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Meet the Press Transcript - September 6, 2015

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2015

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, his first interview since the Iran deal. Where does he stand on the agreement, on race in America, and on election 2016? Plus, our brand news NBC News/Marist poll, from two states where it counts the most, Iowa, New Hampshire. Who's up, who's down. And which of these candidates may now have a reason to worry. Also, Jeb Bush takes on Trump.

JEB BUSH:

There's one candidate in the Republican party that is preying on people's angst and fears. That has a philosophy that is not about the goodness and greatness of the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

Will it work?

DONALD TRUMP:

So far, everybody that's attacked me has gone down the tubes.

CHUCK TODD:

And the big interview with Hillary Clinton about her email mess.

HILLARY CLINTON:

I didn't really stop and think, "What kind of email system will there be?"

CHUCK TODD:

Finally, will this heartbreaking picture change how the world deals with Syria? Joining me for insight and analysis this Sunday morning are Tom Brokaw of NBC News, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, MSNBC's Joy Reid, and radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER/DENNIS HAYSBERT:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good morning. You might have noticed something different just now about the opening of the show. You heard it right. We have a new announcer. And appropriately, that was the voice of a TV president, Dennis Haysbert, who played David Palmer in 24. All right. Now let's get down to business. We have some fascinating new poll numbers out of Iowa and New Hampshire. We'll get to that later in the show.

But first, this week, we learned that Congress can't stop the Iran nuclear deal. That's not stopping Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, by the way, from attending a rally this week here in Washington, that will attempt to showcase opposition to the deal. The Trump/Cruz duet is symptomatic of how polarized foreign policy's become. With a recent CNN/ORC poll showing this: 70% of Democrats think Congress should approve the deal, with only 15% of Republicans in favor.

They now view foreign policy as a polarized item these days. I can think of no better guests to discuss the Iran deal and many other important issues, including the president race, than former secretary of State under George W. Bush, retired General Colin Powell. General Powell, welcome back to Meet the Press.

COLIN POWELL:

Good morning, Chuck, good to be back.

CHUCK TODD:

Appearance number 33, let's start right with Iran. Is this a good deal?

COLIN POWELL:

I think it is a good deal. I studied very carefully the outline of the deal and what's in that deal. And I've also carefully looked at the opposition to the deal. And my judgment, after balancing those two sets of information is that it's a pretty good deal.

Now, I know that there are objections to it, but here's why I think it's a good deal. One of the great concerns that the opposition has, that we're leaving open a lane for the Iranians to go back to creating a nuclear weapon in ten or 15 years. They're forgetting the reality that they have been on a superhighway for the last ten years to create a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program, with no speed limit.

And in the last ten years, they have gone from 136 centrifuges up to something like 19,000 centrifuges. This agreement will bring them down to 5,000 centrifuges. All of these will be under IAEA supervision. And I think this is a good outcome. The other thing I've noticed is that they had a stockpile of something in the neighborhood of 12,000 kilograms of uranium. This deal will bring it down to 300 kilograms.

And it's a remarkable reduction. And I'm amazed that they would do this. But they have done it. And with respect to the plutonium effort, the plutonium reactor at Iraq, which is now starting to operate, it's going to be shut down, except for minor parts of it, and concrete will be poured into the reactor core vessel.

And so these are remarkable changes. And so we have stopped this highway race that they were going down. And I think that's very important. Now, will they comply with it? Will they actually do all of this? Well, they get nothing until they show compliance. And that's the important part of their arrangement.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the other criticism of this deal has to do with behavior changes. Why didn't we ask for-- it wasn't enough to just try to slow them down on their nuclear front or stop their ability to get a nuclear weapon. It is, should we also put in this deal having them stop the funding of Hamas, stop the funding of Hezbollah, stop the backing of Assad and Syria? What do you say to that criticism?

COLIN POWELL:

I think all of those are important objectives. And they should not be set aside because of this deal. We have to keep pushing on the bad behavior that the Iranians show constantly throughout the world. But this deal specifically had to do with the thing that was most concerning to the world, most dangerous to the world. And that was their nuclear program, which could produce a weapon in a very short period of time.

That has been thrown into a detour. It isn't going to happen. And in ten or 15 years, we don't know what the future will hold. But it's not clear that in ten or 15 years from now, they will want to start it up again, or the material that has been under IAEA supervision for the ten or 15-year period will be available or suitable for such an increase. And so that's pretty good. The real issue I think that came down to the opposition is how do you verify?

And I'm reminded of what my former boss Ronald Reagan used to say when he talked to the Soviets, "Trust but verify." With respect to the Iranians, it's don't trust, never trust, and always verify. And I think a very vigorous verification regime has been put in place, with the IAEA and other international organizations.

And especially listening to Secretary of Energy Moniz, he really knows his stuff. He really knows his stuff. He's a nuclear physicist. And he and the intelligence community are confident that they can verify what is happening inside of Iran.

CHUCK TODD:

We can chuck some of the opposition here in the United States politics, and that's fine. But there are allies in the Gulf and of course Israel are most opposed to this deal as well. And they in some ways have been generating the opposition here in the United States when it comes to this deal.

COLIN POWELL:

Yeah I understand that.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you say to their concerns, to the folks in Saudi Arabia and Israel?

COLIN POWELL:

I think the this deal, which by the way, King Salman of Saudi Arabia did give his approval to this week when he was here with the president, but I think they will find over time, if it unfolds the way it is designed to unfold, they will see that they have been made more secure by derailing this Iranian nuclear program.

And we also have to keep in mind that we are in this with a number of other countries. All of the ones that have worked with us, China, Russia, Germany, France, Britain, they have already agreed to it. The British foreign secretary was already in Iran last week with a trade delegation. And so even if we were to kill this deal, which is not going to happen, it's going to take effect anyway because all of these other countries that were in it with us are going to move forward, the UN is going to move forward, and a hundred nations have already agreed to this deal thinking it's a good deal. And they're all going to be moving forward. We're going to be standing in the sidelines.

CHUCK TODD:

You were involved in an administration that negotiated a nuclear deal that tried to stop North Korea from getting a nuclear weapon. That didn't work. Why would this deal not look like the North Korean deal in five years?

COLIN POWELL:

Well, the North Korean deal was flawed from the 1994 original agreement, all the way through. And after a while, my view of North Korea was, you know, they really can never use a nuclear weapon without committing suicide. I think the same thing is true with Iran. You know, if I was with the Iranians, just like I said to the North Koreans on a number of occasions, "You do realize that any use, or anybody thinking they're going to use one of these, you are committing suicide because your capital and your society will be destroyed the next day."

If I was talking to the Iranians at a senior level, I would say, "What do you think you're getting with these investment you've made in this all of these years? You think that you could actually use these without having the entire world condemn you the next day for being the only nation to have used nuclear weapons since 1945? Everybody will be against you.

"Secondly, you won't accomplish any strategic purpose. You will have killed tens of thousands of people, destroyed part of the city, and the next day, you will see repercussions in terms of what will be done to you. And so this is something that is a waste of your money, a waste of your time, and I think that you ought to enter this deal with the full intention of complying with the outline of the deal, with what's required of you to do, and cooperate fully with the inspectors."

Now, people will say, "No, can't trust them." I don't trust them. I say we have a deal, let's see how they implement the deal. They don't implement it, bail out. None of our options are going. None of our options are going. But this is something we ought to pursue and try to make it happen under the terms under which the deal was reached.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the crisis with ISIS, which in some ways is connected right now to the migrant crisis that's facing Europe and the Syrian refugee crisis. And I guess I would quote Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush said, "In order to defeat ISIS, you've got to get rid of Assad and Syria and we've got to deal with the Syria problem." Number one, is he right? And what is your view of how to deal with ISIS?

COLIN POWELL:

ISIS is not just an enemy waiting to be defeated in Syria and in Iraq and elsewhere. It is a movement. It is not something that's going to lend itself to immediate military power to take it out. It's a movement. And it's going to have to be defeated by the people who live in the areas where this movement exists.

So airpower can just do so much. But air power is also destroying a lot of homes and towns and villages and other things. And so I think especially in Iraq, it's going to take the Iraqi army believing in its government. The government that believes in its army and is giving the army what it needs to be successful, they have to not only defeat Iraq on the ground, but they have to hold the ground. They have to stay there, or else it falls apart.

With respect to Syria, I think that situation right now is so complex, so confusing between the government in Damascus, which is still there, but seems to be weakening between what the Russians might or might not be doing at the moment, that is of concern to Secretary Kerry. And who would replace Assad? Who would replace any of the other groups that are fighting for power? Whether it is ISIS or anyone else. I think Syria has every potential of falling into the kind of disrepair that we have seen in Libya and elsewhere.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play for you a compendium of presidential candidates on Iraq. Because obviously with Jeb Bush's presence in the race, it has brought up the Iraq War again. And it's been amazing to hear all of these Republican candidates almost repudiate the war. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JOHN KASICH:

I would never have committed ourselves to Iraq.

CARLY FIORINA:

The intelligence was clearly wrong. And what we know now about the intelligence, no I would not have authorized war in Iraq.

TED CRUZ:

The Iraq war was a mistake. It was based on false intelligence.

JEB BUSH:

I would have not engaged, I would not have gone into Iraq.

(END TAPE)

COLIN POWELL:

If we--

CHUCK TODD:

Where are you on this?

COLIN POWELL:

If we had known the intelligence was wrong, we would not have gone into Iraq. But the intelligence community, all 16 agencies, assured us that it was right. My speech at the UN was based on that information. But guess what? 376 members of Congress, if I have my number correctly, voted on the basis of that intelligence, that it was something the president can do.

We tried to avoid it. I asked the president if we could take it to the United Nations, and we agreed, we took the case to the United Nations. All Saddam had to do to get out of jail at that time was to comply with the requirements of the United Nations. He chose not to. And the president decided, based on the intelligence that he had, and what he knew about the overall situation, that military force was necessary.

We quickly took Baghdad. My own personal belief is that after taking Baghdad, we made terrible strategic mistakes. The disbanding of the Iraqi Army, which we were counting on, the Pentagon asked us to count on that army to provide the security. And so I think the execution of the operation was flawed. Badly flawed. That the president made a decision as commander in chief, based on the information and intelligence he had.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, there was a lot of people that wondered if dealing with the Iraq war would not create a bigger mess overall, and believe it or not, of all people, a former Secretary of Defense in the mid '90s, I want to play for you a clip of him, who later became vice president. Here's what he said about why the first George Bush didn't take out Saddam.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DICK CHENEY:

That's a very volatile part of the world. And if you take down the central government in Iraq, you could easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have, to the west. Part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim. Fought over for eight years. In the north, you've got the Kurds. And if the Kurds spin loose and join with Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It's a quagmire if you go that far.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Twenty-one years ago, there was Dick Cheney talking about the Turks and the Kurds, talking about the quagmire in the Middle East, talking about the problems we would have with the border between Syria and Iraq. Here we are. Did the Iraq War create ISIS?

