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Meet the Press Transcript - October 12, 2014

CHUCK TODD:

This morning on Meet the Press, the Ebola outbreak. A second case in the United States. An infected healthcare worker tests positive for the virus after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the very first person to die of Ebola in this country. The politics of fear.

THOM TILLIS:

We've got an Ebola outbreak. We have bad actors who can come across the border.

CHUCK TODD:

Are politicians pressing the panic button in a last-minute attempt to win votes before November? The war against ISIS. The U.S. talks tough.

JOE BIDEN (ON TAPE):

We will follow them to the gates of hell.

CHUCK TODD:

But after hundreds of U.S. air strikes, the terror group is still gaining ground.

RICHARD ENGEL:

So you’re outgunned? ISIS is better off.

IDRIS NASSAN:

Of course.

CHUCK TODD:

In my exclusive interview with Susan Rice, the president's national security advisor, I'll ask her whether we need a new strategy. And gay marriage is now legal in the majority of states.

FEMALE PASTOR:

You may kiss your bride.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it time for conservatives to surrender in the culture wars? I'm Chuck Todd. And joining me to provide insight and analysis are NBC's Tom Brokaw, The New York Times Helene Cooper, just back from Liberia, former White House political director under President George W. Bush, Sarah Fagan, and President Obama's first press secretary, Robert Gibbs. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

And, welcome. Of course, breaking news this morning. A second case of Ebola this morning in the United States confirmed in Texas. It’s the first person-to-person transmission in the United States. And a reminder, this is a health care worker who treated Thomas Eric Duncan. In a moment, we’re going to hear from Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health. But first, let’s go to our own Mark Potter who’s also in Dallas covering this story. And, so, Mark, what do we know about when this health care worker came into contact with the late Mr. Duncan?

MARK POTTER:

It sounds like that exact contact occurred on Duncan’s second visit to the hospital, which began here September 28th. Officials say they got the preliminary test results back late last night indicating a health worker here at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital had contracted Ebola. Further tests will be conducted by the CDC in Atlanta to confirm this finding. The worker is said to have cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Dallas Ebola patient who died Wednesday, again, as I said, on his second visit to the hospital. The worker reportedly was wearing protective clothing at that time and was considered low risk, but has now tested positive.

The worker came in to the hospital Friday complaining of a low-grade fever, was isolated and then sent aside for testing. Treatment has now begun. Currently, officials are not releasing the patient’s name to honor the wishes of his or her family for privacy. But we are being told that the worker is in stable condition now, that his or her apartment and car will be decontaminated by HAZMAT workers, that neighbors are already being notified that a close contact person is being isolated protectively and that others who may have had contact with the worker will be monitored and also tested to prevent the spread of this disease. Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

And, Mark, what about the hospital itself? If this is a health care worker who contracted it in the hospital the second time with Mr. Duncan there, are there more health care workers from that hospital that are going to be put in isolation?

MARK POTTER:

They are already being tested. Health care workers were among those who are already being monitored, a group of 48 who may have had contact, 10 who were known to have had contact with him after he became symptomatic. So they were already watching the health care workers. What’s of concern here is that this was somebody considered low risk, somebody wearing protective clothing and this person still got Ebola. That’s a concern. Also, the hospital itself is shutting down its emergency room right now, patients are being sent elsewhere so that the hospital can concentrate on this case now without having to deal with other cases coming in, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, Mark Potter on the scene for us in Dallas. Thank you very much. Joining me now in the studio, Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH. Dr. Fauci, let me just begin. A healthcare worker treating the second time, all the precautions we assumed that Dallas Hospital was taking. This has to be a little bit of a greater concern because it was when precautions were being taken.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Right. And what obviously happened unfortunately is that there was an inadvertent breach in protocol.

CHUCK TODD:

We don't know what that is yet?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

We don't know what it is yet. The CDC team is there doing two things. One, trying to find out what that breach might have been, and to underscore and emphasize the importance of the strict following of their protocol. We have experience with Ebola dating back to 1976 with 24 outbreaks in Africa. And a group like Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders, they almost never get an infection because of the very strict protocols. Sometimes people are human. They have inadvertent breaches. And that's very likely what happened.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, what do we have to do though? The NIH and CDC, you guys are aware of these protocols. Dallas Presbyterian, how many other hospitals? Do we need to go through some immediate training here at a bunch of major hospitals?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Well, the protocols are there. I think we need to reemphasize the importance. One of the things that people don't fully appreciate, it's important about how you put them on and then how you take them off.

