'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Saturday, October 17th, 2015
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Show: UP with STEVE KORNACKI
Date: October 17, 2015
Guest: Jason Johnson, Lynn Sweet, Kellyanne Conway, James Cunningham,
Blake Farenthold, Charlie Dent, Robert Costa, Eliana Johnson, Bob Gale
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC HOST: We are waiting for Joe.
Good morning. Thanks for getting UP with us this Saturday morning. I`m
Richard Wolffe. Jerusalem is still on edge this morning after two weeks of
heightened tension and violence. With reports of more violence overnight,
we`ll be heading there live.
Plus, the flash floods and mudslides that are trapping hundreds of cars in
California. That`s coming up.
And we`re waking up to the extraordinary news that snow might just be in
the forecast for parts of the northeast this weekend in mid-October. Which
is frankly hard to believe at any time of day.
But first, we begin with an incredible week in politics. What happened in
Vegas obviously didn`t stay in Vegas. Hillary Clinton emerging as the
apparent winner of the first democratic debate. That`s what our own NBC
News online survey shows. And a Boston Globe poll released yesterday has
Clinton in a dead heat with Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, right there on
the doorstep of Vermont. There are also brand-new fund-raising reports for
the third quarter of the year. Hillary Clinton raking in nearly $13
million. Ben Carson totaling $21 million. Leading the money race in their
parties. And this big week in politics isn`t over yet because we`re
anticipating a decision from Joe Biden any day now after months of
speculation about a possible run. The Vice President reportedly called his
organizers in early voting states this week. But he`s still deflecting
questions on that subject.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Are you running for
VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN (D), UNITED STATES: I`ll answer in Korean.
WELKER: Have you made your decision yet?
BIDEN: I can`t hear you.
WELKER: Have you made your decision yet? Do Democrats deserve your
decision, Mr. Vice president?
BIDEN: I`ll tell you what, good to see you all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: For the latest on all that, we have NBC White House Correspondent
Kristen Welker, who wouldn`t take a deflection or Korean answer live from
the White House. Kristen.
WELKER: Hey, Richard. He wouldn`t answer my questions on that day, but we
could get an answer within the next 48 hours. Sources close to the Vice
President tell me he`s under intense pressure to say whether he`s in or
out. And those same sources also say his family is on board with Iran.
And as you pointed out, he`s now calling supporters in early voting states
to gauge whether he actually has a path to victory. On Friday, Biden`s
close ally former Delaware Senator Ted Kaufman sent a letter to former
Biden staffers which reads in part, quote, "If he decides to run, we will
need each and every one of you yesterday."
Now, a lot of people are reading a lot into that letter, but the reality,
Richard, is that it was designed to send a signal that Biden wants space to
the side and that the door hasn`t closed yet. But Hillary Clinton`s top
supporters watching all of this are applying pressure, they`re arguing it
is just too late. As you have been mapping out, Clinton showing new signs
of strength this week after that dominant debate performance, one poll
showing her inching up in New Hampshire, and our latest Survey Monkey NBC
News poll shows her with a commanding lead nationally.
Now, President Obama, Hillary Clinton were both asked about this on Friday.
They weighed in. And essentially said that Biden should have space to
decide. But privately here at the White House, I can tell you Richard that
they believe it is really time for him to make a decision. Some of the
reasons that he`s struggling with this so much, he`s always wanted to be
president, he knows this would be his last shot, plus, you`ll recall his
late son Beau urged him to run before passing away. But those who know him
say the determining factor right now is whether he thinks he can win --
WOLFFE: Kristen, thank you for that, and for shouting out the questions,
keep doing that, please.
WELKER: Thank you.
WOLFFE: Also joining us right now is our panel, NBC BLK contributor and
Hiram College Political Science Professor Jason Johnson. Washington Bureau
Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times Lynn Sweet. And republican pollster
Good morning to you all.
JASON JOHNSON, HIRAM COLLEGE POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: Good morning.
WOLFFE: Okay, Joe Biden, had more than enough time to make his decision.
Lynn, is there still a window for him to get in at this point and when does
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: I think the real close is October 29th when
Georgia has the first filing deadline. He missed the democratic debate.
Okay. That is not real in terms of getting on a ballot. Many states now
are forming their delegates, which is after all how you get nominated.
There is a mark on for super delegates. So, I think we`ll give him until
the 29th because you don`t want to start running in 49 states when there
are 50 of them.
WOLFFE: Right. Jason, as the dynamic too late for him no matter his
decision? I mean, has the train left the station? We saw this compelling
WOLFFE: There is more than enough firepower on the state. I`m not talking
about some of the lesser candidates, but the debate between Bernie Sanders
and Hillary Clinton was robust.
WOLFFE: What is his room here in the Democratic Party?
JOHNSON: I mean, I think there is always been room for him ideologically.
I think Joe Biden can come in and find a space between Bernie Sanders. You
know, he would make a similar argument to Hillary Clinton, look, I`m not a
socialist, but he`s not quite as hawkish as Hillary Clinton. He certainly
comes off as much more agreeable, much more empathetic. So, there is space
for him policy wise. I just don`t think he wants to do it. I don`t think
he`s interested in running for president at this point. I think he`s still
in mourning, which is perfectly reasonable. And I think when he missed
that first debate, you know, when he didn`t surprise, you know, pop in on a
parachute and say hey, I`m here, I think this was sort of a clear sign,
this is not something I`m going to do.
WOLFFE: You`ve run campaigns. What does it do in terms of the staffing
that you would need to get together --
WOLFFE: I mean, he may have time in terms of the dates, but you got to
recruit people, you got to fire people up. Surely the best people are
JOHNSON: Not -- look, there is never too many people taken. There is
always somebody else in D.C. who will come work for you. But at this
point, he would have to start poaching people from Hillary --
JOHNSON: He probably have to start poaching people on the ground from
Bernie Sanders and that is actually hard than just recruiting because he
has going to have to put together a team of people who might already be
committed and that`s a bigger problem.
WOLFFE: Kellyanne, the numbers that we saw this week, we had two good sets
of numbers here. The polling numbers, straight out of the debate, but also
some fund-raising numbers. I wonder if we can pull some of these up here.
Because there is some interest in here, the numbers on the republican side,
and on the democratic side. Here is the democratic numbers. Hillary
Clinton raising $29 million, almost $33 million. Bernie Sanders, that`s a
huge hole. And when you look at the number of dollars on hand, Hillary
obviously has a large spend here, but this shows that the anti-
establishment, these insurgent candidates have staying power, right?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Well, they do. And they do because
small donors are actually feeling very bold this time. They`re putting
their money where their hearts are. And that`s also true in the republican
side. You see the small donors supporting Carson, Cruz, even Trump was
able -- who said, I`m not going to raise money has been raising money
because people say, wow, I`ll buy a hat and I`ll give you a $50
contribution. So, even though we`re in the era of the Super PACs and big
money politics, it is very fascinating, Richard, how powerful the small
donors are collectively. These folks showing up 20,000 strong to Bernie
Sanders rally --
CONWAY: -- going home and pointing and clicking 50 bucks, 100 bucks.
WOLFFE: Right. So, let`s just bring up those republican numbers again
which we just showed. Because the number that leaps out to me is Ted
Cruz`s numbers here. I mean, Carson, yes, he`s out there with $20 million.
Cruz is raising a huge amount of money, almost as much money there as Jeb
Bush. But look at the amount of money Ted Cruz has got on hand, because he
is hoarding that cash again, staying power for people who might not be, you
know, considered by the pundits to be the leading candidates, but there is
real resources that could carry Ted Cruz through.
CONWAY: Well, there`s no question. Plus, he right now, Ted Cruz is being
seen as the outsider with insider experience and seasoning. It is one
thing to be an outsider. He`s the original anti-establishment, anti-
Washington guy for the same reason that Washington loathes him is why the
grassroots loves him. But you need money for staying power. The figures
you showed are hard money, I just want to make that clear because in
addition to that, some will have Super PACs and some won`t.
Rick Perry and Scott Walker were pushed out of the race because of the lack
of hard money, the figures you just showed. They left millions of dollars
in their Super PAC Richard, but you can`t use the Super PAC funds to do
simple things like pay your staff, your official campaign staff, fly
around, get to events, get back to the state capital for each of them as it
were. So that`s -- the Cruz burn rate as reported this week is only 51
CONWAY: Jeb Bush`s burn rate and Hillary Clinton`s burn rate over 80
JOHNSON: Yes. Right.
SWEET: Actually, when you showed that chart with the number, Bernie
Sanders` spending was almost half of what Hillary Clinton`s was.
CONWAY: Which is why his supporters probably appreciates and expects,
right, Lynn? They don`t going to be frugal.
SWEET: His one big thing, when you get small donors, you`re not spending a
lot of money on fund-raising.
WOLFFE: I want to go back to Kristen Welker at the White House, talking
about Joe Biden. Because Kristen, the NBC News Survey Monkey poll here
showed Joe Biden at 10 percent. Twenty one points behind Bernie Sanders,
35 points behind Hillary Clinton. If you talked -- if any of the Biden
folks at the White House are talking to you about this, is there any
concern that this is a lot of ground to make up here?
