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Meet the Press Transcript - June 22, 2014

NBC NEWS -- “MEET THE PRESS” -- SUNDAY, JUNE 22, 2014

DAVID GREGORY:

Next on Meet the Press: President Obama's war on terror in the Middle East. Will anything short of American military action prevent the creation of an Al Qaeda-linked terror state stretching from Iraq to Syria? I'll be joined exclusively by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Plus, my interview with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky that's already making big news. His surprising assessment of President Obama's handling of Iraq, and a warning that Benghazi could harm a Hillary Clinton presidential run.

And political mudslinging: The inside story on this week's big GOP Senate race that's made national headlines with the secret video shot in a nursing home. Even Sarah Palin and former NFL quarterback Brett Favre are taking sides.

ANNOUNCER:

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

DAVID GREGORY:

And good Sunday morning. We want to start with the very latest now on the crisis in Iraq as the Islamist group ISIS, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, continues to make gains. Secretary of State John Kerry is in the region on a push for a diplomatic solution. Our Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd joins me now. He's got more on what President Obama has had to say about the Iraq crisis in an interview that will air tomorrow on MSNBC's Morning Joe. Chuck, good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, good morning, David. Look, as you said, Secretary Kerry is in the region. He's in Cairo today. We expect him to be in Baghdad soon. But as we found out in that interview that President Obama did with Mika Brzezinski. He laid out what appears to be his vision of what American foreign policy is going to look like in the Middle East for years to come.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I think that one of the things that the American people at least understand is that these societies are going through these enormous transformations. And what we can do is work with the best impulses there, folks who understand moderation, tolerance; are trying to deliver for their people. We're going to have to deal with some of the worst impulses there, the extremism that ISIS represents. What we're not going to be able to do is to play whack-a-mole and chase whatever extremists appear, occupy those countries for long periods of time, and think somehow that we're going to solve those problems.

CHUCK TODD:

At times, it doesn't seem like anything has gone right in this region for the administration, from Benghazi to the civil war in Syria, the uprisings in Egypt, threat of nuclear harm, trying to end the war in Afghanistan, and three failed Mideast peace talk attempts.

But the president's decision to send 300 military advisors to Iraq is part of what some have called his new light footprint strategy. What is it? It's a counterterrorism strategy that's similar to the one the U.S. has been implementing against Al Qaeda in Yemen. It's a strategy that means fewer troops on the ground and more drones in the air. He outlined this new strategy at a commencement speech at West Point in May.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Well, we have to develop a strategy that masters this diffuse threat. One that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments.

CHUCK TODD:

The increased instability in the Middle East can be traced to both the Iraq war and the Arab spring, which some critics believe this administration has mismanaged.

JIM WEBB:

This Arab spring that this administration has put into effect, which really whether by intention or neglect has brought chaos to this entire region.

CHUCK TODD:

And proving that nothing is black and white in the Middle East, the president this week found himself calling for Iran’s help in Iraq.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

All of Iraq's neighbors have a vital interest in insuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, David, of course on the issue of Iran, one of John Kerry's goals is to try to make sure Iran doesn't have too much influence in the formation of yet another new government. This has been a tricky balancing act that the administration is trying to have. They know they need Iran's help in Iraq a little bit, but they don't want Iran to have too much influence.

DAVID GREGORY:

Chuck Todd for us this morning. Chuck, thank you so much. You can see the rest of my colleague Mika Brzezinski's interview with President Obama tomorrow morning on Morning Joe, that's on MSNBC. I'm joined exclusively now from Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister, welcome back to Meet the Press.

P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Thank you, David. Good to be with you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me pick up on the reporting from Chuck Todd and hearing the president's comments. His cautious approach to intervening in Iraq: Do you fear that that could strengthen Iran?

P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Look, I think it's a complicated situation. There are no easy answers. But what you're seeing in the Middle East today, in Iraq and in Syria, is the stark hatreds between radical Shiites, in this case led by Iran, and radical Sunnis led by Al Qaeda and ISIS and others.

Now, both of these camps are enemies of the United States. And when your enemies are fighting each other, don't strengthen either one of them; weaken both. And I think by far the worst outcome that could come out of this is that one of these factions, Iran, would come out with nuclear weapons capability. That would be a tragic mistake. It would make everything else pale in comparison. I think the ultimate and the most important goal in the Middle East is to make sure Iran does not have nuclear weapons capability--

DAVID GREGORY:

To that point--

P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

--because those weapons, unlike mortars and machine guns that can kill thousands, and chemical weapons that kill tens of thousands, these weapons, nuclear weapons, could kill millions. That should be prevented at all cost.

DAVID GREGORY:

You're well briefed on how the United States is approaching its negotiations with Iran to get it to abandon a nuclear weapons program. Are you concerned, based on anything that you've seen, that the U.S. is softening its negotiating stance to try to get Iran's help in Iraq?

P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Well, I hope they don't come up with a bad deal. I'll tell you what a good deal is. A good deal is actually what was negotiated by the United States and President Obama in the case of the chemical weapons in Syria. They haven't solved the problem in Syria between Sunnis and Shiites, but you did remove the bulk of the weapons, and soon all of the weapons and the stockpiles. You removed them.

