JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, we come back to two late-breaking stories: U.N. ambassador Susan Rice withdrawing her name from consideration to be secretary of state, and another White House meeting between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner. That ended after about an hour, with no indication of progress.
For the very latest, let's turn to Margaret Talev. She's a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News.
Margaret, so, a lot going on at the White House today. What are they saying there about this meeting with the speaker that I guess ended, what, about an hour ago?
MARGARET TALEV, Bloomberg News: That's right.
They're saying precious, which some would see as an indication that maybe progress is actually made. It was about a 50-minute meeting. Treasury Secretary Geithner was there.
And they -- really, the only indications they're giving us is that talks are proceeding respectfully and both are hopeful that a resolution can be reached. But whether they got any closer to the contours of a deal, it's not clear at this point. And we hope to learn more.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I was just reading some quotes from an interview the president did I guess this afternoon with a CBS affiliate, I believe in Chicago, where he said, among other things, he's hopeful of getting the fiscal cliff resolved and saying it shouldn't be that hard.
That's a contrast with the kind of language we're hearing from the speaker, who said in a press conference today at the Capitol that the president isn't giving, that he doesn't see any progress. How do you explain it?
MARGARET TALEV: They have -- they serve different -- they have different constituencies. And Speaker Boehner has got Republicans in his House caucus who may face primary challenges if they're not perceived as tough enough on holding the line against the tax increases and on demanding the spending cuts.
And in order to be able to bring them on board and get the sort of votes that he needs, he needs to be able to demonstrate that they have pushed hard against the president's initial offerings. And that has a lot to do with paving the way for a framework and a deal.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is the White House prepared to give him something then to help him with his, I guess, contentious cause was what the president called it today?
MARGARET TALEV: Well, to some extent. The president has already dialed back his initial demand from 1.6 to 1.4.
But out of the starting block, the Republicans weren't opposed to -- prepared to accept that anyhow. The president is seeking, to the extent that he can, to accommodate the speaker's considerations, because the president wants a deal, and so does the speaker.
This is -- Joe Biden maybe would have called it a Kabuki dance if it were a Supreme Court nomination, but there is sort of posturing on both sides that needs to take place, but underneath that, this isn't just posturing. There is -- these are really difficult decisions, most of which are probably going to be reached next year, but some of which have to happen before anybody leaves town for the holidays.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret, the other big development out of the White House today was the announcement that Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador, withdrawn her name as candidate to be the secretary of state. What's behind this?
MARGARET TALEV: Yes. This is a real personal disappointment for president. She's a very close friend, loyal to him. He liked her very much.
From what we're hearing, this was her decision, not the White House's decision. I mean, obviously, publicly, she says it was her decision, but behind the scenes they're also saying it was her call. It just got to a point where she realized that the controversies weren't going to go away, the criticisms of her for her handling of Benghazi, and that even if she were able to be confirmed, it would be perhaps a price, a political price that wasn't worth asking the president to pay.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, very quickly, Margaret, what are you hearing about who may be named?
MARGARET TALEV: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We keep hearing the name Sen. John Kerry.
MARGARET TALEV: That's right.
He's absolutely the leading candidate, from everybody that we're talking to at the White House and in Washington, and sort of more broadly. Nothing's done until it's done. The president can do whatever he wants. He can surprise everyone at the last minute. But Rice and Kerry were always seen as the two leading candidates.
And this may end up making the president's decision that much easier. And we expect probably next week to hear about State, Defense, maybe CIA.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News, thank you very much.
MARGARET TALEV: Thank you.