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Meet the Press - August 20, 2017

NBC News - Meet The Press

“08.20.17”

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, after Charlottesville. President Trump makes his "both sides are to blame" argument.

DONALD TRUMP:

But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

CHUCK TODD:

Equating the white nationalists with the protestors.

DONALD TRUMP:

Excuse me what about the alt left that came charging at the—as you say the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

CHUCK TODD:

Did the president lose his moral authority this week by failing to condemn white supremacists, the Klan, and neo-Nazis? I'll ask former Republican congressman J.C. Watts and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and one-time mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young. Plus, those white supremacists in Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE:

Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll take an inside look at last week's mayhem...and at the men behind the march.

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL

Sadly, because our rivals are a bunch of stupid animals, who don’t pay attention, they couldn’t just get out of the way of his car.

CHUCK TODD:

Also, a debate. Is it better to ignore KKK and Nazi marchers, or to confront them, even with violence? Joining me for insight and analysis are Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Hayes, editor in chief of the Weekly Standard, and former Democratic congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER: From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history celebrating its 70th year, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. Let's say up front that years from now, this will not be remembered as the week Steve Bannon left the White House. Make no mistake, while his departure may have significant consequences in the months to come, it was actually widely expected, even by him.

No, this will be remembered as the week for choosing sides. President Trump seemed to choose his. Though this may not have been his intention, the president's equivocation over who was to blame for the violence in Charlottesville allowed white supremacists to claim him as being on their side.

Here are the covers of three national magazines, and while some may see liberal bias in the mainstream press, The Economist in particular there on the right often does reflect international opinion. Yesterday, demonstrations were held across the country against white supremacy. The largest, in Boston, where some 40,000 people gathered. Thirty-three people were arrested, mostly for disorderly conduct.

To many of us though who study this administration, Mr. Trump this week chose to become the president of red America, over healing the country's national wounds. Many elected officials, too, see this as a time for choosing. Democrats have it easy. Their voters expect them to criticize this president.

But Republicans appear to be divided or at least conflicted. While many, including much of Mr. Trump's base, are standing with the president, others, including the elected leadership, are desperate to criticize him, but quietly waiting for a permission slip from the voters to speak out. All this in another typically chaotic week, from President Trump's "both sides now" news conference, to the Bannon White House exit.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Just days after the president would not commit to keeping him on...

DONALD TRUMP:

Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went through 17 Senators, Governors and I won all the the primaries. We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.

CHUCK TODD:

Steve Bannon is out. A victim of his own celebrity. Captured on the cover of Time magazine and on Saturday Night Live, where Bannon was the puppeteer pulling the president's strings.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON (PLAYING STEVE BANNON):

Can I have my desk back?

ALEC BALDWIN:

Yes, of course Mr. President. I’ll go sit at my desk.

CHUCK TODD:

And a casualty of the fights he started inside the White House. Now, Bannon tells the Weekly Standard, "The Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over. I feel jacked up. Now I'm free. I've got my hands back on my weapons." That weapon? Bannon is already back at Breitbart. And he's just the latest in a series of high-profile White House departures. But many Republicans in Congress believe President Trump, not Steve Bannon, is currently the problem.

SEN. BOB CORKER:

The president has not yet—has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority and that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens.

CHUCK TODD:

This, after President Trump blamed both sides for last weekend's violence in Charlottesville.

DONALD TRUMP:

I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this. You had a group on one side, and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs, and it was vicious. You had many people in that group other than neo-Zazis and white nationalists, ok?

CHUCK TODD:

Former Governor Mitt Romney is calling on the president to apologize, state forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame. Mr. Trump's response, though, should not be a surprise. A year ago, Bannon was brought in to right a campaign that was flailing after Mr. Trump refused for days to stop attacking a Muslim Gold Star father.

DONALD TRUMP:

I was viciously attacked on the stage of the Democratic National Convention by Mr. Khan, and I responded.

CHUCK TODD:

Eighteen months ago, Mr. Trump failed to confront white nationalists on the campaign trail.

DONALD TRUMP:

I don’t know anything about David Duke, ok? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.

CHUCK TODD:

And six years ago, Mr. Trump launched his national political career with the false claim that the first African American president was not born in the United States.

DONALD TRUMP:

You are not allowed to be a president if you were not born in this country. He may not have been born in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

To give you a sense of how reluctant Republicans are to talk about President Trump this week, not one member of the current Republican leadership in Congress agreed to come on the broadcast this morning. In fact, even the White House was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to provide a guest, right down to the White House press secretary.

One Republican who is willing to talk is a former elected official. It’s Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts. Congressman Watts, thank you for joining me.

FMR. REP. J.C. WATTS:

Thank you Chuck, for having me back.

CHUCK TODD: Well let me ask you that question. Why do you think -- why is it easier for you to come out and speak out? The conversation you and I had earlier in the week. You’re here this morning. Why do you think so many of your former colleagues, who currently are the leaders of the Republican Party, are hesitant?

FMR. REP. J.C. WATTS: Well, Chuck, as I said to you earlier in the week, I’m not concerned about what others are thinking or what they’re saying. My conscience would not allow me to keep quiet, and when I was asked my thoughts on this issue, I chose to speak out simply because I think all presidents have what we call -- what I call -- “right-now moments.” Inevitably, Republicans, Democrats, every president is going to have a “right-now moment” and I think President Trump had a right-now moment last weekend, and I don’t think he responded the right way. Now, he probably disagrees with that. But I don’t think he responded the right way. Rev. Martin Luther King said I am an heir to rape, rope, fire and murder. And he said, “I’m not angry about that. I’m not ashamed of that.” He said, “I’m ashamed of those that would be so inhumane that they would do that to other human beings.” And I think that when circumstances like last weekend happen, I think we need moral clarity. A president speaks for himself, for his values, in those “right-now moments” and he speaks to -- he speaks for the values of our country. And you saw the exodus of many people on the business council, who resigned, who said those are not my personal values, those are not our corporate values, and those -- we don’t believe -- are the values of our country. We had someone from the president’s faith council that resigned, Rev. Bernard out of New York. I’m quite disappointed, Chuck, that we didn’t have more --

CHUCK TODD: Wow.

FMR. REP. J.C. WATTS: -- on the faith council to resign or at least speak out. And so I just felt like when you asked me “Would I?” I said that I would be delighted to come and share my thoughts.

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you this. It sounds like you think the president has, at least temporarily, lost moral authority. How does he regain it?

FMR. REP. J.C. WATTS: Well, Chuck, I think any president always has to have -- having multiple advisers and counselors -- I think that is critically important. And not only should you have them, you should listen to them. I don’t know of anyone that’s in his inner circle that would be able to say to him “Mr. President, when it comes to civil rights, when it comes to race issues, let me give you some hindsight, some insight and some foresight on these issues. And I just don’t know if there’s -- now, he may have and he just doesn’t listen to them. But in the last seven months, he’s had more than one “right-now moment,” and when you continue to give the impression that you don’t understand the magnitude of being the president, being the leader of the free world, and you espouse that not only are those your values, but those are the values for your country, people around -- not just people in the United States -- but people around the world take note.

CHUCK TODD: It feels like we’re stuck. The party’s stuck politically. We’re a little bit stuck as a country. If what you’re saying about the president -- and I think you’re not alone in being concerned about this -- how are we going to get unstuck if the president doesn’t either repudiate his comments or at least take some step in the direction to at least acknowledge that some people misheard him, to be generous?

FMR. REP. J.C. WATTS: Chuck, first of all, one thing I will agree with President Trump on is this: the racial divide didn’t just happen when Donald Trump got elected. They didn’t just happen when President Obama got elected. I think they were probably heightened. I think they were probably intensified under President Obama and I think they carried over into the Trump administration. But nevertheless J.C. Watts as an elected official, as a leader if you will, or President Trump or President Obama, we all have obligations as leaders to not put salt in the wound, to bring a decency and a respect to the table to say, “Look, we’re going to call evil what it is. We’re going to stare evil down.” And when you’ve got people who feel like “My two-year-old granddaughter, because of her skin color, would say she should be eradicated or that she shouldn’t be on the face of the earth or we don’t want to live in harmony with her. Chuck, she doesn’t even know those people. And again, when any of us speak to the side of evil or we maybe unintentionally give the impression that we’re siding with the evil, that’s a tough ditch to get out of.

CHUCK TODD: If you were still serving in Congress, and you were in leadership, how would you handle President Trump right now? Would you still try to work with him? Would you -- if he doesn’t repudiate, would you just sort of have this uncomfortable distance from him? I mean, what’re your advice to Paul Ryan, to Mitch McConnell, to these folks?

