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Meet the Press - September 25, 2016

Meet the Press - September 25, 2016

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday it's game on, one day away from perhaps the most watched debate in American history.

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm going to be very respectful of her.

HILLARY CLINTON:

You've gotta be prepared for, like, wacky stuff that comes at you.

CHUCK TODD:

Will this be the moment that determines who will become the next President? Donald Trump advisor, General Mike Flynn and the Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman, John Podesta, both join me live. Plus, debate prep school. One moment can change everything.

RICK PERRY:

I can't, the third one I can't, sorry. Oops.

CHUCK TODD:

How the Presidential candidates plan to knock their opponents off stride. I'll talk to two former campaign managers who’ve been inside the war room before. Also, how does a man who says this about Donald Trump--

TED CRUZ:

This man is a pathological liar, a bully, a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen.

CHUCK TODD:

--wind up endorsing him? What's really behind Ted Cruz's surprise change of heart? And the two police shootings this week.

RAKEYIA SCOTT

Don't shoot him. He has no weapon.

CHUCK TODD:

Peaceful protests are growing around the country as we grapple with the question: What can be done to keep this from happening? Joining me for insight and analysis are Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, host on the Salem Radio Network, Hugh Hewitt, Gwen Ifill, co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour and Republican strategist, Mike Murphy. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet The Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning, it's an NFL Sunday and really, this feels like a pre-game show. The big game is tomorrow night at Hofstra University on New York's Long Island, with a Super Bowl sized audience expected. Usually, the first debate is the most important campaign moment until the next debate. Probably not this time. Hillary Clinton comes in the debate with nervous Democrats feeling a little bit better about things.

Four national polls out this week all showed Clinton up in a four-way race. In three of the polls, she's up by six points. Though in today's Washington Post/ ABC Poll, she's up by just two. Some battleground state polls showed Donald Trump doing better and having a legitimate path 270.

Trump has never been more competitive than he is now and there's a sense that if Clinton doesn't knock him out tomorrow, she may never be able to before November. Both sides are already engaging in psychological gamesmanship. The Clinton campaign has placed Mark Cuban, a huge Trump critic up front in the audience as a way to rattle Trump. And in response, as hard as this is to believe, Trump has invited Gennifer Flowers to sit in the front row. Not making this up. That Gennifer Flowers who, of course, had an extramarital affair with Bill Clinton sometime in the '80s. Gamesmanship aside, one thing we know for sure, the two candidates are taking very different approaches getting ready for tomorrow night's big debate.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

While Trump huddles at Trump Tower, Clinton is hunkering down in and around her Chappaqua home, both preparing for the most important Presidential debate in decades.

TIM KAINE:

You're going to hear Donald Trump doing a lot of trash talking, but Hillary is a tough person.

CHUCK TODD:

The Clinton campaign is trying to steer the conversation to temperament.

DONALD TRUMP:

I'd look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers.

She's a slob.

She ate like a pig.

CHUCK TODD:

And onstage, Clinton will try to get under Trump's skin.

DONALD TRUMP:

Excuse me. I've given my answer, lyin' Ted.

CHUCK TODD:

But the challenge for Clinton, predicting which Trump will show up.

DONALD TRUMP:

People ask me that question: Oh, you're gonna go out there and do this and that? I really don't know that.

CHUCK TODD:

Will Trump lose his cool, be impatient, be too subdued or be crass?

DONALD TRUMP:

He referred to my hands, if they're small, something else must be small, I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee.

CHUCK TODD:

Or will Trump be able to rise above the temperament questions and throw Clinton off her game?

BRETT O’DONNELL:

He needs to worry about, first of all, not taking the bait from her and following her attacks. And second of all, Trump needs to make sure that he's ready to talk about policy in a way that matches her.

CHUCK TODD:

Trump is watching videos to spot Clinton's vulnerabilities, but doing no formal mock debates.

REPORTER:

Mr Trump, how’s debate prep going right now?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I’m here with-- at Geno’s.

CHUCK TODD:

His campaign trying to turn his restlessness with preparation into an asset.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

I don't think he's locked up in a cabin for two weeks like other people have been or currently are, cramming their heads with microchips and binders.

CHUCK TODD:

But Trump can't afford to stumble on substance and he has to avoid looking like a bully. As for Clinton, she's not afraid of going negative.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Your profusion of comments about your feelings toward President Obama are, um, a little strange, given what you said about him in 2011.

CHUCK TODD:

And she has had her best performances when opponents came off as snarky.

HILLARY CLINTON:

I don't think I'm that bad.

BARACK OBAMA:

You're likeable enough, Hillary.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Thank you so much.

CHUCK TODD:

Or rude.

HILLARY CLINTON:

We’ll shake on this.

RICK LAZIO:

No, I want your signature.

CHUCK TODD:

The challenge for Clinton, she can sometimes become defensive, particularly on questions of character.

HILLARY CLINTON:

I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system.

CHUCK TODD:

And she can get tangled up with her lawyer-ly explanations.

ANITA DUNN:

I think for Hillary Clinton, sometimes for-- that wall seems like it’s about 25 feet wide for people. And that the more that she lets people through the doors, the better off she's going to be.

CHUCK TODD:

As both candidates prepare for the most consequential day of this campaign.

BRETT O’DONNELL:

While you can't win an election in a debate, you can certainly lose one.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is the Chairman of the Clinton Campaign, John Podesta. Mr. Podesta, welcome back to Meet The Press.

JOHN PODESTA:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Hillary Clinton has prepped for 38 debates since she first ran for office in 2000. How’s the preparation for this one different?

JOHN PODESTA:

Look, she takes the debate preparation very seriously, she respects the American public, she wants to tell them what she wants to do for them. I think for her, it's really about laying down the policies that she thinks will improve the economy, make it an economy that's working for everyone, not for just for people at the top. But she has a challenge because Donald Trump is--inveterately says things that aren't true, he comes in and Politifact rated him the liar of the year last year.

Just this week, The New York Times did a graphic of the 12 whoppers of the week. So she's got to be able to both make that positive case, but also, not let Donald Trump get away with what he's likely to do, which is to make stuff up.

CHUCK TODD:

It's clear that temperament, you believe, is his Achilles Heel. I want to play for you a montage of ads that you guys are running. Fourteen ads you guys have unveiled since August 1st. Thirteen of them have to do with Trump's temperament. Here's a little-- a sample.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FEMALE VOICE:

Donald Trump doesn't see people like me, he just sees disability.

MALE VOICE

How would you answer that father? What sacrifice have you made for your country?

DONALD TRUMP:

I think I've made a lot of sacrifices, built great structures, I've had tremendous success.

LINDSAY GRAHAM:

He's a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.

ANNOUNCER:

All it takes is one wrong move.

DONALD TRUMP:

I would bomb the beep out of them.

ANNOUNCER:

Just one.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

John Podesta, what if the Donald Trump you're portraying in these TV ads is not the Donald Trump that shows up onstage Monday night?

JOHN PODESTA:

Look, there is only one Donald Trump and I think he's run the race in a way that those ads I think fairly you know show. But I think, again, you showed an ad about disabilities. I think what Hillary wants to do is do what she did this week, which is tell that positive case about how we build an inclusive economy, make space for everyone.

Donald Trump will have to think about what he said in the past, his disparagement of that reporter that you saw--

CHUCK TODD:

Mmhmm.

JOHN PODESTA:

--on the screen with disabilities, going to have to think about the names he's called to--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

JOHN PODESTA:

--Gold Star families, to Mexicans, to Muslims. And you know, he may try to-- he's a good television performer, so he may try to adjust for that in the debate.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

JOHN PODESTA:

But the reality is, he's run his whole campaign that way.

CHUCK TODD:

Is your goal of this debate is to get under his skin? Is that why you gave Mark Cuban a ticket right in the front row?

JOHN PODESTA:

No, I think Mark Cuban is one of the business leaders who was never involved in partisan politics who's endorsed Hillary because he thinks she'll do better for the-- for the economy. I think that, you know, you saw his reaction, which is to do his favorite sport, which is to dive in the sewer and go for a swim.

But I think that, you know, we're looking forward to him, he's been a very strong surrogate for her, from the time he went to his hometown in Pittsburgh and gave her a full-throated endorsement that she'd be best for the economy.

CHUCK TODD:

You said-- you referred to diving into the sewer, so you believe that inviting Gennifer Flowers is diving into the sewer?

JOHN PODESTA:

Well, you know, look, I'll leave it to Mr. Trump to decide what he's going to do here tonight, but I think that, you know, and what he'll do tomorrow night. But I think that you know he is, he's kind of predictable; when you, when you poke him a little bit, he comes back and, and attacks whoever is doing it. That's you know that’s why he got in so much trouble when he attacked the Gold Star family, the Khan family after right after our convention. That's what he does, that's who he is, that's why he's dangerous and unpredictable.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, one of the things that Hillary Clinton has to try to do is restore this issue of trust with the voters. I want to play a debate clip from earlier this week. It was a Congressional debate that featured Charlie Crist, the former Republican Governor turned Democrat now in Florida. He was asked a question about supporting Hillary Clinton. Here's his answer and the reaction to his answer.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHARLIE CRIST:

The thing I like most about her is I believe that she is steady, I believe that she is strong. I believe that she is honest and I look forward to voting for her.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

It was when he says the word "honest," the crowd groans, you hear laughter. This issue of honest and trustworthiness, how much progress can she make Monday night on restoring some trust and how does she do it?

JOHN PODESTA:

Well, look, I think she has to talk directly to the American people about what she wants to do. You know, I think when you think about what's honest about her, it's that from the day she got, left law school, she has been a champion for women, for children, for families. She's done it all her life. She's gotten real results for people. In contrast, Donald Trump's been all about himself. But she's got to tell people what she wants to do for them.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

JOHN PODESTA:

And I think she can do that by looking directly at them and talking about a future that's going to be brighter, more optimistic and, you know, improving their lives.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, today's New York Times has an extensive report on the ties of Hillary Clinton to Goldman Sachs and it talks about various ways that they’ve been very close, whether it’s the paid speeches, whether it was supporting a philanthropic operation that Goldman Sachs did while she was at the State Department. Does this undermine Secretary Clinton's credibility that she can be tough on Wall Street, that she has so many close ties to one of Wall Street's biggest brands?

JOHN PODESTA:

No I thought that, you know that story was, again, it was a kind of false equivalency. What it said was that she supported a philanthropic program that gave 10,000 women entrepreneurs around the world a chance to get started. But what she's done is put forward what everyone has agreed, including The New York Times itself, is the most comprehensive program to regulate Wall Street.

In contrast, Donald Trump wants to wipe away Dodd-Frank, everything that's been done to make sure that Wall Street doesn't wreck Main Street again. What she wants to do--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

JOHN PODESTA:

--is make sure that there's no institution too big to fail and no individual too big to jail. So I think she will--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

JOHN PODESTA:

--she has pursued a very aggressive path on Wall Street.

CHUCK TODD:

John Podesta, Campaign Chair of the Clinton Campaign, thanks for your time this morning and sharing your views. Appreciate it.

JOHN PODESTA:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is retired General Michael Flynn, former director of The Defense Intelligence Agency and a top advisor to Donald Trump. He's also been in the room for some debate prep sessions. General Flynn, welcome back to the show, sir.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

Thanks, Chuck, thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with this, the public perception is that Donald Trump isn't doing the same type of preparation for this debate that Hillary Clinton is. I think Kellyanne Conway, the campaign manager, said he's not been locked up in a cabin for two weeks. Eric Trump, his son, has suggested that he doesn't need to be you know rehearsing flash cards. Are you concerned, though, that the preparation is enough?

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

Yeah, so a couple things, the very last thing that John Podesta just said is no individual too big to jail, that should include people like Hillary Clinton. I mean, five people around her have had, have been given immunity, to include her former Chief of Staff. When you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime. So you know, I don't know how he can sit there and say something like that with all the, the things that have been going around, just swirling around Hillary Clinton--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--with her email.

So in terms of preparation, to answer your question, Donald Trump has been preparing. And you know, it's like, where is Hillary Clinton this week? Donald Trump has been in Pennsylvania, he's been, he’s been in Florida, he's been in Ohio. I was with him last night in Virginia. He is out speaking to the American public, large groups, small groups. You know, it’s-- that's how he is bringing his message to the American public and that's why you're seeing this huge shift in the polls, this huge momentum shift.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

One of the things I think, Chuck, that you ought to do is not only talk about where the polls are today--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--but where they were maybe a week ago--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--or two weeks ago. Huge, huge shift. So it's really, I mean, the way we feel--

CHUCK TODD:Okay.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--the way I feel is that there is a huge shift in momentum. And the American public are starting to really wake up.

CHUCK TODD:

But are you, you are confident that he is going to be able to pass this Commander-in-Chief test? As you know, so many of your colleagues in the national security world, whether it's been former Pentagon staffers, former Bush Administration appointees, former foreign service, letter after letter, just hundreds of former national security professionals who say they cannot endorse Donald Trump. How does he convince a public that he is up to the job when so many folks who have worked closely with you, closely with others, believe he's unfit for the job?

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

Yeah. And there are hundreds, there are hundreds of people that have said just the opposite thing about Donald Trump's ability, you know, ability to be Commander-in-Chief, ability to be the President of the United States and kind of move this country forward in the right direction.

You know, a lot of those names on those lists, and I look very closely at these things, and some of the things that they say, they offer no solutions and these are people that represent the past. They represent so many of the failed policies and the, and the really, the, the stupid decisions that were made that have kept us in this perpetual conflict that we are in in the Middle East and places like Afghanistan.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

I mean, God, we have to cherish our military and our veterans, but I'm going to tell you, the decisions that put us there, many of those people that are on those lists, Chuck, are the ones that actually put us there.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I have to ask you this, you're a general, does he know more than you? He said he knew more than the generals when it comes to ISIS.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

Yeah, let me tell you, I have, I have been advising Donald Trump for over a year now, and he is a great listener. One of the things that he has and what we have in this country is we have a deficit of leadership. Donald Trump brings a strategic leadership, a sense of who we are as America and how do we make America first? How do we bring America forward? How do we improve our economy?

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

How do we improve our military?

So I mean, there are so many things that we have to gut-- we have to get fixed in our country right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

I mean, just look at what's going on in the current situation, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

General, let me, I want to follow up and stay on the debate here, in response to the invitation that Hillary Clinton made to Mark Cuban, Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that he has invited Gennifer Flowers to attend the debate. She has accepted the invitation. What can you tell about that invite? Should we expect to see her Monday night in the front row there?

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

Well, here's what I'll tell you about the, the debate. It's obviously going to be probably the most watched show in the--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--history of, of TV.

Donald Trump has been out speaking to the American public and they've been listening and they have been hearing and you said it right up front when you talked about this shift in the polls. The momentum is on Donald Trump's side and thank God for that, because we need a, we need a new direction in this country--

CHUCK TODD:

General, what about this--

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--there are so many things that are-- Go ahead.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you, can you confirm this Gennifer Flowers talk? That, that’s, that’s what the question was. Can you confirm? Has she been invited to do this and is it-- do you feel it's appropriate?

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

I would just, I would just go with what, what you, what you have seen and we'll wait to see what happens tomorrow night.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think it's appropriate?

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

I'm sorry?

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think it's appropriate to invite Gennifer Flowers to the debate?

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

Well, you know, is it appropriate, was it appropriate to invite Mark Cuban? I mean, you know I just heard what John Podesta said about Mark Cuban. I mean, he's not a-- he’s not a legitimate person. Why is he invited? I mean, I, you know, again, I would leave this tit-for-tat, you know, this is about the big issues that this country is worried about, I'm worried about, that's the reason why I'm sitting here this morning with you. I mean, our country needs to go in a, in a completely different direction. It is failing right now in many ways, in many places and--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--and we, we're struggling. The difference between the bubble of Washington, D.C.--

CHUCK TODD:

Alright.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--and the rest of America is such a vast, there's such a gap right now, Chuck, and--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--and people in this country want to see big leadership and that's what--

CHUCK TODD:

Well--

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

--Donald Trump provides.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we'll be watching tomorrow night. General Flynn, thanks for coming on, appreciate you sharing your views.

GENERAL MIKE FLYNN:

Thanks a lot. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Later, later in the broadcast, we'll go inside the debate prep war room. I'll talk to two campaign managers who have prepped candidates on how to get under the other candidate's skin. But when we come back--

(BEGIN TAPE)

TED CRUZ:

This man is a pathological liar, a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

What's really behind Ted Cruz's decision to endorse Donald Trump, after all? And to get you all psyched up for tomorrow night's big debate, we're going to be showing you some highlights from both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, debate moments that they've participated in, beginning with this scene from one of Clinton's 2008 debates with then Senator Barack Obama.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SCOTT SPRADLING:

What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight, who see your resume and like it, but are hesitating on the likeability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, that hurts my feelings.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is with us. Mike Murphy, who has advised John McCain, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and is doing something that very few people do, he launched a podcast, Radio Free GOP. Gwen Ifill, co-anchor of "The Newshour" on PBS, more podcasts coming from her, I'm sure. Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has a fantastic and long interview with President Obama in the new issue of Vanity Fair. And Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network.

Well, there's one topic, before we get to the debate, I want to spend a couple of minutes on the Ted Cruz News. As you know, this is what Ted Cruz said about Donald Trump, fiery Donald Trump in about three days before he dropped out. Here's a montage of it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TED CRUZ:

Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.

This man is a pathological liar.

A bully.

A narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Mike Murphy, he's now an endorser of Ted Cruz.

MIKE MURPHY:

I think the editors of Believe in Absolutely Nothing magazine have a new cover now. He made the big move at the convention, some people thought it was almost to the point of rudeness, but he clearly distanced from Trump. He claimed conservative principles, I think there's a case to make there. And now, threatened with a primary in Texas, excuse me, a 180. I think it looks very cynical.

CHUCK TODD:

Can he recover from this? Is he now just a portrait, Hugh, of a transactional politician? Because his chief Super PAC donors became Trump's chief donors, the Mercer family. Kellyanne Conway worked with the Mercer family on those Super PACS for Cruz, now she's with Donald Trump. You have people like Mike McCaul, a Congressman who was thinking about challenging Rick Perry. This feels like it was a move of political force.

HUGH HEWITT:

I have to disagree, I talked to the senator on Monday, I talked to his people yesterday. I disagree that he's in trouble in Texas. I think he got what he needed from Trump. And the big change, what wasn't a race is now a race. In August when you oppose Donald Trump at the convention, no one thinks he's going to be within ten points of Secretary Clinton. Now the Supreme Court is genuinely balanced.

If you look at the list that Mr. Trump released to add to the names, you'll see on there a very interesting name, Margaret Ryan, Judge Margaret Ryan of the Court of Appeals for Military Arms Services. She is a Ludwig clerk and a Thomas clerk and a Marine Corps Commandant A. She is a terrific judge, as were the other ones. I think Ted Cruz is playing to win the Supreme Court and I admire him for it.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Doris, the Supreme Court wasn't enough for him six weeks ago and it is now?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I think the problem is beware of ambition. You know, Teddy Roosevelt did almost the same thing in 1884. James Blaine, the continental liar from the State of Maine was the candidate and many good Republicans decided, "We can't go with him," they turned Democrat. He's promised to do it and then at the last minute he said, "I gotta go with my party."

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

He later said, "I betrayed myself, I will never do that again. He's betrayed the "never Trump" people and they were with him, they were with his principles and I wonder how he's going to feel about it himself.

CHUCK TODD:

Gwen, I got to put up this, there is a meme going around, Ted Cruz's favorite movie is "Princess Bride," he can quote from it.

GWEN IFILL:

Yeah, right.

CHUCK TODD:

Look at here, I won't do the accent, but my name is Rafael Eduardo Cruz, you insulted my wife and father, prepare to be endorsed.

GWEN IFILL:

I'll do the accent.

CHUCK TODD:

You can do the accent.

GWEN IFILL:

"Prepare to be endorsed." Well, you know, the thing is that I understand the Supreme Court thing and if that were true, and I understand that the better principles which he laid out, except they were all so not long ago. It wasn't that Donald Trump is no more likely to be President than he was when he was more likely to be nominee.

And so, Ted Cruz is playing a game for Ted Cruz, which obviously, maybe there's a "Dancing With the Stars" slot, we had Tom DeLay, we now have Rick Perry, maybe it's time for Ted Cruz, Texas politicians on dancing. But this wasn't even a dance. This was a capitulation. And I guess we'll see pretty clearly why, but I don't know that it changes votes.

CHUCK TODD:

Mike, you're a "never Trumper," you're in that world.

MIKE MURPHY:

Yeah, yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you feel betrayed?

MIKE MURPHY:

No, I've always thought Cruz is a cynic, but I think politically, this is worse for him than it would be for a normal politician, because Cruz has always presented himself as the one guy who is uncompromised by the ways of Washington, the one man against the machine, the creature of principle. And now, he seems like just another politician and that's kryptonite for him. I agree, the best argument is Supreme Court.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

MIKE MURPHY:

But where I, as a conservative, fall apart on the Supreme Court with Trump is it requires trusting Trump, and that's the bridge I can't cross.

CHUCK TODD:

And to do it before the debate. I have to say, Hugh, what if everything that Cruz said about Trump in May comes true tomorrow night?

HUGH HEWITT:

I just have to disagree with everyone, the difference is that Trump was not viable in July. He is not only viable, he is ahead now and so--

CHUCK TODD:

You're making the political argument here. You’re basically saying that Ted Cruz--

HUGH HEWITT:

I can now say the Supreme Court, because a justice appointed by Secretary Clinton will change the court in ways profound that will last for 40 years. Ted Cruz is a constitutional scholar, he is a Ludwig clerk, he is a genuine originalist and he knows that that list and the originalist are good lists.

GWEN IFILL:

But do you agree, Hugh, that this is not about whether the Supreme Court so much, as to whether Ted Cruz can survive? We're sitting here talking about him Sunday morning, that wasn't going to happen otherwise..

HUGH HEWITT:

He will win a primary in Texas easily, I would bet everything, I will defer to Mike on that. I think he would crush Mike McCaul if Mike McCaul runs against him.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

But I agree with you, just being back in the air again, if you're a politician and you haven't been listened to for a while, how fun to be back in the air.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, I don’t know.

MIKE MURPHY:

Watch that primary, I'm not sure. There's the potential for a great primary there, we'll see.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to pause the conversation here, we got a lot more to go, both on the debate and the other big story of the week. Later in the show, we're going to talk about the police shooting in North Carolina.

(BEGIN TAPE)

WIFE OF KEITH LAMONT SCOTT:

Don't shoot him, he has no weapon. He has no weapon.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Plus, the shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the question everyone is asking: What can we do to stop this from happening?

But when we come back, inside the War Room, what really goes on in those debate prep sessions? I'll talk to two debate insiders who have been in those sessions and have prepped Presidential candidates for these big moments. And as we go to break, here's a memorable Donald Trump debate moment from earlier this primary season.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Let's see, I'm at 42 and you're at three, so so far, I'm doing better.

JEB BUSH:

Doesn't matter, doesn't matter.

DONALD TRUMP:

So far, I'm doing better. You know, you started off over here, Jeb, you're moving over further and further, pretty soon you're going to be off the end.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, everyone has been speculating about whether Donald Trump can be, quote, "Presidential" tomorrow or whether Hillary Clinton can be more likeable and avoid being too lawyer-ly. Well, joining me now are two people who have been in those debate war rooms before and have faced what Donald Rumsfeld might have called "the known knowns, the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns."

Steve Schmidt was a major player in President George W. Bush's reelection in 2004 and was a senior advisor for John McCain in 2008. Stephanie Cutter was the Deputy Campaign Manager for President Obama's reelection in 2012 and was part of the debate preparation process for John Kerry in 2004. Welcome to you both. Stephanie Cutter, let me start with you and the idea of gamesmanship, which is the Clinton Campaign deciding to put Mark Cuban in the front row.

Obviously, the Donald Trump campaign may or may not be following through with Trump's pledge to bring Gennifer Flowers, there's some question here. My guess is others are trying to talk him out of it. But you guys did this in '04. Give an example of gamesmanship that you did.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, I seem to recall that we had some 9/11 widows in the audience in 2004 just to make the point that we had a lot of work to do to get back on track in Afghanistan and Iraq took us off course. And Iraq took us off course because of Bush not telling the truth about weapons of mass destruction.

What Clinton and Trump are doing are trying to throw each other off their game. The difference is Hillary Clinton is doing it with a legitimate businessman, also, a celebrity. And as John Podesta put it earlier on your show, Trump is just jumping right down in the sewer and swimming in it by inviting Gennifer Flowers. I think part of what you want to do in putting somebody in the audience is to reinforce a positive about your campaign or make a legitimate point about your opponents. What he's doing is not going to help him.

CHUCK TODD:

Steve Schmidt, it would have made more sense to me had Trump responded with bring a grieving mother of one of the Benghazi grieving family members, that seems to be- would have been the counter that would have made policy sense.

STEVE SCHMIDT:

Well, you just saw the effectiveness of the tactic. It was clearly designed to provoke Donald Trump and it provoked Donald Trump, it provoked Donald Trump into going down the Gennifer Flowers rabbit hole, as opposed to doing what you're suggesting, Chuck. And tomorrow, one of the big tasks that Donald Trump has on this debate stage, can be comport himself like an American President should comport himself?

Is he going to be able to be seen by the American people as a plausible Commander-in-Chief, somebody who could address the nation in a crisis? And I think she's going to try to push his buttons all through this debate and get a volcanic eruption, like you saw throughout the primary debates.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to talk about the importance of mock debates. I'll start with you. You guys used Rob Portman in 2008 for John McCain to stand in there for President Obama, how important did you find the mock debate for John McCain? And I think if I remember, there was some concern that President Bush didn't do enough preparation before the first debate in '04?

STEVE SCHMIDT:

Look, I think that if you look at incumbent Presidents of the United States, you saw this with President Bush in a poor debate performance in 2004, you saw it with President Obama with a poor debate performance in 2012, it's hard to tell the incumbent President of the United States, "Time to practice," and they pay for it when they don't.

Rob Portman was spectacular in these debate preps and it was a real wide fire scenario for the candidates. He was exquisitely prepared, he was tough and he gave a very accurate, precise preview of what was coming at John McCain. And there's no question that John McCain's performances were better because of the preparation he went through with Rob Portman.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, and Stephanie, I know you guys used John Kerry as the stand-in for Mitt Romney. The importance, I guess, we know how it's Philippe Reines. Many reporters know a long-time sort of spokesperson for Hillary Clinton, he's playing Donald Trump. It's interesting, I guess the idea was to find somebody that could be snarky enough and would feel comfortable going after Hillary Clinton in a small room.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, that's certainly Philippe. He will know how to push her buttons. And I think it was a brilliant choice. You know, what you want to do in these prep sessions is role play every potential scenario, so that you have a good understanding of how your candidate is going to react and whether they can keep their cool when they have the right judgment to go on attack or they're keeping in mind their larger vision that they need to communicate to the American people.

And I think Phillippe testing Secretary Clinton's limits is very important because we don't know, you know, no one’s ever debated somebody like Donald Trump on a Presidential debate stage. We don't know exactly who's showing up.

CHUCK TODD:

Final question for both of you, part of the debate prep process isn't just prepping the candidate, but it's also, you've got to prep for the post-spin game. And this is-- every cycle it gets faster and faster and the way the debate gets perceived is-- suddenly goes faster and faster. Stephanie Cutter, what did you learn right and wrong from 2012 about the necessity of being prepared for that?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, we were prepared, but we were prepared as if were in a 2008 campaign instead of 2012. What we hadn't realized is what a powerful tool Twitter was going to be in defining the narrative of that. And we could see the narrative being set in the first 15 minutes of that debate.

Now who knows what's going to happen this year in 2016? Because every year, it's a different format, it's a different technology. But you have to understand how people communicate and how quickly narratives can get set. By the time you get out in the spin room, it's done.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Steve Schmidt, what's harder these days, preparing for the debate or preparing for the post-debate fallout?

STEVE SCHMIDT:

Look, I think, Chuck, when you go into these spin rooms after, I think they're a quaint tradition of days past. Look, the verdict of what happened in this debate will be rendered by the middle of the debate, certainly by the end, by social media and the ability of, you know, campaign teams to come out to be able to tell the American people, "Here's what really happened when 80 million plus people just saw it."

Just those days are gone. What the campaigns need to do here is to communicate clearly, what's their objective? What are they trying to accomplish? Managing the expectations on the front side of it is much more important.

CHUCK TODD:

Yep, all right, Steve Schmidt, Stephanie Cutter. All right, we're beginning the longest pre game I guess you could have for a debate and we're doing in the day before. Anyway, thank you both. We'll be back in a moment with one group Donald Trump needs help with and it's not the voting groups you might think.

(BEGIN TAPE)

RICK LAZIO:

I'm not asking you to admire it, I'm asking you to sign it.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, I would be happy to when you give me the signed letter--

RICK LAZIO:

Right here, sign it right now.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, we'll shake on this, Rick.

RICK LAZIO:

No, I want your signature because I think everybody wants you to see you signing something that you said you were for.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. It’s Data Download time. And we’re asking the question, what would it take for Donald Trump to win the presidency? Well, Hillary Clinton has substantial leads among African Americans and Hispanics. This is all from our latest NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll. So, Trump needs to run up the score with white voters. So let’s look at some of the key demographic breakdowns within the white vote.

Among whites without a college education, Trump’s biggest strength, he’s up 26 points. That’s not bad. Except Romney won that group by a similar margin in 2012. It may not be enough. Here’s why.

Trump’s bigger challenge is among college-educated white voters. In fact, Clinton is up 8 points among white women who went to college. Romney won this group 4 years ago. And here’s what’s really striking in our new poll. Clinton is up 1 point among college-educated white men. This is a group that Mitt Romney won by a whopping 21 points 4 years ago.

All told, Clinton leads him among college-educated white voters by 5 points. A group Mitt Romney won by 14 points.

So overall, Trump is only leading Clinton by 11 points among all white voters. This will pose a major challenge for Donald Trump. Mitt Romney won these voters by a 20 point margin 4 years ago. And remember, whites are still the biggest part of the electorate. So, that 9 point difference is enormous.

This is the problem for Trump. He has to do much better than Mitt Romney somewhere to win because Romney lost in 2012. It’s not going to happen with African Americans. It’s not going to happen with Latinos. And if it’s not going to happen with young voters it’s got to happen some place. The one place it’s got to happen for him is the white vote. And Romney won the biggest part of the white votes since 1988 and he still lost.Clinton has her own struggles but it’s hard to see a path to a presidency for Trump if he doesn’t dramatically improve somewhere. Particularly with college educated whites.

Coming up, some debate moments we remember, but I’m sure the candidates would like to forget.

RICK PERRY:

Let’s see, I can’t. The third one. So, oops.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It was a week in America that saw two black men in two different cities shot and killed by police officers. In Charlotte, North Carolina protests continued well into the night. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a more subdued scene, but no less grief-stricken. Meanwhile the national debate has taken off. Of course it all started with Colin Kaepernick in August with a singular protest when it comes to racial justice -- injustice. And now athletes from different teams across the NFL have joined him. To the WNBA where there have been protests for some time now. They’ve all joined Kaepernick in protesting during the national anthem. And look at this on Friday night at an SMU football game, marching band members knelt while playing the national anthem. A high school football team in Oakland laid on their backs with their hands up. By the way, Colin Kaepernick himself taking a knee beside that team. All against the backdrop of the grand opening of the new Smithsonian museum dedicated to African American history and culture here in Washington where President Obama referenced the tumult of the last few years.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

Men can proudly win the gold for their country but still insist on raising a black-gloved fist. How we can wear an “I can’t breath” t-shirt and still grieve for fallen police officers.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

It’s been tough. It’s probably going to be part of the debate. I want to read something that Charles Ramsey, former police commissioner both in Philadelphia and DC wrote today: “Police officers carry a lot of baggage. They have not always been on the right side of justice as we define justice today. In some cases they were enforcing unjust laws of a different era. When I went into the Chicago police department in the late 60s it wasn’t the most popular thing a young black kid could do. There are consequences to that difficult history that will take time to repair. But this challenging moment is also a tremendous opportunity to make real improvements. I hope none of us squander it.” Gwen Ifill, I read this Op-Ed this morning from Charles Ramsey and I felt like he was almost throwing up his hands in frustration because it doesn’t feel like a solution is in sight.

GWEN IFILL: It’s not despair as much as it’s this amazing dichotomy of this week. We had the president yesterday at the National Museum of African American history and culture, an amazing place. If you go inside you will see they have more than life-sized statues of the three athletes in the Olympics who raised their fists during the playing of the anthem. Yesterday when the anthem was played -- the national anthem was played at the beginning of the ceremony and the black national anthem was played at the end. But at the beginning, the emotion of the people in that audience, mostly black, singing full throated-ly reminded me of one of the things that are true in this country which is that we want to, we aspire to, we hope to make it a better union. And yet we see the clash, the hopefulness of that beautiful museum put up against what we’ve seen happen in the streets the conflict of what happened in Tulsa which was mostly a peaceful response and how it was handled in Charlotte where there was not a peaceful response having to do with transparency in both cases.

CHUCK TODD:

It is and Doris, it does, I just feel like you watch -- even Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump they both had I don’t want uneven reactions to it but it was almost like they don’t know how to respond anymore because the solution, we all kind of know what it is but it’s not happening yet or it doesn’t feel like it’s happening.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN

Yeah but things are happening. I mean, it seems to when Donald Trump said to the African American communities: “You’re living in the worst times ever, ever. It’s never been this bad.” That’s what the museum shows is not true. The bottom of that museum shows blacks in the slave pens. It shows them under Jim Crow. It shows them making uplift. We’ve made enormous progress. And even in the police situation there are some best practices in some of the cities. In Tulsa, they did a better job in part because they had a riot there in 1921, they’ve learned from their mistakes. So I think we can’t have a sense of despair. Yes, for many people still living in the inner city it doesn’t seem like much has changed but it certainly has compared to where we were 120, 130, 40 years ago.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, his transparency issue though, Hugh, you can see the Charlotte police chief has been grappling with this. On one hand the investigation, but they didn’t release the full video and so it didn’t erase the skepticism.

HUGH HEWITT

No and it won’t be gone for a long time. I think it’s unfortunate that we’re not spending more time on the first lady embracing the former President yesterday and we are spending more time on transparency as we have to. I think that for many in the country that’s all one event. Charlotte, Tulsa and the presidential race and the national anthem are all one event. But for a lot of the country the national anthem is a different event. And I would recommend Ross Douthat’s column this week: Hillary Clinton’s Samantha Bee problem. A lot of people are feeling suffocated by the cultural left and they don’t associate it with race, they associate it with being overwhelmed by change. And I think it’s the most important column that’s been written this week.

GWEN IFILL:

I saw that picture of the first lady.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to put it up. I have a --

GWEN IFILL:

And let me just say I watched it. She and George W. Bush --

CHUCK TODD: Let’s put it up.

GWEN IFILL:

-- get along really well. We’ve seen this at other events where they’re basically holding hands and ignoring their spouses so that wasn’t a moment of racial reconciliation, that was two people who like each other.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

But you know what was? The fact that President Bush signed this legislation, that Senator Brownback from Kansas, a republican, worked on it with a democrat

GWEN IFILL:

To create the museum.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

-- to create the museum, that's the kind of thing we should be celebrating. And this is a great moment, this triumph.

MIKE MURPHY:

This is political leaders doing what they're supposed to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

MIKE MURPHY:

And one of the reasons I'm in the awkward position of being a republican who can't support the nominee of my party is he's been in the code language business for a long time, sometimes even pretty explicitly, bringing those tensions forward, under the guise of all that's politically correct -- well politically incorrect. Politically incorrect is a politically correct way to say things in our dialogue that maybe don't belong there. And so, I think this is -- imitation of this sort of thing can do a lot.

CHUCK TODD:

That photo, Gwen, it struck me. And I've been thinking about this. A President Trump, what happens at the unveiling of President Obama's photo? What happens? There are moments when you have to work with ex-presidents and I just -- that’s a hard thing.

GWEN IFILL:

I spent a lot of time yesterday watching the speeches being delivered and trying to imagine different people, not just Donald Trump, but also, Hillary Clinton in that position. I couldn't quite do it. But your numbers, your numbers you just showed in a data download about who he needs to win over to me explain a lot of what we've seen with Donald Trump for the last couple weeks, going to black churches, but speaking to white audiences, literally in the room, but also more broadly.

He and his people have come to realize that the way that you get those voters he is not doing as well with as Romney did is you show some sense of tolerance. And that's who he's really speaking to. When people say he's speaking to black voters, that's no.

CHUCK TODD:

No, that's clear. All right, let me pause this. We'll be back in 45 seconds, a little "Endgame" segment and have a little fun here. Those unfortunate debate moments that just make you do this. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with our Endgame segment. We don’t live in a bubble here on TV. We’re not the only show on television on a Sunday morning

GWEN IFILL:

What?

CHUCK TODD:

I was shocked myself. But apparently on another program both Kellyanne Conway and Mike Pence have said Gennifer Flowers in not coming to the debate. Mike Murphy, this seems to be a classic protect Trump from Trump moment.

MIKE MURPHY:

Yeah, the problem is that Trump breaks out of the cage. So, three hours from now, what will he tweet? We will see what happens. There is not a traditional Trump campaign. There are people floating around Donald Trump. I think the bottom line of the debate will be, he will start out sedated, maybe for real, but the real Trump, just like the tweet with Flowers will break out.

CHUCK TODD:

Hey Doris do you think Hillary Clinton has made this race too much about Donald Trump? Trying to hard to make this about Donald Trump? Because I sit there and say, ‘What if Donald Trump is not the caricature?’ The question I asked to Podesta.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I think the most important thing for her tomorrow is to not necessarily deal with Trump unless she has to as a counterattack.

CHUCK TODD:

You would avoid it.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I think what she needs to do is, it’s interesting to go back to that likability thing. Likeability shouldn’t be what we’re voting on and yet it matters. It’s a reservoir of good feeling. That’s why the phrase for Eisenhower was ‘I like Ike, cause Ike is easy to like.”

I think if she can own the email scandal and talk about how she wishes she could turn the clock back. Not simply on the email thing but in the future. If she makes mistakes, all Presidents will, all possibilities will, ‘I will then own it right away. I will be more transparent. I will be more forthright.’

If she could do that, just like she answered that likability thing, ‘well it hurts my feelings.’ Show that it's affected her emotionally. Then I think that’s what---She’s gonna be relaxed, she’s gonna know more than he is. She’s gotta show confidence. Her body language shouldn’t let him get under her skin because she should be above that.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, we have you on because you have made both a James Blaine reference and had the campaign song and Ike. This is why we have the notorious DKG--

GWEN IFILL:

She sang, and I did the accent.

CHUCK TODD:

Of course. Hugh Hewitt, is this going to be where issues are secondary in this debate?

HUGH HEWITT:

Oh I think so--

CHUCK TODD:

Because they disagree on a lot--

HUGH HEWITT:

I don’t think issues matter. There are two archetypes on this stage. There is the smartest, toughest teacher in the high school, teaches AP Physics, Hillary Clinton, maybe she spends too much time writing recommendations for the smartest kids and there's the football coach who wins, wins, wins and steps on people's toes. And never the two shall cross in the hallway or like each other.

And I think, and Professor Kearns worked for Johnson at the age of 24, I worked for Nixon at the age of 24, I think Secretary Clinton has a Nixon problem. I think she is unlikable over a generation for some people.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, good news for her, though, Nixon won twice, by the way. By the way, I hear you.

MIKE MURPHY:

The real story of this debate, I think, from Hillary's point of view is less dealing with Trump's antics, so that will be very important, but can she fix Hillary? Because what all this tight polling shows is she under performing the votes she ought to have. And May-- and October don’t forget, she's got to connect to people, she's gonna have the audience and the moment to do it and Trump, well, an important side show is a side show, it's about her.

CHUCK TODD:

I have not wanted to mention the "M" word on this broadcast, which is moderator. But Gwen, you have done it.

GWEN IFILL:The “M” word--

CHUCK TODD:

You have done it, you have done it here. It is amazing to me how hard the campaigns are working the refs--

GWEN IFILL:It’s, well, it’s not amazing--

CHUCK TODD:

I know, but some of it has been destructive.

GWEN IFILL:

Well, it has been and they worked me when I moderated, you remember this. But here's the thing, people need to understand the difference between general election debates. Moderators don't matter that much, except the candidates try to get in your head. If you're a pro, Lester's a pro, not going to happen.

Here's the real key, which is Hillary Clinton is the only person that's done one-on-one debates. She did it with Bernie Sanders, she did it when she was running for Senate, she's the only one who has been onstage alone with someone else. Donald Trump, whenever he did his, like, calling people names, there were 10 other people on the stage, 15 other people on the stage. It's a different thing.

There won't be cheering, at least the commission doesn't approve of cheering in a general election debate, like there are in primary debates. So I think we may have our popcorn and we may be watching very closely, but I don't think it's going to be quite the debate that people are coming to expect.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, speaking of popcorn and a little bit of candy, here's a little candy for everybody. A little reminder that one reason these debates are so very big is because they can go so very wrong.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JAMES STOCKDALE:

Who am I? Why am I here?

RICK PERRY:

Commerce, Education and the, what's the third one there? Let's see.

GEORGE W. BUSH:

The Vice President doesn't believe in expiration, for example, in Alaska.

GERALD FORD:

There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration.

RICK PERRY:

Commerce, Education and the um, ah--

MARCO RUBIO:

And let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing, he knows exactly what he's doing.

And I would add this, let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing, he knows exactly what he's doing.

Bottom line, this notion that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing is just not true.

CHRIS CHRISTIE:

There it is. There it is.

MARCO RUBIO:

He knows exactly what he’s doing.

CHRIS CHRISTIE:

A memorized 25-second speech.

MARCO RUBIO:

That’s the reason why--

CHRIS CHRISTIE:

There it is everybody!

MARCO RUBIO:

This campaign is so important.

GEORGE W. BUSH:

I've had a record of appointing judges in the State of Texas, that's what a Governor gets to do.

RICK PERRY:

Commerce and let's see, I can't. The third one I can't, sorry.

GEORGE W. BUSH:

Here's differences.

RICK PERRY:Oops.

(END TAPE)

GWEN IFILL:

Very funny.

CHUCK TODD:

Look at this you guys have like, lost it. When I got Doris Kearns Goodwin, I was going to go to you and you can't talk.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I'm finished.

CHUCK TODD:

You're out.

GWEN IFILL:

That’s how you end up on "Dancing With the Stars."

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, the sigh thing is a reminder: None of us picked up on the sighs in that room. A lot of people thought Gore trounced Bush in that debate.

GWEN IFILL:

Right, right.

CHUCK TODD:

And it turns out the audience was offended by Gore.

GWEN IFILL:

You know what? I sat on the stage when Sarah Palin walked out and said, "Can I call you Joe?" I never heard her say it. When you're the moderator, you're in your head and you didn't know it, but that was what started that whole debate.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, before we go, a quick programming note, in case you missed the point, there's a debate tomorrow night. NBC News will provide full coverage beginning at 9:00 Eastern, other networks claim they're airing it, I know we are, that I promise you.

GWEN IFILL:

We're airing it on PBS.

CHUCK TODD:

Ahhh. That's all for today. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it’s Meet The Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *