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Meet the Press Transcript - August 3, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2014

DAVID GREGORY:

Next on Meet the Press, our focus is on the search for a solution to keep crisis around the U.S. and the world. The first ever known Ebola patient on U.S. soil is now being treated at an Atlanta hospital. What's his prognosis? And how is the U.S. government responding? I'll ask the head of the Centers for Disease Control. No end in sight to the war in the Middle East. Strong backing for Israel from President Obama.

Will Israel win the war militarily but lose the battle of public opinion? Plus, your government at work not working. The most do-nothing Congress ever heads for vacation. And tempers flare on the House floor. Will anything get done on some of the country's most pressing problems?

ANNOUNCER:

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

DAVID GREGORY:

Good Sunday morning. Let’s show you a live shot of Emory University Hospital at Atlanta where Dr. Kent Brantly is in a special isolation ward this morning. He was flown to the U.S. yesterday and walked into the hospital of his own accord with the assistance of another medical worker. He arrived on a especially quick plane after contracting the deadly disease while working in Liberia.

President Obama weighed in on the Ebola crisis Friday saying the U.S. is taking the outbreak of the disease quote, "Very seriously." Our chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman has the very latest on the crisis and how the U.S. government plans to respond. Nancy, good morning.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN:

Good morning, David. Well, the government has responded. The CDC is now issuing an order for 50 people, disease detectives, if you will, to be deployed to West Africa to try to start to get this epidemic, this outbreak of Ebola under control.

But in the meantime, they were also at the epicenter of an extraordinary operation that required the coordination of the State Department, CDC, White House, F.B.I., the doctors and nurses at Emory, and even patients on the ground, people on the ground if you will, to get Dr. Brantly safely from Liberia to the United States and admitted to the hospital. It was a military operation that took every precaution.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN :

While the disease continues to ravage parts of West Africa, the death toll now over 700 and climbing, chances of an Ebola outbreak in the United States are slim. But the government says it's ready. Here are the three main reasons why. Number one, government on alert. Only the CDC can confirm Ebola cases in the United States.

And they have 20 quarantine stations at all major points of entry to the country staffed with medical and public health officers. If a traveler is sick on a flight, that person will be flagged by the flight crew, isolated, and passengers and crew may be detained to get medical attention upon landing.

If necessary, those with the disease can be denied entry into the United States. Number two, our modern healthcare system. A person can't get Ebola without direct contact with bodily fluids of someone who already has the disease. Basic hygiene in our emergency rooms should prevent the virus from spreading.

Number three, command and control. Hospitals in West Africa have almost become amplification centers for the disease. Meaning unmodern facilities and lack of medical supplies can increase rather than halt the disease's spread. In the United States, the government says there are strong systems in place to find people who are sick, isolate them, and give treatment. Having a command and control center gives experts a place to centralize decision making and take quick action.

(END TAPE)

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN:

The real issue right now is to prevent any further kidney or liver damage, to limit any bleeding, and that is the best way to save Dr. Brantley's life. No news yet on an update from Emory, we expect that later today.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Dr. Nancy. Thank you so much for your time this morning. Earlier I spoke with Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, and I asked him, as Nancy was just talking about that, about the outlook for Dr. Brantly at this point.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DR. TOM FRIEDEN:

Well, it's encouraging. He seems to be improved from the reports we got earlier. Ebola can be deadly. But in people who are healthy, the case fatality rate may be lower than the ones that we're usually quoting because people like this doctor are much healthier going in than many of the people who unfortunately are still getting Ebola in Africa.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right. And he was working in Western Africa in Liberia. When you look at some of the precautions that are taken, a specially-outfitted plane for him to be contained, the medical units onsite from the airport to his transport to Emory, and then in a containment unit at Emory, is this an unacceptable risk to bring somebody with Ebola back?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN:

Well, first off, we have to say that he was coming home. And the organization that sent him to Africa made the decision to bring him home. He's an American citizen. And what our role is in public health is to make sure that if an American is coming home with an infectious disease, we protect others so that they don't spread it. And that's what we did in transit and when he's here.

DAVID GREGORY:

The head of the World Health Organization has said in the last couple of days the following from Dr. Margaret Chan, "This outbreak, the Ebola outbreak, is moving faster than our efforts to control. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences are going to be catastrophic in terms of lost lives, but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries." What is the U.S. government doing to respond to that need, to respond to the potential for its spread?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN:

It is a very serious condition. And it is currently out of control in Africa with a high risk of spreading further in Africa. What we're doing now at CDC is surging our response. We are going to put at least 50 public health experts in the three countries in the next 30 days. Because actually, we do know how to stop Ebola.

It's old fashioned, plain and simple public health. Find the patients, make sure they get treated, find their contacts, track them, educate people, do infection control at hospitals. You do those things, but you have to do them really well, and Ebola goes away.

DAVID GREGORY:

People who are looking at the events of the last couple of days were concerned even at the Centers for Disease Control's mishandling of biochemicals and other agents and diseases at your own labs, have to be wondering about the ability of our healthcare system, of the U.S. government to be able to prevent a spread here, particularly with those affected workers, two, a total who will be back in the United States. What can you say to deal with that concern?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN:

I certainly understand that concern. At CDC, we had lapses in our laboratories. Fortunately no one was hurt. And nothing was released out of the laboratory and into the environment. But what is so important is if there are patients with possible Ebola or confirmed Ebola in hospitals, that doctors and the entire healthcare team are super careful.

They have protocols in place and make sure that every one of those protocols is followed. Because Ebola is really a formidable enemy. And your plan and your execution has to be meticulous to avoid spreading. If you don't do that, you can have spread to workers in the healthcare system or family members. That can happen. You can have some secondary cases if you're not really, really careful.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Dr. Frieden, we'll certainly send our best wishes to Dr. Kent Brantly and monitor his progress. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN:

Thank you very much.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm joined now by Dr. Toby Cosgrove, chief executive officer and president of the renown Cleveland clinic. And Dr. Cosgrove, great to have you here. I wanted to get some additional perspective from the private sector, from the hospital sector in the United States. First of all, take me inside what this containment unit is like when you have a Dr. Brantly. How he's protected, how the workers are protected, how are their patients and then wider public are protected as a result of these efforts.

DR. TOBY COSGROVE:

We have to understand how the disease spreads. And different diseases spread differently. This disease is spread by direct contract or bodily fluid contact. And so inside these containment areas, there's negative pressure. So any air going, would go in through rather than coming out of that facility. And they are protected, the workers are protected by contained covering of their face and all of their body.

And they are isolated. And so this is much like any other infectious disease that we deal with. Interestingly, this is not as highly contagious as many other diseases. For example, more people die in the United States right now from influenza. And that requires hand washing and isolation to prevent that. So we must remember that we are in a global world.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, well, is it irrational then to say, "Oh my goodness, these wonderful people who are helping to stop the spread of Ebola in Western Africa, they are Americans, but they shouldn't be allowed to come back in the United States because the risk is too high"?

DR. TOBY COSGROVE:

No, but you have to understand that we've gone to a globalized world now. And diseases are globalized as well. And so just because it's in Africa doesn't mean that it doesn't affect the entire world. And with transportation, this is something we must learn to deal with and I think the CDC has done a wonderful job being able to isolate these patients, having centers that look for people coming into the United States with the disease. I think they've done a super job.

DAVID GREGORY:

It means a lot of people will think about a visit to the hospital, which is unpleasant, and they worry about getting sicker than what they came in for being at the hospital. When you have an introduction of a virus like this, is that a compounded fear and is it real?

DR. TOBY COSGROVE:

I don't think their fear is real first of all because we understand we have the disease, we isolate it, we take tremendous precautions with it and I don't think that that represents an additional risk. The intentions that occur in the hospital are generally important in terms of people not washing their hands and spreading bacterial diseases that way, not so much diseases that are viral diseases like this.

DAVID GREGORY:

No known cure for the Ebola virus. What do you look for them for Dr. Brantly and others who have contracted this disease and who are being cured for it now.

DR. TOBY COSGROVE:

We're looking for supportive care. You may have renal function failure, you may have failure of liver, you may have respiratory failure. All these can be supportive. And that's the real care that these patients get better in the United States than anyplace else in the world.

DAVID GREGORY:

And as Dr. Frieden was saying, younger, healthier, better chance of survival that Dr. Brantly was walking of his own volition. A big sign to you as well?

DR. TOBY COSGROVE:

I think it's a terrific sign. And as you know, the incubation period is somewhere between eight and 21 days. And people spread the disease most when they're sick, now which is a good thing. And it looks to me like he is now in even a recovery stage or has been able to handle it.

DAVID GREGORY:

And if you'd been over in the area, if you were in Western Africa in an outbreak area, when would you show symptoms?

DR. TOBY COSGROVE:

Somewhere in eight to ten, 21-day period. And people who are coming back to the United States are having their temperature measured every day now and quarantined until that 21 days passed.

DAVID GREGORY:

Before I let you go, there's a real health threat in your neck of the woods, in Cleveland and in Toledo as algae bloom in Lake Erie that is making the drinking water there toxic. How concerned are you about Cleveland? What are they doing to fix this?

DR. TOBY COSGROVE:

Well, we're concerned about the water supply across Lake Erie and across the Great Lakes in fact. And the runoff from fertilizers from the farms has caused the algae to bloom in the lakes. And that has gotten worse and worse each year as we've gone along. And it's now reached critical proportions in the western portion of Lake Erie. And obviously Cleveland is right down the lake from that and we're concerned as well.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Dr. Cosgrove, always great to have you here on the program. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

DR. TOBY COSGROVE:

My pleasure.

DAVID GREGORY:

We're going to take a break here, come back, and talk about the big news overseas as well. The brutal fight between Israel and Hamas. No end in sight as President Obama defends the effort of his secretary of State John Kerry.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

There shouldn't be a bunch of complaints and second-guessing about...well it hasn't happened yet or nitpicking before he's had a chance to complete his efforts...

DAVID GREGORY:

The question this morning, is there any hope of a negotiated solution to the crisis? I will ask diplomats from opposing sides of this conflict coming up next.

**Commercial Break**

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back with the discussion about the war in the Middle East. The conflict between Israel and Hamas and Gaza with diplomatic and ceasefire efforts so far unsuccessful. Can its solution be found any time soon? More Israeli shelling killed at least 30 people today. The death toll in Gaza now stands at more than 1,700 people.

Israel is withdrawing and redeploying some troops, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will keep up the pressure on Hamas even after destroying the Hamas network of tunnels into Israel. I'm joined now by the permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour. And Ambassador, welcome. Good to have you here.

RIYAD MANSOUR:

Thank you for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

First of all, on that point about the redeployment and withdraw of the Israeli troops, do you see some opening here to break this impasse, to get to a more durable ceasefire?

RIYAD MANSOUR:

Well, we hope that the Israeli army would withdraw completely from the Gaza Strip. We have a tragic humanitarian situation in Gaza in which, as you have indicated, more than 1,700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, 80% or more, and more than 9,000 have been injured. 80% of them, according to UN statistics have been injured. What we need now is to stop this fighting, to address the tragic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

DAVID GREGORY:

And let me stop you on that point. Your anger at Israel, certainly understandable. The loss of civilians horrific. There is agreement about that. I'm wondering though whether you're outraged by the conduct of Hamas, starting the conflict by firing rockets, building tunnels to kill and kidnap Israelis, being more than willing to sacrifice Palestinian lives by embedding them into their own kind of arsenal and using them, as Israel contends, as human shields. Do you have a level of outrage at Hamas itself?

RIYAD MANSOUR:

Well, first of all, this concept of using Palestinian civilians as human shields is not right, it is not correct, it is not even moral. Instead of asking me, why don’t you bring on the show and let the American public, I'm including the Congress to listen to third party. For example, Doctors Without Borders.

DAVID GREGORY:

Hold on a second. I want you--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Hold on, I'm asking whether you are outraged that the conduct of Hamas--

RIYAD MANSOUR:

I am outraged--

DAVID GREGORY:

--they fired rockets, they built tunnels for the purpose of killing and kidnapping Israelis, and they do exploit these Palestinian civilians when they know they're going to be in danger from where they're firing the rockets and so forth. Do you have any outrage towards Hamas?

RIYAD MANSOUR:

I am outraged at the killing of innocent civilians from any party from any side. Today another school of UNRWA United Nations was hit in Gaza. At least ten civilians were killed and possibly 100 injured. These things need to be stopped. And my president, President Abbas, is doing more than that.

He dispatched yesterday a delegation composed of all Palestinian political groups to begin the negotiation with Israel through the Egyptians to have a ceasefire extended more than three days, to have a sustainable ceasefire, and to begin the discussions on the root causes--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But, Ambassador, I'm trying to--

RIYAD MANSOUR:

We are waiting on the Israeli side to come to begin the negotiation process--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Fair enough, fair enough. And indeed, the reason I'm pressing this point is not to challenge you about how horrific the loss of civilians are. As a more moderate Palestinian political figure, which is what you are, a representative of Palestinian authority, which there's certainly no love lost between the Palestinian authority and Hamas, I'm wondering what level of culpability you believe that Hamas has for the advancement of the Palestinian people not just in this conflict, but more generally.

RIYAD MANSOUR:

I believe that if we allow for peace to take place, negotiation to take place, under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, who is bringing all political elements in the Palestinian side including Hamas under his wing and the national consensus government. If we empower this government, we will be able to move gradually from the situation of confrontation and fighting into the situation of lefting this tragedy and blockade against our people in Gaza.

Giving the people there a hope. 50% of the population in Gaza are under 18. If you put them in a continuous situation of fighting and resentment and hate, this is an excellent atmosphere for radicalism. But if you give them hope, you open the borders, you let them go to schools, let them look for good jobs, let them look for moderation, then we will succeed in allowing all those who want to have peace between us and the Israelis to have the upper hand.

DAVID GREGORY:

And I think a lot of people list, right, would find that compelling, maybe, that the Palestinian authority could provide better leadership perhaps in Gaza than Hamas. But I just want to try one more on this which is do you think that Hamas is helping or hurting Palestinians right now?

RIYAD MANSOUR:

Hamas is part of the Palestinian political configuration. The question is how to deal with that. The first step is the national consensus government. Israel is trying to destroy this government. To destroy this government, it's pushing us back into divisions. And allowing Hamas to have support from the Gaza Strip.

The alternative is empower the national consensus government, allow the government of President Mahmoud Abbas to show the people in the Gaza Strip that it’s succeed in having peace and stopping the fighting and addressing the wounds of our people in Gaza, then in lifting the siege in Gaza, giving people hope.

Then the 1.8 million people in Gaza see that this national consensus government is improving their lives. Then that would be strengthening President Mahmoud Abbas and allowing us to have more strength in the Gaza Strip and giving our people an alternative. Instead of the continuation of fighting, an alternative in moving in the direction of peace.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.

RIYAD MANSOUR:

And of course we have to put an end to the occupation so that the independent state of Palestine can become independent and to actualize the dream of a two-state solution.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Ambassador Mansour, thank you very much for your--

(OVERTALK)

RIYAD MANSOUR:

You're very welcome. Thanks for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

I appreciate you being here this morning. Thank you. Polls do show that the majority of Americans are sympathetic towards Israel. But yesterday, thousands of people protested in support of the Palestinians near the White House. And the harrowing pictures of Palestinian suffering being beamed out of Gaza has have provoked an outcry and prompted protests across the world. Our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell assesses whether Israel may achieve military victory, but lose the battle of wider world opinion.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

As the violence continues, the civilians trapped in the middle. Israel's strategy of self defense is becoming less defensible in world opinion. In Berlin, pro-Palestinian marches, in Kosovo, “Free Gaza” signs. And in Spain, demonstrators against Israel covering their hands in red tape. This week's cover of The Economist are warning that Israel could be winning the battle, losing the war. As images of Palestinian suffering are shown around the world, a very real problem for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

AARON DAVID MILLER (WILSON CENTER):

Then you'd have to reach the conclusion that no set of talking points, however compelling they are from Israel's point of view, can somehow stand up and match up to those pictures. Which is why most of the international community is reacting quite negatively to say the least, to what's going on in Gaza.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Here in the U.S., Israel still enjoys strong support. Our new polling shows 43% of Americans sympathize with the Israelis in the current conflict. 14% with the Palestinians. 43% are unsure. But the generational divide is striking. Among Americans under 45, support for Israel drops to 33%. Among 18 to 29 year olds, it's only 27%. And the longer this drags on, Israel's global standing risks slipping further as President Obama cautioned Friday.

PRESIDENT OBAMA (ON TAPE):

Part of the reason why we've been pushing so hard for a ceasefire is precisely because it's hard to reconcile Israel's legitimate need to defend itself with our concern with those civilians.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Right now, Israelis overwhelmingly support their government's portion of Gaza to eliminate Hamas’ tunnels. But they don't want a permanent occupation.

DAVID IGNATIUS (THE WASHINGTON POST):

The casualties that would be required to go house to house and secure Gaza would be I think something that no Israelis would want. And I think Prime Minister knows that.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

The most surprising difference in this conflict, most Arab leaders are quietly rooting for Israel to eliminate the Hamas threat, which they see as a potential threat to them as well. For Meet the Press, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm joined now by the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer. Ambassador, welcome.

RON DERMER:

Good to be here.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good to have you here. First the news. Is the ground operation in Gaza about to end?

RON DERMER:

Well, we're finishing up decommissioning these tunnels. We've uncovered about three dozen tunnels. And we--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--I guess that means?

RON DERMER:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

RON DERMER:

We've destroyed these tunnels that are used to actually borough underneath Israel's borders, come out on the other side and massacre our civilians, to massacre soldiers, kidnap people. So once we've uncovered these, we're obviously going to destroy them. And we hope that that job will be completed in a matter of hours--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--ground troops will come out in a course of a week?

RON DERMER:

Well we are going to deploy our forces.

DAVID GREGORY:

Meaning they'll be taken out of Gaza?

RON DERMER:

Not necessarily. It means that we deploy to a position where Israel can continue to do what it has to do to protect the security of our people.

DAVID GREGORY:

What is the state of Gaza being demilitarized? In other words, having the capacity for Hamas to fire off rockets?

RON DERMER:

Well, their capacity has been significantly degraded because we've hit a lot of their missile batteries, a lot of their rocket warehouses. They've also fired over 3,000 rockets at our country. So they started this operation with over 10,000 rockets. There are probably less than half at this point. The key, David, is to prevent them from the rearming in the future.

This is the third time we've had to have a confrontation with Hamas. The first was in 2008 in Cast Lead. The second was in Pillar of Defense in 2012. Now in 2014, a year and a half after Pillar of Defense, what we don't want to see is us simply leaving and allowing Hamas to use the time to simply rearm thousands of rockets more tunnels. We have to make sure that we have an effective mechanism to prevent Hamas from rearming and refueling its war machine.

DAVID GREGORY:

So Ambassador Mansour just here, saying, "Look, you are essentially, Israel is giving space to Hamas because the population is desperate, is being hit and attacked, civilians killed." While he would not express outrage toward Hamas for starting all of this, it is still a reality that Hamas is isolated, disliked by most of the Arab world. And yet this campaign has given them newfound political energy and support.

RON DERMER:

Oh, I don't think so. I think they're more isolated. I think that--

DAVID GREGORY:

Within Gaza? They're casting off the government

(OVERTALK)

RON DERMER:

I think they're, well, five Palestinians were executed a few days ago. I don't know if you know that. They tried to protest against Hamas. It's not a free society in Gaza. You can't just come out and say you're against Hamas. They actually shoot you. And it was very telling that the Palestinian official would not actually condemn Hamas.

His problem is he has to go back to Ramallah. And Ramallah right now, President Abbas is in an alliance with Hamas. Let’s remember what Hamas is? This is like Al Qaeda. They're a terror organization, they’re committed to our destruction. This is an organization whose officials were celebrating on 9/11 when thousands of Americans were killed, whose prime minister who is right now underneath in some tunnel in Gaza, he actually condemned the United States for killing Osama bin Laden. That's who we're dealing with.

DAVID GREGORY:

So what is the solution here? You don't have a delegation that's going to Egypt to engage in talks.

RON DERMER:

What's the point?

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, I'm asking you. Is there really a military solution to this? If you look at Andrea Mitchell's piece and this larger question which is, well-acquainted as I am, obviously, with Israel's arguments about security, are you paying a price here that ultimately endangers Israel's security in the future, inflames not just international opinion against Israel, but certainly within Gaza and the Arab world to a point where you're losing a larger war even if you achieve some military objectives right now?

RON DERMER:

No, I don't think so. You have to fight terror. You can't embrace terrorists. That's unfortunately what President Abbas has done. Take the case of Iraq. Do you think a solution of Iraq is to have the Iraqi government to simply include ISIS as a member of the government? Because that's what the Palestinian government just did.

They did it two months ago. We were very much opposed to it and very upset when the international community basically said, "Hey, this is a good thing for peace." It's a terrible thing for peace. The road to peace goes over Hamas. It doesn't include Hamas.

DAVID GREGORY:

So is there a military solution to the Hamas problem?

RON DERMER:

Yes. And Israel right now is working very hard to degrade their capabilities.

DAVID GREGORY:

Degrade them? Can you eliminate them?

RON DERMER:

You can. There is a cost for any action that you have.

DAVID GREGORY:

And is Israel willing to pay it?

RON DERMER:

And unfortunately, Israel has many threats. This is not the only threat that Israel faces. We live in a very, very unstable region.

DAVID GREGORY:

But what do you want? If you want the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas to have a greater political say in what happens in Gaza, then how do you achieve that? Do you do it militarily?

(OVERTALK)

RON DERMER:

Do you really think Hamas is going to allow them to go in? Hamas is the ones who threw them out. The Palestinian officials who sat here, I forgot to mention that in 2007, there was a coup in Gaza. Palestinian officials were thrown over the tops of buildings. They were shot, Palestinian Authority officials. Now unfortunately they're in alliance with this terror organization.

I hope they're -- and it’s a genocidal terror organization. Hamas’s charter calls for the murder of Jews worldwide. I hope that after this round of fighting is over, that President Abbas will abandon the pact that he's made with Hamas and he will go back to peace negotiations.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is the number of civilian deaths by Israel in Gaza unacceptable to Israel?

RON DERMER:

Well, every civilian death is unacceptable to Israel. We don't try to kill any civilian. The problem that we have is we have an enemy that build fires indiscriminately at our civilians, but hides behind their own civilians. They use hospitals and schools and mosques. They embed themselves in civilian areas. They want those civilians dead. Hamas doesn't care about the civilian population in Gaza.

We left Gaza in 2005. We withdrew all of our settlers, we withdrew all our military and we said, "Hey, make a better future for Gaza." People were hoping at the time they were going to make a Singapore in Gaza of the Middle East. Instead, they built an Iran in the Middle East. Used all this concrete to build a subterranean fortress in Gaza. And used all the iron not to build buildings and schools, but to actually manufacture rockets to fire at Israel.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We're going to leave it there. Ambassador Ron Dermer, thank you so much.

RON DERMER:

Thank you.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

We’ll be monitoring the situation. When we come back here, we'll switch gears. We'll talk politics. A big week here, all this impeachment talk, why do some Democrats think it's actually helping their party? And the immigration fiasco. What the impact of Congress getting nothing done will have on the Republicans and on this issue. Our round table will be here to discuss a pretty dramatic for politics.

**Commercial Break**

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back with our roundtable. But first, just how angry are Americans at Washington? Shall we count the ways? Our political director Chuck Todd has some exclusive new poll numbers.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

More bad news for a Congress already blistered by a bad reputation. New polling from NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, and Marist, that we're revealing exclusively today shows that three out of four voters agree that Congress hasn't done much this year. This includes 50% who say they've been very unproductive. And guess what? The public's right.

Congress hasn't been productive. In fact, this Congress, with Republicans in charge of the House and Democrats in charge of the Senate is on track to be the least productive in history. 142 bills passed into law so far. That's fewer than even the last Congress at this same point. And they have set a record for inaction themselves. And it's a lot less productive than the most famous do-nothing Congress of all time, the one Harry Truman ran against in 1948.

HARRY TRUMAN:

This country can't afford another Republican Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

That do-nothing Congress actually pushed through more than 900 bills into law. So what does it mean for the midterm this year? Well, Americans are divided on who should control Congress. Our polling shows that in both the House and the Senate, there is a virtual tie over which party they want in charge, with Republicans holding a slight edge.

The Democrats are starting to feel like they have something to run on, or run against. Take the House Republicans and their own struggle to pass even small bills, like one to deal with the emergency at the border.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

So that's not a disagreement between me and the House Republicans, that's a disagreement between the House Republicans and the House Republicans.

CHUCK TODD:

Now it's a sprint to November with both parties pointing the finger at the other for Washington's dysfunction, which itself was on full display this week. With the House voting to sue the president, senators not even showing up to do their job to confirm a new ambassador to Russia. And now Congress leaves town for a five-week vacation, unable to address a slew of major issues.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

And we've got our roundtable here, Carolyn Ryan, Washington Bureau Chief, political editor of The New York Times; our friend Mike Murphy, a daddy primarily, but also Republican political strategist who has advised senior GOP figures including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush; I'd also like to welcome a new face to the program, Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster, cofounder of Echelon Insights, an opinion research firm; and Democrat Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota.

Welcome all of you. Good to have you here. Politics is easier than figuring out the Middle East. So, but it's in a pretty bad way, Mike Murphy. The Republicans are going to come back in the fall and ask America to allow them to govern. Are they in a position to govern?

MIKE MURPHY:

Oh, I think we are. And I think we're going to do well at the elections. But the question is, we're not going to win enough at the elections to govern. We're still going to have a Democrat in the White House. And the next two years for the Republican party, assuming we win the Senate, which we have a good, a certain chance to, is going to be a test. Do we use the double majority in both houses to do something and get some things done? Or do we just continue to pound away in kind of a campaign mentality? I think we'll see--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But what is the mentality, Carolyn? The Wall Street Journal editorial page lashing fellow Republicans for basically botching this immigration debate by giving the president something of a victory in being so hopelessly divided within itself? Ted Cruz lobbying for House members to oppose the speaker's bill?

CAROLYN RYAN:

Right. I think what we have created is a timid and often craven political culture in Washington. And I think the one thing that we haven't really captured is the degree to which money is driving that. I think that Republicans are fearful of primary opponents. So they don't want to move toward the middle, they move toward the extreme.

And as primary opponents can access big money, you probably saw our story, there is going to be $2 billion in outside spending on the congressional election. So they're changing the culture in turning out the voters and sort of driving the divide between members of Congress and the people they serve.

DAVID GREGORY:

How do you, you can't feel good about the way this week ended.

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

No, I don't feel good about it at all, because I'm still mindful about 3.5 million people have not had their unemployment extended. People are in bad shape. We haven't done anything about the minimum wage. This mess with the immigration. We're just not moving forward on the things that people need us to cooperate on.

But the president I think is trying because he just this week signed an executive order to help workers get all of the money that they earn by coming down on wage, on companies that do wage theft who have federal contracts. Earlier this year, raised the minimum wage for people who work for federal contractors. So the president's going out of his way to try to be productive. I wish we could get some action in the House.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, Kristen, we're also going to see the president probably take executive action on immigration. What that means exactly we'll see. He's got some power to create a legal framework or path for some of the undocumented children who are coming across. Those who are in the process or those who need be here, Republicans certainly aren't going to like that.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON:

No, they're not. And what we've actually seen is even the folks who are very frustrated with Congress, they didn't necessarily think that means it's time for the president to become the king. Only about 22% of Americans say they don't think that the president has taken enough executive action in the face of a Congress that hasn't accomplished much.

About 45% told a CNN poll that they think the president has gone too far with his executive action. On this immigration issue, since the border issue has arisen, Republicans have actually gained a little bit of an advantage when you ask voters which party do they trust more on this issue. So to the extent that the president takes action that may be beyond the scope of what is office allowed, I don't actually think this is necessarily a bad thing for Republicans politically.

DAVID GREGORY:

I think--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--Mike Murphy might disagree--

MIKE MURPHY:

Here's the problem this is one of these great conundrums. Just politics, policy-wise is simple. We've got other have a big immigration solution. That's what causes immigration insolvence--

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

I agree.

MIKE MURPHY:

But short term, what this is going to help us win races we're going to win anyway. Long term, looking at 2016, when the Senate map is bad, not good for Republicans, we'd like to hold any majority we win, and the presidential race is even more of a head win demographically than ever, we're playing with nitroglycerin here. This is very dangerous stuff.

DAVID GREGORY:

We're also in a very difficult spot in terms of American leadership not just in Washington but around the world. The president spoke with reporters on Friday. He was asked by Bill Plante at CBS news about his efforts to try to use influence. And with doubts whether he, America's lost its influence, whether he's lost his influence, here's a bit of that back and forth.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

People have forgotten that America, as the most powerful country on earth, still does not control everything around the world.

BILL PLANTE:

Do you think you could've done more?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

On which one?

BILL PLANTE:

On any of them.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

Well look.

BILL PLANTE:

Ukraine?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

I think, Bill, that the nature of being President is that you're always asking yourself what more can you do.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Carolyn, some will see that and say, "You know, this is the reality of American world today or maybe it's the reality of President Obama's leadership, that he doesn't have a big play here to use U.S. influence."

CAROLYN RYAN:

Exactly. Well, there are two points here, right? Every American election is a reaction to a last administration. So we elect Barack Obama to end the wars that George Bush started and that were very unpopular. So he was with the American people there. But I think the cumulative unease about Obama's leadership domestically and internationally kind of creates a sort of vagueness and a sense that he's uncertain about how and when to assert American interests abroad. And I think that has created sort of a general uncertainty about what our mission is, and he’s not good at articulating it.

DAVID GREGORY:

Can or should America shape global events right now?

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

Yes, but I think it's important to understand that the world that Barack Obama is in is radically different from the world of a generation ago when you had, basically, Soviet Union, the United States, and the world was kind of simple that way. Now, you have non-state actors.

You have failed states. You have a very complex board to play on. And I think the president is trying to do the best he can. And in fact, he's using diplomacy, he's using development, and sometimes using kinetic power to try to marriage a very unstable environment.

DAVID GREGORY:

But management is different than leadership.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON:

And there's a sense that things are getting worse, not better despite that approach. The president's job approval numbers on foreign policy has been very bad over the last year. People don't think that he's able to lead. And they're looking around the world, and they're seeing it's not just the non-state actors, and it's not just the rise of terrorism.

But we actually are now back in a state where we're seeing the potential of a second cold war. It makes people feel very uneasy. And that paired with their sense that we've lost sort of economic competitiveness, America long term is not necessarily the big economic player on the block. It's all coming together to make people feel very anxious about our place in the world.

MIKE MURPHY:

The world is more complicated. I agree with my friend Keith on that. But channeling Jimmy Carter is not the answer. Because where we don't control the world, we influence it more than anybody. And when foreign actors, good and bad, perceive a vacuum of American leadership and a passivity here, and no strategy, our friends get very worried because we're still the biggest, most important force in their calculation. And our enemies get encouraged. Which creates more disorder.

And I think the biggest criticism of this administration has been their passivity and the lack of much of a clear strategy. When that Syrian red line was put down on the president of the United States and nothing happened, we kind of had deflation in the currency of American foreign policy and political will power and we're paying a price for it.

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

But wait a minute, I had calls nine against to one for when this whole Syrian crisis came up. The president, I think, was trying to stop Assad because he would not stop until he is stopped. Yet my constituents, I guarantee you, were not in favor of us doing anything in Syria. So--

CAROLYN RYAN:

It's not just the policy outcomes. It was the herky-jerky nature of how it unfolded.

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

It's a herky-jerky environment that we're--

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, but Congressman, you're not suggesting that the kind of calls you get influence your leadership, right? You have to make a decision about what the--

(OVERTALK)

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

You have to listen to what your constituents want. Now I was supporting the president because I believe Assad is a real problem and more continue to be one.

DAVID GREGORY:

But the president says, “If you cross--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--this line, you cannot cross this line because of core national security interest.” And then you pull back from that because the sentiment was against it--

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

And the--

(OVERTALK)

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

And he ended up getting weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, cleaned out of that country. So I think the president did take good action. The president took the action he was to take. But you cannot just lead without the support of the country.

(OVERTALK)

MIKE MURPHY:

--a good example of this. I mean, John Kerry, I give him an A-plus for burning up jet fuel flying around the world. But when the economy deals with the Egyptians with very little influence now with Hamas. And you start creating space and tension in the American relationship with Israel, and the Israelis know the stakes now. We're going to be powerful in putting the thing back together. We're not going to be powerful enforcing a ceasefire that neither side wants because strategically they both think are right.

(OVERTALK)

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

--ceasefire, Mike, the people--

(OVERTALK)

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

My point is, for John Kerry to run around trying to achieve one I think is exactly--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Can I ask you on that point? You always supported Iron Dome which is the missile defense system --

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

I always--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But you just voted against more money for it. Why?

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

Because a ceasefire is what we should prioritize now. A ceasefire protects civilians on both sides. It doesn't just say, "We're only concerned about people on one side." I've been to Sderot, I have stuck with those people, talking about those rockets and that indiscriminate rocket fire, and I've also been to Gaza three times since 2009. And I can tell you, those people are absolutely devastated.

(OVERTALK)

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

We need a ceasefire now.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, let me get a break in here. We'll come back, talk a little bit more in just a moment. Coming up here, tempers flare in Congress, as you might imagine. So just what prompted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to actually cross the House floor to confront a Republican member of Congress? They had a debate about a policy issue that got pretty heated. Find out next.

**Commercial Break**

DAVID GREGORY:

Up next, do things actually get worse in Washington? I'll ask two key senators when we come back.

**Commercial Break**

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back. I mentioned a flashpoint on the House floor this week, a display of anger in the House on Friday. Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi actually crossed the floor of the House chamber, considered kind of a break with protocol to confront Pennsylvania Republican Tom Marino. He accused Pelosi and Democrats of not doing anything about the immigration crisis when the Democrats controlled the House just a few years ago.

The theme was sadly representative of why this is one of the least productive congressional sessions of all time. Joining me now, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota. Welcome both.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ:

Good to be with you.

SEN. JOHN THUNE:

Good morning, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

So let me ask you this. There were the votes in the House to sue President Obama. And yet neither the House or Senate could pass even a bill on immigration that would deal with the border crisis at the moment. Does this undermine the ability for Republicans to say, "Vote for us in the fall, we should control the Senate and the House and really be a governing party"?

SEN. JOHN THUNE:

Well, David, the House did pass a border security bill before they went out. The Senate has not. And you mentioned earlier people's frustration. I can understand that. Wages are flat, unemployment's high, everything from gas to food to health care costs more for the American people.

But you can't address that situation if you don't vote. The United States Senate, we went for an entire year where we cast less than one vote on a Republican amendment per month. And in the Harry Reid Senate, that's become the norm. It's become a factory for show votes where votes are made that are more interested in winning votes that are for Democrats in November elections than they are for winning jobs for the American people. And that's got to change. The Senate's got to function again. It is dysfunctional. And that's what's frustrating the American people.

DAVID GREGORY:

Thanks for the correction, the House did in fact pass something that even though the president supported it, it doesn't look like it'll get through the Senate. To that point though, Senator Menendez, if the president on immigration wants to use executive power to deal with this problem, is that in excess of his authority? Congress has spoken dysfunctionally or not and said, "We're not going to deal with any aspect of immigration." Why shouldn't the president then stand pat and say he can find some way to get everybody and involved and on board?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ:

Well, David, I wouldn't say that Congress has spoken. The Senate spoke last year with an overwhelmingly bipartisan talk about gridlock. Sixty-eight votes, Republicans and Democrats, the gang of eight, of which I was part of, put together a broad, bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform to fix our immediate system. Now that stalled in the House of Representatives and they haven't even permitted one vote on it, an up or down vote, or a vote on their version of immigration reform.

In light of that, then it seems to me that the president, which and my Republican friends often call upon to act, in this case is I hope will act. Because the system as it exists today is broken. And to the extent that I believe and submitted to the White House and to the Department of Homeland Security, a legal memorandum that outlines the powers that they do have, I hope they'll use those powers to try to get some elements of the system under order.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator, I want to stick with you on another big issue we talked about start morning, Senator Menendez about what's happening in Israel and in Gaza. There appears to be a redeployment, as you heard Ambassador Dermer say just a few moments ago. How would you define victory here for the Israelis?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ:

Well, for the Israelis, obviously they need peace and security. And they will define it for themselves in terms of what is their national security. Look, the loss of any life is lamentable. The loss of Palestinian lives is lamentable. But when you have a terrorist organization that hides behind women and children and puts their weapon stockpiles in mosques and schools and fires from civilian targets, it is an untenable situation for the Israelis.

When you have tunnels that pop up in your home country and which people come out shooting or wearing suicide bombs, it speaks volumes of the adversary Israel has. And so that's why you see broad bipartisan support in the Senate on supporting the state of Israel.

DAVID GREGORY:

But even friends, Senate Thune, have to worry about the international opinion against Israel, actions taken by Israel that have contributed to so many civilians deaths in Gaza, that perhaps undermine Israel's long-term security. As a friend of Israel, do you fear for Israel?

SEN. JOHN THUNE:

Well, that's one of the things, David, as Bob mentioned, that there is bipartisan support for in Congress. We were able to get through the House and the Senate, moved legislation to provide funding for Iron Dome. I think everybody realizes Israel's got to be able to protect its citizens.

And I think this operation hopefully will conclude quickly once they destroy the tunnels and the rockets, launchers that are coming into Israeli communities, this thing will get, I think over with. And hopefully we can get to a place where we're actually discussing a solution, a long-term solution to the situation there in that region of the world.

We've got to defend and support Israel's right to defend its own citizens from this constant hammering of rocket attacks and these tunnels that are being burrowed into their country. No country is going to be able to sustain that. And we've got to be able to support Israel so we can get this job done.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator Thune, final question for you, and this is about immigration. On this program numerous times, Senator Lindsey Graham has said that it would be a political death sentence for the Republican party, I'm paraphrasing again, but that's his sentiment, if they don't coalesce around broad-based immigration reform. Do you agree with that?

SEN. JOHN THUNE:

Well, I would say David, we do. We've got to deal with this immediate crisis right now. And what the House bill did is it addresses the flow, stopping the flow. I think most Americans realize it's a reasonable position that we can't sustain what's happening at the border right now. We've got an immediate crisis that has to be dealt with.

Yes, we have to deal with the issue of immigration. I think it's important for Republicans and Democrats to come together behind a plan. As Marco Rubio has said, you can't fix legal immigration until you fix illegal immigration. And that means border security.

That means building a strategic fence and having an E-Verify program and an entry/exit program that ensures that our borders in this country are secure. We're not going to have the trust and the confidence in the American people that we can address this problem on the legal immigration side if we don't fix illegal immigration.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We're going to leave it--

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ:

That's exactly what we did, David, when 68 members of the Senate, I'm not which senators voted for it or not, but 68 members of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike, sent a broad legislation, border enforcement, pathway to legalization, the economics, and even a Congressional Budget Office said would create jobs, lower the deficit, and help the national economy. Republicans in the House can't seem to get there.

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm going to leave it there. My thanks to Senators Menendez and Thune. We'll be back with the big question driving the conversation this week right after this.

**Commercial Break**

DAVID GREGORY:

Back with our final moment here. The week's big question, what issues should Congress focus on when it gets back from the August recess? And Kristen, my question is, how do you Republicans win the fall? What do you think they're leaving, going home, to think about?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON:

I think they're going home to visit these town hall meetings and they're going to get a lot of questions about the border issue. But I think they're also going to get a lot of questions still about jobs and the economy. It remains the number one issue. These House members can say they voted on a number of bills, they sent over to the Senate, that have died there. But I still think--

(OVERTALK)

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON:

--jobs and the economy is the number one issue.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Thank you all very much. You can find our big question and weigh in on the debate on our Facebook page. That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *