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Meet the Press-Sept. 11, 2016

Meet the Press - Sept. 11, 2016

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet The Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning on what is a solemn day of remembrance, on this, the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This morning a huge American flag was unfurled at the Pentagon to note the attack there. In Lower Manhattan, we observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Time, marking the moment when the first plane, Flight 11, flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Immediately afterwards, as they do every year, relatives began reading the names of the victims of the attacks at the World Trade Center.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MALE 9/11 MEMORIAL SPEAKERS:

Edward L. Alegreto, Eric Allen, Joseph Ryan Allen.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

All told, there are six moments of silence this morning, including one for the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. President Obama is making remarks at the Pentagon and he is already observed another moment of silence at the White House.

We do have a lot to get to this morning, including the latest on the Presidential campaign. A slew of new polls out from four battleground states. We have interviews with Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson and one of the Bush Administration's supporters of the war in Iraq that was promoted by the 9/11 attacks, Paul Wolfowitz. But first joining me right now is Tom Brokaw, who was on the air that terrible morning and afternoon and night and the next day and the next day when realized America was under attack. And here we are, 15 years later, Presidential campaign as the backdrop. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton are both there this morning. What a difference 15 years makes.

TOM BROKAW:

Well, it was 15 years ago that it became one of the worst days in American history, quite honestly. It unleashed the wrong war in the wrong place for the wrong reasons. There were no weapons of mass destruction. It's been terribly costly, 4500 Americans have died in that war.

The cost now is in the trillions of dollars. The early projections were, from the Bush Administration, we'll recapture all the expenses from the oil fields. Well, we know that what we have now is a very destabilized Middle East. ISIS grew out of all of that. And the consequences play out every day. Not only that, Chuck, it was the beginning I think of a lot of disarray in America, including the economic situation.

CHUCK TODD:

Before 9/11, there was Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th, and I was just thinking where was America 15 years after Pearl Harbor? There was a sense of, "We won." Here we are, 15 years later after 9/11, it's ongoing.

TOM BROKAW:

I think that all the confusion in that distant place for the reasons that are hard for the Americans to understand that culture and the political tensions that exist there have made this Presidential election what it is. There's a great unsettled feeling, a lot of vitriol out there, a lot of anger because they say, "Wait a minute, this has not turned out the way we were told that it would."

CHUCK TODD:

All right, we are going to be also pausing for a moment of silence in New York City for 9:03 Eastern and it marks the moment when Flight 175 hit the South Tower.

(MOMENT OF SILENCE)

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Tom, this will be the last Presidential election where everybody who votes was alive during 9/11. so we're now going to have to teach people what 9/11 was all about. How does that conversation go?

TOM BROKAW:

Well, I think part of the problem, look, we're going through right now is there's a great deal of confusion out there about how this one has turned out. And we are not only dealing with the Middle East, but obviously, Putin has become a much bigger player since that time.

And as we saw in the last four or five days, he's entered this race. And what's going on in the Ukraine and Crimea, all that fuels, I think, this sense of things are not what they're supposed to be, not what we were told they were going to be. So I don't remember in my 50 years of covering Presidential politics such an unsettled time as this late in the campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, well, we're going to deal more with that. More on all of the fallout from 9/11, as well as the current Presidential campaign throughout this hour. Earlier today, I spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who was standing a few blocks north of the New World Trade Center.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with a grim poll number that came out this week. A majority of Americans say we're less safe today than we were before 9/11. Why do you think Americans feel this way?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

That's a good question, Chuck. Americans have seen the attack in Orlando, they have seen the attack in San Bernardino. They see what's happening overseas, they see what's happening in Western Europe, in France, in Belgium, elsewhere and they're rightly concerned about our current security environment. We're safer now when it comes to another 9/11-style attack, but we're challenged when it comes to the prospects of the lone wolf actor, the homegrown violent extremist. And that requires a new whole of government response and public participation and vigilance, as well, by the way.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you said in a recent interview, you said that we have to be concerned about all ranges of attacks. "I never categorize anything as a low priority, but we have to look at what's high risk and what's less high risk and spend our time accordingly." So what does that mean? Is there just some holes that are always going to be there in our security system?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

No, I wouldn't put it that way at all. We've got people devoted to all manner of threats out there. Invariably, the high probability, higher probability type of threat, another San Bernardino, another Orlando, is uppermost on our minds. It is the thing that keeps me up at night the most. But we've got threats from, you know, cyber security. We've got a mission devoted to the potential for bio threats, a dirty bomb. We've got to keep our eye on all of it. But obviously, there are things that are higher probability, there are things that are lower probability, but higher impact. And we've got to keep our eye on all of it.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, are you concerned that Syria today is as unstable and as much of a safer haven for terrorists as Afghanistan was in the late '90s? And should that concern us, considering what Afghanistan brought or what happened inside of Afghanistan that led to 9/11? Should we be concerned that what's happening in Syria could lead to a new 9/11?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Chuck, I said in February 2014 that Syria had become a matter of homeland security. Our U.S. military, along with our international partners have done a good job of taking back territory, taking out the leaders of ISIL, taking out those focused on external attacks. But yes, we have to be concerned that Syria could become another Afghanistan.

