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Live Coverage of the White House Press Briefing. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 14:00   ET


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But as you can imagine from the president's previous comments, he is extremely concerned about this -- about these allegations, about this -- about the potential that something, if this were true, would have on our national security.


And make no mistake about it. I think the President has talked before that anybody who leaks classified information will be held to the highest degree of law. We will go after people who leak classified information. We will prosecute them to the full extent of the law. This is -- playing with our nation's national security is not something that should be taken lightly under this administration.

QUESTION: When it came to the campaign and Hillary Clinton, the President said quote, I love WikiLeaks. Does he still feel that way today?

SPICER: There is a big difference between disclosing Podesta -- John Podesta's gmail accounts about a back and forth and his undermining of Hillary Clinton and his thoughts on her on a personal nature, and the leaking of classified information. There is a massive, massive difference between those two things. And I think it is, again, the interest and the outrage that occurred last year by a lot of Democrats when it came to leaks, it's interesting that we're hearing not as much outrage now when it comes to some of our issues of national security.

April --

QUESTION: Sean, a couple (ph) questions. One, you said Congressman Cummings, you affirmed Congressman Cummings is meeting with President Trump today.


QUESTION: In the last press conference, (inaudible) the President had, he (ph) talked about Senator Schumer telling Elijah Cummings not to come. What happened to smooth this over, and what is the conversation going to be about? Is it just going to solely be on the high cost of prescription drugs?

SPICER: Well I think the nature of the meeting stems from the conversation they had on the phone, which was on prescription drugs. And that I'm sure that if Congressman Cummings or the President brings up another subject, it'll go there. I'm not -- we'll try to have some sort of readout afterwards, depending on how that goes.

But it's -- the nature of it is an area where they agree. And if you remember, one of the things that they talked about on the phone is that they -- there were probably several more areas that they would agree on and find that they would agree on throughout a conversation. And I hope that that conversation does exactly what they said that it would in terms of getting to those areas of common agreement where they can work together to help solve additional problems that our country faces.

QUESTION: So you don't have any knowledge of what happened to smooth that over --

SPICER: I know our teams were in touch with his office immediately following. And as you know, there were a couple times when the meetings had been -- tried to be scheduled and it just didn't work out, and hope, luckily now, they will.

QUESTION: He's one member of 49 of the CBC (ph). Right after that press conference, the White House reached out to the Congressional Black Caucus, to Cedric Richmond, the head of the caucus. Where is that meeting? Where does that meeting land (ph)? Is it happening --

SPICER: I know that we've reached out, and we're looking for a date on that as well. So we're pleased that this one was able to come together, and then we'll get to the next one. Yes --

QUESTION: Last question. Yesterday, there was a compare and contrast with visual, show and tell, if you will --

SPICER: Yes. I saw that (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Yes, you were there (ph), yes. So -- you compared and contrasted about how you're going about it and how the Obama administration went about Obamacare. One difference that they make note, and I want to get your response to this, is the fact that you may have this and said you're doing this versus what they're doing -- the one thing that they say that you did not do that they did, had their bill scored (ph) by CDL (ph), and you did not score --

SPICER: Sure. It is being scored. Look, I know -- look, with all due respect to that, this is the same group that said -- who passed it and then told us we could read it. I mean, this bill is online for every American to go to It's on the speaker's website. We linked to it on several accounts that we've --


SPICER: I understand that. And again, if that's the complaint, this is the same group that didn't let anybody read it, that did it -- that jammed it through with no bipartisan support. This President has reached out to both sides of the aisle, had governors here, had senators here, to get their input -- there's no contrast between what we did and what they did. This was a full effort to reach out to members in the House and the Senate. It's going through regular order in the House. Every member of the House and the Senate will be able to have their opportunity to have amendments offered through the committee process and on the floor.

So the idea that they can compare the date that they got a score is pretty reaching deep on this, because there's been an opportunity for members to have their input on this and to talk about their concerns, to give their input on it, especially the governors, who were left on the sideline last time, and who have such an important role in administering healthcare when it comes to Medicaid. The idea that anyone talks about when the score was issued -- there will be a score in all due -- in all good time.

But the other thing is, let's be honest, the irony of the score is that the CBL (ph) was way off the last time. I don't think that -- that we're waiting to -- that that's a big issue to us right now.

Of course cost matters. But look at how off they were last time. If you're looking at the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place. I mean they were way way off the last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected ObamaCare.


In terms, no, but, neither did they. I mean, last time, if you look at the number of people that they projected that would be on ObamaCare, they are off by millions, so the idea that we are waiting for a score, it will be scored. But, the idea that that is any kind of authority based on the track record that occurred last time is a little far fetched. (Jessica)?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the bids for the prototypes that went out today, and I just was curious about the timing of that. How much pressure there was to get the going quickly. And, secondly, is there guidance from the White House about what kind of vendors can build the wall, especially international vendors build the wall.

SPICER: I think that process is working through as the President has talked about before, we are trying to move ahead with existing funds that DHS has and then we'll continue to create a time line to ask Congress for that funding. We're working with Congress on that. And, then, you know, I don't think it will be any surprise to know that the President is going to favor American workers and American companies when it comes to an American project. That shouldn't be any kind of surprise. (Blake)?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) increasingly likely that the Federal Reserve, next week, will hike interest rates? Two or three questions, one, how does the President feel about that and secondly, does have the full confidence of Janet Yellon, who he described during the campaign, to political to leave the Federal Reserve (OFF-MIKE).

SPICER: Let me get back to you on that one, I don't have any comment on the Federal Reserve. I'll look at the team, what I will say is that, you know, as I mentioned at the outset, when you look at the hiring and the jobs and the manufacturing and the pay, the consumer confidences and the CEOs indexes that are going -- that have already come out in the first two months. We see a resurgence and optimism in the economy by job creators to want to hire here, who want to manufacture here, who want to grow here. And, I think that our economy is clearly on the up-swing. And, I think you see statement after statement, company after company coming out and sharing the in President's vision for moving the country forward and for renewing the optimism and building and being part of an American resurgence, in terms of economy.

QUESTION: Let me clear this, the no thoughts were on Mrs. Yellon or on his thoughts for rate hike?

SPICER: I'll get back to you on both, how's that?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the last question on, give us (OFF-MIKE). One thing the Obama administration did do is get a few (stake holders) to the table, AARP, American Medical Association, both of those (inaudible) came out strongly opposed to this proposal. So, what's your message particularly, with respect to the AARP?

SPICER: It think the AARP got a really good deal the last time when it came to prescription drugs in particular. I think this is a patient centric bill. It's about patients, it's about people, it's about the Americans who got left behind. Look at what those deals got people last time.

I mean, for all those people who are on Medicaid, in particular, they don't have choices anymore. So, I would argue that the President has put the American people first and has put patients first. So, you can talk about, you know, we're glad to have support, no mistake about it. But, I think that the support that this administration, and I think that the house is focused on, is getting every American their buy-in and their support.

That's, you know, obviously, I not going to -- we would love to have every group on board, but this isn't going to be -- every single deal isn't going through, the cornhusker kick-back, this and that, over and over again it was one deal after another to get to buy votes to get it though the Senate.

So, if you want to line up how many special interests got paid off last time versus now, they'll probably win hands down, hold on, this isn't about figuring out how many special interests in Washington we can get paid off. It's about making sure that patients get the best deal, that lowers prices and brings back cost.

But again, I think, what I'm trying to figure out at some point your defending the indivisible. Nancy Pelosi put out three criteria for how they judge ObamaCare, and by their own standards, they fail on all three. Costs were up, choices are down. That's -- there is no other way to judge that. By every account, every single premium, by every standard is up. Choices are down across the country.

So, there is a horrible deal that the American people got sold and what we're trying to do is put patients back first in line.

QUESTION: So, the AARP is specifically talking about patients in the 50s and 60s. AARP describes this as an age tax that will disproportionately affect people who, right are now, low income, benefit from subsidies under ObamaCare and could stand, according the AARP's estimate, take a hit of thousands of dollars in their premium payments each year when their subsidies go way and the tax credits go away. What's your message to those people? The message from the President

SPICER: And, the message from the President is that we want you to get more choice a lower cost and I think as we work this bill through, through daylight, not jam it through in the middle of the night -- that they are going to see, as more and more people will, that this is a deal for the American people that's gonna put patients first, lower their costs, and give them more choices.

But again, I -- I don't -- there is probably not a person out there, either through themselves, or a loved one, or a friend, or a colleague that has seen choices go down and premiums go up. So what people are dealing with now is not acceptable.

And I think that the idea that anyone is defending the current status quo... And even in some of the statements of some of the groups, they admit that there's a problem right now. And so my advice to those people is join the process. Share your ideas. Share your thought. Let the process work its will so that it is a bill that has input.

But the bill, the way it was done last time, is not something that's acceptable.

QUESTION: Is the president worried, though, that every major doctor's group -- the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians -- have all come out and said they have serious concerns? For all the talk of doctors, and patients, and choice, that doctors' groups are all so far unanimously coming out saying they're not supportive of this. Is that concerning?

SPICER: No, I -- I think when you look at a lot of doctors, versus the associations here in Washington, we have had tremendous input from doctors themselves. Dr. Price himself a -- a doctor, is the one who crafted this.

So you have a doctor in charge of the -- the administration's effort to work with Congress. You've got several physicians and other medical professionals in Congress that are talking about the experiences they have. In fact, many ran for Congress because of the concerns they saw in their own industry.

So with -- while I -- I'm not -- I have respect for some of the work that some of these Washington, D.C.-based associations do, at the end of the day, this is about patients, and about the input from doctors who are on the front line of seeing patients and talking about the care that they're able to give, or not to give, to people. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Do you mind if I follow up on something else you said?


SPICER: I do. I don't -- sorry. QUESTION: I'm sorry. The -- you've talked about people having a card. You've got a card, but it's a $2,000 deductible, and there's only ten doctors in your town that'll (inaudible)...

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: Well, and... But that's better than nothing, if you get cancer or hit by a car. So maybe that's an (inaudible) access... Right. But it is better than no insurance. So if this expands access to people and choice, but it reduces the number of people who actually have health insurance.


SPICER: But I don't think it...

QUESTION: So can it do both?

SPICER: But, yeah, of course it can, and it will do both by ensuring that more people... Right now, you've got more people not -- you know, paying the penalty and saying, "I don't want health care. I'm not going to pay the penalty." Because costs are too high. P

You know, and was it probably five, six, seven years ago, before Obamacare went into place, a single individual, young, individual person on the -- on the open market could get a premium, a -- a plan with a premium of, you know, $100, $150 a month. It's in the high 300s now. And I think that there's a big difference. You're not -- for young people just entering the workplace, for example, your -- your -- your example. They go get into an accident. Right now, you've got a lot of individuals that get off their parents' health care and say, "I'm healthy. I have no desire to go get health care. It's another, you know, few hundred dollars a month that I don't have, or that I'd rather spend on something else."

If we can get that cost down, it makes a lot more sense, and get them plans that are tailored to them. 27, 28-year-old individuals don't need care that's for folks, you know, that -- that talks about certain things that -- a plan that has certain things that -- that are towards the end of life. But right now, you've got one size fits all, government-run, government-mandated plans that offer people a suite of -- of -- of medical services that they do not need, because there's no choice. And it's a government-mandated system.

I think offering more choice and more competition allows people to pick a plan that is more tailored to your needs. And this goes back, exactly what John was asking, that if you can get -- if you can actually pick a plan, and across state lines, find one that suits you as an individual, as opposed to, you know, maybe there's a family plan that's more comprehensive. It has dental, and vision, and all the things that your kids are going to need, because, you know, of all the things that you anticipate. They're not -- That's a plan that, you know, a -- a -- a young family might need, versus an -- an older person that's single, or a younger person that's just entering the workforce. But right now, there's no competition. There's no choice. So it's

not an either/or situation. We're -- we're facing a situation where more and more people are getting less and less, and paying more and more for it. And that's -- that's the wrong way to go.


SPICER: My apologies. Anita, then Maura (ph)

QUESTION: The (inaudible) The military has recently conducted some kind of exercise at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, and it was preparing for an migrant crisis. And there is a DHS migrant center there. And I wondered if the administration has considered, and what -- what you all thought -- think about using that facility for immigrants.

SPICER: Well, I mean, I would just -- I would -- that -- that particular exercise, to the best of my knowledge, is a -- is a rather regular exercise that occurs, as do many of the exercises that the military prepares for in a whole host of contingency operations.

So, that is a routine military operation.

QUESTION: (inaudible) consideration, though?

SPICER: No, I'm not going to -- there is -- it is a routine military operation. As several of them do with our -- our partners throughout the world where we plan for random, you know, contingencies that may or may not happen. That's the job of the military to practice for contingencies that may or may not happen on a whole host of issues.

But to try to ascertain, you know...


QUESTION: Are you all going to -- considering using the facility for immigrants?

SPICER: There is nothing to consider it for. I think we're fine right now. There's nothing that we would need to use it for.

But again, I mean, I think part of the goal of preparing the military going through various exercises is on a whole host of issues -- on refugees; they prepare for natural disasters. We're not prepare -- we're not anticipating a natural disaster, but we prepare for them.

We -- at the White House when we were coming in as an administration, we did -- I think we briefed -- during the transition period, we did -- we called it a "right-seat/left-seat" operation with the outgoing administration. So we sat down and talked about cyber attacks and natural disasters, and the whole-of-government response in some of these things.

It doesn't mean that we anticipate them. It doesn't mean that we want them. It means that we're going to prepare for them, in the same way that many organizations do fire drills. It's not that you anticipate or expect a fire, but you prepare for them, as many families do.

Preparedness is the key to executing well. And I think that's all we're doing.

QUESTION: And secondarily, the Louisville media is reporting that President Trump will be here on Saturday. Can you confirm that? And is this about healthcare, as you've just (inaudible) going to make the rounds?

SPICER: Yeah, I would -- I've seen that report. We have nothing to announce with respect to the president's schedule at this time. But as I mentioned earlier to I think it was Shannon, that we will have -- or is it Jill -- I can't -- one of -- somewhere in this area -- we will have an update on the president's schedule later this week.

But I -- I do anticipate the president to be very active in his support for the repeal and replace effort. And so this is what you should -- you should expect.

Now, Mara (ph)?

QUESTION: The CBO score is supposed to come out next week, and you just called into question their credibility.

SPICER: I didn't call into question -- just so we're clear. I'm just -- I'm just -- thanks, Matt (ph), I appreciate it. I can answer.

They -- their record is what I'm calling into question. When you look at the number of people and the cost on what they scored the last Obamacare bill on, it's way off. That's not -- that's a fact. That's not anything more than that.

QUESTION: Well, people base their votes on what they think is going to happen to the costs and the coverage...

SPICER: That's right.

QUESTION: (inaudible) coverage. Is there any analytic organization that you would accept to score from?

SPICER: Well, I think that there's -- yeah, I mean, I think -- I mean, OMB will probably put out a score on that.


SPICER: No, no. I'm not saying -- but Mara (ph), hold on. Before -- all I'm saying is look at what the CBO's record is on Obamacare. It's vastly off. I think they projected 20 million people to be on Obamacare this year. I believe the number of 12 million. They're -- they're way off in terms of the millions.

So it's not a question of whether I'm questioning anything. Anyone that can actually do basic math can understand that their projections for Obamacare the last time were way, way off the mark. And so my only point is that I think when they come out with this score, we need to understand the track record when it comes to healthcare. (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (inaudible) the track record (inaudible) scoring (inaudible)?

SPICER: I'm sorry. Well, there's probably a lot. And I think members have to look at a lot of things to cast their vote on. The -- the -- they're going to have to look at the totality of the bill; the support of their constituents; the current state of things.

I think that there is no question -- look, when you look at the trajectory of the cost right now in terms of premiums, you can either say -- and not just the premiums, but Obamacare is going to collapse on its own weight very soon. And the president made it very clear in his press conference and a lot of previous statements, the politically easy thing to do is just let is collapse and let Democrats come back to the table.

I don't think that's the right thing. The president has made it clear he doesn't think that's the right thing. This is an opportunity for him to show the American people that the right thing to do is to care about their healthcare options and the costs that they're paying.


QUESTION: One last thing...

SPICER: Of course.

QUESTION: ... you mentioned deductibles before and how -- how they're going up under Obamacare. Are you promising people that their deductibles will come down under this plan?

SPICER: Everything that we have been led to believe about how this is -- is yes, this will drive costs down. When you talk about opening up pooling; when you talk about driving costs down because you can buy it over state lines, everything that has driven up costs, all of those market forces will come in. And I think every leading economist who has looked at this says it will drive costs down.

John Gizzi (ph)?

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.

The premier argument by Democrats, notably former President Obama today, is that enactment of the act that we were -- that was illustrated yesterday would lead to many people losing their health care.

You certainly heard that from Democrats. But also several of the Republican governors who were here for the National Governor's Association, including strong allies of the president, Gov. Bentley of Alabama, Gov. Hutchinson of Arkansas voiced the same concern. They did not want any plan that would lead to anyone losing their present health care.

What does the administration say to what is the leading argument against a new plan? And then I have a follow-up question.

SPICER: Of course.

I would say that any governor that's concerned about people losing care right now should join us. They're losing their care right now. They're losing their options. And they're paying too much.

So the answer is that if you're concerned about those principles, then you should be concerned with what's happening right now. And you should be concerned and want to join in this administration and work with this Congress.

Again, the biggest differences here is instead of us jamming a bill down Congress and not allowing the American people to read it until it's passed, as was done with Obamacare with then Speaker Pelosi, is if this bill is out in the open for every single person in the world to read. It is open for people to let their member of Congress feel -- share their thoughts, share their ideas. And it's done out in the open.

I think that is a vastly different approach with how this is going about than the last time. And that makes a big difference with the approach. And it gives people an opportunity through the process, what they call regular order, to have input on this. And if it can be made better, then great. But I think this time we recognize that there's a lot of work that needs to get done on behalf of the patients that are having trouble getting care.


QUESTION: Oh, wait...

SPICER: I'm sorry.

QUESTON: My follow-up question...

SPICER: Of course.

QUESTION: ... is a follow-up question about the wall.

During the recent Governor's Association meeting, Gov. Graco Ramirez, who is the governor of Mexico's Association of Federated Governors, warned that continued discussion about the wall, and the president's talk of building it, might very well lead to the election of Mr. Lopez Obrador as president of Mexico. And he is considered the most anti- American, most hostile to America of any of the candidates.

Are these any concerns that come up in the discussion of the wall, namely the impact on Mexican politics?

SPICER: No. The president's -- that's pretty good. The president's number one concern is the safety of our country. Number two is the jobs that are impacted by this and the ability of Americans to get the wage that they deserve.

But again, this is a national security issue. Something that frankly, when he's discussed this with President Pena Nieto of Mexico that there is at least -- there is a shared concern about drug cartels, drug trafficking, arms sales over the border. There is a shared concern for the respect of the border because it means a lot to both sides.

So this is something that we care about from a national security standpoint. And then obviously the president's concerned on it both as well as on an economic standpoint.


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) your answer was that if the health care bill could be made better, the president is interested in that. So can I just clarify?

Once he meets with the congressional conservatives this evening, who are -- who have misgivings about the legislation, is he intending to talk to them about what they would like to change? And is he open to making those changes? Is that what the -- is that the mode he's in rather than a sell mode...


QUESTION: ... in a listening mode?

SPICER: I think he's in a very much of a sell mode. The president has -- and his team have worked very hard on this. They're proud of the effort and the product that they have produced with -- in consultation with the House and the Senate.

But obviously it's going through the process. And so if somebody has an idea -- and that could be on the administration side, that we believe that after a consultation with individuals or groups that there's a way to improve upon this. But that's the beauty of going through the process that we are.

But make no mistake, the president is very proud of the product that we have produced. We're out in full sell mode all around the country talking about how we think this is the best way to solve the problem that the American people face. And that -- why we believe that the solutions that we put forward in this bill are the right ones, and it will benefit them.


SPICER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I follow up and say, before the president meets with Chancellor Merkel next week, is it possible that we could see the president for a more general multi-question news conference?

He's been a little press shy this week. And from North Korea to health care selling to CIA leaks, we'd love to talk to him. Could we see him...

(CROSSTALK) SPICER: I will ask...



SPICER: I'm sure -- I'm not -- is there anyone else? I could be glad to ask. A show of hands.



SPICER: Thank you, I appreciate it. I would be glad to ask the President. I'll share your request with him and I'll see what we can do on a schedule. But as you know, he is very busy these days. He's done a lot of sprays. He will continue to interact with you guys, but I will be glad to make your request known.

Katie (ph)?

QUESTION: Sean, yesterday...



QUESTION: ...Capitol Hill there was a lot of talk of the starting point being a non-starter. So it seems like there are some negotiations that need to be made. Does the President have any non- negotiables in his bill that he will not take out, even after...


SPICER: Well Katie (ph), I think as I was just saying to Alexis (ph) that it is a starting point. It's going through regular order in the House. And so, part of that process as it goes through the Committee Mark-up hearing, both in Ways and Means and House Energy and Commerce Committee, that by its very nature allows for input through both of those committees and ultimately on the floor before it moves over to the Senate.

The Senate goes through a similar process. So I think frankly we're just acknowledging the reality of where the process is. But we're proud of the process, we're proud of the input that we've received from Governors, from Senators, from individuals, associations and companies. We feel very proud of the work that is encapsulated in this bill and the results it will yield.

And so that being said, I think the President understands as a business man that if someone has got a really good idea, then he's going to listen it. If he can be part of the process to help make something better, there's nothing that's going to preclude that. We have been very open to listening to people. We're very proud of it. We're going to go out and as I said in full sell mode, but if there's an idea that comes across, we're going to entertain that to make it clear.

Hallie (ph)?

QUESTION: Two topics here.


QUESTION: The first on healthcare and then I'll have a follow-up on that. In the past, you and others have accused democrats of rushing through the original healthcare law. Now, there are some republicans including today who say this is simply moving too fast. Is the President willing to accept a delayed timeline if it pushes repeal and replace into later in the year?

SPICER: I don't -- going through the process can't be delay -- I mean by its very nature. We are going through the committee process. There are two House Committees --

QUESTION: ...timelines being mid-Easter break...


SPICER: That's subject -- right. But I would argue it's subject to the House does it's will, and then how the Senate does. I think obviously we would like this to move forward. There's a lot of stuff in the queue.

We've talked about tax reform. This bill is attached to the FY17 Budget Reconciliation and I know that for a lot of Americans that means nothing, in terms of the phrase and the nomenclature that surrounds how Congress does it. But it's important to recognize that that vehicle allows Congress to do certain things and not others with a 50 vote -- a majority vote in the Senate.

That's important. There are certain things you can do through that, that you can't do through other vehicles. It will take a 60 vote and that you can do administratively. So, it's actually if you heard Dr. Price (ph) talk yesterday about the three phases, it's actually multi- phased, it's going through regular order, but there are simply no contrasts between how we are approaching this and how democrats approached it last time.

Number one, there's actually been input from across the aisle, both from the governors who are here, attorney generals, outside groups, House and Senate democrats have been able to provide input to both staff, to the senior administration officials to the President. And then secondly, it's actually going through the process.

So while we can forget the timeline, ultimately it's going to be up to the House and then the Senate to determine how fast it goes. But there are members on each of those committees, and then ultimately every member on the floor that has the ability to give input.

QUESTION: One other question. I'm just curious about this meeting with Senator Cruz tonight. He has come out and expressed some skepticism on the bill as it stands now, presumably that would be part of the topic of conversation, but as you mentioned Heidi Cruz is coming too and I'm wondering if the President has any plans to apologize to her for the insinuations he made on the campaign trail?

SPICER: I think they're looking forward to a great dinner. He's had -- he had dinner with the Rubio's a couple days ago, maybe a week ago. He had lunch yesterday with Senator Graham. This is, as I stated weeks ago, the President is going to continue to have outreach to members of Congress, both parties. He's meeting with Congressman Cummings today.

This is a President who wants to engage with members of both sides of the aisles and both houses, but also groups, business leaders, union leaders, the AFL/CIO head -- which if Trump goes here yesterday. This is a President who is going to engage with everybody who can help join in proposing ideas and thoughts and opinions on how to move the country forward.