FMR. REP. J.C. WATTS: Well, first of all, Chuck, I think there’s been ample opportunity -- to use your word -- to repudiate the president over the last seven, eight months and obviously during the campaign. But he got elected, so he’s the president. And over the last seven months there’s been ample opportunity to disagree with the president on many issues and this is not a time for us to be afraid of being tweeted. This is not a time for us to suppress our convictions. I know a lot of those members of Congress and they don’t think like that. They don’t think how the white supremacists or the KKK think. However, Chuck, if they’re silent, they wear the cap saying, intentionally or unintentionally, they wear the cap of saying, “We agree with that.” And thank god for Ben Sasse and Rand Paul and John McCain and Lindsey Graham, you know, those members that have come out to say we totally disagree with that. That’s not who we are. That’s not the country that we live in. And it’s not the party that we want to represent.

CHUCK TODD: Alright, J.C. Watts, I’m going to leave it there, former republican congressman from Oklahoma. Good to see you, sir. Thanks for coming on. Appreciate it.

FMR. REP. J.C. WATTS: Chuck, thank you.

CHUCK TODD: You got it. Yesterday I spoke with one of the early leaders of the civil rights movement, Andrew Young. He was executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the SCLC. Afterwards, of course, he was also the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter. He was a congressman and a two-term mayor of Atlanta, and today he's chairman of the Andrew J. Young Foundation. When I spoke with Mr. Young, I began by asking him to put this past week in context.

FMR. AMB. ANDREW YOUNG:

Well, it’s a week of misunderstandings. We originally sought to redeem the soul of America from the triple evils of race, war and poverty. Most of the issues that we’re dealing with now are related to poverty. But we still want to put everything in a racial context. The problem with the – and the reason I feel uncomfortable condemning the Klan types is – they are almost the poorest of the poor. They are the forgotten Americans. And, um, they have been used and abused and neglected. Instead of giving them affordable health care, they give them black lung jobs, and they’re happy. And that just doesn’t make sense in today’s world. And they see progress in the black community and on television and everywhere and they don’t share it. Now it’s not our fault. We’ve had a struggle from slavery. But black – while they call themselves militants, but they’re not militants, they’re chicken – we never tried to take advantage of anybody else. Our job was not to put down white people. Our job was to lift everybody up together. To come--so that we would learn to live together as brothers and sisters rather than perish together as fools.

CHUCK TODD:

It feels like we’re in a moment where we’re stuck and we’re stuck for a lot of reasons. And the, and the president – you have, some have even said, there’s a growing cabal of folks who believe he has already lost his moral authority to be a healer in all of this, to help with reconciliation in all of this because of what he did on Tuesday.

FMR. AMB. ANDREW YOUNG:

I don’t know what I would say because I think he’s caught in a trap. I don’t think there are any easy answers.

CHUCK TODD:

What’s the trap?

FMR. AMB. ANDREW YOUNG:

The trap is that he’s still politicking and thinking nationally, as a nationalist, and so is almost everybody else, including those who are trying to think back and blame it on the Civil War, which was hundreds of years ago. But the problem we have is that we’re not living in a nationalist environment. And that’s also his problem, personally, that he’s-- his business is all global. His business is in a global economy and he’s trying to the run the country from a national economy.

CHUCK TODD:

You just said, you don’t know what, quite--you don’t know how he can get out of his trap. So what would you say to him now if he’s asking you for help?

FMR. AMB. ANDREW YOUNG:

I don’t know. But for instance I think that he made a mistake in thinking that living was easy and it just is not. I mean, it’s hell to pass a bill. It’s hell to change an attitude. It’s hell. And almost any changes and -- I tell you what -- I admire his family. And I think that the thing that the president has to do is think of the American people, all of us, as his family. And I try to think of him as a potential leader, not only of the United States of America, but a leader of the free world and of the enslaved world.

CHUCK TODD:

You come from the non-violence movement. That was successful. What do you say to those activists, two generations later who think violence is the right way to go?

FMR. AMB. ANDREW YOUNG:

No it’s more like five generations later and there were those who thought violence was that right way then. And they aren’t around and they weren’t killed by white people. They were killed by their own anger and frustration and their inability to turn down their emotions and turn on their mind. And, from 4-years-old I was always taught--my father use to tap me in the face to try to get me upset and if I swung back at him he would slap me upside my head. He said see, if you start getting emotional in a fight, you’re gonna lose the fight. Don‘t get mad, get smart. And that’s been serving--that served me well. And it served me walking in the midst of the klan alone at night without a gun, without police protection, and the only reason I did it was because the only ones that were courageous enough to go there with me and who insisted that I go were women and children. The men, you know, hide behind militant solutions, but we have to keep our eyes on the prize - and the prize is not vengeance, not getting even, but the prize is redemption.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, I also asked Mr. Young about the Confederate symbol debate. And he said removing these symbols can sometimes be more trouble than it's worth. He even cited the Georgia flag controversy in the early part of this 21st century. He said because of that, the state lost millions and millions of dollars.

When we come back, the shocking video of the Charlottesville violence shot by a Vice News team embedded with the marchers. And throughout the broadcast, we're going to bring you comments from people we spoke to this week at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.

(BEGIN TAPE)

GRANT HATTER:

History. You can't erase history. It has to be learned so it doesn't get repeated. So why tear it down, you know?

EDWARD LASTER:

I think Charlottesville is only a symptom of a much larger problem and issue.

ALMA MEYER:

I think it's a little over the top to try to tear down every part of our history because you can't erase it.

(END TAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panelists here, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Former Democratic congresswoman Donna Edwards from Maryland. And Stephen Hayes, editor-in-chief of the Weekly Standard and a Fox News contributor. Welcome, Mr. Hayes. But no offense, Steve, Peggy is now an NBC News analyst. So with that, welcome to the team.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Thank you, thank you. Delighted to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

You, this week, wrote-- you essentially said you concur that the president essentially doesn't have moral authority right now. Can he get it back?

PEGGY NOONAN:

You know, I think one of the things we were talking about or that you showed in what I thought were fabulous interviews with J.C. Watts, who was so bracing, and Andrew Young, who seemed so wise and at a grandfatherly distance, but the subtext of the questioning was, has the president lost his moral authority because of the events of the past week?

I thought about that, and I think the problem for him is that he did not lose his moral authority because he did not have moral authority, and you cannot lose what you do not have. The whole tale of the first seven months of his presidency was, "I know I'm unusual, I know I'm different, I know I have things that have been offensive to people in my past. However, I'm going to grow into this figure who is the serious, moral, serious guy."

This was another moment in which he didn't do that. I'd also just say quickly, one of the baseline things you want from a president during a crisis is you want a calm in the storm. You want a stable center. You don't want a guy who loses his temper, starts talking like this, gets defensive and just makes everything tear a little farther apart.

CHUCK TODD:

Eugene.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Well, you can't lose-- to have moral authority, you have to have a moral compass, you have to have a moral center. And I've seen no evidence that Donald Trump has that. He flits from issue to issue, from position to position in what he probably sees as a pragmatic way. It's not pragmatic, it's disastrously amoral.

It was Maya Angelou who said, you know, when somebody shows you who they are, why don't you believe them? And so why don't we believe that, in fact, there's some ugliness inside Donald Trump? Why don't we believe that? He's shown it to us time and time again, and he showed it to us this week.

CHUCK TODD:

Steve Hayes, Mitt Romney wrote a pretty devastating Facebook post. Emphasis, though, that it was on Facebook. And he said, "Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strained to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality. And unless it is addressed by the president as such, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric." Good grief.

STEPHEN HAYES:

Pretty tough indictment of what happened with Donald Trump this past week. But here, I think, is the bigger problem. Donald Trump is pleased with where we are at this moment. So he looks at the praise that he's gotten from David Duke, and he looks at the emboldenment of the white supremacists.

And even if he has said, and said finally on Monday, that he doesn't endorse what they stand for, he looks around and by all accounts, he's happy about this. And Steve Bannon says this was a turning point for the presidency in a positive direction. So it's not just that the president made this mistake, it's that he's compounded the mistake by the way he's handled it since.

There is no indication that he's going to do what J.C. Watts has asked him to do, what Mitt Romney wants him to do. That he's going to say, "You know what? I repudiate what I said. There shouldn't be any confusion about how I feel about these groups." He's happy with this. And for those of us who have fought the identity politics of the left for so many years, it's incredibly discouraging to see this embrace by at least part of the right of the same odious identity politics.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to go back with the same question I asked J.C. Watts, the same question I asked Andy Young. Donna, you will start. I ask any of you to join in. How do we get past this moment? Because it feels like if he doesn't move, we're stuck.

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, I'm not sure. I actually think that while the president may not have any moral authority, the country actually does. And I think that we can see that over the course of this last week, the demonstrations, certainly the very moving remarks by Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, which was a call to action, that the country has a moral compass, even if its president right now does not.

And I believe that that is how we move past this. I mean, the fact is that we have a president who started in his early days in business to the birtherism to the campaign and now as president, he's the same president as he was the same man. And I don't think that's going to change.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Right. I think Donna's absolutely right. I think we should no longer expect what we generally expect from presidents in moments like this. And we're not going to get it from Donald Trump. I think--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

I think of Ronald Reagan, for example, after the Challenger disaster when he came on, that beautiful speech that you wrote from him, "slipped the surly bounds of earth and touched the face of God." An amazing moment. It's something I will never forget. We'll never get that from Donald Trump. We just won't.

PEGGY NOONAN:

I actually don't think people really, seriously looked to President Trump for that. They look for a reaction. They're always curious. They look for a statement. For moral leadership, they look the way they looked in Charlotte, South Carolina, two years ago when that bible study group was shot up.

And the great moral moment the day afterwards was during the bond hearing of the shooter. Because the families of the dead showed up, and showed who they were as Americans, and said, it was heartbreaking, "I forgive you. I hate what you did, but I love you."

STEPHEN HAYES:

But presidents amplify those moments, and he didn't do that--

PEGGY NOONAN:

Absolutely--

DONNA EDWARDS:

But you know what? There are more of us who don't engage in hate than there are others. And that is our moral authority.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. That's a nice note to end on, but we're going to be back in a moment. You guys will have more to this. Get into a little more of the politics of some things here. We're going to get an inside look though, also, at the men behind the march in Charlottesville. It's a little tough to watch, I'm just going to warn you.

(RECORDED CLIP NOT TRANSCRIBED)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Sadly, for some time, the name Charlottesville may be associated with last week's violence. No amount of cable TV coverage could adequately communicate the motivation, anger, and fanaticism of these white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville, supposedly in the name of defending a statue.

But Vice News Tonight embedded correspondent Elle Reeve with the marchers. And we're going to show you a few minutes of the resulting documentary. Then we're going to bring you a discussion on whether and how to confront hate marchers. But a word of warning, this is tough to watch.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MARCHERS:

You will not replace us. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.

ELLE REEVE:

So when did you get into, as you said, the racial stuff?

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

When Trayvon Martin case happened. You know, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and all these different things happened—every single case it’s some little black asshole behaving like a savage, and he gets himself in trouble shockingly enough.

I’m here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that. Somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew.

ELLE REEVE: So Donald Trump but like, more racist?

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

A lot more racist than Donald Trump. I don’t think that you could feel the way about race the way I do, and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl. Okay?

ELLE REEVE:

So the alt right is very organized. They have a lot of numbers, they have shields, they have protective gear like helmets. We’ve seen tear gas, water bottles thrown.

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

I should pour it on my face?

ELLE REEVE: What just happened?

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

They maced me

ELLE REEVE: Who?

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

I don’t know, communists.

ELLE REEVE:

There are people on the ground being treated by the medics. There were people running up the streets screaming and crying. There’s many people on the side injured too. It was a really horrific sound.

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

I’d say it was worth it. We knew that we were going to meet a lot of resistance. The fact that nobody on our side died, I’d go ahead and call that points for us. The fact that none of our people killed anybody unjustly, I think is a plus for us. And I think that we showed our rivals that we won’t be cowed.

ELLE REEVE: But the car that struck a protester, that’s unprovoked.

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

That’s not true and you know that’s not true. You’ve seen the video, so…

ELLE REEVE: I’ve seen A video. I don’t know much about it. Can you describe what the video appears to show?

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

The video appears to show someone striking that vehicle, when these animals attacked him again, and he saw no way to get away from them, except to hit the gas. And sadly, because our rivals are a bunch of stupid animals who don’t pay attention, they couldn’t just get out of the way of his car, and some people got hurt, and that’s unfortunate.

ELLE REEVE: So you think it was justified?

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL:

I think it was more than justified. I can’t believe–the amount of restraint that our people showed out there, I think was astounding

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

That was just three minutes of the full 22-minute documentary that you can see online at vicenews.com. When we come back, is it right to physically confront the alt right? Or does that merely lead to more violence of the kind we just saw? We're going to have that debate. And as we go to break, more from this week's Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.

(RECORDED CLIP NOT TRANSCRIBED)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD

Welcome back. I’m joined now by two gentlemen with very different views on how to respond to white supremacists when they take to the streets. Mark Bray is a Dartmouth professor who has studied the Antifa anti-fascist movement. Antifa is a far left political movement that argues it’s necessary to confront hate groups, sometimes with force. Professor Bray is author of the new book “Antifa: the Anti-Fascist Handbook”. And Richard Cohen is the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, as an expert in hate groups, and he says direct confrontation simply leads to more of the kind of violence we saw in Charlottesville. Gentlemen, welcome to you both. I’m gonna try to have this sort of debatey. So Mark Bray, I’ll start with you. You seem to be a very small minority here who is defending the idea of violence considering that somebody died in Charlottesville. Why do you defend confronting in a violent way?

MARK BRAY

Well, first I would contest the notion that I’m not that small of a minority. I think that a lot of people recognize that, when pushed, self-defense is a legitimate response to white supremacy and neo-Nazi violence. And you know we’ve tried ignoring neo-Nazi’s in the past. We’ve seen how that turned out in 20’s and 30’s and the lesson of history is you need to take it with the utmost seriousness before it's too late. We’ve seen the millions of deaths that have come from not taking it seriously enough. And we can see that really the way that white supremacy grows, the way that neo-Nazism grows is by becoming legitimate, becoming established, becoming every day family friendly, where khakis instead of hoods. And the way to stop that is what people did in Boston, what people did in Charlottesville. Pull the emergency break and say you can’t make this normal.

CHUCK TODD

Richard, why is--why do you believe this is a mistake?

RICHARD COHEN

I think it’s a spectacularly bad idea to give one group of people the right to silence another group of people. It’s contrary to our values embodied in the first amendment. It’s likely to drive the people who are trying to censor underground where they may resort to illegal means to express themselves, like bombs. And lastly, it’s likely to lead to a terrible spiral. We saw that in Berkeley. The Antifa came and shut down a speech. The next time the white nationalists brought their own private army and so, you know, where does something like that stop. Yesterday in Boston, you know, when we saw thousands and thousands of people peacefully protest, that seemed like a much stronger answer to white supremacy then, then clubs and guns.

CHUCK TODD

Andy Young made the point, Mark, earlier in the show that essentially there was those in the civil rights movement that wanted to confront violently and he made the not so subtle reminder, they’re not here anymore.

MARK BRAY

Well, there’s a big difference between confronting fascism and confronting other forms of violence. So we can see that during the 30’s and 40’s, there was no public opinion to being leveraged by non-violent resistance. If you get fascist to be powerful enough in government, they’re simply not gonna listen to the kind of public opinion that non-violence can generate. That’s the argument for resistance to Nazi’s and the other point that I’ll make is that a lot of people don’t have the choice whether they can defend themselves or not. We’ve seen that, even before this sort of, as you called it, spiral of violence started, there were attacks on mosques there was attacks on synagogues. A lot of people are under attack and sometimes they need to be able to defend themselves. It’s not, you know, it’s a privileged position to be able to say that you never have to defend yourself from these kinds of monsters.

RICHARD COHEN

You know it’s not an issue of defending yourself. It’s an issue of trying to silence other people. No one is saying that, you know, if you’re slugged in the face that you have to sit there and take it. If the question here is when white nationalists want to walk down the street, should people stop them. And that’s a very different issue. It’s a very peculiar notion of self-defense to say you can censor people.

CHUCK TODD

Some of the criticism of the Antifa movement, Mark, is that you’re actually against speech. That you want to shut down this speech and that borders on censorship.

MARK BRAY

Well let’s be clear that Antifa are not calling on the government to censor anyone. In fact, they resist the notion of turning to the government or turning to the police who we've seen have been infiltrated by white supremacists who have been sympathetic to the court’s sort of return to the law and order notion of fascism. And so, the idea is the real enemies of free speech are fascist. We’ve seen that historically. We’ve seen that they’re the ones that if they have their way will shut down speech and it also differs in the sense that anti-fascists see this as a political struggle. They don’t see fascism as a difference of opinion or as kind of a different perspective to consider. Instead they see fascist as the enemy and I think that we need to come around to that notion considering there is no doubt what they’ve done historically.

CHUCK TODD

Richard I know the concern is that it makes martyrs out of the white supremacists.

RICHARD COHEN:

Yes

CHUCK TODD

And it makes it, i mean look, look, it drove the--one could argue that the Antifa movement helped the president make his arguments of quote both sides.

RICHARD COHEN

Sure, sure, sure

CHUCK TODD

Do you buy that?

RICHARD COHEN

Well, look to some degree there was a lot of ugliness that the Antifa bought there and, you know, I think he--they play into the hands of the white nationalist who say look we are the ones who are embattled. The answer to bad speech is more speech. We saw it in Boston yesterday.

MARK BRAY

Well we've seen that fail historically. I mean, fascism cannot be defeated through speech and we can also see that, you know, Charlottesville did give attention to white supremacy but it’s not as if you’re average American can name any of the groups that were out there. Instead we can see that they were unable to do the things that we see make movement’s grow. Embed themselves in communities, establish networks, express their message. Instead we see, and I can tell you from my book, from my research, there’s a lot of imperial examples historically of anti-fascism working and stopping these groups from growing.

CHUCK TODD

Alright, Mark Bray, Richard Cohen, I got to leave it there. I imagine though the debate doesn’t stop here. Thank you both for coming on. I appreciate it. Coming up Donald Trump won the White House with upset victories in three traditionally blue states. Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. It’s a brand new polling on just how voters their feel now.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ERIC RICHARDSON:

It's really hard to move forward right now because a lot of times the damage is done.

ERICA BAILEY

There's no place in the United States for white supremacy. We are a country that's founded on differences. We are a melting pot. And we just don't have a place for it on our soil.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We're joined on our panel now by Julius Krein. He supported Donald Trump as a candidate and as an advocate of this new conservative populism. So much so that after the election, he founded a quarterly journal called American Affairs, which is largely sympathetic to the president's economic and foreign policy agenda.

In today's New York Times, though, Mr. Krein says he can no longer stand by what he calls "this disgraceful administration." And he writes, "Mr. Trump one boasted that he could shoot someone in the street and not lose voters. Well, someone was just killed in the street by a white supremacist in Charlottesville. His refusal this weekend to specifically and immediately denounce the groups responsible for this intolerable violence was both morally disgusting and monumentally stupid." Julius Krein, welcome--

JULIUS KREIN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

--to Meet the Press. You’re splitting with him on character, obviously not on policy. Can he get you back?

JULIUS KREIN:

No. And the reason is because even though they were always directionally correct in some of the policies like trade, et cetera, in their popularity, and I believe that they're actually being good policies, but they never had any clue about how to go about it.

And even when they had a chance to do it, they did almost exactly the opposite on the most visible things like health care, et cetera. And that's been the problem from the beginning. And if you want to do things like trade, you need to actually have some allies on the left. You need to have some allies in the business community. And they've done the exact opposite of that, and they've torched any possibility of that whatsoever.

CHUCK TODD:

So Charlottesville for you was the straw?

JULIUS KREIN:

It was the straw for all-- I don't know how it couldn't be a straw for everybody.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Steve, this is-- the question has always been how long can Donald Trump keep his core?

STEPHEN HAYES:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Here's somebody, here's Julius, as idealistic as you can get about Donald Trump's policies. And he just said he can't even get him back.

STEPHEN HAYES:

Yeah, well, I mean, look. We predict the demise of Donald Trump at our own peril, right? I mean, everybody's done it a hundred times.

CHUCK TODD:

I think everybody at this table has done it many too times.

STEPHEN HAYES:

Correct. I certainly am guilty. Having said that, it's a moment when you have somebody like Julius who's distancing himself from Donald Trump, on-- you know, who still believes the policy but has a problem with the man. We've seen I think in Donald Trump taking shots at Jeff Sessions, for instance, some of the other people who agree with the kinds of policies that Julius' publication embraces take some distance additionally from Donald Trump.

The odd thing to me is that at the time when you might expect the Republican party broadly to distance itself from Donald Trump, it's really not. You have some individual senators speaking out about individual issues. But the organs of the party, the Republican National Committee, they're embracing him even tighter. And it's a perplexing moment.

JULIUS KREIN:

Well, one thing you see in the polls--

DONNA EDWARDS:

We noticed this last week, that the president also attacked Mitch McConnell, he's gone after any number of Republican leaders. And to hear this week Senator Bob Corker, who has been right down there with him, and to hear him also say this president has a problem with stability, then that signals to me that there's something deeper that's beginning to go on in the Republican party.

And I think it's tough to separate character from policy. The way that you accomplish policy is by having character in the White House, so that you can drive things that need to draw attention from the left and the right.

JULIUS KREIN:

One thing we've always overlooked, or a lot of people have always overlooked with the Trump phenomenon from the beginning, and even now, however unpopular Trump is after his horrendous failure, the congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats are far from popular.

And the never-Trump Republicans, the pundits, the leadership, they're exactly right with respect to his character. But they've still been wrong about every significant policy decision for the last 25 years. And that hasn't changed. And they've also failed to accomplish any of their own self-professed goals. And that's why they had no credibility during the election, and no one really respects them now, and they can't move independently.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's why Donald Trump one. I think Julius is just pointing out why Trump won.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Well, yeah. I mean, certainly those policy issues were very important. I think a big part of Trump's base sticks with him for reasons of identity, for reasons of emotion. They're with him. They think he's with them. And to that extent, his policy failures I don't think have made a huge difference for those people. I don't think Charlottesville will make a huge difference to a lot of those people. Some of them will leave. But I think there's a core. And I think we fool ourselves if we think that that has dissolved.

CHUCK TODD:

Core? I feel like he just read your column, Peggy.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Core is what you used. You refused to call it a base.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Yes. Base is here, core is here. And I feel that's happening with Mr. Trump's supporters. One of the things I would like to see is that sometimes senators and congressmen on the Republican side come forward and they say interesting words and phrases in opposition to President Trump. But sometimes, they look a little furtive. It's a little side interview off a fundraiser, do you know what I mean? It's badly lit--

PEGGY NOONAN:

--and your head is down. It is time to come forward standing up straight with pride and disagree with what you disagree with. And when you agree with something that he is doing, say, "And I'm going to support this." But make a very clear distinction between what you see publicly from the president that you don't like, and what is going on in Washington right now as a bill that you can't support.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Steve Hayes, I look at a senator, Ben Sasse, who's on one hand probably the best columnist in the United States Senate. But there's plenty of people who are now going, "Your words are great, but they're just words."

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well.

STEPHEN HAYES:

Well, I mean, if you're talking about his voting--

CHUCK TODD:

Not just him. I'm not talking about-- no, but I'm talking about all of the criticism--

STEPHEN HAYES:

See, I'm not critical of people like Ben Sasse. I mean, I think he deserves a ton of credit for standing up and making a moral argument about Donald Trump. I will say, it's an odd time for Julius to be attacking never-Trump Republicans, given what he wrote today. But I think we're missing, to a certain extent, a bigger phenomenon here. Donald Trump is running away from the Republican party. Republicans are--

PEGGY NOONAN:

Yes. Yes.

STEPHEN HAYES:

--trying to hold onto him desperately. He is saying to them, "I'm out. I'm leaving you behind." He's purged a lot of Republicans from his White House. You look to what Steve Bannon told my colleague, Peter Boyer, in this week's Weekly Standard.

Steve Bannon said, "I'm going to go after establishment Republicans." And Donald Trump said to him, "Good. I need that." And we know they have a very broad understanding of establishment Republicans, and it includes people like Ben Sasse.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I've got to sneak in a quick break. Back in 45 seconds. Endgame, I'm going to show you those new polls out of the three blue-wall states that gave Donald Trump the presidency, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. What do they think of the president now?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

ANNOUNCER: End Game, brought to you by Boeing. Continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore, and inspire.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We have new polling out of three states whose blue-to-red switch on Election Day gave Donald Trump the White House. Our NBC News-Marist poll found that only 34% of registered voters in Wisconsin approve of the president's job so far, while just 35% in Pennsylvania, 36% in Michigan.

All three states voted in the high 40s for Mr. Trump. And then look at this one. A huge majority in all three states, by more than a two-to-one margin, say Donald Trump's conduct as president makes them feel embarrassed rather than proud. Look at those numbers, 64, 63, 64, that's a lot of Trump voters in there. Julius, I want to give you the first shot out of here and ask you specifically about the Bannon exit. Is that add to your concern that this presidency is over, as Bannon told the Weekly Standard?

JULIUS KREIN:

I've actually always been fairly critical of Steve Bannon, for the reasons I mentioned. That even though he was directionally correct on some of the policies, he had no idea how to do it and he only made it worse. And so I think he should have been gone long ago. And the problem is, now it's too late.

CHUCK TODD:

Where does this White House go? I just don't know where this White House heads next.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Well, I don't know that anybody does. I'm not sure that anybody--

DONNA EDWARDS:

They don't.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--inside the White House knows where it goes. You know, with Bannon out, General Kelly can organize things and direct the flow of people into and out of the Oval Office. But he can't control Donald Trump's cell phone. You know, who he calls, what he tweets. And he can't control the president's instincts.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, what happens Tuesday in Phoenix if he pardons Arpaio at a rally in Phoenix?

PEGGY NOONAN:

I don't know.

DONNA EDWARDS:

I mean, look, I do think, you know, he is well on his way to clarifying the 48% of Americans who won't vote for him again or won't vote for Republicans. The question for Democrats is whether we can get to 50 plus one. And I think we still have some work to do.

CHUCK TODD:

I think that's true. Alright, guys, I have to pause it here. That's all we have for today. This is one week I wish we had another hour. Thanks for watching. If it's Monday, enjoy the eclipse safely. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

You can see more End Game in Post Game, on the MTP Facebook page.

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