Anytime a terrorist organization can establish territory, take territory, have a place to headquarter, to train, to recruit that's obviously a big concern and it's a big homeland security concern. Yes, sir.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, one of the other things you've been having to talk about and deal with lately is this threat or perceived threat to our election system. Russia apparently is trying to infiltrate in some ways. But are they trying to create actual havoc or are they trying to create the illusion of havoc?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Well, the investigation into the various intrusions that we've seen, including the DNC hack, is still under investigation. I will say this, it'd be very hard to alter a ballot count in a national election, to change the vote tallies, just because our election system is so decentralized.

There are some 9,000 jurisdictions that are involved. I've been sending the message to state and local officials that we ought to do our utmost to protect their online presence, their Internet presence and the Department of Homeland Security is in a position to help if they ask, but they have to ask first.

CHUCK TODD:

Today is your birthday. And I've got a cousin who's got 9/11 as a birthday and I know it's awkward for her. How do you handle your birthday?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Well, I always take occasion to remember what happened 15 years ago. I'm here in New York this year, I was in Shanksville last year. I've spent 9/11 at the Pentagon. I don't celebrate my birthday on my birthday anymore, either the day before or the day after. And I'm not sure I'll ever be in a position to celebrate my birthday again on 9/11 given the huge impression this day made on me.

CHUCK TODD:

Absolutely. Jeh Johnson, I know it's very personal for you. I know you were in New York City on the day of the attacks and it's a very emotional day, as well. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me.

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Thanks for having me on, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Turning now to the 2016 campaign, we have a new Washington Post/ ABC Poll that is out this morning, it has Hillary Clinton with a five point lead over Donald Trump among likely voters, 46-41. We have some new NBC News Wall Street Journal Marist battleground state polls that we'll get to a little bit later. But we begin with what perhaps is turning into a rough weekend for Hillary Clinton. It's not unusual for the Trump campaign to find itself trying to explain a controversial statement made by their candidate. Sometimes it's a weekly issue for him. But this weekend, it's the Clinton campaign that's scrambling for words to explain just what she meant when she took a shot at Trump voters, a criticism that immediately drew a sharp reaction.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call "the basket of deplorables." Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, islamophobic, you name it.

CHUCK TODD:

At a fundraiser headlined by Barbra Streisand on Friday night, Clinton made the remark that Republican hope voters will never forget.

GOV. MIKE PENCE:

Hillary, they are not a basket of anything. They are Americans and they deserve your respect.

CHUCK TODD:

The Trump campaign quickly demanded an apology and tried to capitalize. Trump tweeted, "Wow, Hillary Clinton was so insulting to my supporters, millions of amazing, hardworking people. I think it will cost her at the polls." There's a history of Presidential candidates becoming too comfortable in friendly crowds. In 2012, Mitt Romney was caught on tape at a closed door fundraiser dismissing voters with this line that some Republicans believe lost him the election.

MITT ROMNEY:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are to believe that they are victims.

CHUCK TODD:

In 2008, it was Barack Obama, also at a fundraiser, talking about how job losses had made working-class Americans feel.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA:

It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them...

CHUCK TODD:

So how will Clinton's opponents attack her? Just ask Hillary Clinton. This is what she said about Obama's remarks in 2008.

HILLARY CLINTON:

I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small town America. Senator Obama's remarks are elitist and they're out of touch.

CHUCK TODD:

Running mate Tim Kaine told The Washington Post on Saturday that Clinton shouldn't have to apologize. Still, Clinton rushed to explain, releasing this statement. "Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic’ and that's never a good idea. I regret saying 'half,' that was wrong. But let's be clear, it's deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices." Clinton said something similar this week to Israeli TV, but she didn't use the word "half."

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

I'd say you can take Trump supporters and put them in two big baskets: There are what I call the deplorables, you know, the racists and the, you know, the haters.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

It takes Democrats and Republicans working together--

CHUCK TODD:

The comments come just as Clinton is trying to shower voters her warmer side. After a veteran's forum after she appeared on the defensive and lawyerly at times.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system.

CHUCK TODD:

And it changes the subject from Trump, who floundered at the event on substance. Trump's effusive praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin--

DONALD TRUMP:

In that system, he's been a leader far more than our President has been a leader.

CHUCK TODD:

Even sitting down for an interview with Larry King on state-sponsored Russian television, where he trashed American institutions. It left Republicans scrambling.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Well, Vladimir Putin is not a President, he's a dictator.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I think this is the biggest miscalculation since people thought Hitler was a good guy.

MALE SPEAKER:

Are you still convinced that he is the best choice for national security issues? Thank you.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Thanks.

(LAUGHTER)

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to bring in the panel this morning. Tom Brokaw, of course, is back with us. Joining us for the first time, Audie Cornish, host of "All Things Considered" on NPR, welcome. Stephanie Cutter, former deputy campaign manager for President Obama, now a Clinton supporter. And New York Times columnist, David Brooks, whose book The Road to Character is now out in paperback. Here's Dan Balz's headline this morning. "Clinton's ‘Deplorables’ Remark Sums Up a Deplorable Election Season." David Brooks, what was your initial reaction when you heard?

DAVID BROOKS:

You know, first, it was a terrible week for politics. We've had a race to the bottom before, but this was, like, at speed, like, who's Usain Bolt speed to the bottom, these two. I was struck by another sentence in that quote about the deplorables, that they are "irredeemable."

There's a reason no religion believes that. Because if you believe people are irredeemable, you're saying they somehow lack redeemable souls, they are somehow in a lesser category of human beings and that's just a dark, dark world view. And that's always been the risk with Clinton. As President, she can be very hardworking, very effective, very efficient, but there's a dark world view that is semi Nixonian lurking in there.

CHUCK TODD:

Stephanie, it’s tough to defend the remark, is it? Or no? Do you think it's tough to defend the remark "deplorables" to stereotype a group of people, or no?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Absolutely not. I think that her only mistake is that she said half of his supporters were deplorable. But does anybody around this table, have they not seen Trump's rallies? Have they not seen Trump's own remarks? He is attracting a certain type of voter. She gave a whole speech on describing them, they're called the alt-right.

And they Tweet racist things, he retweets them, he says it from the stump. From research in this election we know that his own words, calling Mexicans rapists, criticizing a Gold Star family, these are the most potent things against him with Independent voters. So what she said was not wrong, her only mistake was that she described half of his supporters that way.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I want to put up a tweet here, The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates just put up a Tweet, "Hillary Clinton was right,” Tom Brokaw, in describing. And he admits, he wrote a piece saying, "Politically incorrect? Perhaps."

TOM BROKAW:

Well, here's what's so striking to me is that what half of his voters are in that category of being irredeemably racist and homophobic and all that, if I am a hardware dealer in a small town in Ohio and I am trying to make up my mind, you're going to wake up the next morning and say, "Is she talking about me? I am kind of inclined toward Trump. But is what that her thought about me is?"

She also did this at a very glitzy, Manhattan high stakes fundraiser, so that separates her I think from the rest of the country, in a way. And you could watch her demeanor there, it was all quite jolly. Everybody was laughing and applauding at it. I don't think that that's what she needs at this point in her life because out there, there are still a lot of people saying, "I don't quite trust Hillary. Give me a reason to--"

CHUCK TODD:

Audie, why is it, though, Donald Trump gets credit for being politically incorrect, telling it like it is? And Hillary Clinton, I think some of her supporters are saying, "Hey, she's just doing what Trump does, she's just telling it like it is."

AUDIE CORNISH:

Right. I mean, I think we can put aside for a second that there is a segment of Trump supporters which surveys have shown do have beliefs that people can talk about as being Islamophobic or xenophobic. And he has retweeted white nationalists and we have had this discussion about the alt-right. But putting that aside for a second, what it does is it confirms what his supporters already believe, right? Which is that essentially he is this bulwark against so-called "PC-culture," right? He is the one leading the charge against that and they are upset that their concerns are routinely dismissed out of hand as being racist or retrograde and he's the person who's been out there saying, "No, no, no, you're perfectly normal, something is quote/unquote wrong here." And she basically confirmed something they believe which is that Democrats don't just think that they're wrong, but like, look down on them.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, candidates should not be sociologists, they should not be pundits. They should not sit there at Cipriani in New York where the fundraiser was held looking down and making gross generalizations, not only about 50 percent, but about people.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

DAVID BROOKS:

People, even the people that say repugnant things at Trump rallies, are complicated and they're driven by complicated fears and anxieties to sometimes do some things, sometimes do beautiful things. And so, the truism that you hate the sin, but don't hate the sinner applies to politics just as well and she was hating the sinner.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let me do a pause here. We're going to take a break. We're literally going to come right back and have this conversation. I also have some new battleground state polls in four states. Two from the traditional battleground and two from perhaps an expanded battleground. And later, the 9/11 attacks let to the War in Iraq. I'll talk to a prominent member of President W. Bush's Administration, Paul Wolfowitz.

FEMALE MEMORIAL SPEAKERS:

Mandu Chang, Rosa Maria Chapa, Mark Laurence Sheretz, David M. Sharlabal, Gregorio Manual Chavez. Pedro...

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. More now on the Presidential campaign. We've got some new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls from four states and the results pretty much confirm what we've been seeing over the last ten days. This race is getting closer.

We're going to start with the traditional battleground state of New Hampshire in a four-way race there among registered voters, Clinton leads Donald Trump by just a point, 37-36 among likely voters in New Hampshire. Not much difference. Clinton is up by two, 39-37. By the way, look at the Gary Johnson number, that's the highest we've measured him in any battleground state so far, 15 in New Hampshire. They do have a Libertarian bent to them a little bit. Next is Nevada. Among registered voters, it's Clinton by just two points, 41-39. But look what happens when you have a likely voter sample, it turns into a Trump lead, though narrow, 42-41.

Keep in mind, Democrats have won New Hampshire in five of the last six elections and they've taken Nevada in four of the last six. So these should be states that favor Clinton. Now let's take a look at two red states. In Arizona, Clinton and Trump, they're tied at 37 among registered voters.

Among likely voters, Trump gets the slight advantage here. He's up 40 to 38, look at the double digits there for Gary Johnson. Remember, he governed a neighboring state of Arizona, in New Mexico. And in Georgia, Clinton has a one point lead among registered voters, 42-41, but among likely voters, it's Trump who gains. He's at 44 to 42. It's worth remembering that Democrats haven't won either Arizona or Georgia, since Bill Clinton won each of them once in the '90s, so it is significant that Hillary Clinton has managed to put them in play. David Brooks, I want to start with a column you wrote about this idea of a realignment is coming based on a social divide.

You write, "Politics is catching up to social reality. The crucial social divide today is between those who feel the core trends of the global information age economy as tailwinds at their backs and those who feel them at headwinds in their face." And I can just point you to this breakdown in our New Hampshire poll. Among college-educated voters, she's up 20; among non-college educated voters, he's up 20. There's your realignment.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, for the last 20 years, if you look at how people behave, you can do huge predictions based on whether they completed college, how often do they vote, how often do they give blood, how many friends do they have, what's their marriage like. And there are just big chasms that have just opened socially. And this is the first election that we've begun to see those chasms reflected in political polling.

And so, my question and this is really a serious worry, suppose one party becomes the party of less college, who feels the headwinds, and that would be the Republican Party, I think, and suppose another party becomes the party of the tailwinds because they've got college, and that would be the Democratic Party. Suppose our partisan realignment overlaps with a class alignment and that, to me, is extremely problematic for what it says about what's going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:

Isn't that what we're seeing right now?

TOM BROKAW:

And also, this is a profound shift, because the Republicans are representing those who don't have a college education. We've all grown up with Republicans who are at the high end of the income scale and are the elitists in American life. So this is being turned upside down. I think the big, big issue in this country, in this election cutting away everything else is just what David talked about, how do we pull the country back together again?

TOM BROKAW:

It's separating and going in different directions and there's not been either one of these candidates who's been able to give a “city shining on a hill” speech like Ronald Reagan or "I Have a Dream" like Doctor King because they're so determined to separate the country and that is, I think, a terrible prescription for the future.

AUDIE CORNISH:

It's going to be like that as long as there's identity-based partisanship. I mean, I think that we've always talked about the different groups that aligned with these parties. But if you think about even your social media networks, like, the idea that you're seeing only the news about the stuff you care about delivered to your phone every day, I think the silos of where we live and the silos of the information we're taking in is actually exacerbating the problem.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

There are so many different reasons that we've ended up at this place, some that we can control, some that we can't control. But I think that in addition to the political realignment that's happening, I think that the most pressing issue is whoever wins the White House in November, there's going to be a huge chunk of Americans who are going to feel unrepresented and not heard. And how do you govern?

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, angry about it.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

And angry about it and whoever wins--

CHUCK TODD:

Look at the reaction just--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

--Very high unfavorables. So the mandate to govern will be very, very difficult and that's something that hopefully, Democrats and Republicans will look at each other and say, "Okay, this is it. We've got to do something."

DAVID BROOKS:

We could have a winner at 42 percent. Look at those poll numbers. Everyone is at 42, 43, 38. And so, that's almost like a minority government. I think we've just got to do something about it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has an idea that every kid who graduates from high school spends the next three months in some sort of national service.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

DAVID BROOKS:

So a kid from Martha's Vineyard or Marin County is with a kid from Mobile, Alabama and just three months, it would make a difference.

CHUCK TODD:

Back on national service, Tom, I thought national service was going to be a given. I mean, my God, we've been talking about national service my whole adult life and I can't believe we're not there.

TOM BROKAW:

Well, you know, I'm involved with an academy of public service now at Arizona State. We had 100 enrollees last year, 250 this year. And by the way, when Hillary Clinton borrows the line from Bernie Sanders, "We're going to give free college education to families with $125,000 a year," she ought to say, "And if you get that, you've gotta give a year of public service when you graduate or two years of public service."

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

TOM BROKAW:

It ought to come with a price tag of some kind for them, otherwise, it just looks like another government giveaway program of some kind. Chuck, the other thing is I think we cannot overstate the importance and the effect of social media in this campaign. You know, it's going on even as we speak here. And the kind of vitriol on both sides that is out there and people have a hard time deciding what's real and what's not.

CHUCK TODD:

And I want to bring that back to “deplorables,” it's one of those where I'm wondering against any other candidate, in any other year, this is a really fatal mistake for her. But have we been conditioned, the electorate has been conditioned to this harsh rhetoric?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Yeah, I don't think that people have been conditioned to rhetoric. If they were, then you wouldn't have a whole segment of the Republican Party that aren't for Trump. I mean, what she was really speaking to were those people, Republican voters, who haven't made up their mind because they are very uncomfortable with Trump because of the racist, xenophobic, misogynist words coming out of his mouth and some of his supporters.

AUDIE CORNISH:

But this has been the risk all along. If you're going to make it a referendum on Trump, then you have to walk this line between saying, "A vote for Trump is a bad decision and a vote for Trump means you're a bad person." And I think this has crossed that line and it's hard to unring that bell.

