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Meet the Press Transcript - November 8, 2015

Meet The Press - November 8, 2015

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday morning, what's the story or stories with Ben Carson? Did he embellish tales about his violent youth and possible admission to West Point? Carson talks directly to NBC News.

BEN CARSON:

It's not time to spend every single day talking about something that happened 50 years ago.

CHUCK TODD:

Plus, countdown to election day. It is exactly one year away from today. Voters are fed up with Washington and yearning for outsiders. Joining me this morning are all the outsiders. Trump, Sanders, and Fiorina. Also, what we now know about why that Russian plane crashed in Egypt. We'll talk to the Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein. And finally, look at who hosted a huge SNL last night.

DONALD TRUMP:

They don't have my talent, my money, or especially my good looks.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me for insight and analysis this Sunday morning are radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, PBS News Hour's Gwen Ifill, and Politico's Marc Caputo. 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. Exactly one year from today, we're going to be hearing a lot of this music. Gets me a little giddy. As they say, they're playing my song. The NBC News election night music, one year out and we can agree on this: American voters have lost faith in their elected officials and are looking for someone to restore trust in government again.

In a moment, I'm going to be joined by two candidates who represent this anti-politician mood of the country, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. But first, another one of those candidates who has seized on the Republican voters' frustration with politics as usual is Ben Carson. But his rise in the polls has been clouded lately by allegations that he has been embellishing or possibly making up stories about his young life.

My colleague Chris Jansing caught up with Carson at JFK airport last night in New York and asked him about the stories that he was a violent teen, that he was offered a scholarship to West Point after meeting with General William Westmoreland, and the first thing you'll hear about, a Wall Street Journal story that questions his claim that he protected white students at his high school during the MLK riots in Detroit.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHRIS JANSING:

So what they said was that they contacted a number of people there, they talked to a teacher there, that none of those people remember this happening.

BEN CARSON:

Well, they don't remember the riots?

CHRIS JANSING:

They do. Everyone remembers the riots. They don't remember the role you say you played in helping to protect some of the white students.

BEN CARSON:

Well, but why would they know about that unless they were one of those students?

CHRIS JANSING:

So it doesn't surprise you that no one in an of these stories has come forward?

BEN CARSON:

Well, maybe one of those students will come forward. I don't know. I mean, I'm just now hearing about it. So maybe they're not spending all of their time reading the Wall Street Journal.

CHRIS JANSING:

General Westmoreland, we know now, looking at his records, that he was not there when you said in your book he--

BEN CARSON:

Well, I know he was there in Detroit and I know there were congressional men around him. It may not have been Memorial Day, but it was sometime during the time when I was the city executive officer.

CHRIS JANSING:

Wouldn't the easiest way to diffuse at least some of these questions be to ask your brother to come out and speak about this? You said it was your mother and your brother who would know about your temper.

BEN CARSON:

My mother has Alzheimer's.

CHRIS JANSING:

Obviously.

BEN CARSON:

My brother's not interested in talking to the media. And a number of other people aren't either that I've talked to.

CHRIS JANSING:

Vetting is a normal part of the process. Did you not expect this?

BEN CARSON:

I have always said that I expect to be vetted. But being vetted and what is going on with me, "You said this 30 years ago, you said this 20 years ago, this didn't exist, this didn't." You know, I just, I have not seen that with anyone else. Or if you can show me where that's happened with someone else, I will take that statement back.

CHRIS JANSING:

I think almost every person who has been president would--

BEN CARSON:

No, not like this. I have never seen this before. And many other people who are politically experienced tell me they've never seen it before either.

CHRIS JANSING:

You don't think that Bill Clinton or the president with his birth certificate, people who still--

BEN CARSON:

No, not like this.

CHRIS JANSING:

Refuse to believe?

BEN CARSON:

Not even close.

CHRIS JANSING:

So what do you think is going on? Why you?

BEN CARSON:

Because I'm a threat.

CHRIS JANSING:

To?

BEN CARSON:

To the progressives, the secular progressive movement in this country. I'm a very big threat because they can look at the polling data and they can see that I'm the candidate who's most likely to be able to beat Hillary Clinton. They see that.

CHRIS JANSING:

Is this fun for you?

BEN CARSON:

Would I have preferred to be doing something else? Certainly. But it is important to me. And when I think about the sacrifices that were made by those who preceded us in order that we might have the freedom that we have now, it's the very least that I can do.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

There's more to Chris's interview on our website, MeetThePressNBC.com, including a question on his recollections of the class he took at Yale. Now let me go over to Donald Trump. He joins me by phone right now, just hours after hosting Saturday Night Live. So without further ado, live from New York, it's Sunday morning with Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, welcome back to Meet the Press.

DONALD TRUMP:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me get your reaction, do you think this matters, what's going on here with Dr. Carson?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I feel badly for Ben. I've gotten to like Ben. And it's a tough thing. I mean, he writes a book where he went after his mother, hit her on the head, or wanted to hit her on the head with a hammer. Hitting a friend in the face with a lock, with a padlock, hard in the face, stabbing somebody, only to be broken up by a belt buckle.

Which, if you know about belt buckles, they turn and they twist. I don't think they're going to stop a knife with the force of a strong man. And when he writes that he has pathological disease in a book, now he obviously wrote this book prior to thinking about running for office, I assume. But he said he has pathological disease--

CHUCK TODD:

So you don't believe him? You don't believe him, do you?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, if you have pathological disease, that's a problem. I mean, he wrote it. I didn't write it. But he's going to have to explain a lot of things away. The scholarship situation, the dinner with Westmoreland when Westmoreland wasn't there. And the pyramids. You know, a pyramid is a solid structure, essentially. Other than a little area for the pharaoh. And you don't put grain in a pyramid because it's all solid.