WELKER: The tone among Biden supporters has shifted a bit, Richard. There
is acknowledgement that the window is closing, that the path has gotten a
lot tougher this week because of Secretary Clinton`s debate performance,
because of the poll numbers. And because of the fund-raising that you all
are talking about. So there is no doubt about that. But those who remain
hopeful that he will ultimately decide to get in say, look, for Vice
President Biden, this is a decision that is about what is in his heart and
in his head. And that it is a very personal one, that he`s going to sit
down and make with his family and that ultimately he`s not focused on these
numbers that we are so focused on. But it is hard to imagine that he`s not
looking at the reality of the situation as well and acknowledging that the
uphill battle that he was already facing just got a lot steeper.
WOLFFE: I just want to say thank you to Kristen at the White House for
that. That`s great.
WELKER: Thanks, Richard.
WOLFFE: Kellyanne, you know, can Joe Biden be an outsider running at an,
you know, when people love outsiders when he`s running from the White
CONWAY: No, because he`s the Vice President of the United States. But I
think for that same reason, Richard, I would not dismiss his chances so
readily. Even Donald Trump`s theory of the case a year ago was, well, I`m
down in the polls, Republicans are a majority negative toward me because
I`m not yet a candidate. When you become a candidate, then they make the
decision. That`s obviously paid off for him. His theory of the case.
This man is the vice president of the United States. That`s no small day
CONWAY: I think Joe Biden, to get back to something Jason said that I
completely agree with, ideologically Joe Biden has got a big space to fill
because it is unclear to me who in democratic field is currently running
for the third term of Obama/Biden. I assume Biden would run for the third
term of Obama/Biden.
CONWAY: He has more foreign policy experience than anyone on the
democratic side. And I wouldn`t let one debate performance dissuade me.
The other metrics are varied, monumental. But he is the Vice President and
he seems to have at least if not official endorsement, the backing of the
WOLFFE: We`ll going to come back to this. Stay with us. Okay?
Still ahead, the most hotly contested race in the Republican Party right
now. Not the race for the president, the race for speaker of the house.
Why are they having such a hard time filling the third most powerful job in
But first, Hillary Clinton heads back to Congress with a top aid already in
the hot seat. Stay with us.
WOLFFE: This week`s democratic debate was just the first high stakes
showdown for Hillary Clinton. In five days, she`ll face far more hostile
questions when she testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The former Secretary of State follows her top personal aide Huma Abedin who
took questions at a closed door session of the committee yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUMA ABEDIN, HILLARY CLINTON`S TOP AIDE: I came here today to be as
helpful as I could be to the committee. I wanted to honor the service of
those lost and injured in the Benghazi attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Clinton was asked yesterday what she expects from her next face-
off with Congressional Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Other committees of the
Congress, standing committees with very experienced members and staff, have
all looked into this and basically just rejected the conspiracy theories
that are still floating out there in some circles. So, I really don`t
know. I will do my best to answer their questions. But I don`t really
know what their objective is right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Yet another House republican acknowledged this week that the
Benghazi committee was formed to target Clinton. On Wednesday, New York
Congressman Richard Hanna affirmed remarks Congressman Kevin McCarthy made
to that effect last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICHARD HANNA (R), NEW YORK: Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit
in D.C. is to tell the truth --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
HANNA: You know, and I, this may not be politically correct, but I think
that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go
after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton. You`d like to expect more
from a committee that spent millions of dollars and tons of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Trey Gowdy, head of the Select Committee pushed back hard, saying
Hanna is not familiar with the work of the committee. But Hanna wasn`t the
only person to land in Benghazi related controversy this week. President
Obama had this to say about Clinton`s personal e-mail server on Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KROFT, "60 MINUTES" CORRESPONDENT: Do you think it is not that big a
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: What I think is that it is
important for her to answer these questions to the satisfaction of the
American public, and they can make their own judgment, I can tell you that
this is not a situation in which America`s national security was
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: The New York Times reports that those statements angered FBI
agents who are still working to determine whether Clinton`s e-mail put
national secrets at risk.
Kellyanne, we are now in this position where a number of Republicans have
said that this committee was out there to get Hillary Clinton.
CONWAY: That number is two. That neither of who is on the committee. One
who will never be speaker now.
WOLFFE: It is becoming hard, though, to avoid the politics of this
committee and the political intent.
CONWAY: Which is a shame. Actually all of it being politicized is a
shame, meaning if it is cast within the 2016 elections, that`s unfortunate.
I agree with President Obama here. I assume when the President said to
Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes," I think it is important for her, meaning
Secretary Clinton, to answer these questions, he didn`t mean on the debate
stage, where you know, the accolades in the audience are whooping and
hollering when she says, you know, they`re going after me and Bernie
I believe the President means under oath in front of the committee. That`s
the proper place for it. And even in the case of Huma Abedin who went and
testified this week before Congress, she said she tried to be helpful, I
doubt that they were asking her questions and her just saying I don`t know,
I don`t know. There are e-mails that have been made public where she is
forwarding e-mails or discussing briefly Libya and Benghazi related
matters. This has nothing to do with --
WOLFFE: Is this a Benghazi committee or an e-mail committee?
CONWAY: Well, in my mind`s eye, they should have had separate
investigations just because you can`t complete the two now. If they`re
trying to say we in the Benghazi committee have discovered this illegal
personal server in somebody`s closet in Denver, by the secretary of state,
because that`s weird, then -- and we think there are Benghazi related e-
mails, that`s how this has become part of this investigation. But really,
I`m glad you mentioned about politics. It bothers me tremendously that
anybody on other side tries to politicize it, because there are questions
that need to be asked that the FBI is investigating. Republicans didn`t
invent this. And if there is no there there, then we`ll know that too.
But I think Mrs. Clinton will be far less glib and far less angry than she
was when she first testified several Januarys ago.
WOLFFE: Well, I`m sure it is a serious moment for her. But Huffington
Post, our friends over there, have done an interesting observation here
about Trey Gowdy, Gowdy attended fewer than ten of the committee`s 53
interviews, which may not be unusual since he`s chairing the committee.
But it is interesting what he has attended. He was there for Clinton staff
Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Sid Blumenthal, Bryan Pagliano who managed the
server. He wasn`t there for three of the four diplomatic security agents
who survived the attack, he wasn`t there for the testimony of the CIA
Lynn, if Trey Gowdy isn`t interested in Benghazi but is interested in the
Clinton folks, what does that tell us about this committee?
SWEET: It erode his credibility as leader of the committee that what he
wants to do is really find out about Benghazi. And that as you just said,
is at the email committee. Wordy question --
SWEET: They should put it in a box, deal with it separate if that is -- if
he wants to be the head of the Benghazi committee, why don`t we get
SWEET: We understand the committee found out about e-mails, so everybody
knows in the country how this started. But it doesn`t mean he has to be
the one to preside over this investigation. It is, you know, everybody
knows it is what the longest running committee now. Longer than whatever
you name it, okay. So, Richard, the point is if the Republicans want a
credible Benghazi committee, they`re hurting themselves by pursuing the e-
mail, they could have another committee to do the e-mail. They`re in
control. They could do a Senate hearing, they could super select.
WOLFFE: Jason, did the President make a mistake in saying what he said
about the e-mails? You know, people have questions about the e-mails. Why
-- the Democrats do too. But should the President have stayed out of this
JOHNSON: No, I think it is fine for the President to say this. Because
let`s be candid. This is a sham. Okay? It is a sham. If you want to
talk about e-mails, that`s legitimate. Because that could be a National
Security issue or at least it`s extremely irresponsible on the part of the
secretary of state. I mean, you know, I don`t care if she was getting scam
e-mails from people trying to collect money, et cetera, et cetera. But
that`s entirely different from Benghazi, which at its core is this
conspiracy theory that somehow Obama and Hillary Clinton want U.S. soldiers
and troops to die. That is the core conspiracy theory behind this. And
that, I think, is separate from an FBI investigation as to whether or not
our secretary of state was irresponsible. And I think the President was
perfectly reasonable talking about that.
WOLFFE: We do not have enough time to discuss two big issues which deserve
two big committees. Still ahead, how long will the war in Afghanistan drag
on? We are going to talk to a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan who
urged President Obama to keep troops in the country.
And next, we`ll go live to Southern California for the latest on the
cleanup from those devastating mudslides.
WOLFFE: Cruz in Southern California are spending this weekend cleaning up
from mudslides and flash floods that closed dozens of roads. Giant
mudslide pushed as much as five feet of mud across Interstate 5 on
Thursday. Several cars were trapped.
NBC`s Jennifer Bjorklund is live in Lake Hughes, California. Good morning,
JENNIFER BJORKLUND, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Richard. This
morning we see strike teams that have been here overnight, rolling out as
Fire Department officials and urban search and rescue have pretty much
completed their job doing welfare checks on the residents here in the area
of Lake Hughes. And the good news is many of those roads have reopened,
including Interstate 5, which connects southern and Northern California.
What happened on Thursday is so many of those cars and big rigs that were
headed either north or south decided to divert to Highway 58 when the
grapevine on Interstate 5 became difficult with the weather.
What they didn`t know is they were heading right into just complete chaos
on 58. We saw the aftermath of that, but to hear the stories of the people
that were on that roadway when the mudslide happened, when the rain was
pouring down, and just a wall of mud and water let loose upon them and
enrobed their cars. And turned them into basically bumper cars. People
with no control of their cars, just crashing into each other, but
incredibly nobody seriously injured or killed in this massive pileup. And
it is a pileup. It is still looking like that on Highway 58. It is going
to be days before they clear that and they also have to be checking the
hillside with geologists to make sure that no more will be coming down. So
a lot of work ahead -- Richard.
WOLFFE: Incredible pictures and incredible cleanup. My thanks to Jennifer
Also this morning, at a time when so many people seem to be in politics for
all the wrong reasons, I want to take a minute to tell you about someone
who joined public service for all of the right ones. A young man named
Brandon Lepow who I met seven years ago when he was campaigning for a
candidate he believed in, when that candidate, a first term senator named
Barack Obama won the
White House, Brandon traveled with him, serving in that Washington hot
house with a big heart and a fine spirit that shined through.
Two years ago, Brandon learned he had leukemia and he approached his new
life the way he approached everything else, with humor, honesty and a ton
of hard work. I am deeply sorry to say that on Monday night, leukemia
overcame a wonderful man. In his final months, more than 50 of his White
House colleagues traveled to spend time with him as he underwent treatment.
President Obama said in a statement that Brandon was someone that any
American could have been proud to have working on their behalf. Adding
that he made his 32 years count. We were all incredibly fortunate to know
him. And our hearts go out to his family, and his many friends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Been thinking about Brandon`s
family, in particular his parents as they mourn the loss of their son. But
as a relatively new father myself, I`ve also been thinking about the kind
of man that I want my son to grow up to be. And Brandon`s courage in
confronting tough challenges, his selflessness and humility and interacting
both with those he loved and those he barely knew and his passion for what
he believed in makes him a genuine role model. And Brandon, buddy, we`re
really going to miss you. But we`re sure going to do our best to live up
the high standard that you set.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As you are well aware, I do not support the idea of endless war.
And I have repeatedly argued against marching into open ended military
conflicts that do not serve our core security interests. Yet given what is
at stake in Afghanistan, and the opportunity for a stable and committed
ally that can partner with us in preventing the emergence of future threats
and the fact that we have an international coalition, I am firmly convinced
that we should make this extra effort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: So that was President Obama announcing Thursday that 5500 American
troops will remain in Afghanistan when he leaves office. That America`s
longest running war just keeps on going. It is a major reversal for
President Obama who had repeatedly promised to bring our troops home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in
Afghanistan. And now we must come together to end this war successfully.
By the end of 2014, the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security
of their country.
We will complete our mission there by the end of this year. And America`s
longest war will finally be over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Well, the President officially ended the U.S. combat mission in
Afghanistan last year, nearly 10,000 American troops are still there today.
And after this week`s announcement, nearly 10,000 American troops will
remain there through next year. Leading Republicans applauded Obama`s
decision to slow troop withdrawals but worry that troop levels could still
be too low.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m pleased the President has not
worried about a campaign promise six years ago. Conditions change. And I
think he made the right decision to keep troops on the ground but it looks
like it is political. Cut it in half and, you know, off we go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what the President is doing now is enough to
contain the damage at least until he leaves office. But I still don`t see
how a small number like this, whether it is 9,000 or 5,000, is going to be
enough to defend.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I`m glad he stopped the drawdown.
But it is not a sufficient number.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Joining me now is former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan James
Cunningham, now with the Atlantic Council. Ambassador Cunningham was the
lead author on a new report out this week from a group of former U.S.
officials urging President Obama to keep troops in Afghanistan.
Ambassador, good morning.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: Good morning,
thank you for having me on.
WOLFFE: Ambassador, the start of this war, I recall many warnings about
Afghanistan being a quagmire that empires enter and they never leave.
Great powers have tried for many, many years to figure it out. Isn`t there
a concern among your group of former officials that there is no exit route
CUNNINGHAM: Well, there is an exit route and we`re on that route,
actually. Although it is not proceeding as rapidly and quickly as one
might have wished. But the essence of the argument that we made in that
paper that you referred to is that we have a strategy in Afghanistan that
is working, that the Afghans have taken responsibility for security, but
they need a little bit more help and a little bit more time to solidify the
gains that have been made and give them the best chance for success.
WOLFFE: What gives you reason to think that things have changed in that
regard about training Afghan Security Forces. It is not a new thing, a new
effort to train up the Afghan military. You know, we spent 14 years of
fighting, $65 billion. Many thousands of lives lost there. American
lives, not to mention Afghan lives. Is there a reason to believe that the
Afghan powers have -- are getting there, their act together here?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, there is. The program that we have been following in
training and building up the Afghan Security Forces has really only been in
effect in its current form and iteration and focus for the last four or
five years. It has worked. The Afghans have been carrying out their own
security operations now for quite some time. Even before the end of the
ISAF mission at the end of 2014. They have been fighting and holding this
year in a very difficult situation with the Taliban pressing in, trying to
break their will. They had some setbacks where they had setbacks, they
regrouped and they reformed and they have come back. They haven`t cracked
and folded as happened in Iraq. So there is reason to believe that this
can succeed and that they will continue to get better as our security and
train and advice and assist mission continues.
WOLFFE: And Ambassador, you believe that Afghanistan is still
strategically important to America, given everything else that is going on
in the world.
CUNNINGHAM: And precisely because of everything else that is going on in
the world that Afghanistan remains strategically important. It is part of
the phenomenon that we`re dealing with from Asian to North Africa. And in
Afghanistan, we have a strategy that is producing results. We have a
government, Islamic government and partner that wants us to work with them
and who wants to take on responsibility for their own security, and who
wants to be a factor in contributing to stability in their part of the
world. And that`s an important asset that we shouldn`t lose.
WOLFFE: I want to bring in Lynn Sweet in the studio here. Lynn, you`ve
covered President Obama for a very long time. How difficult is it for him
to reverse himself given how publicly he said he was going to be out of
SWEET: Well, for an administration now, that`s very concerned with its
legacy as it is in its last year. Plus, I think this is one of the
promises that he just could not keep. People at the time were wondering
what exactly his plan was, knowing how fluid the situation is, Richard, we
were both there in the campaign. These promises about getting troops out
of Iraq, which he did do, and Afghanistan, were cutting down engagement in
Afghanistan were centerpieces there. So, I think as we start looking at
what will be the legacy items here, this will be one like the closing of
Guantanamo that never unfolded in the way he thought.
WOLFFE: Ambassador, just before we wrap this up, I want to ask you one
more question here. Because it is a point raised by the republican
candidates. Is 5,000 troops really enough? If Afghanistan is
strategically important, and this is pivotal to everything else going on in
the world, is 5,000 really sufficient?
CUNNINGHAM: There is a rational for the 5,000 troops, whether it is
sufficient or not I think will become clearer sometime from now. More
important thing than the number is the fact that the President`s decision
signals quite clearly that there will be a significant military engagement
in support of Afghanistan through this administration to the next. And
that`s a very important factor to provide clarity to the Afghans, to our
enemies and to the region.
WOLFFE: Okay. Ambassador James Cunningham, thank you very much for
CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.
WOLFFE: Still ahead, a behind the scenes look at Rand Paul on the campaign
trail, courtesy of the poll campaign. Now, let`s just say the Kentucky
senator didn`t really seem to enjoy the experience.
And coming up next, why the entire field of republican presidential
candidates could be getting plenty of additional air time on one major
network. Guess which one. Stay with us.
WOLFFE: Donald Trump made news this week that could affect two of our
sister networks. First, he insisted that the republican debate later this
month on CNBC include opening and closing statements from the candidates.
Which the network did agree to yesterday. There is also word that Trump
will host "Saturday Night Live" in this very building next month on NBC.
Now you`ll recall that NBC dropped coverage of Trump`s Miss Universe
pageant because of comments he made about Mexican immigrants. Trump`s SNL
appearance raises a lot of questions. First and foremost, could the FCC`s
equal time law require the network to offer the same hosting duties to the
other 2016 candidates?
I want to bring in my panel right now. Kellyanne, let`s start with this
issue of equal time. Former attorney at the FCC told the Hollywood
reporter that other republican candidates are going to have seven days
after Trump`s appearance to have these equal opportunity demands on NBC
stations. Do you think anyone will going to take that up?
CONWAY: I think a few will. And probably those who are underfunded and
not high in the polls and they should do that. Instead of complaining
about it, it would be better to access the law. I actually made this
recommendation to candidates directly and just generally, publicly,
meaning, Richard, over the years. And the way I`ve done it is, if a media
outlet, particularly one that is a network -- any media outlet is only
putting two or three Republicans in a poll, versus say Barack Obama,
President Obama for his re-election, I would say, oh, you know, they`re now
broadcasting it and they`ve only asked three candidates and there are eight
of you. That wasn`t really in 2016. But I`ve said why didn`t you ask for
equal time. Because I think you could make an argument.
Now, does somebody want to pay a lawyer and try to access it? But the fact
that you can do that, maybe they`ll be offered interviews on an NBC
station, maybe they`ll be offered interviews on your network here on MSNBC,
CNBC. But instead of complaining about not getting enough coverage, here
is my new tax plan, and repealing replace ObamaCare, you`re not covering
it, okay, go ahead and take your shot.
WOLFFE: So, Lynn, first, longer memories here. We should point out this
comes from none other than Joe Lieberman who running for the democratic
nomination in 2004 was supposedly angry that our very own Al Sharpton then
not part of MSNBC but he was a candidate, he hosted "Saturday Night Live."
Lieberman`s campaign negotiated to have almost half hour of a town hall --
Right. Town hall -- Lieberman rerun on NBC. So, it has worked before.
SWEET: Well, squeaky wheels get grease. That`s one of the many
fundamental rules of politics. You know, maybe we`ll need Monday, Tuesday,
Wednesday night live to get in all the Republicans if they`re going to
SWEET: Here is my point. We had a three-hour republican debate. And even
in three hours, many of the candidates couldn`t figure out a way to elbow
their way in to say what had to be said. So they have some responsibility
in this too, is to figure out how to talk. Three hours. Now, I know I`ll
get to whether, you know, Trump is saying that`s too much, of course
because the spotlight is on him. And the fact of the matter is, they could
be some of these Republicans could host "Saturday Night Live" between now
and every primary and it won`t matter because they can`t figure out how to
communicate something in a way that is effective for them. You know, so in
a way, it is moot, they can`t maximize this media experiences that they
have. Even in a debate when they had all the time in the world.
WOLFFE: Jason, NBC took the position against Trump because of the comments
about Mexican immigrants.
WOLFFE: Is this an about face for the network? I mean, is "SNL" somehow
JOHNSON: Well, I think if you consider "SNL" to be a comedy show as
opposed to political show, they`ve had lots of offensive comments before.
So, I guess you can say that that`s justified. But I`ll say this, we can
take off the politics hat for half a second. It would be an entertaining
show, okay. Now, I don`t want to see Bobby Jindal host "SNL," I don`t want
to see Rick Santorum, most of these guys wouldn`t be interesting, but
people find Donald Trump to be interesting. I think this is as much for
him being an entertainer and him being a reality TV show star as it is for
somebody running for president.
WOLFFE: Hillary Clinton was on "SNL" a few weeks ago. You know, I didn`t
see Jim Webb saying he needed to be on "SNL" and thinking of Jim Webb, you
know, if you complain about the rules too much as he did in that debate,
don`t you look like you`re whining?
CONWAY: Right. You don`t look very presidential. That`s for sure. And I
thought Secretary Clinton held her own on "SNL." It is not a really
comfortable place for her, but she did something that maybe Mr. Trump will
do when he`s on "SNL" which is that self-deprecating humor, the person who
looks just like you and we all know "SNL" has a Donald Trump figure because
they basically cover him week in and week out.
SWEET: Basically all of politics. Self-deprecating humor.
WOLFFE: A self-deprecating Donald Trump. That would be amazing.
JOHNSON: If that actually happens, I would be amazed.
WOLFFE: Pretty much unthinkable.
CONWAY: Maybe he`ll say make Afghanistan great again.
SWEET: Awesome. Awesome.
WOLFFE: Still ahead, one of the most wanted men in the world escaped
authorities again this week. We have got those details for you coming up
WOLFFE: There is a lot going on this morning. Let`s get caught up on some
of the other headlines making today`s news with the panel.
Okay, El Chapo is wounded, but not caught as Mexico`s military roars into
terrified villages both from the LA Times. Massive military operation in
El Verano, at least 12 of the villages on the rugged border lands, with the
reports of hundreds of people fleeing their homes as this operation goes
on. It is an incredible hunt. I mean, the escape, the hunt, can the
authorities get him? We don`t focus nearly enough on Mexican news but this
JOHNSON: This is the prison (ph) war. Okay. And the fact that they can`t
seem to do anything about El Chapo, about so many other instances happening
throughout the country is a huge -- it is not only a domestic problem, but
this is an international problem. Because people don`t want to invest in
Mexico because they seem so incapable of handling their drug problem. And
El Chapo was just sort of the embodiment of that era over the last three
WOLFFE: Kellyanne, this is from BuzzFeed. Rand Paul calls his own live
stream dumb (beep) on Tuesday. Rand Paul live streamed his entire day
campaigning. He did not appear to enjoy it, especially sharing this moment
of honesty. The third -- this is a quote, the third most popular question
from Google is, is Rand Paul still running for president? And I don`t
know. I wouldn`t be doing this dumb live streaming if I weren`t. So, yes,
I`m still running for president, get over it. Wow. When you`re desperate,
I guess you do and say desperate things, right?
CONWAY: He got free media also when apparently you`re spending more money
than you`re taking in. He tried -- this way and he did. But this really
is a huge turn of events for Senator Paul who about a year plus ago was
Time Magazine`s, you know, most fascinating person, and top of the polls
for a while. And I think that the brand of libertarianism that he has
staked out really, a lot of those folks are limited government
conservatives who would vote for a republican, not necessarily, you know,
liberals who would vote for a democrat. And so they`re finding other
candidates and it is a crowded field.
And if you don`t find market distinction, but again that self-deprecation
helps in a way. But you have to look like you`re enjoying it. That I
think is one of the pieces of magic of Donald Trump this year.
WOLFFE: Right. (INAUDIBLE)
CONWAY: sometimes people are -- sometimes and I think Secretary Clinton
falls into this, sometimes she is just getting a root canal -- on some of
these stump, and Donald Trump would say he`s just having a great time. And
people want to see people who looks like they`re enjoying their job.
WOLFFE: Okay. To you, Lynn -- USA Today says frosty snowy weekend weather
forecast. North Central, Northeastern U.S. Roughly 74 million people will
see temperatures drop to freezing or below freezing in the next several
days and light snow is expected to fall near the Great Lakes. It is
October for heaven`s sake.
SWEET: And the cubs are in the playoffs.
Everything is great. I don`t know what the problem is, Richard.
WOLFFE: It is cold. That`s what the problem is. Not really.
SWEET: We`re hardy people.
WOLFFE: Okay. Hardy enough, hardy enough to maintain the pork spending
out of Washington. This one is a classic one coming from Washington Post.
When I say pork spending, it really is pork. After a firestorm, pork roast
is back on the menu at federal prisons. There was some dispute apparently
about the broth removal of pork dishes from the national menu for federal
inmates and then there was yet another u-turn out of Washington on
Thursday. Pork roast, back on the prison bill, why? Well, the republican
Senate leader expressed dismay at the wasteful survey of inmates, food
preferences, lack of transparency and the decision and I suspect Iowa had
something to do with it.
JOHNSON: I`m just bemused that we care this much. I mean, in the context
of we`re having the discussions about mass incarcerations, everything else
like that, members of Congress can be obsessed with what is on the menu.
WOLFFE: Wouldn`t it be more interesting if they were engaged with how to
rehabilitate people and reduce the number of inmates.
JOHNSON: Right, rather than calorie count. Yes.
CONWAY: There is actually a lot of talk of that now and it is bipartisan,
SWEET: It is one of the big --
CONWAY: The Koch Brothers and --
SWEET: Biggest bipartisan issues.
WOLFFE: I want to see if we can squeeze in one more, more uplifting story.
"USA Today," first female army reservist dons an Army Ranger tab, Major
Lisa Jaster, if I didn`t mess up that name. Thirty seven-year-old engineer
with shell oil is the third woman in the army to have graduated from Ranger
school. If this is an impressive moment, I mean, impressive individually,
impressive for the country, don`t we all feel good about this one?
CONWAY: Absolutely. She has got moxie. There is somebody who looks like
she`s enjoying her job to my other point.
CONWAY: And we should all be very proud of her, gender aside, just really
proud of her persistence and her loyalty to the nation and honestly, the
fact that she got it done, I think it is cool.
SWEET: Important role model --
SWEET: -- very important to have these breakthroughs in the military.
JOHNSON: Your sexuality and your gender have nothing to do with how much
you love and want to serve this country. I think this is a fantastic
WOLFFE: Physical and mental ability.
WOLFFE: All right. Another full hour of news and politics is coming up.
Including the latest on this morning`s violence in the Middle East. Please
stay with us.
WOLFFE: Is this the Third Intifada?
WOLFEE: Thanks for staying with us this Saturday morning. I`m Richard
Violence in the Middle East is escalating with new incidents just this
morning. In a moment, we`ll look at what`s behind the sudden uptick and
where it might be headed.
Meanwhile, this period of time was supposed to be John Boehner`s swan song
as speaker of the House. Instead, it looks like he`ll be forced to stick
around for a while. We`ll dive into the chaos that is delaying the
speaker`s retirement plans.
Plus, the future it seems is right now. That date far, far into the
future, that Marty McFly traveled to in "Back to the Future 2" is coming up
this very week. A special guest from the film will be along in just a
But we`ll begin this morning with new reports of violence today in Israel
and the West Bank. Israeli police say officers shot and killed a
Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem who tried to stab them, and earlier this
morning, in the West Bank city of Hebron, Israel`s military says an Israeli
civilian shot and wounded a Palestinian who also tried to stab him.
Also in Hebron, police say a Palestinian woman was shot and killed as she
tried to stab a police officer. In New York, on Friday, the U.N. Security
Council convened an emergency meeting, senior U.N. official telling the
council that diminishing prospects for achieving a Palestinian state have
transformed, quote, "long simmering Palestinian anger into outright rage.
I think that the current crisis cannot be resolved by security measures
And NBC`s Bill Neely is in Jerusalem for us this morning.
Bill, what can you tell us about these latest incidents?
BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS: Good morning, Richard.
No sign of the violence letting up. Three more attempted murders,
stabbings this morning, three more Palestinians dead.
Here in Jerusalem, it began when a 16-year-old was stopped on the street by
police. He was asked to produce his ID card, he did but he also produced a
knife and tried to stab one of the soldiers and was then shot dead.
In Hebron then, about 20 miles from here, two more incidents. In first
one, another teenager, this time 18, tried to stab an Israeli civilian on
the street. That civilian had a gun and he shot dead his assailant.
And then a young Palestinian woman stabbed a policewoman at a checkpoint,
she had a gun and she killed her assailant.
So, three more dead Palestinians today, three more incidents and, you know,
the videos and stills of these incidents are often going viral.
There was one earlier this week where a Palestinian dressed as a news
photographer stabbed an Israeli soldier. Pretty graphic images, and the
soldier was likely injured in some of his colleagues shot dead the
So, not only happening on the ground, but then being repeated in the, if
you like, the echo chamber of social media. This Jerusalem is a very tense
city today with checkpoints, we just have been at one this morning.
Huge concrete blocks placed by Israeli soldiers, this is a very tense and
fearful city -- Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Bill, for tracking a complicated and fast moving story
I want to bring in the panel here.
Lynn, there is always an expectation that America can intervene somehow.
American diplomacy, presidential leadership, but this sounds like a
situation that actually the authorities on the ground, Israelis and
Palestinians, are not actually in control of.
SWEET: It is difficult. Senator McConnell and other senators just wrapped
up a trip to Israel and other countries in the region. This is coming as
Israeli President Netanyahu is coming back to the United States to meet
with President Obama November 9th. But in essence, it is -- has been and
probably will be a local problem.
You know, Netanyahu said he wanted to meet with Palestinian Authority
leader Abbas. These meetings have taken place in the past. And sometimes
you get cease-fires and sometimes you don`t. This is yet another serious
issue and as you noted, these intifadas have happened periodically for
WOLFFE: Kellyanne, do you expect this to become a political football in
the presidential campaign if this continues?
CONWAY: Well, it is already a major point of public policy, particularly
to Republicans who often repeat that Israel is our best friend. It
certainly is in that region if not around the world. And they`re very firm
about that, intifada or no intifada. They just believe if North Korea is
looking to get nuclear capabilities or Iran for that matte matter, they
always mention Israel in the crosshairs as well.
I think this particular level of violence is concerning and I would hope
that Democrats and Republicans address it and address it through their
foreign policy national security revisions, Richard, outside of the debate
stage, don`t wait until we`re going to debate today, I`ll have something to
say today. I think it is incredibly important, you got the Israeli arm in
residential areas, and you have violent acts being triggered at holy sites,
which tends to really enflame on passions on both sides.
The one thing I would say is if you look at the polls, national security
has been an increasingly important issue to all voters. But particularly
in Republican primary voters, you have large military households, for
example, large number of households in a primary state like South Carolina,
caucus state, and security mom on the Republican side have come back and
that`s just intensified and some of the early Republican primary polls,
national security is up there with the economy and jobs as an important
issue to Republican voters. I think you will continue to hear about this.
And usually that concern goes through the Middle East. It also, let`s be
frank, this is unconnected to this, but it was ISIS beheadings on computer
near you which really crystallized and galvanized a lot of American
eyeballs saying, who is doing what, where. And so, people are much more
heightened. It is not just something over there. I respect the American
voter in assessing this along with domestic concerns.
WOLFFE: Jason, we have seen successive presidents, Republicans and
Democrats, have sincere efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinian
authorities to some kind of agreement in terms of peace and two states
living side by side.
Do voters, do the political candidates, do they really believe this is a
top of mind issue, an expectation still at this point that they should have
a plan to resolve a situation that predecessors have tried and failed.
JOHNSON: I`ll be honest with you, Richard, in respect of what Kellyanne
said, I think your average American voter just thinks they`re always
fighting over there. And most people don`t understand the specifics.
People may not necessarily understand the difference between ISIS and ISIL.
Primary voters do. But I think your average voter doesn`t.
So, I think the way this manifest itself, it is unfortunate that we`re
often this oblivious, it will manifest itself in some candidates coming
forward and saying Israel is under assault and that`s why this Iran deal is
a bad idea. If they can`t control their situation with the Palestinians,
how much safer do you think they`ll feel if the Iranians get a nuclear
weapon. That`s where it manifests itself.
SWEET: May I quickly say something. In the Republican primary, Israel is
a very important issue. Not because necessarily there are so many Jewish
voters in the Republican primary, because for evangelical voters, for the
Christian Zionists, issue is a major issue, that`s why Mike Huckabee keeps
talking about it, he talks about his trips to Israel.
This is a big, big issue. It might not surface all the time. But don`t
discount Israel as an issue in the Republican right.
WOLFFE: In the current Republican field, apart from Mike Huckabee, let`s
take that top tier, a worsening situation in Israel, who would that benefit
in terms of hitting the buttons for evangelical voters.
CONWAY: Probably Senator Cruz, just because again, his day job puts him at
the intersection of these issues. It is one thing to talk about them,
Richard, against Iran nuclear deal. Israel is our best friend. It`s quite
another to have a -- be one of 100 Americans in the Senate who gets the
briefings, who has to vote on the actual bills and legislation. And make a
So, I actually think it benefits him, also because it is not a new issue.
He speaks about it on the stump, almost wherever he goes. Even when he
talks about religious liberty, he talks about Israel, when he talks about
obviously the Middle East, the Iran nuclear deal, had that big rally where
he invited Donald Trump, it was Cruz`s rally, and Trump spoke briefly, Cruz
who carried the day.
So, I think it benefits him. It benefits some of the candidates, Mike
Huckabee, who takes an annual trip to Israel, Rick Santorum talking about
this for ages. I don`t think you can see much differentiation between a
lot of Republican presidents on the matter, on the importance of Israel.
However, you see a difference in the experience.
I mean, this is where I think people are baffled to say, wow, look who is
ascending in the Republican Party on Ben Carson. It is great that he has
all these accomplishments and amazing. But can you see him as your
commander in chief? His supporters can. That`s a question.
WOLFFE: OK, we got to keep our eye on another big story we`re watching
this weekend. Vice President Biden`s pending decision whether to enter the
race for president, a decision that could come any day now.
NBC`s Hallie Jackson is live outside the vice president`s home in
Hallie, I understand the president -- the vice president had been on the
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: A little bit of action here,
Richard. If you look at some of the video, about 20 minutes ago, the vice
president pulled out of his home, the motorcade followed by the press, of
course. He headed over to Bellevue State Park, about 15 minutes away from
here on the outskirts of Wilmington.
We know that last weekend, he went and saw his grandkids compete in a
tournament. He saw his granddaughter to cross country meet. So,
presumably, that is where he is at the moment.
It`s interesting, though, because you don`t often see members of the media
camped out on this quiet suburban street in Wilmington. But it is an
indication of how much close attention is being paid to the vice
president`s movements and to his actions particularly over this weekend as
we believe he is getting closer to announcing whether he will or will not
run for president.
A couple of key questions that we believe he`s considering: one, does he
have it in him to go all the way? And two, what is the path to victory
We know the vice president will be on the move again later tonight. He`s
actually headed up to Manhattan to receive an award, a human rights award
there. He will be giving a speech.
And then we don`t know what is on his schedule over the next if days or
when we may begin to hear some of that drip, drip, drip of which way he may
be leaning -- Richard.
WOLFFE: Hallie, is there any sense of what kind of forum he might make an
JACKSON: The sense we`re getting, and my colleague Kristen Welker and I
have been talking about this, is that we may begin to hear over the next
few days, maybe Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, some leaks, right, about who he`s
talking to, which way he`s leaning.
But if he were to run and that`s still a big if at this point, it`s likely
we wouldn`t hear any kind of announcement, any kind of rally or official
announcement for maybe another week or so after that.
