Former VP on Haitian Ttragedy; Obama's Closed-Door Reform Meeting

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This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," January 13, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: First, from Washington, to the White House, and the huddle. No sooner had the president addressed the nation on helping Haiti then he was back behind closed doors trying to help Democrats save health care.

Tonight, the first indications who is really being saved. And let's just say they're big friends of the president.

Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.

And chalk one up for the unions, big fans of the big guy, not fans of this so-called Cadillac health care tax that has created big friction with the big guy, Nancy Pelosi reportedly pushing hard to exempt them, and news this hour the president may be ready to crack, and unions are poised to walk scot-free on paying anything at all for reform. We will know soon.

And a former vice president ticked off now, because Dan Quayle is here now, and only here now.

Joining me exclusively, I'm happy to say, the former vice president of these United States, Dan Quayle.

Mr. Vice President, thank you for coming.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DAN QUAYLE: You're welcome. Good to see you again.

CAVUTO: You know, you always have a day when you have a crisis and just a few miles away from our shores and then the crisis domestically. That's when you really test presidential leadership, right?

QUAYLE: Well, it shows how many things a president has to do in a day.

And he gets up in the morning and he says, well, here's my schedule. Here's the agenda. And guess what? The agenda is shaped by events. And the tragic event in Haiti, we don't know, the Citigroup folks you have mentioned. You know, our hearts and prayers go to the folks of Haiti.

I have been to Haiti a couple times. It's a country — it's a very poor country, great people. I don't know what the infrastructure was down there, but I — we hope for the very best. And I guess we just don't have that much information right now.

CAVUTO: But I know, even when you were vice president, and as a senator, it was very big to be the man on the ground. And I remember, in a lot of disasters, you were.

And I was going through a lot of the disasters that occurred in the Bush Sr. years, when you and he were running the country, and Hurricane Hugo stuck out in '89. And that was a Category 4 hurricane. That was a real mess here.

QUAYLE: You know, Hugo was big. The big one in '92, even bigger, was Andrew.

CAVUTO: Oh, sure, right.

QUAYLE: Yes. And that happened at — during the election. It was in September, I believe, in '92.

CAVUTO: That's right. You guys couldn't win either way, because...


QUAYLE: Well, you had — we went down and did the best that we could. And, unfortunately, it got somewhat politicized, as you can imagine...


CAVUTO: Right. Right.

QUAYLE: ... a couple months before the campaign.

But my wife, Marilyn, was very involved in disaster relief. She went all over the world. She was in the Philippines when they had an earthquake. I remember a typhoon that hit Bangladesh that, you know, tens of thousands, unfortunately, lost their life there. And she went there.

I was over in Japan. I was actually on a ship that night. We were trying to communicate with her ship, because she staying on a ship off — in Bangladesh.


QUAYLE: We did actually communicate that night. But she has gone all over the world. We had the San Francisco earthquake that happened on...

CAVUTO: Sure, right, at baseball time...


CAVUTO: ... World Series.

QUAYLE: That happened on our watch.


QUAYLE: And, as I said, when you're president and vice president, you get up in the morning and you think you know what the agenda is going to be. You don't.

CAVUTO: Right. And...


CAVUTO: ... go there.

You know, I was thinking, too, we have promised any aid we can, any help we can. That's normally the American position. We're very generous in these events. We don't have a lot of money to be generous with. Do you think it's going to limit how much we can do?

QUAYLE: I doubt it. You know, look, any loss of life is tragic. I don't know how deep, how profound, what this is.

But, no, we will be there. We will be there with money. We will be there as people. There will be a lot of Americans that will go down there. I'm sure the Red Cross is down there. The Salvation Army, which always is at these disasters, will be down there.

So, we will have money, but we will also have people. And, this time, clearly, money is important, because you have to repair...

CAVUTO: Right.

QUAYLE: ... and particularly the infrastructure.

But what right now is more important than the money is the people, because they need food, they need water. They need comfort. They need counseling. They're grieving. They have lost loved ones.

CAVUTO: Right.

QUAYLE: And the more people we can get on the ground like the Salvation Army, like the Red Cross, the better the people in Haiti will be.

CAVUTO: And you say it's the people who make a big difference, because your old boss, President Bush Sr., and then Bill Clinton started teaming up to...


QUAYLE: That's right, after that tsunami.

CAVUTO: The tsunami and all that. Do we need that kind of heft in these type of international disasters. Or what do you think?

QUAYLE: Well, it's very easy to get that bipartisan support on something like this.

CAVUTO: Right.

QUAYLE: It's not controversial. It's humanitarian. And, so, therefore, people will come together.

I wish we could have like, you know, one-tenth of that kind of bipartisan support on the health care agenda that's going — or health care bill that is going through Congress.

CAVUTO: Well, we're nowhere near that, are you?


QUAYLE: Oh, we don't have — we have got zero. We have nothing.


CAVUTO: How do you think that process is going, Mr. Vice President? Because a lot of your Republican colleagues, past and present, say that they really don't have a say in this, and that this is being rammed down their throat, the people's throat, it's not popular, but it is what it is, and they're just sort of whining from the sidelines, because they say they can't do much else.

QUAYLE: Well, they have been cut out. It is rather interesting, because, in most domestic substantive pieces of legislation when I was in the House, when I was in the Senate, and when I was vice president that really made a big difference, like an immigration bill, or an environmental protection bill, or a disabilities bill, or a civil rights bill, you almost always, without exception, had bipartisan support.

It wasn't necessarily 50/50, but there was significant bipartisan support. And, for whatever reason — and I wasn't there, and I have talked to my colleagues or my former colleagues, and there's all sorts of excuses on why they were excluded or not included — but there was a deliberate, calculated political decision made to exclude them.

In the House, it was easy because they had the votes, although they only passed it by five.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

QUAYLE: And, in the Senate, in the Finance Committee, it started down that path of a little bit of bipartisanship, and then they made the decision just to basically cut the Republicans out and...


CAVUTO: Well, maybe they figure that they have got the numbers. They can force this thing through.

You're pretty good at handicapping these things. Can they? Will they?

QUAYLE: My guess is, if I had to bet, I would bet that they will get something through.

I don't think it is over. The Senate, it only takes one vote to switch. In the House — you got to remember, in the House it was only five votes. And...

CAVUTO: By the way, we're going to see that potential one vote who could get elected in Massachusetts, a Republican, Scott Brown, in a second. But...

QUAYLE: They say they're going to delay it up there.


CAVUTO: Right. Right, just to prevent just that.

QUAYLE: But the House — I will tell you this. In the House, remember this, Neil. It is very important. It may not change the outcome.

But the House voted on the health care bill before the August recess. The August recess was the beginning of the tea parties and the town hall meetings...

CAVUTO: You're right. You're right.

QUAYLE: ... the town hall meetings and all that. So, that's a big difference.

CAVUTO: What do you think of that tea party stuff? I had Michael Steele sitting where you're sitting, Mr. Vice President.

And he — I asked him whether there's a schism in the Republican Party and whether — I have had tea partiers here who say, well, you know, we're not all Republicans, we're mad at both parties, and Michael Steele, who they charge was sort of glomming on to the tea party cause, what he — as a Republican, maybe he shouldn't.

Where do you stand on that? Are you worried about that, that this divides conservative votes? What?

QUAYLE: It's somewhat of a traditional American populist movement. Populism has always been part of American politics.

CAVUTO: But is it a potent third-party move?

QUAYLE: Now, that's an important question. And I don't know yet. We will find out beginning in '10, in 2010, and probably more so in 2012.

But here's the challenge of my party, is basically to co-opt the populist movement, the so-called tea party folks, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, because they are low taxes, they're for less regulation, they're for less government interference, which are many principles of the Republican Party, to be able to get them within the party with our basic principles, rather than having them outside the party.


CAVUTO: But when they target, as I think they have, Mr. Vice President, a dozen or so so-called vulnerable Republicans who do not march to all of these principles, what does that risk? Are you worried about it, or is that healthy?

QUAYLE: I'm not concerned about it right now, because I think that most of them will join the Republican Party, because they want to see government smaller, less involved in their lives, and they want less taxes and they want less regulation.

And they're for a strong national defense.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

QUAYLE: The tea parties are for a strong national defense. But, if in fact they operate outside the party for the time being, and trying to show their strength and how potent they are, that's fine. But, in the really big calls, the U.S. Senate races, presidential races, if they start running third parties, a la Ross Perot, because I hearken back to that 1992 presidential campaign with a little bit of...


CAVUTO: Yes. Had he not been in the race, many say you guys would have been reelected.

QUAYLE: Seriously, if he had not have been there...

CAVUTO: You have made it.

QUAYLE: ... we would have made it. So...

CAVUTO: Who knows. You would have been president. You would have been president.


QUAYLE: I have forgiven him, but I have not forgotten.


CAVUTO: Have you talked to Ross Perot since then at all?

QUAYLE: Briefly. I saw him in Colorado.


CAVUTO: Was it tense, or...

QUAYLE: Well, he's sort of a tense guy.



QUAYLE: We had a cordial conversation.

CAVUTO: Right.

QUAYLE: And his wife and my wife were actually — were very good friends through the Salvation Army.

CAVUTO: Right.

QUAYLE: They were both on the Salvation Army board together. And she would always say what a wonderful woman Mrs. Perot was. And I said, well, I wish she could have convinced her husband not to run in 1992.


CAVUTO: We will never know.


CAVUTO: This health care debate, if you don't mind my getting back to that, sir, the — you argue we're probably going to cobble something together. And I kind of concur with you, that they will get something. I don't know what it is.

But it's fair to say that unions won't have to put up any money here. I don't know that for sure. The deal seems to be when Nancy Pelosi is saying exempt the unions, and the president is under else great pressure to and exempt the unions, and that's a powerful Democratic base, then you do what the unions want, right?

QUAYLE: Well, they — the unions have a lot of sway in the Democrat Party. The trial lawyers have a lot of say in the Democrat Party.

CAVUTO: So, it goes back to who to pay for it?

QUAYLE: Yes. Well, that's the thing. If they are going to take that off, most economists that I know do feel that that — by having that on there does have an lowering on overall health care costs. I think that is undisputed.

So, if they do take it off, they have got to figure out what they're going to do with the revenues. And they will have to get additional taxes, probably a millionaire's tax.


CAVUTO: Well, they say stick it to the rich, right? They always are ready to say, stick it to the rich.

QUAYLE: Oh, yes.

CAVUTO: And the House has a plan, 5.8 percent surtax on the rich and all that.

And I had a sense, Mr. Vice President, that there was a rich revolt going on, and that's why the president reversed that talk and started pursuing this Cadillac health plan tax again, and it might be reversed again.

But do you think there's a rich revolt, that his rich friends in the party and not-so-rich friends outside the party are saying, no mas, enough, cool it?

QUAYLE: Perhaps.

I think that they have probably looked at the numbers and they see the proportion of taxes that those that make over a million dollars — or, let's say, the top 5 percent of the taxpayers pay, what is it, 40 percent of the taxes. And they're going, OK, where's the balance here? Do you want the top 5 percent to pay 60 percent, 70 percent. What is...


CAVUTO: Well, I have talked to a lot of leading Democrats, Mr. Vice President, who say, yes, absolutely. That's...


QUAYLE: Yes. Well, I'm sure that, yes, they're the ones that probably have deferred compensation, which I think they will go after as well.


CAVUTO: Right.


QUAYLE: Deferred comp, they don't pay any taxes on that.

CAVUTO: Well, that's a very good point.

But do you think the administration, this new Congress is anti-rich or anti-business success? I mean, one industry after another, they drag them to the White House or today the bankers on Capitol Hill and they just whip them mercilessly, that that's really in their DNA? They don't like rich guys.

QUAYLE: I think, from a political point of view, that they have found out that the bailouts, so to speak, all of them, were not very popular. The so-called stimulus bill hasn't really produced jobs. As a matter of fact...

CAVUTO: But who do you blame the bailouts on? I mean, the first wave of financial bailouts under President Bush Jr. And many Republicans argued at the time — you might have been one of them — go slow, cool it. But we didn't. We went full-throttle. And now it picked up in hyperdrive.

QUAYLE: Well, I don't think it's whether Bush's fault or Obama's fault. I'm just trying to say what the mood of the Congress is.

CAVUTO: Right. Would you have done it?

QUAYLE: And, at that particular time, I probably would have. And I say probably...

CAVUTO: Knowing full well what it set...


QUAYLE: The question — the question — the question I would have had for Paulson and Bernanke and company, are we really at the — on the edge? If we don't do something...

CAVUTO: But we will never know, right?

QUAYLE: Well, but you have to trust the people that are there that have the information.

So, I mean, I presume they would have said, looked me right in the eyes and said, yes, if we don't doing do something like this — and they admitted they didn't know if this was perfect — if we don't do something like, then it's going to be catastrophic.


QUAYLE: Under that situation, you have to support it.

CAVUTO: Right. Yes.

You know, Mr. Vice President, what was interesting, New York Governor David Paterson was on my colleague Don Imus' show this morning on FOX Business, which, Mr. Vice President, if you don't get the network, you should demand it.

QUAYLE: I'm going to. We don't get it in Phoenix.

CAVUTO: Really?


CAVUTO: All right. I will talk to people. I know people.

QUAYLE: Yes. Yes. Good. Good.

CAVUTO: But one of the things that he raised with Don was this notion that, be careful vilifying the financial industry. For one thing, it makes a lot of tax dough for cities and for this country. And he said that this Democratic penchant — I'm paraphrasing here — to vilify industries will zoom you, and when it's a big employer and a big revenue-maker, be careful dissing it.

Again, I'm vastly oversimplifying it. But what do you make of that argument; Democrats are really hurting business by whacking business?


Well, I think that it's really a bipartisan revolt, if you will, against Wall Street. It's — whether it's Republicans or Democrats, go out on the campaign trail, they're going to be on the side of Main Street, not Wall Street. That's a common refrain from both Republicans and Democrats.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

QUAYLE: And if you're not from the state of New York or New York City, if you come from Arkansas...

CAVUTO: Oh, you hate them. You're right. You hate them.

QUAYLE: I mean, seriously, think of the politics.

CAVUTO: Yes. Yes.

QUAYLE: But, now, look, wise people have to step back and say, OK, is this good for the country? Forget about the politics. Everybody knows what the politics — but you really have got to look at good public policy.

You need strong financial institutions. And to have strong financial institutions, you need the best and the brightest to come to work for those financial institutions.

CAVUTO: So, when we limit their pay or talk about policing their pay, we inhibit that?

QUAYLE: Oh, absolutely...

CAVUTO: Really?

QUAYLE: ... but, I mean, in certain categories.

But, now, having said that, there's a better way to deal with the compensation than they have in the past, because, in the past, you would get rewarded for the end-of-the-year performance. And they would say, oh, my gosh, you're worth $10 million. And, then, the next year, all of a sudden, you lose money.

Well, there's no clawback.

CAVUTO: Yes. Yes.

QUAYLE: You just move on.

CAVUTO: It's a good point.

QUAYLE: No, I think the compensation structure and how that's going to work is under serious review. And I presume that Jamie Dimon and others that testified today talked about that, how they...

CAVUTO: They did. They all accepted that they're going to be paid in bottle caps this year.


CAVUTO: You know, I had to ask you while you were here, Mr. Vice President, one of the things that we remember most of your administration with President Bush is the great recantment, if you will, on taxes. Everyone remembers President Bush Sr. saying this — this famous remark.

Let's play that — or not.

QUAYLE: Oh, believe me, I know it.





CAVUTO: And he did. He had to recant that. And he tried to strike a deal, and everyone turned on him for that. And now you have this administration saying, I'm going to keep these tax hikes to the $200,000, $250,000-and-over crowd, and now a lot of smart folks like yourself are crunching the numbers and saying that this statement is impossible. Barack Obama:


SEN. BARACK OBAMA D-ILL., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you make less than $250,000 a year, your taxes will not increase one single dime, one single dime. If you are making under a quarter-million dollars a year, you will not see your taxes increased one single dime.


CAVUTO: Is he going to have a George Bush Sr. moment there?

QUAYLE: Well, I think everybody knows that taxes are going to go up for everyone. He may have a higher percentage for those that are over $250,000, but taxes are going to go up.

President Bush's decision to forego his campaign pledge happened during the buildup to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

CAVUTO: Right. Right. We needed the support.

QUAYLE: I have told people, what he did, he was arguing with the Congress on what the budget was going to be. And they pretty well held him hostage.

He could have put that off, you know, not gone along with it. But he said, look, I have got to deal with this budget, because I have got to get on to dealing with national security.

CAVUTO: Did you warn him at the time, that is going to be the sword you fall on?

QUAYLE: He knew that it...

CAVUTO: He knew?

QUAYLE: He knew. He says, "I know I'm doing this to my political detriment," but he says...

CAVUTO: Barack Obama must know that, if he pushes taxes that go beyond that crowd, it could be to his political detriment.

QUAYLE: I presume that they will somehow come up with like, instead of creating jobs, saving jobs...

CAVUTO: They're already doing that.

QUAYLE: ... that they save these taxpayers under $250,000 X-amount of dollars because they didn't do certain things.


QUAYLE: He probably has a little bit more wiggle room, and they're pretty good wordsmiths about how they can get around these things.

The idea of saving jobs should, in fact, count on the unemployment statistics is fairly interesting.

CAVUTO: A little interesting.


QUAYLE: And a lot of press — not you, but a lot of the press went along with it.

CAVUTO: Oh, yes. They don't crunch the numbers. That's all we do here. We're nerds.


QUAYLE: Nerds.

CAVUTO: Bottom line, are you ever going to run for anything else? You done?

QUAYLE: I doubt it.


CAVUTO: You're still a young guy.

QUAYLE: I feel young. Thank you. My kids don't think so.


QUAYLE: But I feel that way.

But I have been there, you know, House, Senate, vice president, tried to run for president. I know what it takes.

CAVUTO: It takes a lot of money, doesn't it? It takes a lot of money.

QUAYLE: Well, it takes time. It takes total passion. It takes total commitment. It's 24/7. You've got to be...


CAVUTO: Who is the next Republican standard-bearer?

QUAYLE: I don't know. You got — Mitt Romney, you have got to consider. I would put my governor from Indiana, Mitch Daniels.

CAVUTO: Really?

QUAYLE: I think that he — I don't know if he will run or not. But...

CAVUTO: Sarah Palin?

QUAYLE: Don't know whether she will run or not. You guys...


CAVUTO: Mike Huckabee?

QUAYLE: I presume so, although he has indicated he might not, but I presume that he does run. But I don't know. Pawlenty is out there.

Then there will be some other people that we're not even thinking of today that will...


CAVUTO: You're right. That's how it goes.

QUAYLE: How about John Thune from South Dakota?


CAVUTO: Right.

QUAYLE: We have got — we have got a — you have got a long list there.


Mr. Vice President, thank you very much, a real pleasure having you.

QUAYLE: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

You have got to start aging, though, my God. All right.



CAVUTO: Dan Quayle.

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