CHUCK TODD: You know, you’ve done a lot of--

DONALD TRUMP:

You're going to large,

CHUCK TODD:

You’ve done a lot of--

DONALD TRUMP:

structural beams in those days.

CHUCK TODD:

You've done a little political trick here. You have referenced every negative connotation that you can pick up on on Dr. Carson. Number one, you obviously believe he's a threat to your standing in the polls. Number two, you believe these are pretty serious.

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I think everyone's a threat to me. I look at all of these people, I like a lot of them, I respect a lot of them. I think everybody's a threat. But nobody's going to be able to do the job I do. Nobody's going to make America great again. Nobody's going to take away jobs from China and bring them back to this country and other places, like India, and many other places, Japan.

Nobody's going to be able to to do that. And so, but I view in terms of the election, I view, I'm number one in the polls. I was number one, as you know, qualifying for the Fox debate, I'm number one. I'm in the poll position, as they call it. But I think everybody's a threat.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you something about your book that you said. Because I think in order to restore trust with the American people, I think you have to be putting out your plans, you've got to put it down on paper. And you said this in your book, Crippled America: "They have been claiming I haven't put out enough specifics. There's a good reason for this and it fits perfectly with my overall philosophy of leadership. There are a lot of different voices and interests that have to be considered when working towards solutions. This involves getting people into a room and negotiating compromises until everyone walks out of that room on the same page."

I think on the negotiating front, that's what a lot of Americans want to see. They see, you know, in our own polling, they pick a president that they want to see compromise. But don't you owe it to Republican primary voters to put your stances on paper, more of them? Put your plans in detail on paper. We know they might change. But let's see it. Show us your work.

DONALD TRUMP:

Sure. And I've done that. As you know, I've come out with a tax plan, very detailed. I've come out with a plan for the vets where we're going to make the vets happy and healthy. These are our great people and we're going to take care of our vets. And I’ve--

CHUCK TODD:

But you haven't told us how you're going to make Mexico pay for this wall.

DONALD TRUMP:

Oh, it’s easy!

CHUCK TODD:

And you haven’t told us th--

DONALD TRUMP:

I'll tell you right now. We have a trade imbalance of $40 billion, $45 billion with Mexico a year. We spend billions of dollars. We give Mexico billions of dollars a year. The wall is going to cost $6 billion or $7 billion--

CHUCK TODD:

So tariffs.

DONALD TRUMP:

--if I build it. If somebody else builds it, it's going to cost $20 billion.

CHUCK TODD:

So tariffs.

DONALD TRUMP:

But the wall, but the wall, we can build a magnificent wall and we can spend $7 billion. Not the kind of numbers I'm hearing. And when you have a trade imbalance of $40 and $45 billion a year, when we give them billions of dollars,--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

DONALD TRUMP:

--it's really easy to negotiate that deal, Chuck. That I can tell you. Now, the other politicians won't be able to negotiate, because they don't, they don’t have a clue about negotiation. But it's really easy. Think of it. A trade imbalance of $40 billion to $45 billion.

.

CHUCK TODD:

So Mexico pays for.

DONALD TRUMP:

And that doesn't include the drugs that pour over into our country. That's exclusive of drugs. And the drugs are probably bigger than the numbers we're talking about.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're saying tariffs are going to pay for this? Essentially--

DONALD TRUMP:

And by the way,

CHUCK TODD:

Tariffs on Mexico.

DONALD TRUMP:

No, I'm not saying that. No, I think Mexico. I'll get Mexico to pay for it one way or the other. I guarantee you that. And I have great relationships with Mexico. The Mexican people I have g great. You're seeing in Nevada, I won the poll with the Hispanics. But the leaders are takin advantage of our leaders because our--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

DONALD TRUMP:

--leaders are not smart people. They're incompetent, frankly.

CHUCK TODD:

Two quick questions. A new book about Bush 41 says you called up Lee Atwater and said, "Hey, vet me for VP."

DONALD TRUMP:

Well you know it's interesting because Lee was a very good friend of mine. He was a terrific guy and died at a very young age. And he came to me when I was quite young. And he said, "You know, you'd be a great vice president." I said, "Really? Tell me about it."

This is, like, the first time I ever thought in terms of-- I was building my empire. I was starting to build my empire. I guess I was in the midst of it. And frankly, Lee said, "You'd be great. And you should do it, you should do it. I want to get back to you." And we talked about it on two occasions, but nothing ever came of it.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, quickly on SNL, there's always a line on these things. Do you think you know - there are some people who question how serious you are about running for president. Does hosting Saturday Night Live undermine how serious you are running for president?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, if you look, every politician, not every, but just about every politician has gone on Saturday Night Live. It's a very iconic thing. It's actually my second time hosting it. I did it 11 years ago also. The Apprentice was number one and they asked me to do it and I did it.

I had a great time doing it. I mean, Hillary was on two weeks ago and everybody was on. And hosting it's a bigger deal than doing the single skit. But I had a fantastic time doing it. I think it's going to get tremendous ratings. I guess that's what they're saying already. And it was a big success for NBC. You should be extremely happy Chuck, because I think it was a very big success for NBC. I had a lot of fun doing it.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think you should've taken the protesters more seriously? I mean, that must bother you.

DONALD TRUMP:

No, not at all. Do you know that before the show, there were very few of them there. A handful. In fact, I think there were more people protesting in favor of me than against. And before the show started, about 30 minutes before the show started, everybody left. Do you know why they left? Because they went home to watch it. They went home to watch Saturday Night Live.

CHUCK TODD:

You were comfortable with Larry David sort of mocking the protest?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I not only comfortable, it was something I had to agree to and I loved it. I thought it was great. I mean, Larry got up and he said certain things, and I fully know. That was part of his script, I mean, in all fairness. And it was funny and the place was roaring. I can tell you the studio, inside the studio, they were roaring.

