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NBC's Gregory: Isn't GOP To Blame 'For Not Doing More to Make Government Work Better'?

On Sunday's Meet the Press, host David Gregory urged Rick Santorum to blame congressional Republicans for Washington gridlock: "...approval of Republicans in Congress, stands at 26%. That's far less than the President's approval rating....Do you fault Republican leaders in Congress for not doing more to make government work better, through more compromise with the President?"

In response, Santorum observed: "You have to have someone you can work with. And this president has done more to divide than any other president that I've ever witnessed in my lifetime....who I don't believe has met with Boehner or any of the Republican leadership, in now six months, hard to compromise and work with someone who won't meet with you." Gregory dismissed that fact: "Clearly they've met with him. I mean, even the debt fight over the summer was a constant set of meetings. So that can't be accurate."

Gregory also cited The Washington's Post Dan Balz, who proclaimed the GOP's supposed "checkered record in the past year" that has left Americans wondering, "Are the Republicans really ready to lead?"

After Santorum refused to accept Gregory's invitation to attack the House GOP, Gregory pressed further: "You don't fault Republicans for intransigence on taxes or spending or other areas of potential compromise with the President?"

Santorum concluded: "We have an explosion of spending....I think Republicans are right to stand and fight on this. And the President seems to be absolutely disinterested in listening to what the American public said in the last election, which is we want more limited government. He did not get the message. I guess he's going to have to get this message, hopefully, in November."

Here is a transcript of the January 1 exchange:

10:54AM ET

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DAVID GREGORY: One of the things you look at as an insurgent party trying to beat an incumbent president – you've said that a second term for President Obama would be dangerous for the country – is that you look at the party that's making the challenge. And here's the reality, disapproval for the Republican Party right now in Congress, I should say, approval of Republicans in Congress, stands at 26%. That's far less than the President's approval rating.

And Dan Balz writes this in The Washington Post in his column on Tuesday, "For GOP candidates, worries about the party's brand. A year ago, after their big victory in the midterm elections, Republicans were full of confidence and anticipation. As Americans look toward next November, the question that many will be asking is: Are the Republicans really ready to lead? In three political arenas – Congress, the states and the presidential campaign trail – Republicans have left a checkered record in the past year."

In Congress it was the debt debacle forcing a near shutdown of the government. The payroll tax debate that looked to go in the President's favor. You had the fights with the unions in the states like Wisconsin. Do you fault Republican leaders in Congress for not doing more to make government work better, through more compromise with the President?

RICK SANTORUM: You have to have someone you can work with. And this president has done more to divide than any other president that I've ever witnessed in my lifetime. This president goes out and gives speech after speech after speech trying to divide America between class, between income group, between racial and ethnic groups. This is the great divider-in-chief.

And it's very difficult when you're being lampooned by the President on a regular basis, not just as a party but individually, to then – and the president, who I don't believe has met with Boehner or any of the Republican leadership, in now six months, hard to compromise and work with someone who won't meet with you. Who won't sit down and try to negotiate things and try to talk. So I'm not surprised at all that Republicans are having a difficult time with someone who has no interest-

GREGORY: Clearly they've met with him. I mean, even the debt fight over the summer was a constant set of meetings. So that can't be accurate.

GREGORY: Well, if you look at it. The last time he's had meetings, I know it's been several months. And I know that President Bush, when I was there, and President Reagan, routinely met on a regular basis, with the other side. And developed relationships. You know, it's – this is about trust. You don't build trust by going up and running around the country, beating up on your opponent. He's the president of everybody in this country. As President of the United States, I would be someone who would meet regularly, who would talk and try to build relationships of trust. And this president has not done that.

GREGORY: So you don't fault – you don't fault Republicans for intransigence on taxes or spending or other areas of potential compromise with the President?

SANTORUM: Again, we go back to the basic fact. Federal government now is spending about 25% of GDP. That's historically the average is about 18%. We have an explosion of spending. And the problem in this country is, government oppression, spending, that's leading to huge debts and deficits. What the Republicans have said is, "No more." We are going to move in the direction of smaller government. And President Obama has no interest in doing that.

I think Republicans are right to stand and fight on this. And the President seems to be absolutely disinterested in listening to what the American public said in the last election, which is we want more limited government. He did not get the message. I guess he's going to have to get this message, hopefully, in November.

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- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.