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'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Read the transcript to the Sunday show

Date: September 20, 2015
Guest: E.J. Dionne, Evan McMoris-Santoro, Amy Holmes

RICHARD WOLF, MSNBC HOST: Is the United States ready to hear the Pope`s
political message?


WOLF: Good morning, thanks for getting up with us this Sunday morning. I`m
Richard Wolf sitting in for Steve Kornacki.


WOLF: Pope Francis gets ready to bring his message of change to the United
States, including to a joint session of Congress. But will his audience on
Capitol Hill be ready to hear what he has to say about things like climate
change and income equality?

So this actually happened, Donald Trump was the star attraction last night
at a high school homecoming in Iowa. More on that in just a moment.

Plus, what would happen if a Democrat dare to suggest America isn`t great
and we needed to make America great again? Michelle Obama could tell us a
few things about what that feels like.

And it`s the ballot question that`s almost always a winner, did the
Republican field just pave the way for an explosion of ballot initiatives
to legalize marijuana in 2016?


WOLF: This morning, Pope Francis is spending his first full day in Cuba.


WOLF: After greeting thousands of Cubans shortly after his arrival in
Havana yesterday afternoon. Not long from now he`ll be conducting a mass in
Havana`s Revolution Square, it`s just one of many services and speeches on
a packed schedule throughout this coming week as he sets out on an historic
nine-day swing through Cuba, and the Eastern United States.

For more on today`s event we have NBC`s Claudio Lavanga, live from Havana,
Cuba. Claudio?


tens of thousands of Cubans have started to line up the streets and fill up
the square of Revolution Square since the very early hours of this morning.


LAVANGA: Well of course this is a very special and popular Pope, because
he`s the first Pope from in Latin America. His native language is Spanish
and in particular he`s played a key role in the normalization relations
between the U.S. and Cuba.

Now about that, yesterday upon his arrival here in Havana airport, he said
that he brings - that brings up a lot of hope to the world, even hailed
that process as an example of reconciliation to the world.

He did not offer to the world of course - he did not say anything about
human or civil rights, even though he said that he`s going to pray for Cuba
to travel the path of peace, justice and reconciliation.

Well now the mass starts in about an hour. It will last about two hours, he
will then meet with President Cidel -- sorry, President Raul Castro but the
big highlight of the day may come if and when the Pope meets with his
brother, Fidel Castro.

Now it`s not on the agenda, it`s not on the schedule but the Vatican has
said yesterday that it may happen and if it does happen, it will happen
today, Richard.

WOLF: Claudio, do you think the Pope can help Cuba in this transitional
phase, particularly with the United States?


LAVANGA: Well, we will have to wait and see whether he does mention the
embargo at the congress.


LAVANGA: Of course congress is the only one that can lift the embargo
outright. Now, the Vatican said that this is not a political trip. This is
not a diplomatic trip. This is a pilgrimage so he`s not expected to say
that. But what he can do is to put pressure on congress in other ways, for
instance, by talking about it here and that`s what he`s already doing.

Well the -- of course he`s already played an enormous part in receiving
delegations from both countries in the past year to -- he sent personal
letters to Obama and Raul Castro to urge them to find reconciliation and
that worked clearly and they both praised the Pope for the role that he

Now that he`s here, even the fact that he`s here is one more step towards
his work in convincing congress to lift the embargo all together, Richard.

WOLF: Fascinating story developing there in Havana. Fascinating pictures,
too, thank you, Claudio Lavanga. NBC`s Claudio Lavanga, in Havana.


WOLF: When Pope Francis addresses a joint session of congress on Thursday,
the first pope ever to do so, he will be entering a deeply divided chamber.


WOLF: The pope`s outspoken views on things like climate change and income
inequality are not always palatable to the republicans on Capitol Hill. For
example, here are some of the responses he received in June after
attributing "the majority of the global warming in recent decades to human
activity." He called it the moral issue of our time.

Jeb Bush said I don`t get my economic policy from my bishops or my
cardinals or my Pope. Rick Santorum said he believed "we are better off
leaving science to the scientists." And a new MSNBC poll shows 49% of
Americans want Pope Francis to talk about social and economic policy while
in the United States.


WOLF: But is it a message the republicans who invited him really want to


WOLF: One Republican member already saying he is boycotting the address,
citing the Pope`s "leftist policies."


WOLF: Here now to discuss papal politics is E.J. Dionne, Washington Post
columnist and of course an MSNBC contributor. E.J., good morning.


WOLF: E.J. I just want to start off with some poll numbers about Americans`
views of Pope Francis.


WOLF: 51% positive, 9% negative, and if you dig into it a little more, I
wonder if we can pull up these numbers as well, Latinos making up 40% of
the 51 million Catholics in America. If you look at positive versus
negative feelings, 51% as we said before positive, 49% Latinos have
positive attitude to this Pope.