We had a good time and it's not a question of that. You know, I'm doing great with the Hispanics, Chuck. I'm winning so many different areas with the Hispanics. I employ thousands of Hispanics. I'm going to bring jobs back for Hispanics.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

DONALD TRUMP:

And we're going to win the Hispanics. You watch.

CHUCK TODD:

Donald Trump I believe we have a face-to-face coming up pretty soon. I know we're close to figuring that out. I look forward to it.

DONALD TRUMP:

Very good.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Thank you.

DONALD TRUMP:

Thank you, Chuck. So long.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the other side of the aisle, the Democratic presidential candidate, number two in the polls these days. Independent Senator from Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press. And let me quickly ask you about this Ben Carson stuff, because you have seen some people leak out stuff you wrote 30 and 40 years ago. Is this fair game?

BERNIE SANDERS:

No. And look, I listened to the interviews with Dr. Carson. And it's interesting. But you know what, Chuck? The American people want to know why the middle class of this country is disappearing. Why we are 47 million people living in poverty. Why we have massive income and wealth inequality. When you look at Dr. Carson, to the best of my knowledge, this man does not believe that climate change is caused by human activity.

This man wants to abolish Medicare, impacting tens of millions of seniors, and this man wants to give huge tax breaks to the rich. I think it might be a better idea, I know it's a crazy idea, but maybe we focus on the issues impacting the American people and what candidates are saying rather than just spending so much time exploring their lives of 30 or 40 years ago. And I think the reason that so many people are turned off to the political process has a lot to do with the fact that we're not talking about the real issues impacting real people.

CHUCK TODD:

And you know you have been very consistent about this. And I think it's been a very admirable part of your campaign. In fact, you had made it clear you didn't want to go after Hillary Clinton. Let me play the many times you've said that.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BERNIE SANDERS:

I am not going to get into the media game, Andrea, of attacking, making personal attacks against Hillary Clinton. I just am not going to do that. I don't think that's what the American people want. If I were to start viciously attacking Hillary Clinton, it would be all over the front pages of the paper. But I don't do that. I mean, I happen to respect and like Hillary Clinton. So I don't get into personal attacks. You know that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

But Senator, something seemed to change this week. A Boston Globe interview you said, "I disagree with Hillary Clinton on virtually everything." The Wall Street Journal, you said, "Consistency on such issues does speak to the character of a person." And then you even talked about the emails, which at the debate, you said you're tired of her damn emails, but then you said, "Let the investigation proceed unimpeded." Are you backtracking here? Do you want to target Hillary Clinton personally?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Not at all. Chuck, this is exactly media stuff. My views on Hillary Clinton's emails are exactly what I said in the debate and right after the debate. The American people are sick and tired of seeing on the front pages emails. They want a real discussion on real issues. There is an investigation ongoing. I have nothing to do with it. That's that.

But my views on that have not changed. In terms of disagreeing with Hillary Clinton, yeah, I do, on many, many issues. You know, what I understand politics and elections to be about is to discuss differences of opinion. I intend to do that and do that vigorously. That does not mean that I'm making personal attacks against somebody I respect. I disagree with Hillary Clinton on whether or not we should break up the large financial institutions in this country. I don't have a super PAC. She does have a super PAC. We have many different points of view and I will discuss those vigorously.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, one of the things you've said, pointed out as consistency, you believe that matters, what's wrong with evolving on issues? What's wrong with that?

BERNIE SANDERS:

There's nothing wrong. Everybody evolves on issues. Nothing wrong with that. But I think if you look at the important issues facing this country, going back to 2002, who made the analysis, who looked at what Bush and Cheney were saying on the war in Iraq? It's one thing to evolve and say, "Well, I made a mistake." It's another thing other analyze the information and say, "You know what? I think that that war is a terrible mistake."

In terms of trade, look, I am glad that in recent months Hillary Clinton has moved to my position on the Keystone Pipeline, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She's now making a step forward on marijuana. Not far enough in terms of getting the federal government, seeing it as illegal. But what people want to know is who has leadership.

Who was there in 1996 in terms of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. So what I think the issue is, who is prepared under difficult circumstances, when it's not necessarily popular, to make decisions which are the right decisions rather than 20 years later say, "Well, maybe I was wrong." Or, "Maybe, I've got to rethink that."

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I had a lot more I wanted to discuss. We're compacted today. But Senator Sanders, it's always a pleasure to have you on, sir. Be safe on the trail.

BERNIE SANDERS:

Okay.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks very much. When we come back, the panel will be here to discuss all that we've heard from Ben Carson, Trump, and Bernie Sanders. What a week and what a day. One year from E-Day. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is here. Of course radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, whose show has become an essential destination for the Republican candidates these days. Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC who moderated the first in the south presidential forum with all three Democratic candidates on Friday. Gwen Ifill, anchor of PBS News Hour, a good friend of the show, and Marc Caputo, a Miami-based reporter for Politico. Nobody owns the political space in Florida like Marc with Rubio and Jeb Bush these days. So thanks for coming up and go Canes.

MARC CAPUTO:

Thanks for having me. Go Canes.

GWEN IFILL:

See, now we know what this is really about.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, exactly. Hugh, let me start with what you heard from Dr. Carson. I think he's going to go "the media's being unfair" route. This is a standard practice when Republicans are under fire. Is it going to work for him?

HUGH HEWITT:

Well, to quote Dr. Kissinger, it has the additional benefit of being true. Like what he had as an objection to this week, is there were four scandals, but only two were reported. Marco Rubio does not have a scandal. Ben Carson does not have a scandal. Hillary, however, had her non-disclosure agreement revealed by Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon.