COLIN POWELL:

I recall that I was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time. And in the second Bush administration, my view was, you know, remember, if you break this, you're going to own it. It's not going to be a simple--

CHUCK TODD:

I believe you called it the Pottery Barn rule at the time?

COLIN POWELL:

Well, no, somebody else did, but I'll accept it.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough.

COLIN POWELL:

It was a newsman, as a matter of fact, but that's okay. But the fact of the matter is, we did it right in the first Gulf War. We had to listen to arguments years afterwards about, "Why didn't you go to Baghdad?" And then the 2003 war came along, and you saw why we didn't want to go to Baghdad. We had a clear mission, clearly defined, we put the resources against that mission, took out the Iraqi army that was in Kuwait, restore the government, that's what we intended to do, and that's what Mr. Cheney was talking about.

And you have seen the pressions of his wars at that time, that you can create chaos. Once you pull out the top of a government, unless there's a structure under it to give security and structure to the society, you can expect a mess. We saw that totally in Libya. Perfect example. In Egypt, we thought it was going to be good. We got rid of Mubarak, and now we have another general in charge of the country after a detour with the Muslim Brotherhood. So be very, very careful when you try to impose your system or your thinking on a society that's been around for thousands of years and it is not really like us.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to move to some domestic issues here. This has been a tumultuous year in race relations. And obviously, probably the most poignant moment was what happened in Charleston. I want to play for you a clip from the president and what he said during the memorial service in Charleston.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it. So that we're guarding against not just racial slurs, but we're also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.

CHUCK TODD:

Is that where we are today? That we've still got a ways to go?

COLIN POWELL:

We do have a ways to go. But let's not overlook how far we've come. Fifty years ago nobody could've dreamed that a black president would be making a statement just made, or that a black guy could be secretary of State, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, national security advisor. So we've made great progress.

Within that progress, a lot of people have been left behind. And we should have no illusions about the fact that there are still people in this country who will judge you by the color of your skin. I faced it in the course of my career. But I've always tried to make the problem that of the racist, and not with me. And just keep doing my job to the best of my ability.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you make of the Black Lives Matter movement?

COLIN POWELL:

The Black Lives Matter, that's a way of capturing the essence of this problem we have, where blacks have been killed by police officers in a way that doesn't seem appropriate. Not that killing is appropriate in any circumstance. And so I don't mind the slogan, and I don't mind the movement, because it draws attention to a problem.

But the greater problem is violence in our society. Black-on-black violence is worse than white-policeman-on-black violence. And when you see what's happening in every one of our cities every weekend, Washington D.C., right here, you've got to start asking yourself, "Is there something we can do to reduce the violence? Is it gun control?"

Or more importantly, is it teaching our children a different way? Is it giving people more opportunities to have jobs and to have stable communities and stable schools and schools that work? How do we restore the families in our country? Not just black families that are not as intact as they used to be, you'll see the same thing happening in Hispanic families and in white families.

CHUCK TODD:

Two more questions. Do you still see a dark vein of intolerance inside the Republican party today?

COLIN POWELL:

Yes. And people have said, "Why are you calling us racists?" I say, "No, I'm not calling the party racist. I'm just saying, if you look at it, you will see that there's some in the party who practice a level of intolerance that is not good for the party and is not consistent with American values."

CHUCK TODD:

Your name gets invoked a lot during this email controversy. Once and for all, can you explain what you did with your emails as secretary of state?

COLIN POWELL:

You can read my book. I wrote a whole chapter about what I did in my latest book. It Worked for Me, Harper Collins, you can buy it on Amazon. But the point is I arrived at the State Department as secretary with a disastrous information system there. And I had to fix it. And so what I had to do is bring the State Department to the 21st century.

And the way of doing that was getting new computers. That gave them access to the whole world. And then in order to make sure that I changed the brainware of the department, and not just the software and hardware, I started to use email. I had two machines on my desk. I had a secure State Department machine, which I used for secure material, and I had a laptop that I could use for email.

And I would email relatives, friends, but I would also email in the department. But it was mostly housekeeping stuff. "What's the status in this paper? What's going on here?" So it was my own classified system, but I had a classified system also on my desk.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe this is a serious issue for Secretary Clinton or not?

COLIN POWELL:

I can't answer that. You know, we now have two IGs working on it, we have the F.B.I. working on it. Mrs. Clinton and some of her associates will be testifying, or be going before inquiries with the Congress. And I think it's best for me to talk about what I know and not about what occurred under Secretary Clinton's jurisdiction.

CHUCK TODD:

General Powell, I would love to talk to you for longer, but we're going to stop there. Thanks for coming on Meet the Press, your 33rd appearance.

COLIN POWELL:

Thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

In case you're counting.

COLIN POWELL:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks very much. When we come back, we'll turn to the race for the White House and our brand new NBC News/Marist polls out of Iowa and New Hampshire. The Republican race, well, here's how the British news magazine The Economist decided to look at the race right now. Yes, that is Trump's hair in place on top of the White House. We'll be back.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

In explaining away bad poll numbers, it's getting pretty late to use the excuse that it's early. Labor Day kicks off a new phase of the 2016 race, and we already got a taste of it this week. It's going to get a lot more contentious. We've got brand new NBC News/Marist polls out of Iowa and New Hampshire, and for now, we're going to just look at the Republican side of the race.

In Iowa, two candidates who have never held political office are blowing away the field. Donald Trump continues to lead at 29%, Ben Carson is close behind at 22%, combined, they're over 50%. No other candidate breaks double digits. In fact, no other candidate is above 6%. And look how things have changed since the last time we polled in July about six weeks ago.

Trump is up 12 points, Carson has tripled his number, meanwhile, Jeb Bush's number has been cut in half, and the one-time Iowa leader Scott Walker, well, his campaign appears to be on the verge of imploding if he's not careful. What's more, as we look at the rest of the field, many candidates who are counting on a strong performance in Iowa are barely on the board right now.

Let's quickly move to New Hampshire, where Trump is also dominating 28% of the vote. But look at here, second place is John Kasich at 12%, the power of paid television ads on that one. Carson, again, in double digits at 11%, ahead of Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina. And since we last polled in July, Trump was still ahead, but lower. He's gained seven points. Kasich and Carson have nearly doubled their support.

Bush is fading, Fiorina is growing, and then look at the rest of the field. Paul, Cruz, Christie, Walker, and Rubio round out the top ten. And quickly, let me just show you Scott Walker again, he went down from 12% in New Hampshire to 4% right now. He's down from 19% to 5%. Walker's free-fall this summer is probably one of the poll's bigger stories.

Let me bring in the panel here. Hugh Hewitt, I'm going to start with you because you are here. We early'd you up, you know we're going to have you here in a couple weeks, because you and Mr. Trump had an interesting back and forth. And we're going to get to that in a minute. But your reaction to these poll numbers? Carson and Trump, two un-electeds.

HUGH HEWITT:

The second inning was very good to both Donald Trump and Ben Carson. But first inning was good to Scott Walker. There are seven more innings. We were talking baseball in the green room beforehand.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough.

HUGH HEWITT:

And I'll use it throughout. And I talked to the Walker people this week, some of the senior advisors to the Walker campaign. They're not worried because they really do believe that organization matters in Iowa a great deal. And that he connects. A lot of his people have gone to Ben Carson. Gentle Dr. Ben, as I'd like to call him, is a terrific presence. I was with him in Iowa a couple weeks ago. I think he will continue to grow. And we'll see what happens with Donald Trump. He's unique.

CHUCK TODD:

He is unique. I want to play, speaking of Trump, and Doris, I'm curious of your take on this, I've got an interesting Trump versus Bush. Bush has decided to engage Trump. Decided he has to do it. And he started this week. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

This guy can't negotiate his way out of a paper bag. He's very low energy.

JEB BUSH:

This is not a guy who's a conservative. And using his own words is not a mischaracterization. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH. TRANSLATED: If you aren't in total agreement with him, you are an idiot, or stupid, or that you don't have energy.) Blah, blah, blah.

DONALD TRUMP:

When you get right down to it, we're a nation that speaks English. And I think while we're in this nation, we should be speaking English.

JEB BUSH:

I think Donald Trump is trying to insult his way to the presidency, it's not going to work.

DONALD TRUMP:

I watched him this morning on television. And it's a little bit sad. Don't forget, he was supposed to win.

JEB BUSH:

I'm sure as hell going to s-- when he attacks me personally or disparages my family, damn right I'm going to fight back. I hope you would do too.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, this is not the campaign Jeb Bush wanted to run.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

No, he wanted to run a campaign where he'd be a sunny figure, where he wouldn't have to take out the general election by saying things in the primary that were going to hurt him. But he has to do this, however. I think what Trump did by saying he was weak energy made people feel, "Ah, unless he's fighting," this is today's world. Unless you're fighting, unless you're blustery, unless you're saying things, you're weak.

The question is, is it going to be enough to say he's not conservative enough? I don't know if that's the strongest tact, because Trump supporters seem to be not concerned about where he is on conservatives, where his past was, like his attitudes are, like his stance. But sometimes when I listen to this, I wonder, maybe we should never have gotten into these primaries. You know, 1912, the first primary ever--

CHUCK TODD:

You want to get rid of the primary process??

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

No listen, the first primary ever, and The New York Times had an editorial, because Taft and Teddy both running for the Republican nomination, they were calling each other "fatheads, pinheads, brain of the guinea pig." They said, "This is so embarrassing. We hope this first presidential primary is the last ever. People are blushing over what's happening." So--

CHUCK TODD:

Well The New York Times in 1912 may have had it right. By the way, they both were overweight at the time. Tom, I am curious. Let me play the exchange, as you know, sort of the exchange heard around the world, the Hugh Hewitt pop quiz with Donald Trump. And instead of making Hugh defend it, I'm curious your take on it. Let me play it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HUGH HEWITT:

Are you familiar with General Soleimani?

DONALD TRUMP:

Yes, but go ahead, give me a little, go ahead, tell me.

HUGH HEWITT:

He runs the Quds Forces.

DONALD TRUMP:

Yes, okay, right.

HUGH HEWITT:

Do you expect his behavior--

DONALD TRUMP:

But I think the Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by--

HUGH HEWITT:

No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces.

DONALD TRUMP:

Yes, yes

HUGH HEWITT:

The bad guys.

DONALD TRUMP:

Right.

HUGH HEWITT:

Do you expect his behavior to change as a result--

DONALD TRUMP:

Oh, I thought you said Kurds, Kurds.

HUGH HEWITT:

No, Quds.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

If that was Scott Walker or Marco Rubio, Tom, you'd say their campaign was over.

TOM BROKAW:

Well, I thought it was a very appropriate question on Hugh's part. My own personal feeling is however it's not the primary issue with Donald Trump. I mean, remember eight years ago when George Bush 43 was running, he couldn't name the prime minister of India, he was questioned by a Boston reporter.

I think we've got to get to the end of bombast with Donald Trump. He's obviously rubbed a very raw nerve out there. There's a river guide in the American West who describes difficult clients as being half-cocked in the ticked off position. He doesn't say "ticked off," he uses another phase."

TOM BROKAW:

And that's the constituency of Donald Trump right now. There are a lot of people out there who just say, "Look, I don't want to deal with conventional politicians. This guy is saying all those things." But at some point, he's got to tell us if he's going to take down ObamaCare and replace it with something that's a lot cheaper, a lot more effective. Come on, give me the details on that.

If you're going to move 11 million migrants back to their home country, how much is that going to cost? And the point of that is, that if someone came to him with a real estate deal that was only about this is what I can do, and no numbers attached to it, he'd throw them out of the office. And at some point, both the press and I think voters, have to say, "Show me the money."

CHUCK TODD:

Show me some details. Very quickly, Joy, I want you to react to this column that the conservative movement's flirtation with the non-establishment candidates is according to Dave Weigel, it might be rooted in Hillary Clinton's weakness. Here's what he writes this weekend in TheWashington Post: "In 2005, right after the defeat of the Kerry-Edwards ticket, beltway wisdom dictated that the party needed a red-state governor to win the White House.

"And then the 2006 elections happened. Gone very quickly was the sense that the party needed to settle on an electable candidate. Republicans may be living through their own version of this. The weaker Clinton looks, the more Republican voters can basically shop around."

JOY-ANN REID:

You know, I'm not so sure that just in my conversations with people who say that they like Donald Trump, they don't always bring up Hillary Clinton. They more often bring up just a general frustration with the poll-tested scripted nature of politics that I think that just the fact that Donald Trump is giving them political incorrectness, I think it's very appealing, particularly to white, working-class voters, who are overall frustrated with the political system, frustrated that their party of choice, the Republican party, hasn't been able to deliver on the things they've promised.

The Republican party has used the energy and enthusiasm of things like the Tea Party movement to get into office. And then once in office, they say, "Well, you know, we really can't do that." And I think that you now have people, and I think we also are reaping the rewards of an over-confidence in the ability of quote, unquote, "businessmen to run things." And they just assume Donald Trump will figure it out. They love his messaging in terms of its style. I don't think that his supporters are paying attention to the substance.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we're going to pause here. We're going to get back into the Democratic side of things in a moment. We do have new polling on that side. And here's the bottom-line question that you'll find out. Whatever became of Hillary Clinton's inevitability.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats traditionally have been able to count on the support of organized labor. But as we enjoy this Labor Day weekend, membership in labor unions remains in decline. In 1983, union members accounted for 20.1% of American workers. By 2014, that number was down to just 11.1%.

Earlier this week, I sat down with Richard Trumka. He's the current president of the AFL-CIO, and I asked him about what it would take for the labor movement to work hard for Hillary Clinton. His answer, it's all about whether she stands and takes a stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or what's known as TPP. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

RICHARD TRUMKA:

So here's the difference. I think if she doesn't take a position on TPP, then you can say she's looking for our vote. If she does take a position on TPP, then she's looking for our support. And the difference is, if you get my vote, I come out on Election Day and I pull the lever. If you've got my support, I get up at 7:00 in the morning, I stuffed 200 envelopes, I make seven calls, I go knock on a few doors, and I get my neighbors all excited about voting for her as well. That's what's at stake for her.

CHUCK TODD:

Trumka also gave me a take on the possibility of the vice president jumping in the race. Trumka's going to be with Biden tomorrow.

RICHARD TRUMKA:

Joe Biden's been a champion for working people all of his life. He's a blue-collar guy. And he is liked by the membership. He's liked by Americans. He'd make a good president. Hillary would make a good president. There's a number of people out there who I think will make good presidents. The question becomes are they willing to articulate a message that really says to our members, to the workers out there, "I'm not only going to talk about changing the rules of the economy, I'm going to fight to make them a reality."

And the candidate that convinces our members, working America, that they're going to fight to change the rules of this economy to make it better for working people, there's going to be a groundswell and a decision will be made pretty quickly.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

The rest of the interview, including Trumka's take on Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, can be found on MeetThePressNBC.com. Up next, our poll results from the Democratic side. And don't look now, but Bernie Sanders is starting to take on Hillary Clinton directly. Has Hillary's ad campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire helped ward off all the bad email news? Well, Bernie Sanders thinks she's rattled.

BERNIE SANDERS:

Don't tell anybody. I think they're getting nervous. Shh, don't tell anybody.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

If you want to understand why Hillary Clinton felt she had to sit down for a 30-minute, nationally-televised interview with my colleague, Andrea Mitchell, and answer question after question about the email controversy, all you need to do is look at our new polling in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Over the last month, the Clinton campaign has been pouring money into TV ads in both of those early states, over $2 million. And yet, take a look at her numbers. While Clinton continues to lead Bernie Sanders in Iowa by 11 points, 48-37, that's actually down from a 29-point lead in July before she went up with paid advertising.

And now take a look at this: Sanders is now ahead by 11 points in New Hampshire. That is not a typo. We have him up 49-38. Just two months ago, before Hillary Clinton's campaign started running TV ads, Clinton led Sanders in New Hampshire by 13 points. Tom Brokaw? You know, you like to say the unforeseen. Bernie Sanders is the definition of the unforeseen.

TOM BROKAW:

Well, and my wife reminded me the other day when everybody was saying that Hillary was a lock six months ago, a lot of the women that we know were saying that it's over, she's going to win the nomination, we're going to finally have a woman as president. I always invoke, you've heard me say often, the UFO theory.

Something to remember, however, is the caveat in all of this. Iowa is not a go to the polls and vote state. It's a caucus state, it has to be extremely well-organized. But a lot of people forget that George Bush, W. Bush, 41, beat Ronald Reagan, in effectively what was his home state of Iowa, even though the polls would have shown it the other way, we're talking about a big universe here.

We're also talking about Iowa. She's made some huge mistakes, in my judgment. And that wonderful interview that Andrea initiated, and typically of Andrea, she went right after that issue, when she said, "I didn't think about the effect of email," I was stunned. I mean, we were deep into the digital age at that point. She's Secretary of State.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe her?

TOM BROKAW:

I believe that she was presumptuous, is what I believe. And I think that's what a lot of people think, is that she's presumptuous about, if I believe it, it's the right way of doing things. Well, where were the security people at the State Department saying, "No no, Madam Secretary, you have to have a secure server over here. You can have something off to the left," as Colin Powell said that he did.

But at this point, to suggest that a Secretary of State, as much as she'd been around, she didn't think about the impact and the possibility of hacking, just astonishes me. And I think it takes away from her big argument, "I've been there, I've done that, I know what I'm doing."

CHUCK TODD:

And now, Doris, and I'm not going to put them up for now, people can get it on our website, she has an electability problem. Joe Biden runs stronger against Trump and Jeb. Donald Trump leads Clinton in one of these polls, and Biden leads Trump. This is an electability problem now.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Yeah, somebody said, "The inevitable became evitable."

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

And I think the problem is that she keeps saying, "In time, all of it can be made clear. In time, it will be shown that my statements were accurate." Time is the most precious commodity in a campaign. And she's lost time. She has lost time because of the email controversy. And the questions that are now rolling around integrity are the most important attributes so now you lose time and integrity.

So I think she has to handle this thing, get on it even harder than she has. And I think the problem is, when you see Sanders, whether as an army veteran who said, "I'm for him because I feel a sense of the movement for the first time since I've been back from the army," and you don't feel that movement of girls and women toward Hillary that I thought was going to carry her through just like your wife said.

CHUCK TODD:

Joy, it goes to the, well, you just said previous, but the authenticity. Sanders has it, doesn't Clinton, right now.

JOY ANN REID:

Yeah, I think the energy in the Democratic party is clearly on the left. I think that particularly white liberals were looking for a movement post Barack Obama.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, the New Hampshire poll, if you look at it, it looks like Gary Hart beating Walter Mondale, right? The wealthy white liberals are for Sanders, the poor working-class votes are for Hillary.

JOY ANN REID:

Right. And of course, these are two states that are overwhelmingly white. So we are pretty much talking about a universe of more white liberals. However, I would say, one caveat on the Biden numbers, and who doesn't love Joe Biden, but this is Joe Biden unadulterated by media scrutiny or by opposition scrutiny. So in the abstract, yes, Biden is doing well in these polls. I think it is interesting that he comes in and he takes 10% each from Sanders it seems, and Hillary. That he comes in and he sort of a pox on both houses--

CHUCK TODD:

It didn't move it.

JOY ANN REID:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

It didn't change the structure of the race.

JOY ANN REID:

It doesn't change that dynamic at all, no. But he's an interesting addition in that I think what Hillary needs on her side is energy to Doris' point. I think all of the excitement and energy and the feeling of movement that's around the Sanders moment isn't there with Hillary, at least not now with women. I think her campaign is starting to zero in more on trying to get that going among women. But maybe having an opponent, having somebody like a Joe Biden in the race to really force her to sort of make the campaign more kinetic might be what she needs.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, very, very quickly here but there's a theory of the case that says, some Clinton people say, "You know what, as bad as her poll numbers are, there's a bunch of Republicans that wish they had her bad poll numbers."

HUGH HEWITT:

That's true. I will point whenever your senior aide is invoking the fifth amendment, it's a bad week. And I'll point out, in the Andrea Mitchell interview, as you pointed out to me on my radio show on Friday, Chuck, the other bad mood she has, there's this refugee crisis. She went out of her way to say, "I would have advocated for a more robust response when Assad began to kill his people." She's trying to get ahead of her next problem, which is four million Syrians on the march, a million Libyans on the march.

CHUCK TODD:

It's the most important overlooked piece of Andrea's interview.

HUGH HEWITT:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

What she said about Syria and trying to break from the president, speaking of the Syrian crisis, we're about to hit on that next. In fact, we're going to change subjects when we come back. Hugh was very gracious in giving us this smooth transition there. We're going to get a closer look at this growing crisis in Europe and the question, should the U.S. do more and start taking in Syrian refugees as well?

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. There have been jubilant scenes this weekend as thousands of refugees arrived in Germany and Austria after Hungary eased restrictions on their travel. But there are still no signs of the crisis abating as tens of thousands more attempt to make a similar journey. According to the UN high commissioner for refugees, over 360,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe so far this year.

And just over half of those are fleeing Syria. The Syrian refugees have endured a dangerous journey that started on the Syrian/Turkish border, most traveling by boat from Turkey to Greece, and then through Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary, with Budapest's main train station a choke point. Our chief correspondent Richard Engel is at the train station in Budapest, where thousands are still hoping to continue their journey to the Austrian border. A warning, his report contains some disturbing images.

(BEGIN TAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL:

The world finally awoke to a tragedy that has been building for years. Forced to pay attention by powerful images, the boy who washed up on a beach while trying to get to Greece, the train in Hungary blocked by police, migrants dragged off to camps. Families at Budapest's grand railway station, under it, where conditions were so squalid, they decided to walk out of the country until Hungary got too embarrassed and decided to send busses to pick them up.

But getting less attention is the cause of this crisis. These people are overwhelmingly from Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. military interventions failed to bring stability. And come Syria, where a lack of international action allowed a civil war to rage on. They're escaping failed states and failed policies.

It's been four years since the Assad government started bombing its own people. ISIS has now carved out its own state. If the U.S.-led war on ISIS were working, people wouldn't be going to such getting lengths to leave. And the U.S. is barely taking in any.

NICHOLAS BURNS:

The United States has always taken the position that as the leader of the world community, as the wealthiest country in the world, as an immigrant country ourselves, we have to respond to refugee disasters wherever they occur in the world.

RICHARD ENGEL:

European officials, perhaps troubled by their own dark past of trains, camps, and unwanted people, have decided the solution is to redistribute the migrants among their nations. But the migrants don't want to go to poorer European countries. And there are simple too many of them draining the world's war zones and spreading them around Europe won't work.

NICHOLAS BURNS:

When you have 11 million Syrian homeless, half the population of Syria, when you have these tragedies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, we've got to wake up and accept the fact that the United States has a self-interest in trying to end these humanitarian disasters. We also have a moral responsibility to act as the leading democratic country in the world.

RICHARD ENGEL:

And the crisis is already causing the rise of the right wing. This is a global crisis that Washington morally and strategically can't ignore.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And Richard, I guess you pointed at this in your piece. But ultimately, this is about a policy that isn't working here. And already, this morning, the headline in The New York Times is about the United States warning Russia about their support of Assad. Obviously, the more Russia supports Assad, the longer this civil war lasts.

RICHARD ENGEL:

It's really about a variety of crises, Syria the biggest one of them. But also, the other Gulf situation in Iraq, Libya, the entire Middle East is in a state of collapse. And what we're seeing now is just hopelessness from the people. People have decided that things are so bad in Syria and other parts of the Muslim world, and that they're not going to get better.

And that they have no choice but to move on. And certainly actions by Russia to support the Assad regime just convinces people even more that there is not any light at the end of the tunnel, and that they have to do whatever they take to find a better place. And many of them believe that Germany, Scandinavia, are the only parts of the world where they can start new lives.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Richard, reporting from the train station in Budapest, Hungary. Richard, thanks very much. To discuss the international response to this refugee crisis, I'm joined by former British Foreign Secretary and president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee Charity, David Miliband. Mr. Miliband, welcome to Meet the Press. Let me ask you a basic question that is in today's New York Times. And it's simply, "Who failed Aylan Kurdi?" That's of course the name of the three-year-old child that was found dead on the shores there. Who failed him?

DAVID MILIBAND:

I think there's been three levels of failure. Obviously, he was barrel bombed of his own city. First of all, Damascus, then Kobani, by his own government. So the primary responsibility starts with President Assad. Secondly, there's been a chronic failure over the last four years of international powers, including the U.S., but also significantly Russia and regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Iran to come to grips with the nature of the Syrian civil war, so that it has metastasized now into not just a Syria civil war, but one that engulfs parts of Iraq as well.

And then the third culprit clearly is the European Union, whose fumbling, feeble response over the last few years and significantly, over the last few months, has led to the appalling scene that you've seen on TV screens and newspapers around the world.

CHUCK TODD:

We've got short-term issues, we've got long-term issues. Short term, what are we going to do with these refugees right now Can Europe alone handle them all?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Short term, you're right in your report to say that the choke point has been Hungary. But the eye of the storm is Greece. I've spoken this morning to our field director on Lesbos, the key island where people are transiting from Turkey to get into the European Union. And frankly, you've got 25,000 people stuck on the island of Lesbos.

They're arriving at 3,000 to 4,000 a day. And the immediate crisis is to provide water, sanitation, and transportation off the island and three of the neighboring islands there. If you're asking should the United States be playing the role alongside the European Union, my answer would be a very strong yes. And there are two elements for that.

First of all, one of the reasons the people are fleeing the Middle East is that the neighboring countries to Syria, that means Lebanon and close allies of the U.S., like Jordan, are creaking under the strain of literally millions of refugees. And secondly, of course, America has historically been the home for refugees, the world leader in refugee resettlement. But over the four years of the war, the U.S. has only taken 1,400 Syrian refugees in total. If you put that in --

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a number you would like to see the United States pledge to take? Some lawmakers here in the United States are saying the number should be as high as 65,000 by the end of next year.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well, the 65,000 has a very clear logic to it. And the International Rescue Committee, which has resettled new Americans for the last 80 years, since we were founded by Albert Einstein here when he came in 1933, we've been clear that for the U.S. to maintain its leadership position in refugee resettlement, it should take about 45% or 50% of the UN recommended number.

And the UN has said that by the end of 2016, 130,000 Syrians need to be resettled around the world. And that's why the 65,000 figure is the one for the U.S. to continue to show the kind of leadership that is has over the decades. At the moment, that leadership position has been taken by Germany because they've clearly said that 800,000 people are going to register for asylum or claim refugee status in Germany this year. It's time for the U.S., I think, to have the kind of debate about how it can continue its leadership role.

CHUCK TODD:

Speaking of leadership or lack thereof, the Gulf states, of course, have not taken in a single refugee. I'm talking about Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and some of those other countries. And by the way, they're the ones that have been the most encouraging of the United States to get involved on the side against Assad in Syria. What do they owe the world?

DAVID MILIBAND:

That's a great point. There are about 500,000 Syrians in Saudi Arabia and 130,000 Syrians in United Arab Emirates. But you are right to say that they're often as workers rather than as refugees. And it's certainly the case. But with the new distribution of economic power around the world, it's vital that countries, including in the Gulf, play their role in this humanitarian tragedy.

It's also important of course to recognize the Gulf has a critical role when it comes to actually getting to the roots of this political impasse that has meant that over four years, this conflict has gotten worse and worse. Any solution is going to have to involve Russia and the U.S., yes, but also the Gulf states.

CHUCK TODD:

David Miliband, you have a big job ahead of you in what you're working on. Godspeed on that work, sir.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Thank you very much. It's very good to be on.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. A quick reminder, don't forget to set your DVR in case you can't watch us live on Sunday mornings, because we're always here, just a click or two away on your remote, your iPad, or however you want to watch us on demand. We'll be back in a moment with our endgame segment. When it comes to issuing marriage licenses in same-sex couples, should a Kentucky clerk follow her conscience or the law? What do you think?

** Commercial Break **

CHUCK TODD:

A bit of a dramatic week in Kentucky. We had a showdown between a clerk not wanting to issue marriage licenses. She ends up being taken away to jail. Presidential candidates all weighed in. But Doris, I was struck by something else. This is the only place in the country that we've had this. Meaning that I think a lot of people thought there would be more clerks that wouldn't do this.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I mean, that's the most important thing to realize, we get so focused on this one person and this one county, but the Supreme Court spoke on a very controversial issue, and all of our country, and other registrars, in other counties, people have gone issuing marriage licenses. And that's the important thing to understand, that that social movement created an acceptance. Maybe this will have a copycat thing going on after this, but at this point in time, it is accepted by the country. And that's pretty extraordinary.

TOM BROKAW:

I think acceptance of same-sex marriage is so outrunning the opposition that it's game over, quite honestly. This was an exception down there. I was thinking earlier about what if she had been opposed, for example, to interracial marriage? That's the law of the land. She took the oath of office, I presume. She swore to uphold the laws of the land. And that meant that if she, and she's entitled to her opinion and her faith, and what she wants to do, then she ought not to be the county clerk if she can't--

(OVERTALK)

JOY ANN REID:

If I may just say very quickly say that I think the attempts, for her herself, and some people are moving to equate her with the civil rights movement and with Dr. King and Rosa Parks is horrendous. And I think really should be spoken up against.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, I want to give you a chance to respond to Donald Trump. Because I think you're at least a second-rate radio announcer. I don't think you're a third rate. It's just not fair, you know?

HUGH HEWITT:

Well, I have interviewed everyone on this panel at length, Tom about Boomers, Doris about the The Bully Pulpit and Rivals, you about Stranger and I look forward to talking to you about Fracture, your new book. Donald Trump, if I can use a baseball analogy, when you interview Donald Trump, it's like facing Bill Lee throwing an eephus or Gaylord Perry. He is unique, he is difficult, he is the best interview in America right now. I'd start every show with him, and I hope--

CHUCK TODD:

Look at you admitting it.

HUGH HEWITT:

And if I was unfair, you know, I'll take criticism.

CHUCK TODD:

You seemed a little defensive. You wrote an op-ed, you were a little concerned that you have gotten some criticism on this.

HUGH HEWITT:

I don't like "gotcha" questions. But I think General Soleimani, in the green room, General Powell said to me, "You know, Soleimani became the Trump of Iran and they had to pull him back." And I said, "Can I quote you?" And he said, "Yes, you may." And I said, "You know, so Soleimani matters." Nevertheless, journalists have to be open to criticism. And I am, we'll see if other people agree. Oh, there's an old Irish saying. If everyone says you're drunk, you better sit down. Thus far, only a couple of people have thought I was wobbly. Most people thought it was a fair--

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Stay standing.

HUGH HEWITT:

Stay standing.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, it's fair enough, one final thought. Today marks one year since I got the privilege of being the custodian of this chair, of this long-running program. All of us here at Meet the Press are very grateful that you've let us into your homes each Sunday morning. It's the greatest professional privilege of my life. And I know, I hope, you're going to want to stay with us. Because this is going to be the most fascinating year in American pol-- every four years I say this. Tom, you might agree. And yet, here we are again. This is crazier than ever.

TOM BROKAW:

No, there are no rules, and they've all changed, by the way.

CHUCK TODD:

And by the way, and those rules are going to change again in a couple of days.

TOM BROKAW:

Exactly. I've never seen anything like this.

CHUCK TODD:

Anyway, thank you all. That's all for today. We'll be back next week and every Sunday, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * END TRANSCRIPT * *