CHUCK TODD:

This is the actual--

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

The actual PPEs, the Personal Protective Equipment. When there have been breaches, it's not infrequently, and they have been very, very rare, what it happens, is that someone is in a PPE, they're fatigued, they've been working for a long time, and when they take it off, they do something inadvertent, like brushing their face or something like that. I don't know how it happened. The CDC's investigating it, but that's very likely what happened. An inadvertent breach.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, a lot of Americans are going to watch this, they've been telling, we, all of us in the media, you guys in the medical community have been telling them, "This is not something, you don't have to fear an Ebola patient. It's not going to spread in the community." And now people are going to wake up and see, and some of it may feel irrational, but how do you calm the--

(OVERTALK)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Yeah, but Chuck, I think the important thing to do is to emphasize the difference between the confidence that there won't be an outbreak, which is fundamentally prevented by putting the patient in isolation and doing contact tracing to kind of get an umbrella around them, versus the unfortunate inadvertent breach of a protocol that would get a health care. We're still quite confident because of our ability to reach out, do the contact tracing, and isolate people who are infected, that we won't have a public outbreak. That's a different thing than an individual healthcare worker unfortunately getting infected.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let's talk about Africa though. We now have over 4,000 cases and we're still on the wrong side of the math.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

We are.

CHUCK TODD:

There are still more Ebola cases happening. Each patient seems to cause more rather than less. What's it going to take to turn this around?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Well, it's going to take a considerable ratcheting up of the resources that are put into it. The United States has essentially taken the lead. We have 3,000 to 4,000 of our troops on our way to go there for command control engineering. We're going to be putting up 1,700-bed hospitals. That, in and of itself, in the big picture, is not enough. We need the community of nations. We don't need just one or two countries. We need organizations and nations. Because no one country's going to do it alone.

CHUCK TODD:

It seems as if there's almost this, many nations are reacting the way we're seeing actually public officials, some of them here, acting, which is, "No, no, no, no, just shut down the borders. Shut down lights." Is shutting down flights a viable option?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

That would be counterproductive. We can understand how people might come to that conclusion. But when you look at what happens when you isolate a country, you diminish greatly their ability to handle their own epidemic. If that happens, it very likely will spread to other African countries.

And the best way to protect Americans is to completely suppress the epidemic in West Africa. If we do that, we wouldn't be talking about this today. So to isolate them, maybe with good intentions, actually can be counterproductive and make things worse.

CHUCK TODD:

When should the public be concerned that this jumps? Is it if it jumps and is in the Caribbean, it's in Europe, or what is your big concern about Ebola sort of moving out of West Africa?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Well, again, if it moves out of West Africa, like, an individual person on a flight going to the U.K., going to Paris, going to Dallas, coming to Washington, the capability of doing the contact tracing and suppressing it will prevent an outbreak, whether it's here or in the U.K. or in a European country.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH, thanks for coming in.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

People woke up this morning, big breaking news. Appreciate it.

This weekend of course, New York's JFK became the first U.S. airport to introduce screening measures for passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. And our own Helene Cooper here form the New York Times. Helene, you just went through the process of coming back from Liberia, and I want you to tell us a little bit about this process. Only JFK has started, we know that there will be four other airports: Dulles , Hartsfield, Newark, and Chicago’s O'Hare is also going to be doing these. But describe what you went through in leaving Liberia?

HELENE COOPER:

Well, I came into Dulles. The really interesting thing was that just getting into the Liberian airport, you can’t even get into the grounds of the airport in Liberia without getting your temperature taken. My temperature was taken three times at Robertsfield airport. Before

I entered the gate, there was a guard there who 36.4 appears to be the place where I reside I had to wash my hands with chlorine, with bleach. You do that all the time now before entering any public building in Liberia. I then had to fix a questionnaire that asked me, in many many different ways whether I had come into contact with any Ebola patients or had handled the bodily fluids, or had been involved in any burial ceremonies or aid.

I had notes of everything because I had been very careful over the two weeks that I was in Liberia not to touch anybody. And we don’t touch anymore in Liberia- there’s a Liberian handshake.

CHUCK TODD:

The new handshake, right.

HELENE COOPER:

The new handshake is like that. When my sister dropped me off at the airport, I didn’t hug or kiss her goodbye.

I got my temperature taken again before I went into the terminal. There were five healthcare workers, with the goggles, and the masks, and the gloves.

CHUCK TODD:

And after they dealt with you, they removed the gloves and put on a new pair, right?

HELENE COOPER:

They removed the gloves and put on a new pair. And then right before the flight took off, my temperature was taken again. And I think in sort of a hypochondriac anticipation of it, I got the feeling as if my face was getting hot. But, it turns out I had gone down, instead of up to 35.4. I’ve never had my temperature taken so many times in my life

CHUCK TODD:

Well I’m glad to have you back. Sara Fagan and Robert Gibbs, you both have worked in the White House, moments of crisis where even though the science says one thing, the public is fearing another thing. And so how do you handle that, and sometimes you have to put in precautions that you know are silly.

SARA FAGEN:

Well I think thats right, but it’s really important- and this White House is doing it- which is to not stoke that fear. Which is to make sure that the public understands that our health system has the capacity in place. To keep countries safe, to isolate people if they contract Ebola and there doesn’t have to be and won’t be an Outbreak in the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

Robert, two types of governing. Sometimes you govern for the policy, and sometimes you govern to calm the public down.

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well I think what you just saw is exactly what has to happen. A lot of public communication, a lot of telling people what we’re doing to make sure that nothing spreads. Making sure that we’re talking to public health officials about not just how to protect themselves, but how to get out of that protective clothing which Helene had mentioned. And I think public communication is the best remedy at this point as well as bolstering the public health infrastructure.