DAVID BROOKS:

I think we've also seen that a tie goes to Trump, that if they both have bad weeks, he benefits. He's risen, he's gotten closer in the last couple of weeks, it's not because he's suddenly great.

CHUCK TODD:

I have to say, there was a part of this when she did it and I thought, "Mmmm, Marco Rubio tried this, Jeb Bush tried this, Ted Cruz tried this," when you try to hit him, when you go name calling for name calling and you go down to his level, he wins.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah.

TOM BROKAW:

Yeah.

AUDIE CORNISH:

Because his supporters already know what they're going to get. And I think a lot of people have made up their minds on this. I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said, "I don't know, not Trump 2016." I mean, people kind of know what's going on here and I think what people need to do, what Clinton needs to do is make it so that sticker says "Clinton/Kaine, right, 2016" and not someone who's basically just shrugging at the world.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, we're going to take a pause here. We're going to do a little bit more on 9/11. When we come back on this September 11th commemoration. The Deputy Defense Secretary under Bush 43, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the prominent advocates for the Iraq War, which grew out of the 9/11 attacks.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. 18 months after the September 11th attacks, the United States invaded Iraq. The U.S. invasion easily toppled Saddam Hussein, but it also unleashed a torrent of violence and chaos that still confronts us today. Paul Wolfowitz was the Deputy Defense Secretary at the time and an advocate for toppling Saddam Hussein. He's a Democrat who turned Republican who says he may feel forced to vote for Hillary Clinton in November. Paul Wolfowitz joins me now. Welcome, sir.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

Nice to be here, thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

I read the other day in an interview you took issue with the moniker architect of the Iraq War. Why do you not accept that title?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

Because I was not in charge, I was not the Commander-in-Chief or even the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense or National Security Advisor. And more importantly, because I think and I thought at the time there were a lot of things that should have been done differently. If you think about it, if we had had a counterinsurgency strategy like we did during the surge, if we had had that from the beginning, I think Iraq would look like a very different place today and history would look very different. Instead of waiting until 2007, 2008 to defeat Al-Qaeda in Iraq, they could have been defeated two or three years earlier.

CHUCK TODD:

You were an advisor to Jeb Bush, he struggled with the, "Knowing what we know now question, would you have invaded Iraq?" What's your answer?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

Look, we don’t-- that assumes that we know everything now that we needed to know. We know some things now that we didn't know then. We know about Saddam ordering his Iraqi Intelligence Service to cooperate with an organization called Egyptian Islamic Jihad. It was not a part of Al-Qaeda at the time, but it merged with Al-Qaeda. And in fact, its leader is now the leader of Al-Qaeda, a man named al-Zawahiri. We know that now. Most importantly, we don't know, we will never know what the world would be like if Saddam Hussein was still in power in Iraq. Imagine if you had an uprising in Iraq like took place in Syria, you would have Syria on steroids. Saddam would be even more brutal than Assad has been. And you know--

CHUCK TODD:

That's a big assumption. How do we know that? And in fact--It turned out that Saddam was a bluster. For instance, there were no weapons of mass destruction. And--

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

He was a liar, he was deceiving the world on that point. Correct.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, that's a big point to deceive the world on. It got us--

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

But he was not killing terrorists, let's be clear about that. He was killing his own people on a large scale. He did it in 1991, we saw what he did. I don't think it takes a lot of imagination to imagine how he would respond to an uprising. We've already seen what he did. You know, there's a tendency, Chuck, to say it's all around the world, "If Americans can put a man on the moon, then why can't they do X?" And X is some complicated, social problem that's been here for centuries. And Americans often play into that by assuming that we can solve everything, we're responsible for everything. You know, Hillary Clinton was actually right when she said a few months ago, "The United States didn't create ISIS, Bashar Assad with the support of Iran and Russia created ISIS. If you go--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, but there's another theory that that whatever you want to think of the strongmen, the fact of the matter, as soon as Saddam Hussein was serving as a rock, I guess, that was covering up a lot of bad guys, we lifted that rock and all of a sudden, chaos ensued.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

He wasn't covering up a lot of bad guys, he was sheltering a lot of the bad guys. He had the guy who was the one perpetrator who the first World Trade Center bombing, who is still at large. He had Zarkawi in Iraq. Maybe we should have insisted more on his handing over those bad guys that he supposedly was opposed to.

The-- you know, when I said Assad helped to create ISIS, he did it by driving the Sunnis into desperation where ISIS is the only choice for them. These dictators brutalize their societies, they divide their societies after they collapse and eventually, they collapse. There's nothing left to stabilize the thing or take its place.