What is I think being discussed in the case of Iran by the international community is that you remove most of the sanctions and Iran gets to keep most of the capabilities, most of the stockpiles, most of the ability to manufacture the means to make nuclear weapons. That's a terrible mistake. I hope it doesn't come to pass because I think this would change history. It would be a monumental mistake. In the context of the world at large, and the Middle East as it is today, this would be a tragic, tragic outcome.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me just be clear on what your views are. Should the U.S. go forward with air strikes within Iraq to target ISIS? Do you think that strengthens Iran, strengthens the Shia?

P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

I think that there are two actions you have to take. One is to take the actions that you deem necessary to counter the ISIS takeover of Iraq, and the second is not to allow Iran to dominate Iraq the way it dominated Lebanon and Syria. So you actually have to work on both sides. As I say, you try to weaken both. There are actions that could be taken. Whatever I have to say on specific actions, I'll obviously pass along to President Obama and the U.S. administration in other means, not even on Meet the Press.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you about a couple of matters closer to home. You're in the middle of launching a muscular military campaign in the West Bank after three teenagers were abducted, you say there's evidence to say that it was Hamas, including an American teenager, an American citizen. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, saying in Arabic this week to foreign ministers in the region, quote, "The missing settlers in the West Bank are human beings like us. We must look for them and return them to their families." Was that a significant step forward, a significant sign of military cooperation between the Palestinians and Israel, in your judgment?

P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

I think it was good that he said that, and I think it would be tested now by his willingness to stop the incitement against Israel and the glorifications of terrorists. This would be a good departure towards that direction. And secondly, that he helps us capture the kidnappers, Hamas kidnappers, and that he breaks the pact that he made with the Hamas organization that kidnapped these teenagers. I think that would be a good development, it would be the right direction.

I think you can't have it both ways. You can't talk about peace with Israel and be in a unity government with Hamas that kidnaps Israeli teenagers and calls for Israel's destruction. You can have one or the other, but not both. I hope President Abbas chooses the right thing.

DAVID GREGORY:

As peace talks have stalled between you and the Palestinian Authority, there's been new pressure from some religious groups. The Presbyterians in the United States have just passed a decision voted to divest its holdings in companies that do business with Israel, that sell parts to Israel that they claim are used in the course of the occupations of the Palestinians. How troubling is this to you? Do you think there will be other Protestant denominations that follow suit?

P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

It should trouble all people of conscience and morality because it's so disgraceful. You know, you look at what's happening in the Middle East, and I think most Americans understand this: They see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions.

Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians. Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation.

You know, I would suggest to those Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour. Go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice: One is make sure it's an armor-plated bus. And, second, don't say that you're Christians.

DAVID GREGORY:

Prime Minister Netanyahu, as always, we thank you for your views and for joining us this morning.

P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

I spoke with Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, who's been a strong voice against military intervention in Iraq. He refused to criticize President Obama's current stance on Iraq, but he did have some strong words for what Benghazi will mean for Hillary Clinton's political future.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Sen. Paul, welcome back to “Meet the Press.”

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Good morning. Glad to be here.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let’s get right to the debate of the day and that is over the future of Iraq. Last year on this program we were talking about Syria, and at that time you said there was no clear-cut, American interest. Do you see a clear-cut, American interest in Iraq?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I see mostly confusion and chaos, and I think some of the chaos is created from getting involved in the Syrian civil war. You have to realize that some of the Islamic rebels that we have been supporting are actually allies of the group that is now in Iraq causing all of this trouble. But, I see that in the Syrian civil war were sending arms and opposing Iranian proxies – now they want, some people want us to get involved, allied with Iranian guard, even maybe fighting alongside the Iranian guard.

DAVID GREGORY:

But, before we get to that: ISIS as a terrorist organization, has been billed by many as a clear and present danger to the United States as a terrorist actor . . .

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Right

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you see that?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I look at it on a personal basis. I ask, “Do I want to send one of my sons, or your son, to fight to regain Mosul?” And I think, “Well ya, these are nasty terrorists, we should want to kill them.” But I think, “Who should want to stop them more? Maybe the people who live there.” Should not the Shiites, the Maliki government, should they not stand up? And, if they’re ripping their uniforms off and fleeing, if they don’t think Mosul is worth saving, how am I going to convince my son or your son to die for Mosul – another bad terrorist? And yes, we should prevent them from exporting terror; but, I’m not so sure where the clear-cut, American interest is.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, is the clear-cut American interest to protect America if these are terrorists who designed to hit America?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Well, I think if they are, then maybe we shouldn’t be funding their allies and supporting them in Syria. You see, they’re emboldened because we’ve been supporting them. It could be that Assad wiped these people out months ago. So what we do is we get in a confusing situation and I personally believe that this group would not be in Iraq and would not be as powerful had we not been supplying their allies in the war as well as our allies are funding these people. They probably have weapons that were bought either with Saudi money or Kuwaiti money or Qatar money. A lot of the radicals have been getting arms and money from these countries.

DAVID GREGORY:

So do you support the president, who says like you do, “Look, the Iraqis should stand up and fight them.” But he also wants to send 300 advisors there to help out.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I don’t question the 300 advisors for this reason – I’m not sure exactly where they’re going or what they’re doing. I do think that we have an embassy there and we’ve got 3,000, 2,000 people there, that yes, we have to defend our embassy. So, I’m not gonna nitpick the president and say “Oh, you shouldn’t send in a certain amount of advisors.” And the military decisions are protecting the embassy and, to me, are very important. I’ve been talking a lot about Benghazi and how we didn’t protect them. So, I’m not gonna get involved and criticize the president for trying to protect our embassy there.

DAVID GREGORY:

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has been quite critical of this president and he wrote an op-ed this week in which he said in part, “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is ‘ending’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – as though wishing [makes] it so.” Do you think Dick Cheney is a credible critic of this president?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think the same questions could be asked of those who supported the Iraq War. You know, were they right in their predictions? Were there weapons of mass destruction there? That’s what the war was sold on. Was democracy easily achievable? Was the war won in 2005, when many of these people said it was won? Um… they didn’t really, I think, understand the civil war that would break out. And what’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry…

DAVID GREGORY:

You’re not a “Dick Cheney Republican” when it comes to American power in the Middle East?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

What I would say is that the war emboldened Iran. Iran is much more of a threat because of the Iraq War than they were before- before there was a standoff between Sunnis and Shiites- now there is Iranian hegemony throughout the region.

DAVID GREGORY:

Has President Obama made America less safe- and less respected in that part of the world?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I don’t think I would put it that way. I disagree with the President- I disagree with him on the Libyan incursion and with arming the Syrian rebels. With ending the war in Iraq- I’ve been trying to end it for years- in fact, you know one of the important constitutional questions here is, what authority does anyone have to go to war in Iraq? I’ve been trying to take that authority away. I introduced a vote in the Senate about a year or two ago, and we only got about 33-34- votes to end the war even though it’s over. But here’s my point is that can one generation bind another generation- can the people you elected in 2002- who voted to go to war in 2002- does that bind us forever? Are we at war forever? No geographic limit- no temporal or time limit on this. I think there has to be a limit and that if we go to war again- and I’m not saying we never go to war- that’s why I’ve even said I don’t rule out airstrikes, but if we’re going to go to war there needs to be a vote of the American people through their representatives. We need to have a consensus- that yes- it is worth dying to regain Mosul, even though the Shiites and the people who live there are not willing to fight for it.

DAVID GREGORY:

You have blamed Republicans and Democrats over the last ten plus years for the prosecution of foreign policy. That would include Secretary of State Hilary Clinton- if she’s a candidate for President- and you’re a candidate for President- is this the main argument against her candidacy in a campaign by you?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think if you want to be Commander-in-Chief the bar you have to cross is will you defend the country- will you provide adequate security- and that’s why Benghazi is not a political question for me. To me it’s not the talking points- that’s never been the most important part of Benghazi- it’s the six months leading up to Benghazi where there were multiple requests for more security- and it never came. This was under Hillary Clinton’s watch. She will have to overcome that- and we will make her answer for Benghazi.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me turn to some domestic matters. On the issue of immigration- big issue in the Republican Party right now- Eric Cantor losing in part because of that. A lot of Tea Party grassroots activism- which is part of the base that you excite in the Republican Party- really opposing any move toward what is called amnesty. Here’s Rupert Murdoch- the Executive Chairman of News Corp, runs Fox News among other properties- and he writes this, this week, “We need to give those individuals who are already here- after they have passed checks to ensure they are not dangerous criminals- a path to citizenship so they can pay their full taxes, be counted, and become more productive members of our community.” Is this call- which is basically what others would call amnesty- something that the party needs to rethink its opposition to?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think that everyone needs to be for some form of immigration reform because the status quo is untenable. So I consider myself a bridge to conservative community because I am about as conservative as they come, maybe a little libertarian too, but I think that if we do nothing, 11 million more people may be coming illegally, so we have to do something. But here's the conundrum, I think the conundrum that is really being pointed out by the children being dumped on the border right now - there's a humanitarian disaster of 50,000 kids being dumped on this side of our border. It's because you have a beacon, forgiveness, and you don't have a secure border. So that's why conservatives who are for immigration reform, I am for immigration reform, but I insist that you secure the border first because if you have a beacon, of some kind of forgiveness, without a secure border, the whole world will come.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is a pathway to citizenship amnesty in your book?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think that that's the whole point, that's the whole problem what is amnesty? Because, I'll give you an example, the platform in one state that I was in recently says no deportation and no amnesty. Well if you're not going to deport people you are somehow changing the current law because the current law says everybody must go.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you've said that the party should give up this word "amnesty"

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think we need to get beyond it. But we also need to get beyond the status quo because the status quo is not acceptable. So I am for pushing, and trying to say to my conservatives across the country, we need some form of immigration reform. Border security first, but then we should have something that allows people who want to work in our country who are here to say we will find a place for you if you want to work, we link it to work because as Republicans.

DAVID GREGORY:

And a path to citizenship?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Well the path to citizenship is a longer, is a more difficult goal.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you don't rule it out as an end game?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

What I would say is that at this point in time I don't think any type of immigration reform will get out of Washington that includes a path to citizenship. But I do think that there is a path to a secure border and an expanded work visa program.