WOLF: The political impact among Latinos in this country of this Pope`s
visit, how do you - how do you foresee this playing out?

DIONNE: Well you know, there were so many different dramas to this visit,
one is indeed among Latinos. A lot of Latinos both in the United States and
in Central and South America have drifted toward Protestantism,
particularly Evangelical Protestantism.


DIONNE: And so having a Latino pope is very important to the church itself,
in trying to hold those Latinos they have perhaps to win back some of the
Latinos who have moved away. But politically more broadly try to think
about what would have happened at last week`s Republican debate if someone
had shown up there, speaking Spanish, and most of the pope`s speeches will
be in Spanish, and in Spanish talking about the need to deal with climate
change, the need to welcome immigrants and refugees, the need to deal with
economic injustice, a critic of capitalism, imagine how welcome that person
would have been at last week`s Republican debate.


DIONNE: And so I think another of the dramas here will be how much of the
Pope`s talk here will be about issues that put him essentially on the left
side of the center. And last thing is, the message he will send by where
he`s going.


DIONNE: He`s visiting the largest jail in Philadelphia. In Washington he`s
visiting the needy people who are served by catholic charities. He`s
meeting migrant workers in upstate -- or north of New York City. Just what
he is doing, forget any words he says, will send a very powerful message as


WOLF: E.J., you`re far more expert than I am but where would you place him
on the scale on social issues?


DIONNE: Because I know we`ve been talking about climate change and
inequality but he`s still the Pope when it comes to abortion, reproductive
rights, let`s - how would you -- where would you place him on the spectrum?

DIONNE: I suppose it depends on what spectrum you`re talking about.


DIONNE: If it`s the American political spectrum and you would place him
right of center in the sense that he is very strongly opposed to abortion.
But if you place him within a catholic spectrum, it`s not so clear he`s all
the way over there.


DIONNE: In an important gesture, he announced for example that women who
have abortions no longer have to go to their bishops to get forgiveness. It
was seen as a movement in that direction, and I think the key thing is he`s
gone out of his way to say he`s the anti-culture war pope.


DIONNE: He`s gone out of his way to be welcoming to gays, for example, gays
and lesbians, to say that the church has spoken so much about abortion and
gay rights and other social issues that it deemphasized its message on
economic justice and issues of that sort. So that he is actually pulling
the church back to where it was some time ago, which is yes its very pro-
life, anti-abortion but it also has a very strong voice on issues of social
and economic justice. So he`s shifting the priorities.

WOLF: OK, let`s open this up to the panel, joining me today Evan McMorris-
Santoro, White House correspondent with Buzz Feed. Amy Holmes, whose anchor
of the`s hot list and my doppelganger, MSNBC contributor David
Corn, Washington Bureau Chief at Mother Jones Magazine. Welcome to you all.




WOLF: Amy, I want to start with you, well let`s project out to the Pope`s
speech. How does the republican congress react to what the pope has to say?

HOLMES: They`ll react respectfully. And they`ve said that they intend to.

Now we have the Republican congressman who is boycotting the Pope, a
Catholic congressman who disagrees with the Pope`s positions on those you
would say social justice or economic justice issues, being to the left of
the congressman.


HOLMES: But a lot of Republicans there on the record are saying this is a
great honor, they look forward to the Pope`s visit, they look forward to
his talk, and it`s not clear that he will actually be getting into any
policy specifics.


HOLMES: If he does that, I think that there will be a stony silence from
those Republicans, but it`s actually not expected that he`s going to be
lecturing or hectoring the United States on what our policies should be
vis-a-vis the issues.

WOLF: David, are the Democrats hoping for too much here? I mean it`s still
a Pope. He`s fairly mild. As we heard from E.J., you know there are
indications he may be moving on some of these issues, and Democrats then to
jump up and cheer, but is he really going to -- is this really an

CORN: I think the Republicans will not be calling a B.B Netanyahu here,
where they cheer, cheer. I think these, if the media, (CROSS-TALK). Well
neither the republicans will not greet him the way they greeted B.B.

The Democrats on the other hand may do that. I think there is -- I`d be
very surprised if the Pope doesn`t talk about climate change, and economic
justice, social justice, and dealing with poverty. I mean, he has said very
blatantly in other speeches that dealing with the poor should be a number
one priority. He`s not in favor of letting markets dictate you know the way
of the world you know moves, and I don`t see him --

HOLMES: But more a broader philosophic strokes, not specific policy detail.

CORN: Well yes, he won`t talk about having --

HOLMES: That we ought to have you know -

CORN: .. Increasing car trades on carried interest for hedge fund managers.
I don`t think he`ll look at that.