CHUCK TODD:

Go ahead.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

Not every dictator is like that. I was Ambassador to Indonesia when President Suharto was the so-called "autocrat," you could say dictator, but he allowed a good deal of civil society to develop. So when Suharto disappeared, Indonesians were able to run their country in a reasonable way.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

There was nothing reasonable left in Iraq, nothing reasonable left in Syria, nothing reasonable in Libya.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me go back to this issue, here we are on 9/11, it was mostly Saudis, Saudi nationals that flew those planes into those towers. Nobody from Iraq. And there's a lot of people that look today and go, "Why was that our first action? Why was that-- yes, we went into Afghanistan, but why was that our first action? And why didn't we ever hold Saudi Arabia accountable?" You could make a case that a lot more Saudis were funding and fueling these terrorist attacks, you know, with Saudi money and things like that than anybody in Iraq.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

Look, there is a big problem with what the Saudis have been doing in propagating extremist versions of Islam and I hope that people are right when they say the new Crown Prince or Deputy Crown Prince--

CHUCK TODD:

So they're harboring terrorists?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

No, they are cultivating terrorists, ideologically. But the point is that you don't deal with that by going to war. What concerned us about Iraq and people want to forget this, but everybody believed and Saddam was doing his best to convince us that he had weapons of mass destruction. In fact, we knew he had previously had Anthrax, he had previously had Serin, he was previously working on nuclear weapons and he made it clear after he was captured that he intended to start all of those problems again once the sanctions were lifted.

He was a real danger and that's why there was a focus on weapons of mass destruction. And people say after the fact that Bush lied and got us into a war, he wasn't lying. He was saying what everyone believed. And you know, I heard some discussion on your previous panel, but I heard a remarkable comment this morning by one of the orphans from 9/11, whose father, I think it's Vincent D’amadeo, and the son said, "9/11 brought us together. We need to come together as a country."

But accusing the President of lying when he was telling the truth is not bringing us together.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, but some could say Iraq split us apart. I mean, the fallout from Iraq War, look at the Republican Party today. It is more isolationist today and it's because of the failure of the Iraq war.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

I'm not disagreeing with that, but I'm saying if you accuse Bush of lying when he was telling what everyone believed, then you are dividing the country, you are demoralizing the country.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, then, who lied? Is it bad intelligence? You know, somebody got us into this and somebody convinced the United States Congress that weapons of mass destruction were imminent in Iraq, which is why so many Democrats and Republicans voted for this war. So who lied?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

I think the original liar is Saddam Hussein, who lied about what he had and we discovered he had more. Later, it seems he was lying that he had more than he really did have because he wanted to supposedly deceive the Iranians. The fact is, every Intelligence service in the world, not just the Americans, the British, the Germans, the French, countries that opposed us in the war all believe that he had weapons of mass destruction.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you-- Are you now concerned that this, essentially, we were wrong and if you think about the public's lack of trust for government right now, that's one of the reasons, that's one of the things over the last 15 years, when you talk about Wall Street's inability to be truthful to us and that now has undermined trust in government. Do you believe that?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

Look, I think it's done a lot of harm, but I think in fact stating falsehoods, like saying that Bush lied about it, does a lot of harm, as well. I believe that if we had had a better strategy in Iraq from the beginning, if the surge strategy had been implemented from the beginning, Iraq would look very different today. People would see the whole issue in a very different light.

CHUCK TODD:

How many troops would still be there? Because you have said in the past you've thought this is more like a Germany and a Korea situation, that we probably would have needed troops for 40 or 50 years?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

The issue isn't how many troops you have, the issue is how many Americans are getting killed. By the end of the surge, excuse me, by the end of the surge, very few Americans were getting killed, just as no Americans are killed today in Korea, although they are at great risk if North Korea were to start a war.

The U.S. can be a stabilizing factor by keeping presence in those countries. I think it's important to understand. I do agree that the turn in public opinion in the United States on this issue is very unfortunate. I think it will bring us more trouble. We are in danger of learning all the wrong lessons from the past. The lesson that intervention is the only thing that's bad. I think we're seeing in Syria the consequence of non-intervention. I think we're seeing in Libya the consequences of a partial intervention without following up.

CHUCK TODD:

Is this the reason why you're leaning Clinton over Trump, because of Trump's isolationist views?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ:

Look, I'm leaning against both of them. I find it incredibly disappointing when the country needs to come together that we have two major party candidates who enjoy so little confidence from the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, Paul Wolfowitz from the Bush Administration. Thank you, sir, appreciate you sharing your views. When we come back, a reminder of how 9/11 changed us, at least for a while and how it will still drive much of our politics today.

(BEGIN TAPE)

Megan McGrath

First you saw that large flag that was unfurled from the top of the Pentagon there and that was just awe-inspiring.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It's almost become a cliché to say that 9/11 changed us. It sparked two wars, heightened security at airports, ballparks and other public places and made us all more aware of the threats around the world that many of us face. But for a while, at least, 9/11 brought us together, made us appreciate our shared interest and common bonds. And in fact, made it so that Democrats and Republicans just simply debated, didn't just try to destroy each other. For this morning's broadcast, we brought together firefighters, teachers, journalists and others to tell us how they saw America change and in some cases, change right back.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ANDY CARD:

September 11th, 2001 resulted in us waking up on September 12th, 2001 with a phenomenal sense of what it means to be the United States of America.

JIM VANCE:

And I had this sense that most of us were reaching into an easily accessible well of resolve, will, strength, character, courage.

MEGAN MCGRATH:

First, you saw that large flag that was unfurled from the top of the Pentagon there and that was just awe-inspiring.

AL ULMER:

Literally, when I got there at 8:00 in the morning, we already had people in line waiting to buy flags.

LEE GREENWOOD:

We crawled before we walked and then we walked before we ran.

FIRE COMMISSIONER DANIEL NIGRO:

There were no divisions among people, there were no colors, no religions, no politics.

ANDY CARD:

The leaders in Congress stood together, the governors of our state stood together. Partisanship just seemed to disappear.

ANN COMPTON:

15 years later, the moments of the country coming together have all been evaporated.

FIRE COMMISSIONER DANIEL NIGRO:

I think very strong emotions and very strong activities like it occurred after 9/11 are very hard to maintain.

:

DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF DANIEL MURRAY:

The country seemed so significantly divided. I still think there's a lot of optimism and a lot of hopefulness that we can continue on the great American traditions that we have had for so many years.

ANN COMPTON:

America went from this great sense of being part of the same important fabric of clinging together in times of disaster to political fights and a political system that has encouraged division.

ANDY CARD:

And we did stand together, even though some of us had differences. You put those differences aside and said, "We stand together."

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with our panel. Tom, I'm going to let you respond first because I have a feeling what you said at the start of the show inspired something Paul Wolfowitz pushed back on during that interview when we talked about the Iraq War and about who's responsible for lying to get us into this war.

TOM BROKAW:

Well, "lying" is a very strong phrase, obviously. I think that they over interpreted what they wanted to see there. They came into office determined to get rid of Saddam Hussein in some fashion. There's no question about that. But then, when 9/11 came along, it gave them the big opportunity to do that. It was unclear about weapons of mass destruction. The UN was not certain about whether they existed or not. I was in Iraq twice before the war began. Here's what really troubled me. I could be talking to Shia young people, he was a Sunni, remember, Saddam was.

CHUCK TODD:

Mmhm.

TOM BROKAW:

And we'd get to a point and they'd say, "You know, I want to join Jihad and fight the United States." I said, "I'm the United States." “Oh no,” "You don't come and tell our country what to do. We're going to do this on our own. I go into a souk run by the Shia." I mean, these are the toughest guys in Baghdad. Same thing. We don't want you coming in here and bringing Chalabi, who has not been here the last 40 years to tell us how to run our country. So there was not a great uprising that was going to occur when we came in, because they had been living with him all this time and they wanted to take control of their own country on their terms.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, David Brooks, it took the Democratic Party arguably 24 years, 25 years to recover from Vietnam, to be trusted again with national security, and the election of Bill Clinton in '92, you could argue that. That really, even though Carter got in there, he barely got in there and it only reinforced the perception that Democrats can't handle national security. How long- The Republican Party is still hasn't recovered from the Iraq war.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah. Well, I'm not sure I agree with you. I mean, the Democrats did pretty well in '74 in those Congressional elections--

CHUCK TODD:

They did--

DAVID BROOKS:

--those Watergate elections.

CHUCK TODD:

--but they were Watergate elections.

DAVID BROOKS:

I think people remember very-- the people-- I think parties recover pretty quickly. What doesn't recover maybe is the position, the position that America should be intervening abroad. There's a sweet spot between too much intervention and too little. We have now swung from here all the way over to here to non-intervention. And that, what's striking about the Republican Party, it's become the party of intervention to the Donald Trump party of non-intervention. So there now is no interventionist party and I think the gap in the world that the Putins exploit, that the Assads exploit, we've got like a bipartisan consensus on foreign policy not to get involved. And that is a problem which I think Wolfowitz is right about.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and that's something, I think Hillary Clinton is uncomfortable with the non-interventionist wing of even her party.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

She is, because I think that she understands the realities of what it means to be President and the threats that you're facing. But I think, you're right, the, how Iraq was handled still has hangover on our policies and our politics today. There was a huge coming together after 9/11. There was support and gathering and bipartisan support for the Afghanistan War. And then, they started to beat the war drum to go into Iraq. There was bipartisan support for Iraq, but that quickly turned. I remember being with Senator Kennedy, who was one of the only votes against the Iraq War and he said, "Mark my words, this is going to change." And within a couple of years, it did. Look at how much the Iraq War influenced the 2004 election. We're going to be dealing with this for a very long time. One of the major questions this week at the Commander-in-Chief Forum was, "Where was Donald Trump on the Iraq War?" So it is a, it’s become a symbol of where you stand in this country and how you are going to defend it.

CHUCK TODD:

It is interesting that that is like basically the public-- Democrats and Republicans doesn’t, don’t, they don't want to accept anybody who says they were for it and still stick to it. But let me ask you this--

AUDIE CORNISH:

Well, very quickly.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah?

AUDIE CORNISH:

Can we challenge the premise here? Because I was, I grew up in the '90s and I don't remember it being a Kumbaya time politically-- I mean it was, I feel like 9/12 was a pause in civic hostilities. You know, just before we had had a ruthless election, where you had half of the electorate despondent. So I'm having a hard time looking back and--

CHUCK TODD:

But they didn’t challenge the premi-- but they didn’t challen-- The difference is I think we're all concerned that if we have another 2000 election, that you won't see whoever the Supreme Court would say was the losing side say, "Okay, we've got to respect the Constitution."

AUDIE CORNISH:

But is that, in fact, because of that election, right. I mean there’s repercussions and consequences to these things.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it because of that or is it because of everything that has happened since then? One other whiplash moment on foreign policy this week, though, goes-- it’s not just on the Iraq War and the Republican Party, it's Putin and Russia, by the way, we haven't brought that up, which was until “deplorables,” basically, what was driving the election.

TOM BROKAW:

It was an astonishing statement on the part of Donald Trump, especially the Republican candidate for President of the United States, that he embraces effectively a dictator in Russia. And when he says he has 82 percent approval rating, he's not saying the other 18 percent are on their way to a gulag somewhere. I mean, because the fact is he can have any kind of approval rating that he wants, he just orders it up. This is not a true reflection of what is going on there. There's some real issues in Russia. One of my longest friend-- long-term friends is a Russian scholar. He's spent a lot of time there in the last year. He said, "Things have never been worse between the two countries." That's a very ominous signal.

CHUCK TODD:

Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov was on my show Friday, he lives in New York City because his life's in danger if he lives still in Russia.

TOM BROKAW:

Yeah, yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

That's why, his life’s been threatened. David, do you think the voters care as much about this Putin issue as we in Washington do?

DAVID BROOKS:

Unconsciously. Politics is in bad odor and that's around the world. Politics stinks. But I love politics because you've got to compromise, you've got to listen to people you dislike kind of. But you hedge and you fudge and it's kind of ugly, but it's sorta-- it’s the only way to govern a diverse society. But around the world and in this country and certainly in Donald Trump's mind, that form of politics is suspect and authoritarianism is on the rise.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, back in a moment, we'll have our "Endgame" segment. On this first full day of the NFL season, in the intersection of sports and politics in a big way, we'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with our "Endgame" segment. There was one other thing I wanted to bring up before we get to the NFL and that was a remarkable comment that Donald Trump made about "this is the last election," which sounded similar to a comment that we highlighted here last week from Michele Bachmann. Take a listen to it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I think this will be the last election that the Republicans have a chance of winning because you're going to have people flowing across the borders, you're going to have illegal immigrants coming in and they're going to be legalized and they're going to be able to vote and once that all happens, you can forget it.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I've been calling him an election Armageddon-ist, Audie. I mean, Michele Bachmann said this, Rush Limbaugh has been talking about this and I guess it's one way of trying to rally Republicans to his side, but it's a negative rally.

AUDIE CORNISH:

It's sort of the upside down version of something people talk about when they talk about the Obama coalition, about minority groups becoming the majority. And I think the attempt to say, "This is the last gasp for white voters," it's not subtle. You know, it's not subtle--

CHUCK TODD:

He didn't make it subtle at all. That was not a subtle comment.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Donald Trump and subtlety.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, it's racial panic. How about, like, we’re going to be over flooded by brown people? How about, like, trying to appeal to them? How about listening, having a conversation, trying to win over some votes?

AUDIE CORNISH:

And also, to undermine it and disenfranchise that voting group, to say that your votes, they're not the real votes, because we're the real Americans.

CHUCK TODD:

Not to out the age of some people on this table, but I think some people on this table are old enough to remember when the Republican Party was the party of African-Americans. Tom? Jackie Robinson--Jackie Robinson endorsed Nixon over Kennedy.

TOM BROKAW:

Doctor King had no better friend than Nelson Rockefeller, for example. And when the Kennedys started to approach the King family, they said, "Oh, we don't know." As Andy Young once said, "Even their maids are white and Irish." So we don't know whether we have a connection there. Then that, of course, all changed once the Goldwater movement takes over. I think the big issue after this election, whoever wins or whoever loses, is how these two parties, if they're able to reconstitute themselves as the Democrats did with Bill Clinton. And I don't know whether that's possible anymore in the era of social media and all the divisions that are in both parties at this point. I just don't know whether that's possible.

CHUCK TODD:

So today's the first Sunday of the NFL season, falling on 9/11. Sports was a tremendous unifier in this country after 9/11, particularly baseball, but also, football, as well. But this is going to be an unusual day I think for the opening of football season. Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback on the San Francisco 49ers, his protest. The Seattle Seahawks are planning. It's very interesting that more and more sports figures have decided, I don't know what it is. I'm wondering if it's the Ali effect, that Ali's death educated a whole generation of new athletes to say, "Maybe I should use my platform differently."

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, I hope that's the case. And we saw this happen in the NBA last year.

CHUCK TODD:

Yep.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

And look, I think some good is coming out of this. He's forcing a discussion. His teammates across the league are supporting him. And his-- real benefits are going to people who are trying to forge change and ensure equal justice.

DAVID BROOKS:

Can I salute the athletes who will stand for the National Anthem? Because what they're doing is expressing gratitude for the men and women who made this country that we're fortunate to be born into, and they're expressing faith in the ideals of the country. We always have problems, but we stand and honor those things for the faith.

CHUCK TODD:

And we'll make that the last word. That's all we have for today. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet The Press.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***