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Meet the Press Transcript - August 17, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, AUGUST 17, 2014

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Next on Meet the Press, the racial divide in America. New developments this morning at the slaying of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer turns a Saint Louis suburb into a combat zone. The search for answers in the national debate over race and policing. It prompted President Obama to weigh in once again. I'll be joined by the governor of Missouri, and key voices from law enforcement and the political world.

And taking on the ISIS threat, to President Obama's refusal to intervene in Syria, new attempts to stop the terrorism from taking hold in Iraq. And why? And just how deep is the rift between Hillary Clinton and the president on the United States of force in the Middle East? Plus, the memory of a comic genius, as the world mourns the death of Robin Williams. Our Harry Smith has an insightful interview with Barry Levinson, director of Williams' breakout movie, Good Morning, Vietnam.

ANNOUNCER:

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

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Good morning. A state of emergency is now in effect in Ferguson, Missouri, after another night marred by clashes between protesters and police. A group of protesters defying a new overnight curfew were met by the continued, massive, military-style police response, with armored vehicle, tear gas, and smoke bombs.

Seven people were arrested for violating the curfew, one person was hurt in an unrelated shooting. And more controversy Friday as Ferguson Police released the name of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown. The release was accompanied by a surveillance tape the police say linked Brown to a convenience store robbery.

But then Ferguson's police chief issued conflicting statements as, "To whether the confrontation between Brown and Wilson wouldn't have been related to the robbery." And adding to the confusion and anger of protesters. No details about the exact circumstances still of the shooting of Michael Brown have been released.

I'm joined now by the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon. Governor, thank you very much for being with us. Tell me, why has a full week elapsed, and we still do not know anything? The public wants answers to what happened between Michael Brown and the white officer who shot and killed him?

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON:

Well, it's been a challenge week with the horrific death of Michael Brown, shot down in the streets of his home town and the appropriate energy and acts that everyone's had around there. I think with the dual investigations going on right now with the justice department and with the local prosecutor, and I'm especially appreciative.

After talking to General Holder, I appreciated them sending in 40 additional F.B.I. agents to make sure that they're moving to get a thorough investigation, to get justice here. And I appreciate their response and that energy to make sure that they get this right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But why is it taking so long? And you also have a county prosecutor who many say has a conflict of interest here, because he said that he disagrees strongly with your decisions in bringing the county police. He called it shameful, saying that that was in fact an illegal decision. So how is he the person that would be trusted by this very angry and eventful community to come with answers that are credible?

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON:

Well, he's a seasoned prosecutor that has an opportunity to step up here and do his job. And also though, when you see a dual investigation going on, and the resources of the Justice Department, an F.B.I. agent's out working in the community yet again yesterday, 40 additional officers, I think that having those dual investigations will help guarantee that this gets done in a timely fashion. That it's done thoroughly, and that it gets justice.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Isn't it more important to get answers, correct answers, and answers to the public? What of the timely investigation? What is taking so long about telling the people what happened to Michael Brown?

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON:

It's been a week, and it's a been a very long week. And late in the week, when we saw the additional militarization of the police response there and the security side, I had to take an unprecedented action, which was to replace and bring in our highway patrol to lead that. I think that that has made a big difference. You saw that first night, very much peace.

Second night, until late in night, there was peace. And last night, I think the vast majority of local citizens, the local elected officials and others called on me to put a curfew in place, so there'll be guaranteed peace late last night. And of the thousands of protesters and the community members out there, I think they made a difference. In order to get justice, we need peace. Those are both intertwined here. And we look forward to keeping the peace and getting justice.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, governor, there was peace. There was peace on Thursday night after you appointed the county police to come in and take over. The state police, rather, their takeover from the county. But then the local police chief who released that video, what justifies releasing the video about the convenience store, while there's still no details about what happened with the shooting itself? That is what caused everything to erupt again on Friday night and eventually led to the curfew having to be imposed.

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON:

Yeah, we and our security team and the highway patrol did not know that was going to be released. I don't think the attorney general knew that. And quite frankly, we disagree deeply I think for two reasons. Number one, to attempt to in essence disparage the character of this victim, in the middle of a process like this is not right. It's just not right. And secondarily, it did put the community and quite frankly the region and the nation on alert again. These are old wounds. These are deep wounds in these communities. And that action was not helpful.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, should the police chiefs, Chief Jackson then be fired or have to step down?

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON:

We've moved the highway patrol in to manage security. The Justice Department and the detectives in Saint Louis are doing the investigation. So he--

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But he's still, with all due respect governor, he's still doing things, like releasing that video, without even reporting to the state police captain, Captain Johnson, who's supposed to be in charge.

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON:

Yeah. Everyone can rest well assured that we've had very serious discussions about that action and how much we felt that it was not the right way to handle the victim's family, which I had a chance to speak with. They were deeply troubled. And when you see your son gunned down in the street and then you see a police chief begin an attempt to attack his character.

That's just not the way to operate. And we've made that clear to everyone. And our hope and expectation is that now that our folks are in charge of security, and we have these dual investigations going on, that, that bump is behind us, hopefully.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, governor--

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON:

But the wounds are very real.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, governor, I know that when you say that you were doing a lot of things behind the scenes, but why did it take you till Friday to get to Ferguson, what they call ground zero? And when did you first hear from the president about all this?

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON:

I've been involved all week. I've been having meetings and phone calls and meeting with local officials, been here a number of times. And once again, yesterday in the morning conference call with local officials have asked me to put a curfew in place, to make sure that we have safety as well as peace, so that this community could be safe.

So we've been here all week. I've been here most of the days. And I talked to the president in the middle part of the week. I talked to General Holder at some length later in the week, and I appreciate deeply, and actually that conversation, General Holder and the F.B.I. sending 40 additional F.B.I. officers in to make sure they're getting a thorough but timely investigation here. And I think that's helping.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Thank you so much, Governor Nixon, from Missouri. While the events in Ferguson this week have certainly shocked the nation, focusing renewed attention on the nation's disparity that still exists in our justice system. Our Kevin Tibbles takes a closer look at that situation.

(BEGIN TAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES:

A week of unrest and racial tension. In today's America, black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men. Prison sentences for black men are 20% longer than those for whites convicted of the same crime. And on average, 100 black people are killed each year by white police officers.

JAMES CLARK:

They had to get America's attention. They had to get America to take notice of their pain.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

James Clark is a Saint Louis community activist who says he sees the disparity every day.

JAMES CLARK:

Crimes is going up. The perpetrators are now getting younger and younger. And there is a fundamental reason why, because they're living in subcultures that mainstream, would rather act like it doesn't exist.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

But they do exist. And some maintain there are two Americas, one white, one black. And they are not equal. Greg Howard is a columnist who was so outraged, he wrote an essay entitled America is Not For Black People.

GREG HOWARD:

We’re seeing so many black men killed by police officers because police officers don't value black men's life as they do that of white people. It's physically easier for a police officer to weigh what a black man's life is worth and to end up feeling what he's justified in pulling the trigger.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Heather McDonald strongly disagrees.

HEATHER MCDONALD:

I stand the opposite. The criminology profession has been trying for decades to prove that the over-representation of blacks in prison or in arrest statistic is a result of criminal justice racism. It is black crime rates that predict the presence of blacks in the criminal justice system. Not some miscarriage of justice.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Still, in Ferguson, as in many other impoverished urban communities, the authorities are often seen as the enemy.

JAMES CLARK:

After the cameras leave, and after young Michael is buried, if we don't reach into the neighborhoods, they'll become more bold. They'll become much more brazen.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

The death of a young man in suburban Saint Louis resonates across the nation. But will it encourage solutions or create further division? For Meet the Press, Kevin Tibbles.

(END TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And to discuss the broader meaning of Ferguson for the rest of the country, I'm joined by Wesley Lowery, he's been covering this story for The Washington Post. He had his own encounter with Ferguson police that he shot on tape. He was arrested and released without being charged there on Wednesday.

And also here is Gilbert Bailon, editor of The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore, Charles Ogletree, professor at Harvard Law School, and founder of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. And from Los Angeles, Bernard Parks, former chief of the L.A. Police Department, now a member of the Los Angeles City Council. Welcome all. Wesley, first to you. You were on the streets that awful night and all week really. What has been the response now to the local police and the curfew as the state police have taken over?

WESLEY LOWERY:

Unfortunately, I think we've seen a lot of community leaders and members, protesters, organizers, who really tried to abide by the curfew. And I was talking to people getting on the plane on the way up here as well, I was talking to reporters who were still on the ground.

The community wanted to respect this curfew, by large. There was certainly a group of people who stayed past the curfew, protesters, and also what it sounds like, some people who were looking for trouble. We have a real anger on the ground here.

And we have not just an anger in the protesters and the residents, but also people who are seeing this as an opportunity to come into Ferguson, from outside of Ferguson, either opportunistically, to cause trouble, but also as a way of saying, "This is a way of having the same voice. That this protest is happening here, these clashes are happening here. So maybe I don't live here in Ferguson, I live in a separate suburb, but I can now come here and express my voice." And there were chants of, "We have the right to peacefully assemble," back at the police after they said, "You're violating the curfew."

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Gilbert Bailon, the back story here is there are 90 municipalities around Saint Louis, there is a deep racial divide, there's a history of police harassment. And you've got a police team here led by a chief who released that video about the convenience store without telling any of his then superiors. And you've got three black officers and 50 white officers with a town that is 67% African American.

