April 23, 2014

Transcript: Sen. Harry Reid on Meet the Press | Israel, Roland Burris, The Economy | Sunday, January 4

(Source: NBC’s Meet the Press)

MR. GREGORY: And here with us now, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid.

Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS and happy New Year.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): Thank you very much.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the ground invasion into Gaza.  Do you think on the part of this Israeli–of the Israelis this was offensive or defensive?

SEN. REID: I spoke to Prime Minister Olmert a couple of days ago.  He indicated that they would do the ground activities.  Let’s understand the background.  For eight years they’ve been firing rockets into Israel.  They’ve become more intense the last few months.  Israelis have been killed, maimed and injured.  Sometimes more than 200 a day coming into Israel.  If this were going on in the United States from Vancouver, Canada, into Seattle, would we react?  Course we do.  We would have to.  I think what the Israelis are doing is very important.  I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away.  They’ve got to come to their senses.  The Fatah group, which is–makes up part of Palestinian group, has a peace arrangement with Israel. Hamas should do the same.

MR. GREGORY: And they’re in power in the West Bank.

SEN. REID: That’s right.  And, and, and Israel, for–since 1967, controlled Gaza.  They gave it to the Palestinians as a gesture of peace.  And all they got are a bunch of rockets in return.

MR. GREGORY: So you think that Israel ought to move forward and try to remove Hamas from power?

SEN. REID: They have to.  I, I’m not concerned about removing Hamas from power, I’m concerned about stopping the rocket fire and the mortar fire into Israel.  That is the key, and that’s what Israel’s up to according to the prime minister.

MR. GREGORY: Should there be an immediate cease-fire?

SEN. REID: If the Hamas organization will agree and there is some degree of certainty that they will follow through.  They, in the past, have simply not lived up to what they said they would do.  If there’s a way of enforcing this cease-fire, then yes.  Otherwise, Israel has to continue till they stop the rockets and mortars coming into Israel, maiming, injuring…

MR. GREGORY: Right.

SEN. REID: …and killing Israelis.

MR. GREGORY: So you, you’re in sync with the Bush administration on this point?

SEN. REID: Yes, I am.

MR. GREGORY: OK.

Let’s move on back home and talk about the controversial appointment of Roland Burris by Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.  Back when this story first broke, when the charges of corruption were brought against Governor Blagojevich, you put him on notice.  And you had a letter that was signed by all Senate Democrats that said, in part, the following: “We write to insist that you step down as governor of Illinois and under no circumstance make an appointment to fill the vacant Illinois Senate seat.  Please understand that should you decide to ignore the request … and make an appointment we would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article 1, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated.” In other words, you can reject that appointment.  You did that because Governor Blagojevich defied that letter, defied you.  He appointed Roland Burris.  Roland Burris also defying you.  He spoke on MSNBC to Rachel Maddow this week, and this is what he said:

(Videotape, Tuesday)

MR. ROLAND BURRIS: I have been legally appointed by the governor of our state, and my hope and prayer that my Democratic colleagues will recognize that what they are doing is not in anyway form, shape or fashion legal.  To deny me the seat based on some allegations by the appointee–by the appointer really does not lend itself to disqualify me as a unqualified person to be appointed.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: What is your basis for denying him?

SEN. REID: Blagojevich obviously is a corrupt individual.  I think that’s pretty clear.  And the reason that he’s done what he’s done is to divert attention from the arrest that was just made of him and the indictment which will be coming in a few days, according to the U.S. attorney in Illinois. That’s why President-elect Obama agreed with us that Mr. Burris is tainted. Not as a result of anything that he’s done wrong.  There’s–I don’t know a thing wrong with Mr. Burris.  It’s not the person that has been appointed, it’s the appointee.  If Blagojevich would do the right thing, that is step down, or he’ll probably be impeached.  And he gave us Mr. Burris, he gave us Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis, Madigan, all the fine people who we have from Illinois, they would be taken care of just like this.

MR. GREGORY: Well, you, you say he’s an obviously corrupt person.  He has not been formally charged, no has–nor has he had a chance to confront the evidence against him.  Are–isn’t that a rush to judgment?

SEN. REID: We have to understand that this man has had a cloud over him prior to his arrest.  That’s why the Illinois state legislature’s moving forward expeditiously–in fact, next week–to start impeachment proceedings. So I don’t think, I don’t think we have many cheerleaders for Blagojevich that he’s an honest, upright citizen…

MR. GREGORY: But…

SEN. REID: …of the state of Illinois.

MR. GREGORY: But he is still legally the governor.  He’s doing business. He’s been accused but not convicted of anything, and not even formally accused.  And there’s, there’s nothing suggesting that the appointment was at all illegal.

SEN. REID: It–Danny Davis, a fine congressman from the state of Illinois, was offered, by Blagojevich, the job.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: He said, “I can’t accept this because my constituents, the people state of Illinois, would never accept me based on the cloud you have over you.” And that’s the problem we have.  Now, what we’re going to do is I’m, I plan on meeting with him and Senator Durbin on Wednesday.  That’s my understanding.  We’re going to visit with him.

MR. GREGORY: Roland Burris, you’re talking about?

SEN. REID: That’s right, Roland Burris.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: And we would hope that in the meantime Blagojevich, with the impeachment proceedings that are ongoing against him, would do the right thing, step down.  And then if Pat Quinn–who I’ve spoken to, a very fine man who’s the lieutenant governor–would become the acting governor or the governor, he wants to appoint Burris or anyone else, that would be fine. There is a cloud over Blagojevich, and at this stage a cloud over the state of Illinois.  They don’t have a vote.  And if–as long as Blagojevich has done the appointing, it’s really a tainted appointment.

MR. GREGORY: If Burris shows up, you won’t seat him?

SEN. REID: Well, we’re going to do what we have to do, and we’re going to follow all legal precedents.  We think that we’re pretty clear on what we believe is the law, and the precedent in the United States Senate that we are, we are the ones that determine–Democrats and Republicans determine who is going to sit in the Senate.  It’s been that way since before 1800.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me press you on that point.  A, a critical editorial on the LA Times made this argument: “The Constitution says that each house of Congress `shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members’ and may punish members for `disorderly behavior’ or, on a two-thirds vote, expel a sitting member.  Neither provision justifies excluding a senator because of the unrelated wrongdoing of the governor making the appointment. … It’s doubtful whether the Senate could refuse to seat … any duly elected (or by extension appointed) member who met age, residency and citizenship requirements.  In 1969, the Supreme Court overturned a resolution by the House barring Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr. from taking his seat.  Powell had been accused of financial improprieties. … Exasperated as they are at being outfoxed by Blagojevich, his colleagues and critics must face the fact that he is still the governor of Illinois and empowered to appoint an interim U.S. senator.  It’s not a pretty situation, but it’s the law.”

SEN. REID: The LA Times is wrong.  They use the Powell case as precedent, that’s not in keeping with what the problem is here today.  They were talking at that time about the qualifications of Adam Clayton Powell, and the Supreme Court said, “We are not going to deal with the qualifications of Adam Clayton Powell.” This is totally a different situation.  This is not dealing with the appointee.  I think everyone that I’ve talked to said that Burris is a good guy.  We’re talking about a cloud over anyone that comes from the state of Illinois, being appointed by Blagojevich.

MR. GREGORY: But what in the Constitution allows you to judge Roland Burris in, in this manner, to not seat him?

SEN. REID: The LA Times quoted part of it itself from the Constitution: We determine who sits in the Senate, and the House determines who sits in the House.  So there’s clearly legal authority for us to do whatever we want to. This goes back for generations.

MR. GREGORY: Senator, isn’t this really all about politics?  Isn’t your primary consideration who you deem to be electable in 2010?

SEN. REID: No, I don’t think so.  This situation is this.  I’ve spoken to the governor of the state of Colorado, because that’s my responsibility as majority leader.  There is–Ken Salazar’s going to be interior secretary.  And we had some wonderful conversations.  Governor Ritter asked me how he felt–how I felt about the opening.  I told him what a great guy Salazar was. He talked about different candidates.  And I said to him, “Governor, you appoint whoever is best in your mind for the state of Colorado.” And he did. He came up with Bennet, kind of someone that not a lot people have known about.  But what we hear about him now is that he’s…

MR. GREGORY: This is Michael Bennet…

SEN. REID: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: …the school chief out there.

SEN. REID: Going to be, going to be a new senator from the state of Colorado.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

SEN. REID: New York.  I’ve spoken to Governor Paterson several times.  He’s asked me how I feel about Caroline Kennedy, as an example, which I think is terrific.  But I always said to Paterson, “You appoint whoever you want.” And my one conversation with Blagojevich–had a number…

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

SEN. REID: …of conversations with the Colorado governor and the New York governor–”Blagojevich, make sure you give us someone who can hit the ground running.” Of course we’re concerned about what happens in 2010, but this has nothing to do with 2010.  It has everything to do with the corrupt governor.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but let, let’s talk about those conversations you had with Governor Blagojevich.  Apparently you made it clear that three men were not acceptable to you: Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis, Emil Jones.  And yet you just said Jesse Jackson would be fine.  Is that what you said, that these men would not be acceptable?

SEN. REID: This is part of Blagojevich’s cloud.  He’s making all this up.  I had a conversation with him.  I don’t remember what was in the conversation, other than the generalities that I just talked about.  I didn’t tell him who not to appoint.  He’s making all this up to divert attention…

MR. GREGORY: Don’t you think these conversations are on tape?

SEN. REID: Of course.

MR. GREGORY: For the U.S. attorney’s investigation?

SEN. REID: I’m, I’m sure they are.  But–that’s right.  And that’s why what he’s saying, he’s making it up.

MR. GREGORY: So he’s wrong, Jesse Jackson Jr. was always acceptable to you?

SEN. REID: Jesse Jackson Jr. is somebody that I think would be a good senator.  And for Blagojevich to start throwing out these names of people who I wanted and didn’t want…

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: …he’s making it up.

MR. GREGORY: People close to Roland Burris are raising another suggestion, and this is how Politico reports it this morning: “Top advisers to [Burris] are suggesting that Reid doesn’t want an African-American to succeed Obama. `It’s interesting that all those who are viable are white women and the ones who are unacceptable are black men,’ Prince Riley, a senior consultant to Burris, told Politico.” Your response?

SEN. REID: I have no idea who Prince Riley is.  But I do know that I’ve served in the United States Senate with two outstanding senators, Carol Moseley Braun and Barack Obama, both African-Americans from the state of Illinois.  I worked harder than anyone in this country for Ron Kirk running for senator, senator for the state of Texas.  As a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, we spent more money in the state of Tennessee than any state in the country trying to get Harold Ford elected.  I have–anyone that suggests there’s any racial bias in this instance doesn’t realize I went to the Clark County district attorney’s office to find a–people thought was a nobody to become a federal judge, Johnnie Rawlinson.  She was a great judge. She’s now on the Ninth Circuit.  I did that myself.  So anyone to suggest anything racial is part of the Blagojevich spin to take away from the corruption that’s involved his office in Illinois.

MR. GREGORY: Would that include former Congressman Bobby Rush, who was part of the press conference when Roland Burris was appointed?  And this is what he said during that press conference.

(Videotape, Tuesday):

REP. BOBBY RUSH (D-IL): Let me just remind you that there presently is no African-American in the U.S. Senate.  I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer.  I don’t think that anyone, any U.S. senator who’s sitting in the Senate right now, want to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated, seated in the U.S. Senate.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Do you feel like you’re being boxed in here?

SEN. REID: Bobby Rush, in 2004 we had a very good election in the state of Illinois.  We had a tough primary.  One African-American was on that primary. His name was Barack Obama.  Mr. Rush did not support Barack Obama, he supported Blair Hull.

MR. GREGORY: How does this end?  Do you think Roland Burris will be in the United States Senate?

SEN. REID: It’s going to be very, be very difficult for that to occur.  I’ve learned being in–a senator for the time I have that anything can happen.  The best thing that would happen, as I’ve indicated on this program and I’ve said before…

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: …Blagojevich should step down.  He should do it today.  If not, he’ll be impeached.  And I–and that’s prior to his being…

MR. GREGORY: But are you willing to go to the mat on this to deny Roland Burris, if it requires going to the Supreme Court?  Is it worth that effort?

SEN. REID: The state of Illinois deserves a vote in the United States Senate, and the people of the state of Illinois, the fifth most populous state in the union, deserve that vote.  It’s too bad Blagojevich has diverted attention from the real issue.  And we’ll–we’re–as I’ve indicated, we’re going to come–I’m going to meet with Senator McConnell, my Republican counterpart.  I hope to do that Monday evening.  I think it’s around 6:00 or something like that.  We’ll talk about this.  I hope we can solve this issue on a bipartisan basis.

MR. GREGORY: But there sounds to me like there may be some room here to negotiate and actually seat Burris?

SEN. REID: Hey, listen, David, I’m an old trial lawyer.  There’s always room to negotiate.

MR. GREGORY: All right, so you’re not saying no completely that he won’t serve?

SEN. REID: That’s right.

MR. GREGORY: That’s what you’re saying.

Let, let me move on to the economy.  You meet with the president-elect tomorrow.  Biggest question is how big will this stimulus package be for the economy, and when should we expect the president-elect and–the president, rather, to sign it?

SEN. REID: Well, it’ll–it–we will work this just as quickly as we can. It’ll take as much time as it needs to get done.  What do we need in this economic recovery program?  First of all, we have to recognize that this past election called for change.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: We have a country like we’ve never seen before, promise nationally and internationally.  We also have to realize that it must be done on a bipartisan basis.  Whatever we do must be done on a bipartisan basis. And we must recognize the economy is in deep trouble and we have to do something about jobs, infrastructure–that’s roads, highways, bridges, dams, water systems, sewer systems, classrooms, laboratories, libraries.  And I think we should also understand there’s a manufacturing component we need, retooling.  We have to do something with batteries, battery systems, maybe do something with lithium batteries.  And of course, we also have to do something with housing.  It is in the toilet, they say, and it is.  Nevada leads the nation in foreclosures.  We also have to do something to make our country more secure, and the way to do that is to have energy independence.  That has to be part of the economic recovery program, energy independence, which includes a smart grid.  We also have to have, as President-elect Obama has said time and time again, a middle class, a working men and women tax cut.  And we need to do that.  We have to give state–relief to states.  Forty-four states are deeply in the red, the other six are barely not in the red, and we have to give them relief.  In Nevada, for example, David, at our University Medical Center in Las Vegas, they stopped cancer treatment.  People who are in Las Vegas–two weeks ago, women who had breast cancer treatment were said, “We have no place for you to go.” They had to leave the state to do that.  We have–we need to take care of that.  It’s a very, very important.  So those are the things we need to do.

MR. GREGORY: OK.

SEN. REID: And finally, David, let me say this.  Whatever program we have, let’s not talk about the last eight years.  Let’s talk about the next eight years.

MR. GREGORY: All right, let’s talk about some of the specifics, but I want to start with the issue of timing.  Do you see a stimulus being signed into law before February?

SEN. REID: We’re going to do our very, very best.  Now, he doesn’t become president until January 20th, and it’s going–I want to make sure that we do this on a bipartisan basis.  Leader Boehner in the House and Republican Leader McConnell in the Senate said they want to be involved in whatever this recovery package is.  They should be.  The urgency of this, everyone knows about.  But I’m not going to have some false deadline, whether it’s February 1 or whatever it is.  I want to make sure that all senators have some input in what goes on here and do it as quickly as we can.

MR. GREGORY: Mid-February, or you just–can–you don’t want to say…(unintelligible).

SEN. REID: David, I, I’m not going to give you–I, I, I’m not going to give you a timeline.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

SEN. REID: We’re going to do it as quickly as we can.

MR. GREGORY: Are you worried about the total…

SEN. REID: We’re going, we’re going, we’re going to do it–be working nights.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: We’re going to be working weekends.  We’re going to get this done.

MR. GREGORY: Is this a trillion-dollar stimulus, do you expect?

SEN. REID: It’s whatever it takes to bring this country back on a fiscal footing that is decent.

You know, we don’t want to do a little bit and say, “Well, we should have done more.  Let’s come back and do it again.” We want to do it right the first time.  If we do it right the first time–as, as reported in The New York Times yesterday, a group of economists, blue ribbon they’re called, they said, “If they do a very strong stimulus package, the economy will start recovering in July.” And that’s what Paul Krugman says, who’s a Democrat; that’s what Mark Zandi, who was one of, one of John McCain’s advisers, said.  We need to spend some money.  And we have to make sure it’s spent wisely, that we watch that money, how it’s spent, there is oversight, there is transparency.  And I hope–and we–I expect that we can do that.

MR. GREGORY: You mentioned housing.  Your home state, number one in foreclosures.  What specifically should the stimulus plan do to reduce the severity of this housing correction?  For instance, should there be a guarantee of principal for people buying a home?

SEN. REID: The, the reason we look at housing is not only for the people who are being foreclosed upon, but for the economy generally.  Because, you see, housing is more than carpenters putting up walls; it’s people laying tile, it’s people manufacturing appliances and carpeting.  So we have to do a number of things.  A number of suggestion has been let’s have a moratorium on foreclosures for 90 days.  That’s would be a step in the right direction.  And the one thing that I’m very concerned about is what’s happened to the $350 billion that has been–was given.  Most of it’s been given to the banks, who aren’t making the loans.  And so I think that’s a place we need to look very quickly.

MR. GREGORY: Would you guarantee the down payment?  Would you guarantee a homeowner’s principal?

SEN. REID: This is something–as I’ve indicated earlier, David, Boehner and McConnell are saying, “Let us be involved.” I’m not going to here dictate what’s going to happen.  But I want the Finance Committee and the Ways and Means Committee to come up with ways that we can alleviate the housing crisis. We have now a Democratic president, we have a Democratic control of the House and the Senate.  But that doesn’t mean we can push our way through.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: To do what is right for this country is going to take us working together, Democrats and Republicans, because, because the problem…

MR. GREGORY: So you don’t want to weigh in on that particular issue?

SEN. REID: No, no, David, the problems out there aren’t Democratic problems or Republican problems, they’re American problems.  We have to address them.

MR. GREGORY: What about taxes?  Will you work to repeal the Bush tax cuts right away?  Do you think that’s a prudent step?

SEN. REID: We’re going to have a middle-class tax cut.  We’re going to cut taxes for working men and women.  And I am not going to get involved with any talk about tax increases.  I haven’t heard Barack Obama say that, I haven’t said it.

MR. GREGORY: But a repeal of the Bush tax cuts would be a tax increase.

SEN. REID: But no one’s talking about that?  All we’re talking about is a middle-class tax cut.  Not raise–yeah.

MR. GREGORY: Would you like to see a payroll tax cut?  Do you think that’s the most effective way to reach the middle class?

SEN. REID: There are a number of ways we can do it.  You can do it with the income tax, you can do it through Social Security funds that are put forth every day.  There are many ways of doing this, and that’s why we’re working with President-elect Obama and his economic team to find out what we can come up with.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the investor class in this country, everybody from wealthy investors to a retired teacher.  In 2008, $7 trillion of wealth was lost in the stock market.  Do you think that the SEC, the Security Exchange Commission, has done its job?  Do you think it should remain the kind of agency it is?  Should it be abolished or reformed?

SEN. REID: The answer, obviously, is the Securities and Exchange Commission did a lousy job.  The evidence is clear that you cannot have no regulation. It doesn’t work.  You know, the marketplace will take care of everything. Well, it hasn’t.  And we have to have regulation.  Now, the key to all this is how do we regulate?  We can’t be overzealous and overregulate, but there must be regulation.  There has to be some.  And we simply haven’t had it.  And the Securities and Exchange Commission should be ashamed of itself for what they’ve let happen with the guy in New York, Maddow, and the meltdown all over this country.

MR. GREGORY: So it should be reformed.

SEN. REID: Oh, without any…

MR. GREGORY: You’d like to see–to lead an effort on that.

SEN. REID: Without any, without any question.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about politics.  This is what you told Roll Call two days after the election of Barack Obama.  “Reid said he believes the newly elected senators will feel, as he does, that the country voted for moderate–not liberal–policies. … `I think the country has moved to the center,’ Reid said.  `I think people want us to get things done.’” Let me test that proposition.  On immigration, do you have a deal between the president-elect and Senator McCain for immigration reform?

SEN. REID: John McCain–a day or two after the election, I called John. We’ve served–we came to Washington together in 1982.  We’ve been together in the House and we came to the Senate together.  And we talked about the campaign.  We had both said things about each other that probably we shouldn’t have, but we did.  He’s my friend.  He said, “Harry, I, I want to come back to the Senate.  We want to do some good things.  I want to work with you.”

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: “We need comprehensive immigration reform.” That was a conversation I had with John McCain.  Yes, we need comprehensive immigration reform.  And what does that mean?  It means we have to make sure our borders are protected, our northern and southern borders.  We have to do something about the millions of people here who are undocumented.  We have to put them on, on a pathway to legalization.  Does that mean that they get to the head of the line?  Of course not.  They’d have penalties and fines and learn English and stay out of trouble.  We have to also do something on a guest worker program and we have to do something about the employer sanctions that works. John McCain believes that should happen.  I believe that should happen. That’s…

MR. GREGORY: And he’s discussed it with the president-elect?

SEN. REID: I don’t…

MR. GREGORY: McCain has?

SEN. REID: I don’t know, but he’s discussed it with me.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.  You think you’ve got a deal, a prospect of a deal.

SEN. REID: I have, I have John McCain’s word that he’s going to work real, real hard on immigration reform.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you…

SEN. REID: And I’ll, and I’ll work with him.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the war in Iraq.  In April of 2007, this is what you said: “I believe myself that … this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything.” Were you wrong?

SEN. REID: David, I first met General David Petraeus in Iraq.  He was training the Iraqi forces at that time.  At that time, he knew it wasn’t working.  After he became the commander in Iraq, he and I sat down and talked. He said to me, and he said within the sound of everyone’s voice, “The war cannot be won militarily.” I said it differently than he did.  But it needed a change in direction.  Petraeus brought that about.  He brought it about–the surge helped, of course it helped.  But in addition to that, the urging of me and other people in Congress and the country dictated a change, and that took place.  So…

MR. GREGORY: But you said the surge was not accomplishing anything.  Even Barack Obama said last fall that it exceeded everyone’s expectations and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

SEN. REID: Listen, at that–the time that statement was made, the surge–they weren’t talking about the surge.  Petraeus added to the surge some very, very interesting things that changed things.  He said a lot–just simply numbers of troops is not going to do the deal.  What we need to do is work with the Iraqi people, which we haven’t done before.  That’s where the Awakening Councils came about, as a result of David Petraeus’ genius.  He’s done–he will be written about in the history books for years to come.  My original statement was in keeping what David Petraeus said; that is, the war cannot be won militarily.

MR. GREGORY: Do you believe that the war in Iraq has been lost?

SEN. REID: I don’t think at this stage we can talk about that with any degree of sensibility.  That has to be something that will talked about in the history books to come.  We…

MR. GREGORY: So you spoke to soon in 2007?

SEN. REID: David Petraeus and Harry Reid spoke at the same time.  David Petraeus said that the war cannot be won militarily, I said what I said.  Who, who phrased it the best is…

MR. GREGORY: You said that the war is lost.  Today, in 2009, that’s no longer your view?

SEN. REID: David, listen, someone else will have to determine that as the years go on.  What has the war done?  It’s brought about–it’s destabilized the Middle East.  We have a civil war going on in Israel.  We have a civil war in Iraq, as indicated today, more than 50 people killed with a bomb in Iraq today.  We have Lebanon, a civil war there.  We have Iran thumbing their nose with every, everyone.  And if that weren’t bad enough, our standing in the world community is so far down as a result of this war, so–and that doesn’t take into consideration the tens of thousands who have been injured…

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

SEN. REID: …and the thousands have been killed in the war.  So it’s, it’s–historians will have to talk about what the war in Iraq did.  But I think historians today indicate, as I have, the outline that I’ve given.

MR. GREGORY: Before you go, do you have any regrets about the way you have publicly battled with President Bush?  Over the years you’ve called him a liar, a loser, and you’ve described him as “our worst president ever.”

SEN. REID: I wrote a book and I said that in the book several times.  David, I am who I am.  I’m going to continue being who I am.  I think you just have to call things the way you see them.  I really do believe that President Bush is the worst president we’ve ever had.  I think his efforts to destroy Social Security were very bad.  That brought about one of those statements.  I think as we’ve looked now at what’s happened to the stock market, wouldn’t that have been an awful thing to do, to privatize Social Security?  Medicare, he’s done, he’s done his very best to destroy Medicare.  Medicare, a wonderful program. Perfect?  Of course not.  But one of the best programs ever developed to take care of sick people.  So…

MR. GREGORY: No regrets?

SEN. REID: Well, you know, I am just who I am.

MR. GREGORY: All right, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, thank you very much for your views and your time.

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