CHUCK TODD:

And Tom, this has got to take place hospital to hospital. I think now, we saw at Dallas Presbyterian here, they clearly- as Dr. Fauci thinks, its a breach of protocol.

TOM BROKAW:

There’s a great awareness now in this country because there’s a lot of information, a lot of panic that is being stoked by a concentration of a portion of the mass media about cases that really don’t amount to much.

My own judgment is most hospitals are making a real effort now to tune up if you will their E.R.’s and make everybody aware of it. The bigger threat to America is ISIS frankly,than Ebola. We have a system in place, there’ve been a few deaths, its a big big crisis in West Africa, its a reality of the global world in which we live. But ISIS, is out there and it’s not going away, and they system that we have in place for dealing with it, is going to take a long time.

It will define the Obama presidency and its a kind of papered up coalition at this point. And as we’ll hear from Richard Engel, it ain’t workin’ at this point.

CHUCK TODD:

That is, Helene very quickly, West Africa -- how desperate?

HELENE COOPER:

It’s bad. It’s probably one of the most intense reporting experiences I’ve had. And there are so many stories going on about it. About how you’re not seeing quite as much people being turned away, but these are places: Liberia,Sierra Leone, and Guinea were places that were just now starting to come back anyways from decades of civil war and to have to deal with-- you see what it’s like in this country to have to deal with two cases. Now imagine 4,000 in these very desperate countries to begin with

CHUCK TODD:

8,000 cases, 4,000 deaths

HELENE COOPER:

4,000 deaths. So, these countries need a lot of help.

CHUCK TODD:

Well Helene, tremendous reporting. Thanks for going into that war zone. Essentially a different kind of war zone.

Coming up, what Tom was just talking about-- the fight against ISIS. Despite a two month U.S. bombing campaign, ISIS is continuing to gain ground. I’m going to ask the president’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice, whether this U.S. strategy need retooling and whether combat troops are going to be part of round two.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We're officially fighting two wars, one against Ebola it seems, and of course, one against ISIS. And that one, no one thought it was going to be easy, but it's becoming increasingly clear that a brutal and lengthy campaign is just beginning. And with ISIS continuing to make gains, despite U.S. air strikes, many are asking whether the war can be won without a significant commitment of ground troops by the U.S. or key allies like Turkey.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

The first American bombs hit ISIS on August 8th. Now, 65 days later, the United States and allies have launched more than 400 air strikes in Iraq and Syria. And the goal?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

But there are serious doubts now about the strategy as ISIS continues its advance.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

Tonight, another key city is on the brink of falling.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

The extremist group is now threatening to take the key city of Kobani, near the Turkish border. Turkish troops have been sitting on the other side watching, but not fighting. The United Nations says thousands could be massacred if Kobani falls. And now there are reports that ISIS is focusing on Baghdad. The overall issue? The U.S. underestimated ISIS and overestimated our allies.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:

Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

And as ISIS continues to gain ground, American air power is only able to do so much.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I want to go to NBC's chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, who is in Dahuk in Northern Iraq, basically unofficially Kurdistan. Richard, let me ask you about we're 65 days in into this bombing campaign against ISIS. Is ISIS being degraded or are they moving forward?

RICHARD ENGEL:

They do not seem to be degraded at all. At first, ISIS was moving toward Baghdad and this crisis began earlier this summer. Then they shifted gears, moved to where I am, they started to attack Kurdistan. The bombing campaign began. And now, ISIS is once again focused on Baghdad. So it is having an impact in that it has forced ISIS to change their targets somewhat. But it is certainly not slowing down the group.

CHUCK TODD:

The issue, it seems to be in two fronts, in Iraq and in Syria, where it seems as if ground troops are what's missing. Are the Iraqi forces not able to fight ISIS the way the U.S. had hoped? And who's filling the vacuum in Syria?

RICHARD ENGEL:

There are enormous contradictions in the U.S. strategy that are becoming more apparent every day. Let's start with Iraq. Even though this is really one conflict that has no border between it, we are artificially putting this border between Iraq and Syria because ISIS is on both sides. But let's start with Iraq.

The Iraqi army is in no better shape now than it was when it collapsed. The new Iraqi government is not instilling confidence in the people. It is not instilling confidence in the armed forces. The U.S. spent years and years and billions of dollars to build the Iraqi army, only to watch it collapse and hand over so many of its weapons.

So it is completely unrealistic to think that now, with a little bit of outside help and a lot of American good will, that the army is going to fundamentally change and the Iraqi government, which is really just a reshuffle of the same characters, is going to fundamentally change and suddenly inspire the Iraqi people to be behind it. On the other side in Syria, there are no allies on the ground. There are some Kurdish militias, but we're not even fully backing them. We're not consistently backing them.

CHUCK TODD:

Richard Engel in Northern Iraq for us, Richard, thanks very much. Stay safe out there. All right, I want to turn now to my colleague Tom Brokaw. Tom, you sat down with two of the biggest dignitaries that we have in the world of diplomacy, Jim Baker and Henry Kissinger.

TOM BROKAW:

I was in Berlin last weekend. I was there with former secretary of State Jim Baker, and Henry Kissinger, as you see. We were there for the fall of the wall, which was 25 years ago. And because it's the 25th anniversary, obviously, and because Baker was receiving the Kissinger Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, the world we have now, how do we deal especially with ISIS in the Middle East?

(BEGIN TAPE)

JAMES BAKER:

Tom, I think the only thing that offers much hope is if we could pull together in a true international coalition of countries, we should go 100% all out to defeat the radicalism and the terrorism that's arisen in the Middle East. But you're not going to get it done unless you bring the rest of the world together behind it.

TOM BROKAW:

And what is the role of our Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia?

JAMES BAKER:

Well, we have to have our Arab allies involved in the fight. But it can't be on a sectarian basis. I mean, the truth of the matter is, that Iran is very, very much opposed to what ISIS is doing. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Iran was not helping us quietly deal with some of this.

TOM BROKAW:

Secretary Baker raises the possibility of Iran becoming more involved. Our closest ally in the Middle East is Israel, obviously. And BB Netanyahu does not pass up an opportunity to declare Iran the kind of evil empire. He's terrified about their nuclear capacity.

HENRY KISSINGER:

As long as Iran that's ruled by the ayatollah, and bases itself on its sectarian philosophy. We have to be careful. But basically, as a country, Iran is a natural ally of the United States. It's the ideological, religious component that makes it an antagonist.

TOM BROKAW:

But do you detect, Secretary Baker, when you come to Europe, or go to the Middle East, a determination on the part of our allies to step forward and do all the things that we're talking about here today? Or are they kind of leaning back and saying, "Let the United States take care of it"?

JAMES BAKER:

Well, they've always said to some extent, "Let the United States take care of it." Nothing really happens unless there's United States leadership. So I think you see that today just as we saw it frankly during some aspects of the cold war. And in the aftermath of the cold war.

TOM BROKAW:

Can you remember a time, Henry, in your long reach and sense of history, when the United States has faced simultaneously, such difficult problems that really have no kind of antecedence?

HENRY KISSINGER:

Borders, government, and religious faith are all contested at the same time. And the United States, as an outsider to maneuver between them, is extremely, extremely difficult.

JAMES BAKER:

Well, there are hard choices ahead. I'm frankly optimistic. I think that we will be able to handle ISIS. I think that we will find a way, hopefully, that we can relate to Russia so that Russia becomes once again a part of the community of nations. And so I'm optimistic. I think the United States of America has faced far greater challenges in the past than we face today.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I'm joined now by Susan Rice, national security advisor to President Obama. Welcome back to Meet the Press.

SUSAN RICE:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me just start to get your reaction to something that Secretary Baker said in that piece, which is he thinks Iran needs to be part of this coalition of sorts. He didn't quite say part of the actual coalition, but needs to be part of this fight against ISIS. And he also hinted, he said, "I wouldn't be surprised if they already were providing some help." Are they?

SUSAN RICE:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

Under any circumstances?

SUSAN RICE:

We're not in coordination or direct consultation with the Iranians about any aspects of the fight against ISIL. It is a fact that in Iraq, they also are supporting the Iraqis against ISIL. But we are not coordinating. We're doing this very differently and independently. Our coalition is comprised of some 60 countries.

All of our core allies in the Gulf region of the Arab world, most of our NATO partners, many of our traditional partners from outside, including Australia, it's a very broad based, very comprehensive coalition that has come together to deal with the threat from ISIL. And it's gratifying that countries from all over the world share the same perception of the threat that ISIL poses. And Iran may or may not be among those, but they're not a part of our coalition.

CHUCK TODD:

But do you want to be engaging Iran? Or no?

SUSAN RICE:

Well, we are engaging Iran on--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

But it's a separate issue. I understand that. But do you still think it can be done?

SUSAN RICE:

We've had some informal consultations on the margins of the nuclear talks about certain regional issues. But there's no coordination, there's no collaboration on the anti-ISIL campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

Considering what's going on in the Anbar Province, considering what's going on in Kobani, I know it's still early, barely two months into this operation against ISIS, but right now, does it feel as if we're degrading and destroying ISIS?

SUSAN RICE:

Yes, Chuck. We are in the midst, in the early stages, as you-- acknowledged, of what is going to be, as President Obama said, a long-term effort. Let's recall what it is we're trying to do. We're trying over time to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL and prevent it from having permanent safe haven, from which it can conduct terrorist attacks against us or our partners in the region from the territory of Iraq or Syria.

Now this is going to take time. Our efforts have various different lines of effort, as we've called them. On the one hand, we're trying to build up the capacity of the Iraqis, which means the Iraqi army, the Kurds, the peshmerga inside of Iraq who have over years, atrophied. They've become more sectarian. They've become less skilled in their ability to take the fight to ISIL.