HOLMES: Or cap and trade.

CORN: But I think he will talk about the imperative of dealing with climate
change which right there will be against any Republican policy. And in
talking about putting social programs ahead of tax cuts, which he`s talked
about, again, that will be at odds with Republicans and how they react to
that will be interesting.

WOLF: Now the particular terms for Presidential candidates, Evan, I want to
play some sound from Jeb Bush on Pope Francis because he has a particular
challenge here. Let`s hear what Jeb has to say.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pope Francis is an amazing man. He
speaks with such elegance and simplicity about things that are really
important and I think the decisions he`s made as it relates to providing --
showing mercy for people, women that have had abortions or divorce is
making it easier for people to absolve themselves from that, in you know
the traditional catholic way.

I think he`s going to lift people`s spirits up and here is a man who comes
with a gentle soul and I think it might be really healthy for our country
to hear someone speak the way he does.


WOLF: Evan, Republican candidates clearly have grounds to make up with
Latino voters. Jeb Bush has said he`s not going to take his policies from
our Pope or bishop but he`s going to play nice with the Pope. And so how do
the candidates -- how do the Republican candidates deal with a Pope from
Latin America who is concerned with people at the lower end of the economic

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well you can see their message is kind of evolving on
this. When the Pope sort of first came around and started talking about
economic issues, or the famous quote from Paul Ryan saying you know well he
grew up in Argentina and he understands communistic type of you know
economies, and understands capitalism.

Now they`re sort of -- they`ve dialed that back a little bit now. You know
that sort of think that Rick Santorum said about scientists, that kind of -
that dogged him a little bit, he sort of dialed that back a little bit.

So what Bush is saying I think is what a lot of people are going to say,
which is this guy is a good-hearted guy and he`s a smart guy and he`s going
to come over here and tell us some of his ideas.

But you know I mean I agree a little bit that you know you said earlier
talking to David about what Democrats are expecting. You know there`s a
little bit of a trolling aspect of this among Democrats. I mean if the
pope was really in the United States running for the Democratic nomination,
he would have -- not been doing very well. I mean he`s (inaudible) stuff
but he still is for of the leader of the anti-abortion, at least strongly
skeptical of gay rights.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: .. I don`t maybe. I mean - I mean so there is a factor
that like what you think about the Pope is that more than a lot of other --
than we`ve seen in the past he`s come here to sort of - he`s sort of taking
on a kind of general spirit of talking about sort of poverty and things
like that, that sorts of puts a lot of politicians on edge in a lot of
different ways. But I do think that Republicans are clearly trying to not
run afoul of it as much as they did before.

HOLMES: And, there`s picking and choosing on both sides. So Democrats
ignoring the fact that the opposes homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion,
contraception, those are major party playings for that party. And on the
Republican side, you know sitting in respectful silence to the Pope you
know enumerating his more leftist parties. I think you can regard this pope
as the left`s Pope John Paul.

WOLF: OK., E.J. the pope running for President, I think he`s going to blow
my head apart. But what do you think about where he fits into the
Presidential race?

DIONNE: Well he probably doesn`t fit into the Presidential race, except
it`s going to be very difficult for Donald Trump in particular and all of
the restrictionist candidates on immigration, and so that`s where he might
have some immediate effect.

But the other thing, this goes to what the panel has said, there`s been a
lot of talk among Democrats about the dangers of politicizing this visit,
because they really do want to stand up and cheer a lot and they will in
congress, when he talks about climate change or economic justice. But they
know that in a sense, they reduced the currency here. They sort of would
cause themselves more trouble if they actually politicized this.


DIONNE: So you`re going to see Democrats walking a very careful line, too.
A lot of Republicans are going to say we love the guy for being spiritual,
outside the Catholic church on the conservative side, you`re going to have
people hitting him hard on his economics like that congressman, like George
Wheel and his column in The Washington Post this morning, but the Catholics
will be very careful as Catholics typically are with popes.

WOLF: E.J., Thank you. We`re watching live pictures of the Pope in Havana,
Cuba, as he prepares for his mass in Revolution Square. E.J., please stick
around you`re going to be back later in the hour.

Still ahead, the suspect in the Arizona freeway shootings speaks up, what
he says about the charges against him.

And next --

negotiate for you? Hillary, ay, or Trump? Argh!

WOLF: What happens when Donald Trump comes to your high school homecoming?
Find out right after this.


WOLF: If you have kids in high school and I do, you know how important
homecoming weekend can be. Now imagine that weekend if Donald Trump showed
up. It would, of course, be huge.

WOLF: That`s exactly what happened last night in Iowa, where Trump appeared
at a high school right before its annual homecoming dance. It was one of
two appearances the Donald made yesterday in the Hawkeye State. NBC`s
Hallie Jackson is live in Des Moines. Good morning, Hallie.


HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Richard. Yes, we
were there for the big pre-homecoming rally. Donald Trump came out and
addressed the students in what was almost a quasi-commencement speech.


JACKSON: He gave them advice for the future. He said stay away from
alcohol, cigarettes, follow your heart and work hard. The students part of
a government class, had really pushed for any candidate to come, apparently
they reached out to a number of candidates. The teacher told me that they
heard from Bernie Sanders, the day before expressing his regret that he
wasn`t able to show up. Donald Trump came through, he spoke to them and it
was quite a moment.

He didn`t dance just in case you were wondering but he made news earlier in
the day when he was at that faith and freedom conference.


JACKSON: He spoke to this conservative Christian audience, he brought his
bible and he addressed this controversy where he as you know failed to
correct a questioner last week who claimed incorrectly that President Obama
is not a Christian and was not born in the United States.

Trump unapologetically read a series of tweets. He says he`s not morally
obligated to defend the President when people say nasty or controversial
things about him, he defended what he didn`t say essentially and made some
news along the way, Richard.

WOLF: Hallie, I realize, I understand why he was doing the faith and
freedom piece to this but the high school I`m struggling with. I guess you
could ask this about pretty much everything Donald Trump does on the
campaign trail. Why did he do this? Why did he go?


JACKSON: He says he came because the kids were so passionate about it. The
students really wanted to, presumably it`s because he was nearby for the
faith and freedom conference anyway.

The kids had really gotten a lot of attention for like drawing sidewalk
chalk outside his Iowa headquarters, et cetera, so they really made a
strong push to get Trump to show up. He actually joked you know I get
millions of dollars for speeches he said, and I`m doing this one to are
free. He goes, man, what am I doing, making a bad deal?


JACKSON: So he wanted to come to talk to these kids. They don`t all - you
know they`re not old enough to vote yet all of them but some of them are.
And I said hey how are you leaning? And the homecoming king and queen that
I talked to said we`re not sure how we`re going to vote yet but it`s good
to know we can hear Mr. Trump speak at school.

WOLF: Wow, that even politics of the high school. The homecoming king and
queen were even then playing politics. Thank you, Hallie Jackson, that was

Before the big homecoming dance, Trump addressed, as you heard a very
different audience, one comprised of people probably old enough to vote at
a forum sponsored by the faith and freedom coalition.


WOLF: And he tried to make a good first impression, walking on stage with
as you heard a couple of props, his bible, and a picture from his
confirmation in his hand. Trump once again defended his decision not to
correct a supporter at a town hall last week who claimed President Obama
was Muslim and not an American. He was also critical of John McCain, who
corrected a woman in 2008 who said that Barack Obama was an Arab.

TRUMP: You remember the famous thing where John McCain just ripped that
microphone out of the woman`s hands and -- I don`t know, I thought it was a
little bit harsh, to be honest with you. Does anybody agree with me? That
was harsh, wasn`t it? They gave him so much credit. You know, Not me. I
didn`t give him a lot of credit.


WOLF: I want to bring back our panel here.

HOLMES: Donald Trump objecting to someone being harsh?

WOLF: Being harsh with low energy, high energy. I mean he`s permanently the
critic of other people`s campaigns.

But Amy, I guess there`s no real downside for Donald Trump or any other
candidate to go out there and defend President Obama. I mean there`s no
upside excuse me, there`s only downside in going out there saying yeah, I`m
going to protect the public opinion around President Obama. So does it
matter if he goes out and intervenes in these questions?

HOLMES: Not in a GOP primary. But I would say the upside is leadership and
the first half of what that man said in his question to me was really the
even more problematic one which is we have a problem in this country in
America and it`s Muslims and that i think is where Donald Trump should have
cut him off right there, and just said okay, enough of that, we`re not
going to be talking about that right now and move on. And I think that his
response was actually reflective of his inexperience and that he`s
pandering to his audience as we saw at that high school and that he
actually was uncomfortable taking control of the situation shutting that
person down and moving on.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well also Trump is America`s most prominent birther. I
mean you - he`s been doing this -- this is completely on brand for him. I
was actually quite surprised at the controversy around this whole thing.
How could Trump have not - I mean this is what Trump really believes. He`s
being saying this for years.

HOLMES: Well we don`t know if he really believes.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well I mean It`s what he says routinely over and over. I
mean on his network, Chuck Todd, he had him on Chuck Todd, and he said the
same thing.

CORN: It`s very convenient that he believes this because 54% of Republicans
nationwide believe Barack Obama is Muslim, and a third of all Republican
Iowa caucus goers believe Obama was born in Kenya, so if he were to take
this on, he`s going against his own base.


WOLF: Hold on, how do we square, how do we square all of that, right,
questions of leadership with what he`s done with birtherism, with this
sound when he answers a high school girl`s question about having a Muslim
in his cabinet. Let`s play that sound.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I consider Muslim Americans to be an important
asset to our country in society. Would you consider putting one in your
cabinet or even on your ticket?

TRUMP: You consider what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Putting one in your cabinet or on your ticket, a

TRUMP: Muslim? Oh, absolutely. No problem with that. Would I consider
putting a Muslim-American in my cabinet, absolutely no problem with that.


WOLF: Absolutely no problem with that.

HOLMES: No, well that doesn`t surprise me.

CORN: That doesn`t surprise me. He`s not going to come out and say I`m a
bigot, so I won`t put a Muslim in but he pushes the buttons the other ways.
Listen going against Obama on birtherism is a bigoted racially tainted
enterprise. That`s the only explanation to that.

HOLMES: We know why the Whispering campaign on the --

CORN: Don`t talk to me about .


WOLF: Whoa, whoa, let --

HOLMES: But hold on - hold on David.

WOLF: Let Amy talk.

HOLMES: We know also that the birtherism issue had served both sides.
President Obama did not release his long form birth certificate.

CORN: Oh, here we go.

HOLMES: Until -- David, its true and raised a lot of questions.

CORN: Why should he have? Why should he have?

HOLMES: Why should he? He was I think he enjoyed having this issue
surrounding him. It raised him a lot of money and discredited his

WOLF: Rather than talking about the incumbent and whatever we think
President Obama did or did get out of the birth certificate issue. I`m just
trying to understand where Donald Trump thinks he`s going saying -- Is
President Obama Evan, a sort of separate zone around issues around being
Muslim or who is American and who isn`t. Whereas a Muslim-American in your
cabinet well that`s OK, that`s being inclusive for Donald Trump.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Yes, there`s actually a really interesting parallel to
all of this in 2012. Kind of a forgotten story line from that race. It was
Herman Cain, when Herman Cain was raising up in the poll he said a lot of
things about Muslim-Americans, a lot of things about Islam, and he was
asked would you put a Muslim in your cabinet, and he said I would have to
take some special precautions to make sure they`re not terrorists

And then that became a huge problem for him actually very briefly and he
went to a mosque in the D.C. and apologized to Muslim leaders there. So
Trump is sort of like a little bit smarter.

I mean part of this thing that we`re watching in this whole - in this whole
package you guys put together, and this is a -- a Republican candidate
going out and appealing to youth voters and then going out and trying to
really prove his worth on evangelical scale to people skeptical of him. I
mean he`s not a dumb campaigner. He`s pretty smart and this is - and this
is - sorry he`s doing a better job than her Herman Cain did with that

WOLF: OK, I want to go quickly to your latest presidential candidate who is
live in Havana, Pope Francis. We`re going to take some -- look at the
pictures here.


WOLF: He`s about to give a mass to thousands of Cubans on day one of his
nine-day trip to the island nation and the United States. Of course he`s
not running for President, that was my flip line on my part. But we will
continue watching these incredible pictures out of Cuba, the crowds are

Still ahead the movement to legalize marijuana took a huge step forward at
Wednesday`s debate. We`ll tell you why.

And next -- the suspect charged in a string of shootings in Phoenix,
Arizona, speaks up. That`s coming up. Stay with us.



WOLF: The man taken into custody late Friday night in the string of
shooting incidents on Arizona interstate I-10 now faces 28 charges
including four counts of intentional acts of terrorism.

Authorities say Leslie Merritt Jr. is forensically linked to four of the 11
confirmed shooting incidents.


WOLF: Merritt maintains that he is innocent of any crimes. NBC`s Gadi
Schwartz is live in phoenix, Arizona with the latest. Gadi?

GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Richard. This was the
first chance we got to see the suspected I-10 shooter up close in court.


SCHWARTZ But in court he seemed incredulous telling the judge he had
nothing to do with the shootings. Now the 21-year-old suspect Leslie Allen
Merritt Jr. is a local landscaper. He is now facing a slew of charges
including those four counts of intentional acts of terrorism, as well as
four counts of drive-by shootings. He`s also facing a slew of other

Now bail has been set at $1 million. Investigators say they`ve linked
Merritt to at least four of the shootings through a gun he sold to a pawn
shop. But Merritt says it wasn`t him, and he hasn`t had that gun in months.

that I`m the wrong guy. I`ve tried telling the detectives that. My gun`s
been in the pawn shop for the last two months. I haven`t even had access to
a weapon. I could never afford that bond though. I got two kids, you know?


SCHWARTZ: When asked about - when asked about Merritt`s defense and his
claim he didn`t have a gun for months.


SCHWARTZ: Police would not elaborate or comment only saying that forensic
evidence linked him to at least four of the shootings but there are still
11 shootings so seven other shootings remain unsolved.


SCHWARTZ: Investigators asking people to keep calling in tips and to remain
vigilant. Richard?

WOLF: Thank you, Gadi. Thanks to NBC`s Gadi Schwartz there.

Still ahead


WOLF: Could a Democrat get away with Donald Trump`s campaign slogan? We
will dive into that.

And here`s another look now of the huge crowds waiting to hear from Pope
Francis in Havana, Cuba, part of his nine-day historic trip that`s just
kicking off. Stay tuned.


WOLF: While there`s been no shortage of controversy over what Donald Trump
has said on the campaign trail. There hasn`t been quite as much uproar over
his slogan "Make America Great Again."


TRUMP: You know hard working people that really don`t want anything. You
just want to see this country be great again. And that`s what I`m going to
do. I`m going to make this country great again.


WOLF: But this idea of making America great again, one baseball cap at a
time is of course a statement that America isn`t really great right now.
The kind of suggestion that doesn`t seem to be prompting much outrage from
voters and activists in either party.


WOLF: But what about when Michelle Obama said this when her husband was
first running for President?

adult lifetime, I`m really proud of my country and not just because Barack
has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.


WOLF: Michelle Obama merely suggesting that she hasn`t always been proud of
the United States. That America wasn`t always great, was of course pounced
on by conservatives.


WOLF: Frankly, it`s hard to imagine a Democrat, any Democrat ever adopting
a slogan that blatantly proclaims America isn`t already at her best. So why
is Donald Trump getting a pass?


WOLF: E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post is back with us and of course with
our panel too. E.J. for Michelle Obama this was the formative experience,
trial by fire. How come there`s one standard when Michelle Obama says
something like this, but for Donald Trump, it is a statement of the

DIONNE: Well, I think there is a double standard, but let`s look at a
couple of things. First, Ronald Reagan is the guy who really first used the
slogan about making America great again. Secondly John Kennedy ran to get
the country moving again, Jimmy Carter promised a government as good as the
American people, a nice way to flatter us all.


DIONNE: But I think that the conservative side has always had a kind of
ownership on the definition of what it is to be an American. We had a
committee in the house, the house committee on un-American activities.


DIONNE: That committee whether Democrats or Republicans, controlled the
house was dominated by conservatives. If you remember back in the George W.
Bush years, there was the real America, which tended to be the states that
voted Republican, and then there`s this other America that didn`t seem to

And then lastly, I think you`re seeing on the conservative side a kind of
definition of the values that count as American. This is also not new in
our history, and they`re not comfortable with the America that is becoming
both in terms of values, in terms of the makeup of the people of the new

So I just think there is a double standard, although Democrats find other
ways of saying they`re going to make America better than it is, when they
are out of power.

WOLF: I want to bring in Amy Holmes here. Amy, are Republicans
uncomfortable with the I guess the demographic direction of the United
States right now? Is that what we`re hearing?

HOLMES: Well I don`t think that`s what those statements are about. And
there is a substantive difference between what Michelle Obama said twice
and scripted on a campaign trail versus Donald Trump`s slogan. She said she
had never been proud of her country until this moment. Donald trump is
harkening back to some you know bucolic era where we will return to this or
go into the future and be great again, of course implying that we were once
great, which of course means prior to President Obama.


HOLMES: I think this is typical campaign rhetoric. You`re seeing Bernie
Sanders on the campaign trial talking about that America is not where it
needs to be, that the unemployment rate for example doesn`t reflect the
true unemployment rate.


HOLMES: Underemployment, people who dropped out of the workforce. So I`m
not sure I accept the premise of the discussion that there`s a double
standard when both sides do it, and Michelle Obama, her statement was very

WOLF: Just to be clear she didn`t say she had never been proud. She said
for the first time in my adult life.

HOLMES: Presumably when she was in elementary schoolchild she was proud of
her country.

WOLF: OK, but there`s a difference. But anyway, David, I want to - I want
to play you some sound of what Hillary Clinton said yesterday in New
Hampshire. Because she actually addresses what Donald Trump has been doing
in terms of making America great again directly. Let`s listen to Hillary


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you hear - when you hear
Mr. Trump saying he wants to make America great again, respond "America is
great. We just need to make it work for all the people in our country


WOLF: So David, can we expect Hillary to use more rhetoric like this?

CORN: Well I think so. Her you know her main rhetoric is making America
work for everybody. You know middle class, it`s not just for the top 1%,
see most of the income gains go up there. So I think it feeds into what her
strategic message is.

But I will say over the past eight years we`ve seen many Republicans in
many different ways all suggest that Barack Obama, you know Michelle Obama
by extension, don`t understand America, don`t get America, are not really
Americans. You know, even people like John Sununu doing the Mitt Romney
campaign as a surrogate for him, said he doesn`t really understand America

And so it`s true that there is somewhat of a double standard that
Republicans often slam Democrats, particularly Barack Obama for not being a
real American or really getting America or understanding American
exceptionalism. But you know I don`t see any Democrats saying that about
Republicans. There were other reasons to attack or critique.

HOLMES: President Obama compared Republicans to Iranian Ayatollahs. Are you
kidding me? And President Obama often talks about that we have to subscribe
to his values as Americans, this is what America is about. So this is
something that both .


HOLMES: Most politicians do it.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: its two different kinds of rhetoric, I mean - and we`re
seeing this on both -- in both parties, right. That the idea is that you
know Obama ran a positive campaign message of hope and change and all that
and Bernie Sanders is saying America needs a revolution, it`s been taken
over by the oligarchs essentially it needs to be, it`s doom and gloom all
over the place. And Hillary says OK, look it`s not doom and gloom, America
is great, we can still make it better. And the same thing is going on the
Republican side. I mean he`s saying make America great again which is sort
of doom and gloom message and other candidates are trying a more positive
message. It`s just a positive versus negative thing I think.

HOLMES: In drawing contrast.

WOLF: We could surely talk about this for much more time but sadly we have
to go. I want to thank E.J. Dion of The Washington Post for being with us.
Thank you E.J..

DIONNE: Good to be with you. Thanks

WOLF: Still ahead.


WOLF: Is there a possible lesson we can draw from the animal kingdom? A
female snake in Missouri did something quite unusual on her own recently.
We`ve got details of that ahead.

And next, why a big moment at Wednesday`s Republican debate may be a
turning point in the movement to legalize marijuana. You`re watching "UP"
without Steve Kornacki" stay with us.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Christie recently said "if you`re getting high
in Colorado today, where marijuana has been legalized, enjoy it until
January 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana."
will you?

federal government should override the states. I believe in the tenth

agree with States rights.

BUSH: What goes on in Colorado as far as I`m concerned that should be a
state decision.


WOLF: At Wednesday night`s debate no less than three Republican candidates
said they approve of allowing the states to decide whether or not to
legalize marijuana.


WOLF: It`s not quite the same as declaring yourself a proponent but it`s a
stance that could have huge ramifications in 2016 and beyond.

Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in four states and the
District of Columbia and several states are expected to add art
legalization to their ballots next year. An here`s an interesting tidbit
making marijuana a ballot issue, about giving the decision directly to the
voters. Such measures are almost always successful.

So did the GOP field just open the door to a spate of pro-marijuana ballot
measures in 2016?

Joining me now is MSNBC reporter Tony Dokoupil who recently published an
awesome article on the subject for the one and only Tony, thanks
for joining us.



WOLF: It did strike me as surprising to have three Republicans, if not
fully embracing marijuana, at least inhaling or not inhaling, a little bit.

DOKOUPIL: This is a very big deal if you`re in favor of marijuana
legalization because currently the Obama administration is taking a hands
off approach. States legalize, the Obama administration has said we`re not
going to get involved.

It had been unclear until this past week what a Republican president might
do, would they rush in or would they keep a hands off approach.


DOKOUPIL: It seems to really be breaking toward hands off approach. They
value states` rights and state autonomy it seems more than they hate
marijuana. And so what you`ll see is a continued march.


DOKOUPIL: There could be 12 ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana in the
next election cycle. Ohio already has one coming up in just six weeks.

WOLF: And they`re an energized voting block. I mean people show up to vote
on this issue.

DOKOUPIL: Yes, they do. Republicans are still by and large against it
right, 39%, only 39% support legalization. But for a long time, all their
national polls showed a majority support for legalization, all that support
was clustered on the coasts, but what we`ve seen is states poll by poll,
state by state showing majority support. So it`s now 25 states where a
majority of the people support legalization and that is waking up these
Republican candidates.

WOLF: Right, so I want to bring onto a national level, you`re talking about
state by state but some national numbers of how attitudes have changed from
2006 to 2015.


WOLF: This year the poll shows 53% of Americans for marijuana legalization,
44% against. In 2006, it`s really flipped over, 32% said yes, 60% said no.
Attitudes are changing very, very rapidly on this.


DOKOUPIL: Extremely rapidly, but if you`re a big fan of legalization, you
should still be a little bit worried, a little bit paranoid because you
know the country is given to vast swings in their opinion about marijuana.
You know we had Senate committees voting in favor of decriminalization in
late 1970s and then 10 years later, less than ten years later we have
Reagan and the poll numbers have again. So support goes up and then gets
cut in half, support goes up and then it gets cut in half.

WOLF: But civilization has not in fact ended in the states where it has
been legalized. So doesn`t that cement these kinds of changes?

DOKOUPIL: Unfortunately not and we saw that at the debate. The candidates
struggle to speak intelligently about marijuana as one kind of drug and
other drugs as a separate category. They lump it together I mean in a
massive heap.


DOKOUPIL: Anything other than coffee is like one category.

CORN: And this is used also with medicinal marijuana, too.

HOLMES: Oh, you don`t believe in that, do you?

CORN: Medicinal marijuana?

WOLF: Well Governor Cuomo I think does. Whether the democrats, we`re
talking where the republicans are, David where are, what`s the Democratic
path through this jungle?


CORN: It`s interesting, we really haven`t heard Hillary Clinton talk much
about it yet. I think it would be from her perspective from a sort of a
centrist democrat, would probably be let the states decide and not you know
talk about -- and being in favor of medicinal marijuana.

In favor of medicinal marijuana, legalization of use and the recreational
marijuana up to the states. I mean that`s probably the Democratic path
through all this. And an interesting thing in those ballots, there`s going
to be 12 ballot initiatives in those states and maybe in swing states. I
assume that brings out probably more Democratic voters, or some
libertarians who might vote Republican. But probably overall more
democratic voters. Is that true?

DOKOUPIL: Yes, I think so. But Hillary is not so progressive and none of
the Democratic candidates are. No one has come out in favor of
legalization. Hillary has explicitly said she won`t take money from legal
pot businesses even. I mean that`s a hands off approach that suggests she
still thinks this is a crime. Like even Rand Paul who`s supposedly the big
progressive on the Republican side on this issue.

HOLMES: But remember her husband, didn`t inhale.

DOKOUPIL: He didn`t inhale, he didn`t.

WOLF: So I just wonder on this like as it was with same-sex marriage the
political debate is actually somewhere behind the public attitudes here.

COIRN: That`s probably true, it will probably take a few you know cycles to
catch up. But as you - as you legalize this stuff, it`s really going to be
hard to go backwards, and I think of the medicinal front that debate has
more or less has been won by the science and policy will be catching up to
that probably quickly.

HOLMES: But in the case of Colorado, the jury is still out because it`s you
know a new experiment. On the effects of marijuana use on teenagers, if it
is a gateway drug for younger people, how it affects the adolescent brain
is also something that`s a big concern. And among Conservatives there`s
never been an unanimity of opinion on legalization. As you know national
review is pro-legalization, while you have conservatives you know who are
against it.

WOLF: OK, my thanks to the panel and especially to Tony Dokoupil, thank you
for joining us today.

DOKOUPIL: Glad to be here.

WOLF: Still ahead.


WOLF: We`ll go back to Havana where Cuban said media is reporting over 1
million people are expected to attend today`s open air mass in the plaza of
the revolution.

And next, starting next year, you`re going to need more than just a
driver`s license to fly, if you`re from one of these five states. More on
that ahead. Please stay with us.



WOLF: There`s a huge amount going on this morning. We`re going to get
caught up in a lightning way on some of the other headlines making news
this today`s panel. Panel, we`re going to have to go through this very
quickly, but driver`s licenses from New York, Louisiana, Minnesota,
American Samoa and New Hampshire will no longer be enough to get on a
domestic commercial.

WOLF: That it is considered noncompliant because they don`t require proof
of citizenship or residency. The rule will go into effect 2016. Amy this is
a nightmare for New Yorkers.

HOLMES: A nightmare for New Yorkers, and I don`t even have a New York
driver`s license, just a residency license. And why do you have to be a
citizen to get on a domestic flight?

WOLF: Evan?

HOLMES: That doesn`t make sense.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well I just want to thank you for leaving the bearded
Buzz News reporter off the pot panel.

WOLF: I`m not going to comment. We have no time, but I want to get to this
lady snake, bear with me lady snake gives birth after being alone for eight
years she doesn`t need me.


WOLF: The second year in a row the yellow bellied water snake - yellow
bellied water snake, who wants to be that? Has managed to give birth.
Researchers believe the snake may be the first of her species to experience
a virgin birth. What could be better to talk about, a virgin birth than on
the day the Pope is in.


CORN: And does Maureen Dowd know about this? That`s what I want to - and
you know what use are men?


CORN: What good are men? Now we see that maybe they`re not necessary.

HOLMES: If anything this is frightening that a woman could wake up one
morning pregnant.

WOLF: I don`t know I think there`s a back - there`s a back story here the
snake is not telling us.

Maureen, is a friend of mine, Maureen he didn`t mean anything by that. Stay
with us for another full hour of news and politics. You`re watching UP with
Steve Kornacki.


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