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Meet the Press Transcript - August 24, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, AUG. 24, 2014

CHRIS JANSING:

Next, on Meet the Press, today President Obama returns from vacation to face a crucial national security question, how to defeat ISIS terrorists. And what can be done about the hundreds of ISIS fighters with American and Western passports. I'll ask Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

And healing the racial divide. Calm is returning to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, but this morning more concerns about whether the police officer who killed Michael Brown will face criminal charges. I'll be joined by the governor of Missouri and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Plus, exclusive: Rising political star Senator Rand Paul on a mercy mission to Guatemala. I traveled with the senator who wants American voters to see him in a different and perhaps presidential light. Will it work? I'll bring you my report as I host Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHRIS JANSING:

Good morning, I'm Chris Jansing. The pressure is mounting on President Obama to authorize more military action, including air strikes in Syria, to defeat ISIS. Top U.S. officials are escalating the rhetoric about the threat posed by the group. The F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security issuing a bulletin warning of attacks by ISIS sympathizers.

And intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic are getting closer to identifying the jihadist with a British accent who executed the American journalist James Foley. Our Keir Simmons joins me now from London where he has been hearing firsthand the chilling words of British citizens supportive of ISIS' mission. Good morning, Keir.

KEIR SIMMONS:

Chris, good morning. The intelligence agencies view this as not just a hunt for the killer of James Foley but as a race to try to save the life of a second American hostage threatened with death by ISIS. It's made more difficult because that gruesome video has clearly been edited. There appear to be two knives. And one senior official speculated to me that the tape may even be dubbed. But they are convinced a British man is at the center of it, a man they are close to identifying, raising uncomfortable questions about extremism in Europe.

(BEGIN TAPE)

KEIR SIMMONS:

These are the soldiers of ISIS calling for more recruits.

MALE #1:

This is the land of jihad and the l--

KEIR SIMMONS:

Many with European accents and passports that would grant direct travel to the U.S.

MALE #2:

And ask yourself is this how you want to die?

MALE #3:

This is James Wright Foley--

KEIR SIMMONS:

It was a British voice that accompanied James Foley's murder, a citizen of America's closest ally apparently administering death to a U.S. national on a foreign battlefield.

SHIRAZ MAHER:

We have a British citizen beheading an American citizen in Syria in some vain attempt to try and pressure the United States government into changing its foreign policy.

KEIR SIMMONS:

Out of an estimated 2,000 Western recruits to extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, at least 70 are thought to be U.S. citizens, but more than 500 have been from the U.K. Half have returned home. And in a basement in an area of London where James Foley's killer may be from, I meet an extremist fringe group who actually defend ISIS.

MALE #4:

This type of, you know-- state is very attractive to many people.

MALE #5:

And we believe, in fact, that one day the Islamic state will come to Britain and implement the Shia even to America.

KEIR SIMMONS:

They know people who've traveled to Syria where British ISIS recruits boast of their brutality. Here, one holds a severed head; another photographs his bloodied hands. "My first time," he tweets. They use iPhones and a laptop to produce propaganda.

MALE #6:

Here this is where most of the media were kept--

SHIRAZ MAHER:

They want to create this generalized sense of panic, of fear about their own barbarism.

KEIR SIMMONS:

Last year, on the streets of London, a British soldier was hacked to death. And in the same city, a minority blamed the killing of James Foley on Western foreign policy.

MALE #4:

This execution of this man was obviously to send a message to America to say, "Mind your own business."

MALE #5:

His blood is fairly and squarely on the hands of the Americans.

KEIR SIMMONS:

People will be sick to hear you say that about the murder of an innocent man.

MALE #5:

Well, are you talking about the innocent men in Gaza, or are you talking innocent men in Afghanistan? Or Iraq?--

KEIR SIMMONS:

James Foley, you know who I am talking about

MALE #5:

Yes, one--

KEIR SIMMONS:

European women have even traveled to Syria to marry ISIS fighters. This week, a London jihadist wife asked on Twitter for links to the video of James Foley's killing. Then she said she'd like to be the first woman to do the same. The European recruits are drawn to ISIS for many reasons. Some appear to be psychopaths; others think they are freedom fighters. Many are simply naïve. All are dangerous.

(END TAPE)

CHRIS JANSING:

So, Keir, it raises the question are the British intelligence services able to take advantage of any connection between those extremists in the U.K. down in a basement, that you talked to, and the ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq?

KEIR SIMMONS:

Well, that is the irony. It may not be those particular men, but it does help British intelligence that there are people here with connections to ISIS. They can monitor communications. They can question them. But that doesn't mitigate the concern, Chris. Even one senior Pakistani official in the past six months told me that he had warned the British about rising extremism in Britain.

CHRIS JANSING:

Keir, thank you very much. And I'm joined now by Congressman Mike Rogers, Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Welcome.

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

Thank you.

CHRIS JANSING:

From your perspective, well, we've heard a ramping up of the rhetoric by the administration. How significant a threat is ISIS?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

Oh, it's a very real threat. You saw the very barbaric behavior. And one of the problems is it's gone unabated for nearly two years, and that draws people from Britain to across Europe, even the United States, to go and join the fight. They see that as a winning ideology, a winning strategy, and they want to be a part of it. And that's what makes it so dangerous. They are one plane ticket away from U.S. shores. And that's why we're so concerned about it.

CHRIS JANSING:

But we've heard the Pentagon say that, right now, they are not in a position to launch an attack on the United States. Is there any credible intelligence that ISIS is either planning that or has the capability to do it.

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

Well, I'm going to dispute that. So we know that, and the number 2,000 of Westerners with Western passports is low. Intelligence has a very different number and it's much higher than that. And the very fight between Al Qaeda that allowed ISIS to separate from Al Qaeda in Syria was the fact that they wanted to conduct Western-style operations.

Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda, said, "No, we want you to focus on Syria." That's what started the fight. This notion that they were too barbaric is almost laughable given that Al Qaeda flew airplanes and slaughtered 3,000 people on 9/11. It was all about direction, control of those individuals. What they were saying at the time was we have a lot of people who have passports that could go to Europe and then to the United States without a visa waiver, meaning they wouldn't have to apply for a visa. The only way we would know is by looking at who was riding on those airplanes, and that might not be enough.

And so they were believing, at the time, that they could be aggressive in that, and they still talk about that. If you note, even the rhetoric is, "We're still going to conduct a Western-style attack." And remember, Al Qaeda wants to put some points on the board because they want to be the jihadist organization that attracts people and money. And ISIS has said that they are and want to be the terrorist organization that attracts--

CHRIS JANSING:

But aren't we, Congressman, significantly safer than we were on 9/11 in terms of being able to keep those kinds of threats out of the United States?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

Well, we have a better system of trying to do it, but we're just not configured. We, the United States intelligence services and Department of Defense and administrative policy is not configured in a way to continue a tempo that allows disruption. The reason ISIS is so successful is there was nothing deterring them for years. So they recruited, they financed, they trained. All of that was happening.

And so, yes, we might be okay if we continue the posture that we're in from a defensive posture. But remember, they get new recruits every single day. And what's dangerous, think of this: If that's a British citizen, we believe it was, you have somebody that was watching and participating in the whole exercise of making that video. That individual goes back home and, is again, buys one plane ticket, they're in the United States. We may or may not know who that individual is. That's what's so dangerous about this, and why we can't let them continue unabated.

CHRIS JANSING:

So what do we do about it? We've seen what the U.K. has done, for example. They've been revoking passports of U.K. citizens who have gone over to Syria to fight so they can't come back West. Obviously the president is considering a whole range of options. We already have air strikes in Iraq; questions about whether there should be air strikes in Syria. Should there, for example, be more small teams of special ops on the ground to gather more intelligence? What do we do now?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

Yes. There's no mulligans in foreign policy. And if you look at the way the administration last year changed the bureaucratic role of our operators engaging in disruption activities against terrorism, both Al Qaeda and ISIS, it's caused a problem. We need to regroup.

Again, we are not configured, our intelligence services and our Department of Defense, to be more disruptive. So we have to back up. We need to engage our Arab League partners who have as much a problem and as much a stake in this as we do. They will still cut their heads off and put them on spikes as well. We need to engage them in a more robust campaign against the safe haven in eastern Syria. And, again, continue to engage in Iraq.

It can't be about the dam. It can't be about an individual who was so brutally murdered. These are individuals who have killed thousands of people, some were executions, beheadings. They've sold women into slavery. And they're going to continue to do that because they believe they're winning.

That disruptive activity is critically important. The president's going to need to change his policy. This is an opportunity for the president to take a step back, change his presidential guidance on how we disrupt terrorism around the world, including Al Qaeda, that has been slowing down. We have missed dozens and dozens of opportunities to take really bad people off the battlefield in the recent, last two years--

CHRIS JANSING:

Are you confident that the United States is in a position to defeat ISIS?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

We have the capability to defeat it. We now have to have the political will, and we have to have the policy to do it. We have the first; we don't have the second two.

CHRIS JANSING:

Chairman Mike Rogers, always a pleasure to see you. Thank you so much.

Well, as you just heard, this has gotten a lot more complicated because you have these Westerners who want to aid ISIS and are doing it right now. We saw them in the basement in Keir Simmons' package.

For more on this, I'm joined by the British ambassador to the United States, Sir Peter Westmacott; NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel who has spent years covering Iraq and Syria. He's just back from the Turkish/Syrian border where many foreign fighters cross into Syria to join ISIS. Helene Cooper is the White House correspondent for The New York Times. She has been writing extensively about how the U.S. is trying to counter the ISIS threat. Good morning to all of you. Let me start with you, Ambassador. How close are we to identifying the person who executed James Foley? And what else can you tell us about the threat of ISIS?

AMB. PETER WESTMACOTT:

I think we are close. I've been in touch, obviously, in the last day or two with my colleagues at home. We're not yet in a position to say exactly who this is, but there is some very sophisticated voice identification technology and other measures that we have got which should allow us to be very clear about who this person is before very long.

But let me underline, it’s not just about one brutal murder. There are a whole lot of other people, there are other hostages who are under threat, as you've just been mentioning. We think that there's probably as many as 500 people from the United Kingdom have gone to join jihad, gone to join ISIS. And so we are focusing our efforts across the board on how to counter this terrible threat which is, as my foreign secretary was saying in an op-ed this morning, with the trail of all that we stand for. And I might add and the trail of everything, frankly, that the teachings of the prophet stand for, as the leaders of the Muslim communities in the United Kingdom have been very clear about.

CHRIS JANSING:

As someone who has spent so much time in the region, tell us specifically about these people, Richard, about this threat. I've heard the head of ISIS described as a narcissistic psychopath. What are we dealing with here?

RICHARD ENGEL:

You know, you're dealing with a group of people who have been successful, who believe that they are winning, that they are creating an Islamic caliphate. And they call themselves the Islamic state, and they now have a state. They have a big area across northern Syria. They have a large section of Iraq.

They move freely between these two areas, between the part of Iraq that they hold and the part of Syria they hold. They have heavy weapons from the Iraqi army, U.S.-made weapons. And they have thousands and thousands of fighters, not just foreign fighters but local fighters as well. So we are dealing with a little failed state, that doesn't see itself as a failed state. It sees itself as a triumphant state that is bringing the Islamic battle to the world.

CHRIS JANSING:

And the key question becomes, Helene, what do they want? Do they want to just expand this? Do they want to take over Israel and Jordan? Do they want to essentially control the Middle East, or do they have a plan to come into the United States, to come into Western countries, and attack?

HELENE COOPER:

No, it's called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Before American air strikes began, you did not hear ISIS talking about coming to the United States. You didn't hear them talking about, you know, attacks on Americans. It wasn't until after the American air strikes began that you saw them taking advantage of people, Americans, who they had kidnapped years before.

Their mission has been to establish a caliphate within this region. They're a huge threat to Iraq and to Syria and to Jordan and to, you know, the area, even Israel. You heard General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a press conference with Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary, on Thursday talking about their aspirations, or end-of-days, they're apocalyptic. But they have been limited to that specific region.

But things now have changed, and I think that's part of why you're seeing the response that we're having here in the United States. I mean, in January, President Obama compared them to junior varsity, the Al Qaeda junior varsity basketball team. Now, all of a sudden, we're talking about, you know, can they attack the American homeland? That's where I think you're sort of seeing the rise in awareness of Americans, because of this horrible image of James Foley in that video that sort of showed up on front pages--

(OVERTALK)

CHRIS JANSING:

Well, there's no doubt that ramped up the emotion that we felt, and the awareness of what ISIS is and what they're willing to do, Ambassador. What do we do about it? What is your country willing to do, either militarily or in cooperation with the United States?

AMB. PETER WESTMACOTT:

Let me just underline that this is a threat in different series of ways to us. It is a threat to our citizens, Americans, British, and others in the region. It's a threat to the stability of those countries. But it's also a threat in terms of they're turning radicalized jihadis, who have left our countries, not just Britain but many others as well, and who are coming back with very specific missions and with instructions sometimes to create acts of terror at home.

And which is why in the U.K., for example, over the last year we've picked up around 70 different people on terrorist-related offenses to do with activities in Iraq and Syria. So we're very conscious of the threat we believe back at home. What can we do about it? Well, we're doing a whole bunch of different things. We have had to address a humanitarian disaster as a result of the depredations of ISIS in the region.

We've been very active with air drops and aircraft and aerial surveillance to try to help drop things there. We are transporting military equipment to people who are fighting back against ISIS, particularly in the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq. We are involved with the provision of intelligence and training and equipment in a number of different ways to those who would like us to help. We've been providing refueling tankers for aircraft which have been involved in some of these missions.

And we are doing a very complex operation in terms of trying to identify, detect, and obstruct terrorist activity by individuals going to and coming back from the region. So we're doing a very great deal. We're using diplomacy, we're using development funds, we're using military strengths and equipment.

CHRIS JANSING:

How far can military action go, though? And how far does it need to go, do you think, if ISIS is not to be a threat anymore?

AMB. PETER WESTMACOTT:

Well, I think Helene was right to say that the brutal murder of James Foley has, to some extent, galvanized opinion and maybe governments to make us feel that we have actually got to look afresh at what more that we can do with our regional partners, not just on our own, to fight back.

I think there are a number of different options on the table. We are not, at the moment, being invited to do more than we are at the moment. They want training, they want equipment, they want political support. We're trying to help the Iraqi government get established so that it is, you know, credible and able to fight back, if you like, against the sectarian mentality on which ISIS has thrived. There have been a lot of different things.

But I think that we've got to look afresh at what it takes, my foreign secretary was saying this morning, to push back against this brutal organization, given what they do and the threat that they pose to the local countries, to our friends, and to our own national security.

CHRIS JANSING:

And we can't forget, Richard, that another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, his life is hanging in the balance here. You have been taken hostage, and it was the same group that originally took James Foley, right, that then handed him over to ISIS. Tell us a little bit, from your perspective, about what happens now, and the whole conversation about whether paying ransom, and some other countries do, the United States doesn't, is an incentive for more hostage taking.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Well, first, you mention my case. I was taken hostage in Syria roughly at the same time as James Foley, two years ago. And don't forget that James Foley was executed after being in custody, being terrified, being abused, for two years.

So at the time, two years ago, when he was taken, when I was taken, there were lots of different groups that were rounding people up. And then ISIS started to collect those people. And now they're really the only group or the main group that is holding foreign hostages.

It didn't seem, on the negotiation front, that ISIS has any real intention of negotiating Americans. It doesn't want to give them up for ransom. In the case for James Foley, it wasn't really seriously negotiating. It was using Europeans to try and raise between $3-5 million a head. That was the going rate. For James Foley, they asked for $130 million, which is not a realistic number. It's like, you know, saying, you know, "You want to sell him? Well, if you pay this, you can buy him."

But what's important to understand is how we got here and where we're going. You were just talking about what can be done. The U.S. is carrying out strikes right now in northern Iraq. And they're stopping at a border, but they're stopping in an invisible border. They're stopping at a border that ISIS doesn't recognize. So it seems likely that, in the next few days, few weeks, we're also going to be carrying out some strikes in Syria. That's what U.S. officials seem to be hinting about. We’ll see if that’s enough or if it’s too little, too late.

CHRIS JANSING:

Richard, it's always good to see you. Richard Engel, Helene Cooper, Ambassador Westmacott, thank you so much for being with us. And up next, if you think Washington politics is complicated, how about performing eye surgery. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul like you've never seen him before. I had exclusive access to him on his humanitarian mission in Guatemala. But were the senator's political as well as surgical skills at work there?

SEN. RAND PAUL (TAPE):

I think that's what scares the Democrats the most, is that in a general election, were I to run, there's going to be a lot of independents and even some Democrats who say, "You know what? We are tired of war. We're worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war because she's so gung ho."

***Commercial Break***

CHRIS JANSING:

And now to a Meet the Press exclusive: A journey to Guatemala with Kentucky Senator -- and Doctor -- Rand Paul. Top Republicans eyeing a run for president in 2016 have spent a lot of time in two key battleground states: 20 visits to Iowa, 10 more to New Hampshire. But so far, only Paul has turned a foreign country into a unique photo op.

I accompanied him on his humanitarian mission to Salama, a remote town about three hours north of Guatemala City. But, as you’ll see, his trip to Central America may have been as much about the White House as it was about medicine.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHRIS JANSING:

In a makeshift operating room in remote Guatemala, a side of Senator Rand Paul most people have never seen. The eye surgeon, on a mission to help the blind and near-blind see in a country where more than half the population lives in poverty. He's one of 28 American volunteers organized by the Moran Eye Center in Utah.

RAND PAUL:

This is an amazing enterprise. We have a surgery center. We have a dental clinic and we have a place doing glasses.

CHRIS JANSING:

Scores of people line up every day for a week - hoping American doctors can give them their sight - and their lives back. A 79 year-old great-grandmother who hasn’t been able to walk for nine years, then cataracts plunged her into darkness. A farmer just wants to see again so he can work in his field. A mission to restore sight, and hope, to the poorest of the poor.

And if it all plays well to American voters it could further Rand Paul's personal mission, too -- to position himself for a race for president.

RAND PAUL:

I've been doing, you know, this kinda stuff for 20 years and so--

CHRIS JANSING:

But not in a foreign country.

RAND PAUL:

Right. Well, I've been operating on kids from Guatemala for, you know, it-- I think the first kids I operated on were 1996. This isn't something new that we're doing.

RAND PAUL (NATURAL SOUND):

No but she doesn't really feel anything on this side of her face.

RAND PAUL:

A physician is who I am. And, you know, to represent who I am, that's who I am. I'm a physician.

CHRIS JANSING:

But you just won't always bring camera crews

RAND PAUL:

Well, you know, depicting who I am, I think, is an important part of-- presenting a face to the public.

CHRIS JANSING:

There is no doubt about the humanitarian aspect of this trip. Paul performed dozens of pro bono cataract surgeries over three days, in a region where there are only two eye surgeons for 800,000 people. Chronicling it all are Paul's advertising team.

RAND PAUL (IN VIDEO):

I'm Rand Paul and I approved this message.

CHRIS JANSING:

Whose TV commercials helped him with his upset win for Senate four years ago. Also along, a film crew from Conservative super PAC Citizens United, with equipment that included a drone for aerial shots, and its co-founder and President Dave Bossie.

CHRIS JANSING (TO DAVID BOSSIE):

Does having Citizens United, Dave Bossie, there make it look more political?

DAVID BOSSIE:

I think-- if-- having Citizens United documentary unit following him around, whether I was there or not, was going to do it. And so, you know, I went-- to oversee it. I went to experience and see exactly, for myself, what Rand Paul was about.

CHRIS JANSING:

Bossie did some charity work of his own, helping to install a water filtration system. But he spent many hours with Senator Paul and gave advice to the camera crew. For Paul, too, long hours in the O.R. were interspersed with interviews, multiple conversations with us over three days where nothing was off limits, including the death of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed..

RAND PAUL:

Let's say none of this has to do with race. It might not, but the belief-- if you're African American and you live in Ferguson, the belief is, you see people in prison and they're mostly black and brown, that somehow it is racial, even if the thoughts that were going on at that time had nothing to do with race.

So it's a very good chance that had this had nothing to do with race, but because of all of the arrest and the ra-- the way people were arrested, that everybody perceives it as, "My goodness, the police are out to get us," you know? And so that's why you have to change the whole war on drugs. It's not just this one instance.

And I don't know what happened during the shooting, so I'm not gonna make a judgment on the shooting. But I do know what's happening, as far as that you look at who's in our prisons

CHRIS JANSING:

It's vintage Rand Paul -- the sometimes controversial free market, small government, low taxes Libertarian with views that can also appeal to the Left, pushing for the de-militarization of police -- days before President Obama called for a review.

RAND PAUL:

Homeland Security gave $8 million to Fargo to fight terrorism in Fargo, North Dakota. And I say if the terrorists get to Fargo, we might as well give up. I say that as a joke, but, I mean, it's like, "What are we doing spending $8 million in Fargo? What are we doing sending a tank?" There's an armored personnel carrier in Keene, New Hampshire.

CHRIS JANSING:

And at a time when the U-S footprint in Iraq is expanding again, he's quick to provide a contrast to the Democratic presidential front-runner.

RAND PAUL:

I think the American public is coming more and more to where I am, and that those-- people, like Hillary Clinton, who, she fought her own war, Hillary's War, you know, people are gonna find that, and I think that's what scares the Democrats the most, is that in a general election, were I to run, there's gonna be a lot of independents and even some Democrats who say, "You know what, we are tired of war. We're worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war, because she's so gung-ho."

If you wanna see a transformational election in our country, let the Democrats put forward a war hawk like Hillary Clinton, and you'll see a transformation like you've never seen.

CHRIS JANSING:

Back inside the hospital, less than 24 hours after surgery, bandages are removed and the reactions the are heart-warming, even tear inducing. Just a day before -- a farmer couldn't see through cataract clouded eyes, then the eye patches come off.

One of more than 200 success stories in a week -- lives transformed. For all the successes here, Rand Paul was effective but not emotional, something that worries even supporters who know winning primaries is often as much about kissing babies as making policy statements.

ED O'KEEFE (THE WASHINGTON POST):

He reminds me of doctors I had who are very matter-of-fact, and I think that's where he gets it, that you know he sees a problem and he fixes it and he moves on.

CHRIS JANSING:

But you wonder how that will translate on the campaign trail…

ED O'KEEFE:

It could be very difficult.

CHRIS JANSING:

Do you go to Iowa and not shake hands?

ED O'KEEFE

That's, I think, the next test

CHRIS JANSING:

Dr. Paul's enthusiasm for medicine is palpable, and he's a guy who likes his odds when he's the one controlling the outcome.

So if he runs, it will be because -- like here in the O.R. -- he thinks he's got a real chance of winning

(END TAPE)

CHRIS JANSING:

Before leaving, Senator Paul had a closed-door meeting with the president and prime minister of Guatemala and talking immigration, telling them the immigration problem is not the fault of Guatemala City but of White House policies. He's also pushing to allow more Americans to adopt Guatemalan children.

Let's get some reaction for the roundtable. Gwen Ifill, co-anchor and co-managing editor of PBS News Hour; David Ignatius, columnist for The Washington Post; Kasim Reed, Democratic mayor of Atlanta; and Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, now a columnist for The Washington Post. Welcome to all of you. David, could you seen some of this in a convention bio, some of this footage maybe in a little infomercial?

DAVID IGNATIUS:

You can see in the piece you just did why Rand Paul is going to be a dynamic face in the Republican nominating process. The rap on Rand Paul is that he's an isolationist. And to see him out and Guatemala, helping people, not talking about carrying guns or dropping bombs but fixing people's eye problems, that's part of the pitch he's going to make. Whether the American people will trust this man, who says, you know, "I'm speaking to a country that's tired of war," with national security at a time of growing crisis, is a big question.

CHRIS JANSING:

Yeah. Well, a question I asked him, Michael, was whether this changed his opinion about giving more foreign aid to countries in need, whether it changed his opinion about immigration. I don't think we're going to see a sea change there.

MICHAEL GERSON:

Well, it is wonderful, what he's doing.

QUESTION:

It is.

MICHAEL GERSON:

But he's a senator, and a possible presidential candidate, and his policy views matter. He's called for the gradual elimination of all foreign aid. Now, I've seen its effect in sub-Saharan Africa and other places. This would cause misery for millions of people on AIDS treatment. It would betray hundreds of thousands of children receiving, you know, malaria treatment. These are things that you can't ignore in a presidential candidate. This is a perfect case of how a person can have good intentions but how an ideology can cause terrible misery. He will need to explain that. This is his policy views.

CHRIS JANSING:

And there's substance and there's style, Gwen, and his style is pretty reserved. And you wonder if, in 2016, if in the modern era you can be the candidate who doesn't have that political charm, who doesn't do the retail--

(OVERTALK)

GWEN IFILL

You're saying he's not charming? He certainly looked more at home in his scrubs than he does in the suits he wears on Capitol Hill. But it's interesting to look at, for instance, what he had to say about Hillary Clinton and what we heard you say to Mike Rogers earlier, heard Mike Rogers say to you.

He thinks we should be doing more. He thinks we should be more forward leaning, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Rand Paul is saying Hillary Clinton is a hawk. There are a lot of people in his own party who are looking at him and saying, "Hold on a minute, brother, I don't know about that," including the fact Guatemala, even though he's been there before, is where a lot of the children are coming from who are crossing the border. Guatemala, Honduras; not Mexico. And so by being there at this moment in time, with that debate still bubbling under the surface, is not insignificant.

CHRIS JANSING:

Now I want turn to the latest on Ferguson, Missouri. President Obama has called for a review of federal programs to militarize local police over concern about the armed force used during the unrest in Ferguson. And joining me is the Democratic Governor of Missouri Jay Nixon.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHRIS JANSING:

Welcome, Governor Nixon.

GOV. JAY NIXON:

Good morning.

CHRIS JANSING:

As you know, a lot of concerns were raised when we saw the heavily armored vehicles rolling into Ferguson. We also saw police in camouflage carrying heavy weapons. Let me ask you about the president's decision to review these Pentagon policies of giving this equipment to localities. Do you think it contributed to the unrest that happened in your state?

GOV. JAY NIXON:

Well, certainly appropriate to review all of that sort of thing, and I'm glad the president and others around the country will do that discussion. There are times when you need to have protection on bomb units and whatnot, but the bottom line is it's a good and worthy discussion that we oughta have around the country.

CHRIS JANSING:

And when you look at what happened in Ferguson, should it have been done differently?

GOV. JAY NIXON:

Well, when you look at this you can certainly see things that you could have done and work with that you hope would focus things a little bit better. But when we came in here, we were focused on three things: Making sure people had the right to speak, making sure that they were safe in that community, and also making sure that the dual prosecutions that were going would get to justice and truth. And in that regard, we've seen a lot of progress over the last week.

CHRIS JANSING:

Well, let me ask you about that prosecution, particularly the one that's going on in your state as opposed to the federal investigation. And you made a decision in the last week not to replace the controversial prosecutor Robert McCullough. In fact, what you said in making that decision was that to do so would potentially jeopardize the prosecution. How?

GOV. JAY NIXON:

Well, first of all, you have an elected prosecutor. He should do his job, do his duty, as the attorney general, as will quite frankly do their duties. I think you focus on making sure that they live up to the high standards that are out there, making sure that they get all the information so that justice can be served.

CHRIS JANSING:

Do you believe he has the trust of the people of your state and the people of Ferguson?

GOV. JAY NIXON:

He was elected overwhelmingly by the people a number of times. He's been through a lot. Certainly with this level of attention I think everyone will work hard to do their best work.

CHRIS JANSING:

How concerned are you, and this has been expressed by a number of people, that if there is not a decision to prosecute in this case, if charges are not brought, that there will be more unrest? Are you prepared for that? And give us a sense of your level of concern.

GOV. JAY NIXON:

Well, as I've said before, we've been working hard over the last two weeks, but especially the last eight or nine days, to really see progress. And I'm heartened by that. And that's really come from the people here. I mean, the policing strategies and all that sort stuff's important, and Captain Johnson and his team on the ground, the unified command have done a great job.

But really what's happened is the people of this region have said, "We want to speak, but we want to do so peacefully." And I think that transition's a positive transition. They just want to make sure that what has happened over the last two weeks is not swept under the rug and forgotten, and that instead it's used to get positive action, not only in the community of Ferguson and around St. Louis, but around the country.

CHRIS JANSING:

So let me ask you what you say, not just to people in Missouri to but people around the country. Six in ten blacks in a new poll say that they don't believe that they have confidence that the investigation will be handled fairly. What do you say to them?

GOV. JAY NIXON:

Well, first of all, I think with a lot of attention on it and a lot of focus on it and dual efforts going on at the same time, one at federal, one at the state, and a lot of public attention, I think they have the chance to get it right. And the justice system, with that much focus, these folks just need to do their duty.

And with that, that includes prosecutors and jury members and grand jury members and everyone, and citizens who have things to say that can be helpful in those cases. So we have to work hard to make sure that everybody does their best and is strong in this effort. And if they do, then it's our best hope that justice will be served.

CHRIS JANSING:

Governor Jay Nixon, thank you.

GOV. JAY NIXON:

Thank you.

(END TAPE)

CHRIS JANSING:

So then the question becomes what does it mean to do your best, Mr. Mayor? What do you do going forward, and starting with how do you make this a fair investigation?

MAYOR KASIM REED:

Well, I think the thing that you do is to start seeing this case through the eyes of a mother and father who lost a child who got shot six times and left for four hours on the street. That's really the issue right now. We are laying all of our feelings about race and class and all of the rest, and it's really moving away from the dignity that should have been shown to a mother and a father whose child got killed.

And to the extent that we can start handling this case through that lens, Ferguson's going to be better off, and so is the United States of America. We need to stop layering our issues on what is happening there, and make sure that justice is handled equitably for this mom and this dad who lost their son on the street because he was killed and shot six times with four witnesses.

And so we have an obligation, and I think the attorney general's visit there was vital, to ensure transparency to all of the people of Ferguson. But most important, to this mom and this dad, to make sure that this prosecutor is going to use all of the resources available to make sure that this is done in a transparent fashion. We also need federal oversight to move simultaneously so that, in the event that we have an adverse decision, there certainly is another path to seeing that justice is done here.

CHRIS JANSING:

Certainly the reaction in the community in the interviews that we heard, the fact that the attorney general went there, what he had to say, his own personal experience that he shared about being a young black man and being stopped helped to calm the fears. But there is a question that's still out there, Gwen, about whether the president should do more. Questions raised about the tone of the remarks he made. What do you think is the president's role in all this?

GWEN IFILL

I think that we get caught up in, the mayor used the term layering, layering on our issues. In Washington, we're used to layering on questions about governance, and process, and what happens next, and before the grand jury, and what happens next with, you know, the trial. We like to cover it like a soap opera.

But there's something else that's been exposed here which no president, no attorney general can get to, which is that there's this bruise that we keep poking at in this country about race. We don't know how to deal with it unless there's a flare-up.

What we've seen is that we're dealing with it again and again. You can name the list of names that sparked it. But also more important is watching what's happening behind it. There's a new civil rights movement which has sprung up. We've been looking back 50 years for the last couple of months, the 50-year signings of bills and laws. These young people on the streets, these young people who've created a social media movement around Michael Brown, they're not saying, "Pass a law." They're saying, "Enforce the current ones."

They're not saying, "We're going to wait for a single, singular leader to tell us which way to go." They're saying, "We're going to lead ourselves." And there is something which we can't miss in what feels different to me than Trayvon Martin, it feels different to me than Rodney King; these are all situations in which justice was questioned. But it feels to me like Americans, not just African Americans, are picking themselves up and saying-- the first pictures we saw out of Ferguson, the common response was, "Is that America?" And I think people are saying, "Let's address that. Let's address ourselves, not expect some person to figure it out."

CHRIS JANSING:

We did have this sense, though, that the president, in coming to the microphone and being such a great communicator, might be able to have moved the needle. I want to read to you what was written about this by Ezra Klein. Do we have that? We have that there.

"The problem is the White House no longer believes Obama can bridge divides. They believe, with good reason, that he widens them. President Obama's speeches polarize in a way candidate Obama's didn't. Obama's supporters often want to see their president leading, but the White House knows that when Obama leads his critics become even less likely to follow." What does he do going forward?

MICHAEL GERSON:

I have to disagree a little bit. I think the president's tone has been very presidential in this. This is a case where the facts are not established. We're still looking at what the facts are. And there are limits to what a president can do in a circumstance like that.

I think the president has shown appropriate grief, has shown some outrage. But, you know, this is difficult for him, and it was right for him to send Eric Holder, the guy that can bring the F.B.I., that can bring, you know, the forces of the federal government to this, to send him to that circumstance. So, you know, I disagree. I think he should, at the right moment, give a framing speech on this set of issues, which he's good at. But I think his restraint here was pretty admirable.

CHRIS JANSING:

Thank you all. Coming up, we'll have more with our roundtable. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel certainly wasn't holding back about the threat posed by ISIS.

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL (ON TAPE):

This is beyond anything that we've seen. So we must prepare for everything.

CHRIS JANSING:

But can the Islamists be defeated without putting U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria?

***Commercial Break***

CHRIS JANSING:

Welcome back. I want to talk more about the threat posed by ISIS with our roundtable. And let me read what Vice President Biden wrote in The Washington Post in an op-ed. "There is no negotiating with ISIL. We have seen its appalling murders of U.S. journalist James Foley and countless other innocent people, its cruelty and its fanaticism." That was followed up by Chuck Hagel saying, "This is more than just a terrorist group." Is he right?

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Well, it's a terrorist group that now controls about a third of Iraq, so, yes, it is. It's a particularly potent, well-organized, mobile, ambitious terrorist group. President Obama has been trying to walk a very fine line between a gradual escalating response to ISIS and reassuring a country that is weary of war, especially in Iraq where he's not going to take American troops back.

So far, I think he's basically gotten that about right. We are stepping up to protect the Kurds, to stop the massacre of the Yazidi minority, to take ISIL control away from this big, strategic dam in--

(OVERTALK)

CHRIS JANSING:

But with the brutality of what we saw on that video, does that escalate the pressure, Gwen, on him?

GWEN IFILL:

It escalates the tight rope, it tightens the tight rope. I don't quite know how he does this. On one hand, we saw the intelligence chairman saying we have the capability we just don't have the will or the policy. On the other hand, I haven't heard anybody saying what we ought to be doing instead. You know, they're hinting that we're going to go inside Syria, but to what end, and what is the goal? And that is a very complicated situation right now. I don't know that there's an easy answer, which is why we're all teetering.

CHRIS JANSING:

And of course in the meantime, he's taking hits; so is David Cameron. You can take a look at the covers both of The Daily Mirror yesterday and The Daily News on Thursday criticizing these two leaders for going out, in the case of the president, and golfing; in the case of David Cameron, out in the water.

And I guess the question is raised about whether we're sending the wrong message, maybe even to Europe, maybe even to the Middle East, with us. Even if most people who live in Britain and the United States may say, you know, "They have a hard job. They should be able to take a break."

MICHAEL GERSON:

Well, having working for a president, I don't really criticize presidential vacations. Presidents need this. And they also, like a turtle, carry their house with them. I mean, the White House comes with the president. He doesn't escape any of these problems. I think that's true.

But symbolism does matter. And the juxtaposition of beheading and golfing is not a very good symbol. And that, I think, is what he's being criticized for. I think that that shows, you know, bad staff work, or the president doesn't really care.

MAYOR KASIM REED:

Well, I don't think it's that. I think that we have a real problem in Europe and in the United States that's going to have to be addressed, and it has to be addressed right now. I think the president certainly is willing to do what is required. But we have to have Congress come along, and we have to have the Parliament in the U.K. come along.

And the last time we were in a position where we were going to have to be more muscular, candidly, we did not have that kind of support. So it's not just the president. The country has to be ready to deal with ISIL. And the country has to be ready to do what it is required.

The attorney general and the secretary of defense have said that the kind of threats that ISIL is presenting are unprecedented. So no one can say that they're not focused on it or having conversations about it. But a war-weary nation is going to have to understand that, if we're going to address these acts, it's going to take the will, and Congress. And that's coming out of this fog of not being willing to do what is required.

CHRIS JANSING:

Mr. Mayor, all of you on the roundtable, thank you so much for being here this morning. And coming up, the racial flashpoint in Ferguson, Missouri. Healer or divider? The Reverend Al Sharpton joins me next.

***Commercial Break***

CHRIS JANSING:

Welcome back. As we look ahead to the coming week in Ferguson, Missouri, the funeral of Michael Brown will take place tomorrow. Reverend Al Sharpton, civil rights leader and host of MSNBC's Politics Nation will deliver the eulogy at that service, and he joins me now. Welcome.

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Thank you.

CHRIS JANSING:

There has been a dramatic shift in the mood in Ferguson, for the better. Much calmer now. What can you say tomorrow to help that along?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

I think that what we can say is that we must turn this moment into a movement to really deal with the underlying issues of police accountability and what is and is not allowable by police, and what citizens ought to be moving toward.

I think that we need to deal with how we move towards solutions, how we deal with the whole aggressive policing of what is considered low-level crimes. And that goes from Ferguson to Staten Island, New York, to L.A. We see this occurring all over the country. And I think we need to move in that way otherwise we will end up only repeating ourselves every incident.

CHRIS JANSING:

You and I talked a lot though, Reverend, after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. You've said that needs to be a moment. Many others said the same--

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Right.

CHRIS JANSING:

--thing. We have also seen, as you alluded to, you led a march yesterday after another black man died in an incident involving police in New York City. Now you're going to be giving the eulogy for yet another funeral tomorrow. What's it going to take for that moment to change things freely?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

I think it's going to take legislation. Our demonstrations must lead to legislation. We need federal legislation, and we need the criminal justice system, which is why the federal government coming in is so important. I think the attorney general, Eric Holder's unprecedented trip sent a signal.

We didn't see Bobby Kennedy go to the South in the civil rights era. We saw a sitting attorney general go to Ferguson, and I think that's historic. I think these moves will lead to real change. Our chants must lead to change, our demonstrations to legislation and we'll get up there. We must remember the Montgomery bus boycotts started in 1955; we didn't get civil rights legislation until '64, Civil Rights Act. Change takes time. But those of us that are committed are willing to put in the time because we cannot tolerate not having the change.

CHRIS JANSING:

There's a big article on you in Politico Magazine this week. It talks about how close your contact is with the White House, how you often serve as a kind of surrogate for the White House. But let me ask you about the president, and in the case of Ferguson in particular, race relations in America in general. Is he doing enough?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

First of all, I'm not a surrogate. I have access to the White House. In every era going back to Lincoln with Frederick Douglass, presidents talk to those that were leading at that time. I'm not comparing Marc Morial or Melanie Campbell and I to Frederick Douglass, but that's nothing unusual.

I went to Ferguson because the family, the grandfather called and asked me to come. The White House called while I was there, talked to me, the head of the N.A.A.C.P., and others. So it’s not a surrogate; it is a customary, traditional role.

I think the president, by addressing it twice while he was on vacation, not a statement but coming out live, and yet not compromising the right of the family. Because where I was nervous, because I've been in this a while, I'm not a studio activist or someone in an ivory tower, I've been in this. For the president to go further, then it would be used in a legal context of saying, "Oh, the president ordered the indictment," rather than letting a process go fairly.

But the president governing, and saying how we've got to deal, as I'm reading this morning, he's saying we're going to deal with the military equipment and expenditures on citizens. We, in terms of those that are talking to the family and the lawyers, involved in this cases don't need the president to politicize it and give an escape from the criminal justice system for those that need to be investigated and possibly brought into the criminal justice system. So a lot of people talking are not talking to the victims, who don't need their rights violated by politics.

CHRIS JANSING:

We have just a few seconds left, Reverend, but what would be justice in this case?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Justice is a fair and impartial investigation and let the facts go where they need to go. But too often, with local prosecutors, we don't get that.

CHRIS JANSING:

Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you so much.

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Thank you.

CHRIS JANSING:

That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.