So we're building up that capacity and we have seen some success in that regard. On the Syrian side, we also have a larger-term challenge of supporting the moderate opposition and giving them, while they have great will, greater capacity to fight Assad and to fight ISIL.

So this is going to take time. Our air campaign is off to a strong start and we've seen very important successes in places like Mosul Dam, Sinjar Mountain, where we were able to rescue many tens of thousands of civilians at risk. And this is going to take time. So it can't be judged by merely what happens in one particular town or in one particular region. This is going to take time and the American people need to understand that our aim here is long-term degradation and building the capacity of our partners.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's go to Anbar. One of the deputy heads there of the council in Anbar said he has made a request both to the central government in Iraq and potentially informally, indirectly to the United States, that they need ground troops in order to stop ISIS in there and what's going on. Has that formal recommendation made it to the president's desk yet or to the Pentagon?

SUSAN RICE:

Well, the recommendation you're describing came from an Iraqi.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, an Iraqi to the Iraqi government who wanted it to be asked of the United States.

SUSAN RICE:

So no. There has been no recommendation for--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

No official ask?

SUSAN RICE:

--military commanders, either on the ground, nor here in Washington, that the United States put any ground combat forces into Iraq. That has not come up the chain to anybody at the White House. And I don't anticipate that it will, Chuck. I mean, let's be clear here.

The president has been very plain that this is not a campaign that requires or even would benefit from American ground troops in combat again. The Iraqi prime minister, the government of Iraq have said very plainly, they don't want American troops in combat. We are there to help build up the Iraqi capacity to sustain their territory and to hold their ground.

CHUCK TODD:

The implication here is that the Iraqi troops aren't working.

SUSAN RICE:

Well, it's early days, Chuck. As I said, they've atrophied over the years because Maliki, the former prime minister governed in a very sectarian way, turned the Iraqi Army into an army for part of Iraq rather than all of Iraq, and then has squandered equipment and training. We have a long way to go with the new Iraqi government to build back that capacity.

But let's be clear, we experienced during the course of our ten-year-military commitment in Iraq that once we leave, and eventually we all will and have to leave, that if the Iraqis aren't willing and committed and able to sustain those gains, then they will be fleeting. So this time we're doing it differently. The Iraqis have to be in the lead. They have to have the capacity and the will to hold territory against ISIL on their own.

CHUCK TODD:

And if they can't, what?

SUSAN RICE:

Well, then first and foremost, they're going to be threatened. But that's why we have placed such a premium, Chuck, on taking the time to build this capacity. It's not going to happen overnight. But if it isn't achieved, nothing is going to be sustainable. So people need to understand there are going to be good days, bad days, victories, and setbacks, as the Iraqis themselves take this fight to ISIL.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's go to Turkey. President Erdoğan has basically said he's not going to commit Turkish forces until he sees a strategy that combats both ISIS and Assad in Syria. Is that something that the United States would consider reassessing the Syrian strategy in order to get the Turks more involved?

SUSAN RICE:

Well, let's be clear what we hope for and what from the Turks and other members of the coalition. We have not asked for the Turks to send ground forces of their own into Syria. Our interest is in the following: first of all, the Turks have, this just in the last several days, made a commitment that they will in the first instance allow the United States and our partners to use Turkish bases and territory to train--

CHUCK TODD:

Air space too, by the way?

SUSAN RICE:

Hold on, let me explain this carefully. To train the moderate Syrian opposition forces. So that is a new commitment that they have now joined Saudi Arabia in giving the go-head for that important contribution. In addition, they have said that their facilities inside of Turkey can be used by the coalition forces, American and otherwise, to engage in activities inside of Iraq and Syria.

That's the new commitment, and one that we very much welcome. We're continuing to talk to the Turks about other ways that they can play an important role. They are already essential to trying to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, and prevent the Syrian opposition in the form of the radical Syrian opposition, the ISIL and al-Nusra from exporting oil through Turkey.

So Turkey has many ways it can contribute and we'll continue to talk to them about that. But the concept of a buffer zone or a no-fly zone is something that Turkey has been interested in for almost three years now. We don't see it at this point as essential to the goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL. But we'll continue to talk to the Turks and entertain any specific proposals that they may have.

CHUCK TODD:

Right now, you're reassessing the strategy? Or no?

SUSAN RICE:

No, Chuck. This is very early days of the strategy. Strategy's very clear. We'll do what we can from the air. We will support the Iraqi security forces, the Kurds, and ultimately over time, the moderate opposition in Syria to be able to control territory and take the fight to ISIL. We'll do our part from the air and in many other respects in terms of building up the capacity of the Iraqis and the Syrian opposition, the moderates.

But we are not going to be in a ground war again in Iraq. It's not what is required by the circumstances that we face and even if one were to take that step, which the president has made clear we're not going to do, it wouldn't be sustainable. We've got to do this in a sustainable way.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you convinced that Kim Jong-Un is still the leader of North Korea?

SUSAN RICE:

Chuck, obviously, we're watching very carefully what's happening in North Korea. It's a country that we monitor with great attention. We have not seen any indications of a transfer of power at this point in North Korea that we view as definitive. But we'll continue to watch it carefully.

CHUCK TODD:

Susan Rice, national security advisor to the president, thanks for coming on Meet the Press.

SUSAN RICE:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks. And up next, gay marriage is becoming legal in more and more states. Could the cultures war now become a weapon for the Democrats?

***Commercial Break***

FEMALE PASTOR (ON TAPE):

You may kiss your bride.

CHUCK TODD:

Been a big week for gay rights, and couples across the country have been tying the knot after a series of court rulings at both a national and local level made same-sex marriage legal in a majority of states. Many prominent Republicans have reacted with anger. But there are voices within the GOP arguing it's time for the party to accept that the culture wars have been lost.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JERRY FALWELL:

We have a threefold primary responsibility. Number one, get people saved, number two, get them baptized, number three, get them registered to vote.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

From the early 1980s, when Jerry Falwell mobilized a new moral majority of evangelical voters, and Ronald Reagan rode that energy to two political landslides, the religious right has been a force inside the GOP.

PAT ROBERTSON:

We have a breakup of our family. We have a breakup of the moral foundations of our nation.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

In 1988, televangelist Pat Robertson stunned the nation with a second-place finish in Iowa. The power of the evangelical vote caught even the GOP by surprise. Social conservatives were given an even bigger platform four years later.

PAT BUCHANAN:

There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the cold war itself.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Bill Clinton won that 1992 election, but accepted a string of concessions on social issues over his two terms. A Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and even welfare reform. In 2004, Republicans effectively drove a wedge between Democrats on religion, abortion, and gay rights.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

If you are a Democrat who believes that marriage should be protected from activist judges, I'd be honored to have your vote.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

Ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage were proposed in 11 states. They passed with an average of 70% of the vote. Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, who had supported same-sex marriage on a questionnaire during his 1996 campaign, reversed course during his 2004 U.S. Senate bid.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

We have a set of traditions in place that I think need to be preserved.

ELLEN DEGENERES:

I'm gay.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

But the cultural sea change over the last decade has shifted the landscape on marriage more than any other issue.

ERIC STONESTREET:

Big smiles.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

This week's Supreme Court action, or non-action on marriage produced a loud silence.

CHUCK TODD:

Ten years ago, you supported a federal constitutional amendment on marriage. Do you still support that?

ED GILLESPIE:

Well, it was when I was chairman of the Republican National Committee, it was the platform called for a federal marriage amendment. And as chairman of the RNC, I've stood for the platform. But as a United States Senator--

CHUCK TODD:

That you personally support?

ED GILLESPIE:

--I'm talking now about my policies.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

And now it's Democrats wielding social issues on the trail and Republicans on the defensive.

SCOTT BROWN:

I'm pro-choice. I support continued funding for Planned Parenthood.

CORY GARDNER:

I believe the pill ought to be available over the counter, 'round the clock.

CHUCK TODD (V/O):

All of this is frustrating prominent social conservatives.

MIKE HUCKABEE:

At that point, you lose me. I'm gone. I'll become an independent. I'll start finding people who have guts to stand. I'm tired of this.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, to understand this battle inside the GOP, I'm joined by two journalist who cover the Republican party closely. David Brody, chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post. Welcome to both of you.

DAVID BRODY:

Thanks.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

David, let me start with you. When you hear Mike Huckabee say what he said, and you've talked to the prominent members of the evangelical movement, they don't like the surrender that many prominent Republicans indicated this week, do they?

DAVID BRODY:

They don't like it at all. You know, look, many politicians see it as a political issue, gay marriage, that is. Mike Huckabee and others see it as a principle. And I think that's the difference. Is it a political issue for you, or is it a principle? You know, there was a conservative author and historian Russell Kirk, who used to say basically, "Politicians are actors performing a script that is written by the audience." And look, the audience here are evangelical Christians, who let's face it Chuck, are not voting. People say, "Wait, not voting? What are you talking about?" Thirty million evangelicals voted in 2012.

CHUCK TODD:

You still believe they're not voting?

DAVID BRODY:

With, listen to this. Eighty million, there are about 80 million evangelicals in this country. That puts 50 million evangelicals sitting on the sidelines.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Kathleen, I'm going to show some polls here. This stuff has moved whether it's on abortion, whether it's on same-sex marriage, whether it's on marijuana legalization. The culture wars have shifted to the left. Many in Republicans are trying to acknowledge that general public shift. And yet, it's going to cause some heartburn.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, I would characterize things slightly differently, that's what's going on within the Republican party I think is sort of not so much a transformation as a reformation. And I think what they're trying to do in terms of, at least among those who are more accepting of these changes, is I don't think the Republicans are so much changing their core values as they are sort of trying to change the way they approach things.

And it mirrors what's going on in Rome right now with the Senate. The pope is trying to figure out how to do affirmative things for families pastorally, and the party is trying to figure out how to do things affirmatively without being condemnatory, without being judgmental, without being harsh.

CHUCK TODD:

David, is there a movement among evangelicals to essentially accept same-sex marriage and promote family?

DAVID BRODY:

Well, I wouldn't call it, no.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes?

DAVID BRODY:

No, no.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

DAVID BRODY:

There's not a movement necessarily. There are bits and pieces, small little blocks here and there. But that's not the movement. Actually Chuck, the movement is quite the opposite. You know, there's all these "pastors and pews" events where Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, all speaking in front of these influential evangelical crowd.

And so I think that really is the movement in this country. The question is, can these Christians actually go ahead and vote finally because quite frankly, as much as the mainstream media wants to talk about that, well, look evangelicals are voting, they're always voting. Well, not necessarily, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, and Kathleen, he just ticked off a whole bunch of potential presidential candidates.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

This is going to potentially become very public inside the Republican party during the battle in 2016. And that seems to have hurt Republicans, at least with swing voters.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, absolutely. And I think that there will be less empha-- look, same-sex marriage, just to take one issue, has never been as potent as something as like abortion. And abortion will remain a litmus test I think for any Republican running for a national office. And that's going to be problematic in the general obviously.

But I think you have to keep paying attention to what Republican leaders, other than the ones you've mentioned, are talking about. Now if you read the op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last week, that was co-authored by Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, you know, trying talking again about reforms that steer away from the wedge issues, and focus on how can we help families with tax reform and things like that.

CHUCK TODD:

And Tony Perkins and these guys, they're not going to like this, are they?

DAVID BRODY:

No. Well, they're not going to like the way they see the polls. But here's the thing. Judicial activism is a big part of this. And I think this is the way Republicans, especially the politicians that are in powerful seats in Washington can kind of get around this issue to talk about.

CHUCK TODD:

So you paper over it, you go to judicial activism, and it's a wink and a nod, "Hey, I mean measure, but I'm not really saying it."

DAVID BRODY:

Well, I think that's part of it for sure. And look, we're in a culture war, there are a lot of battles within that war. And I think the next battle you're going to see is on religious liberty as it relates to pastors speaking out from the pulpit. Think about this, Chuck for a second. If pastors are actually speaking from the pulpit against gay marriage, a hate crime potentially, is that the next wave? Well, that's a battle that still hasn't been waged.

CHUCK TODD:

Now Kathleen, if Republicans don't win the Senate, there are going to be prominent leaders that say, "You know what, it's become Democrats won the culture wars, and Democrats use cultural wedge issues to win."

KATHLEEN PARKER:

There's just no question that the Democrats need these cultural wedges more than the Republicans really do.

CHUCK TODD:

And a total flip. I mean, think about where we were a decade ago.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

You know, the Republican candidates out there across the land are not bringing up these issues. The Democratic candidates are and forcing them against the wall, making them take a position on things that they don't really even want to talk about. And unfortunately, so many of them are not really very good at articulating in a compassionate and rational ways. It gets too passionate, too much of an emotional thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, David, how much do you think marriage is going to be a litmus test in Iowa in 2016?

DAVID BRODY:

Oh, it will definitely be a litmus test. I don't think there's any question about that.

CHUCK TODD:

And a pro same-sex marriage Republican nominee, is that possible in 2016?

DAVID BRODY:

No, I don't think so at all. Not in 2016 for sure. And there's going to be a lot of people fighting against it.

CHUCK TODD:

It's going to be an interesting platform. David Brody and Kathleen Parker, thank you both. Up next, why November 4th could be independence day. I'm going to explain why the fate of the Senate might not be decided by Democrats or Republicans.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the 2014 midterm focus is all about whether the Democrats hold onto the Senate or Republicans take it. And while we won't have that answer until election day, or maybe a few months later, here's one thing we do know for sure. Voters are frustrated and they're fed up right now with both parties. In fact, in our last poll, 68% said that they would accept new people with few ties to the political process.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at our map this year. The Senate map. Not that long ago, it looked like this. Assuming Republicans held their two competitive races, Georgia and Kentucky, three of the six seats that Republicans were going to need, West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana seemed like total shoe-ins. It would mean they would just need three more.

But look at how independent candidates are now shaking up the Republican map here. Let's start of course in Kansas. The Democrat had no chance, so he left the race. And now an independent candidate, Greg Orman now leads the incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts by ten points according to our latest polls. Yes, we know a few others have shown the race closer.

So let's assume Orman wins and worst-case scenario for the Republicans, he caucuses with the Democrats. He changes the numbers, the Republicans suddenly need four to take control of the Senate. Well, there's new chaos right now in South Dakota. This democratic-held seat is suddenly being shaken up. For a while, Republicans looked like they had this thing in the bag.

Mike Rounds, the former governor, up by double digits. But recent polls have shown that we have a real three-way race. The Democrat nominee Rick Weiland, and Independent, former Republican Senator Larry Pressler. And guess what? Both of those guys could end up caucusing with the Democrats. And if that happens, look at how the map changes yet again.

Suddenly, Republicans need to win five of the remaining six competitive races in order to get their majority. Independents shaking it up. But there's more to this. There are also third-party spoiler candidates who could have a different impact on these campaigns. And where a vote for them is simply none of the above, which could ultimately help the Democrats or the Republicans to victory in some tight races. Take a listen to this guy.

SEAN HAUGH (ON TAPE):

I really didn't want to do this. But I couldn't stand the idea of walking to the voting booth and just seeing the Democrat and the Republican on the ballot.

CHUCK TODD:

That's pizza deliveryman turned libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina, Sean Haugh. He's got 7% of the vote in a recent poll. Enough to possibly swing the election, siphoning votes from Republican Thom Tillis and helping the incumbent here, Democrat Kay Hagan. It's actually the same story right now in Florida, that gubernatorial race with the Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, who's suddenly getting double-digit support in recent polls because people are so fed up with the negativity.

And if that happens, look at what it does to this race if this guy stays in double digits. It really hurts the incumbent Republican here, Rick Scott. Here's the bottom line, folks. This is what we're learning. It's an angry electorate out there, they're mad at both parties.

They're not just piling on one. And in these races, these third-party candidates, are going to be making a lot bigger of a difference come November 4th than we thought. We're right back with more talk with our panel on this and the politics of fear in less than one minute. Don't go anywhere.

***Commercial Break***

MIKE HUCKABEE (ON TAPE):

We've seen our borders routinely ignored. So if someone with Ebola really wants to come to the U.S., just get to Mexico and walk right in.

THOM TILLIS (ON TAPE):

Ladies and gentlemen, we've got an Ebola outbreak. We have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it.

SCOTT BROWN (ON TAPE):

And that's one of the reasons why I have been so adamant about closing our border, because if people are coming in through normal channels, can you imagine what they can do through our porous border?

CHUCK TODD:

We know the saying, "It's all fair in politics." But as you just say, there are politicians aren't being shy about pushing the panic button as the midterms approach. Our panel is back to discuss. Sara Fagen, Robert Gibbs, you guys are campaign advisors. I understand the politics of fear can be good politics, but it can be irresponsible.

SARA FAGEN:

It can be irresponsible. And this Ebola outbreak is a serious national security issue that particularly political-elected leaders need to think very carefully before they make statements like that.

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say, you think that making statements about, "Oh my God, Ebola can come across the border through Mexico," is a little bit irresponsible?

SARA FAGEN:

I think it's irresponsible. I would take it a step further, which is to say it's also wrong. Sure, the United States government should take precautionary measures at our borders. But unless you're planning on eliminating all flights into the United States, you cannot contain the risk of the spread of Ebola. I mean, think about it. You're going to build a wall in Mexico but then people are going to fly all over the globe?

CHUCK TODD:

You build a wall and a bubble right now.

SARA FAGEN:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Robert, one of the reasons where I think Republicans are going to this issue is they want to keep nationalizing the elections. The more nationalized they are, the better for Republicans. Do you buy that?

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, I think so. And we see that the inconvenience of having an election during a public health emergency gives you the types of--

CHUCK TODD:

You call it an inconvenience. Is that--

ROBERT GIBBS:

Well, I'm being horribly sarcastic there. I think the notion, look, we've got to be careful. Everybody has to be careful about what we say to enter that into the political sphere is potentially a mess. And I think quite frankly, it has the real chance of turning off independent or voters that haven't made up their minds are going to look at these candidates and say, "That's just crazy." And I think that could help somebody else other than the Republican in that race.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Tom, one of the reasons why I think politicians have felt so comfortable playing the sphere card is the media's gone right in.

TOM BROKAW:

They have. I mean, and--

CHUCK TODD:

We say "they." You know, we can't be too dispassionate.

TOM BROKAW:

I just said to one of our producers the other day. I said, "Look, if you had a false Ebola scare in a Super 8 in Dallas, you'd give it three minutes." And the fact is, it doesn't deserve three mistake. We need to get clarity in what we're dealing with here about how it's transmitted. Are the emergency rooms prepared to deal with patients who walk in with these symptoms of it?

Many of them are not. President Obama, to his credit, has put it on his agenda. The healthcare system in this country is beginning to respond very quickly with our national CDCs and others as well. They're very aware of what's going on. What Helene did was a great service. Going into West Africa and telling people what it's like when you get there. So this is a national unifying issue that ought not be a partisan issue. This is something that affects everybody here and we need to deal with it now.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, and Helene, you were talking about the protective clothing issue. And it was something you've been sort of chomping at the bit to explain. Here is how protective clothing could actually be a problem. Explain.

HELENE COOPER:

Well, I don't think that, I was looking at this Texas case that we now have, the second Texas case. And the reports say that this Texas healthcare worker was wearing protective clothing. And I think it's just important to remember that one of the things about protective clothing is that you have to be very careful with how you take it off.

You know, it's not as if you're wearing Hazmat gear to go into a room and you come out, you're safe. When you're taking it off, you have to make sure that you bleach and chlorinate yourself and you're not touching it. And so I just think that we need to be rational about how we discuss this.

CHUCK TODD:

We need to be rational and we have an election coming up in three weeks. Good luck with keeping it rational. Thank you to everybody. Today, a very busy morning. We'll be back next week. Three Sundays until the election. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.