weeks, try to reach some resolution about this revenue issue. Whether we raise revenue to deal with the debt, because whether it’s Medicare or whether it’s dealing with the debt level at the level that it’s at, without agreement on both sides we’re not going to be able to tackle some of these more difficult issues, Tom.

TOM BROKAW:
I think that both campaigns have failed to say to the American public, “This is going to be hard.” This is a real crisis in America. You look at the IMF projections about where the global economy is now. They’re saying, “You’ve got to get your act together. We could be in another recession next year at this time.” They’ve got to level with the American people about everyone’s going to have to give something. And there’s going to have to be some revenue raised at some point as well.

I do think that the governor’s right and we’ll expect to hear Governor Romney go after President Obama this time about, “I want more details about your plan. You keep harping on me. I haven’t heard the details in your plan as well.” I looked at that debate that we talked about a moment ago. It was playing last night on CSPAN.

And now President Obama was saying, “Look, we’ve got a deficit of a half a trillion dollars. I’m going to get that under control.” Well, this week that deficit is $1.1 trillion and it happened on his watch. He’s going to have to answer to that (UNINTEL).

MAYOR KASIM REED:
But David, don’t we also have a debate, where we’ve now had two debates with the vice president and president, where Mitt Romney and his running mate have said that they will not put new revenue on the table. And the one thing that did come out of the debate between Mitt Romney–

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–and between Barack Obama was that Mitt Romney stood by his raising of the hand where he said he wouldn’t take 10 cuts for one new measure of revenue. Paul Ryan said the exact same thing.

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, let me talk about that point, because–

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–that that is a fact. That is a fact.

DAVID GREGORY:
They are not willing to raise revenue as far as we know except for broadening the base, dealing with elimination of some deductions, but nobody seems to want to cross that Rubicon in terms of act raising revenue.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:
But there’s a different between raising revenue and raising taxes, isn’t there. You know, John F. Kennedy cut taxes and raised revenue because of the growing economy. The word the Democrats don’t seem to understand is growth, which is what the country’s looking for. Growth and jobs. Two very different philosophies. It’s like a house. And the Obama strategy seems to be rich people are in a nicer room than poor people.” Hispanics are not in as nice a room as Anglos. Women are not in as nice a room as men. And you back up and the house is burning down.

DAVID GREGORY:
And (UNINTEL)–

ALEX CASTELLANOS:
Somebody here needs to put out the fire, grow this economy. That’s what we’re talking about. And I think that’s what voters are seeing in this debate. Romney has a plan for growth. Democrats have a plan to kind of redistribute what we already have and that’s not enough.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
He shouldn’t misrepresent the John F. Kennedy tax cut. The taxes that John F. Kennedy (UNINTEL) that were cut from 91 to 71. The taxes were skewed towards the middle and lower class. The tax base is at 91 and 71 for the top margins. The tax rates for the top earners right now are fundamentally different. They’re in the mid- to high-30s.

MALE VOICE:
So it’s a–

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:
–radically (UNINTEL)–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Wait, wait, wait.

MALE VOICE:
–pay higher taxes then.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
What I’m campaigning on is solving the fiscal crisis. And you know that if we don’t have new revenue that doesn’t engage in tricks, the congressional research service says your tax cutting policy hasn’t worked one time.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Paul Ryan couldn’t cite an example.

MALE VOICE:
Can I do a Biden laugh now?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Oh sure. You can do it. You look terrific. You’ve teeth that are as good as his.

DAVID GREGORY:
Tom?

TOM BROKAW:
Well, I was just going to say, I’ve talked to a lot of major business figures who want Romney to get elected, but almost to a man and a woman they say, “But you know what? We’re going to have to pay some more taxes in our category.” What they want to do, however, is to benchmark them against spending cuts, so that they can get spending down to 20% of GDP.

That’s going to have to be a combination, in their judgment. And these are private business leaders who run big companies and entrepreneurial people. And to a man and a woman they are saying, “I can afford to pay a little more if I think it’s going to go for the right formulation about getting spending and tax revenue back in line.”

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
They’re not frozen by these ideological fights. Often they’ll say, “Look, we don’t care.” I want to move to a different issue that’s about leadership as well and about foreign policy and it’s getting a lot of traction this week and I think we ought to talk about it. And that is this issue of how the administration has handled the attack on 9/11 in Libya.

We’ve seen this past week, there was testimony on Capitol Hill from the State Department folks and indeed they had asked for additional security that was not in place in the Benghazi at the consulate when our Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed. This came up in the vice presidential debate and Biden answered. And then Romney answered the following day based on that answer. Let me play both of those now. We’ll discuss it.

(Videotape)

(Thursday) MARTHA RADDATZ: And they wanted more security there.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again.

(Friday) MITT ROMNEY: He’s doubling down on denial. And we need to understand exactly what happened, as opposed to just having people brush this aside. When the vice president of the United States directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony, of State Department officials, American citizens have a right to know just what’s going on, and we’re going to find out.”

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
It sounds, Governor Granholm, you have the vice president and the White House saying the next day, “Well, the request didn’t come directly to the White House. There were other people who handle all of that.” The White House is saying one thing. State Department another. The White House saying the intelligence community gave them this information, kind of distancing themselves from that. This is an attack on 9/11 that killed our ambassador. Is it sloppy the way it’s being handled?

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM:
Let’s be clear. First, on the attack on 9/11 that killed our ambassador and three others, the president has launched an investigation to get to the bottom of it and no one is more concerned about tracking down those killers to the end of the earth than the president is. The investigation and the knowledge of what’s happening is an evolving process. You don’t know everything on day one of what you eventually find out. That’s why you launch an investigation.

But what was said at the debate is not inaccurate. There was testimony in Congress asking for more security, but that security that was requested was for Tripoli, which is the embarrass, not for Benghazi, which is 400 miles away. The fact that the Romney team doesn’t distinguish between an embassy and a compound I think is indicative of perhaps their lack of information.

DAVID GREGORY:
Governor–

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM:
No, let me just say, the Romney team is politicizing this. They’re politicizing this issue for their benefit. And they’ve got a lot of nerve when the Republicans in Congress actually were the ones to cut $300 million from the administration’s request for security for embarrasses.

DAVID GREGORY:
Governor, is there a large point here beyond trying to seize on sloppiness or mistakes on the part of the administration a few weeks before the campaign?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
There is, David.

DAVID GREGORY:
Or the election?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
And I agree with Jennifer. As I think Americans typically, when we’re attacked we rally together. We don’t use it for political reasons. And I (UNINTEL) and I feel very strongly about that. However, it does raise a couple larger questions, specifically is that really about some obscure video on YouTube that caused it or is it about the same people that killed our Americans on 9/11, in other words al Qaeda? Were we properly prepared? Should we even have had to worry about a request when on 9/11 in the Mideast and Libya, shouldn’t we be prepared anyway?

The broader portion really is has this administration’s foreign policy in the Mideast helped somehow to contribute to an appearance of weakness of the United States of America. Less secure, less strong foreign policy, weaker military so that we’re more susceptible to being attacked?

And I would say that these sequestration cuts that the president put in place a year ago and his absolute failure of leadership to reverse those that’s going to cost Virginia 200,000 jobs and weaken the United States military, pulling the (UNINTEL).

DAVID GREGORY:
But you–

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
That’s the broader question.

MALE VOICE:
And–

DAVID GREGORY:
You got the deal that that was part of. That’s not–

(OVERTALK)

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
Hold on.

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM:
Ask Paul Ryan about it.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
That’s not the issue. People backed the bill because the alternative default of the United States of America. Everybody believed that the super committee was going to get the deal fixed. I think. They didn’t. So now for a year plus, since last August, the president’s been a bystander. He could go in there, like the House of Representatives passed a bill last May to be able to reverse some of the (UNINTEL), put it more on the domestic side. And he’s just failed to lead. And now here we are–

DAVID GREGORY:
I just want to–

(OVERTALK)

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
–cliff.

DAVID GREGORY:
–get a comment from you on this, Tom, which is it seems to me one of the challenges for Romney and for the Republican ticket on foreign policy, beyond Benghazi, is to say, “Okay, where does the Republican party want to go on foreign policy after President Bush and beyond attacking this administration for, in their view, being weak or not doing a good enough job working its will in a chaotic Middle East at the moment,” because substantively, whether it’s Iran or Mideast peace, for instance, or handling Israel, there’s not a tremendous difference on policy.

TOM BROKAW:
Well, the fact is I’ve been working in that part of the world for a long, long time. Forty years. I don’t remember when the Middle East was more unpredictable than it is right now. More fractured than it is right now. You’ve got the Arab Spring. Young people coming up. You’ve got the Saudis terrified about what’s going to happen next with an aging leadership.

You get back to Benghazi, what has not been address enough in my judgment is where was the intel? Where is the American intelligence apparatus not tracking the possibility of that kind of a terrorist attack? The rest of it has been politicized, but that’s how we ought to be down in the weeds looking at the intel and how prepared we are on that part of the world.

We’re not fighting conventional wars anymore, but we are still prepared in a way like we’re going to go to war against a nation state. We’ve got to have a complete review of what’s going on in the Middle East. Everything politically, culturally and militarily. And that has not been put in motion by either campaign.

MALE VOICE:
Alex–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
–respond to Governor Granholm saying that Mitt Romney has politicized this in the final few weeks?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:
Well, I think that’s why we have a campaign, is to pick a strong president who can center this country’s foreign policy. Look, some of this is policy but some of it is the perception of American strength and strength in the Oval Office. The world looks at this very bright president but sometimes he’s a man of a temperament more of a judge than a leader.

On the one hand and on the other hand. He weighs everything and sometimes believes in nothing. He supports Mubarak. He undermines Mubarak. He says we can’t take Congressional action in places like Libya without Congressional approval. He does that. We see him leading from behind, which most people call following. And the world sees weakness here and of course they take advantage of it.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Osama bin Laden (UNINTEL PHRASE)–

ALEX CASTELLANOS:
So it’s not just policy. It is strength in the Oval Office.

DAVID GREGORY:
Another–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
–point that Biden made, Mayor, is really calling out Ryan and Romney, in that respect. When you hear things like what Alex is talking about, which is that view that there’s weakness, is that what you’re saying? You want another war?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
No, I–

DAVID GREGORY:
And that really seems to call them out and it’s an important question.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
All we see right now is Bush-like bluffing. That’s what we see from them. And it will take us to the exact same place. Let’s contrast the investigations around the original 9/11 attack. There wasn’t openness. There wasn’t transparency. There wasn’t a kind of honesty. When you look at what we’re going through right now, as horrific as it is, we’re getting the facts out in two weeks. We’re getting it out very quickly.

And regarding strength, are you kidding me? The president of the United States, through drone strikes and a series of other measures, has been stronger than George Bush ever was. He is the person, whether you all like it or not, who is the person that brought Osama bin Laden to justice. That’s Barack Obama. And they may not like it.

MALE VOICE:
That’s a (UNINTEL).

MAYOR KASIM REED:
(UNINTEL PHRASE) or all of the rest, but Alex has to acknowledge which way would you want this dealt with? The president has dealt with this crisis in a transparent fashion. That’s what matters to me.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. More on this when we come back.

(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

DAVID GREGORY:
And we’re back here. We’re talking about next Tuesday’s debate, Obama versus Romney round two. Who shows up and what are the attack strategies? If President Obama has called former President Clinton “the explainer-in-chief” it seems like Clinton, who is campaigning in Las Vegas this week, gave a preview of how the campaign is going after Romney now. Watch.

(Videotape)

BILL CLINTON: I had a different reaction to that first debate than a lot of people did. I mean I thought – wow. Here’s old moderate Mitt. Where have you been, boy, I missed you all these last few years.

So just show up with a sunny face and say I didn’t say all that stuff I said the last two years. I don’t have that tax plan I had for the last two years. You going to believe me or your lying eyes here? Come on! What are you doing?

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
Wow. That last line around is worth playing the whole clip. Governor McDonnell, look, the charge is that Romney’s in a position where he’ll say anything he has to to close the deal.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
That’s nonsense. Bill Clinton said at the convention nobody could have possibly fixed these problems in four years. I think Bill Clinton said some things he didn’t believe. He did it, working with Newt Gingrich and a Republican Congress.

So I think what you have is the same Mitt Romney you’ve had for this campaign. That’s (UNINTEL). The president’s tried. His policies just haven’t worked. This is a serious election about how do we get 22 million people back to work, eliminate $16 trillion in debt, do something about energy prices which have doubled, $4,000 decline of the average American’s take home pay. More people are on food stamps. One in six in poverty. That’s not a good record. And we can’t have four more years like that. So here are my practical solutions. And David, he’s laid out, repeatedly now for about six months, a five point plan going to debt reduction and workforce–

(OVERTALK)

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
–development and trade and small business development that I think are practical solutions. And I think that’s what people want.

DAVID GREGORY:
But Governor Granholm, he is signaling some level of pragmatism that I think he wants middle of the road voters to hear.

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM:
Well, he–

DAVID GREGORY:
Why does that make him two faced?

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM:
It’s just so amazing. He is like a human Rorschach test. Actually, if I switch my metaphors, he is like a Trojan horse, coming in to occupy the city of D.C. But inside the Trojan horse are trickle down generals and neocons, the same people who wrote the Bush plan.

And he’s a good pitch man, for sure. And that’s why I think in the second debate it’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out, because he can sell something. That’s what he’s been doing. But the reality is who is this man and what’s really behind the facade? You can’t say different things to all these different audiences and expect that people know your core.

DAVID GREGORY:
Alex?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:
Well, I think it’s kind of funny to hear slick Willy, if we all remember him, who was all over the place on everything, criticizing Mitt Romney for his inconsistency. And this president, who ran as a candidate that was for pay-as-you-go budgeting, the biggest deficits in history. This president who revived the Bush tax cuts in the, quote, “cynical philosophy,” and then extended them. This president’s been all over the map. He can’t go there.

The truth about Mitt Romney that I know is that he’s a conservative guy. Socially. He comes from his faith and his family. The other part of Mitt Romney, though, is a very practical, problem solving businessman and that’s what people saw in that debate. Guess what? We’ve got some real serious, practical problems to solve and I think that’s what makes him very attractive right now.

DAVID GREGORY:
But on the other side of this is how, Mayor, the president approaches a second debate, a third debate and a second term. This is a new ad, part of a new ad that he has that’s kind of a closing argument here. Watch.

(Videotape)

MORGAN FREEMAN VOICEOVER: “Every president inherits challenges, few have faced so many. Four years later our enemies have been brought to justice. Our heroes are coming home. Assembly lines are humming again-they’re still challenges to meet, children to educate, a middle class to rebuild but the last thing we should do is turn back now.”

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
And yet here, The Washington Post, just this morning has this editorial and the headline is, “Show Me A Policy.” “Mr. Obama has yet to say how he would solve the immense problems awaiting the next president and immediately after election. Until and unless he does, the only rationale he can offer voters is the urgency of stopping the other guys.” That is a challenge for him, isn’t it?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
I figure it’s a challenge. I think the president has to step up. I mean I think of the first Mohammed Ali fight in 1971. People thought he was going to beat Joe Frasier. Got hit in the jaw in the 15th. But you know what, he went on to win the second and the third. History remembers winners.

As it relates to Governor Romney, what we know is we sat on this program three weeks ago, 15 days ago, and everybody thought that Mitt Romney was done. He had a very strong debate performance, but it took the stench of defeat to free Mitt Romney from the far right of the Republican party. So he got to move away because he was in such a desperate position that he got to say whatever he wanted to say.

So defeat and the worry of defeat allowed him to run away from his $4.8 million tax cut he wanted to provide. It allowed him to start claiming parts of President Obama’s healthcare plan. And the president of the United States has got to stand up and every time sharply address him and not let him get away with it. He’s a great salesman. I would buy a car from him.

DAVID GREGORY:
Tom, how do you see it?

TOM BROKAW:
I see it as good for the country. I think that these debates have reenergized the country. I think that the two candidates are going to have to have big ideas and they’re going to have to be explained not only coherently but practically speaking. And they’re going to have to be candid with the American public.

I think that we’ll hear from President Obama, as we did not in that first debate, a lot more about the 47% remarks. About the auto bailout for General Motors. I think the challenger, Governor Romney, will be saying once again, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Where is that plan?” So this is good for the country. And I look forward to it.

Here are some things that we have not talked about. We’ve not talked about immigration so far. There have been no discussions of global warming. There’s been no discussion across the country, including in the state of Virginia, public pensions that are unfunded. And that’s a burning fuse for this country.

And that’s going to play into the economy downstream as well, a municipalities and county governments begin to look for help from the federal government because they can’t pay off whatever they’re going to do. We’re in for a tough time here, folks. And I think the American public, if I talk to them, want detailed answers and they want candid. And they say, “Hey look, don’t try to smoke me this time.”

DAVID GREGORY:
One more on just format. As I mentioned, you moderated the town hall format. This is not mano a mano slugfest. This is different. You got to have some range.

TOM BROKAW:
This becomes very personal. And it’s tricky for the moderator. I said that Candy Crowley ought to get combat gear after I went through that four years ago. And the candidates, as we saw in the first debate, tend to run over on their own rules. But does it work for one or the other? I think it’s a chance for Governor Romney to identify with the common man, the common woman, if you will. If he can do that. I think for President Obama he’s got to go to back to how he was so effective four years ago and he has to offer a lot more detail than he has in the last (UNINTEL).

DAVID GREGORY:
Quick comment, Alex.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:
Well, you know, Mitt Romney’s been doing town halls now for five years. He’s been doing ask me at anythings (?). He’s very good at this. President Obama was terrific in this format. Maybe both these guys are good, we can actually have a debate on substance. Who knew? Something could break out here.

DAVID GREGORY: More with our roundtable after the break including my interview with Stephen Colbert – the man behind the character, and what he really thinks about the political system – next.

(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

(Videotape)
DAVID GREGORY:
Stephen Colbert, welcome back to Meet the Press.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
It is a thrill. I can not wait to meet the press. Bring them in! Bring all of the press in!

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me ask Stephen Colbert, the character–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Hold on. Hello.

DAVID GREGORY:
What–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
I’m Stephen Colbert. Go ahead, yes, please.

DAVID GREGORY:
What– w– g– give me your se– who–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Uh-huh.

DAVID GREGORY:
–has the edge in this race right now?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Romney, obviously. Did you see him the other night? That guy is on fire. He is on a rocket ride to plausible at this point. Did you watch?

DAVID GREGORY:
I did. It was–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Yeah?

DAVID GREGORY:
–a strong debate.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
What was it like? I didn’t see it–

DAVID GREGORY:
Surpri–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–I didn’t see it. I don’t really watch the news so much.

DAVID GREGORY:
You don’t?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
I come in around 6:30 and then I just say the opposite of whatever– Rachel Maddow said the night before. And I’m usually good.

DAVID GREGORY:
What does the real Stephen think?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
What?

DAVID GREGORY:
What does the real Stephen think about the race?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Don’t you yank my chain around. I’m not your puppet to dance on your string, David Gregory! The real Stephen– the real Stephen is actually pleased, as a performer, that Mitt Romney got his shit in a pile. Because I model conservative punditry. And if he doesn’t ha– if he’s not someone I can follow, then I’m lost. And I have to say, up until Wednesday night, I just thought, “I don’t know what I’m going to do for the next month.”

DAVID GREGORY:
Because why? Because–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
He was just–

DAVID GREGORY:
–he–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–a walking shambling mound of– of– of– of– of weakness, you know. Even the people who liked him didn’t seem to be behind him that strongly. People were, you know, stepping– stepping out of his boat. You know, they’re all saying, “Hey, that’s the guy! I’ll be right there. No, the l– I’m just trying to life jacket on right now. I just want to– do I have to self-inflate or do I pull the cord?”

DAVID GREGORY:
And that all changed.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
No, it’s all– he– now he’s the man. Now everyb– now he’s got these long luscious coat tails, and everybody’s jumping on board

DAVID GREGORY:
And is it hard for guests to– to adapt to you in character? What do you like to tell them beforehand?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
I say– I say the– I say the same thing. I said it to you when you were on, which is that, “Listen, thank you so much for coming.” ‘Cause I’m grateful. I know it must be, like– some– like, kind of a tough booking sometimes because it’s not like going on Charlie Rose, you know.

You– y– you don’t know necessarily what I’m going to say or what I’m going to ask, ’cause I’m an active idiot. And– and as I say to the guests, I say, “Thank you for coming. Have you ever seen the show? I do the show in character. He’s an idiot. He’s willfully ignorant of what you know and care about. Please honestly disabuse me of my ignorance and we’ll have a great time.” But sometimes they forget.

I mean, I had– Senator Bob Kerrey on. It was– ni– 9/11 Commission Report. I had him on, very early on, about four or five months into the show. And I said that to him backstage. And we were about three minutes into a seven-minute interview. And I don’t know what I said, but he turned to me and he said, “What the hell are you talking about?” But in the middle of the interview, I couldn’t explain to him what it was. So, I hope– and then he just– mic off and then left as soon as the interview was over. So, I hope at some point someone explained to him that, “I was just fooling, Senator. And I’m very sorry.”

DAVID GREGORY:
There’s a course, as you well know, at Boston University. And– a Professor Rodriguez has a syllabus that we got a hold of that– that–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
I am actually not familiar with what you’re about to talk about.

DAVID GREGORY:
You’re not familiar?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
No, what are you talking about?

DAVID GREGORY:
Okay. This is the course at Boston University that’s about American satire in that– in that it references heavily the Colbert Report.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Oh, the very–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
And this is what he describes in the– in the syllabus. “Colbert satirically exposes hypocrisy with surgical precision, inviting us to think more deeply about serious issues and to improve our sociopolitical conditions.”

STEPHEN COLBERT:
I do–

DAVID GREGORY:
Does that about have it?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–I do not get paid enough. I didn’t realize I was that brilliant. I thought I was making the occasional poop joke.

DAVID GREGORY:
But what is the– do you– do you– you are a performer, but you also do make a point. You make–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Well, yeah. I’m a sa–

DAVID GREGORY:
–a point with your satire.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–I– I– I’m a satire– I– all of satirists make points. Satire is parody with a point. That– that’s all it is. And so, if I– if I was doing satire and didn’t have a point of view, then that would be truly, like, schizophrenic. That would be, like, trying to establish patterns that aren’t really there.

I– I always have a point of view. I care about the news. I mean, we do 160 meow meow shows a year, what, 161 shows a year. And you can’t do that unless– I guess you care a little bit about what you’re talking about. Or I couldn’t. Some people could. But I– I can’t do that. And so, I’m interested in the news. And so people often think that I’m an– I’m an ideologue or that I have a political intent.

I think that people– when– when Jon and I did the rally two years ago, they thought that had a political intent. But– I– I comment on things that are in the news. I, A) do not imagine that I’m a newsman. I really admire newsmen. I– I– I really enjoy good news. And– and– and I’m not a politician. But I– I li– I like playing political games to see what really happens in them. Like, that’s why I formed a Super PAC or that’s why I ran for president or formed an exploratory committee to–

DAVID GREGORY:
And what did you expose about politics by the exploratory committee, by– by testifying about immigration on Capitol Hill, which some people were critical of, or the– or the–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Well, I think I–

DAVID GREGORY:
–Super PAC–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–would say– I would say everyone was critical–

DAVID GREGORY:
Yeah, right–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–of it.

(OVERTALK)

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–you’re being very generous. Everyone was critical of that. But I would do it again in a minute. You know, first of all, what a honor to be asked to go do it. You know, once you’re asked, you know, and– and to say, “Well, I’m only going to do it if I can do it in character,” because I’ve got no business doing something like that. But my character thinks he does. And through him, I can say things that are hopefully in a more palatable way than– than I– I could ever–

DAVID GREGORY:
But that’s where you’re a performer making a point. So, what have you exposed about politics through those examples we just mentioned?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Well, in that– and the– the Congressional one is that Congress is like eighth grade recess. They’re so nasty to each other. And I was just a cudgel. You know, I didn’t think they could give a damn whether it was me, but they saw me as a way to beat on each other. Or rather Republicans saw me as a way to beat on the Democrats.

And maybe that was– a valid way to beat on them. But they sure knew a weapon when they saw one. The Super PAC was an act of discovery. I’ll give you that example. The Super PAC was an act of discovery, because I didn’t intend to have a Super PAC. I intended to make a joke about Tim Pawlenty’s unbelievable over-the-top ad, which was, like, a Michael Bay, you know, voice of god. You know– preaching to America from the surface of the moon, Tim Pawlenty saves our country.

And I couldn’t figure out how to end it. And at the end it just said, LibertyPAC.com. And I said, “What is the ColbertPAC.com on the end of ours?” And that– one thing led to another– and including, you know– a lot of lawyers. And what I found out was, is that there’s an entire industry in politics. But I didn’t know. I suspected. There’s an entire industry. There’s a politico industrial complex that is not only raising money but that is built around making money off of the fact that there is so much money in politics, and that there are almost no rules.

DAVID GREGORY:
A lot of what your character does, a lot of what you do through the program is similar to what you’re talkin’ about, this Super PAC. You expose what’s absurd or what simply doesn’t work about politics and about our institutions of government, which I think a lot of your– your followers and your– and your viewers believe–

(OVERTALK)

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Well, I don’t know– I don’t know if I do–

DAVID GREGORY:
–institutes didn’t- doesn’t work.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–I don’t know if I– I don’t know if I expose it. But I try to be– I try to be aspects. I try to put myself in the news or to embody the thing. Rather than, like, Jon does, like, what’s called pure deconstruction, where he picks apart what’s happened in the day’s news and he kind of lays it out for you like a cadaver, you know?

DAVID GREGORY:
Right. And h– and he–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
And, like–

DAVID GREGORY:
–can–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–but I– but I– I falsely reconstruct the news, you know. And so that’s a different way of doing–

DAVID GREGORY:
To make–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–the same kind of job.

DAVID GREGORY:
–to make a point of the absurdity, right?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Right, exactly. Exactly. And if– if I do it and something in the news is doing it, that thing, that real thing is probably– bull. Because if I can go out and do it, and– and it’s happening in the real world, the closer it is to me, the less you should trust it.

DAVID GREGORY:
Why do you think so many people think you and Jon Stewart are more effective at exposing hypocrisy, getting to real truths than the– than the news media is–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
I don’t know–

DAVID GREGORY:
–or all–

(OVERTALK)

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–I don’t know if that’s the case. I–

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, I think there are–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–I don’t know if that’s the case.

DAVID GREGORY:
–certainly people who believe that.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Okay. That– they’re entitled to their beliefs. I– I don’t know. I mean, jokes make things palatable. I would say that. Comedy just helps an idea go down. That’s all. And– and it’s in– and just makes you listen for a minute.

DAVID GREGORY:
We– we’ve been talking– and something about the– the absurdity of politics–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Uh-huh.

DAVID GREGORY:
–and political discourse. So, here comes– your new book–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
About damn time!

DAVID GREGORY:
–which–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
I mean, the QVC guys are coming in here in a minute. We’re going to sell my book along with serpentine chain necklaces.

DAVID GREGORY:
So–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Order now and you’ll get one.

DAVID GREGORY:
But this goes right to– what you’re talking about in– in– in this campaign–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:
–”America, again, re-becoming the greatness we– we never weren’t–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:
–”at a time when–” as you write about– “America’s perfect. Now we should change it.”

STEPHEN COLBERT:
We have to fix it.

DAVID GREGORY:
We have to fix it.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
America’s perfect and we have to fix it, okay? ‘Cause– ’cause America is– an exceptional country.

DAVID GREGORY:
–why did you have to have a book, by the way?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
What?

DAVID GREGORY:
Why– why write another book here? I mean, you’ve written others.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
You obv–you obviously haven’t read it if you have to ask that question. “Hey, Homer, Iliad was good. Why write the Odyssey?” “Hey, God, why two testaments? One was fine.” Really.

DAVID GREGORY:
But– no, but you–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Wow.

DAVID GREGORY:
–said you– you felt you–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
You’ve already found–

DAVID GREGORY:
–needed this.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–someone to marry you, right? ‘Cause you are rude. I understand. Okay, please.

DAVID GREGORY:
No, you felt the n– you– you felt the need to re– write this–

STEPHEN COLBERT:
You know, ’cause, well, I don’t know w– how things are going up there in Networktown, but down in Americaville, U.S.A., people are hurting David Gregory. And this thing– this book has common sense answers to people’s problems. You know? This– this tells you how to find a job.

DAVID GREGORY:
Final point, w– i– is, does the outcome of this election change– anything significantly?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
Well, sure. Sure. I’m not Ralph Nader. You know what I mean? I don’t–

DAVID GREGORY:
Yeah.

STEPHEN COLBERT:
–I don’t think that there’s no difference. There– there is a difference. I– I– I don’t know what the difference is, though. Because I think that there are– there– I think there is a possibility that Obama would be, say, more aggressive– a more aggressive reformer or changer in this– in the second act of his presidency.

And I don’t really know how– I also don’t know how Mitt Romney would govern. He might govern as a technocrat. You know, that sort of seems to have been his career– as, like, the guy from Pepsi who comes in to run G.M. You know, he can’t tell us what he’s going to do, ’cause he hasn’t seen the books yet.

But we don’t know, because he seems absolutely sincere as a moderate. And he also seems pretty sincere as a severe conservative. So– that’s not a dig. It’s ac– it’s honest confusion. ‘Cause he’s got a good shot of winning. And if he does, I hope he’s a good president. And– and if– if Obama wins, I hope he keeps some of the promises he didn’t keep the first time. But I have no idea how it changes for us, but I know there’s got to be a difference between these two men or– or we’re all part of a huge cruel joke.

DAVID GREGORY:
Stephen, any thought of running for political office yourself?

STEPHEN COLBERT:
No. No. Absolutely none. I have said terrible things with a straight face on camera. Can you imagine the political ads that could be run against me? Can you imagine?!

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
Mayor, the interesting thing about him, his comic genius, his work ethic and his credibility as a satirist. What is the lesson, frankly, that politicians should take away from the reach that a Colbert has and that a Jon Stewart has?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
First of all, you deserve combat papers. That was a tough (UNINTEL).

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM:
That was awesome.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
What I would say is authenticity. People want authenticity on both Republicans, independents, moderates. That’s what I hear. And the people who are going to break through in the future are the ones that people believe. When you say something, they believe what you say. That’s why Tom Brokaw is who he is and that’s why his voice is so valued. Happy to meet you. But I think that’s what people want.

DAVID GREGORY:
Tom, you know, both Colbert and Stewart well. And their impact is real in terms of shifting opinions, particularly how young people view the political process and government.

TOM BROKAW:
Jon came to me when he first started this. I barely knew him and he was a stand up comic at the time. And he said, “Do you think the country is ready for it?” I grew up with a tradition of Mort Stall and Lenny Bruce and the great political satirists of that time. And what I always thought is that they brought people into the arena.

And what these two do so brilliantly is that they cut through the hypocrisy and they say, “Hey, wait a minute,” on both sides. And they do play it pretty much down the middle. Both partisan groups will say, “Hey, wait a minute, there are more unfair to us than on the other one.” But they have lifted the idea that this is the greatest arena that we have, our political arena. And young people are now engaged in it. I’m not troubled by young people saying, “Hey, I think that’s where I get my news,” because in fact they do get some news from that. They roll the tapes. They point out the differences between what they said yesterday and today. So I never miss them.

MALE VOICE:
And in a country that’s atomizing itself into just splinters and pieces, we want things that bring us together. And one of the functions of humor is that when we smile at the same things and laugh at the same things, guess what? That means we look at the world the same way. That function used to belong to politicians who’d bring us together. Now it belongs to humorists.

DAVID GREGORY:
I want to ask both of you governors here, with a little over a minute left, Governor McDonnell, moving beyond that back to the big showdown we’re going to see on Tuesday, what’s decisive here? Not just in the debate but in the final week. Not just whether it comes down to the economy. As voters look at these two men, what’s going to make the difference?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL:
Practically it comes down to about seven states and maybe 7% of the voters in those states. That’s the way the math works out, including Virginia. When I think back to the great comments that were just made, people are hurting. And that’s what Stephen Colbert was trying to say in a humorous way. And want to make them laugh a little bit.

So people want to say, “Well, who has got the uplifting vision that at the end of the day it’s not just going to be rhetoric. But how do I make life better for me, my family, whether it’s my gas prices, my job and my daily living. Who really understands my middle class problems and is going to make it better?” How do we make the Great Generation that Tom Brokaw wrote about, how do we get that spirit of American exceptionalism back into the consciousness of the American people?

FMR. GOV JENNIFER GRANHOLM:
I think it’s encapsulated in the vice presidential debate when Joe Biden looked at the camera and said, “Who do you trust on these issues to fight for you?” If people trust that that person is going to go to bat for them, then I think the decision will be clearly in the president’s favor, frankly.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. We’re going to leave it there. Thank you all very much.

* * * END OF TRANSCRIPT * * *

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“MEET THE PRESS” CLIPS & TRANSCRIPT — SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14