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MEET THE PRESS TRANSCRIPT: March 23, 2014

“MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY”

March 23, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, MARCH 23, 2014

NBC News - Meet The Press

3.23.14

Interview With Bill Neely, Michael Chertoff, Bob Hager, Mike Rogers, David Brooks, Andrea Mitchell, Mayor Michael Nutter, Rich Lowry, Secretary Arne Duncan, Mark Emmert, Reggie Love, and President Jimmy Carter

Correspondent: David Gregory

Producer: Rob Yarin

Media ID: LIVE SHOW

DAVID GREGORY:

Good Sunday morning. We are tracking two fast-moving stories. It’s been more than two weeks since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished. The search has expanded and are there new clues pointing towards the plane’s whereabouts this morning? Are we any closer to figuring out what happened and why? I’ve got a conversation with experts about this this morning and about the security questions that linger. Also, the crisis in Ukraine. I’ll speak to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and ask why he’s so worried about what Vladimir Putin might do next.

As millions are captivated by March Madness, there’s a big debate this morning about whether student-athletes should be paid to play? The president of the NCAA will be here exclusively, along with President Obama’s education secretary and a prominent former Duke basketball player, as we take on the issue. Plus, a key newsmaker this morning: An exclusive interview with former President Jimmy Carter. He also tangled with the Soviet Union. He’ll tell us why he thinks President Obama has not asked for his advice.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the world’s longest-running television program. This is Meet the Press with David Gregory.

DAVID GREGORY:

First this morning we're going to get the very latest on the search for the missing Malaysia airlines plane 370. I'm joined by NBC's Bill Neely, who is still in Perth, Australia, the base for this search mission. Bill, good morning to you.

BILL NEELY:

Good morning, David. A fourth day of searching has ended here. A fleet of planes from the U.S., from Australia, and New Zealand, four military, four civilian. The focus of their search is really twofold. First of all, big debris, and the breaking news is that a French satellite has picked up images of objects in the southern search area.

Now it's still not clear what those objects are, but it is the second day that we've had a new satellite image. And that's three satellite images overall. But the crews are also looking for something very small. Specifically, a wooden cargo pallet, and some straps or belts, multicolored. Those two things seen by a civilian aircraft.

Now the problem is, that for these crews flying at 200 miles an hour just a few hundred feet above the water, trying to find a wooden cargo pallet in choppy seas is pretty difficult. And secondly, a wooden pallet could just as easily have come from a passing ship as from a crashing plane. But the crews here, their morale is good, they're optimistic, but you know the problem is that the mystery of this missing plane remains even as all those crews, all this high-tech machinery is focused on trying to find it. Thanks.

DAVID GREGORY:

Bill Neely for us in Perth, Australia. Bill, thanks so much. I'm joined now by Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security. Also by Bob Hager, a long-time aviation correspondent for NBC. Great to have both of you. Bob, let's pick up on what Bill is saying. The fact that there's debris that's scattered around, if you put it together, do you think that's significant?

BOB HAGER:

Well yes. I mean, they're starting to get a lot of satellite photos of this, and I wonder if they're all seeing the same pieces of debris. But you've got to hope that it's from this plane.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, of course. And perhaps it is, perhaps it's not. But if that is, we have the current story about, you've got bad weather and wind, and it's all about finding the black box, which is actually not black. But you've got an example of one.

BOB HAGER:

Yeah, here's the box.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

BOB HAGER:

So yeah, so these pieces, they wouldn't tell you anything about the crash if they find them. But if you can trace them back through the currents, this would be the prize, getting these two black boxes. Here's what one looks like. This is a flight data recorder. Here's the important thing right there. That's the pinger. Sends out this underwater ping for a month, month and a half after the crash. If they don't, and then you can zero in, if you hear the pinger in the water.

DAVID GREGORY:

That's the thing though, is getting near enough to it. And this is a huge search area right now. How close do you have to be?

BOB HAGER:

Oh, you have to be about five, six miles, maybe even ten at the outside. So you've got to have a pretty good idea of where it is. And if they don't have a pinger, boy, then I'm--

DAVID GREGORY:

It could be lost forever. It's a race against time as well.

BOB HAGER:

I know.

DAVID GREGORY:

How much time have they got?

BOB HAGER:

Well, on the pinger I'd say maybe another month before it runs out. And then they found objects in the water a couple of miles down years later. But they always had a better idea where to look. In this case, if we don't hear the pinger, I'm wondering if they'll ever find any of it.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mike Chertoff, look, this is just the primal fear that anybody has, that you're on an airplane that goes down or just vanishes. And it may sound like kind of a naïve question, but in this age when we can find our iPhone with G.P.S. and all the rest, how do we lose sight of an aircraft?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

Well, I think one of the questions is whether the Malaysians were completely forthcoming at the very beginning about what they saw in terms of radar and, well, whether they held back information. So part of the problem is I think there was a scarcity of information at the beginning. And there may have been some misinformation, perhaps inadvertent. And that's made it a little more difficult.

DAVID GREGORY:

So what do you worry about now? There's a scenario that took place that we're trying to piece together. And after 9/11, when we thought so much about aviation security, are there new things that we need to learn from here?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

I think there are. Obviously one of the theories, but it's not proven yet, is that one or more of the pilots may have been involved in this. And of course, much of our screening has been focused on passengers. But now increasingly we face the question of what we call "inside threats."

