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Meet the Press Transcript - November 1, 2015

MEET THE PRESS - NOVEMBER 1, 2015

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, a campaign in crisis. Slipping poll numbers, a staff shake up, and now a disastrous debate performance. Does Jeb Bush have what it takes to win the Republican nomination?

JEB BUSH:

I got a backbone, I got a heart, and I got a brain.

CHUCK TODD:

My sit down with the one-time GOP front runner, Jeb Bush. Plus, the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. He's got political capital, how will he use it?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

We've been bold on tactics, but timid on policies and ideas.

CHUCK TODD:

And changing course, first in Afghanistan, now in Syria. Why President Obama decided to send special ops forces into the Syrian civil war. Are we looking at mission creep? And joining me for insight and analysis this Sunday morning are, Matt Bai of Yahoo News, Helene Cooper of The New York Times, Anne Gearan of The Washington Post, and David Brooks of The New York Times. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet The Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington this is Meet The Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. Choose your metaphor, on life support, in critical condition, on its deathbed. Whatever painful phrase you use, everyone agrees Jeb Bush's campaign is in trouble right now. Bush needed a good debate performance on Wednesday, and he failed spectacularly.

He's rebranding his campaign with a new slogan. It's called "Jeb Can Fix It." The phrase is supposed to mean that Bush can fix the country's problems. But a lot of people are already joking that the "it" Jeb needs to fix is his candidacy. And that's the big question hanging over the Bush campaign: Can Jeb fix it? At this critical moment, I caught up with Bush in Miami yesterday. And I began with a question a lotta people are asking.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Do you still want to be president?

JEB BUSH:

I do. I do. I see great possibilities for our country. I honestly believe we're on the verge of greatness. We have to fix some really big, complex things, and I have the leadership skills to do it, and I'm fired up about that. That's what motivates me.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you understand why a bunch of supporters think that you don't-- that there's something missing?

JEB BUSH:

No, I don't--

CHUCK TODD:

The fire's missing?

JEB BUSH:

No, I don't.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you know why they think that?

JEB BUSH:

Probably because they watch the cable shows and they read the political press. But if they followed me on the campaign trail, like last week in New Hampshire where we had 300 people totally connected, totally believing in me, I think they would see a different candidate. I've just got to be able to break through the clutter of all the punditry class, and I think I can do that.

CHUCK TODD:

What happened at the debate? What happened in that moment? You made your point with Senator Rubio, and you didn't fire back.

JEB BUSH:

Well, I got cut off. That debate was a really weird debate just because you didn't get a chance to continue on. I literally got cut off by all three of them saying, "Next question, next question." The basic point with Marco isn't that he's not a good person or he's not a gifted politician; everybody can see that. It's that I have proven leadership skills.

I got to be governor of a state and accomplish big things. And in this era of gridlock, it's really hard to break through, and I think he's given up. And I think that's the wrong thing to do. This is about public service, about solving problems. If you look at the three people on the stage from the United States Senate, all three of them have a combined two bills that became law that they've sponsored. If you look at Hillary Clinton, in ten years, three bills she sponsored that became law. This is the gridlock that I'm running to try to break up. I can change the culture in Washington.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you re-watch the debate?

JEB BUSH:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

You didn't?

JEB BUSH:

I've been busy campaigning.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't feel as if, you've said you're not a good debater. Do you want to be a better one?

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, I do. Absolutely. And I--

CHUCK TODD:

So how do you do that?

JEB BUSH:

--will be better. Look, I know that I got to get better at doing the debate. I'm a grinder. I mean, when I see that I'm not doing something well then I reset and I get better. And I'm--

CHUCK TODD:

Tell me about--

JEB BUSH:

--going to be better.

CHUCK TODD:

--the reset.

JEB BUSH:

Well, I'm going to do what you have to do. This is not debating. I mean--

CHUCK TODD:

I understand.

JEB BUSH:

--whatever it's called, it's certainly not debating. Because I can complete a sentence in the English language pretty well, and I have ideas that will lift people up. My focus in the debate, I will change the whole conversation. So if someone asks me about Fantasy Football next time, which was kind of bizarre if you think about it, I'll talk about the people I've met that are really worried that they have declining income. They're worried about their children having more opportunities.

I'm campaigning hard amongst people that truly believe that their future is not bright, and it breaks my heart because this extraordinary country has never been this way. And if we fix how we tax and regulate, fix the broken systems that are all around us, this world will be a time of abundance. So I'm going to change the conversation on my terms.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you know but a week ago, you seemed extraordinarily frustrated, and you're obviously frustrated now. Frustrated with the punditry class, a little frustrated with the debate.

JEB BUSH:

No, look--

CHUCK TODD:

But you went off. You said, "I got plenty of cool things to do. I don't--"

JEB BUSH:

No, that was completely--

CHUCK TODD:

--"need this." What did that mean?

JEB BUSH:

--taken out of context. I got a standing ovation in front of 500 people, not all of whom were my supporters. This was Tim Scott's deal. Ask him. I mean, there was a real connection there. What I was saying don't elect me if you want to maintain the gridlock. It's not about me. It's not about the personalities on the stage.

It's about fixing how we tax and regulate so that you can rise up. That's my mission. But don't vote for me if you think that I'm going to be part of that system and because I'm president I'll think that's a really cool thing. That's not what this is about. It's about leading. It's about public service. It's about fixing broken things that I know how to do because I got to do it as governor. And that's the story I told.

CHUCK TODD:

Some of the things you've said about this campaign this year, you said about the 2012 campaign. You said this in a speech after watching a couple of debates in 2012: "I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I'm wondering. I don't think I've changed, but it's a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people's fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective. And that's kind of where we are." That was Jeb Bush in February of 2012.

JEB BUSH:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Sounds like you right now.

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, that's my speech.

CHUCK TODD:

The party hasn't changed.

JEB BUSH:

That's my speech in Tampa.

CHUCK TODD:

But this party hasn't changed.

JEB BUSH:

That's my speech in Tampa. That's exactly the speech I'm going to give on Monday, tomorrow, to talk about how we need to be hopeful and optimistic, have an aspirational message. I don't think conservatives are going to win the presidency unless we campaign with our arms wide open, inclusive--

CHUCK TODD:

That message, that's not the way Dr. Carson or Donald Trump are campaigning--

JEB BUSH:

I don't know, Dr. Caron, you know you're right about Trump for sure. Dr. Carson I think has a more hopeful message, and others do as well. And I just know that's how we're going to win, and that's who I am. It doesn't matter anything else. I'm not a grievance candidate, I'm a candidate that believes we're on the verge of greatness but it's going to require the leadership skills to fix things.

And that's my message. It's how I started my campaign in Kendall, where you grew up. And that's what I'm going to do tomorrow in a speech in Tampa. And that's going to be the basis of my campaign, for sure.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you understand why conservatives are skeptical of a guy named Bush?

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, sure. I mean, a lot of people are. I've gotta go earn it. This isn't done by, you know like we say in Miami, "por dedo." It's not by decree, you've gotta go earn it. And all of the tribulations of a campaign, and we're having our share, there's no doubt about it. I have enough self-awareness to know that this is the bumpy time of a campaign.

This pales by comparison to being commander-in-chief. I wear this because I think about what it is to be president. This is given to me by a mom of a Marine who was killed in action in Afghanistan. There's a lot tougher things that you have to do than debating, going to nine debates in a Republican primary. There's big things that presidents have to do. So this is the process. I totally understand it, and I'm more than prepared to fight on.

CHUCK TODD:

You did say something that some may say is prescient: That you're willing to lose the primary to focus on the general.

JEB BUSH:

I'm not going to prey on people's fears. I'm not going to prey on their angst. I'm going to offer solutions. That's what I meant by that. And we have a lot of candidates that I think the easy out is to say, you know, "Follow me because I'm angry too." That's not going to win the general election. It's important to understand people's frustrations, they're legitimate. But the only way we win is to draw people towards our cause. And you can do that and be true to yourself.

CHUCK TODD:

You even said working with Democrats, saying you'll do that, is unpopular with your party.

JEB BUSH:

How are we going to solve these problems? There's no way. I mean, all the big issues in American history have been solved by a strong president working across the aisle unifying the country. We now have a divider-in-chief who pushes people down that disagree with him. And I think Hillary Clinton, the exact same thing. I thought it was striking that the leading--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think your party's been--

JEB BUSH:

--Democratic candidate--

CHUCK TODD:

--divisive too?

JEB BUSH:

Yeah. No, it has. I admit that. But I'm looking at the Democrats where Hillary Clinton says that her biggest enemies are Republicans-- man, that sets the stage for a really phenomenal time if she's elected. If 50% of the American people are her enemies, how can she lead? How could she solve problems?

We need someone that actually believes that our ideas are strong enough and powerful enough to convince people to join us. That's how Ronald Reagan did it, that's how great things happen in this country. We need to restore that for sure.

CHUCK TODD:

Some folks who will sit there and say you're frustrated because, boy, a member of the Bush family can't believe they're losing.

JEB BUSH:

No. I don't even think about that. I love my dad. I'd kill for him. I'd go to prison for him because I love him so much; thankfully, I haven't had the need to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

He seems to be really upset about Donald Trump.

JEB BUSH:

He's, he's-- my contribution to my dad's life is that he's gotten fired up again. Kind of a--He's not watching CSI, he's watching--

CHUCK TODD:

He's watching a different reality show?

JEB BUSH:

He's watching the shows, as Donald Trump calls them, and he's enjoying getting back in the game. I love my family, but I've got to go earn it. I've known that from the very beginning. I've known this was going to be hard. I knew it was going to be a challenge, and it should be.

CHUCK TODD:

1996 you told Larry King that you didn't think Bob Dole should have a litmus tests for cabinet appointments or judicial appointments. That one issue shouldn't do it, at the time--

JEB BUSH:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

--referring to abortion. You said, "You know what? There's 100 things that make somebody a conservative, not just one issue."

JEB BUSH:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you still believe that? No litmus tests?

JEB BUSH:

I don't believe in litmus tests, but I'm going to make sure that my appointments to the Supreme Court would have a consistent proven record of judicial restraint.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're not going to ask a potential Supreme Court justice if they would overturn Roe v. Wade?

JEB BUSH:

No, but I would ask deep questions about judicial philosophy, and then make sure that the person had a proven record. I think the lessons of the last few years is that you've got to fight for your candidates that you nominate, and they ought to have a clear, consistent record so that you have a higher assurance they're not going to wander off.

CHUCK TODD:

You had said that, at the time, you didn't think that there was a broad enough consensus to fight for a constitutional amendment against abortion. You still feel that way?

JEB BUSH:

I think that what we ought to do is elect conservatives, like myself and others, that believe that life is a gift from God and life is precious.

CHUCK TODD:

Speaking of life, have you changed your mind on the death penalty?

JEB BUSH:

I'm conflicted. I am. It was the law of the land when I was governor, and I faithfully dealt with it. To be honest with you, it is not a deterrent anymore because it's seldom used. It clogs up the courts, it costs a ton of money. And--

CHUCK TODD:

Are you one of those that look at the fiscal part of it and say, "You know what? Maybe it makes more fiscal sense to not do it"?

JEB BUSH:

Here's the one thing, and it's hard for me, as a human being, to sign the death warrant, to be honest with you. I'm informed by my faith in many things, and this is one of them. So I have to admit that I'm conflicted about this. But here's the deal, when you meet people, this happens in rare cases where the death penalty's given out and you meet family members that have lost a loved one and it's still in their heart. It's etched in their soul. And this is the way that they get closure, I get more comfortable with it, to be honest with you.

But we should reform it. If it's to be used as a deterrent, it has to be reformed. It can't take 25 years. That does no one any good. Neither the victims nor the state is solving this problem with that kind of tangled judicial process.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're still in favor of it, but?

JEB BUSH:

Yeah, but I'm just saying, look, this is life, Chuck. It's not all either/or. Sometimes you can see both sides. And I believe life is truly a gift from God, and innocent life particularly should be protected at all cost, for sure. But people that commit these crimes, there should be-- justice can't be denied. And it shouldn't be delayed. And maybe there's a better way to do this where victims feel as though they're being served, because that should be front and center, the first obligation of the state.

CHUCK TODD:

One quick follow on abortion. What exceptions are you comfortable with on abortion?

JEB BUSH:

I accept, just that my views haven't changed. I believe in the exceptions of rape and incest and the life of the mother, of course.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a line on health? What is that line on life and health of the mother?

JEB BUSH:

Well, the life of the mother, not health of the mother.

CHUCK TODD:

Last question. General Stanley McChrystal has a favorite interview question: What would someone who doesn't like you say about you?

JEB BUSH:

Probably, I think people in Florida would have said, "It's my way or the highway."

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, that comes up a lot. Why are they wrong? Or why did they get that impression?

JEB BUSH:

Well, I fought, I fought, I fought. I fought for my beliefs--

CHUCK TODD:

So some of that is true?

JEB BUSH:

It is true. And at the end of it, people respected me. I left with--

CHUCK TODD:

It's not a compromiser though.

JEB BUSH:

Huh?

CHUCK TODD:

"My way or the highway," is not a compromiser.

JEB BUSH:

Well, because I had an environment where I could reach, I could drive, I could change the agenda because I had friends that supported me. And at the end, I had a 67% approval rating when I left. This is a purple state, as you know. Half a million more Democrats than Republicans. I won double-digit in my reelection. I got 60% of the Hispanic vote because people respected me because I had a heart for them.

I fought for my ideas. People knew I wasn't doing this because I was the big guy on the stage. They knew that I had a heart for people. I'm releasing a book on Monday called Reply All and it's really the essence of the servant leadership that I had as governor of this state.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

A lot to chew on there. The Jeb Bush campaign, trying to reset and re-announce on Monday. We've got a lot to talk with the panel, and they'll all weigh in in just a moment. And later, the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. He's got the big job now. What does he plan to do with it?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is here to talk about what we just heard from Jeb Bush. Matt Bai, a national political columnist for Yahoo News. Helene Cooper, the Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times. Anne Gearan, political correspondent for The Washington Post, paper's lead reporter on the Hillary Clinton campaign. And David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times.

David, I will begin with you because you wrote this on Friday about Jeb Bush. "Bush's problems are temperamental, and that's most likely permanent. He would probably be a very effective president, and he would have been a very effective candidate, but in 1956. These are harsher times." Did you hear anything in there that made you think he knows these are harsher times?

DAVID BROOKS:

I'd say he doubled-down on 1956. He's a nice guy. He's a good guy. He was reflective in that interview. He was a little humble, for a Presidential candidate. He said he was conflicted about the death penalty. And so you'd love to sit next to the guy on a plane, or in church, or whatever.

But 300 years of WASP history have trained him to be a gentleman. And he is a gentleman. And this is a campaign where there's just a lot of alienation in the country, and a lot of disgust in the party. And when he's in a big circus with ten other people up there onstage or more, he just doesn't shine. He's just not right for the times.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it's not as if, though, the Bush campaign doesn't want to play tough. Look what they did with Rubio. In fact, I talked to him about it. They put up this PowerPoint, they leaked out this PowerPoint about all the different things on Rubio they put out there. They said, "He has no accomplishments, misuse of state party credit cards. No credibility experience beyond government." So, they're putting this out. I asked Governor Bush about what his campaign is doing. And it was interesting to hear what he didn't say.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Your campaign, there was a leaked memo, 112-page memo, and there was a big chunk about why Marco Rubio wouldn't be a good nominee. And you went through sort of all of the opposition research on that. That's not a hopeful campaign tactic.

JEB BUSH:

I didn't see it. I'm focused on a hopeful--

CHUCK TODD:

It's your campaign.

JEB BUSH:

I didn't see it. I didn't see it. I don't know--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't know this memo? You don't know this PowerPoint?

JEB BUSH:

No. Well, I read about it when it was leaked for sure. I didn't know about the PowerPoint. It wasn't presented--

CHUCK TODD:

Is this something--

JEB BUSH:

--to me.

CHUCK TODD:

--you want your campaign involved with?

JEB BUSH:

I want them to focus on winning New Hampshire, winning South Carolina, winning Iowa, winning Nevada. That's our first mission.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Anne Gearan, that's suddenly the introspective Bush. That was politician Bush.

ANNE GEARAN:

Oh, absolutely. And he can do that. I mean, I agree with the 1956 thing. He does seem like a candidate, a man out of time. But he also understands that he has to be able to pivot and handle. And at the moment he's trying, and he didn't get it done in the debate. But he's trying to pivot and attack his-- his former protégé.

And, I mean, he didn't land that blow. And, you know, the old phrase in politics, "If you try to kill the King you've got to kill the King." Marco Rubio isn't the King, but at the moment he's definitely on the ascent, and Bush is on the descent.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Matt, it was interesting to hear David say about the gentleman aspect of--

MATT BAI:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Because when I asked him, "Why didn't you respond to Rubio? Why didn't you hit back?" And he said, "Well, the moderator stopped me." He's playing by the rules.

MATT BAI:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

When nobody else is.

MATT BAI:

If only we had so much power over everybody we interviewed. I agree. You know, David makes a good point about temperament. I don't happen to think Jeb Bush's core problem is temperamental, although I think it's a valid point. I think his core problem is that he hasn't given anybody a clear, concise reason to vote for him.

An overarching idea for the country. They've been going on about his record, his record, his record. It's a decade old and it should be painfully clear at this stage in the campaign that nobody in the party cares, whether they should or not. You know, the question is when you ask him, "What's your goal? What's your plan? What's your direction for the country?" It's four percent growth.

That's a policy objective, that is not a rationale for running for President. And I heard him in that interview, I think, grappling with that issue. And saying, you know, "I'm going to reset. I'm going to give people an idea of where I want to take this country." That would help him immensely, in my view.

HELENE COOPER:

I'd like to just step back a little bit. Because I think what's really interesting about what's going on right now is it's so accelerated. We're at a very crunch period, right? These are the two guys, Marco Rubio, and George-- and Jeb Bush, who have the best shot of winning a general election.

And this fight wasn't supposed to happen for a couple of months. Particularly if you're Marco Rubio. He feels like he's peaking too early. But I think that's what is really interesting in what is going to be going on in the next few weeks. I think all of this talk about it's time for him to retire his candidacy is way premature.

But, it's really interesting to see whether these two men are really going to be able to shed the rest of the field and move forward. Because this is, if the Republicans are going to have a shot at the general these are their two guys. So, this is why you're seeing--

CHUCK TODD:

You say it so easily, but what evidence is there that Jeb's the most electable?

HELENE COOPER:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

The most--

HELENE COOPER:

--I don't know that he is.

HELENE COOPER:

I mean, he calls Marco Rubio The Republican Obama. And I don't know that that's necessarily a bad thing because Obama won two elections.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

DAVID BROOKS:

If I were him I'd lead with his strengths. And just say, "I'm boring. I'm boring. Is our problem in Washington we don't have enough boringness? No. We've got too much craziness. And so I'm going to be a sedative. I'm going to be a laxative, I guess. You know, I'm going to calm you down."

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that will now trend on social media.

DAVID BROOKS:

Like, "We've people who can't do anything because they're just screaming at each other. I can't scream, fine. If that's what you want. But I'm the guy--" and I like the slogan that they're adjusting to, "I can fix it." And so I think he just ought to say that and be himself.

CHUCK TODD:

Is this, yeah, it was funny when I said "fix it" I was thinking remember Bush, first New Hampshire, McCain, and it became "Reformer with results." There's a similarity to this.

ANNE GEARAN:

Yeah. I mean, the campaign looks and feels very corporate, very Bushlike. The "Jeb Can Fix It" sign was perfect. The staging this week in New Hampshire was perfect. And, you know, he has to try to live up to that. I think I mean it may be an unfair thing to say that our candidates are supposed to be some superheroes, right?

And to your point, I mean, maybe his strength is to say, "Look, I can fix things and do stuff. I'm just going to put my head down and do stuff, and you should elect me for that reason."

DAVID BROOKS:

But fix stuff and do stuff, it's just, it's not a rationale. It never works. Confidence never works. You know, I also--

CHUCK TODD:

Right. Ask Mike Dukakis.

MATT BAI:

Yeah, well, and a whole string of candidates, right. I also just don't think we should get ahead of ourselves on the moment of Jeb and Rubio. This is still a pretty early stage. And the Trump thing, you know, the Summer of Trump as it's been called, really blocked out a lot of introduction and conversation for some of these candidates. There is a good field in there. There are candidates on that stage who will get a longer look.

I think Chris Christie gets a longer look. I think John Kasich gets a longer look. I think Rubio's a very impressive candidate. And Jeb Bush could potentially turn it around. But I think that field's very dynamic.

DAVID BROOKS:

It feels to me like it's winding down to Cruz and Rubio. Like, Cruz will inherit the disaffected, downscale voter. He's perfect for them. But there just aren't enough of them to beat what I presume to be Rubio. But those two are like plausible. They're good. I thought Cruz had an amazing debate moment when he attacked the press.

And that seems like the natural tension. You know, I'm on my prayer right everyday saying please Trump, Carson go away, go away, go away.

CHUCK TODD:

Well -

DAVID BROOKS:

But so far they haven't

CHUCK TODD:

I was just -

DAVID BROOKS:

- but I'm assuming they will.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I know. The assume well does not work very well. We are using that other part of what did they say about assume when you assume too much.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

And so far Donald Trump has certainly made us all feel that way, anyway. We'll be back in a moment with the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

If we don't like what's going on, we owe it to the people of this nation, to our constituents, a bold, specific, and clear agenda, vision, for how we would do things differently.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. A lot of people think that one problem Jeb Bush has is that it's simply been too long since the last time he ran for office, that he's lost touch with the electorate of the 21st century. So we decided to look at some recent presidential nominees to see how long they waited between runs for office.

Look at this list of folks: Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and John Kerry, all presidential nominees. They all ran for president just two year after winning re-election for either governor or senator. Of course, Bush and Clinton went on to win the presidency Dukakis and Kerry lost.

Now let's look at a group of nominees who waited four years between runs for office. Look at this, it's a very large group here if you look in the last 50 years. Eight candidates all waited just four years from their last election before being nominated for president. Of this group, only Reagan and Obama proved to be presidential winners.

Now let's move on to a much smaller group, the six-year crowd. Just two nominees: Richard Nixon in '68 and Jimmy Carter in '76. Waited six years between their last run for office and the nomination themselves. Of course, both of them went on to win the presidency. So where does Jeb Bush fall?

Remarkably, by next year's election it will have been 14 years since Jeb Bush faced voters, his 2002 re-election in Florida, and perhaps that's the problem. The ground may have shifted beneath Bush or, more specifically, it may have lurched to the right, something he isn't prepared for.

In fact, the only other recent candidate we could find who waited the same amount of time as Jeb Bush was former Texas Governor John Connally. He of course ran for president in 1980, 14 years after being re-elected governor of Texas, as a Democrat mind you. Now Connally outraised everyone in that Republican primary and he famously won just one delegate.

By the way, the only other candidate we could find that waited even a decade between runs for office, was Jeb's father, George H. W. Bush, waited ten years before running for president in 1980. Of course, he lost the nomination to Ronald Reagan.

Coming up, my interview with the new Speaker of the House, Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan.

**COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. At first he maintained he didn't want the job, but this week Paul Ryan was elected to replace John Boehner in what is surely one of the toughest jobs in politics these days, Speaker of the House of Representatives. And Ryan faces quite a challenge, to fix what he called a "Broken House" and try to unite a fractured Republican Party in Washington.

His job was made a little bit easier this week with the passing of a bipartisan budget deal which raises the debt ceiling through 2017, past the election, and greatly lessens the chances of a government shutdown over that period. I sat down with Speaker Ryan in his new office on his first full day on the job to get his take on what his goals are.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REP. PAUL RYAN:

It's not a job I ever wanted. I liked where I was. But I really felt like our party needed to unify. And I talked with the members of our conference about what I think a new speakership should look like. I don't think we can keep doing business the way we've been doing business. And I think we really have to be on offense and offer the country alternatives. And that's what I intend to do, with my conference.

CHUCK TODD:

You right now, have enormous political capital from Jim Clyburn and the Democratic leadership talking about how much he enjoyed and respected working with you on Ways and Means to plenty of people in the freedom caucus who are giving you a chance. You going to use this political capital? It goes away fast in this town. And--

REP. PAUL RYAN:

About 35 minutes I'm told--

CHUCK TODD:

Exactly. What are you going to do with it?

REP. PAUL RYAN

Wipe the slate clean, start over, open up the process. I see basically four things, that I, that we need to focus on. Number one, get that House working like it was intended to work, like the founders intended it to work, open up the process. Number two, I think it's very important that we do find common ground where we can find common ground to advance the nation's interest and do it in a way where we don't have to compromise principle.

Number three, we have to be a more effective opposition party. We do not like the direction the country is headed. We do not like the direction that the president is taking the country. And so we have to be an effective opposition party. But most importantly, number four, I think that means we have to be a proposition party. We have to be the alternative party. If we don't like what's going on, we owe it to the people of this nation, to our constituents, a bold, specific, and clear agenda, vision for how we would do things differently. And that is a what a good alternative party looks like.

CHUCK TODD:

Can, you're now the face of this. So is this you that has to do this? You're in the middle of a presidential campaign--

REP. PAUL RYAN:

It's a joint effort.

CHUCK TODD:

It's an awkward time, actually. Because you're the face of the party. For now.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Just for now, for a couple of months. Yes, it's not a me thing. I didn't get elected Dictator of the House. I got elected Speaker of the House. We've been too timid for too long around here on ideas. We've been bold on tactics, butwe have been timid on ideas, on policies. That is where we need to go. And this is what people are really yearning for here in the Republican Congress. And that's why I'm excited about--

CHUCK TODD:

Give me something that you think you can do in the next six months, one issue, one piece of--

REP. PAUL RYAN:

We can do more than just one thing.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand. But give me one thing that the country will be impressed with. Something maybe you work with the president, maybe you confront him. But what is one big piece?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

The economy, working families are falling behind. The economy is stale. Poverty-- there are around 46 million people still living in poverty. Our foreign policy is a disaster. We've got to offer alternatives to these things. Obamacare, I mean, look at the disaster that the rollout of Obamacare continues to be. I think we owe the American people a very specific agenda for how we would do things differently on these issues.

CHUCK TODD:

Can Donald Trump lead a Republican Party to victory?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Look as you know I'm going to be completely neutral on this presidential election, because I'm the Speaker of the House. But if you're asking me, "Can any one of those people who are on the stage be a better president than Hillary Clinton?" the answer is yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Is the rhetoric on immigration, his rhetoric on immigration.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Look--

CHUCK TODD:

You're somebody that wants to pass-- you told me you were in favor of an eventual path to citizenship.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Well, legal status is what I was talking about. Look, I've written extensively about my views on immigration. I'm an open book on the subject. But by the way, on immigration, I don't think we can trust the president on this issue.

CHUCK TODD:

So you have taken--

REP. PAUL RYAN:

He tried to go around Congress with executive order.

CHUCK TODD:

You're taking it off the table?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Absolutely. The president has proven himself untrustworthy on this issue, because he tried to unilaterally rewrite the law himself. Presidents don't write laws. Congress does. The president's proven himself to be untrustworthy on this issue. I think if we reach consensus on something like border enforcement, interior security, that's one thing. But I do not believe we should advance comprehensive immigration legislation with a president who's proven himself untrustworthy on this issue.

CHUCK TODD:

Some conservatives believe that pledge only means you'll work with a Democratic president in 2017, if that happens, on immigration.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

I was elected Speaker of the House to unify the Republican Congress, not to disunify the Republican Congress. That means my job is to lead us to consensus. And to on big controversial issues operate on that consensus. And that's exactly how I intend to serve as Speaker.

CHUCK TODD:

When it comes to one of the proposals in the presidential race, one of the candidates is saying that members of Congress should have their pay docked if they miss votes, have their pay docked if they miss hearings. What do you think about that?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

You're asking about way into this fight, people running for Senate. I'm not even going to get into any of that stuff.

CHUCK TODD:

But this is about how Congress operates.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

This is, I think what's happening here are people are trying to take cheap shots at people running for president. And I'm not going to play that game.

CHUCK TODD:

Ted Cruz wouldn't call you a true conservative. Would that bother you?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Not in the least. I've got thick skin.

CHUCK TODD:

You said something interesting in your speech. "A neglected minority will gum up the works. A respected minority will be fair minded." So you think the minority, the Democrats, have been neglected by the House Republicans--

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Well, I think some Republicans in Congress feel that they have been neglected, as well. So what I'm trying to say is we should open up the process so that everyone can participate.

CHUCK TODD:

You were worried about taking this job, because you wanted to spend more time with your family. A lot of Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren said, "Hey, that's great. How come you don't support it paid family leave?"

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Because I love my children and I want to be home on Sundays and Saturdays like most people doesn't mean I'm for taking money from hard working taxpayers to create a brand new entitlement program. I think people in America would like to see their members of Congress be like them, live among them, live in their hometowns, raise their families, be with their kids, go to volleyball and basketball, Cub Scouts and church and that's exactly what I do--

CHUCK TODD:

A lot of working people have to work on weekends.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Yes, I work on weekends too. And I'll be working on Saturdays just like I do. And Sundays are our family days. That was the point. John is an empty nester. And he traveled around the country most weekends, not going home. I live in Janesville, Wisconsin. I'm going to commute back and forth, just like most other members of Congress from Janesville, Wisconsin. I can do this job. I can walk and chew gum at the same time.

CHUCK TODD:

You're one of these members who sleeps in their office. You going to be able to do that as speaker?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

I think so. Look, I just work here. I don't live here.

CHUCK TODD:

Capitol Police will be okay with you being in the Capitol, sleeping in the speaker's office?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

I start my day at 6:00 in the morning. I end at about 11:30 at night. It's just become a really efficient way for me to do the people's business by just staying right here.

CHUCK TODD:

You're kind of a health nut. How are you going to get the smell of smoke out of the speaker's office?

REP. PAUL RYAN:

That's a really good question. We've been talking about that, they have these ozone machines, apparently, that you can detoxify the environment. But I'm going to have to work on the carpeting in here. You know when you ever go to a hotel room or get a rental car that has been smoked? That's what this smells like.

CHUCK TODD:

Speaker Ryan, thank you sir.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Thanks Chuck.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

There was some honesty there about the stench when you are in the Speaker's quarters these days. Of course, John Boehner is a well-known chain smoker. Coming up, much more on the politics. And remember when the president said this right here on Meet the Press, just over a year ago

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. OBAMA

The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground I think would be a profound mistake, and I want to be very clear and very explicit about that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's not the case anymore. We'll talk Syria and this new tactic when we come back.

**COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, the panel is back. David, the other part of your-- we talked about your 1956. But the other point in your column, we just saw there with Paul Ryan, is the Republicans are having this fight among themselves of who they are. Are they stumbling upon the generational change that they need?

DAVID BROOKS:

I-- Well it looks that way. You gotta walk through the circus to get to the think tank. So they've gone through the circus phase, we're in the middle of it. But if they wound up with Mario and then Ryan, A, they're pretty attractive figures, they're normal guys, they're nice guys. But B, they're generational, they're younger. I think that presents a problem for Hillary, who's a lot older.

But most importantly they get the problems of this century. Which meant they're not going back to the Reagan. oh let's cut taxes, let's say a lot of bad stuff about government. They understand, as Ryan just said to you, that working families were struggling even when growth was okay.

And so government has to do some extra stuff to focus income, with wage subsidies and other things, on working families. And that's just a real message for America today. And a lot of the Republicans don't get that.

CHUCK TODD:

Go ahead, Helene.

HELENE COOPER:

I think in theory that makes total sense. But I just worry about whether the Republican party, which you were talking about, has moved so far to the right. To the fact that, you know, it's no longer the party that Jeb Bush used to belong to.

It's not exactly going to just sit back and let Rubio and Ryan lead them. I think Ryan is going to have a honeymoon period and then he's going to be right back in the thick of it with the Freedom Caucus, just like John Boehner was. And Marco Rubio is now about to have his moment in the sunlight. And I would be really interested to see whether he can come out of that unscathed.

CHUCK TODD:

There's still a part of this party that wants this confrontation. They want a little bit of fight. And both Rubio and Ryan, Matt, want to be optimists first.

MATT BAI:

Yeah--

CHUCK TODD:

It comes through.

MATT BAI:

Yeah, and they're a bit conciliators. And, look, I agree with David. You know, we've interviewed-- you talked to Senator Rubio. It's inspiring to hear him talk about the modern economy, the modern problems, the way forward. You know, what I would caution against is the way we can sometimes project directions, ideologies, leadership onto young, less experienced politicians because they run themselves to that.

And I think we saw this with President Obama. And a lot of us had, you know, thoughts about where he would go, how he would lead. But it didn't pan out, at least not for most of his term. Because I think reform, actual reform, actually changing a party takes a tremendous amount of political courage and conviction.

It doesn't happen just by having an idea of what the future looks like. And you have to display that kind of courage. And when you haven't governed, and when you don't have that level of experience, we don't know if you have the steel and the willingness for conflict to get that done.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, the irony here, Anne, and we were just talking about it before break is that sometimes the younger politicians who we think are fresh, and new, and talking about these new ideas, they're more risk averse. One misconception about Barack Obama, I think, from '08 to '09 is that he's a risk-averse. More risk averse than people realized. Jeb Bush is the most fully-formed indivi-- he actually might be the least risk averse.

ANNE GEARAN:

Yeah. And I don't think we know very much about what Marco Rubio would really do in a situation like Syria. And whoever the next President is going to be is going to inherit that. And Rubio has said some things, but not, you know, really given a full plan.

I think Ryan is maybe not really risk-averse. I think one of the interesting things he said there to you was we have to be a good party on offense, but we also have to be a party that proposes things. And he's got to be looking at 2016 when he says that. And knowing that the Democrats at the moment can very easily can paint the Republicans across the board, Congressional Republicans, and the Republicans in the field, as simply the party of no. And that's going to mean taking some risks.

CHUCK TODD:

You brought up Syria. Let's transition to the big announcement from President Obama. And I guess the question is is it a big announcement? But before I get there, we're putting some boots on the ground. Not many, about 50. But that is a change from a promise that the president has made numerous times. Take a look.

(START TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground.

I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.

The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground I think would be a profound mistake. And I want to be very clear and very explicit about that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

It's clear, Helene, the president never wanted to do this. I mean, I think that's crystal clear. So, what are we doing?

HELENE COOPER:

First of all, I get so frustrated when I hear them saying "no boots on the ground," because it sounds so absolute. And the reality is we've had boots on the ground in Syria even before we announced this on Friday. We've sent in special operators, we've sent in Delta commandos in to retrieve ISIS people, to make targeted killings.

So, the whole idea of no boots on the ground is absurd. He has not wanted to do this, though, because he campaigned, his whole election in 2008 was based on we shouldn't be on the ground in Iraq. He pulled forces home. But he's felt that with Syria, I mean, the circumstances kind of forced his hand, particularly when Moscow got involved.

And this becomes, then, a sort of one-upmanship. But one of the things that the White House and the Pentagon is trying to do, is they see, they look at this diplomatic track, and this whole idea of John Kerry coming to some sort of political solution with the Russians and the Iranians on a political solution for Syria.

They believe that if they can strengthen these moderate Syrian opposition groups, the Kurds, and some of the Syrian Arab Coalition. I think that's a big "if." I don't think that's by any--

CHUCK TODD:

That's been a roll of the dice since the beginning, right Dave?

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, first of all they should wear sneakers so we can get out of the boots thing. But, you know, I give him total credit. We've had a policy to withdraw from the Middle East, from Afghanistan. And the region is falling apart. And so what's he going to do? Say, "Oh, I'm not going to do the politically difficult thing. I'll stick by my word even though it's not working."

CHUCK TODD:

But is he being too timid about--

DAVID BROOKS:

Well, yeah. I mean--

CHUCK TODD:

He's sort of like, "I hate doing this. All right, here's 50."

DAVID BROOKS:

Right. But there's probably going to be a lot of mission creep, let's be honest, when those 50 don't work.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

DAVID BROOKS:

And so we'll get some mission creep and maybe eventually we'll get a strategy.

ANNE GEARAN:

Well, the creep has already crept. I mean, this has already started. I mean, as Helene said, this isn't the first boot. But 50 very quickly can become a lot more than 50. And one thing that those 50 can do is be a more effective coordinator on the ground for the U.S. airstrikes. One of the frequent criticisms of the current strategy is that we have an airstrike policy but we only have two airstrikes a week. So, once you get some coordinators on the ground that might-- yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

There might be more. Yeah, I asked Governor Bush about the change in tactic here. I also asked him about this idea that, you know, would we have ISIS without the invasion of Iraq? He rejected that notion. But listen to what he proposed and what he would like to see with Syria. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JEB BUSH:

The better argument is the surge worked. A fragile Iraq existed. Had we kept 5,000 or 10,000 troops there, had we engaged politically to show support to the central government, had we also showed support to the Kurds, and armed them directly, then we would have a very different circumstance as it relates to ISIS. The caliphate was created after Al Qaeda was taken out by the heroic efforts of men and women led by David Petraeus.

CHUCK TODD:

So if the surge worked do you think we need a new surge in Syria and Iraq?

JEB BUSH:

A different surge. You know? I think what we need to do now is to do what the President is kind of tepidly moving towards. Which is to embed with the Iraqi military to provide support.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Matt, he's also in a different place than some of the other candidates on this.

MATT BAI:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Ted Cruz is, and Donald Trump are both sort of in that more isolationist wing. Of saying, "You know what? The strong men kept that place in check. Maybe we made a mistake."

MATT BAI:

Well, and the Republican party, there is a long historical divide between isolationism and engagement that's here. But what are historians of the empire going to make of this, right? That eight years ago we had this--

CHUCK TODD:

-- of the empire.

MATT BAI:

You know, eight years ago we had this campaign, and George W. Bush, and the surge in Iraq. And Barack Obama campaigns against it. And you flash-forward eight years later. You have Jeb Bush out there now talking about a new surge, defending the legacy.

You have the Obama administration entwined, still, in these wars that we're going to get out of. Hillary Clinton carrying the mantel of the administration. But it is this incredible interplay of characters, families, and storylines, the upshot of which is we are entwined in a long-term ideological struggle. And it's not going away. No president's going to get rid of it. We're not going to be able to just excise it from our foreign policy.

(OVERTALK)

MATT BAI:

We're going to have to figure out how to deal with it.

CHUCK TODD:

Quickly, Helene, with Hillary Clinton, and whoever the nominee is, if it ends up Rubio or Bush, or somebody from that wing of the party. Both are advocating more interventionism.

HELENE COOPER:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

Still.

HELENE COOPER:

Yeah. And at the end of the day so is Obama now.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. We have a quick programming note for you. My pal, Lester Holt, over at NBC Nightly News. He has an exclusive sit-down two-part interview with President Obama. It begins tomorrow on the NBC Nightly News. They'll be talking a lot about criminal justice reform but also plenty on the news of the day. When we come back in 45 seconds, we have our End Game. And this question, which political leader went trick-or-treating last night as Mitt Romney?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

End Game time. The panel is here. Let me give you a-- we got an exclusive first look at Bernie Sander's first TV ad. Remember, he's got a ton of money. Here is a bit of a clip of it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

VOICE OVER ON TAPE:

In Congress he stood up for working families and for principles. Opposing the Iraq war, supporting veterans. Now he's taking on Wall Street and a corrupt political system. Funded by over a million contributions. Bernie Sanders, husband, father, grandfather. An honest leader building a movement with you to give us a future to believe in.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Anne Gearan, honest leader, not to subtle there huh?

ANNE GEARAN:

Not too subtle at all but this is still very much in the mode of the classic upbeat biographical ad which candidates very often start with, it's just interesting to me he's just starting now. Hillary Clinton has been up in the air in Iowa and New Hampshire since August she's spent well over $6 million so far and for much of that time her poll numbers were going down while his were going up.

CHUCK TODD:

You know it's interesting, David,you talked to the Sander campaign and they say, look we have one goal right now, we've got to make people think he's not crazy and they don't put it quite like that, he's normal, he's not, he's not this gadfly and that's what they think their ad campaign can do.

DAVID BROOKS:

I go with authenticity, I don't like the upbeat ad, it's so conventional, that is a conventional ad--

CHUCK TODD:

It is very conventional

DAVID BROOKS:

That's like

CHUCK TODD:

Too conventional for him?

DAVID BROOKS

I think so, I'm a grouchy old guy I'm Howard Beale I'm mad as hell, I would be that guy it's worked for him. I don't think making him into George Romney, let alone Mitt Romney is going to work so.

MATT BAI:

I agree with that. But I think I would too. But I think the strength here is the weakness. My gut is that a lot of people saw him in that first debate, and he was an abstraction to them. He was just this guy up there. Even if you saw him in an arena with 10,000 people.

He was this little speck, right? And he was the anti-Clinton. What they saw was a guy who seemed older than her with a thick Brooklyn accent, who's angry and shouting. And I think that didn't strike, my gut is, I don't have the data, it didn't strike people as entirely Presidential. Or at least not on a wide enough level for him to continue to be the force he's been. And that's the issue.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know how to describe it, Helene. But there is, and it may have been the culmination of what happened in that ten-day period last week. With Biden getting out, and Hillary Clinton doing the Benghazi thing. That there's some air out of the Sanders balloon. Just a little bit.

HELENE COOPER:

There is. And he's clearly worried about it. Because that ad just shows the whole point of it seems to be to inject a little bit more gravitas. I think you're absolutely right, David. I mean, I think part of his appeal is his crotchety-ness. But I think that only goes so far. That's not going to, you know, once you're going up against, you know, the juggernaut of the Hillary Clinton campaign. At some point he may have to shade that a little bit. I think that's what you're starting to see now.

MATT BAI:

You know, conventionality, I just don't think that fits his candidacy at all. I don't think that's--

CHUCK TODD:

You know, there's also been a little rattled this week, Anne, when the Clinton campaign went on a little bit of a sexist aspect of it when she started talking about, "Oh, I'm shouting. Women are told shouting."

ANNE GEARAN:

Right, right.

CHUCK TODD:

And that seemed to unnerve Sanders a little bit on this.

ANNE GEARAN:

It did. And they started to come back at her. And it's interesting that this is the issue--

CHUCK TODD:

That, that.

ANNE GEARAN:

On which we're starting to see the two campaigns begin to engage more directly. Yes, they've had a back-and-forth about guns, it's a substantive policy question.

But in terms of what kind of candidate are you going to be, what kind of leader are you going to be, now they're starting to get into some of this. And I don't know, I didn't really know whether it resonates that much for Clinton to accuse him of being, you know, sort of trying to shout her down, or being sexist in talking about her raising her voice. The couple of times I've heard her try it out on the--

CHUCK TODD:

Doesn't--

ANNE GEARAN:

Stump no. No, it hasn't really.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, is he a good enough foil for her, David, to make her a better candidate?

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, well he's already done that. She was so good, she's been so good the last couple of weeks. But, you know, he took himself off the table when he took the emails off the table, in my view. He's not going to beat her on--

CHUCK TODD:

But he's trying with that honest line.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, I mean--

CHUCK TODD:

That is clearly--

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, but he's not going to beat her because they have some slight difference on economic policy. The only way that it's going to happen is if the trustworthy issue was front and center. He took that off the table for all intents and purposes. And so I don't see how he comes back from that.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, it was Halloween last night. So, I had way too much Halloween candy--that is a fact. But, we had a bunch of politicians, they had a bit of fun last night. On Friday, President Obama greeted some Trick-or-Treaters. Here is a baby popemobile at the White House. Check out Paul Ryan here, we are not sure what he is trying to say but he was the one who decided to dress as Mitt Romney to go trick-or-treating in Janesville last night. Hillary Clinton tweeted out this photo of her and a mini her, somebody trick-or-treating as Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders went out with his grandchildren, he claimed to not be wearing a costume. I guess you could say he was going out as Larry David, perhaps when he went trick-or-treating. To me, the scariest thing that happened last night was what happened at Duke.

I'm not gonna help myself, we, I believe, have a sped up version of the miracle in Durham that helped Miami to just appease me here. See I knew Helene wanted this-- 8 laterals, a rough week for my beloved Hurricanes, it was an amazing--look at this there it goes.

HELENE COOPER:

Oh that is beautiful.

CHUCK TODD:

It was an amazing thing, it took them 10 minutes to decide if the call was real or not. If I'm a little sleepy this morning it's because--

DAVID BROOKS:

It took him 10 minutes to get down the field.

CHUCK TODD:

It was you know, a rough week for Miami. But I have to say, I can't complain.

HELEN COOPER:

Poor Duke.

CHUCK TODD:

Poor Duke?

HELENE COOPER:

Yea, I'm so sorry.

CHUCK TODD:

People feel sorry for Duke?

HELENE COOPER:

I certainly don't.

CHUCK TODD:

Because they don't win enough?

HELENE COOPER:

Are you kidding?

CHUCK TODD:

They don't win enough at all?

HELENE COOPER:

You know how much I hate Duke?

CHUCK TODD:

Well alright I'm not getting into a Duke-bashing session here. Anyway, thank you all. We've got a big week coming up, of course the first week of November. That's all we have for today, when we come back next week, we'll see you next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.