WOLFFE: OK, Hallie, thanks for that, taking out the story and the vice
president and the Delaware.
Still ahead, the Mets and the Cubs face off tonight in the first NLCS
matchup. We`ll go back to the future with the man who predicted Chicago
would go all the way.
And next, the speaker`s race -- why John Boehner is still trapped in
Washington. We`ll have the details of that on the other side of this
WOLFFE: This just in. We reported at the end of the last hour that snow
is in the forecast for parts of the Northeast this weekend. And that
forecast is actually correct. We now have our first pictures, proof that
indeed snow is coming and so is winter. People of Corning, New York, you
have our deepest sympathy and our respect.
Meanwhile, cold days ahead for House Speaker John Boehner whose retirement
plans are on hold because the effort to replace him appears to be going
nowhere fast. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdrew his name last week,
leaving two declared candidates, Republicans Jason Chaffetz and Daniel
Webster has the backing of the conservative Freedom Caucus. A formerly
shadowy group of roughly 40 conservative House Republicans who have
challenged the party`s leaders at every turn. Chaffetz is the current
chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
And then there is Paul Ryan, the former veep candidate, who is reportedly
considering the job but hasn`t come to a final decision just yet. Ryan is
the only person Republican leaders believe can unify the party and surpass
the 218 vote threshold needed to win.
But after McCarthy was toppled, the Freedom Caucus might not be -- might
not feel as compelled to support Ryan and give up on their demands, fueling
Ryan`s reluctance to jump in.
And if Ryan doesn`t get in, nearly a dozen lesser known members have
publicly or through aides said that they would consider a run for speaker.
An extraordinary prospect of an incredibly messy contest, which makes you
wonder, has the chaos only just begun?
Joining me now is Congressman Blake Farenthold, a Republican from Texas and
member of the Tea Party Caucus.
Good morning, Congressman.
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: Good morning.
WOLFFE: So, explain to me -- you`re a member of the Tea Party caucus, but
we`re talking about the freedom caucus. You`re not a member of both.
What`s the difference between the two?
FARENTHOLD: The Freedom Caucus is a relatively new group of folks that
spun off of the Republican Study Committee, which is a group of the most
conservative members of Congress. And the Freedom Caucus is kind of an
invitation only and you don`t really necessarily know who is in. It is a
little bit secretive.
WOLFFE: And are you a member of the Republican Study Committee?
FARENTHOLD: I am.
WOLFFE: How did you feel when these members broke off and formed their own
FARENTHOLD: Well, you know, you -- they`re elected by the same number of
folks that I am, if they want to get together and do their own thing, more
power to you. The beauty of Congress is you got the opportunity to come
together with like-minded people, build coalition and move what you want to
WOLFFE: So, Congressman, I want to pull up a quote you gave to "The
Associated Press". You said -- turn on the TV, hear the guys, Republican
Party in disarray, turmoil in Washington, I don`t think that`s the case.
I think Kevin McCarthy did the country and the Republican conference in
Congress a huge favor. He stepped back and gave us time to have a
discussion. That discussion right now seems to be hard to track. What is
the nature of the discussion that you`re hearing and that you think voters
FARENTHOLD: Right. So, there`s not so much discussion within the
Republican conference because all the members are back home listening to
their constituents. I think what Kevin did is he gave us the opportunity
to think about and talk about what we want in a leader, more than who we
want in a leader. And I think that was a gift to the country. I think had
we come back, we`ll have a can couple more sessions where we talk about
that, and then the right person will emerge.
WOLFFE: If Paul Ryan decides to run, would you support him?
FARENTHOLD: I want to know who all the candidates are. I`m really
actually disappointed that some of the people who are feeling out running
if Paul doesn`t just don`t say, I`m in no matter what. If you`re called to
be the speaker, the job for you, you ought to know it and you ought to be
going for it full tilt.
WOLFFE: So, you think his indecision raises questions about whether you
could support him.
FARENTHOLD: Again, I think both Paul and the folks who are thinking about
it just, you know, get in or out. Let`s get going.
WOLFFE: There are a number of sitting and former Republican members of
Congress who have said they think the party at least in the House has
become ungovernable. You got all of these different caucuses, possibly up
to a dozen candidates coming in. Who wants this job if it is so hard to
even get a coalition together to get elected?
FARENTHOLD: Well, I`m certainly not running. But, you know, it`s an
opportunity to lead your third in line for the presidency and I really do
think for whoever gets this speaker job, it is going to be a calling. It
is going to be somebody who is motivated to do what is best for the
country. And it is going to be a person who is a good leader, who is a
good communicator, and who can bring folks together.
WOLFFE: OK, Congressman Blake Farenthold, thanks for joining us this
FARENTHOLD: My pleasure.
WOLFFE: Joining me now is Congressman Charlie Dent, Republican from
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: All right. We`re going to hold over
for a panel or are we done?
WOLFFE: I just want to ask you right up you directly here, is the party --
are you worried about the party, the House GOP becoming difficult to govern
DENT: Yes, I do actually. Look, the challenge we have here is it`s not
simply electing a speaker. We can elect a speaker. The challenge will be
what do we do once we elect that speaker? We have some very big issues
that we must deal with from the debt ceiling to a budget agreement, the
omnibus appropriations bill, a transportation bill.
And the reality is, you know, we need to expand the governing wing of the
Republican Party on these major issues. We all know they`re go to require
some level of bipartisan cooperation to enact any of them. We have to
accept that reality. So, the new speaker will are to enter into the
negotiations very quickly. And I suspect some of our own members, you
know, may then undermine or take the legs out from under the new speaker.
That`s the challenge.
So, Paul Ryan, I support him. But if Paul takes the job, he`s got -- he`s
going to have his hands full.
WOLFFE: When Kevin McCarthy withdrew, you said maybe Republicans might
have to get a bipartisan coalition together to elect a speaker. You still
think that`s realistic. Maybe is it more realistic now than it was before?
DENT: Well, it`s certainly a possibility. And when I said that, some
people thought that was a heresy. I was expressing a mathematical reality.
Kevin McCarthy had between 180 and 210 Republican votes for speaker.
Traditionally, those who would have lost would have thrown their support to
the winner. But that was not likely to be the case. And somewhere between
30 to 50 members were threatening to vote against McCarthy on the floor.
So, in order for Kevin McCarthy to have become speaker, he would have had
to have Democratic votes for him to become speaker or Democrats just not
showing up at all, lowering the threshold.
So, yes, I mean, it`s a possibility if we cannot get 218 Republican votes
on the House floor, then, of course, the Democrats will have an impact on
who the next Republican speaker will be.
WOLFFE: Congressman, I want to pull up a quote from politics professor,
Matthew Green, who told "The Wall Street Journal" this week, quote, "In the
1940s through the 1980s, roughly there was a leadership ladder in the
House. Right now, there is no ladder. It is completely open."
Is the track to speaker, the track to authority in the House, is that gone?
DENT: Well, yes. The traditional notions of hierarchy have been turned on
their heads. You know, just last weekend I received four calls from some
of my colleague wanting to become speaker. Those were just the Texans,
just the Texans.
I mean, so we could have as many Republican candidates for speaker as there
are Republican presidential candidates before this is all over. And so,
yes, I think the notion of authority and hierarchy have been somewhat
turned on their heads. Ordinarily there is a sense of the conference who
should be the next top leader, the next speaker. But that, you know, other
than Paul Ryan, there isn`t a sense of who that person should be.
WOLFFE: Would you mind John Boehner sticking around for longer?
DENT: Well, it`s interesting, those who wanted to get rid of John Boehner,
those who, you know, were trying to throw him out, well, they got exactly
that they did not want. They`re going to get more of John Boehner because
John Boehner has said that he will remain in the speaker seat until a chair
until a new speaker is elected.
I have a feeling this could take a while and John Boehner is going to be
doing a lot of work between now and the time he leaves, because we must
move forward on making sure we do not default on our nation`s obligations.
We have to move forward on a budget agreement rather quickly. I`m on the
appropriations committee and we need to make sure we`re in a position to
pass the appropriations bill so we don`t get into a shutdown situation come
December 11th. So John is going to be around a little while, I think.
WOLFFE: OK. For the Freedom Caucus, be careful what you wish for.
My thanks this morning to Congressman Charlie Dent.
How will the chaos within the Republican Party play out on the campaign
trail? We`ll tackle that issue, next.
And later, the milestone that millions of back to the future fans will be
celebrating only days from now.
JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC REPORTER: According to our own historical NBC News
polling data, up to a quarter Americans cannot name the speaker of the
House. We`re talking about the third most powerful person in Washington,
You guys have any idea who the speaker of the House of Representatives is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trick question, no, actually.
SOBOROFF: You got to pick for the next speaker of the House?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elizabeth Warren, probably.
SOBOROFF: Elizabeth Warren?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SOBOROFF: She`s not a Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, well --
SOBOROFF: How is your cupcake?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I don`t know. I haven`t tried it.
SOBOROFF: Now that your mouth is full, do you know who the speaker of the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was John Boehner, but it is not anymore.
SOBOROFF: Who is the speaker of the House of Representatives?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it Boner?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boehner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.
SOBOROFF: His name starts with a J and ends with an on Boehner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boehner.
SOBOROFF: His name start with a John and ends with Boehner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you could be the next speaker of the House
SOBOROFF: You know, the truth of the matter is, you don`t need to be in
Congress to become the speaker of the House. Anybody can become a speaker
of the House. So, if you listen to Mr. Robinson here, I could have a shot.
WOLFFE: MSNBC`s Jacob Soboroff proving that the chaos and confusion of the
speaker`s race isn`t just limited to Capitol Hill.
It is a fight with far reaching implications including in the race for
2016. With anti-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson
still leading the field.
Joining us now is Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The
Washington Post", and Eliana Johnson of "The National Review".
Good morning to you both.
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good morning.
ELIANA JOHNSON, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: Good morning.
WOLFFE: Robert, the last time you were on the show, you stated pretty
confidently that Kevin McCarthy would be the next speaker of the House.
Who do you predict now?
COSTA: McCarthy at the time had the votes, over 200, near 218. But it is
about getting near that number of 247. That`s the number of House
Republicans in there. And almost no one could do that. The person who
could probably do it the best is Paul Ryan, but he`s reluctant to do,
because there are still 30 or 40 members who would break away. Otherwise,
people who don`t have any kind of coalition at this moment.
WOLFFE: Eliana, we just heard from Congressman Dent talking about maybe
possibility of a bipartisan coalition electing a House speaker. What do
you think about that prospect?
JOHNSON: I think first Republicans are going to want to hear from Paul
Ryan. I`m actually hearing that Paul Ryan is pretty likely to get in the
race, but he wants to do it on his own terms and that means no horse
trading for votes, he`s not going to want to give up or cede his power to
members of the House Freedom Caucus or anything else before jumping in the
But I am hearing that he`s really considering this and is getting more and
more likely to jump in. But, of course, we`ll have to wait until next
week. And I do think, you know, there are plenty of other people on the
Republican side who want to run. I think bipartisan coalition remains very
WOLFFE: Robert, wasn`t the no horse trading rule the problem for Kevin
McCarthy. He didn`t want to accept the demands of the freedom caucus?
COSTA: It was. It was one of the chief concerns for McCarthy, because
anyone who wants to become speaker wants the ability to craft a political
agenda, without having to come to the floor every time and have to sweat
over a vote. Now, Paul Ryan is looking at the situation and says I want to
do big things on taxes and budgets, but if I have people breaking away from
me on every floor move, it`s not going to be a pleasant experience.
But this is how House Republican politics exists today. This is the
reality. Someone needs to step up whether it`s Ryan or one of the lesser
known names and lead a leaderless group. This is a collection of factions
and they`re struggling at this time to have any kind of unity.
WOLFFE: Eliana, I`m still scratching my head, trying to understand how
come the Freedom Caucus got be this powerful this quickly, because I think
they were only formed earlier this year. So, what is the secret of that
JOHNSON: You know, it`s a bigger -- it`s bigger than just the Freedom
Caucus. There is actually an enormous fission within the Republican
conference I think between people who have been on Capitol Hill a long time
and needs -- in many cases, younger members. People who came up in the
wave of 2010 and they have much different qualities than the people who
have been around a longer time.
They`re much more ideologically driven. They have great ideological
fervor, and they want to see some of that in their leadership. John
Boehner and Mitch McConnell are really both institutional caretakers, not
vocally driven by the same sort of ideological fervor. And so, that`s the
fissure that you`re seeing in the caucus and that some sort of leader,
maybe Paul Ryan or somebody else, is going to need to bridge that gap.
WOLFFE: Robert, who does the Freedom Caucus support in the 2016 race in
the presidential race?
COSTA: It`s great question. Most of them really respect and admire Ted
Cruz. He worked closely with many of these freedom caucus members during
the 2013 government shutdown. So, when you think of the Freedom Caucus,
think of the shutdown and who is pushing in the House. Those are those
At the same time, they also like Donald Trump, a lot of them came to
Trump`s rally on immigration on Capitol Hill a few weeks back. They like
Ben Carson, like Carly Fiorina. They want an outsider inside the House and
WOLFFE: Eliana, Ted Cruz, do you think that he`ll be cheering this debate
on, this long discussion that we may be looking at?
JOHNSON: You know, I don`t think any of the 2016 presidential candidates
want an extended chaos in the House, because it really distracts from the
2016 presidential race and lends credence to the narrative that the GOP is
a party in chaos. But I do think in the short-term, it really benefits a
candidate like Cruz because it shows that the tried and tested leadership
isn`t working and that there needs to be an enormous change.
So, I think in the short-term it does benefit a candidate like Cruz. In
the long-term, they`re going to want eventually the attention to turn to
people like themselves.
WOLFFE: Robert, just to be clear, just to end here, they don`t -- I know
there is talk about reforming leadership. But isn`t one of the key demands
here just to have weak leadership?
COSTA: The back benchers, the conservatives, they do enjoy having weak
leadership. They reveled in Boehner`s political downfall, in McCarthy
stepping away from the speaker`s race. They want to see the conservative
base have power within the House and not have to climb a ladder or wait
decades to assume power. They want power now and they have it.
WOLFFE: Eliana, do you think that Paul Ryan really wants that scenario?
JOHNSON: No, I don`t. I think one of the biggest problems the House
actually is the waning power of the House speakership and the waning power
of Congress. And whoever is the next leader I think is going to have to
figure out what sort of carrots and sticks to use that are actually usable
right now to enforce some sort of order and discipline on the caucus.
Leaderless caucus is not going to work.
WOLFFE: OK. We`re going to have to wrap it up there. Robert Costa and
Eliana Johnson, thank you both for joining us this morning.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
COSTA: Thank you.
WOLFFE: Still ahead, the latest on the mudslides that trapped hundreds of
cars in southern California.
And next, some of the predictions "Back to the Future" got right.
Stay with us.
WOLFFE: Tonight, the Chicago Cubs face the Mets in game one of the
National League Championship Series. The Cubs have come out of nowhere to
play for a chance to win the team`s first World Series since 1908. That`s
not a typo.
No one saw it coming unless, of course, you`re a fan of a certain all time
classic movie from the late 1980s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. Cubs win the World Series. Against
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: That`s something, huh? Who would have thought? A
hundred to one shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFFE: Against Miami.
No franchise at that time. That famous scene is, of course, from "Back to
the Future 2". A film released in 1989 about the teen in 1985 who travels
to the future and that date in the future is October 21st, 2015, which just
happens to be next Wednesday.
Despite the Cubs World Series hopes still being alive sadly, the future
hasn`t quite panned out like the movie`s producer imagined. There are no
flying cars. There are no hover boards, no matter what those guys on the
Segway boards say. And there are no shoes that tie themselves.
But the movie did get some predictions right, like flat screen TVs and
video calling, which are, of course, now part of our daily lives.
We are lucky to have with us right now Bob Gale, one of the brilliant co-
creators and writers of the "Back to the Future" series, the 30t
anniversary trilogy of which we`ll be out on blue ray and DVD next week. I
am buying it for kids, if not for myself.
Bob, welcome. And welcome back to the panel.
BOB GALE, CO-CREATOR, "BACK TO THE FUTURE" TRILOGY: I hope you`re buying
it for yourself, Richard.
WOLFFE: I`m going to relive -- you know, I was looking back at the other
movies that were released in `85, the first "Back to the Future". It was
an extraordinary year for great movies. "Brazil", "Desperately Seeking
Susan", "Mad Max", the original "Mad Max", my personal favorite, "After
But I have to say, as a teenager, when you had the choice of what to go to
with the people you were dating at the time, "Back to the Future" was very
CONWAY: You should interview him.
GALE: Do we want to know the details about this?
WOLFFE: No, you don`t.
OK. I`ll start with the Cubs. You`re a Cardinals fan. What on earth
possessed you to think about the Cubs?
GALE: Well, the thing that is great about this joke is that everybody in
America, whether you`re a sports fan or not, everybody knows that the Cubs
are the perennial losers. I mean, this is just -- you get this by osmosis,
even if you`re not a baseball fan.
So, my being a baseball fan, of course, more engrained in me and "Back to
the Future", all three movies, are comedies. So, we`re looking to have fun
with the future. We want people to see this and say, oh, that`s funny.
Oh, that`s cool. That`s great.
You know, we didn`t want to do the future where baseball is banned and
people have shaved heads and --
WOLFFE: Well, that was "Mad Max" for that.
GALE: Yes, "Mad Max" and "Blade Runner", they tore everything down and
rebuilt it to look like everything was in the fog. I don`t know. But, so,
WOLFFE: So, I know we`re all focused on the predictions and everything
else, which is fun and clearly whatever you were drinking back then gave
you a great insight into the -- I`m -- not this, you should have done a
I am -- I read somewhere that "Back to the Future", although we consider it
a comedy and everything else, has an edge to it that you couldn`t possibly
imagine today, movies being made today. The idea of a mother dating a son
would just be -- although there is a lot of humor in there and it doesn`t
get into the serious issues, but just a little too weird for today`s
GALE: That`s a little too weird for today`s Hollywood?
GALE: Well, for a family -- for a family movie, they would just --
everything has to be exactly this way and this genre and then we have the
other thing where people say, what`s this relationship between Marty and
Doc? I mean, Marty is 17 years old and Doc in 1985, he`s 70 years old.
People today, they will overthink it. In the movie, you just -- these guys
are friends. It works. He`s a -- Doc is a father figure.
WOLFFE: But also, you make the parents cool again, right? So, the idea of
a teenage movie today having cooler older people is also unthinkable.
GALE: Well -- on the other hand, though, the first movie is about a kid
who strange out his dad.
GALE: And Marty gives him good advice and George stands up to biff and we
have a much better world because of that.
WOLFFE: OK, panel, your memories of "Back to the Future".
SWEET: I love the movie. I love it. I found it inspiring. I love the
DeLorean car. And back in the days, you know, having a car, not go this
way, but to be able to lift up, and just the -- I`m a big sci-fi fan. Just
the kind of science behind it and the rational and how you structured it,
it was just uplifting and fun and, again, for the sci-fi elements in it,
WOLFFE: Did you think of it as a sci-fi movie?
GALE: One of the interesting things about "Back to the Future," it defies
categorization. Yes, it`s sci-fi. Yes, it`s comedy. Yes, there is a
romance in it. There is adventure. There is action.
It is a mash-up of all these different genres. You know, when the movie
came out on video, the guys at Blockbuster didn`t know what aisle to put it
CONWAY: That`s great.
WOLFFE: We have to explain Blockbuster.
JOHNSON: Even that`s --
CONWAY: I had my 30th high school reunion last week and I was in charge of
the trivia questions. And, of course, "Back to the Future" was a huge part
of it. Please run out and buy this trilogy.
But among the other depressing things, if this is your 30th high school
reunion, is -- it is first blockbuster store this year at Windows 1.0 was
released. I see the first CD-ROM.
My favorite part of the movie is back to the odd, Mrs. McFly and her son
Marty in the bed together is when she says, she`s asking what his name is
and she said your name is Calvin Klein?
GALE: On the underwear, yes.
JOHNSON: I will say this, I was taken to this movie by my parents because
I wasn`t old enough. But I was -- before we came up here, it has such
staying power. My college students today have seen this movie. They don`t
know "Miami Vice," there`s tons of stuff they don`t know. But they know
And as a comic book sci-fi person who goes to conventions and everything
else like that, there is always somebody in a Marty McFly outfit, there`s
always something with hover board. Modern shows like Rick and Morty sort
of spoof the movie. I`ve always loved this film.
WOLFFE: Well, just to make us feel even old, I think a significant number
of the players tonight were not born when the movie came out.
So, Bob, please, stay with us. You`ll join us later on this hour.
Up next, we -- there was an incredible event in southern California that
"Back to the Future" did not predict.
WOLFFE: Crews are working around the clock this weekend to reopen major
highways paralyzed by mudslides in southern California Thursday. This as
another storm heads towards the region.
NBC`s Jennifer Bjorklund is live in Lake Hughes, California.
Jennifer, good morning.
JENNIFER BJORKLUND, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Richard.
Yes, you know, you hear California really needs rain. But what California
needs is actually snow. And a little further north to end this drought.
This is an area here, Lake Hughes, that burned in the last couple of years.
And that is why we have seen such catastrophic mudslides with the huge rain
that came over this area on Thursday.
The good news is the thunderstorm that was predicted to come through again
yesterday actually took a different circuitous route and ended up in Santa
Barbara County, in the eastern portion of Santa Barbara County, washed out
a few roads there instead, which bad for them, but good for this area
because two days of that would have been much more chaotic than what we
have seen and what we have seen has been incredible.
Long haul truckers who drive all over the country in all kinds of weather
conditions couldn`t believe what they were seeing on Interstate 5. A lot
of them diverted on to 58 which is an alternate route, just to get away
from Interstate 5 over the Grapevine, a high elevation and had poor
visibility during that thundershower.
What they ended up in, though, was a huge mud hole, which is still in
almost the same shape as it was the very first day. A lot of people had to
spend the night in their cars, they were swamped, it is over about a mile
long and they`re saying 300,000 cubic yards of mud is in that stretch.
So, a lot of work to do to clean up and a lot of hope that the hillsides
are stable now, and that they can get everything cleaned up before the next
storm system rolls in. Now, this one didn`t have anything to do with the
El Nino system that is developing off the coast, but if this is a taste of
what is to come for the winter, it`s going to be a long one, Richard.
WOLFFE: Yes, that bodes badly, looking forward. My thanks to Jennifer
Up next, you`ll never guess who wants to throw out the first pitch if the
Cubs make it to the World Series. Mets fans, cover your ears. Details are
WOLFFE: There`s a huge amount going on this morning. Let`s get caught up
on some of the other headlines making news with this all star panel we have
Bob Gale, I have to start with this one from "The Washington Post".
Christopher Lloyd, otherwise known as Doc Brown, wants to throw out the
first pitch at the Cubs World Series game, as we just discussed, you wrote,
back in the day, the Chicago Cubs predicted to sweep a fictional American
League Miami franchise which turned out not to be so fictional in the 2015
Doc Brown throwing out. Secondly, are the Cubs going all the way?
GALE: Well, I hope the cubs go all the way. They will make me look really
smart if they do that. I like anybody that makes me smart.
If they don`t go all the way, the joke will still be funny. So, I think I
win either way. Yes, Chris Lloyd is a big baseball fan. It will be great
to have him. They should get Bob Stamatakis (ph) in there to throw the
first pitch too, you know, he makes sure the joke is in the movie.
WOLFFE: Lynn, I`m guessing you`re not impartial about this one.
SWEET: I don`t know what would make you think that. I don`t know what
would make you think. Stamatakis is a Chicago guy.
GALE: Yes, he is.
SWEET: So right, you`re win-win. We`re a political show. I know he
knows, the family that owns the Cubs, the Ricketts family, highly political
family. And it`s interesting, Laura Ricketts on the Cubs, big huge
Democrat, big fundraiser. Then you have Todd Ricketts, big, big -- he had
been a Walker backer. He was the finance co-chair. And the brother, the
other board members, the Republican governor in Nebraska, and the father is
a founder of a big conservative super PAC. But they com together --
CONWAY: Wonderful family.
SWEET: They`re putting together a winning team.
Maybe they can find us a house speaker too.
WOLFFE: "New York Times" points a very important story. U.S. blocks
Alaskan Arctic drilling for two years. Shut the door on Friday on drilling
in Alaska`s Arctic Ocean over the next two years.
Jason, this is a big change for the administration.
JOHNSON: It`s a big change for the administration. But based on some very
crafty deal politics from President Obama, gas prices have gone down
because of how he`s manipulated things in the Middle East, how he`s
manipulated things with Russia. It`s also hurt Russia`s economy.
So, I`m not surprised. Right now, it`s the same reason that the Keystone
pipeline has gone down. People don`t see the necessity to drill in the
WOLFFE: Kellyanne, this is a head scratcher in "The L.A. Times". Judge
says Texas can deny birth certificates for U.S.-born children of some --
immigrant children born to immigrants are entitled. Of course, the U.S.
citizenship regardless of immigration status, but Texas authorities have
been placing significant barriers against that.
The politics of the demographic changes are working their way through our
political system but also through the courts, too.
CONWAY: I imagine this will be litigated through the courts, because it`s
going to be a conflict between state law, as some judge reads it and, of
course, our federal laws and immigration laws.
WOLFFE: All right. Some context there, two dozen immigrant parents in
South Texas sued the state on behalf of 32 children they claim to have been
denied birth certificates. Serious one right there.
And not so serious, I have to say. This one is going to take a little
explanation. Meerkat expert, and this is the real meerkat, not the digital
one. Meerkat expert attacked monkey handler with wine glass over lama
keeper, which sounds like a headline writer`s dream. This is coming from
NBC Connecticut, our friends over there. A former meerkat expert at London
Zoo has been ordered to pay compensation to a monkey handler she attacked
with a wine glass in a love spat over a lama keeper.
I don`t know where to begin with the animal story. But you should never
work children or animals, I`m told.
GALE: Maybe we really do need to get this cloning down, so that we have
plenty of these animals to go around and everybody can handle all the
WOLFFE: I don`t recall any animals in "Back to the Future", and I don`t
recall you predicted this one. So --
GALE: No, no, no, we had a dog.
WOLFFE: The dog, how would I forget?
GALE: I`m trying to make you look good, Richard.
WOLFFE: All right. Our thanks to Jason Johnson, Lynn Sweet, Kellyanne
Conway and Bob Gale for joining us this morning.
Thank you for getting UP with us today. We`ll be back tomorrow at 9:00
Eastern Time. Melissa Harris Perry is coming up next.
Have a great Saturday.
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