What do you do when people who are working in an organization or an enterprise become a problem? It could be pilots, it could be members of a crew, we've seen a variation of that with Snowden. So I think the issue of screening and understanding when people are going off the rails inside the enterprise is going to become more of an issue.

DAVID GREGORY:

As we look to this week upcoming, Bob, in the search, in the investigation, what are the key milestones here you want to look for this week?

BOB HAGER:

Well, you want to find wreckage. That's the big thing. And you really want to hear more about this investigation or the private lives of the cockpit crew. But if there's neither of those things that reveal anything, you've got a case where we may never know.

6:20

DAVID GREGORY:

The current, the issue that oceanographers will look at, how formidable is that? If you're finding some wreckage even now, the way this thing could be moving, how big of a piece is it?

BOB HAGER:

They've got very elaborate schemes on the computer where they can trace back the currents of the ocean. Even the best of them though, in Air France, that was five years ago off Brazil, when the computer calculated it, they were about 40 miles off, or something like that. So computer calculations only gets you so far. That's a really tough task to figure out where the main body of wreckage is.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you've been doing this for decades. We may never know?

BOB HAGER:

That's my concern here. Maybe already know enough to learn some lessons from what we know about not being able to trace things better, and so forth. But we may never know what happened on this deal.

DAVID GREGORY:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM). What do you look for this week on the investigation piece of it?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

Well, I think one of the key issues will be what do they find in the background of the pilots. Now I don't want to accuse them of anything, but clearly, if there were something there.

DAVID GREGORY:

Linking out his flight demo machine at home, does that--

(OVERTALK)

MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

Again, you can speculate, there can be a motive for it that's a benign motive or there can be a more sinister motive. So I think that's going to be a key issue this week.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Mike Chertoff, Bob Hager, thank you both for your perspective very much as this mystery deepens and continues as the search effort does. We'll keep tabs on it. I want to turn now to the latest on the crisis in Ukraine. Russia is in control of Crimea. And tonight, President Obama will depart from Europe to try and solidify support against Vladimir Putin. I spoke earlier to Mike Rogers, Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He was in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Chairman Rogers, welcome back to the program. I want to get to the crisis in Ukraine, you've been there, in just a minute. But let me start with Flight 370. You said last week that based on the people you're talking to in our intelligence community, you think unfortunately this plane is at the bottom of the ocean. Is that your view this morning?

MIKE ROGERS:

I think that's the highest probability, David. You can't take anything quite off the list yet. But when you look at what is probable and what is plausible, it certainly rates as the probable. So what they'll continue to do is try to identify every background on every passenger to make sure they're not missing something. And then they won't be really able to put this whole case together until they find the aircraft. And I do believe based on everything that I've seen so far, it is likely and probable that it crashed into the Indian Ocean.

DAVID GREGORY:

As you have been in Ukraine and are thinking about Vladimir Putin and Russia, the mission of U.S. intelligence is to think about what happens next. So what is President Putin going to do next?

MIKE ROGERS:

Well, that's the big mystery. But I will tell you that the Ukrainians passionately believe that he will be on the move again in Ukraine, especially in the East. And we have to think of it, I think we're a bit removed from this, David. I talked to an individual who was kidnapped by the Russians, he believes. His ear was cut off, he had nails put in his hand in a crucifix type of position in order to get a confession from him that the Americans were behind the upheaval in Ukraine.

And this is who we're dealing with. So they took over Crimea, you see that they've taken over another base yet today. And it certainly appears by everything that Ukrainian intelligence officials believe, certainly U.S. intelligence officials believe that Putin is not done in Ukraine. And so it is very troubling.

He's put all military units he would need to move into Ukraine on its Eastern border. And is doing exercises. We see him moving forces in the South in a position where they could take the southern region over to Moldova in the Ukraine. And we see that he's actually working what they call "soft power." So he's got intelligence officials spread out all over the country causing problems in Ukraine.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you think President Obama has done enough to stop him?

MIKE ROGERS:

I think Americans are so far removed from this. We need to re-engage in what is actually happening. You have individuals who are for independence and their own personal liberty, fighting against a country that wants to take them over. And one of the reasons they took to the streets in the beginning was corruption, oppressive corruption.

I do think that we have to, as Americans, have to take a tough stand with our European partners. There are things that we can do that I think we're not doing. I don't think the rhetoric matches the reality on the ground. You can do noncombatant-military aid in a way that allows them to defend themselves. And that's all they want. No direct military action. They don't want U.S. boots on the ground, neither do I. I don't think you do either, nor does any other American.

But what we can do is offer them things that they can use to really protect and defend themselves. And I think that sends a very clear message. We're not talking about even complicated weapon systems. We're talking about small arms so they can protect themselves. Maybe medical supplies, radio equipment, things that they can use to protect themselves, defensive-posture weapon systems.

And you do that in conjunction with sanctions, now you've got something that says, "Mr. Putin, we're done with you expanding into other countries." He goes to bed at night thinking of Peter the Great and he wakes up thinking of Stalin. We need to understand who he is and what he wants. It may not fit with what we believe of the 21st century.

But that's not who he is and that's not what he's trying to accomplish. We need to be a little bit tougher with Putin or he is going to continue to take territory to fulfill what he believes is rightfully Russia. He gave a very inflammatory speech last Tuesday that concerned certainly the people of the Ukraine, all across this region of the world, the European Union, and it should concern the United States as well.

5:21

DAVID GREGORY:

Is a red line for the United States in your judgment, our NATO allies, particularly the Baltics, if Russia should cross that line?

MIKE ROGERS:

Well, I think we need to act before that. I think it's too late. If he crosses into the Baltics with military units, that is more than troubling. That means that the country of Georgia is likely to have been more further invaded than it already is. It means that he's taken land in the Ukraine, the southern and eastern portions of Ukraine before I think he would do the Baltics.

So if it gets to the Baltics, we have allowed people who want to be free, who want to be independent, who want to have self-determination, and we've turned our back and walked away from them. The world did that once, and it was a major catastrophe.

DAVID GREGORY:

I want to touch on a couple of other areas quickly. On the issue of the N.S.A. surveillance and Edward Snowden, when you were last on this program, Chairman, you were very pointed, suggesting that he may have had help from the Russians, that Edward Snowden may have been a Russian spy, may be a Russian spy. He's called that absurd. No new details have come to light on this. Were you irresponsible in making such a charge without having specific evidence to back it up? To just sort of float that out there?

MIKE ROGERS:

Well, first of all, I see all the intelligence and all the evidence from everything from his activities leading up to this event to very suspicious activity during the event. And so when you talk to the folks who are doing the investigation, they cannot rule it out.

So here's what we know, David. We know today no counterintelligence official in the United States does not believe that Mr. Snowden, the N.S.A. contractor, is not under the influence of Russian intelligence services. We believe he is. I certainly believe he is today. So now we all agree that he's under the influence of Russian intelligence services today.

For the investigators, they need to figure out well, when did that influence start. And was he interested in cooperating earlier than the timeline would suggest. So you're talking to a guy who stole information, who is now in the arms of intelligence services saying, "Well, gosh, whatever you guys say is absurd. Only I can define the truth." That's ridiculous on its face.

I do believe there's more to this story. He is under the influence of Russian intelligence officials today. He is actually supporting in an odd way this very activity of brazen brutality and expansionism of Russia. He needs to understand that. And I think Americans need to understand that. We need to put it in proper context.

DAVID GREGORY:

But what is the evidence that he is under that influence? As he has pointed out, why go to Hong Kong? When he originally got to Russia, he was stranded in the airport. That's no way to treat a spy, he has pointed out. So you're arguing a lot, but where's the evidence to suggest that he's actually under the influence of a foreign intelligence agency?

MIKE ROGERS:

Well, again, today, we believe he's under the influence and every counterintelligence official believes that. You won't find one that doesn't believe today he's under the influence of Russian intelligence services. That we can all agree on. It's when did that start that there is-- I think there is really good evidence. In this case, as the more we look into this, I think the more you're going to find that that date gets further and further away from his story. Matter of fact, I don't believe the story he tells about both the airport or his activities in Hong Kong are accurate.

It just gets more complicated and as I said he’s clearly in Moscow, under the influence of intelligence services for a country that is expanding its borders today using military force. I think there’s a lot more questions that need to be answered here.

DAVID GREGORY:

We're going to leave it there. Chairman Rogers, thank you as always.

MIKE ROGERS:

Thank you David, thanks for having me.

(END TAPE)

6:22

DAVID GREGORY:

Our roundtable is here now. David Brooks of The New York Times, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter is here as well, and Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, welcome to all of you. A lot to chew on this morning. But I want to start with this crisis in the Ukraine. And here's my question: What does it take for the U.S. to regain the upper hand in this fight with Vladimir Putin, David Brooks?

DAVID BROOKS:

Fear. I think President Obama has been quite good, quite aggressive. He's been out front with the sanctions. The sanctions are beginning to hurt. But there are two things the sanctions are never going to do. One is overcome the Russian mentality.

They're thinking, "We handled Stalingrad. We had people starving in the streets and we still won. So we can endure a little economic suffering." Second, the psychology of fear. Who do you fear? I think the president has been very aggressive, predictable, especially given our alliances. But does Vladimir Putin fear Barack Obama?

And to create that climate of fear, you have to do something really aggressive. Something that will get Putin back on his heels. And frankly, I think if this thing continues to escalate, I can give you an idea of arming Ukraine, giving them some actual weapons to have a good, deterrent effect, is someplace to get ahead.

DAVID GREGORY:

But here's the thing. Nobody wants a shooting war in Ukraine. If you're this administration, you don't want that. Why? Prospect of civil war, prospect of giving a cause célèbre to the Russian leader. What you want, the message, is to have a strong, prosperous Ukraine. That's the real tough message to Vladimir Putin, isn't it?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

It is. And a couple of things, our Congress has still not voted even on the basic Ukrainian economic package because of a dispute over the I.M.F. unrelated. That sends a terrible signal. I think the latest sanctions are beginning to hurt around that inner-circle. But the weak leak here is Angela Merkel, the Germans, and the rest of the Europeans, who are reluctant to take tough steps.

They've been remarkably weak. So this coming week when the president sits down with Europeans, how tough are they really willing to be? And the Russian armies will just use any pretext to roll tanks over Ukraine. I was watching them with broomsticks in Crimea and watching them digging trenches in Eastern Ukraine makes one think of World War One.

DAVID GREGORY:

It's interesting too to hear Chairman Rogers, and his fear, a very real fear that the intelligence committees have and community has and others that in fact, Vladimir Putin won't stop in Crimea. Here's the cover of The Economist magazine with the new world order that would only be complete with a shirtless photo of Vladimir Putin on top of a tank.

But the new world order, which seems a lot like the old world order, like the 19th century world order, where geography matters a great deal to keep some kind of ethnic and territorial upper hand over others.

RICH LOWRY:

Yeah, well, and Angela Merkel said that famous remark that she talked to Putin and he was living in a different world, that's literally true. We all thought we were living in a post-Cold War world where everyone accepted basic, international norms. He's living in a world where he can take territory through lies and force of arms.

And he is calibrating his next move right now based on what the West does. And he is assuming that the sanctions will be fairly anemic, which they have been so far. And eventually, it'll all be forgotten, and he'll get another reset. And we have to make it clear we're never going to accept the legitimacy of this. We have to do everything we can to buttress that new government in Ukraine, including arms, and you have to have sanctions that really inflict severe pain.

DAVID GREGORY:

Michael though, you're looking at this, no doubt, from the point of view of the President's domestic agenda. Going to the issues that you're dealing with as a mayor every day. You look at a foreign policy crisis taking more and more time and effort away. Do you worry about it impacting President Obama's leadership in other areas?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

Well, President Obama can do many more things than one thing at a time. And so he has an entire team. I think that the sanctions are starting to work, as Andrea said. You see what the U.N. Security Council did in terms of the resolution. So the world is starting to come together around this particular issue. China was with us.

Russia is increasingly going to be isolated in this situation. And so the president also, looking at the domestic agenda, and listening to Americans, most Americans are really tired of war, don't necessarily want to be in this kind of conflict. So there is a balancing act here in this country in dealing with world leaders.

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is what Putin is counting on. And by the way, he made the same calculation in 2008 about President Bush. But it's interesting. Think about the world when Saddam Hussein took over Kuwait. And that President Bush said, "This will not stand." The international world order was a very different thing. What does it take for the U.S. to singularly use its influence today as opposed to in earlier years?

DAVID BROOKS:

Well, people might say, "Why do we care? It's far away, it's a country, we don't know much about it." But Rich alludes to the real problem here, which is we had a post-Cold War era, which has not been great, but it's been a lot better than the 19th century. And there have been some undergirding facts of that era.

The first is, you don't have spheres of influence. Russia can't say, "We sort of control everything. We control everywhere where our people are." The second is that you don't go invading other countries, breaking down the laws. It's complicated, but you basically have some stability. And within that stability, you can have global trade, you can have free movement of people.

And Putin is this radioactive individual who wants to create history, large ego, large Russian nationalism, which is whipped up all around him. He is a fundamental threat to this order. And so that's why it matters. It matters to the economy, it matters to the way the world conducts itself for a couple years.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

And I think as the president embarks on this trip to see leaders in Europe, in the Middle East. We are not by ourselves. And we can't as if we're by ourselves. We may be the biggest thing on the planet--

DAVID GREGORY:

But they're counting on--

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

But there does, again, there needs to be a coalition of nations that say, "We will not tolerate this kind of activity. Where does it end? It does have an international impact and it has impact here domestically as well." We have to get things done in the United States at the same time.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

At the same time though, what we see with Putin, and David, you just alluded to it, is that he is now whipping up this nationalism, which is very appealing to large parts of teeny sections of Moldova, which are now saying, "We want to be Russian too." And so he could use the pretext of self-determination with these groups in Eastern Ukraine and elsewhere saying, "We want to be Russian." And then what do we do? What does NATO do? Does it do a so-called "chapter five" and take military action?

DAVID GREGORY:

There is another big issue here domestically. We are now four years on to ObamaCare being passed. It was four years ago today, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. We know this is a big political issue, Rich. The issue is, are Americans better off or worse off with ObamaCare in their life?

RICH LOWRY:

What we know, the law is not going to collapse on its own weight, which seemed a real possibility when the launch was so botched. But I think it's still pretty grim. If you believe the surveys of people who've signed up through the exchanges, most of them already had insurance, which suggest what you've basically done is a churn where you've knocked people off their old insurance, and then gotten them on the exchanges. So there's not much upside to that. At the same time, you've caused enormous disruption for millions of people. So I think this thing continues to be a substantive and a political--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Mayor, are you proud of this law?

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

I'm very proud of it and Rich, I wish you'd been with me yesterday. This is kind of a Philly-centric panel, but at Twelfth and Market yesterday, out with the folks from Get Covered and Enroll America, I walked up to people and asked them, "Do you have insurance?" The answer was no in many, many, many cases. And these are individuals who are now getting affordable health insurance. I've been to a number of these forms, $7, $18, $25 a month. Five million people have now signed up. So people want health care. I think the--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

That is shy of what they said the goal was.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

I understand that--

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

You get as many people as you can, the deadline is the 31st. And folks should still continue to sign up. So if you didn't have health insurance, it's a great experience--

RICH LOWRY:

That's a wonderful anecdotal.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

No, it's not anecdotal, it's real.

RICH LOWRY:

It is. It's anecdotal.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

And that was yesterday afternoon.

RICH LOWRY:

But are you aware of the surveys by consultancies and others that have actually asked people on the exchanges whether--

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

No, I'm aware of talking to real people on real streets in Philadelphia.

RICH LOWRY:

I know. So it's anecdotal. The surveys suggest that a lot of these people already had insurance. And the fact is there are now Republican alternatives that will probably cover more people than ObamaCare at a fraction of the cost, a fraction of the disruption, a fraction of the--

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

If the Republicans had spent more time not trying to undermine ObamaCare in 50-some odd votes and actually--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

Let me, David--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

--brotherly love here. We could have cheese steaks, at least three of us.

DAVID GREGORY:

You guys already have matching ties on.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

I sort of normally agree with both a little. I do think, as Rich said, it's achieved credibility. People are getting coverage. There's really no indication to me that the cost controls, such as they were, are going to have any bite at all. I do not think there'll ever be a mandate, an individual mandate. I do not think they're going to get enough young people to pay for the old people. So I think we're going to get is a program that will insure a lot of people, which is a positive good. But it will cost a lot more.

DAVID GREGORY:

Can I ask Andrea, can I ask this political question? What are the implications of the president deciding unilaterally how and when to implement aspects of ObamaCare? If a Republican president were being this selective about the law, there'd be an outcry on the part of those who were supporters of ObamaCare.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Yeah, I think that is one thing that really undermines his case against the Republicans in Congress. Stop messing around with the law. What he has said from the beginning is, "Fix the problems." And they did these endless, useless votes to try to eliminate the law, which they knew they weren't going to win. That was all symbolic.

But for him to now be unilaterally saying, "Well, we're not going to implement this and we're not going to implement that," I think it does undermine his case. He issued a statement today saying, "This is the fourth anniversary and costs have come down." Some of those costs would've come down in any case because of the continuing slow recovery to the fed.

DAVID GREGORY:

So here's my question to you, a political question. The convention of wisdom is, if you're a Republican, this is a slam dunk, just to foreshadow my coming debate about college sports. This is a slam dunk for you in the midterms. So what's the other side of that? Where should Republicans be cautious about the argument about ObamaCare in the fall?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, I do think it's a slam dunk because it motivates the Republican base at the same time it has appeal to the center. And any time you have an issue like that, that's a winner. I do think there's a danger and a monomaniacal focus on ObamaCare to the exclusion of everything else. The Republicans don't have to have an agenda on everything else. I think they should be making the case comprehensively against the president's agenda, and come up with positive alternatives the way they have on ObamaCare.

DAVID GREGORY:

But ObamaCare is here to stay. I mean, as a conservative commentator, is that your view looking at this?

RICH LOWRY:

No.

DAVID GREGORY:

You don't believe that?

RICH LOWRY:

No, I think the law had a legitimacy problem since the beginning. And if you get unified control, Republican control of government in 2017, which is possible, this thing will be repealed.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mayor, your thinking?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

That'll be very interesting as obviously we have a slight difference of opinion.

RICH LOWRY:

Just a slight. Just a little one. But David can work it out, don't worry. He's the mediator here.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

He's the mediator. But again, all the time, and as again Andrea mentioned, the wasted effort on all of these votes, when there are still people who are hungry in this country, there are still people who need jobs, and workforce development training, all of these votes against the supplemental food program, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The party of "no" needs to step up to the plate and actually have some real ideas that deal with real people every day, all across the United States of America.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But--

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

There are ObamaCare alternatives in the Senate right now.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

Well, that's all they want to talk about. There are other things that--

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

No, there are other alternatives.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

--on poverty on all this.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

Yeah.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

The flaw for Republicans and Democrats though as they look toward the midterms is that it was a Republican base, such as it was that came out in the Florida congressional district, and not the Democrat base. And that, there is no motivating force yet for Democrats to come out and vote in the midterm. But Republicans, the passionate are.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm going to make that the last word. Thank you all very much for the matching ties. You're off to the Vatican, Mayor.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

I am.

DAVID GREGORY:

Safe travels. That'll be an interesting trip.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

We look forward to hearing about it. Thank you all very much.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

Absolutely. I'd be glad to share.

DAVID GREGORY:

We'll take a break here, coming up, a special debate this morning over an issue that involves fairness and the multibillion-dollar business of college sports. Is it time for college athletes to be paid? A special debate coming up after the break.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Coming up, pay for play. The president of the N.C.A.A. and two former college athletes who have made careers in Washington, former player Reggie Love and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, on whether it's time to pay college athletes.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Welcome back. March Madness is here. And as much excitement that's created by this college basketball tournament, there is a big debate roiling college sports now. Should athletes be paid? A new poll out this morning suggests 64% of the public opposes paying players with only 33% in favor.

But there is some momentum behind a string of lawsuits against the N.C.A.A. pushing for greater commercial rights for the athletes. And here to debate the issue are Reggie Love, who played football and basketball for Duke on the championship team back in 2001, before becoming a personal aide to President Obama.

Mark Emmert is of course the president of the N.C.A.A. And we're very pleased to have you on a big day for March Madness here in our studio. And of course, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who himself played basketball for Harvard. And much to the delight of my son was this year's M.V.P. in the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game.

So Arne, you made big news at home. Welcome to all of you. This is a controversial issue. It gets to be a heated issue. And I want to frame it this way. This is a comment from Jeffrey Kessler who is a lawyer representing some of the athletes.

And he laid out the issue this way: "The one thing people should recognize is how fundamentally unfair it is to look at a team in the N.C.A.A. tournament, where the coach is making $5 million, the school is generating hundreds of millions, sponsors are cashing in, administrators are cashing in.

"And the only group that is not receiving any benefit are these athletes, most of who," there was a typo there, not on our part, on their part, "most of who will not graduate and most of who will never be a professional athlete. This is their one opportunity to be recognized and compensated." So President Emmert, why isn't this unfair, not to compensate these athletes who are creating so much value?

MARK EMMERT:

Well, I think Mr. Kessler and a variety of other people have framed this question completely wrong. Basically what is being argued here is should student athletes, whether they're basketball players or any other sport, be unionized employees of a university, or is this fundamentally about students playing the game and receiving the most important thing that's going to set them up for the rest of their life, a good, sound, education and the opportunity to get that education. Obviously, universities and colleges believe that these are student athletes, that these are young men and women who should continue to be students and not be unionized employees. Those are two very different levels.

13:52

DAVID GREGORY:-

So let me get Reggie Love, who has a different view. Because the argument here is that Mark is underlining the student part of student athlete. Isn't there some myth associated with that? That this is an amateur athletic experience?

REGGIE LOVE:

Well, look, I think when you look at the coaches' salaries and you look at the money that universities are able to bring in from alumni, obviously college sports is a business. And that being said, I think it's hard to say that every player should be paid for their participation in a specific dollar amount, but I do think that student athletes are a key partner in the ecosystem. And there should be the opportunity to build long-term value. It shouldn't just be about athletic development, but it should be about athletic, professional, and personal development. These kids are 18, 19 years old.

DAVID GREGORY:

They're not partners now, Mark, is the issue. They're actually not partners. They create so much of the revenue, but they're not actually partners in this business. And suggest it's not a business when you're making almost a billion dollars in TV revenue, most of which comes from March Madness, strikes a lot of people as disingenuous.

MARK EMMERT:

Yeah, a lot of confusion about where that money goes, what that money is all about. Absolutely March Madness generates a lot of revenue. That revenue is used to support all of the other tournaments, divisions one, two, and three. If a young man or a young woman's playing golf, volleyball, lacrosse, ice hockey, all of those tournaments, everything that goes on in college sport is supported by the revenue that comes out of March Madness.

So the vast majority of the revenue flows into the N.C.A.A., goes right out to the universities either directly or indirectly through the support of these championships. The money's not going to colleges and they're sitting on it. It's supporting 450,000 kids. It's a big, big amount of money.

DAVID GREGORY:

Arne Duncan, you're a former player, you're the Secretary of Education. You have a more nuanced view about all of this.

SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN:

Well, these are really complex and I think important issues. And David, this one frankly is very personal for me. I grew up playing in the inner-city on the South Side of Chicago. Many guys I played with and looked up to went to universities, made a lot of money for the universities, never got their degree, came back home with nothing to show for it.

And there was something fundamentally unfair about that. For me the real key, David, is that we have to change these incentive structures. So graduation rates are the most important thing. And to Mark and N.C.A.A.'s credit, they've raised the bar. The University of Connecticut, who won the national championship a couple years ago couldn't compete in the tournament the following year because their graduation rate was so low.

And now they've made some significant changes. New president, new A.D., new coach, guess what? Students are doing better. If you want to help the young people long term, the most important thing you can do is help them get that degree. And over their lifetime, their increased earnings, a million dollars more than that.

And so these incentive structures for coaches, the incentive structures for A.D.'s have to be changed so much more of their compensation is based not upon wins and losses, but around academic performance and graduation. And university presidents and boards have been very complacent and soft in this issue. You have to really look at the leadership of universities here.

DAVID GREGORY:

One of the aspects of the unfairness piece of this, Reggie, was captured in a tweet that we found. A sports columnist for the L.A. Times, Bill Plaschke, he tweeted this over the weekend. Quote, "There are no planned meals for the teams on the off days. Should a team wish to have a meal at his own cost, it can make arrangements."

The follow-up tweet was this: "My previous tweet was copied from an N.C.A.A. memo found at the San Diego tourney site. They can't even feed the kids that are making them billions?" There is not even a stipend that has been agreed to to be able to support kids who even beyond the scholarship, can't pay for some of their basic necessities like food when they're creating so much value.

REGGIE LOVE:

Yeah. I think, look, you get a range of student athletes who come into a university. You've got kids who come from great families and have tons of resources. And you have kids who come from not much and don't have the ability to buy a suit or to buy a laptop or to participate in a lot of the fundamental things that are required to be a student athlete or be a student.

I think N.C.A.A. has done some very good things in terms of making more resources available to kids who need these resources. But I do think that there are additional things that could be done to get kids an additional opportunity to--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Like what? Make the case. What would you see?

REGGIE LOVE:

I think an educational trust. I just got out of graduate school, right? I think that graduate school cost me almost $200,000. I think that every student athlete who plays for a university should be able to go to that university, assuming that they can do the work, they should be able to be educated, graduate school.

SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN:

Yeah, I think that's really important. People talk about helping them graduate from college. Yes, they should do that, but M.B.A., Master's, PhD, having some ability for the rest of your life to go back and get education. I think that's something worth considering. Some folks are talking about the medical expenses long term. I think that's a fair question on the table. But this chance to continue education not just for those couple years while you're competing, but for much longer beyond that.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

What about the stipend issue? Because I know that you've been for that.

MARK EMMERT:

Yeah, sure.

DAVID GREGORY:

But look, you've put this to a vote, as I understand it. And the schools didn't agree. Some of the smaller schools rather vetoed the idea of a nominal stipend to help family members get to games, to help some of these athletes with their basics.

MARK EMMERT:

Yeah, I think all these issues we're discussing right now are not only good topics to discuss, but are fair and appropriate things to do that are being aggressively debated right now inside the N.C.A.A. As most people know, the rules of the N.C.A.A. aren't made by me or anybody on the staff. They're made by the members themselves.

And we have twice now had the board of the N.C.A.A. pass an allowance to allow schools to provide a couple of thousand dollars in what we call "miscellaneous expense" allowances. The kind of things that you were just discussing. The board's in favor of it.

The membership, the more than a thousand colleges and universities that are out there, the 350 of them that are in division one had voted that down. We're in the middle right now of reconsidering all that. I have every reason that that's going to be in place sometime this coming year.

DAVID GREGORY:

So what's the doomsday scenario? What would be so wrong if, let's say, Time Magazine suggested this, you had a pool of money, a cap, say. And that you could decide to pay the athletes a certain amount. What's the doomsday scenario in your view?

MARK EMMERT:

Well, there's two parts of it. So the first is, are you taking students and converting them to employees? That's what the Northwestern debate is about. That's what--

DAVID GREGORY:

They want to unionize them?

MARK EMMERT:

They want to unionize. And then to unionize them, you have to say, "These are employees." If you're going to do that, it completely changes the relationship. I don't know why you'd want them to be students. If they're employees and they're playing basketball for you, don't let calculus get in the way.

SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN:

I think that the common sense and middle ground in all these things. Making sure students are fed, making sure if there's an emergency at home and mom gets very sick or dad passes away, they have an ability to get home to attend the funeral. You have some student athletes who show up with one little bag of clothes. That's all they have in the world.

So I think there are some things you can do there. But again, thinking about the students' long-term benefits for the rest of their life, which for me just has to be on the educational side. The problem out there, David, it's far too many young men in particular, you're talking about March Madness, think they're going to grow up and play in the NBA.

And the vast majority aren't. Half of division two basketball players think they're going to the NBA. And so we have to get the idea of chase that dream, but catch an education and use sports as a vehicle to get an education, which sets you up for the rest of your life, and changes your family's prospects forever.

(OVERTALK)

MARK EMMERT:

I think the Secretary, excuse me David, I think the Secretary is just spot on with all of that. I think the game-changer in life for all of us is getting an education, a real valid, legitimate education. Making sure that they can do that without having to worry about the costs and how it's going to be paid for, making a commitment to a lifetime education I think makes great sense.

I think Reggie's right on that as well. I do want to correct one point though. We don't have student athletes that are going without meals. They get tuition fees, room and board, books and supplies. They can today, maybe not when you were playing, today, they can get a laptop from their athletic department. They can get a suit and tie from their athletic department. They can get a flight home for an emergency. So it's a very different world than it was five years ago.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you're saying that the Education Secretary is spot on. The reality is, there is an element of professionalizing this, whether you're selling merchandise. If my son wants a Villanova jersey with Josh Hart's name on it, he can't get that. That's against the rules.

MARK EMMERT:

That's right.

DAVID GREGORY:

But I can buy the jersey with number three on it, and he's perfectly happy because he knows what that means. You're using the likeness of these players and these video games and marketing them to kids. You're professionalizing this. I don't read a lot of stories about Johnny Manziel and the commitment to his major and what he wants to do after football if he's not drafted. So there is this professional element. So I guess what I'm asking is, what's the compromise? What can you commit to to say, "We can close this gap a little bit"?

MARK EMMERT:

Well, the gap needs to be closed around the context of being a student at a university. So if we provide the N.C.A.A. members, universities and colleges, provide a young man or a young woman with all the expenses they have, legitimate expenses as a student athlete, including this so-called stipend, right, that extra amount of money.

I think that makes great sense and I think it'd be very valuable to the students, provide them with that, provide them with a commitment for a lifelong education, at least to finish that Bachelor's degree, they want to come back and finish? Great. Let them come back and finish. I think that's terrific. Making sure that they have the resources available to be successful so that they're set up for the rest of their life. That's what we want.

SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN:

David, that's half the battle. The other half that I really want to emphasize is that the incentives for coaches are basically all wrong now. And Tom McMillen played in the NBA, Rhodes scholar, has done some fantastic work. In terms of coaches' compensation, he looked at a number of contracts. The dollar value was $11 in terms of additional bonuses for wins, and $1 for academic performance.

And we see that place after place after place. For me, there should be a threshold academically. If students aren't performing at that and graduation rates, coaches shouldn't get anything. And if coaches are doing the wrong thing and cheating, the penalty should not just hit the university, the penalties need to follow the coach.

DAVID GREGORY:

Quick final word Reggie, about ten seconds left.

REGGIE LOVE:

Yeah, no, I agree with Arne. I think the incentives are dis-aligned. But I do think that there are some great coaches out there who are committed to the university, who are committed to the men and women on their teams. But I think there are also some bad apples out there as well.

I think there are a lot of folks out there who look at this is a business and their main point is, "How can I get paid?" And if coaches had that attitude, it's hard for players not to have that attitude. And I think a great example is you look at tickets to a basketball game at a university. Definitely commercialized.

A student athlete can't go out and sell his ticket that he gets as a student athlete at market value. But a university can tie a $10,000 alumni check to a season-ticket holder. They can get more than market value as a university for those tickets. But there's nothing in place that says a student shouldn't do that as well.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We're going to leave the debate there. It will continue to go on. Mark Emmert, in particular, thank you for being here when you're so busy with March Madness.

MARK EMMERT:

My pleasure.

DAVID GREGORY:

To the two of you as well, thank you for being here very much. We'll take a break. Next, Andrea Mitchell is going to come back. She talks to Former President Jimmy Carter. And he doesn't mince words about his relationship with President Obama. Coming up.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

As you just heard March Madness is well underway. And if you're like me and about everybody else, your bracket is already busted. But what if we rank politicians like we do basketball teams? Who would be a number one seed going into 2016? Well, we asked that question as part of our new Meet the Press Express video series. And it's posted online as part of Meet the Press 24/7. We'll bring the conversation to you seven days a week. You can find it on our website at MeetThePressNBC.com. We're back here right after this.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back, Andrea Mitchell back with me now. Earlier this week, you had a chance to sit down exclusively with Former President Jimmy Carter.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

That's right, David. I spoke with him at the Carter Center in Atlanta about his new book, a call to action, women, religion, violence, and power. We also talked about the crisis in Ukraine as well as his distant relationship with President Obama.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Why did you choose this time to focus on women and the way women are victimized around the world?

JIMMY CARTER:

For the last three years, we've been concentrating on the relationship between religion on the one hand and abuse of women and girls on the other. The existing abuse of females is the worst, and most pervasive, and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.

That is really derived, I would say, indirectly women ordained white from the fact that religious leaders say that women are inferior in the eyes of God, which is a false interpretation of the holy scriptures. But when they see that the Pope, and the Southern Baptist Convention, and others say that women can't serve as priests and so forth equally with men, they say, "Well, and I'll treat my wife the way I want to because she's inferior to me."

ANDREA MITCHELL:

You and Rosalynn Carter actually left your own congregation, a part of the Southern Baptist congregation, because of the way your church was treating women.

4:46

JIMMY CARTER:

The convention decided, in its annual meeting to require that women be subservient to their husbands and women could no longer serve as a pastor, or priest, or even as a deacon. Those kinda things really convinced me that I should change.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Another institution you were very much part of was the military, the Naval Academy. And why do you think it is that the Pentagon acts so resistant to changing and reforming the way sexual assault are handled in the military?

JIMMY CARTER:

Exactly the same thing happens in universities in America as happens in the military. Because presidents of universities and colleges and commanding officers don't want to admit that under their leadership, sexual abuse is taking place. So rapists prevail because they know that they're not going to be reported.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I wanna ask you about foreign policy given all of your expertise. It was actually on Meet the Press in 1980 that you said we would not go to the Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

JIMMY CARTER (ON TAPE, ON MEET THE PRESS IN 1980):

It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan is to us.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And now we have this situation with Ukraine. What advice would you give in dealing with Vladimir Putin?

JIMMY CARTER:

I think there has to be a concerted international prohibition against Putin going any further than Crimea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Does the President ask you for advice?

JIMMY CARTER:

Unfortunately, the answer is no. President Obama doesn't. But previous presidents have called on me and the Carter Center to take action.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Why do you think you don't have that relationship with Barack Obama?

JIMMY CARTER:

I-- that's a hard question-- for me to answer-- you know, with complete candor. I think the problem was that-- that in dealing with the issue of peace in-- between Israel and Egypt-- the Carter Center has taken a very strong and public position of equal treatment between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I think this was a sensitive area in which the president didn't want to be involved.

When he first came out with his speech in Cairo calling for the end of all settlements and when he later said that the '67 borders would prevail, he and I were looking at it from the same perspective. But I can understand those sensitivities. And I don't have any criticism of him.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Now, there's been a lot of criticism of his policy regarding drones and the NSA surveillance. And the N.S.A. has argued that this kind of intelligence gathering is critical to try to protect the American homeland?

JIMMY CARTER:

That has been extremely liberalized and, I think, abused by our own intelligence agencies. As a matter of fact, you know, I have felt that my own communications are probably monitored. And when I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write a letter myself, put it in the post office, and mail it. (LAUGH)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Old fashioned snail mail--

JIMMY CARTER:

Old-- yeah. Yeah. Because I believe if I send an email, it will be monitored. (LAUGH)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I just wanted to ask finally. With all your energy, what keeps you going? What is the secret, the magic of Jimmy Carter?

JIMMY CARTER:

(LAUGH) Well, there's no magic involved. My wife and I have been lucky enough to be leaders of the Carter Center, promoting peace, enhancing democracy. It's unpredictable. It's adventurous. And I have to say it's gratifying and exciting for us still to do that.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Great interview, Andrea. Final note in here in our remaining seconds. Our discussion on paying college athletes has already provoked some lively debate on Twitter. Susan Glandon tweeted the #MeetThePress, or M.T.P., "Pay college players? Absolutely not. Let their pay fund other students' education." But Ryan Carrier disagrees, tweeting that college athletes should be paid, they bring in millions to all the universities, $913 million in 2013. Great subject, #MeetThePress." Quick views on this, Mayor?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER:

I'd be against that. But I'm focused on taking care of the student-athlete and their academics, graduation, other educational opportunities. And I do like the idea about using more of those dollars generated for financial aid.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, that's the only response we have time for. Thank you all for--

RICH LOWRY:

But I've got to say UVa.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Go UVa., exactly right. Thank you very much to our roundtable. I'm going to be on vacation next week. My friend, NBC's political director Chuck Todd will be filling in for me while I am away. So stay tuned. That is all for us today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.