GILBERT BAILON:

Well, it's interesting to know the history of this town. This town's been incorporated for more than a hundred years. It has historic areas. And people have been beginning to change in the last few decades. The African American population grew. What has not grown with that is the political representation, the economic opportunity.

They feel very isolated. And additionally, a deep mistrust for the police there. We have a story today in the apartment complexes where this happened, that people report being harassed, being profiled, being asked questions about why they're even in the neighborhood. So that's their feeling.

The police, on the other hand, will say there's a crime problem in this area, and we have to enforce it to keep the public safety. So that's the clash we have on there. This is not unique to Ferguson. I think many, many cities in our region and many cities throughout the country have similar issues.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But a lot of people, Mayor, were shocked by the militarizationthat we saw on Wednesday night. And we've seen this started in 1996 and 1997 as an anti-drug war component. But then it became armored vehicle, the kind of surplus defense vehicles. I think more than $60 million in the last five years was spent in the Saint Louis area alone. Does Baltimore have the same kind of equipment? And who decides when it gets used?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE:

Well, we have some equipment that is used for emergencies, and emergency preparedness. And up and down the East Coast, especially after 9/11, our region has armed ourselves for that type of emergency. It's very unusual that it would be used against your own citizens. So I don't understand that decision.

There's a sacred bond that the police have with the community. And when it's broken, it has ripple effects in that community and across the country. People don't want their military equipment being used on them when they're just voicing their opinion. So you have to be very careful.

We had the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Baltimore is one of the only cities that was able to break up that encampment without any arrests, or any problems because we were very judicious in the use for force. You have to be. You don't get do-overs with things like that.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Stephanie, your city is 63% African American, yet your police and fire departments don't fully reflect that racial background. You have tried to have more community policing, tried to do something with hiring promotions. We talked about this this week, but it still hasn't worked.

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE:

Well, we're determined to get it right. The issue of you can't do the same thing that you did year after year, knowing that you have a chip in the demographics and expect things to happen differently. We are doing things differently in the fire department, in the police department. We have members of the community who are now part of the panel when we are putting police officers up for promotion.

So the community has a voice in who responds, who are the first responders in their community. You have to do it on a consistent basis. You can't just show up after something that's happened and think that you're going to have that level of trust that is necessary in a crisis.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Charles Ogletree, we've seen some interesting and diverse races around the nation this week. One leading Republican, who may well be running for president, Rand Paul wrote, "Coupling the militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury, we begin to have a very serious problem. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them." Speak to that.

CHARLES OGLETREE:

I think Rand Paul is telling the truth. And I'm glad that the Republican is saying that. I think people are going to really understand that this is a problem. And what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri, is now like any other city. It's never going to change. The conflict between African Americans who are arrested too often, too young, too many times by white police officers, and this is a predominantly black community.

And you have these white officers who don't live there, who aren't a part of the community, who don't know the community, and yet they're given all the power to make things happen. We need to have a change in that sense right now. And I'll tell you what, people think that three days of rioting is the end of it in Ferguson, Missouri. It's just starting.

The people are upset, they're frustrated, they want to take their city back, they don't like the way the young black men are being stopped and killed. How many people have to bury young people for people to understand that something is wrong in Ferguson, Missouri? And I think we have to change that right now.

We have to change that urgently. The governor, the mayor, everybody involved, and I appreciate the fact that the federal government is involved in it, with President Obama and with the Attorney General Eric Holder. But we need a lot more to happen, a lot more to get going.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, and in fact, I think with a 67% African American community here, Wesley, and 83% is the arrest rate and incarceration rate is 93% African American.

WESLEY LOWERY:

That's exactly right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And so they're targeting. Bernard Parks, you were a police chief in a very complicated place, Los Angeles. And now a member of the city council. The disengagement in Ferguson is extraordinary. It's not just the police department that's virtually all white, it's the city council and the school board. They're not electing people who represent them ethnically or racially.

BERNARD PARKS:

I think it's very important as we watch the coverage of this incident, because we've not heard, in my judgement, heard one word from the mayor or the city council members. You hear from the governor, you hear from the highway patrol, you hear from the Saint Louis County Police. And I think one of the issues that is going to have to be addressed, what is the recovery plan for this city?

When is the Ferguson police going to get reintroduced to the community so where they can begin to work in a relationship? When is the community, in addition to raising their hands as to a protest, become activists and that energy goes into elections and voting so they can take that role that they request to be a part of city government?

Showing at the council meetings, electing representation? These are things that should be on the table, on the recovery of Ferguson, because this issue is going to pass. You're going to have the shooting investigation completed, the F.B.I., eventually all those people will go home. How are the citizens going to interact with Ferguson elected officials and the police department, the personnel department, and all those decision makers once everyone else goes home?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And let's go around the table. What can be done? What do you think is the most important thing that should be done to try to move beyond the anger and the disengagement?

WESLEY LOWERY:

There should be a release of information. I think that one of the biggest issues, as I've talked to hundreds of protesters the last few days, hundreds of residents over the last few days, is there's still no police narrative provided whatsoever as to why Officer Wilson was interacting with Michael Brown, why he pulled his gun, why after the first shot, he continued firing.

And I think that that is where, that’s the core of the anger and the core of frustration is. There's been so little information. There's been an open hostility towards members of the press trying to get that information. And so do I think that would calm things completely? Not at all. I don't know if there's a plausible pathway forward that's peaceful, because I don't know. But I think that we need some more information.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, what was the range, how close was he, where did he shoot him, Charles Ogletree--

CHARLES OGLETREE:

All that is critical.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

We don't have any of that information.

CHARLES OGLETREE:

Exactly. And I think the first thing that needs to happen, we need to arrest Officer Wilson. He shot and killed a man, shot him multiple times. And he's walking free. No one knows anything about him, no one knows why he did it. We need to have that done, number one. And number two, the curfew is, I appreciate it, the mayor, it's very important. But that's not the answer.

You have to have a dialogue with people who are frustrated, who are angry, who are mad at what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri. Until that happens, until there's a dialogue, the people are going to continue to go out, they're going to continue to in a sense show their disobedience. And if you think about it, John Lewis, who I think will be coming on the program later, we need to have a lot of lessons learned from him.

He was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, he was a person who has gone through all of this. And we have to realize that somebody who has been beaten, who ran for Congress, who was a young, nonviolent person, and still believes in non violence, I think that his message has to be listened to by not just seniors, but young people who were wondering what am I going to do. Because they're coming out. They're very angry. And they're going to be made until something happens to make that change.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

In fact, that's a perfect introduction to John Lewis. And we should point out that there is a continuing curfew not only in Ferguson, but a continuing curfew as well in Baltimore City. I'm joined now by Congressman John Lewis, Democratic congressman from Atlanta, who of course, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior more than a half a century ago. And survived that beating by police in Birmingham, Alabama. Congressman, what do you see as the solutions going forward for this terrible situation in Ferguson, Missouri?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, I think it's important for people to come together and begin a dialogue. Begin to talk. That's what we did during the '60s. When we had difficult, when we had this order, black people and white people came together. In a place like Ferguson, and it's not just Ferguson. It may be Ferguson today, but tomorrow it could be someplace else.

We have to get police officers, locally-elected officials to respect the dignity and the words of every human being. It's a shame and a disgrace that in a city that is almost 70% African American to have only three African American police officers. Ferguson is not in the American South.

But we're doing much better in the small towns and cities in Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi. This is shameful. This is a disgrace. We must teach people the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence. But we cannot have peace and order without justice.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well how would you persuade people there that they can believe in their local authorities, that they should actually participate in elections, run for office, when they're being harassed by their local police and when we see what the police chief did just on Friday?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, I think that the police chief and the mayor and other local officials have a moral obligation and responsibility to literally apologize to the community. And the city mothers or city fathers should come together in a fashion, reach out to the African American community and say, "We're going to work together for the common good." And say, "We all live in this city together and we've got to learn to live together as brothers and sisters," as Dr. King would say, "Or we're going to perish as fools."

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Now Congressman, I know you voted against it, but does Congress bear some responsibility for the militarization of local police departments around the country?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, when I was watching the film footage coming out of Ferguson, it looked like it was in Baghdad or some other war-torn zone. Ferguson is a part of the United States of America. It's not China. It's not Russia. It's not the Congo. It's America. People have a right to protest. People have a right to engage in peaceful, nonviolent action. And the press have a right to cover what is going on.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Thanks so much, Congressman John Lewis, and to all of our other guests on this issue. And next, the U.S. has launched more air strikes targeting Islamic extremists in Iraq this weekend. But what does President Obama's failure to intervene in Syria has fueled the rise of ISIS in the first place. Hillary Clinton seems to think so. Our roundtable will discuss, coming up next.

***Commercial Break***

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Welcome back. The latest now in a key military offensive in the U.S. air war in Iraq. The U.S. is launching more air strikes as part of a joint operation with the Kurds to recapture a strategically important dam in Mosul held by ISIS militants. Kurdish forces say they are now advancing on that dam. And on Friday, at least 80 Yazidi men were reportedly killed by ISIS after refusing to convert to Islam in a Northern Iraqi village.

But there was some welcomed news for the U.S. this week with the nomination of Haider al-Abadi as prime minister to replace Nouri al-Maliki, whose divisive leadership created the vacuum for ISIS in the first place. All this as Hillary Clinton apologized to President Obama, for saying she believes his failure to act in Syria fueled the rise of ISIS. Our chief global correspondent Bill Neely looks at whether America's latest intervention in Iraq can be successful without going after ISIS strongholds in Syria.