DAVID GREGORY:

You are championing another piece of legislation that could be controversial, but it focuses an area where you think you can work with Democrats. Here's something you said last year "If I told you that one out of three African-American males is forbidden by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago. Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting because of the war on drugs". What do you mean and what do you want to do about it?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

It's the biggest voting rights issue of our day. We've gotten distracted by a lot of other things. We think there may be a million people who are being prevented from voting from having a previous felony conviction. I'll give you an example: I have a friend whose brother, thirty years ago, grew marijuana plants in college. He made a mistake; he probably would tell you now it’s a mistake. He still can't vote, and every time he goes to get a job he has to tick a box that says convicted felon. It prevents you from employment, so if we're the party of family values and keeping families together, and the party that believes in redemption and second chances, we should be for letting people have the right to vote back, and I think the face of the Republican party needs to be not about suppressing the vote, but about enhancing the vote. So I have a bill that I'm going to introduce next week, if it comes forward would allow somewhere between a half a million to a million people to get the right to vote back.

DAVID GREGORY:

And you have some democratic support on this.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Well we have… yeah…. We are gonna… It is going to be a mixture. My bill only does nonviolent felons, and I’m the only one on my bill. There is another bill by Senator Cardin, which I support the concept, but maybe not the whole thing. It allows all felons to get the right to vote back after they have served time. So there is a little bit of give, but there are a lot of us who are – and I would say that Senator Cardin I am on his side of the concept maybe not quite there on the bill – but we both have bills that are driving this concept forward.

DAVID GREGORY:

Some other action in the Senate has to do with the controversy around the Washington Redskins. Fifty democratic senators saying that the NFL should force the Red Skins to change their name because they believe the Red Skin’s name is a slur. Do you agree with that? Would you support that in the Senate?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I’m not much for government getting involved in the NFL… I don’t really have a personal private or public opinion on what the Red Skin’s name should be. I do think that for the most part particularly professional sports has the ability, because they make special contracts, to really force people to do stuff and they can. So there could be something. You know we had the recent controversy in basketball and all that stuff… there are contracts that talk about behavior. I don’t know with the name… I think sometimes for example… I think sometimes we get distracted by things when there are more important things. Like the voting thing we find all kinds of discussion about voter ID and this and that, but really what is the most important issue nobody is… not enough people are talking about is that over a million people are prevented from voting. Literally and legally prevented from voting because they have a previous conviction. So I think that is a bigger issue than all the other stuff that we spend a lot of time talking about.

DAVID GREGORY:

We are in a big election year… I have one final question on Hillary Clinton in a moment, but I want to show you something in our poll that is daunting – for both parties. The president is in a world of trouble. Forty-one percent approval rating, but look at the status of the democratic versus republican party. The republican party is less popular and viewed more negatively than the democratic party when a lot of these midterm races are viewed as a referendum on the incumbent president. Why is that the case?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think Washington in general is unpopular, the president and congress, because we seem dysfunctional and we are dysfunctional. And I will give you an example… I am really pushing repatriation, letting money come home from overseas and building roads with it. This is something that we would lower taxes, brings in more tax revenue, and we build roads. Something everybody is for and it is like pulling teeth, getting Washington to vote on it and pass it. But if it actually came forward, if they let us have a vote in the senate? I think there is seventy votes for it in the senate.

DAVID GREGORY:

On Hillary Clinton, you said, “she will be made to pay for Benghazi.” How?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

She will have to explain how she can be commander and chief when she was not responsive to multiple requests for more security in the six months leading up. Plus there were a lot of expenditures at the State Department under her watch. Six hundred and fifty thousand was spent on Facebook ads when they didn’t have enough money for security. Seven… no, five million was spent on crystal glassware that summer. So there are a lot of expenditures that she approved, but she wouldn’t approve a sixteen person personnel team and she would not approve an airplane to help them get around the country. In the last twenty-four hours, a plane was very important and it was not available. These are really serious questions beyond talking points that occurred under her watch.

DAVID GREGORY:

Benghazi is disqualifying for her?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think so. I don’t think the American people… American people want a commander in chief that will send reinforcements, that will defend the country, and that will provide the adequate security. And I think in the moment of need – a long moment, a six-month moment – she wasn’t there.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator Rand Paul, as always thank you for your views.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Thank you.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

We covered a lot of ground there. We want to come back now to the crisis in Iraq. I'm joined by Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Michele Flournoy, who served as undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration between 2009 and 2012.

First, want to get the very latest on the extremist group ISIS and how, in just a short time, they have come to be perhaps the biggest terror threat to face the United States. Our Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell has more.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Iraq is being pushed to the breaking point by ISIS, the radical insurgents fighting in Syria and now surging through Iraq, so extreme even Al Qaeda rejected ISIS for its murderous tactics. It is brutal, well organized, some 10,000 Sunni militants operating more like an army than ragtag insurgents, looting banks, seizing oil fields and selling the oil, executing anyone who gets in their way.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

It also a great danger potentially to Europe and ultimately the United States.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Their goal? Form a hard-line Islamic state from Syria to Iraq and beyond. Their progress so far, nothing short of terrifying.

MICHAEL LEITER (NBC NEW COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST):

What they've done in Iraq, what they've done in Syria, and what they look to do in the West means that they are certainly the best funded, one of the most organized, and one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world today.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

ISIS fundraising looks more like a corporation than a terror group. Just look at their last annual report: glossy, highly produced, measuring performance by listing nearly 8,000 attacks in Iraq, 1,000 assassinations, 4,000 roadside bombs. An elaborate pitch to raise money from foreign backers principally in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait.

JESSICA LEWIS (INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR):

It absolutely has capacity and wherewithal to maximize its presence in social media, using techniques that many have said would be the envy of corporations.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

ISIS also raises tens of millions of dollars through smuggling, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom.

MALE VOICE IN ONLINE VIDEO:

Answer the call of Allah--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Most alarming, this just-released video, (which NBC News cannot independently confirm) a sophisticated propaganda offensive, even using English to attract western recruits, including Americans who could travel more easily to Europe and the U.S., potentially one of the most significant terrorist threats now facing the homeland. For Meet the Press, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Andrea, thank you. Chairman McCaul, an awful ideology, rich, well-resourced, hardened fighters. Worse, in the estimation of most experts, than Al Qaeda was before the 9/11 attacks.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL:

Well, they're so extreme that Al Qaeda, core Al Qaeda, Zawahiri, has denounced them for their tactics. I would say the vacuum, the training ground, the state that they're creating in Syria and now Iraq, is far surpassing what we saw before 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

DAVID GREGORY:

Spell that out for-- what do you fear about their movement and their ability and their desire? What are their ultimate desires, with regard to the United States?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL:

Well, I think right now they're focused on establishing the Islamic state in the region. But I think after that is the external operations against the West and the United States. It is the number one threat to the homeland. The secretary of homeland security agrees with me that in that assessment.

And why is that? Because you're having foreign fighters pour all over this world into this region with legal travel documents: 100 Americans, many Europeans, people from Australia. This is a major threat to not the region and Iraq, but also to the security of the American people on American soil.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, Michele Flournoy, take me through the president's thinking on potential air strikes to deal with ISIS. There's a huge political problem in Iraq that he's got a war on terror that he has to wage against a group that's worse than Al Qaeda.

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

Well, I do think that the president's initial steps have been absolutely on target. Deploying additional intelligence for--

DAVID GREGORY:

Part of that 300.

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

--reconnaissance. Well, actually, overhead assets, trying to get more intelligence on the situation, deploying almost 300 special operations forces to get on the ground, assess the situation. Work with the more capable Iraqi counterterrorism units. Start developing targeting packages vis-à-vis ISIS. And then he's moved, you know, strike assets into the region to give him some military options should the conditions--

DAVID GREGORY:

But so when and how do you--

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

--on the ground worsen.

DAVID GREGORY:

--pull the trigger, and what are you careful about?

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

Well, the important thing is that their ultimate solution here is a critical one that brings all of the parties back to the table, and particularly brings the alienated Sunni leadership and population back to the table. We cannot act as if we're just the air force for radical Shia elements on the ground. And so that political process has to happen. But militarily, we also have an interest in stopping the province of ISIS, and that means developing very discreet ISIS targets and helping--

DAVID GREGORY:

That don't hit civilians, that don't inflame the situation. Is it important, Chairman, as I've talked to figures in the region, other governments, they say, "Look, you can't just hit ISIS in Iraq. You've got to hit them in Syria too otherwise you're going to look like you're taking sides, if you're the United States."

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL:

I agree with Michele's analysis. I think two goals here, a dual strategy. One is the look at targeted air strikes against ISIS without collateral damage to the Sunnis. Number two is a diplomatic political solution in the region. I know Secretary Kerry is going to develop a regional strategy that's very important. Without that foundation, anything we do materially will fail. But I believe, when you take out these ISIS elements that exist, wherever they exist, that that not only stabilizes the region, but then takes away and eliminates the number one threat to the homeland.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, look, do you agree then with how the president's approaching it thus far?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL:

Well, it's a little late. I mean, the warning signs are there. I think not signing the Status of Forces Agreement way back when, having a residual force as a result in this. Maliki has mismanaged the way he dealt with the Sunnis; he didn't include them in the political process. I think it's time for Maliki to go, and have a new prime minister of Iraq that we can work with.

But I think the president needs to be more heavily engaged in the political diplomatic process to find a diplomatic political solution. And that's what I would urge the White House. I've talked to them. I do think they're on the right track now in terms of this dual strategy.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do we see more of a Yemen model, where we have some cooperation on the ground with potentially a new government, if Maliki goes? And the U.S., to avoid a mission creep, is really in the business of targeting key terrorist groups through drone strikes?

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

Well, I think the name of the game militarily will be empowering a legitimate military, indigenous military, on the ground--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But they don't want to fight if they think they're helping Maliki.

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

Right. But the precursor--

DAVID GREGORY:

They're not going to fight ISIS if they could have someone else do it.

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

--to all of this is that political reconciliation of government that truly represents all the parties--

DAVID GREGORY:

Then you don't--

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

--in Iraq.

DAVID GREGORY:

--see military action soon? I mean, it seems to me, again, the people I'm talking to; the president doesn't want to rush in and try to decapitate ISIS if that only strengthens Maliki, when he believes Maliki is a big piece of this problem.

MICHELE FLOURNOY:

Well, I think we want to put pressure on, and if possible decapitate ISIS, if we have that opportunity. But we can't do that without an all-out effort to try to bring all the parties together politically for a more inclusive government going forward. And I do think that's what the administration's going to be doing.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL:

I think we need to stop the bleeding. And when I talk to General Allen and Keane, the ones who won this war, and I've talked to Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, the great special envoy, by the way, to the region. Got to stop the bleeding. And that's the way you stop the bleeding, is targeted strikes against ISIS. At the same time, the diplomatic political solution.

DAVID GREGORY:

Just a few seconds left. Another area that you're looking at is what's happening at the border. We've had this massive influx of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the Mexican border. It's a huge issue for the administration. Do you blame the administration for some confusion about its policy that people were thinking they'd get an entry permit?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL:

Listen, I have a crisis in my own state. We are what's nothing less than refugee camps at Lackland Air Force base. I believe the failed border security strategy has resulted in this. I believe the message is, if you come to the United States, you can stay, and that's encouraged this.

But I do think-- I've talked to Secretary Johnson about this extensively. I have a hearing on Tuesday about this. But we have to not only secure the border; work with the Mexicans to get the southern Mexican border secure.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We're going to leave it there. More on this to come, of course. Chairman McCaul, Michele Flournoy, thank you both for being here.

DAVID BROOKS:

Thanks, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Coming up here.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REP. PAUL RYAN:

I don't believe you. This is incredible.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Coming up, that outburst. House Budget Chairman, former vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan. So what was he so angry about? Our political roundtable's up next to discuss an Obama administration controversy that's not going away.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back. The political roundtable is here to discuss Iraq and all the week's politics. EJ Dionne, columnist for The Washington Post; David Brooks of The New York Times; Katty Kay, anchor of BBC World News America; and for the first time on the program, I'd like to welcome Erika Harold, an attorney, a Republican congressional candidate from Illinois. She was also Miss America in 2003. So, welcome, glad to have--

ERIKA HAROLD:

Thank you for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

--you here. Thanks for being here everybody. David Brooks, here's the cover of Time magazine: “The End of Iraq,” not just as we know it, but maybe just plain the end. A lot to digest. What is the president going to do?

DAVID BROOKS:

Well, there are two issues here. The first is the discrete ISIS issue, which we simply cannot allow there to be an ISIS caliphate. And I'd say that's got to be a strategy. So far, I think there's a bipartisan agreement on what needs to happen, and we heard it today. The only disagreement is how aggressive you're going to be. There has to be the political side, to get Maliki out and to get some sort of unified government. It's an un-unified government. And there has to be a military piece.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes.

DAVID BROOKS:

And so I think everyone sort of agrees on that. And the question is how hard are you going to push? How quickly are you going to go to military?

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes. And it's interesting because the president's thinking about this; there's also the debate over Iraq again that, EJ, you wrote about, that people are talking about. And the president, when he spoke about this, is very clearly answering those former Bush figures like Vice President Cheney when he said the following during a press conference Thursday.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Recent days have reminded us of the deep scars left by America's war in Iraq. And what's clear from the last decade is the need for the United States to ask hard questions before we take action abroad, particularly military action.

DAVID GREGORY:

And that's a veiled jab at his critics.

EJ DIONNE:

Well, that's right. And I think that you've had this debate over who lost Iraq, which is not a great question to ask in the first place. You have what I saw as a pretty outrageous Dick Cheney piece in The Wall Street Journal that almost accused the president of being a traitor. "He's determined to leave office ensuring that he has taken America down a notch," and so on.

And I think what you're seeing here is Obama's foreign policy is realism that dare not speak its name. We don't really like to say that the real, it seems, position is we're going to intervene when our vital interests are at stake. And ISIS is a dangerous organization. As one official said, they make other extremist groups look like the JV.

And we're really worried that this is a group that could threaten us, but we also know that Maliki has alienated Sunnis so much that some of the tribes, some of the Sunni tribes that really don't like ISIS, that really don't like what they want to do, have sided with them in to knock Maliki.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, and is it--

EJ DIONNE:

That's why a political solution is so important.

DAVID GREGORY:

One of the things that's so hard, the public is not behind getting involved in Iraq whatsoever. But the concept of a war on terrorism, which is not President Obama would describe it-- but that is what he's facing in ISIS, whether he likes it or not.

ERIKA HAROLD:

There is this tension where there is not the political will to send combat troops back in. But I don't think that Americans feel really comfortable or proud of the notion that we would do nothing. So I think the president's challenge is finding a way of crafting a solution that does not involve sending troops back in, but gives us a sense that we're doing something.

DAVID GREGORY:

And it is interesting, Katty, look at our polling this week on this leadership moment, here and abroad, for President Obama. This leaps out at me where 54% of those polled don't believe that the president can lead and get the job done anymore.

KATTY KAY:

And particularly if you look at the foreign policy polling numbers, where he's doing very badly. And I think, you know, to some extent that is a reflection of the fact that foreign policy has been dominating the news at all at a time when, as Erika suggests, nobody's interested in it.

Americans do not want to be talking about Iraq at the moment. They don't want to be talking about ISIS. Most Americans, quite understandably, are asking themselves, "What on earth has this got to do with me? Why not just let them fight out over this?" And if we get involved now with air strikes, where are we in three months' time? Where are we in eight months' time? Are we still going to stay there to see a political process through? Because that's going to take a heck of a lot more time than launching a few air strikes. And I think that's the reflection in the American public, and you're seeing it in these poll numbers.

DAVID GREGORY:

At the same time, I just referred to Paul Ryan's outburst on Capitol Hill to the head of the I.R.S. over these lost drives and lost emails with regard to targeting Tea Party groups. This is the story that doesn't go away for President Obama. No direct evidence of wrongdoing, but this is not great confidence here in management when you can't find missing emails.

ERIKA HAROLD:

Well, I think that Americans right now have a real sense of cynicism because they feel like there's a set of rules for the average person and then a set of rules for the powerful and the politically connected. And I think a lot of people, those who are being audited by the I.R.S., and they said, "I simply lost all the documentation"--

DAVID GREGORY:

How would that go?

ERIKA HAROLD:

--I think they would not find a very sympathetic ear.

EJ DIONNE:

You know, the problem with the I.R.S. story is the I.R.S. was trying to do what needs to be done, which is there is an abuse of the 501(c)4 status. You should not have all these political groups getting that status. That's what they were trying to fix.

Then all kinds of stories about how were they targeting; it turned out they weren't as partisan in their targeting. And I actually believe in the government it is quite possible that incompetence rather than conspiracy led to this. But, you know, put yourself on the other side. If this happened in a different administration, you know, I can imagine what Democrats would say. So--

KATTY KAY:

But it's--

EJ DIONNE:

--it's very inconvenient incompetence, if it's incompetence.

KATTY KAY:

The confidence issue though is a very big problem for the White House because it's clearly rubbing off on them. In your polls, President Obama at the moment it would seem is less confident than President Bush after Katrina. That's a stunning number--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

--rule out, by the way, incompetent conspiracy.

DAVID GREGORY:

So every week we're now going to be showing you surveys that we have, some new polling that we're doing each week in coordination with The Wall Street Journal and an Annenberg poll. And today's numbers are interesting; they might serve as a warning sign to potential campaigns of both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, and we'll look at them there.

2016, Jeb Bush as president, 48% say he represents a return to past policy. 30% say he'd provide new ideas and vision. Similar as we look to the next set of numbers having to do with Hillary Clinton. 49% represent the return of past policies; 42% new ideas and vision. What's old is new again, or maybe not?

DAVID BROOKS:

I think these two campaigns are in much worse shape, much more fraught shape than people think. They're like these two stately ocean liners. Nobody wants to go back. But the country has moved on from where we were in the '90s; the parties have certainly moved on from where we are in the '90s. And the Bush/Clinton messages I think will be regarded as stale and will be challenged.

DAVID GREGORY:

How 'bout the fact that Rand Paul said that Benghazi's disqualifying for Hillary Clinton, EJ?

EJ DIONNE:

Well, I'm not the least bit surprised that he tried to move off Iraq and onto Benghazi to hit Hillary Clinton.

(OVERTALK)

EJ DIONNE:

But there's something interesting about those numbers. I mean, I think that if she runs, Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee, and the signs are she's going to run. There is 12-point gap on who brings new ideas in Hillary Clinton's favor, and she runs anybody eight points ahead, I think, in the most recent political I've seen, ahead of Jeb Bush.

I think what that says is Americans may well not be worried about going back. But if they are going to go back, they'd rather to go back to the '90s than to the 2000s. And so in this competition between the old and the old, and if Hillary Clinton--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Can I ask a question about immigration, Erika? What was interesting to me also about Rand Paul. Here he is, a Tea Party candidate, who excites that populist base that you were just talking about. And he's saying that Republicans have to stop talking about amnesty. He's not ready to commit to a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here. But this issues is really dividing the right, and continues to.

ERIKA HAROLD:

It continues to, and I don't think this consensus about what we should do. But I think he was right: There's not consensus what that word means. And so does anything short of deportation mean amnesty? I think though, as people are seeing the crisis of the children being brought across the border, people understand that we have to find a practical solution. They can't just it's bogged down by talking about what these words mean because there are real consequences.

DAVID GREGORY:

This is where President Obama's policies, some executive orders, particularly allowing an easier way for the children of illegal immigrants to get in, could backfire in a way. It's certainly not going to help the cause for broader immigration reforms.

KATTY KAY:

Well, that's the argument of those who say that the message is getting through to young people in Mexico and El Salvador when they're hearing there's a potential for amnesty if they manage to make it across the border, which is why you're seeing a flood of people. It's very interesting.

I think you have Rand Paul, you have Rupert Murdoch this week weighing in on the immigration debate, which is going to make it interesting watching Fox News, which has been traditionally opposed to immigration reform. You know, are we going to start seeing a change--

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is interesting--

KATTY KAY:

--in the media outlets.

DAVID GREGORY:

You take immigration, you take environment, you take some other issues as well where the Tea Party is really out of step, in our polling, with the rest of the Republican Party, to say nothing of the daughter Republic.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

How is a candidate going to navigate that primary?

DAVID BROOKS:

Fervor matters, and people are scared of them. And so I do think there's the will to challenge that fervor, especially in primary campaigns. So I think the Republican Party still has a monumental problem: Until the establishment can rally, until you can actually get a blue state Republican Party, until we can get different centers of power with equal fervor. And so far, that doesn't--

DAVID GREGORY:

And by--

EJ DIONNE:

The problem for the establishment is they need to challenge the Tea Party, and they clearly have strong support within the Republican works among the non-Tea Party folks, but they still forget to do a final challenge and say, "Let's have this fight."

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, let me take a break here. More from the roundtable in just a couple of minutes. Coming up next, dirty tricks in the deep South. Our Meeting America series takes us to one of the most heated elections in the country where even Sarah Palin and Brett Favre are taking sides.

***Commercial Break***

EVAN REDMOND (SONOFWASHINGTON.COM):

It's not really a question of universal offense versus one group of another, it's really a question of semantics: Is "the Redskins" a racial slur?

RAY HALBRITTER (ONEIDA INDIAN NATION REPRESENTATIVE):

The argument about whether or not it is a racial slur is really not an argument anymore.

DAVID GREGORY:

That is a clip from our new digital series called Make the Case, two experts on opposite sides of an issue making their case. This week's topic, should the Washington Redskins change their name? Watch the video on our site and let us know what you think by tweeting or posting with the hashtag #MakeTheCase. We're back with more, right after this.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Here now, some of this week's images to remember.

(“IMAGES TO REMEMBER” SEGMENT)

Following last week's huge upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Tea Party has another big target: Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran. He's facing a primary runoff against challenger Chris McDaniel on Tuesday. Our Kevin Tibbles went to Olive Branch, Mississippi, to check out one of the most hotly contested races of the year in today's Meeting America.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MICHAEL NEW:

(SINGING) "Well, since my baby left me--"

KEVIN TIBBLES:

In the state that gave the world Elvis Presley. There is, some say, a battle underway that's shaken the Republican establishment here to its very core.

GLORI MCNEESE:

The good-old-boy network, my granddaddy told me about it when I was five years old. I think it needs to implode.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

In Olive Branch, Mississippi, the run-up to this Tuesday's runoff has become a noisy and raucous affair with Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel winning many over with his anti-big-government-spending message. It's put Thad Cochran, the nation's second longest-serving Republican, in the political battle of his life.

SHERILL BULL:

People I'd say of my age call him Thad.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Olive Branch Pickers sells guitars, and holds a weekly hootenanny. Owner Sherill Bull likens Cochran to an old friend.

SHERILL BULL:

I feel like he's done a marvelous job working for the people of Mississippi. He's brought industry in. He's brought money into this state.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

But bringing federal dollars to Mississippi for everything from roads and water to public safety seems to have become a liability, even in one of the poorest states in the nation. Inside the Ole Town Bakery, the treats, much like the political waters here, have McDaniel biting back.

LYCIA CALLAHAN :

He wants to put the "Us" back in the A as far as the United States of America goes.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Lycia Callahan says it's time for change and supports McDaniel, even if it means Mississippi refusing some of the cake it's enjoyed in the past.

LYCIA CALLAHAN:

It does take money to get big things done. I think that we should have more a say-so of what we want it spent on.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Glori McNeese volunteers for McDaniel.

GLORI MCNEESE:

Walk the streets, as I'm doing now, pushing his information cards, placing signs. Anything that it takes to get him in. Think it's time that we clean house.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

This vote has brought out the big guns and bare knuckles. Homegrown hero Brett Favre has recorded a television ad in support of Thad Cochran. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has campaigned for McDaniel. But when a McDaniel supporter snuck a photo of Cochran's sick wife and posted it, some say it's gone too far.

SHERILL BULL:

You don't go to a nursing home and involve somebody that's sick. That's terrible.

MICHAEL NEW:

B7 and then you could just walk down to the A.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Despite all the celebrity attention, Michael New says he's undecided. He'll still love Mississippi, and the king, no matter who Republicans nominate. For Meet the Press, Kevin Tibbles.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you, Kevin. And, David Brooks, this is a story with legs in the political world, right?

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah. Well, the energy's on McDaniel's side, it seems, and that's part of the populist, anti-corporate, anti-establishment move, and it's from the class warfare movement within the Republican Party against the elite.

DAVID GREGORY:

I hate to turn away from politics, but the nation obviously is going to have its attention on a big World Cup game for the United States today against Portugal. Can they make it to round of 16? They have to win today to do it.

(OVERTALK)

ERIKA HAROLD:

They’ll do it. I'll predict two to zero.

DAVID GREGORY:

Wow, two-nil.

EJ DIONNE:

Who thought England and Spain would be out and we'd still be in?

(OVERTALK)

EJ DIONNE:

Winning creates fans, and I think it's amazing--

(OVERTALK)

KATTY KAY:

--to where they're going to have the big screens up with--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

--we're going to lose. We're going to lose.

(OVERTALK)

KATTY KAY:

You're being very British about that.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

I think for the first time soccer's taking off in a way here that it hasn't before, and that's my prediction, and I think the U.S. will win tonight.

Thank you all very much. You can continue our conversation about the big question all week long about soccer and about some of the issues with regard to Iraq at MeetThePressNBC.com all week long. Next week, we want to tell you, a special Meet the Press: We're going to have an exclusive interview and town hall with President Bill Clinton about the future of the economy. That's all for us today. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *