"Face the Nation" transcripts, September 9, 2012: Obama, Ryan, Plouffe
So the problem, Norah, is we've led. We wanted to have a bipartisan agreement. We got that. And the president hasn't fulfilled his end of the bipartisan agreement.
The goal was never that these defense cuts actually occur, the goal is that we get to work and cut spending so that we prevent those defense cuts. We've done that. The president hasn't.
O'DONNELL: Congressman, it's my understanding that as part of the Budget Control Act there was not just the sequestration, the defense sequestration, but there is also $1 trillion in immediate spending cuts, which included the defense cuts, almost $400 billion that were proposed by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Mr. Dempsey, as well as Secretary Panetta. And you also voted for those.
And now you're saying that you didn't vote for them?
RYAN: We can get into this nomenclature. I voted for the Budget Control Act but the Obama administration proposed $470 billion in defense cuts. We don't agree with that. Our budget rejected that. And then on top of that is another $500 billion in defense cuts.
O'DONNELL: Right, it's a trillion in defense spending. And you voted for it.
RYAN: No, Norah, I voted for the Budget Control Act.
O'DONNELL: That included defense spending.
RYAN: Norah, you're mistaken.
I do not support the Obama budget. I do not support the Obama $478 billion in cuts. So, number one, that's half of the trillion we don't support. Our budget reflected that.
Number two, we passed legislation to reflect what we want as part of the Budget Control Act, which is to cut spending in other areas of government instead of the Pentagon, that bill is sitting in the senate right now.
President Obama has done nothing to support it, to oppose it. He hasn't even shown us how he's going to implement this sequester. And if you go back and read the tape. If you go back and read Bob Woodward's book, the reason the defense cuts are in the sequester as they are, was that the insistence of the Obama administration. O'DONNELL: Let's turn now to foreign policy.
President Obama said in his convention speech you may have heard. He talked about you and Governor Romney as newcomers to foreign policy to subscribe to a blustering and blundering approach. Do you have a response to that?
RYAN: I think this is what people do when they have nothing else to offer. I think these are the kind of name calling you're going to get from the president. I have more foreign policy experience coming into this job than President Obama did coming into his.
Mitt Romney and I share the view that we need peace through strength, that we need to have a strong national defense. I wrote the bill to prevent the sequester from happening because we think those devastating defense cuts will dramatically weaken our national security. We think the president's been wrong on Iran. And we think he's dragged his feet on Iran, and as a result of his poor Iran policy, they're that much closer to a nuclear weapon.
Now, the president has had some success. Osama bin Laden is a perfect example. But by and large, I think what the president is doing here is he can't run on his record. So he's going to be offering us this kind of rhetoric.
O'DONNELL: Can you explain how do you have more foreign policy experience than Senator Obama did? He was on the foreign relations committee. What is your foreign policy experience?
RYAN: I've been in congress for 14 years. He was in the senate for far, far less time that that. I voted-- you know, Norah, I voted to send men and women to war. I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I've met with our troops to get their perspectives. I've been to the funerals. I've talked to the widows. I've talked to the wives, the moms and dads. That's something. That matters.
I take this very seriously. I've done doing this for 14 years.
O'DONNELL: Who do you America's number one enemy is?
RYAN: Well, I think a nuclear Iran is our biggest foreign policy threat today.
O'DONNELL The reason I ask you that is Mitt Romney was criticized during the Democratic National Convention for saying Russia is without question our number one geopolitical foe. So do you disagree with Mitt Romney?
RYAN: No, I think what he was saying was among the other powers -- China and Russia -- that Russia stands a great threat.
Look, I think sending our foreign policy decisions to be cleared through the U.N. security council where we're giving Iran and China -- excuse me, Russia and China, veto clout over us, that's not good policy. So what we have done through our foreign policy for the Obama administration is we've increase the clout in the card of Russia and China. I think that was a mistake.
O'DONNELL: Finally, let me ask you about the time that you gave in terms of when you were asked about running a marathon and you said you had run a two hour and 50-something marathon. It turned out of course it was over four hours. You know, when I first heard that, I thought he must have misspoke or perhaps he didn't remember, but a lot of people-- this keeps coming up. I mean, you are a fitness buff. You are a numbers guy. How did you make that mistake?
RYAN: It was an honest mistake. I was 20 years old. I hurt my back when I was about 23 or 24 and I had to quit running. I herniated a disk in my back. So I just lost perspective on what normal times are.
I ran an ordinary race and I thought the answer I gave was an ordinary time. Obviously, it wasn't. It was 22 years ago. You know, I think that's happening here is the president doesn't have a positive story to say, so they're trying to use this kind of rhetoric. My brother's been busting my chops ever since I said that because he is an actual marathon runner and he's been saying, "are you crazy? That's crazy fast."
Look, it was just an honest mistake.
O'DONNELL: All right. But remember, everybody was criticizing Al Gore when he said he invented the Internet whether fairly or unfairly.
RYAN: 22 years ago -- I stopped running a long time ago because I had these back issues and I lost perspective of what ordinary times are.
O'DONNELL: All right, Congressman Ryan who has run, to be clear, an over four hour marathon. Thank you, congressman. Good to see you. We appreciate it.
RYAN: You too, Norah. Have a good one.
O'DONNELL: And we'll be back in a minute.
O'DONNELL: Joining us now from the campaign trail in Orlando, White House senior adviser David Plouffe.
David, good morning.
DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Good morning, Norah.
O'DONNELL: You heard the Congressman Paul Ryan. He says it's the president's job to prevent these devastating cuts to defense that are part of sequestration. Your response.
PLOUFFE: Well, it was interesting to hear Congressman Ryan. I mean, you asked him questions. He voted for the sequester. He voted for the Budget Control Act. He was running away from them with the kind of pace I guess he ran in that fictional marathon you asked him about.
Getting our fiscal house in order, dealing with sequester, is very simple: we need compromise. President Clinton spoke about this, I thought, very eloquently at our convention Wednesday that Barack Obama, President Obama is the one person in Washington who is very committed to compromise. And I think if we can have a balanced approach here, where we cut more spending, we can reform entitlements in a safe way, not by voucherizing Medicare, but getting savings out of the system, and ask a little bit more from the wealthy, we can not only deal with the sequester, we can have a long-term fiscal package here that will really help our economy grow.
O'DONNELL: You heard Paul Ryan mention the new Bob Woodward book called, "The Price of Politics" that the defense cuts, the defense sequestration was put in place at the insistence of the Obama administration. Is that incorrect?
PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, you know, Congressman Ryan, you know, Mitt Romney's running mate, voted for this sequester. As you said he put out a statement praising it. So, you know, they're acting as if they had nothing to do with this. They voted for this.
And this sequester, the way it was dealt with was to make sure that both defense spending as well as domestic programs were part of the sequester is common. It's been used through the years in congressional action. So this is something that was done to force action. Now, Congress is trying -- Republicans in Congress are trying to run away from the responsibility they signed up for.
So, again, at the end of the day, you have got to step back, everyone, whether it's the Simpson-Bowles Commission, other independent analysts who have looked at our fiscal situation, say the only way we're going to solve our deficit challenges is to take a balanced approach.
And so the barrier to solving our fiscal challenges, the barrier to the sequester, is Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and too many Republicans in Congress, not all, but too many refuse to ask anything of the very wealthy.
They want to put all the burden on the middle class, all the burden on seniors, and that's not the right way forward for our country.
O'DONNELL: David, I'm sure a lot of Americans are sitting at home scratching their heads and saying, boy, this is deja vu all over again, didn't we just have this discussion about the debt ceiling? And the president and Republicans decided to hold hands and jump off this cliff together.
Everybody agreed on these defense cuts, the sequestration, in order to -- as an enforcement mechanism so both sides, the president and the Republicans in Congress, would come back to the table. And, yet, neither side has done that. Where is the president's leadership on this so that this country does not get stuck with another downgrade or something like that that could lead to another recession?
PLOUFFE: Well, you know, you have to step back. Obviously the debt ceiling was not a pleasant situation. One thing that did emerge out of it was we cooperated with the Republicans in Congress and Democrats in Congress to cut over $1 trillion in spending. It's a very significant down payment.
The president has a plan to reduce the deficit by a total of $4 trillion, a balanced approach. You know, we have some deadlines coming up, obviously, after the election. You have got a sequester deadline. You have got tax cuts expiring. Those tend to be forcing actions in Washington.
And I do think one of the messages that is going to come through in this election is the American people want us to compromise and they want a balanced approach. I don't think anybody -- this president has been -- you know, we've taken some heat from our own party for our willingness to compromise.
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