And Reuters obtained a letter from the Teneo Group refusing to answer any questions about Hillary Clinton. So there were four scandals, two of them were real, involving Hillary Clinton. They were not reported. One, about Ben Carson, West Point, not a scandal, heavily media. And the one about Marco Rubio was all puff.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Why is it not a scandal?

HUGH HEWITT:

Because it--

RACHEL MADDOW:

From the West Point, "I got a full scholarship to West Point."

HUGH HEWITT:

Because direct admission, it was actually fairly common in the '70s, I have no doubt that someone at the ROTC said to Ben Carson, "We'll get you in. Come to West Point." I have no doubt because it was fairly common in the '70s and the '80s. So I do not believe you have to prove a negative.

RACHEL MADDOW:

But obviously he's a very distinguished retired surgeon. Since retiring as a surgeon, he's basically a professional autobiographer. And that's what he does. He sells and sells and sells and sells his autobiography. There are a lot of things. The most dramatic things in his autobiography, all of which are favorable to him, all of which have helped sell himself as this amazing person who ought to be president, which cannot be corroborated, including the factual statement that you can get a full scholarship to West Point. It doesn't even work that way.

HUGH HEWITT:

Yes it does. Direct admissions are a full scholarships. That's just vernacular.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Nobody pays.

HUGH HEWITT:

Nobody pays.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Right.

HUGH HEWITT:

So everyone's on a scholarship.

RACHEL MADDOW:

So nobody gets a scholarship.

HUGH HEWITT:

But here's a question.

RACHEL MADDOW:

It's not like he got offered to West Point and didn't have to pay when other people would have to.

HUGH HEWITT:

If you get him to--

RACHEL MADDOW:

That’s the impression he gave the way he told his own story.

HUGH HEWITT:

Here's my question. If you get into Yale and you are an ROTC student, you really doubt that someone came to him and said, "You need to go to West Point, we will get you in by direct admi-- you don't have the pay." You really doubt that happened?

RACHEL MADDOW:

But what I doubt is a person ought to be president on the basis of their autobiography. When they sell that to the country as, "I was offered a full scholarship to West Point and I turned it down because I didn't need it." You weren't offered a full scholarship to West Point--

HUGH HEWITT:

Yes he was.

RACHEL MADDOW:

you didn’t apply to West Point, nobody gets a full scholarship to West Point and if you're selling yourself, you're not selling it truthfully.

CHUCK TODD:

Gwen, you've been on the trail a long time over the years. Personal stories.

GWEN IFILL:

Thanks for that.

CHUCK TODD:

No, and I guess to me, the danger for Dr. Carson is the fact that his candidacy is built on biography.

GWEN IFILL:

It is.

CHUCK TODD:

And build on honesty.

GWEN IFILL:

It is built on saying, "This is who I am. These are my bootstraps." And we all admire that. The interesting thing about people, are the outsiders we talk about so much, is that they all seem surprised what it takes to run for president. And what it takes to run for president is scrutiny.

When Dr. Carson says there has never been scrutiny that there has been directed at him, that is just not so. I think, I mean, we were all there when Bill Clinton went through the whole thing with the killing Vince Foster, with the airstrip in Mena, Arkansas, where we're still talking about Barack Obama's birth certificate years after he was president. There's always the scrutiny. And each and every one time, those folks hated it.

HUGH HEWITT:

But Gwen--

GWEN IFILL:

They complained, they felt like victims. And of course, this is the way Dr. Carson, who has great self regard, as he deserves to, because he accomplished a lot in his life.

HUGH HEWITT:

But his objection to the double standard. This week, there is the NDA story in the Free Beacon, there is the story of Teneo refusing to answer. Mrs. Clinton is not being covered in the same way Ben Carson is.

GWEN IFILL:

And Hillary Clinton would say, "You know what, there was also a report saying that those two emails that were supposed to be classified were not classified and nobody covered that."

CHUCK TODD:

Let me go to Marc. You just--

MARC CAPUTO

I’ve gotta say, I'd rather just watch them on television.

GWEN IFILL:

A patented dynamic.

CHUCK TODD:

The most fun Marc is that they're also so civil about it. Which is a reminder that that is what at least Sunday mornings are about. But Marc, you had the Marco Rubio story this week that Hugh just brought up. And it does go to, the head-scratcher there was, it was sort of like a non-issue. But what took him so long?

MARC CAPUTO:

Well there's a few things that took them so long. One, Rubio in 2010, a first batch of his credit cards got released and credit card statements through the Republican party of Florida got released on the behest of then Governor Charlie Crist who was running against him in the Senate. And they made the calculation in 2010, like, "Look, these are private statements. And I'm just going to take the hit."

Years later, they had the luxury of knowing that when we runs for president, they're going to have time to analyze his other statements. And then when they analyze those statements, they're able to put them together and pull all the bank statements, they realized, "Oh my God, there's not much here. There's only $65,000 in spending over two years at the head of Florida House campaign."

Which is not a lot of money. And so what they did is they made the calculation as, we're going to hold off on this until the appropriate time, and we're going to let the Donald Trumps of the world say, "This is going to be a disaster."

CHUCK TODD

It was a setup.

GWEN IFILL

Oh, that's what I was going to ask--

CHUCK TODD:

So you really believe this was--

RACHEL MADDOW

It's very smart.

CHUCK TODD:

David Rivera, the guy who owns the House scandal--

CHUCK TODD:

And the former member of Congress down there who was basically chased out via scandal, is that now going to be less of a hit on him because of how this credit card thing went down?

MARC CAPUTO:

I wouldn't presume to say what's going to be a hit and what's not. Certainly Marco's going to have to answer questions about his relationship with David, because David's been in a lot of trouble, but always been able to avoid indictment at the state and federal level.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's the part of this that I wonder how much of this was, this is an interesting calculation. All right, I'm going to hit the pause button here. We have so much to cover. We've got the Democrats, we've got the Bush family Shakespearian drama going on there. But we're going to change lanes. After the break, it's the latest on that Russian plane and why experts are increasingly convinced that it was a bomb that took it down. Dianne Feinstein will be here, Intell committee, she'll share what she knows.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. A memorial service has been taking place in Saint Petersburg, Russia this morning, for the 224 victims of that Russian plane crash. We don't know what the cause of the crash was yet in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. U.S. officials are increasingly convinced it was downed by a bomb. And attention is focusing on intercepts of chatter between an ISIS affiliate in the Sinai and members of a group in Syria. For the latest, I'm joined by the vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein of California. Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Why are U.S. officials so convinced this was a bomb?

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, I think it's an emerging story. I think first of all you've got the flight data recorder and the voice recorder that records something that could be an explosion. Secondly, it's the nature of ISIL, I think. You know, ISIL's now in 12 countries. They do attack after attack. Yeah, the forensics on the superstructure, the plane, need to be done. I'm delighted to hear that the F.B.I. will be going into the area and will participate.

And I believe we are sharing our information, intelligence information now. And this is a point I want to make. It is my strong belief that the United States and our good allies should share information regarding terrorist attacks. We usually do this and it's important we do this. That the Russians--

CHUCK TODD:

Are you concerned we're not sharing with Russia because of this rivalry?

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Yes. My understand is that we weren't for a while, but I have now heard that we are. I hope that's true.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, you've seen the intelligence. I know there's something you can't share. But everything you've seen, you've been around, you've seen the stuff in past. Do you believe it was a bomb?

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

I think there's a strong probability it was. I can't say it's dead-bang certain. But there's a strong probability that it was.

CHUCK TODD:

What does this mean?

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, this means I think a very big thing for Russia. This was a Russian plane with Russian people. Major attack. Russia is in the area. Russia has three bases, has planes, has people. My hope is that Russia will take a strong stance against ISIL. And they are not now so doing. Most of the attacks are directed toward the moderate opposition. And I think the time has come for us also to begin to develop a joint strategy with Russia.

CHUCK TODD:

You hope this is a wakeup call to Putin?

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

I hope it's a wakeup call to Putin, and I hope to some extent it's a wakeup call to us. I have said before and I really believe it, we will fight them now or we will fight them later. It's only a question of time. And they're now in 12 countries. They've done 25 major attacks in these countries outside of Syria and Iraq in the last two years. This is a huge, worldwide problem. And we've got to play a major roles, the Russians should as well.

CHUCK TODD:

If this was a bomb, it looks like the assumption is it got on via airport workers. That it didn't get on via a passenger. They seemed to have cleared the passengers. The scary thing about this is, what do we do to screen airport workers in this country? The D.E.A. busts drug rings all the time. They've done a lot when it comes to airport workers smuggling drugs on planes. That tells you there's some security holes.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, this is a very complicated area. And I think Homeland Security is doing as good a job as they can. They are now tightening security. The kinds of bombs vary. The one I'm most worried about is the one that there have been four attempts to bring into this country. And that's the one that goes through a magnetometer.

The bomb maker is still alive. And that bomb is a recipe for which is easy to get. And it is very serious. It can take down a plane. So we need to totally be on our guard. We need to do those things that are prudent and direct. And I think Homeland Security realizes that. And we are toughening in those places, which are important to toughen security in now.

CHUCK TODD:

Fourteen months ago, you said this about the president: "I think I've learned one thing about this president, and that is he's very cautious, maybe in this instance too cautious." It had to do with Syria. He obviously has made an incremental step about what he wants to do with Syria with these special forces. Is it enough?

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

No. Special forces are limited. I think 50. That won't do it. If we're really going to use special operations, quick in, quick out, you have to do it in a much more comprehensive way to get at ISIL. This just isn't one facility. It's not one building in Raqqa or somewhere else. It's many different places.

The other thing that seems to be emerging is the belief that bombing alone isn't going to do it. We've had over 7,000 sorties, others have made sorties as well. We have made the majority of the sorties. And that hasn't changed the dynamic. So I think we've got to look at those things which can be major in scope. And this means put together a strategy with Russia and move ahead.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Dianne Feinstein, vice-chair of the Intel committee. See if they listen to your advice.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Yes, right Chuck. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for being on.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, why Carly Fiorina believes she does not have to show any detailed policy plans as she runs for president. Wait till you hear this.

** COMMERCIAL BREAK **

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We've already heard from three of the main outsider candidates for president today. Yesterday, I caught up with another. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina. And I asked her why she is one of just two candidates who have yet to release a detailed tax plan, or frankly any policy plans on her website. Here's her answer.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CARLY FIORINA:

Well, let me disagree with the premise of your question. How often do politicians put out detailed plans? How often do they get enacted? Never. That's the problem. Politicians put out detailed plans for all kinds of things that never happen. But if you go to the CarlyForPresident.com website, what you can do is ask a question, and you will see me answering the question in public, verbally.

In other words, I am being held accountable. A plan, anybody can write a plan. Anybody can put a plan on a website. It's another thing to say, "You know what I think we need to do?" And say it over and over again in public and be held accountable for this." You know what I think we need to do? We need to go from a 73,000-page tax code, which is what we have today, with 4,000 changes since 2001, we need to get it down to about three. And what that means is we need to close every loophole and lower every rate.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, show us what you're going to do.

CARLY FIORINA:

Maybe there are two or three loopholes.

CHUCK TODD:

But how do we trust--

CARLY FIORINA:

But that is what I'm going to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Well show us.

CARLY FIORINA:

But that is what I'm going to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Why won't you show us your work?

CARLY FIORINA:

So in other words, words on a piece of paper are more accountable than words said to people, looking them in the eye? I don't think so. I don't think that's what voters think. Because I think voters have gotten smart enough to know that plans and paper, 50-point plans, ten-point plans, five-point plans, are written by a bunch of advisors and consultants. So I'm perfectly prepared to be held accountable for my words and my plans. And I would encourage your viewers to go on the website and ask any question they want.

CHUCK TODD:

So we shouldn't expect a tax plan out of you any time soon on paper?

CARLY FIORINA:

I've given you a tax plan. I've given you a tax plan. It needs to be three pages. And the only way to get there is to lower every rate and close every loophole.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

So that's the question for you guys. Will voters accept candidates who do not put their ideas on paper for us to see? I'm going to ask the panel that question as well. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. It is no secret that Democratic candidates across the country have struggled at the polls since President Obama took office. But just how badly have Democrats been performing? Well, let's start with Congress. Since 2009, Democrats have lost a net of 13 Senate seats and a whopping 69 House seats. Now let's put this in some historical context.

You have to go all the way back to Eisenhower to match this many losses for a party that controls the White House with Senate seats, 13 of them. And in the House, it's been 100 years since a two-term president's party suffered worse losses. That was Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats, 99 House seats. Let's go to the state level with President Obama. Under him, Democrats have lost control of 12 governorships, including just this past week in Kentucky.

Plus they've given up 30 state legislative chambers. And ready for this? Over 900 state legislative seats. No administration since Nixon-Ford saw more governor and state legislative chamber losses in the president's own party. Of course, there was a reason for those losses, the Watergate scandal tainted Republicans across the country.

So you have to go back to Eisenhower, again, to find more losses of state legislatures over 1,000 back in the '50s. So what is going on here? Why are down ballot Democrats across the country getting wiped out in election after election, where Barack Obama's name's not on the ballot? Well, the explanation of course is Democrats don't turn out if Barack Obama's not on the ballot. But it wasn't that long ago, Rachel, that they did turnout in midterms.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Uh-huh.

CHUCK TODD:

It wasn't that long ago, 2006. 2002 they won a bunch of governorships, even while losing Senate-- Something is wrong here and you can't just blame it on, "Oh, Democrats don't show up." This is infrastructure.

RACHEL MADDOW:

What's happening is that the Democratic party is getting smoked strategically by the Republican party. The Republican party made a decision to invest long-term in the places where it makes an institutional difference whether or not you're there. So the Republican party didn't talk a lot about it nationally, but they invested heavily, particularly in advance of the 2010 cycle in winning state legislative seats all across the country, that nobody in the national press cared about. They flipped enough of them to flip enough legislatures to flip the congressional map that locks it in for a decade. And the Republicans are thinking that way and Democrats just aren't.

CHUCK TODD:

No better example, Marc, than the state of Florida. A swing state that is nowhere near swing in legislative races.

MARC CAPUTO:

Right. I think Florida exemplifies a lot of the problems that Democrats have nationwide. I mean, the big thing is is that the Barack Obama political machine and the old world big data, it's a lie. The Obama political machine without Obama is no machine. They don't win. That was largely a personality-based campaign in two different cycles.

And I did witness, at least in Florida, the Obama machine, for whatever it was, it was kind of good having its consultants come down and build Democrats in various races and then not win them. But then in addition to that, they would not really do much to help. So you also have, in addition to that, folks not liking Barack Obama very much. And so if you were running for office, you ran away from Obama and Obama's people didn't run toward you to help.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's go through a little history here, Hugh. So it took Republicans 40 years to recover basically from the double-whammy of the Eisenhower losses and the Watergate losses. Forty years.

HUGH HEWITT:

Uh-huh.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats could be waiting 40 years to recover from this legislative and House-- They may win the White House five of the next six times.

HUGH HEWITT:

Siberia is big.

CHUCK TODD:

Just like the Republicans.

HUGH HEWITT:

Siberia is big. And they are in Siberia right now. And they keep nominating bad candidates. I want to pay Rachel a compliment. Ten days ago, former Secretary of State Clinton was on your show. And she said rather cavalierly that the VA scandal was not as widespread as people thought. And I said, "Thank you for that gift, Rachel."

This is the kind of faux pas that Democrats make routinely that can become-- in fact, Bernie Sanders, talking to you this morning, made a super PAC ad for every Republican running for every office in detailing Hillary's flips. So they're not very good at running campaigns.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me go to, speaking of Rachel and her form, Gwen. Let me play a few highlights from Clinton, Sanders, and O'Malley. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

I want us to use diplomacy, which is why I spent 18 months putting together the sanctions against Iran. However, I will not, I think it's irresponsible to rule out force.

BERNIE SANDERS:

To me, as opposed to maybe some other unnamed candidates, the issue of Keystone was kind of a no-brainer. It never made sense to me from day one as to why you would extract and transport some of the dirtiest fuel on this planet.

MARTIN O'MALLEY:

Look, contrary to Donald Trump's assertion, the enduring symbol of our country is not the barbed wire fence, it is the Statue of Liberty.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Gwen, what do you make?

GWEN IFILL:

First of all, without sucking up overly much, Rachel, you did a really good job on that.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Thank you for saying so.

GWEN IFILL:

I really fell in love with the format. The idea in which you actually engage back and forth with candidates for periods of time without them trying to break the rules, without them trying to duck or change a question.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, we would do this with any Republicans that want to do this one by one by one--

GWEN IFILL:

I would too. I would do it.

CHUCK TODD:

I think the one-by-one format, if you care about--

GWEN IFILL:

If you care

CHUCK TODD:

If this is what everybody says about the policy stuff.

RACHEL MADDOW:

And we can mix it up between parties. You can do that format where you alternate a Democrat, Republican, Democrat, Republican.

CHUCK TODD:

I think you can do one issue, you can do it one issue at a time, you could do a national security forum.

GWEN IFILL:

Yeah, and you learn interesting things. I mean, to listen to Bernie Sanders say, "I don't want to name the names of these people" was kind of disingenuous. Of course he's talking about Hillary Clinton. You listen to Hillary Clinton say, "I don't want to answer your question, Rachel."

I prefer to have someone just say, "I don't want to answer your question, Gwen," than pretend to answer something else. So there's something very revealing. If we're going to run campaigns, as we were just talking about, based on personalities, then let's find out some more about their personalities. Let's find out about their true transparency. I think we don't find that out in one-on-one-on-one debates, especially with ten people on stage.

CHUCK TODD:

Boy, I could tell you, Rachel, the confidence though of Hillary Clinton today versus three weeks ago.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

It's unbelievable the change.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Yeah. Well, the--

CHUCK TODD:

And you can see it in Bernie Sanders. Look at him, he's anxious.

RACHEL MADDOW:

He's going for it.

CHUCK TODD:

He's trying.

RACHEL MADDOW:

I mean, he's more than 50 points behind in South Carolina, she's got 80% support among African American Democrats in South Carolina. He knows where he needs to go. She just needs to run out the clock. The problem is, when Hillary Clinton tries to run out the clock, that's always when bad things happen.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, it's always like a plot twist in Law and Order. Just when you think--

RACHEL MADDOW:

You can relax.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Pow.

CHUCK TODD:

Then it comes.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Marc and Hugh, you both have said there's one takeaway from this show today that you haven't been able to shake. And this goes back to the Republican side of the race.

MARC CAPUTO:

Well, Ben Carson saying when he was interviewed just the same night, yeah, where he says that basically he has kind of better things to do. And it's just, it's very Jeb Bush where Jeb said he had cool things to do and he might not want to do this. And these candidates are acting like they're Cincinnatus or something. Like, "Oh, I'm being dragged into serve my country and I'm going to go back to my plow now unless you love me," and I just don't get that.

HUGH HEWITT:

We both gasped when he said that. You've got to watch what you say--

CHUCK TODD:I gotta say I thought that too.

HUGH HEWITT:

You've got to have energy. Donald Trump put that word into the campaign now it defines Rubio, Cruz, and Christie. They've got energy. And John Kasich. They've got energy. You've got to want to serve. You can't be a martyr.

GWEN IFILL:

But also, listen to what we heard this morning from Carly Fiorina, what we have heard from Marco Rubio, and what we've heard from Ben Carson. Whenever they're under attack, whenever they're questioned, they immediately say, "Go to my website and give me money." Ben Carson sent out an e-mail--

MARC CAPUTO:

I wish I could do that.

GWEN IFILL:

--saying, "I'm under attack. Send me money. I need your help." Carly Fiorina mentioned her website 85 times. "I don't want to put actual statements or papers, white papers on it, but come watch me talk and maybe give me money." I mean, there's a certain consistency with these candidates--

RACHEL MADDOW:

You looked like you were going to fall over when she said that.

CHUCK TODD:

I know. And I don't like t-- I was surprised. Put it on paper. What's wrong with that?

HUGH HEWITT:

Marco Rubio put out a very long piece on his new defense strategy yesterday. It's very detailed. 343 ship Navy. That's what you need to do.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's what he did with his tax plan too. And look, yes, it's getting scrutinized and it's getting beaten up, man some people on the left don’t--

HUGH HEWITT:

Trump did it on immigration.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, and he did it on taxes.

HUGH HEWITT:

Yep.

CHUCK TODD:

Why can't she?

RACHEL MADDOW:

Well, we do have speech-to-text translation capability. We do. Every time she says something, let's put it on Carly letterhead and hold her to it.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I think she will use that to raise money today probably. When we come back, it's the one topic we haven't talked about, in the endgame segment, it is the Shakespearian nature of the Bush family. But there's a bigger issue here. Not only has the Republican party not been able to figure out what to make of the George W. Bush legacy, neither has the Bush family. We'll be right back.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

CHUCK TODD:

Endgame time. We were going to alert the affiliates and say, "We're going long," because it feels like we should go more than an hour. But this last topic, we've got a little time for it. There's more evidence this week that neither Jeb Bush nor the Republican party has worked out how to deal with the legacy of George W. Bush's presidency. A new authorized biography of George H. W. Bush, Bush 41, by Jon Meacham, unleashed some stinging criticism on two of 43's top lieutenants, Bush 41 not a happy camper about Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney for their post-9/11 response.

On Rumsfeld, Bush 41 said this: "I think he served the president badly, I don't like what he did, and I think it hurt the president, having his iron-ass view of everything." And on Cheney, "I don't know, he just became very hard-lined and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with." In reaction to the attacks on 9/11, what to do about the Middle East, and again he uses this phrase, as Kathleen Parker says, you can't get enough of, "Iron-ass."

Marc Caputo, we were already last week dealing with Jeb Bush, just trying to figure out how to out-distance himself from Bush, from whatever, all things Bush. This couldn't have come at a worse time for him.

MARC CAPUTO:

Oh yeah, it gets even more awkward, because this coming week, we have the Republican Party is meeting for its annual or its presidential fundraiser gathering. Dick Cheney's a featured speaker there.

CHUCK TODD:

Ay oh.

MARC CAPUTO:

Yeah. And then Jeb showing up. So it's like, "Hey, you know, great, you're getting the band back together one more time to be kind of dysfunctional."

CHUCK TODD:

But this feels, Hugh, like the bigger issue is the Republican party doesn't know what to do with the Bush legacy yet.

HUGH HEWITT:

A lot of them don't. The best moment that Jeb has had in the debates this far, and it was in response to a question I posed to him, he said, "My brother kept us safe." And that is the best part of the Bush legacy, is that after 9/11, he did the "Middle hour of our grief" speech at the National Cathedral, he gave a State of the Union on the axis of evil, and the Republican base wants that to be W.'s legacy. H. W.'s comments about Cheney and Rumsfeld run into that headwind. Because most of the Republicans that I’ve talked to admire the vice president and the former Sec Def a lot. And there's not much upside in attacking them.

GWEN IFILL:

What do we like the best? We like the fact that these guys, that they actually confirm what we suspect. We suspected this is where H. W. was. We also suspect that if our parents were asked over a period of eight years, what they thought about what we did about everything in our lives, there may be some criticism that might come out. I would love to be at their Thanksgiving table this year and hear how that conversation plays out.

RACHEL MADDOW:

The personal part of this, reading Meacham's book, I mean, the one thing that I was surprised to feel while reading it, I had an emotional reaction to it, which was, I can't really imagine the same nuclear family having a third go at the presidency.

GWEN IFILL:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, yes.

RACHEL MADDOW:

I mean, going through, like, all of this drama about, like, "One of our sons won his governor's race tonight. One of our sons lost. Which state do we go to?" Like oh god. You really want to do this again?

MARC CAPUTO:

And remember, I think you can bet on it, George P. Bush will run for president in the next couple few years.

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say, you brought this up with Barbara Bush, doesn't it make the "no more Bushes" comment make a lot more sense now?

GWEN IFILL:

Her comment.

CHUCK TODD:

It was about her.

GWEN IFILL:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

I think she was exhausted. It's funny you say that. I got the same, the patriarch and matriarch are exhausted.

HUGH HEWITT:

Dynastic politics do not sell in America. And Mrs. Clinton has the same problem that Jeb Bush has. Which is this is not really something that we do very well or often in the United States since the Adams. We don't do it.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Having been first lady though, it's not the same as your dad calling your brother Quincy.

(OVERTALK)

RACHEL MADDOW:

You know what I’m saying? It's a different thing. It's not a dynasty when you're the same age.

HUGH HEWITT:

What I’m saying is how long have you been in the public eye?

GWEN IFILL:

Having Bill Clinton, however, sitting on the sidelines with all of us waiting for him to say something, do something, that's it’s own drag.

CHUCK TODD:

But there's going to be that feel, Marc, of the Clinton presidency, if there's one, which is, "What does Bill really think? What does Bill really think? What does Bill really think?"

MARC CAPUTO:

But I think the Rachel's point about Thanksgiving, Jeb Bush announced last time that he's probably going to go down this road of running for president after Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving is going to be a big moment for the Bush family. Because if Jeb's poll numbers stay at 4% or 5% nationally, and also remain in the cellar in Florida and also in New Hampshire and in Iowa, I imagine that's going to be a really awkward Thanksgiving.

GWEN IFILL:

I so want an invitation.

HUGH HEWITT:

He never gets out though, right? I’ve been telling people he doesn’t get out.

CHUCK TODD:

H. W. in 1980--

MARC CAPUTO:

I don't know about that.

CHUCK TODD:

--didn't get out of the race until May. We looked this up because these Bushes are fighters.

MARC CAPUTO:

But also--

RACHEL MADDOW:

If he was getting out of the race at Thanksgiving, it was embarrassing or would look like a loss, so is getting out of the race in March or in April and even la-- If he's going to lose, he's going to lose. Quitting now serves him not at all.

CHUCK TODD:

That's a quitter. He's a quitter.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Right. Getting beat--

CHUCK TODD:

But losing with honor?

RACHEL MADDOW:

is funner next Thanksgiving.

MARCO CAPUTO:

I think it's important to know though is that one of the reasons that you have to think about Florida is we don't have an Election Day in Florida, we have election days. We roll out a month of early voting, and a good 50% of it is cast by absentee ballot, vote by mail.

And so when you go to the polls in South Carolina for the primary, you're going to have possibly 30% of the votes already in Florida. So you're going to probably want, if you're going to drop out, if you don't do well in New Hampshire, that might be the time. So there are going to be these different benchmarks if Bush's situation remains the same.

GWEN IFILL:

I will just say this. If there's popcorn involved, it'll be funnier than Saturday Night Live was last night.

CHUCK TODD:

Wow.

GWEN IFILL:

Wow.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

GWEN IFILL:

I had to get that in there.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, before we go, I think this might be the most vicious negative ad ever. Let me show it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FEMALE ANNOUNCER:

The choice for governor couldn't be more clear: John Bel Edwards, who answered our country's call and served as a Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division, or David Vitter, who answered a prostitute's call minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom. David Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots. Now the choice is yours.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, this was fun. Hugh and Gwen have seen it, Marc and Rachel had not. I'm going to make, you guys get to react.

MARC CAPUTO:

I love Louisiana. The best attack ad before this was actually out of Louisiana, like, about four or five years ago, which was a coroner's race, where they actually acted out a horror movie where a coroner was accused of selling body parts with Igor. But this kills that.

RACHEL MADDOW:

I wanted to fact check it. Technically, what they're alleging is that he chose prostitutes after patriots, not over patriots.

CHUCK TODD:

Over patriots.

RACHEL MADDOW:

So come on.

MARC CAPUTO:

PolitiFact would give that a halfly true.

CHUCK TODD:

Half true. All right, I've got other leave it there.

RACHEL MADDOW:

Astonishing.

CHUCK TODD:

Exactly. That's all we have for today. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *