'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Sunday, March 15th, 2015
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Show: UP with STEVE KORNACKI
Date: March 15, 2015
Guest: John Stanton, David Avella, Basil Smickle, Randy Gardner, Robert
Blecker, Andrea Bernstein, Chemi Shalev, Erica Sagrans, PJ Crowley, John
Sununu, John Feinstein
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hillary`s trust-me defense.
All right. Good morning to you. Thanks for getting up with us this Sunday
morning. A lot we`re going to get to in the next two hours on the show
starting with just trust me. It`s an argument we`ve heard before from
Hillary Clinton. There is fresh blowback to the e-mail scandal this
morning that shows that that might be a tough sell for her this time
around. A lot more on that in just a moment.
Also ahead in the show, one of the best reporters on the Chris Christie
beat made quite a discovery. It was hiding in plain sight on a government
website. She`s going to be here to talk about what she found this week and
how it may -- may undermine some of what the New Jersey governor has said
about the George Washington Bridge scandal. We`re looking forward to that.
Also on the show, new reporting out of New Hampshire this morning that
shows that the granite state is looking like a free-for-all. Still
anyone`s game for Republican presidential hopefuls. But Jeb Bush and Scott
Walker, they don`t seem to have gotten that message. Both met with former
governor John Sununu this weekend. We`re excited he`s going to be here on
this show to weigh in on what is happening in his state as that primary
race already heating up. Former Governor John Sununu on the show in a
Plus, are they ready for Hillary or are they ready for someone else? The
founder of Ready for Warren is going to be here to tell us why they`re
still not totally giving up on the idea of recruiting Elisabeth Warren to
run against Hillary Clinton. We`ll ask her what they`ll do if Warren
continues to say she won`t run.
But we begin this morning with Hillary Clinton and the matter of trust.
The former secretary of state, the presumed presidential candidate,
defending herself this week in the scandal over her exclusive use of a
nongovernment e-mail address to doing it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: The way the system works, the federal employee, the
individual, whether they have one device, two devices, three devices, how
many addresses, they make the decision. So even if you have a work-related
device with a work-related dot.gov account, you choose what goes on that.
That is the way our system works. And so, we trust and count on the
judgment of thousands, maybe millions of people, to make those decisions.
And I feel that I did that and even more, that I went above and beyond what
I was requested to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So there was that word again, "trust." It`s what Hillary`s
defense really comes down to here. Ultimately she`s saying you have to
decide whether you trust me. And Republicans are quick to respond to that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R) KENTUCKY: She didn`t obey the rules on putting her e-
mails on a government server, and now she says there wasn`t classified
information. I`m not sure that can be trusted since we can`t trust her to
do the right thing the first time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And really in a way, this is the same argument we`ve been
hearing about the Clintons, about both Clintons ever since they made it
onto the national stage more than 20 years ago now. A debate over trust.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people should demand that their president
tell the truth. Do you really believe -- do you really believe Bill
Clinton will tell the truth, and do you -- do you trust Bill Clinton? To
be your president?
SEN. ALFONSE D`AMATO (R) NEW YORK: The committee is troubled by the
numerous instances of memory loss, half-truths, and outright contradictions
in the testimony given before the committee.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So ask yourself,
who do you trust to end a war? Someone who opposed the war from the
beginning or someone who started opposing it when they started preparing a
run for president?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So this is a theme you can expect to hear a lot from Clinton`s
opponents as the presidential campaign heats up. The idea that you can`t
trust her. And polls have long shown it`s one of her biggest
vulnerabilities, one of her husband`s, too. Last year just 38 percent of
voters in an NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll said they find Hillary
honest and straightforward. 40 percent saying in that poll that they don`t
see her that way. As one Democrat who worked in the Clinton administration
told "the L.A. Times" this week, quote, "People don`t really trust the
Clintons. They may like them, but they don`t trust them."
Here to talk about this issue of trust, we have with us our panel, we have
Beth Fouhy, senior editor for MSNBC who covered Clinton`s 2008 campaign as
elite political reporter for the Associated Press, also with us, political
strategist, Basil Smickle, a former aide to Senator Hillary Clinton, now
professor at Columbia University. John Stanton, Washington bureau chief
for Buzzfeed and David Avella, chairman of GOPAC. So, thanks, everybody,
for being here.
So, well, Beth, let me just start with you. This issue of trust. That was
the clip, the first clip we had there, is from the 1992 campaign. So we`re
talking 23 years ago against Bill Clinton. It`s can you trust him? We
have Obama in 2008, can you trust Hillary Clinton? We`re hearing it this
week with Rand Paul. Did Hillary Clinton say or do anything in the way she
handled this controversy this week that changes the basic divide that`s
existed on this issue for 20 years?
BETH FOUHY, MSNBC SENIOR EDITOR: No. I mean, I think the biggest problem
with this whole thing at least as far as I see it is, it is so much
smacking of the `90s. I mean with her, you know, there`s a congressional
committee running her down, wanting answers and she`s digging in and
refusing to hand over what people are asking for. I mean, it`s just
bringing back Ken Starr and I feel like Chumbawumba (ph) song playing in
the background. I mean that`s what I felt watching this this week, and I
didn`t feel that way in 2008. I didn`t feel like the 2008 campaign felt
like a big throwback to the `90s, because it was - a big battle between her
and Barack Obama. But watching the scene this week just made me feel like
oh, we`ve all been through this before. We`ve been through this in the
`90s. Like who wants to go back to this?
KORNACKI: And it`s interesting you say that because here`s speaking of
throwbacks in the `90s, this is new, this is in this morning`s "New York
Times." Now, Maureen Dowd, op-ed comes with "The New York Times" was very
hard on the Clintons back in the 1990s. And here she is on Hillary Clinton
and e-mail thing. She frames this as an open letter to Hillary`s e-mail
address. She says if you want it that bad, go ahead and be president and
leave us in peace, or war, if you have your hawkish way. You`re still
idling on the runway but we`re already jetlagged. Maureen Dowd against the
Clintons. Again, that also feels a bit like the 1990s. But if that`s true
what you`re saying, but I guess what I wonder as well is does it matter? I
mean if the polls show that voters don`t particularly trust the Clintons,
well, they won in the `90s. She`s the frontrunner now. They`ve been very
successful. Does it matter that people don`t trust them?
FOUHY: Look, I mean. The polling is very remarkable at how popular she is
and continues to be with voters. I really don`t think that voters are
going to care that much about this. I really don`t. Does that mean that
it`s not a story? I think it is. I think it does speak, again, to the
fact that she`s always feels like she`s got something to hide. And that`s
going to be something that I think bothers certainly the people who cover
her and is going to be an issue for her opponents.
KORNACKI: But let me get the rest of you to weigh in. I mean I just
watched it this weekend and I said this is something we`re going to see
over and over, the dynamic this week for the next ...
BASIL SMICKLE: I think it`s interesting about the point of having
something to hide. And this is the one of the most, if not the most,
vetted public official in the world. I don`t think she`s got much to hide.
And I don`t think she`s hiding anything at all. And if you look at her
press conference and what she`s done before and after in an attempt to
mollify any of the critics, she`s released these 55,000, what is it, pages
of documents, more than she was required to do. And as the story has
developed -- but as the story has developed ...
KORNACKI: It`s interesting, she`s required, under the guidelines, she`s
required to basically turn over anything that`s related to her government
work. She says it`s more than was required. There is no way of verifying
what she`s turned over exactly, though.
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Why should anyone trust her to make the decision
that what she turned over is only the things that needed to be turned over?
KORNACKI: That`s what the question is.
DAVID AVELLA, GOPAC: There`s been a lot of investigations of the Clintons,
but part of it is because their actions continuously undermine voters`
beliefs that they play within the rules and if they follow the law. It`s
almost like we need a new word like Clintitlement.
AVELLA: Drama that was created by the Clintons because of their ...
SMICKLE: No, I mean if you want to say that, then be fair and talk about
the Republicans and Jeb Bush and others who have also used their personal
e-mail addresses, who have yet to disclose the documents that they`ve been
asked to disclose in this regard. And quite frankly, when you go back to
sort of how voters feel about government broadly, the numbers are very,
very low. They just don`t trust Washington at all. But I do think they
would trust her to actually be able to be in that environment and manage
government and Congress to actually get something done in this country. So
I think we`re tying two things together.
AVELLA: This is more than just the e-mail, though. This is a continual
series of actions by the Clintons ever since they came on the national
stage. Look, this e-mail scandal is not going to prevent her from being
president of the United States. But there`s always every so often a new
Clinton scandal comes up because they don`t think they should play within
the law like everybody else has to play within the law.
SMICKLE: I completely disagree. I think - and quite frankly, where is
there not -- where is there the conversation about Republicans playing
within the law? We need to have that conversation.
KORNACKI: Let me get John in this. Because I mean, that`s one of the
subtexts, too, of the whole do you trust them? Do you not trust them
things with the Clintons. As always, you know, the Clintons have this very
antagonistic relationship with the media. And it`s - there`s the sense you
get from Clintons where that they think the media is targeting them
unfairly. Raising questions maybe about then they don`t raise about Jeb
Bush. What do you think of that?
STANTON: I think that it`s not true, I think we do ask these questions.
But I think also, frankly, she and her people bring this on themselves. I
mean - as one of the most hostile human beings I`ve ever dealt with.
STANTON: In fact - and I`m pleasant person to deal with.
KORNACKI: This is one of her spokesperson.
STANTON: One of her people. And that is very emblematic of how they
approach the press. They view us as always an enemy and someone that they
have to come out and sort of punch in the nose when they walk in the room,
right? There`s never sort of a, you know, OK, well, you`ve got to do our
job. We`ve got to do our job. It`s, you know, beat you down as hard as we
can. And I think that that creates for us in the press a dynamic where we
look at them like what are you hiding? Why are you so hostile all the time
with us? Why does it have to be so difficult?
SMICKLE: But can we separate there, though, this issue of how they engage
the chattering class? Which we`re a part of. You know, we - I embrace
that. How they engage the chattering class versus how they actually engage
the average voter. Do average voters actually feel that they`re doing a
good job, that they trust them? And that there was a Pew research poll
that came out the other day. It said that young voters, and those are
probably the most persuadable in this coming election, the young voters
have already tuned this out. They don`t care.
STANTON: The other thing about that strategy, though, it`s not like it
doesn`t work. It does work very well for the Clintons. It kind of always
has. So, I can see why they do it, right? I mean she`s done very well
with sort of being hostile with us. She never talked to the press when she
was a senator. She, you know, you had to sort of call her office and then
they would just sort of blow you off.
STANTON: And that was sort of their modus operandi.
KORNACKI: It`s interesting. It`s interesting that - it worked for them
very well obviously in the 1990s. And I can remember at the height of
impeachments in 1998, Clinton`s being - Bill Clinton was being impeached.
And you take that same question, do you trust Bill Clinton. And it was
through the roof. No, we don`t trust Bill Clinton. We don`t think he`s
honest. But his approval rating at the same time was climbing all the way
to 70 percent. But then I - I can also think back to the 2008 campaign and
sort of the hostile relationship with the media and all those questions
were not helping her. They were hurting her very much then.
FOUHY: You know, I have to believe that voters don`t really care that much
about how much the press likes a candidate.
FOUHY: We`re no more popular than politicians
FOUHY: Let`s face it. But I want to go back to your point. I mean you
always have it like - how everybody doesn`t trust either Clinton. Any poll
will show you that Bill Clinton is probably the most popular politician,
ex-politician, you know, public figure in the country. Hillary Clinton`s
approval rating is right up there as well. So I don`t know that all of
these questions and these issues of trust, which certainly do exist, have
really affected the way people see them ultimately.
AVELLA: They may like them, but Hillary Clinton got defeated in 2008. And
let`s keep in mind.
SMICKLE: Barely. Barely.
AVELLA: But she lost. I mean this is about winning or losing if you want
to be president of the United States, and she lost.
SMICKLE: But it wasn`t ...
AVELLA: And let`s also say, Bill Clinton is very popular. Because
ultimately, Bill Clinton is a politician who became a lawyer to become a
politician. Hillary Clinton is a lawyer first who wants to try to be a
politician. And that mindset is very different. She always answers things
very lawyerly, which ultimately raises more questions than answers
KORNACKI: Is there something to it, the idea that the trust issue exists
with both Clintons, but Bill Clinton had a skill of finessing it in a way
that Hillary can`t?
SMICKLE: I think she`s a great politician. And I use that word lovingly,
if you will.
SMICKLE: That she`s been a great politician. Look, she`s called attention
to the work that she`s done with first responders when she was a senator.
She was engaging press and media all the time, going upstate and talking
about economic development, talking about connecting biotech research with
schools well before people were talking about STEM careers. She was - she
was doing - she`s been doing this for a very long time. And so, my thing
is -- and going back to your point -- I think what you may have experienced
is that it`s -- their style is not about necessarily engaging the media
just to be able to tell their story. They`re about going to communities
and going to people and telling their story. And I think, you know, and I
think that`s where the rubber meets the road.
KORNACKI: Beth, I think you`re exactly right, though, the flashbacks of
the 1990s was one of the themes this week and I think that`s something for
the next year and a half. We are going to be - so get all your `90s
nostalgia, folks. Your ...
KORNACKI: Anyway, thanks to MSNBC`s Beth Fouhy for sitting here with us
this morning. I appreciate that. The rest of the panel is going to be
back in a bit.
Still ahead, a new revelation challenges a claim that Chris Christie made
in that 107-minute-long press conference last year about Bridgegate. But
next, one state wants to bring back the firing squad. We`re going to have
two very different perspectives for you on what is and what isn`t cruel and
KORNACKI: There`s long been a debate over whether there should be a death
penalty. But another argument is in the headlines these days, if we`re
going to have the death penalty, then how should it be done? Where is that
line between cruel and humane? The Supreme Court has struck down the use
of the death penalty for the mentally disabled and for people who were
minors when the crime was committed. Many states have also done away with
certain methods like hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber. One state,
however, is going in a different direction. Utah`s legislature this week
approving the use of a firing squad if the state can`t secure the drugs
needed to pull off a lethal injection. This is a real issue because states
across the country are now facing a drug shortage as European manufacturers
in countries that don`t have capital punishment refuse to sell the drug
cocktail components to prisons in the United States.
Utah currently has none on hand, and Texas, a state that executes more
prisoners than anywhere else in the country, is set to run out in two
weeks. Some states have tried to devise new drugs to work around the
restrictions, but Oklahoma`s use of a drug cocktail last spring was botched
after an I.V. line was improperly placed. It then took 43 minutes after
his lethal injection started before the prisoner ultimately died. And when
he died, it was from a heart attack.
And so, if Utah`s Republican Governor, Gary Herbert, approves the bill,
Utah will become the only state to currently allow the use of the firing
squad. We`re going to hear from two people with very different
perspectives on this. First, joining me now, is Randy Gardner, he is the
brother of Ronny Lee Gardner. He was the last person put to death by
firing squad in Utah in 2010.
Thanks, Randy, thanks for joining us this morning. So, you have obviously
a very personal perspective on this. I just wonder, the bill that`s on the
governor`s desk, you don`t want him to sign it. What would your message to
RANDY GARDNER, BROTHER WAS EXECUTED BY FIRING SQUAD: Of course not. The
firing squad is definitely cruel and unusual punishment. I had the
opportunity to look at my brother`s chest after they executed him. I could
have stuck my forefinger right in his chest. The fear that he had to feel
before they executed him, they tied him to a chair, put a hood over his
head, shot him with four bullets in the chest, that`s definitely cruel and
unusual punishment in my book.
KORNACKI: When you look at what your brother was convicted of, the crime
your brother committed, do you think there would be a different method of
execution that you would be OK with, or is it all forms that you have a
GARDNER: No, it`s all forms. I never condoned what my brother did, and I
don`t condone the premeditated murder by our government that they did to my
KORNACKI: Do you consider - so, you have a problem, you say, with the
other forms of execution. Do you consider any form of execution, though,
preferable? Is it more humane?
GARDNER: I don`t think none of them are humane. Look at the problems
they`re having with lethal injection, electrocution. What are they going
to do next, guillotine? You know, it`s just crazy. We shouldn`t be
executing our own citizens. We can put them in life - in prison for life
without parole, without becoming killers ourselves.
KORNACKI: Randy Gardner with a very personal perspective on that, thanks
for your time this morning. Appreciate that. And joining me now with a
very different perspective, we have Robert Blecker, he`s a professor at New
York law school, author of the book "The Death of Punishment." So Robert,
let me just -- you heard from a man right there whose brother was killed by
a firing squad five years ago. You heard his perspective. Why is that
wrong when he says that`s cruel and inhumane?
ROBERT BLECKER, NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL: Well, for one thing, he may have seen
his brother`s body, and I understand it`s his brother and he might well
love him, but he didn`t actually witness the execution. I have witnessed
an execution, not a firing squad, lethal injection. And it`s wrong.
Lethal injection is the wrong method. And not because it might cause pain,
but because it certainly causes confusion. It doesn`t acknowledge what
we`re doing. We are punishing. We are not treating. It`s incredibly
medicalized, and it doesn`t even seem like punishment. And so we`re hiding
the dirty little secret. What we do, we should acknowledge what we`re
doing. There`s never been a botched firing squad execution. It does not
cause substantial or extended pain. And it is appropriate. It is probably
the best method of execution that we have. And it should be reserved only
for the worst of the worst of the worst.
By the way, the so-called botched execution that you referred to in
Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett, turns out probably was not botched at all. Most
of the anesthesiologists believed that he experienced no pain during the
time that he gasped and choked and gurgled. That`s a standard response
under anesthesia. But again, I oppose lethal injection, not because it
might cause pain, but because it certainly causes confusion. The firing
squad acknowledges itself to be what it is, which is the worst punishment
for the worst of the worst of the worst killers.
KORNACKI: I mean, so you`re making, to me, some - an unusual argument
here. You`re in favor not just of a death penalty, but you want the death
penalty, you want the person receiving the punishment to feel it more than
somebody currently does in states that have lethal injection.
BLECKER: No, it`s not so much that he feels it, he doesn`t. In fact, it`s
fairly instantaneous. As I said, there`s never been a botched firing squad
execution. It`s not so much that he feels it, it`s that -- look, I
attended a lethal injection. And I was also with my father-in-law when he
died from an incurable cancer under great pain and was given an anesthetic
that was necessary to stop the pain which also killed him. And the two
scenes were so bizarrely similar. In both cases the dying was in a gurney
wrapped in white sheets with an I.V. coming out of his arm surrounded by
medical technicians and attended by loved ones. How we kill those we
detest, rightfully detest should in no way resemble have we unfortunately
have to allow to die those whom we love. The problem with lethal
injection, which is what the firing squad avoids is that it looks, feels
and seems like medicine, like treatment. When in fact, it`s punishment.
And, of course, this is not cruel and unusual, the firing squad. The
United States Supreme Court has already found it not to be cruel and
unusual, and there`s nothing about it that`s cruel. It`s instantaneous,
and it`s virtually painless.
KORNACKI: We should point out the governor of Utah who has to make the
decision on whether this will become the law in Utah, he did say this week,
he`s not decided on this. He said this does sound, quote, a little bit
gruesome. At the same time, he said it is probably not a bad way to die if
you believe in capital punishment. We`ll see the decision that Governor
Herbert makes out in Utah on the firing squads. Until then, thanks to
Robert Blecker with the New York Law School for joining us. Appreciate the
Still ahead, residents in Ferguson, Missouri, will soon cast their first
votes since the shooting of Michael Brown. Can that city come together and
bridge the divide between police and community? We have a live report
And next, we`ve talked of Hillary Clinton`s personal e-mail account this
morning. Now it`s time to talk about Jeb Bush`s right on the other side of
the break. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: All right. There`s a lot going on this morning. Time to get
caught up with some of the other headlines making news. The index card
segment, I call it, I think catching up is our official title for it.
We`ve got a bunch of headlines here and the index card is going to go
through as many as we can. Get you guys to weigh in. And then let`s start
in "The Washington Post." What is making headlines in "The Washington
Post" this morning? How about this, about Jeb Bush. The headline, "As
governor, Jeb Bush used e-mail to discuss security and troop deployments."
And Basil, actually, I think you were eluding to this earlier in the show,
but the details here, this was reported overnight by "The Washington Post."
As governor of Florida, Bush used - his private e-mail account to discuss
security and military issues like troop deployments in the Middle East,
protection of nuclear plants.
These are emails that have been previously released, the paper going
through them. They also include series of exchanges involving the Florida
National Guard and its deployments after September 11th. Bush aides
stressing that there`s no sensitive or classified information, they say,
that was included in this. But as you say, Basil, this is something if the
Hillary Clinton thing is going to be out there and Republicans are going to
be making noise about it, you`re certainly getting to hear a lot of noise
and the questions about Jeb Bush.
SMICKLE: That`s right. And I do think you will see more of this. So, you
have - Trey Gowdy, we haven`t heard or seen any of his e-mails yet. I mean
he`s been clamoring for this - years over. So, I do think, particularly
with - not particularly with Republicans, but I think because they`ve been
so vocal, you will see Republicans actually fall into the same category as
well. And I think that`s probably when you`ll see all of this die down.
AVELLA: This is a story because Jeb Bush publicly released his e-mails, so
a reporter got to read them and then did a story. Dramatically different
than Hillary Clinton keeping her e-mails on a private server at her home.
Jeb Bush`s was kept in the governor`s office in Tallahassee. Dramatically
different. And again, this is a story because all of them were released,
and a reporter got to do a story because he got to read the e-mails. What
reporter has read a Hillary Clinton e-mail?
STANTON: But again, but they are all the same problem because we don`t
know -- this is them telling us, we`ve released everything we need to
release. There was no sensitive information. It`s not really up to them,
I think. There needs to be a third party I think, it`s ultimately what
this is coming down to. Someone else needs to be making the decision, not
these candidates and politicians.
KORNACKI: There is also, I would say, probably a time issue. I mean e-
mails, you know, I say relatively new thing, 20 or 25 years now at this
point. So this takes you back about 15 years. The Clinton stuff is going
back more about five, six years. So, you know, there might be an evolution
here where this sort of the standards maybe now they are different than
they were five, ten years ago. You know, but that`s the nuance we don`t
account for all the time.
Anyway, what else do we have here? Medium. This is in "Medium" today.
The headline, "We tried, we learned, we`re trying something new." Mayday.
This is Lawrence Lessig, this is the Harvard professor. I don`t know if
you remembered this in the campaign. He called it - he was calling this
the super PAC to end all super PACs. They were going to do what a super
PAC does, they were going to raise big money and they were going to go
after sort of the chief promoters of big money and politics, try to take
them out of politics, try to end super PACs. Didn`t work out. Did not win
too many races last year. Raised some money. But not do that. So now
Leslig, the professor who started this says we are launching the biggest
citizen lobbying campaign we can to recruit incumbents to commit to
fundamental reform. So if you can`t beat the incumbents, try to get the
incumbents to join you. This is the new strategy here.
So, here I guess -- we see one super PAC. We are talking about this age of
super PACs and they can`t be beaten. Here`s a super PAC that was beaten.
SMICKLE: Campaigns are really hard. And that`s what you come to find out.
I think that the strategy of shifting to incumbents may actually be better
than trying to recruit new candidates because there`s so much quote,
unquote, noise in campaigns and, you know, whether or not new candidates
are going to be attractive to voters. I think (INAUDIBLE) is probably a
better way to go, but I think this needs to be something of strategy
considered in the long term, not the short term. We`ve got to have a long
strategy on this.
AVELLA: It`s not an issue that is ever going to percolate enough with
voters to make it a defining issue in any race in America.
STANTON: Because people have lots of money to keep voters from actually
KORNACKI: Let`s get to one other headline here. This is from "USA Today,"
Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor recipient engaged to Sarah Palin`s daughter.
The couple announcing their engagement on Instagram. I think you can see
the photo there. Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2011 for his
service in Afghanistan. He made five trips into an ambush zone to rescue
wounded Afghan forces and recover the bodies of fallen Marines. The
daughter, by the way, that`s Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin has more than one
daughter, so Bristol Palin engaged to Dakota Meyer. We thought we`d
squeeze that one in.
Still ahead in the show, the White House warns the Senate, the late-
breaking details on what they said overnight.
And next, the latest from the ground in Ferguson. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: It was a quiet Saturday night in Ferguson, Missouri, after a
tense week in which two police officers were shot. And top city officials
including its police chief resigned in the wake of a scathing Justice
Department report. The manhunt continues for a suspect in those shootings
this week. The city is a little more than three weeks away from its first
election since Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer back
in August. A lot happening in Ferguson. NBC`s Sarah Dallof joins us live
from the ground in Ferguson. So, Sarah, what is the latest?
SARAH DALLOF, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Steve. A relatively
quiet night here with two protests. One in downtown St. Louis drew about
75 people. Police did make a couple of arrests there. Here at the
Ferguson police department, a much smaller crowd. About 15 to 20 people.
This followed a day of events focused on change. We heard from some of the
small business owners here in Ferguson who say the events since last summer
have dramatically affected their business. They stand with the peaceful
protesters, but they do ask others to stay away. And they are pleading
with -- pleading for community support to help them stay afloat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have seen my business go from up here all the way
down to 20 percent of revenue. How can we survive?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DALLOF: Also yesterday city council hopefuls were at a candidate forum
talking about their ideas to rebuild trust between police and the community
as well as their reaction to the Department of Justice report. The
election is set for April 7th. It will be an opportunity to see if these
calls for reform on the streets translate to votes at the ballot box,
Steve. Back to you.
KORNACKI: All right, NBC`s Sarah Dallof live on the ground in Ferguson,
thanks for that report. Appreciate that.
And still ahead, what are Scott Walker and Jeb Bush saying behind closed
doors in New Hampshire this weekend? We`re going to be joined by somebody
who was in the room with both of them just a few minutes from now.
Also, new developments in the Bridgegate scandal hanging over one of the
other potential candidates. That is next. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie first began talking
about the George Washington Bridge scandal, he put miles and miles of
distance between himself and one of his high-level appointees at the center
of the storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R) NEW JERSEY: I have had no contact with David
Wildstein in a long time. A long time. Well before the election. You
know, I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I`ve
had with David since he worked at the Port Authority. I did not interact
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: David Wildstein, then a top official at the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey whose e-mails about tying up traffic sent
Christie`s administration into a tailspin. The governor claimed Wildstein
never said anything memorable to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I don`t even remember in the last four years even having a
meeting in my office with David Wildstein.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, Christie`s own report on Bridgegate released about a year
ago backed him up on this, but now there is a new report that the contact
between Christie and Wildstein may have been much more extensive than the
governor has indicated. New York public radio station NYC reporting this
week that Wildstein`s schedule indicates that he joined Christie at seven
public events, that he met with the governor himself at least twice along
with others in Christie`s office and held regular meetings with Christie`s
top aides. Some of those meetings coming the day after "The Wall Street
Journal" first tied Wildstein to the lane closures back in the fall of
2013. One 14-hour entry on his digital calendar saying, the next day
saying, quote, "Trenton." Andrea Bernstein is one of the reporters who
found Wildstein`s calendar on the Port Authority Web site where it
basically has been hiding in plain sight. She`s a senior editor for
politics and policy at New York`s public radio station WNYC. Andrea,
thanks for joining us this morning.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, WNYC: Good morning.
KORNACKI: I mean I say, I give you credit on this. It`s been sitting
there and nobody`s found it. And ...
BERNSTEIN: It has been. It has been. I mean, the Port Authority, to its
credit, posts the response to Freedom of Information requests on its
website. And you can find them. And we had an idea that the indictments
were coming up, so we were trying to pull together everything that was
known, and that is how we found them. Now, the thing is, is that they have
a lot more meaning now with all of the New Jersey legislature`s reports and
the documents it`s released. It`s really the context that told us the
story that we did.
KORNACKI: Well, so, let`s compare -- we play the clips here from Christie
talking about, you know, that basically, I never really talked to David
Wildstein, I can`t even remember seeing him in my office. What have you
been able to piece together about what that relationship is?
BERNSTEIN: Well, in some ways the most startling thing was that David
Wildstein, who worked for the Port Authority on infrastructure projects,
that was his job, director of interstate capital projects, that he was
meeting regularly with Christie`s political team in Trenton, not so much
his -- you know, the people in charge of the Port Authority, but the people
in charge of the politics, the ones who sort of were the guardians of Chris
Christie`s political career. And remember, during this period prior to his
first re-election campaign, the thinking was they wanted to win, they
wanted to win big, they wanted to win big in a blue state because that was
going to be the basis, the essential building block of their presidential
KORNACKI: So that at least suggests -- and again, we don`t know here, but
that at least suggests that if you have somebody who`s one of your top
appointees at a Port Authority meeting with your political people, not your
government people, your political people, and your goal is to run up a big
margin, that there`s a mixing here of politics and policy.
BERNSTEIN: And we also know that at least one of the meetings that
occurred was a very crucial meeting for Governor Christie. It was to
secure the endorsement of the Port Authority police benevolence
association, a police union. Christie, at that point, badly needed a law
enforcement union backing him, and he badly needed a union backing him.
This was before the Democratic field had coalesced. So at the time of that
endorsement, this was crucial because it was a signal to Democrats, don`t
KORNACKI: So where is this heading? I mean because we`ve had Brian
Thompson from WNBC on saying, you know, indictment`s imminent. The people
I`ve talked to around this, I`m getting the same indications of people
saying to me, you know, we think this was written a month ago, we think
that indictment was written two months ago. We don`t know why it`s out
there yet. What are you hearing on this?
BERNSTEIN: Well, the U.S. attorney`s office in New Jersey has been
airtight. So we just don`t know. However, one thing that we do know,
because Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney, has said is I understand that they
want this wrapped up as soon as possible, and we are trying. Every
prosecutor that I`ve spoken to has said, look, nobody wants this to be
smack in the middle of an election because it just taints everything
they`re doing. It allows the governor and the people around him who may or
may not be indicted to say oh, this is just politics. And in fact, Scott
Walker and Rick Perry have had their own issues, and that`s what they`ve
said. Oh, this is just Democrats going after us. And there`s nothing to
it. So the longer they wait and the more the political campaign has time
to engage, the worse it is for the prosecutor. So, they are - because
they`re proud of their work, they want to get it out in as clear a field as
KORNACKI: So, let me bring the panel in. Let`s try to play this out,
what happens here. Because again, all indications are indictments,
multiple indictments not of Christie himself, but of people around
Christie. A lot of the principal players we`ve been talking about are
coming. So, that happens. And Christie says this is, you know, this is a
political vendetta, and I`m not, you know, none of these people were that
close to me. Everything he`s been saying. But then you have the
indictments, then you have some of these people saying well, look, you
know, Christie knew a lot more than he`s letting on publicly. How does
that play in the Republican universe?
AVELLA: What we don`t know what`s going to happen at the Justice
Department. What we do know is a Democratic legislature conducted their
own investigation and found that Governor Christie had done nothing wrong
in this allegations of Bridgegate. We do know that.
KORNACKI: I wouldn`t say there was much of a definitive finding there.
They weren`t able to talk to most of the principal witnesses who the U.S.
attorneys talked to.
AVELLA: And we have been talking for six months that there`s going to be
indictments come down. And we still don`t have them. We also have word
that indictments are going to come down against Senator Menendez. It`s
almost as if ...
AVELLA: It`s almost - as if somebody at the Justice Department lost a lot
of money in Atlantic City and they`re really angry at the elected officials
in New Jersey.
STANTON: I think it could help, Christie, if you decide - I`m still not
convinced he`s actually going to run for president. But I mean assuming he
does, he needs to have some kind of a way to sort of show to the
conservative base that he`s one of them, and there`s no better way for a
guy like him to do that than to have the government coming after him, have
the media coming after him. Because he can say oh, you know, the Democrats
they hate me. I`m being attacked by the Obama administration.
KORNACKI: He`s got to scare off the donors, though. Give money to Bush
SMICKLE: I think the sort of martyr argument that he may be able to raise,
I just don`t think - I don`t think holds any water. Because first of all,
I don`t know if he was going to actually run. And I don`t think his style
and brand of politics works well in Iowa or in many of the Southern states.
And frankly, I think the fact that you have some of these very close
confidantes of his involved and potentially indicted, I think in the mind
of a voter, you may just assume that he had something to do with it. And
it`s sort of the worst thing to happen because it`s the -- it shows this
government abuse and overuse of power. And it became very, very evident in
that -- in the Bridgegate.
BERNSTEIN: I think that there are a couple of issues here. I mean one is
my colleague, Matt Katz, who reported this story with me, has been on the
road with Christie a lot. They don`t care about the traffic jam as much as
they care about what they call the Obama hug after Sandy. That`s the sort
of, you know, when core Republicans, it`s like oh, he hugged Obama. But
everybody hates traffic. Everybody hates traffic. And nobody wants to be
sort of, you know, particularly charges, the person who caused a massive
traffic jam. It was a bad traffic jam. People were taking four hours to
get to work. Children were stuck on the first day of school and at school
late, emergency vehicles couldn`t get through. And so, you know, this was
a sort of nightmare scenario that a lot of Americans can relate to. So I
wouldn`t say it would be good news for Governor Christie if people close to
him were indicted.
KORNACKI: No, and I think the other thing in your reporting starts to get
into this, to get at this at least, is that, you know, there`s another side
to this. That we`ve heard Christie talk about his relationship with
Wildstein. We haven`t heard from Wildstein. We haven`t heard from Bridget
Kelly. We haven`t heard publicly from a lot of these other principal
players. And when they speak up, that will change the story, too.
BERNSTEIN: Well, these calendars in a sense helped us do that.
KORNACKI: We start to hear from them.
BERNSTEIN: They start to sort of say, well, what was Wildstein doing? And
for four years he was meeting in diners and steakhouses with politicians
from all over the state of New Jersey, Republican Party bosses,
strategists, Democrats, journalists. I mean, he was sort of putting
together this political piece at the Port Authority. And while he was
there, he was delivering these big infrastructure projects, very important
to the state of New Jersey, but that the governor didn`t want to spend
money on. So he got to be fiscally conservative with the Trenton budget
while using the Port Authority budget to pay for these essential projects.
KORNACKI: A great reporting this week.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you so much.
KORNACKI: This story, I think, really changed the conversation on this.
So, I appreciate the time today, Andrea Bernstein, WNYC.
Still ahead, the letter in response to the letter. The White House strikes
back against Senate Republicans.
And next, only hours to go until polls open now. Could Israel`s Benjamin
Netanyahu actually lose his bid for re-election? He`s in serious trouble.
We`ll tell you why right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as
political. That was never my intention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: When Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his
controversial speech to Congress this month, it was supposedly going to
give him a big boost back home in Israel where it`s election season and
where his job is on the line. But that hasn`t happened. The election is
this Tuesday. And with only two days to go, Netanyahu is trailing in the
polls. His Likud party trails they Zionist Union Party by four seats in
Israel`s parliament. These follow similar numbers earlier this week.
Netanyahu, of course, still could remain prime minister by forming a
coalition government, but there`s an equal, if not greater, chance that the
head of the Zionist Union Party, Isaac Herzog, could do the exact same
With Netanyahu in grave danger of losing this week, does it mean his speech
backfired back home? To talk about this, we`re joined by Chemi Shalev, he
is U.S. editor of the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz." He joins us now at the
table. Thanks for taking a few minutes. So, this speech, all we heard in
the run-up to this speech, was well, it`s election season in Israel. This
is going to boost his profile back home by appearing to be a statesman.
How has it played back in Israel?
CHEMI SHALEV, U.S. EDITOR, HAARETZ: I think in the short term, it gave him
a bump for, like, a day or two. But first of all, in the pace of events
these days, it`s been forgotten. Second of all, I think after everybody
got over being impressed with his speech, people began to realize, one,
that he`s not doing anything or that the speech hasn`t done anything to
stop the advance of the nuclear deal with Iran which most Israelis are
opposed to. And second of all, I think it highlighted an issue which he
may think works in his favor, but I`m not sure it does, and that is the
state of his very bad relations with the American president.
Now, it`s true that Israelis don`t like President Obama that much, but I
think that this sort of highlighted something that he`s gone a bit too far
in challenging the president. And I think that that`s working against him.
But I wouldn`t want to exaggerate one way or the other. The speech was
never going to make the elections for him. And it`s not going to break
him. There are a lot of other issues that are at play here.
KORNACKI: You know, what happens - If he were to lose, if his party were
to lose, they can`t form the coalition government, this new coalition is
formed. We talked about strained relations between Netanyahu and Obama.
We talk about the issue of Iran and the deal. How are those dynamics - how
are they affected if this new government takes charge?
SHALEV: First of all, I have to say that, you know, it`s a Jewish
election, so losing is a relative thing. He could still lose the election
and form the next government. But on the assumption that that`s not what
happens, I think you`re going to hear an international, collective
international sigh of relief if Herzog is elected instead of Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has antagonized much of the international community. And I think
that - I`m not sure that it will be enough to stop the agreement with Iran,
which seems to be approaching its midnight hour. But I think that you`ll
see a lot of credit being given to the new Israeli government. There will
be a lot of attempts to fortify it. I think the U.S. government will go
out of its way in order to prove that it has no problem with Israel. It
had a problem with Netanyahu. And now that there is no more Netanyahu in
power, everything is back to normal and perhaps even better than normal.
KORNACKI: So, would Herzog approach Obama differently than Netanyahu has?
SHALEV: Well, I think by the very definition, he would approach him
SHALEV: They had a lot of differences between them -- first of all, there
would be less of an ideological difference between them, and also they had
personality issues. There`s a whole issue of - Madison (ph) and his role
in U.S. politics and in Israeli politics. None of that, I think, would
exist if Herzog was in power. I think down the road, they could have, you
know, disagreements over the peace process and so on. But I expect a very
long honeymoon if Herzog is elected. And as I said, I wrote the other day,
it would be very difficult for the White House to keep out the sounds of
the corks of the champagne bottles that will be opening if ...
KORNACKI: Right. Yeah, that`s how you tell, Tuesday night, you don`t have
to go on the Internet, just look outside the White House and see if you
hear all the cheering inside.
Anyway, thanks to Chemi Shalev, newspaper for joining us.
Another full hour of news and politics straight ahead. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: The White House warns the senate.
Thanks for staying with us this Sunday morning. There is a lot going on
today. A lot we want to get to in the next hour including the White House
with a new response this morning to the Senate`s open letter to Iran. All
of the details on what the White House is now saying in just a minute.
Also ahead, if not Elizabeth Warren, then who? The founder of Ready for
Warren is going to be here to talk about her plan "B" for next year`s
Speaking of which, it has been a big weekend in the first in the nation
state of New Hampshire. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker appearing to run mainly
against each other. We`re going to be talking live with former New
Hampshire Governor John Sununu about how that race is shaping up up there.
It`s ten months away from the primary, but you wouldn`t know it from what
happened this weekend.
And a big week ahead for college basketball fans. Tonight, Selection
Sunday for the NCAA tournament. 40 million Americans getting ready to fill
out their office pool brackets this week. The best college basketball
reporter in the business going to be here to talk about what those 40
million of us should expect tonight.
But we begin this hour with the White House`s newest response to the Senate
over the Iran negotiations. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough
writing a letter to Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker just a
few hours ago. And NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker is
here with all of the details on that. Kristen, where did this letter come
from? What does it say?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly very unique to get a
letter like that on a Saturday night, right, Steve? Bottom line, the Obama
administration`s trying to regain control of the political debate over the
negotiations regarding Iran`s nuclear program by warning senators against
passing legislation. The White House says it would complicate the talks.
Now, in the letter, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough reiterates a veto
threat. And we have a part of that letter. McDonough writing, quote, "we
believe that the legislation would likely have a profoundly negative impact
on the ongoing negotiations emboldening Iranian hardliners, differentiating
the U.S. position from our allies in negotiations and once again calling
into question our ability to negotiate this deal."
And again, issuing a veto threat there, Steve. Now, the nuclear talks with
Iran are set to resume today in Switzerland. Secretary Kerry will travel
there later today. And of course, this comes as the Obama administration
has been fuming about that letter that you mentioned, that letter that was
written by more than 40 Senate Republicans to Iranian officials,
essentially warning that any deal could ultimately be overturned by a
future president. Senator Corker and his Senate colleagues insist that
Congress should be allowed to weigh in, to consider and vote on any
agreement with Iran. But the Obama administration has asked that Congress
let the negotiations play out before taking any legislative action. On
Saturday, Secretary Kerry said he doesn`t know if the letter is going to
make it more difficult to reach a deal. He also signaled there`s not going
to be an extension of the talks if all sides can`t reach a deal by the end
of March. That`s the deadline. Steve?
KORNACKI: All right. Kristen Welker live at the White House, thanks for
that. We`re going to have much more on that letter about the possible
implications for it a little bit later in the show this hour.
Turning now, though, to the 2016 race, a race that has plenty of Republican
candidates lining up to run, a very different story, though, on the
Democratic side, where we all know that Hillary Clinton is looking at the
race. And she casts an imposing shadow. Her poll numbers among Democrats,
they are through the roof right now. The question, though, is which
Democrats are going to look at all those advantages that Hillary has and
decide that they`re going to run anyway? The question really if any
Democrats are going to do that. If you look around right now, there`s
former Maryland Governor Martin O`Malley. He`s trying to balance his
desire to run with a reluctance to engage directly with Clinton. There`s a
lot of talk that O`Malley is really angling to be her vice presidential
candidate next year.
There`s also Joe Biden, the current vice president. And clearly he`d like
to be president. He`s also been visiting the early primary states, but he
hasn`t set up a PAC yet. He hasn`t hired the staff. He hasn`t started
raising money. And most believe that the only way he`s actually going to
run in this race is if Hillary Clinton decides not to run in this race.
There`s also Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He`s been traversing the
country, acting like a candidate in many ways. Although Sanders, it should
be noted, he remains, at least for now, an independent. He`s not actually
a member of the Democratic Party. He would have to do that, if he`s going
to run. Also, Jim Webb, the former one-term senator from Virginia. He has
said he`s interested in the race. He has also said and done little else
In other words, Hillary Clinton could be looking at something close to an
uncontested path to the Democratic presidential nomination.
But there are some out there -- there are some who believe there is still
one Democrat who is capable of going toe to toe with Hillary Clinton,
capable of rousing a massive grass-roots army, raising big bucks through
small donations, commanding the media spotlight, shining in debates. That
Democrat they have on their mind is Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts
senator and anti-Wall Street crusader.
Now, Warren, to be clear, insists that she is not running. She`s also
taken no steps to run. And even if she did run, polls show that she, too,
would run far behind Clinton on the Democratic side. And yet the movement
for an Elizabeth Warren candidacy has not entirely gone away. Ready for
war in that is a grass-roots group that already has a presence in Iowa and
New Hampshire, it is still trying to coax her into the race, still hoping
to field a serious competitor to Hillary Clinton. The group saying this
week, quote, "that a contested nomination will strengthen the Democratic
Party by holding the candidates accountable for addressing critical issues
of growing income inequality, a worsening climate crisis and so many
others." So is there any chance that Ready for Warren will actually get
Joining us now, the campaign manager for Ready for Warren, Erica Sagrans.
She joins us now from Columbus, Ohio. Back with us at the table, we have
David Avella from GOPAC, political strategist Basil Smickle, John Stanton
from Buzzfeed. So, Erica, let me start with you. She says she`s not
running, she`s not raising money, she`s not doing anything that a candidate
would do formally. What are the chances in your mind Elizabeth Warren is
actually going to run for president?
ERICA SAGRANS, READY FOR WARREN: Hi, Steve. Well, we believe we can
convince Warren to run. We know she`s always been a very reluctant
politician. She did not intend to run for Senate, but was convinced to do
so by a strong draft movement there. So we believe we can convince her to
run if she sees an opportunity for her to make a real difference for
working families and the fight that she has led her entire life. I think
it`s very possible, and it`s still very early in the process.
KORNACKI: So what - OK, so what is -- Elizabeth Warren versus Hillary
Clinton. If we start by looking at all these poll numbers for Hillary
Clinton, you say, that is somebody who we`ve never seen a favorite like
this, according to the polls on the Democratic side. So what does
Elizabeth Warren bring to the table, in your mind, never mind, we shouldn`t
have Hillary Clinton, we should have Elizabeth Warren. What is the big
difference, what is the difference between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary
SAGRANS: Warren is only really an underdog because people don`t know as
much about her. But she has an incredible story, an incredible message
that we`ve seen really resonate deeply with voters across the country and
in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. She has been a fighter and a
champion for working folks, for the middle class. She`s done some consumer
-- all this.
KORNACKI: OK, Erica.
KORNACKI: I don`t mean to interrupt you, but those are the sort of things
that Hillary Clinton would say to describe herself, that Hillary Clinton
supporters would talk that way about her. She`s a fighter for the working
class, she`s a champion of the underdog, those sorts of things. So is the
difference between Elizabeth Warren? What does Elizabeth Warren bring to
the table in real terms that Hillary Clinton doesn`t?
SAGRANS: Sure. Well, I think part of it is what we`ve seen in terms of
the momentum and the interest and the excitement. Warren really needs this
moment we`re at, people have been thinking about, skyrocketing income
inequality, the way the system is really rigged in favor of those at the
very top and not working for most regular folks. And I think Warren has
really brought that discussion to the forefront that`s resonated with a lot
of people. And I also think having her in the primary would provide that
opportunity for her to lay out her vision, for Hillary Clinton and any
other candidates to really lay out clear, different visions that they have
for the country and for voters to look at those and decide.
KORNACKI: Is Hillary Clinton too close to Wall Street?
SAGRANS: I think some people would say so. Some people would say --
KORNACKI: Do you say so? Do you think Hillary Clinton is too close to
SAGRANS: I mean, I think Elizabeth Warren is taking on Wall Street in a
way that we want to see more Democrats do. She`s been unafraid to call out
the big banks, the powerful interests, the ...
KORNACKI: Right. So that`s Elizabeth Warren`s calling card. I`m saying
is that something Hillary Clinton has been reluctant to do in your mind, to
call out the big banks?
SAGRANS: I`m saying I want to see Clinton do that more and I want to see
all candidates do that more and follow Warren`s lead.
KORNACKI: All right. Let`s bring the panel into this a little bit here.
So, the idea of an Elizabeth Warren candidacy, I still - I don`t see it
happening, but I also find myself wondering, what Erica is talking about
right now, how widespread is that in the Democratic Party? Because I look
at those poll numbers, and I say again, the 86 percent of Democrats right
now say yeah, we could see ourselves supporting Hillary Clinton. You see
those numbers for people. She leads in a horse race there by 42 points.
STANTON: I don`t think there`s a huge -- it doesn`t feel like there`s a
big swell of people that really want someone else to run against her. I
think she needs somebody to run against her, frankly. She does much better
when she`s involved in a primary where she can fight and she can sort of
create contrast. Having herself be out there by herself or against Bernie
Sanders or somebody like that, that`s not a really like a serious candidate
in terms of, you know, posing a serious challenge to her. That`s a problem
for her. She needs somebody maybe like Warren or some other Democrat to
step to the plate and sort of come in and at least play a foil for her.
KORNACKI: Dave, as a Republican looking at this, you know, the idea of
Hillary Clinton having a practically uncontested path to the nomination, do
you look at that and say, well, that`s a problem for us? She`s going to be
able to raise all that money, she`s going to be able to focus on
Republicans for the next year. Does that hurt your chances against her in
AVELLA: Steve, you may remember that I sat in John`s seat in November or
December and said Elizabeth Warren would be the Democratic Party`s nominee.
One. Two --
KORNACKI: Are you sticking with that?
AVELLA: I still stick with that.
KORNACKI: Is that wishful thinking?
AVELLA: No. No. Look, she brings a passion and her supporters bring a
level of passion that right now we don`t see in the Clinton operation. And
let me also say as a Republican, I can speak on good authority that
nominating whose turn it is, is not always the best strategy. To look back
and say let`s go get somebody who`s run before or let`s go get somebody
who`s been the good soldier and let them do it, that`s not always the best
strategy to becoming president of the United States.
SMICKLE: You know, and going back to a point you made earlier, I think we
want to sometimes couch Hillary Clinton as this candidate that nobody
really wants. She`s unlikable in certain respects. But if you go back to
2008 -- and she barely lost to Barack Obama. There`s a huge ground swell
of support for her then, and I think there is now. I actually don`t think
that even when you talk about primaries, she`s not the one that, say, I
don`t want a primary. I don`t think she would even actually shy away from
that. I think it`s - yeah, I don`t think she would shy away from that.
And I think most Democrats, whether they -- whether they will say that they
fully support Hillary Clinton would not say so, and so should not be in a
race or should not get into the race.
But the reality is I think there`s a tremendous ground swell of support for
Hillary. And I think she is going to create that movement. And she keeps
talking about these issues and sort of the speech at the U.N. that she gave
the other day. As she starts to really dig deeper into these issues, I
think you`ll see that support kind of solidify.
KORNACKI: Well, so Erica, let me ask you this final question here. You`re
still trying to get Elizabeth Warren into the race. At what point, when
will it be when you`re satisfied with her no - that this is the final no
and OK, we`re going to look for a plan "b" right here? When will that be?
What point is that?
SAGRANS: It`s still so early, we`re still about a year and a half out from
the convention. And so --
KORNACKI: Well, I mean, the first primary is ten months away. So, we are
KORNACKI: It`s not a year and a half. It`s ...
SAGRANS: I mean, we`re focused on drafting Warren, and no serious
Democratic candidate has announced that they`re running. So it`s still
very early. We`re going to keep focused on drafting her. We`re still
seeing just incredible, strong momentum building. We saw Robert Reich
saying that Warren should run, Van Jones, hundreds of thousands of people
are calling on her to run. So we`re still building momentum, and we`re
going to keep doing that till we can convince her to get in the race.
KORNACKI: All right. Erica Sagrans, Ready for Warren, thanks for joining
us today. Appreciate that.
SAGRANS: Thanks for having me.
KORNACKI: Still ahead, how did it go this weekend in New Hampshire? We`re
going to talk with a former governor from the state, John Sununu who met
with Scott Walker and Jeb Bush this weekend.
And next, the partisan divide over what to do about ISIS boils down to just
one key sound bite this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCO RUBIO: I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is
being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so that they don`t walk away
from the negotiating table on the deal that you`re working on. Tell me why
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Because the facts completely
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The rest of that exchange and what it means for national
security. That`s when we come back.
KORNACKI: NBC`s Kristen Welker reporting earlier this hour on the White
House`s letter overnight to the Senate, warning the Senate about
potentially interfering during the crucial stage of nuclear negotiations
with Iran. So how much of a say will the Senate ultimately have? That is
the question Florida Senator Marco Rubio put before Secretary of State John
Kerry at hearings before the foreign relations committee earlier this week.
The same committee that John Kerry as a senator used to chair. Here`s
their testy exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being
driven by a desire not to upset Iran so that they don`t walk away from the
negotiating table on the deal that you`re working on. Tell me why I`m
KERRY: Because the facts completely contradict that. They would welcome
our bombing additionally ISIS, actually. They want us to destroy ISIS.
They want to destroy ISIS. ISIS is a threat to them. It`s a threat to the
region. And I think you`re misreading it if you think that there isn`t a
mutual interest with respect to DAESH between every country in the region.
RUBIO: So they`re supporting with more - if the U.S. sent more military
personnel into Iraq as trainers, advisers, logistical support, they would
support that? Iran would support that?
KERRY: Well, they`re not going to come out and openly support it, and they
obviously would be nervous about it. But that - they are not going to
object it, that`s what it is. I think this has been a misread by a lot of
people, on the hill, to be honest with you. There is no grand bargain
being discussed here in the context of this negotiation. This is about a
nuclear weapon potential, that`s it. And the president has made it
absolutely clear they will not get a nuclear weapon. And it`s -- it`s
really almost insulting that the presumption here is that we`re going to
negotiate something that allows them to get a nuclear weapon.
RUBIO: Well, I haven`t discussed about the nuclear weapon. And I`m not
saying there`s a grand bargain. What I`m saying is that I believe that our
military strategy towards ISIS is influenced by our desire not to cross
redlines that the Iranians have about U.S. military presence in the region.
KERRY: Absolutely not in the least.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And joining us now from Washington is former assistant secretary
of state for public affairs, P.J. Crowley. So, P.J., thanks for joining
us. So, I wonder what you make of that exchange and the issue that Rubio
is raising, which is sort of simultaneously trying to keep Iran from
developing a nuclear weapon, and we`re in these negotiations with them.
And at the same time, there are de facto ally in this war against ISIS.
And does that create any of the sort of tension and conflicts that he`s
talking about right there?
P.J. CROWLEY, FMR. ASSIST. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, as the secretary
said, the negotiation is about nuclear weapons and preventing Iran from
getting one. You know, there`s also this issue over the Islamic State, our
interests with Iran correspond in Iraq. They are contradicted in Syria.
Iran with Russia, you know, are probably the leading reasons why Assad has
survived in office now, you know, four years after the start of, you know,
Syria`s civil war. We`re not allies. You know, our interests do overlap.
You know, now, which is not to say that, you know, should we get a nuclear
agreement and conversations deepen with Iran, can you have a conversation
about issues of concerns of the United States, you know, including the
region, including Iran`s support of terrorism, other maligned and
destructive actions that it has in the region? Sure.
KORNACKI: How important is Iran to the goal of defeating, of degrading, of
destroying ISIS? How important is Iran to that?
CROWLEY: Well, you know, Iran is -- has a relationship, you know, with
Iraq. It has an interest in a stable Iraq. As far as that goes, it
corresponds to, you know, the United States interest. But ultimately the
most decisive factor, say, in Iraq are the actions of the government in
Baghdad, you know, not the actions of the government in Tehran.
Ultimately, Iraq has to take back territory as it`s trying to do in Tikrit
and ultimately if it succeeds in that, it has to govern more effectively
and more inclusively than it has in the past.
KORNACKI: And we have this news we reported at the top of the hour,
Kristen Welker at the White House reporting on this letter that was sent
overnight from the White House to the Senate. You had the 47 Senate
Republicans last week signing that open letter to the Iranian leadership.
The White House basically in this letter, it`s almost like a brushback
pitch, trying to carve out more space for its - for its pursuit of this
deal with Iran, trying to keep the Senate at an arm`s length in that. Do
you think this letter will accomplish anything?
CROWLEY: Well, you know, I think it would be harmful for the Senate to
take action, you know, before the negotiation is completed one way or the
other. You know, that said, you know, we`ve taken the allegedly the most
deliberative body in the world, and what we saw this week was, in essence,
a blog post, freshman senator wrote down his thoughts and got 46 likes.
You know, thankfully, it`s unlikely that the Senate -- that two-thirds of
the Senate can`t agree on the color of the sky. They`re not likely to be
able to take the action in this letter. And I think it would be very
unwise and harmful to U.S. leadership in the world if a future president,
you know, would abrogate this agreement, and I doubt that a future
KORNACKI: Let me bring the panel in here. And John, I mean, this letter
overnight in a way this is just sort of the latest, I don`t know,
escalation of this battle, this standoff on Capitol Hill. But it is
striking to me, you have an open letter to the Iranian leadership. Then
the White House responding with this late-night basically open letter of
its own. That the total sort of lack of being on the same page here.
STANTON: It`s remarkable. And I think, you know, this may be also a
little bit political. The White House feels like they were able to really
get one up on Republicans because of the letter, they feel like it
backfired in a lot of ways. Sort of just here at home. You know, the
negotiations have had a bit of a problem, and I think they`re hoping to
sort of, you know, kill two birds with one stone in a sense with this
letter. Keep Republicans on their heels, cool them off, keep them away
from this issue for a little while longer as they try to finish this up.
And at the same time, try to find a way to negotiate with the less extreme
members of the Iranian regime.
KORNACKI: How is this - how do you think this is going to be greeted on
Capitol Hill, the letter from the White House overnight?
SMICKLE: I think they`ll hate it, but what I go back to is this. Even if
you don`t like the man, the president of the United States is commander in
chief of our armed forces. And to undermine his ability to negotiate,
especially at a time when groups like Boko Haram are forging these
partnerships with ISIS, that makes - it makes the president`s role so much
more critical. The undermining of this and even as the response will hit
Capitol Hill, I`m sure there will be a counter-response to that. I think
this constant undermining of the president really puts us in harm`s way.
KORNACKI: And politically, though, David, that`s the issue. Because we
were talking about this a little bit yesterday, too. Republicans who are
opposing the White House on this deal had some Democratic allies. They
still have some Democratic allies in that. Is there a risk here in terms
from the Republican standpoint of alienating the Democrats who are their
AVELLA: Well, let`s keep in mind that Senator Robert C. Byrd sent letters
and tried to negotiate with foreign governments. Senator Ted Kennedy sent
letters to the Russians as Ronald Reagan was trying to negotiate with them.
So, let`s not have this all of a sudden huge dust-up because the U.S.
Senate has expressed an interest.
KORNACKI: But that ...
AVELLA: And there`s a bigger issue here that if this is going to be a
treaty, which it`s not, it will be another executive action, if it`s a
treaty, the U.S. Senate must ratify it.
KORNACKI: But it`s not ...
AVELLA: And this is what the president`s going to have a problem with
because there are a number of Democrats who will vote with Republicans not
to ratify this, if it ultimately does anything that allows Iran to have a
KORNACKI: Is that - P.J., let me give you the last word. That distinction
between the White House doing this sort of on its own, an executive action,
versus a treaty, practically speaking for the long haul, if this is not
treated as a treaty, can it hold up if Republicans, a future Republican
president or Republican majority in Congress continue to oppose it?
CROWLEY: Well, I mean, certainly the Senate will have the ability, as will
the House, you know, to test the administration and a negotiation, an
agreement, if one is reached. I think there`s a level above what we`re
talking about that if the P5 plus One, you know reach an agreement with
Iran, it will be codified in a U.N. Security Council resolution. And the
IAEA will begin intrusive inspections in Iran. If a future president says,
we are not going to cooperate with that regime, I think it amounts to more
pain and little gain, there`s nothing in the U.S. interest, you know, in
undermining intrusive inspections that give us as much confidence as we can
that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
KORNACKI: I wanted - P.J., I`ve got to ask you this before you go, because
you were the spokesman at the State Department when Hillary Clinton was
there at the beginning. And she`s obviously been in the news for some of
her decisions as secretary of state in terms of her e-mail and in terms of
not using a government e-mail address, using her personal e-mail address.
Is that something -- were you aware of, were you concerned about that at
all when you were serving with her, and did she make a mistake in terms of
making that decision?
CROWLEY: Well, as her assistant secretary of state, you know, I did
correspond with her by e-mail. It was not an issue for all of us on her
leadership team. No one that I, you know, interacted with at the State
Department in two years, you know, thought it was a big deal at all. And
as the secretary said, you know, in hindsight, she should have done it
differently. And I agree with her.
KORNACKI: All right. P.J. Crowley, former assistant secretary of state
for public affairs, appreciate the time this morning.
CROWLEY: All right, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right, still ahead, one of my favorite weeks of the year is
just around the corner, meaning today is one of my favorite days of the
year. They call is Selection Sunday. We`re going to get a preview of
March Madness. That is ahead.
But next, a busy weekend in the granite state. The first in the nation
state of New Hampshire. What the candidates said and the man who talked to
both of them, former governor John Sununu, he joins us right after this.
KORNACKI: "The New York Times" this morning describing the fight in New
Hampshire for the Republican presidential nomination as a free-for-all.
Anyone`s game, no clear front-runners. And that`s an assessment that top
party officials in that state say that they share. And while that may be
true, based on what happened on the ground this weekend, two of the leading
candidates, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, seemed to think that each other is
the greatest rival of the other. If that makes sense. The former --
sorry, I thought we had some sound there. The former Florida governor
appearing happy if not eager when he arrived in the granite state to
acknowledge that the Wisconsin governor`s views on immigration have
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: is Scott Walker a flip-flopper?
JEB BUSH: I don`t -- I don`t -- I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he flip-flop on the renewable fuel standard?
JEB BUSH: I didn`t see what ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, immigration, he (INAUDIBLE), right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, yesterday in his first public remarks in the state, Walker
refuted all of those charges of flip-flopping.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT WALKER: Just a narrative from the other campaigns refer to the fact
that we`ve got a strong reputation of keeping our word. And the only major
issue out there is immigration. And we listen to the people. Yeah, this
is one where we listen to people all across the country, particularly
border governors. You saw how this president messed that up. And that`s
an issue where I think people want leaders who are willing to listen to
people on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Other candidates, though, are going to try to make that flip-
flop charge stick against Walker. The Associated Press reporting this
morning that many Republican campaigns, quote, "have assembled internal
memos, research papers and detailed spreadsheets that highlight and track
Walker`s shifts on positions from immigration to ethanol to abortion."
Suggesting that a broad pattern of flip-flopping will be Walker`s greatest
vulnerability. A revolving view, something that will resonate with New
Hampshire voters. What will it take to win New Hampshire ten months from
now? No one can answer that question better than our next guest, former
governor John Sununu who also, of course, served as the chief of staff to
George H.W. Bush, met with Scott Walker and Jeb Bush while they were in New
Hampshire this weekend. And Governor Sununu joins us right now. Thank you
for taking a few minutes, governor. I really appreciate it.
FMR. GOV. JOHN SUNUNU, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Good morning, Steve. How are
KORNACKI: I`m very good. I love the New Hampshire primary. You have a
great history in the primary in that state. But so, let me ask you, we`re
ten months out from the primary. And we`re already starting to see some
sniping, some public sniping, between Walker, between Jeb Bush. Is it a
little early -- is this earlier than you`re expecting for it to heat up
SUNUNU: Look, people forget, there`s a lot of politics in politics, you
know? And there`s ten months ahead. There are seasons to the primary in
New Hampshire. This is obviously the first season. I thought at first
these guys were coming up just to do some of the great skiing we have this
year, but it turned out they were really here for political meetings. It`s
going to be a very interesting campaign. And I think there`s five or six,
maybe seven viable candidates. They will all try and differentiate
themselves. And you know what will happen after a nominee is selected,
they`ll all come together and campaign hard for the nominee against the
KORNACKI: Well, let`s look at how it sort of sets up in New Hampshire.
And again, it is early right now, but at the same time, not necessarily
that early. First of all, from the Bush standpoint, when you look at that
early primary calendar, he looks like he has trouble in Iowa. Just the
nature of the Iowa caucuses, very conservative, very activist oriented.
You go down to South Carolina, there might be Lindsey Graham running there.
That`s a difficult state. Is New Hampshire, the way that primary calendar
sets up, is that a must-win state for Jeb Bush?
SUNUNU: New Hampshire is a must-win state for everyone. Virtually, with
almost no exception, maybe one or two flukes, you can`t get to be president
without winning your primary in New Hampshire. I`ve always had a saying,
Iowa picks corn. New Hampshire picks presidents. It`s important for all
KORNACKI: Iowa would point out they`ve picked the last couple of
presidents, though, and New Hampshire didn`t. But in fact ...
SUNUNU: That`s kind of corny.
KORNACKI: In fairness to the hawk-eye state. Let me ask you about Walker,
though. Because now if you look at the early polls in New Hampshire, you
know, all the buzz for Jeb Bush, and he`s got the name, obviously, but
Scott Walker is right up there with Jeb Bush in New Hampshire. What is
Scott Walker, who`s not as well known, what is he tapping into in your
SUNUNU: I think he`s tapping into really the anger that America has with
the current administration and looking for somebody that can stand up and
show leadership. And I think both Jeb and Scott and the other Republicans
that are going to be running up here are going to try and focus on those
aspects within their resume that reflect support for that kind of a feeling
that the public has. Look, each candidate has a different mix of pluses
and minuses. And the smart candidate does a good job of emphasizing their
pluses and a smart job of kind of hiding their minuses.
You`re going to see a shifting set of arguments presented by each candidate
as they test, which one of their positions seem to resonate the most, which
one of their applause lines get the biggest applause and which one of their
strategies for moving forward seems to have the right combination of where
they go and what they say.
KORNACKI: We also have news this weekend he`s not up there. It`s Bush and
Walker up there this weekend. But Chris Christie who is also eyeing this
race, sending word now that he`s sort of going to be rebooting his
campaign, focusing a little bit more on entitlement reform. This is the
reporting this morning that`s going to be the emphasis of the Christie
campaign. We were also talking earlier about the Bridgegate situation, the
looming indictments there. When you look at Chris Christie and you look at
all the other options that are out there for Republicans in New Hampshire,
is there a space for Chris Christie in this race?
SUNUNU: Look, there`s a space for any credible candidate, and it`s up to
them to come up here. New Hampshire voters participate in the process very
actively. One of the reasons we`ve been able to stay significant and first
is that the voters and the citizens up here get involved. Not just to the
candidate they may be leaning toward, but they`ll go to events for all the
candidates to help sort it out. And so any candidate that`s got a credible
starting position, a credible record for having been involved in politics,
is fairly conservative on the Republican side. And can articulate an
agenda for the future is going to do well up here. And so Walker, Bush,
Chris Christie, you might even see Mike Pence coming up here, Marco Rubio.
All of them will be knocking on doors, going to coffees, going to town
halls and trying to begin get some chemistry going between themselves and
KORNACKI: Have you - you met with the two of them this weekend, you`ve
seen some of the others come into the state. I do wonder, in what you`ve
seen so far, what has been your biggest surprise about these candidates?
SUNUNU: Well, you know, I really haven`t been surprised. They`re all
friends. They -- you know, they come to have coffee because they`re all
old friends. That makes it kind of hard for me in a primary to have to try
and give even advice to all the friends that ask, and I`m trying to do
that. But what has been surprising to me in the general campaign is how
little activity there`s been on the Democratic side. And I`m just
wondering how shocked the Democrats might be if Mrs. Clinton decides not to
run. I still think there`s a 30 percent chance she may do that. And the
big surprise, of course, in the whole election process will be that if that
occurs, there will be a thunderous shock going through the Democratic Party
trying to regroup.
KORNACKI: Well, it will be good for tourism in your state if that happens
KORNACKI: ... because about 25 Democratic candidates will suddenly take up
residence in the state. Anyway, former governor John Sununu, really
appreciate the time this morning, thank you.
SUNUNU: Thank you very much.
KORNACKI: All right. Still ahead, our big march madness basketball
preview is coming up.
But next, a group of people who don`t welcome robot overlords. We`re going
to explain that to you. That`s next.
KORNACKI: All right. There is a lot going on in the world this morning.
Time to get caught up on some of the other headlines making news with our
panel and with the index cards. This is catching up. I read the
headlines, they comment on them. Let`s see what we have here. We start
with a heavy one. This is NBC News. This is NBC News reporting on claims
that ISIS used chemical weapons in a suicide attack. This according to
Kurds. Kurdish authorities in Iraq saying on Saturday that they have
evidence that the terror group used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon. It
took place on January 23rd on a road between Iraq`s second largest city,
Mosul, and the Syrian border. Dozens of Peshmerga fighters were treated
for "dizziness, nausea, vomiting and general weakness after the attack. So
yet another potential -- let me stress potential -- we get reports like
this, we don`t know for sure. But this is - and obviously the Kurds would
have -- are at war with ISIS, so there`s that. But this is ...
SMICKLE: And this is the line in the sand that the U.N. has said very
clearly that if there is evidence that there would be tremendous and swift
international support. But I remember back in 2013 when there were reports
of this in Syria, we -- there was a concern that the U.S. did not go in.
And if I remember correctly, parliament voted down the prime minister`s
interest in going into Syria.
KORNACKI: Right. There was that deal that was finally struck, but it was
clearly headed toward defeat in Congress here if it had come up then.
Something very different in tone, let`s take a look at the "USA Today."
Protesters stage anti-robot rally at South by Southwest. So South by
Southwest is that the annual sort of cultural phenomenon event that`s going
on this weekend. Two dozen protesters were chanting there this weekend, "I
say robot, you say nobot." They are worried about robots taking over the
world. Another was heard to be chanting "A.I. Say good-bye." The rise of
the robot overlords. I saw the new Apple watch. I`m worried about it.
KORNACKI: Anybody else see the robots coming?
SMICKLE: It`s Skynet, it`s the Terminator. We`re getting there.
AVELLA: All kinds of great things going on at South by Southwest including
KORNACKI: Do you worry about the robots, John?
STANTON: At (INAUDIBLE) foundation, I`m not down with that at all.
KORNACKI: It`s coming. It`s coming. It`s coming. What else do we have
here? NPR, National Public Radio, how about this smell something different
at the gym? Might not be what you think. This is about scent marketing.
It`s how a business chooses a specific scent to attract customers and to
boost sales. Smell experts say in the U.S. people associate a lemon scent
with cleaning products. In other countries, cleaning products have a peach
scent. And women spend more in an environment with a subtle vanilla
fragrance. Men spend more with -- I don`t even know what this is -- rose
marak. Merick (ph). Something like that. Anyway, but apparently it gets
me spending my money.
SMICKLE: Yes, department stores do this with music and color schemes all
the time. But I read an article some months ago that McDonald`s uses an
odor for their French fries. They don`t smell like anybody else`s fries.
So when you`re drawn to it, that`s why.
KORNACKI: Really? I had no idea. Because McDonald`s had, it is the best
fries, I always tell people.
KORNACKI: And that`s ...
AVELLA: That`s why many grocery stores put the bakery at the front
KORNACKI: I`ve been fooled all these years. McDonald`s - Wow, that`s what
it is. That`s the secret. That`s why Burger King can never catch them.
Anyway, still ahead, more of these will be created this week than ballots
cast for president in 2012. Bracket mania sweeping the nation. Tonight`s
the big night. We`ll tell you about it. That`s next.
KORNACKI: A step toward healing in Paris this morning as community members
came together to reopen the kosher grocery store that was the scene of that
horrific violence back in January. The store was renovated following the
January 9th hostage taking by a suspect who said he was coordinating with
those behind the attack on the satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo." Four
hostages, all of them Jewish were killed in the supermarket attack that
day. Stay here with MSNBC for all the latest news, and we`ll be right
KORNACKI: Gambling on sports is against the law in most of America, and
yet 40 million Americans are about to do it anyway. Yep, it is that time
of year, March Madness. The 68-team college basketball tournament and that
bracket. That bracket you`ll be handed when you walk into your office
tomorrow morning, plop down your ten bucks and start picking between
schools you`ve never heard of and didn`t even know existed. Or if you`re a
serious basketball junkie, you`ll carefully consider each matchup, you`ll
confidently make your picks and then you`ll spend the next three weeks
pulling your hair out as your bracket gets utterly ravaged and some guys
who picks teams based on their colors wins your pool and takes all your
An estimated $9 billion are expected to be wagered on the NCAA tournament
this year. It is tonight at 6:00 p.m. that the suspense will end and that
68-team bracket will be unveiled.
Even without the office pools, though, there is something to love about
March Madness. It is the most democratic with a small D major sporting
event. 350 schools from giant powerhouses that play their games in massive
domed arenas all the way down to obscure colleges that play in front of 200
fans a game, all of them have the opportunity to earn their way into the
68-team field. This year we know who the goliath is among them, the
Kentucky wildcats. Their record is now 33 and 0. They could become the
first team since 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated and win a national
championship. But who is going to play the role of David, pulling off the
shocking, improbable upsets that no one sees coming but it still happen
every year, the upsets that make March Madness so great.
Joining the panel to discuss everyone`s favorite March Madness season and
Selection Sunday, we have John Feinstein, author and sports columnist from
the "Washington Post." John, thanks for taking a few minutes this morning.
So, let me start with this. We don`t know exactly who`s in the field yet.
I know I want Kentucky to lose, I hate the favorites, I`m from
Massachusetts. I remember what John Calipari did to U-mass. Is there any
chance Kentucky is going to lose in this tournament?
JOHN FEINSTEIN, AUTHOR & SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Sure there`s a chance.
There`s always a chance in a one and out event. If this was like the NBA,
Steve, and it was best of seven, Kentucky would be the odds-on favorite to
win. But in one and out anything can happen. In 1991, Nevada Las Vegas
was 34-0 going to the final four. They were the greatest team in history
and they lost in the semifinals to Duke. John Wooden walked out of that
game, the great John Wooden and said to somebody a lot of great teams have
won one championship in a row. You don`t say anybody is a lock to win in
this event. That`s why it`s so much fun.
KORNACKI: So who would you - people get their bracket tonight, tomorrow
morning, they`re looking at this. Say they don`t follow this too closely.
Besides Kentucky being the favorite, give them a couple of teams that they
might want to keep an eye on that could go far in this thing that maybe
they`re not hearing about as much.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I would go to the - If you`re looking for dark horses to
maybe go deep as opposed to a low seed to win in the first round, which is
sort of a different sport trying to pick that, I like a couple of teams out
of Iowa, both Northern Iowa and Iowa State. Iowa State has won five games
this year in which they were down 17 points or more, including the big 12
championship game against Kansas. And Northern Iowa is one of those teams
nobody knows much about. They have only got three losses. And five years
ago in this tournament, they beat with the same coach Ben Jacobson, Kansas,
which was the top seed in the Midwest region. I like both those teams.
KORNACKI: And you mentioned the other one, those small schools that no one
has heard of that could pull off the shocking upset against the big team.
Do you have one or two in mind there?
FEINSTEIN: Yeah, I like North Florida a lot. I`m not sure if you`ve even
heard of them, Steve.
KORNACKI: The ospreys.
FEINSTEIN: There you go, very good. They won at Purdue earlier this
season. They`re from the same conference as Florida Gulf Coast. You might
remember them a couple of years ago when they knocked off a couple of big-
name teams and went to the Sweet 16. I think North Florida has that
potential. And you mentioned you`re from Massachusetts. Harvard and
Northeastern are both experienced, well coached teams that I don`t think
any number three or number four seed who might meet them in the first
round, is going to be happy to see opposing them.
KORNACKI: Well, let me get the panel in here a little bit. Everybody
here, I think, will be filling out a bracket. Any -- what`s the secret to
your -- actually you`ve won a bracket, what was the secret?
SMICKLE: You know, I grew up at a time watching college basketball when
Ewing was playing for Georgetown, Walter Berry was playing for St. Johns.
So, I look for dominant players, but also a good system, good team
basketball and some maturity. So I like teams like Wisconsin. Notre Dame
showed me something yesterday with that win. And I also, going sort of
further down in the seeding, you always want to pick a team that you don`t
think is going to do well in the first round to surprise you. So I like
these teams like Hampton, Harvard who`s been there, I think, four or five
times now. Tommy Amaker of Duke, he`s coaching there. And shoutout to
SUNY Albany, they surprised a lot of folks and hopefully they`ll at least
have a good win.
KORNACKI: The Albany Great Danes. Any other favorites right here?
AVELLA: Wisconsin is going to be tough to beat. They were there last year
in the finals. And they don`t commit a lot of turnovers, they`re playing
good basketball. But my bracket tends always to get messed up when I put
my home state of West Virginia somewhere in the elite eight or top four.
STANTON: I`m stuck in the `80s with Ewing basically.
STANTON: The only thing I do know, is that I always bet against Duke,
because Duke sucks.
KORNACKI: All right, John Feinstein, you want to respond to that? I know
you`re a Duke guy.
FEINSTEIN: A lot of people feel very inferior and have to say that Duke
sucks, I understand that, it`s a sent meant. But here`s a secret to my
success in brackets. I give mine to my four-year-old daughter. That`s the
way to win a bracket.
KORNACKI: That`s what it always is. All right, John Feinstein, thanks for
taking a few minutes this morning. Really appreciate that. Thanks to
today`s panel, David Avella, Basil Smickle. John Stanton, I appreciate you
being here. Thank you for getting up with us today.
Up next, Melissa Harris-Perry. Stay tuned and we will see you next
weekend. Have a great week.
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