BILL NEELY:

The Islamist militants of ISIS are on a fast march through the heart of the Middle East. In Iraq, they've taken the second biggest city, Mosul, and advanced to within an hour's drive of the capital, Baghdad. In Syria, they're threatening a bigger city, Aleppo, and killing off moderate rebel groups, many of them backed by the U.S.

They're doing what Al Qaeda never did in the region, holding ground, and defeating armies. American air strikes targeted its fighters to halt their advance. In the last 24 hours, and just half an hour's drive from here, American warplanes have hit ISIS targets nine times. But why is ISIS being hit here in Iraq?

Why was the plight of the Yazidi the trigger when the gassing of hundreds of civilians in Syria last year and the killing of tens of thousands more merited a threat from President Obama, and then no military action whatsoever? The president drew a red line in Syria. But when the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Damascus, he pulled back from airstrikes and struck a deal with Assad's main ally, Russia.

Questions are again being asked in Washington and elsewhere about American power and the President's willingness to use it. But bombing ISIS and bombing Syria are very different. The militants have no big country protecting them at the UN. America attacked them to stop the threat of genocide, but also to protect its own facilities.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (ON TAPE):

We will continue airstrikes to protect our people and facilities in Iraq.

BILL NEELY:

Questions are also being asked about America's strategy. Striking a few ISIS vehicles will do little to halt their advance.

MAX FISHER:

Our success means that a few million Iraqi Kurds are saved from ISIS and Kurdistan is kept stable, which is a good thing. But that means really nothing for the millions of Arab Iraqis who are going to stay under ISIS rule for the foreseeable future.

BILL NEELY:

President Obama, wary of military action, is now the fourth consecutive president to bomb Iraq. But now that he's started, when and why will he stop? ISIS is a threat way beyond Syria and Iraq.

BRETT MCGURK:

There's no political solution to the ISIS problem. ISIS has to be squeezed, it has to be deprived of oxygen, and it has to be confronted.

BILL NEELY:

Analysts estimate perhaps a thousand Westerners have joined this fight, among them dozens of Americans. ISIS presents an indirect national security threat to the United States. ISIS wants to redraw the map of the Middle East to establish the Islamic state, the caliphate. It's already targeting not just Syria and Iraq, but Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. It has its sights on a far bigger prize. Bill Neely, NBC News, Iraq.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And to talk about the Iraq crisis and the rest of the week's politics, the roundtable is here. Anne Gearan, diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, will be covering Hillary Clinton as well. Jason Riley a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board and author of Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.

Jane Harman, the president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and a former Democratic congresswoman from California. And Republican Congressman Michael Turner from Ohio. Welcome all. Thanks so much. Anne, you just got back off another round-the-world trip with John Kerry.

And you've been spending so much time in Iraq and Afghanistan as a conflict zone. What about the argument that ISIS would not have taken hold if the administration had a year ago labor day, gone after Assad with air strikes and done more militarily to help the rebels there?

ANNE GEARAN:

There's a fair amount of evidence that ISIS could have been blunted some time back. You can pick another various point where they were gathering strength. But when they were incubating in Syria, might have been a better time to have been paying more attention to how much weaponry they were amassing, what kind of training was happening, where they were getting the money.

Not that the Obama administration wasn't paying any attention to it, but it seems like it's a much more distant problem and it's a problem that got so big so quickly that a lot of people are asking now where were some vector points that American, even stopping short of the military power, but other kinds of American influence might've been able to stop it.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And now we have military engagement, Jane Harman, it is described as a humanitarian mission. But then the president comes out and says, "Well, we've done that. The Yazidis are okay." And now we see air strikes, really successive air strikes to deal with retaking the dam in Mosul, working with the Peshmerga, the Kurds on the ground. Are we involved in a war there?

JANE HARMAN:

Well, I think it's important that we protect our consulate in Erbil, if that dam is sludge, our consulate and a lot of people will be taken out by ISIS. I don't think we should consider ISIS a rational actor, by the way. And I take this very seriously. I spent years on the House Intelligence Committee and Homeland Committee, and I think we should've acted in Syria.

This was something we said at the time. I think we sent a signal to the neighborhood that was disserving. The Saudis expected us to act and were very upset and still are that we didn't. But let me just say this about Saudi Arabia. Where are they? If they think that they can export terrorism again, they tried this with Osama bin Laden, I think they're wrong. And this big caliphate, if it should come to be, God forbid, and I think we will stop them, is going to have its center in Saudi Arabia. So this neighborhood better wake up.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, among the critics, by the way, all of you, is General Jim Jones. James Jones, the First Natural Security Advisor to President Obama, he wrote, "Mr. Maliki's failure to unify Iraq's diverse populations is the chief cause of the current crisis, but Washington bears some blame for not taking timely action that could have limited this summer's chaos.

"The Obama administration could have maintained a limited military training presence in Iraq after 2011; could have acted in Syria last year when the chemical weapons 'red line' was crossed; and could have insisted that Mr. Maliki arm the Kurds. But what matters more is what the U.S. can do now." Congressman, you I think were against going to Syria, were against continued military action.

REP. MICHAEL TURNER:

Well, what the president needs is a strategy and a plan. I think when we failed to garner the support for the action that he proposed in Syria was because he did not have a strategy and plan, and still we see the failure of that. The failure in his foreign policy and the neglect, as Anne was saying, as this threat involved in Syria, ISIS didn't evolve out of thin air, they were emerging.

And then also a neglect of the administration to work with Iraq. We see now how unstable Iraq is. How threatened they can be by ISIS. And then this very odd red line that the president established with the Yazidis. And instead of when ISIS was establishing a stronghold with major infrastructure, threatening Baghdad, mass killings, tens of thousands of refugees, the administration took action only when it was a humanitarian issue.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, that is a question. Who do we save, Jason? We don't save the Syrians.

JASON RILEY:

Just because we can't save everyone doesn't mean we don't save anyone. I think one problem is that we've consistently underestimated ISIS. This is a committed group of extremists that broke off from Al Qaeda because they felt Al Qaeda was too moderate. And our policy needs to reflect that reality.

I think the president has been obsessed with a political solution there. But the best political solution is to defeat ISIS. The Kurds in the North, the Sunni clerics in the West, which ISIS now pretty much controls, want to know that Baghdad can protect them. Defeating ISIS moves us towards that goal.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Hillary Clinton of course has disagreed with the president about this. She did say this in her book Hard Choices, but she made it a lot more explicit with Jeff Goldberg. First read was looking at it this way, the problem for Clinton: when she distances herself from Obama, to a degree she distances herself from, well, herself. With the book rollout, she's been suggesting that her hard choices at the State Department are a key qualifier for the 2016 bid. So how much can she really pull away from the person who gave her the job? And Jane, there is the disloyalty issue among the base.

JANE HARMAN:

Yes. She thought she was addressing one problem. And she created another. Some distance from Obama was inevitable. Foreign policy is a very natural place for her to have some distance from him, despite the fact that she implemented his foreign policy as secretary of State for four years. It's the issue on which the two of them disagreed most sharply during their own campaign.

And they do continue to have disagreements. It was natural and inevitable that there would be some distance created. The question for her politically is did she do it too fast or too much? And is the backlash saying, "Hey, wait a minute, why are you going after our guy here from the--"

(OVERTALK)

JASON RILEY:

The other question is how plausible is it? She didn't say, "I wanted to arm the opposition in Syria." But she called Assad a reformer. And she refused to call for his ouster when the uprising began. She can say, "Oh, I deplore this Russian aggression," but she was all for the Russian reset. So there's a plausibility issue here as well. But yes, she is acting like a lot of Democrats in this election cycle, trying to distance themselves from a president whose approval rating has fallen sharply.

JANE HARMAN:

Well, let's not forget, there are two and a half years to go, and there are opportunities to get this right. And I think Obama's made right choices in Iraq, right, and in Ukraine. But what's still missing is a narrative that links everything together. And it's not just what our foreign policy actually is, it's how it's perceived in the Middle East and how it's perceived in the Middle East is, "Don't be stupid, let’s use drones."

And that is going to take a lot of work. One last comment on Iraq. And that is about the Sunnis. Let's understand that there is an opportunity now with this new government, applause, applause, applause, to get the Sunnis back and to have a new Sunni awakening which will hopefully defeat ISIS, which is overreaching.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But Congressman, is it too late? Because we now have a new prime minister, but he's been critical of the Kurds in the past. What could be proved that he's really going to be inclusive?

REP. MICHAEL TURNER:

Well, and this is a time for the president to engage. And I think we've seen again that's a result of the neglect that the president has had in his foreign policy with respect to Iraq, the instability that has occurred. But the president also has to come to the recognition that ISIS is a threat to the United States.

British Prime Minister Cameron wrote in an op-ed that he sees ISIS as a threat to Britain and to the British. Certainly this president needs to make a case and I think his policy should reflect it, that this is not just a threat to a stable Iraq, this is a threat to--

(OVERTALK)

JASON RILEY:

And that means more than air strikes. That means reconstituting the Iraqi army, that means arming the Kurds. Air strikes are not going to get it done. Containing ISIS is not going to eliminate that threat.

ANNE GEARAN:

Well, but it also means going after ISIS in Syria, which is going to be a whole different ballgame. And there are a lot of people in the administration who are worried about--

(OVERTALK)

ANNE GEARAN:

--alone.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

There will be another big headline--

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I want to get to another big headline today which is Rick Perry. And what Rick Perry had to say that the fact that he has been indicted on two felony charges for vetoing a bill and all this stemming from a Democratic vacuum in this Republican state, Travis County, Austin. So there are a lot of questions about whether it's political and this is what he had to say.

RICK PERRY (ON TAPE):

I intend to fight against those who would erode our state's constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win. I am confident that we will ultimately prevail. That this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is. And those responsible will be held accountable.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

He's clearly been gearing up, Congressman, for the potential run for president. Is this going to hurt him? It could help him with debate.

REP. MICHAEL TURNER:

Well, I think everyone sees that this is the criminalization of just the legislative function. You do that, you weaken democracy. This is certainly a political attack. And this is very bad precedent.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Before we go, I want to ask you about Ferguson, because you've written a whole book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed. What we're seeing in Ferguson certainly shows the disengagement between the local police force and the community.

JASON RILEY:

You could say that. I don't want to litigate this in the press. But the officer used excessive force. I think he should be prosecuted. But at the same time, let's not pretend that our morgues and cemeteries are full of young black men because cops are shooting them.

The reality is that it's because other black people are shooting them. And we need to talk about black criminality. Blacks are only 13% of the population. But they're 50% of homicide victims in this country. And 90% of those victims are killed by other black people. We have to talk about that.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

We certainly saw that, the blacks were the victims of the looting as well.

JASON RILEY:

At the same time, the same weekend that this went down in Ferguson, we've had 26 shootings in Chicago. But Al Sharpton didn't head to Chicago. He headed to Saint Louis, because he has an entirely different agenda.

JANE HARMAN:

Well, he has--

(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

JASON RILEY:

--whites--

JANE HARMAN:

But that is--

(OVERTALK)

JANE HARMAN:

Obviously he's talking to everyone.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Because he's actually there on a peace mission today. But before I go, I just want to say a word about Mo'ne Davis, because she is showing that throwing like a girl is a great thing to do, 70 mile an hour pitches in--

(OVERTALK)

JANE HARMAN:

Here, here.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And what a great moment for the Philly team and a shutout with a two-hitter. So you go. Thirteen years old, her goal is to go and be in the national league, let her into Major League Baseball. Thank you all. A great roundtable.

REP. MICHAEL TURNER:

Thank you.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I appreciate your being here today. A lot to cover. Coming up, remembering Robin Williams. Barry Levinson, director of some of the most memorable performances. He tells our Harry Smith just what made his friend so special.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BARRY LEVINSON:

There are a lot of talented people that come along. And there's only a few that are in some other class that you can't even define.

HARRY SMITH:

And he was one of them.

BARRY LEVINSON:

Yeah.

(END TAPE)

***Commercial Break***

ANDREA MITCHELL:

As you may be aware, David Gregory's final show as moderator of Meet the Press was last Sunday. Meet the Press makes a lot of history. And a great deal of it was with David at the helm since he started in December 2008.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Vice President Joe Biden made front-page news when he got ahead of the president in 2012 and embraced gay marriage.

JOE BIDEN (ON TAPE):

I am absolutely comfortable.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And an important moment of the 2012 presidential primary, when David moderated a GOP debate live on a Sunday morning just two days before the New Hampshire primary. Then there was David's landmark interview in Afghanistan, 2010 with General David Petraeus, after he took command of U.S. and NATO forces.

Before taking the Meet the Press chair, David had a stellar eight years covering presidential politics at the White House for NBC News, where he covered George W. Bush from the first primaries to 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 20 years with NBC News, David has done it all. The O.J. Simpson trial, Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Today Show guest-hosted.

DAVID GREGORY (ON TAPE):

And how you doing?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And when the cameras weren't rolling, dead-on imitations of everyone from the president of the United States to Tom Brokaw. Through all the years, David has been truly the traditions of this program and NBC News.

DAVID GREGORY (ON TAPE):

If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

(END TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

On Thursday, David tweeted, "I leave NBC as I came, humbled and grateful. I love journalism," he wrote, "and sitting as moderator of Meet the Press was the highest honor there is. I have great respect for my colleagues at NBC News and wish them all well. To the viewers, I say thank you." As David leaves NBC News for his next adventure, I will miss him as a daily colleague. But I know he will always be a friend. We'll be back with more right after this.

***Commercial Break***

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Here now with a special edition of Images to Remember, looking back at the extraordinary life of Robin Williams. Robin Williams was a force of nature with the ability to make just about anyone laugh, but he was also an accomplished dramatic actor, winning an Oscar for Good Will Hunting. Barry Levinson directed him in three films, including two of his more politically-themed works, Good Morning, Vietnam and Man of the Year. Levinson spoke to our own Harry Smith about what made his friend such a special and unique talent.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ROBIN WILLIAMS (FROM “GOOD MORNING VIETNAM”):

Good morning, Vietnam. Hey, this is not a test. This is rock-n-roll. Time to rocket it from the delta to the DMV.

BARRY LEVINSON:

In a sense it was like fireworks went off.

ROBIN WILLIAMS (FROM “GOOD MORNING VIETNAM”):

Let's play this backwards and see if it gets any better. Freddie is the devil.

BARRY LEVINSON:

It's like, "Boom," and then all of a sudden, he's off to the races.

ROBIN WILLIAMS (FROM “GOOD MORNING VIETNAM”):

Picture a man going on a journey beyond sight and sound.

BARRY LEVINSON:

And ideas are going through him so fast and coming out at lightning speed.

ROBIN WILLIAMS (FROM “GOOD MORNING VIETNAM”):

He's left Crete. He's entered the demilitarized zone.

BARRY LEVINSON:

To the point you go, "How is this humanly possible? What is he connected to?" That it's not like, "Here's a joke and then here's a joke."

ROBIN WILLIAMS (ARCHIVE):

Well, what do you use to look for them? Well, we ask people, "Are you the enemy? And whoever says yes, we shoot them."

BARRY LEVINSON:

It was like something that just came out in a way that he channeled something and he could run with it and take you on that little ride. It was pretty extraordinary to see.

HARRY SMITH (V/O):

Barry Levinson directed Robin Williams' first hit movie, Good Morning, Vietnam.

HARRY SMITH:

Did you guys talk politics? Had you ever talked politics?

BARRY LEVINSON:

We did. It wasn't necessarily political to one or the other. It was this is what's wrong, this is what's crazy and how come we can't address it and why is it so crazy. How is it we can't come to terms on some basic issues that shouldn't become a political football of a left and right?

ROBIN WILLIAMS (IN STAND UP ACT):

Nice to be in Washington, where the buck stops here. Way to go. And then it's handed out to AIG and many other people. Now I have a new Timothy Geithner $20 bill. It's just been printed. Kind of neat. And instead of, "In God we trust," it just says, "Trust me."

HARRY SMITH (V/O):

In 2005, Williams and Levinson teamed up again for Man of the Year, a story about a comedy talk show host who decides to run for president.

ROBIN WILLIAMS (FROM “MAN OF THE YEAR”):

And you can't spend $200 million on a campaign and not be owing people something. And the next thing you know, they have to deal with special interests, and next thing you know, they're doing special favors for special people, and not dealing with what you need.

BARRY LEVINSON:

With all of the comedy that he would do, there something very humanistic about it. There was never an angry, putting down. He could show us how at times where we can be foolish and absurd, et cetera. But there was something that there was a human with a certain degree of kindness to all of the work that he did. And it's a very, very special person.

ROBIN WILLIAMS (FROM “MAN OF THE YEAR”):

Politicians are a lot like diapers. They should be changed frequently and for the same reason. Keep that in mind the next time you vote.

HARRY SMITH (V/O):

Levinson and I spoke on the stage of the Juilliard School, where Williams first learned his craft.

BARRY LEVINSON:

You're trying to find your feet. You're trying to figure out how do I connect to an audience. How do I navigate that? And then the brain starts to go to work. "Well, this is good, this doesn't work, this isn't right, I need to do--" And so I'm sure there was that personality that began to take shape.

HARRY SMITH:

Right here.

BARRY LEVINSON:

Right here.

HARRY SMITH:

Then took off like a rocket ship.

BARRY LEVINSON:

There are a lot of talented people that come along. And there's only a few that are in some other class that you can't even define.

HARRY SMITH:

And he was one of them.

BARRY LEVINSON:

Yeah.

(END TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Robin Williams went on six USO tours from 2002 to 2013. He visited troops in the U.S. and 12 foreign countries, making three stops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And traveling with him on the trip to Afghanistan is our Anne Gearan. You had a remarkable experience with him.

ANNE GEARAN:

It was really funny. It was actually it was in Iraq in 2010 with Chairman Mullen. And we were put up at one of those old Saddam palaces that had been turned into a guesthouse. And he was given a big fancy suite, but only half of it. And the other half was three women journalists.

The problem for him was that there was only one bathroom and only one shower. And he did not get a shower because we kept taking a shower and then we'd go back in our room and he'd come in and knock and say, "Is it free yet?" "Oh no, not quite."

ANDREA MITCHELL:

So you kept Robin Williams from having a shower?

ANNE GEARAN:

We did. But he was charming about it.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

What an amazing person. And thank you to the roundtable and that's all for today. And we'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

***END TRANSCRIPT***