Feedback
Meet the Press

Meet the Press - January 14, 2018

NBC News - Meet the Press

“01.14.18.”

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, race and the president. At issue, President Trump's comments disparaging immigrants from Haiti and Africa. Democrats were quick to condemn.

SEN. DICK DURBIN

That's when he used those vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from "(BLEEP) holes."

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY:

It was racist, it was inappropriate, it was crude and loathsome.

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

It must be in his D.N.A.

CHUCK TODD:

Republican reaction ranged from, "We don't remember him saying that," to disappointment.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Very unfortunate. Unhelpful.

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

He should take them back. I disagree with them completely.

CHUCK TODD:

Today.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY:

I speak a little salty behind closed doors at times as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Was this just salty language? Or did the president just reveal his true feelings? I'll ask Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. Plus, civil rights leader Andrew Young has offered olive branches to President Trump in the past, what about now? Ambassador Young joins us this morning.

And war games. Why did Hawaiians get a message that a ballistic missile threat was inbound? It wasn't a drill. It was a mistake. The dangers of instant communication in the nuclear age. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, David Brody host of Faith Nation on the Christian Broadcasting Network, and MSNBC political analyst, Elise Jordan. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history, this is Meet the Press, with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. A week that began with President Trump feeling he needed to prove he was mentally fit to handle his job, ended with him facing charges that he is a racist. Just asking that question, is the president of the United States of America a racist? It's deeply uncomfortable.

But it's an issue that's now being openly discussed. A measure of just how widespread the reaction has been to his "S-hole" comments about African countries can be seen in newspaper and editorial headlines from around the country this weekend. And let's be clear. The issue is not whether President Trump used salty language. Most presidents do. The issue is the sentiment behind that language, including that Norway comment. But this week's vulgar comments have left the president forced to hear, if not address, a very uncomfortable question.

REPORTER:

Mr. President, are you a racist?

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump ignoring questions at a M.L.K. Day event on Friday after railing against African immigrants from "S-hole" countries at a closed-door immigration meeting suggesting that the U.S. should accept more people from places like Norway.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

That's when he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from (BEEP) holes.

CHUCK TODD:

The president took to Twitter with a vague, partial denial saying his comments at the meeting were, quote, "tough, but this was not the language used." But a source close to the president told NBC News quote, "He frequently uses that kind of language." The New York Times reported last month that in June, the president told advisors that immigrants from Haiti "all have AIDS." And said that once they had seen the United States, Nigerian immigrants would "never go back to their huts." Those comments in private should not be a surprise, given what the president has said in public.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Why aren't we letting people in from Europe? I have many friends, many, many friends, and nobody wants to talk this, nobody wants to say it.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump has a history of racially-charged episodes that dates back more than four decades. In 1973, the Justice Department sued Mr. Trump and his father for discriminating against African-American applicants for rental units. Mr. Trump reentered national politics by leading the so-called birther movement.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

He gave a birth certificate. Whether or not that was a real certificate, because a lot of people question it, I certainly question it.

CHUCK TODD:

He launched his presidential campaign on the idea that immigrants from Mexico were rapists.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

CHUCK TODD:

And insisted that those who resisted white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were equally to blame.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

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

CHUCK TODD:

On Friday, the reaction from Republicans was muted, with most Republican leaders declining to comment. Two Republican senators in the meeting put out a statement saying, "They do not recall the president saying these comments specifically." Another, Senator Lindsey Graham, indirectly confirmed them, making it clear in a statement that following comments by the president, "I said my piece directly to him." And some Republicans did condemn the comments outright.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Totally inappropriate. He should apologize.

REP. PAUL RYAN

First thing that came to my mind was, "Very unfortunate, unhelpful."

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON:

That is not the kind of statement the leader of the free world ought to make and he ought to be ashamed of himself.

CHUCK TODD:

But Senate candidates in Arizona and Ohio who are nervous about Mr. Trump's base in the primary defended the president.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY:

I speak a little salty behind closed doors at times as well. And so I'm not going to throw the first stone on using any language.

REP. JIM RENACCI:

I've said all along, the president many times says what people are thinking.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now from Bowling Green, Kentucky is Republican Senator Rand Paul. Senator Paul, welcome back to “Meet the Press,” sir.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, during the campaign, you lamented the fact that when you got into the race, you were doing things like speaking at Howard, trying to show - expand the tent of the Republican Party. And try to beat back this stereotype about the Republican Party. And you lamented, at the time, the language candidate Trump has used. As president when he’s gone down these roads, you’ve actually pulled back and you've not gone after him for specific comments. You've hit him on policy, but not comments. Where are you on this?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

You know, I don't think the comments were constructive at all. But I also think that to be fair, we shouldn't draw conclusions that he didn't intend. I know personally about his feelings towards Haiti and towards Central America because when I was not a candidate for president and he wasn't a candidate for president, I went down there on a medical mission trip.

I did about 200 cataract surgeries with a group of surgeons in Haiti and the same in Central America. And when we asked Donald J. Trump as a private citizen to support those trips, he was a large financial backer of both medical mission trips. So I think it's unfair to sort of draw conclusions from a remark that I think wasn’t constructive, is the least we can say.

And I think it's unfair then to sort of all of a sudden paint him, "Oh well, he's a racist," when I know, for a fact, that he cares very deeply about the people in Haiti because he helped finance a trip where we were able to get vision back for 200 people in Haiti.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess, though, are you more disturbed though by the comment? It's less about the vulgarity and more that he seemed to say, "Why can't we have immigrants from Norway as opposed from African countries?" Look, I'll tell you this, many non-white Americans hear, "Oh, so he wants white people, not black people."

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Right. But I think people jumped a little bit to a conclusion. Let's take the whole scenario and put different words in there and let's say, "We'd rather have people from economically-prosperous countries than economically-deprived countries." Or, "We realize that there are more problems in economically-deprived countries, therefore there's a bigger impetus for them to want to come." Then it wouldn't have been so controversial.

There still might have been some controversy, but it wouldn't have been so much. What I can say is, is that if you do a poll, and one of the worldwide polling companies did this, and they asked people in 50 countries, "Would you like to come to America," it's about 700 million would come next year. We would double our population.

So practically, we're a great place, and practically, we do have to eliminate. And if you look at where they'd rather come from, if you live in a very, very poor, economically-distressed country, you're more likely to want to come than if you live in England or Norway.

CHUCK TODD:

That's the story of the United States.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

And so when he says that, it confuses--

CHUCK TODD:

That's the story of the United States, right?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

But he confuses-- say again?

CHUCK TODD:

That's the story of our country.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

It is the story of our country. But what I'm saying is, you can see why there are more people wanting to come from economically-distressed areas, and they can't all come. So it gets into the valid, legitimate debate over immigration as to how do we choose. Do we have a diversity lottery and take people from everywhere, do we base it more on merit?

So there are a lot of questions that this ultimately intersects with policy. And the only thing I regret from all of this, other than I think some people in the media have gone completely bonkers with, you know, just ad hominem on the president, but what I regret is I do want to see an immigration compromise. And you can't have an immigration compromise if everybody's out there calling the president a racist. They're actually destroying the setting. And he's a little bit of it, but both sides now are destroying the setting in which anything meaningful can happen on immigration.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's where I want to segue. You said the word "merit." The president, this morning in a tweet, said, "I, as president, want people coming into our country who are going to help us become strong and great again. People coming in through a system based on merit, no more lotteries." But define merit. And I sit there, is merit political asylum? Is merit running away from poverty? What is merit? Because that is a "eye of the beholder" word, sir.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think so. But I think a lot of it is intent to work and people who want to work. And there are jobs of all different knowledge and skill levels. So, for example, if you're a software engineer and you've got a PhD and you've gone to one of our universities, those are the kind of people who say, "Oh my goodness, let's staple a green card to their diploma." Sure, those are easy.

But you know, we also need people to pick tomatoes and who will work in the agricultural sector. And there's merit to that also. If you come here and you're not going to work, you have no merit. So really, what I would do is I would combine not only being selective, but I would have a very significant work and sponsorship.

In the old days, maybe 100 years ago, like when my wife's grandmother came here, you had to work. If you didn't work, you were in fear of being sent home. There needs to be a little bit of that tough love. So we select out for people who have strong work ethic. And I would say, by the way, most immigrants who do come here have maybe better work ethic than even some of those who are already here.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's actually usually been the case when it comes to first-generation immigrants. But let me ask you something, though. You seemed to say that Democrats have to stop calling the president names. Doesn't the president, though, owe an apology for some of this? Because, you know, look, Mia Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, she wants an apology. And he hasn't issued one.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Yeah, but I'll tell you, there are two different standards here. In 2013, Lindsey Graham said the exact same thing the president did, but he used the hell-hole. "We can't have everybody coming from every hell-hole on the planet here." And now everybody thinks Lindsey Graham's a great statesman because he's put out this thing about American ideals, and stuff, which was a good statement, but he said almost the identical thing to the president in 2013. So I think we have a selective remembering and we've decided that, and people have, I mean, you watch the cable news networks, they've decided--

CHUCK TODD:

But Senator, hasn't the president earned this skepticism on his own? I mean, he's the one tweeting these remarks.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

He has often not helped his case. And I think if he were to further explain or try to explain, and maybe not use such coarse language, it wouldn't be this way. If we were to have a debate over whether or not we can have an open border with every economically-deprived country, that is a valid debate.

And people are driven here by poverty. But we can't have an open border with everyone who wants to come. We end up having to have rules on our border. And we have to be somewhat selective on who comes. So I think there was a valid argument in there. But it got sort of queen saltiness coming out, and then I think people have misinterpreted it that he's a racist. But I can tell you that when I went to Haiti and was doing a medical mission trip, he was very concerned about those in Haiti and wanted to help them to restore their vision.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you where you are on the various compromises that are out there. I'll put up a quick graphic. There's a difference between the compromised bill in the Senate, Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin were the two people presenting this compromise there. That's on the left. Additional money for border security, citizenship for dreamers, dreamers' parents would be protected, but no citizenship. Diversity lottery ended, but those slots reallocated. Can you support something like that? Or do you think that's too open borders for your taste?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I can support a compromise. And in fact, I've been offering to the Democrats a compromise for about six months, that they've turned their head and sniffed at and said, "Oh no, we don't have to give up anything, we're just going to get what we want." My compromise all along was, those who are here, the kids that came here or their parents brought them here illegally, we could internally immigrate them, but just count them against the normal totals.

So, like, next year a million people will come. And if you had 200,000 dreamer kids, have a million minus 200,000 come next year, and we count the 200,000 as part of the million that would have come anyway. That way your immigration totals aren't going up, they're staying the same and you're internally immigrating people who are already here. I think that's the compromise.

But the Democrats have sort of sniffed at that and said, "Oh no, we want just, you know, our DREAMER act without anything." But now I think the president has changed the dynamic. There is going to be, the DREAMERS are going to get naturalized, but there's going to have to be something for border security and it has to be real and it has to be significant. Because a lot of people, you know, going all the way back to '86, we doubt, when people said there was going to be border security, it's going to come later, it never comes.

CHUCK TODD:

That is an argument we have heard for a long time. Senator Paul, I appreciate that and it's going to be perfect timing, because I'll get somebody from the other side of the aisle to respond to that. So I appreciate you coming on and sharing your views, sir.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

And from the other side of that aisle, who's a part of that bipartisan deal I just asked Senator Paul about, it's Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who joins me now from Denver. Senator Bennet, welcome back to the show, sir.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

Thanks for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

So I'll start where we just ended, so that the viewer can feel it. You heard Senator Paul's response, avoiding taking a position on your compromise, offering up another version of a compromise, protecting the dreamers for straight-up, even more border security. I've heard a version of that before too, which is separate out all these other issues. You want to protect the DREAMERS, fine, let's do it, just for the wall and some version of the fence. What do you say to that?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

What I say is that he ought to look at the compromise that Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham and the rest of us have reached. Because it is a combination of border security, $1.6 billion that the president asked for for his wall, in addition to $1.1 billion for border security. And at the same time, we're saying that we should put the DREAMERS on a pathway to citizenship. There are other compromises as well. This was a hard-fought negotiation over four months. I think that it's a middle-of-the-road approach that I hope other colleagues will will will support.

CHUCK TODD:

But address his immediate concern. Because look, yes, you you allocate an additional billion dollars to what was asked for by the president. But it's really a one year, you know, his concern, and I've heard the from others is, "No, allocate that border-security money now so that they know it's there."

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

We will allocate it now. We are allocating it now in the bill. I was part of the Gang of Eight that negotiated the immigration bill in the Senate that got 68 votes, which if the House had ever put it on the floor, would have passed, and I think we wouldn't be in all this nonsense we're in right now. That bill, which was Democrats and Republicans together, the first provisions of that bill were border security. I think we put $40 billion of border security in that bill. So this idea that somehow Democrats aren't interested in border security is demonstrably false. And we should just stop talking about it and get on with it.

CHUCK TODD:

A lot of Democrats simply want to say, "You know what, don't try to compromise. This should be a clean DREAM Act, nothing else." Let me play a few clips on that.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

What I was glad to see is that we are moving forward on getting a clean DREAM Act.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS:

We need to pass a clean DREAM Act.

REP. KEITH ELLISON:

If you are a Democrat who doesn't like a clean DREAM Act, you gonna have some problems. And don't count on me to protect you. You're on your own with that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

That last comment was the vi-deputy chair of the Democratic Party, Senator, saying essentially, compromising on DACA with border security is somehow a negative litmus test inside the Democratic Party. What do you say to that?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

What I say is that, look, I'm for a clean DREAM Act. I've been one of the first co-sponsors of the DREAM Act. And as I said earlier, the Gang of Eight immigration bill that we passed earlier had a, had a great DREAM Act, but it also had border security. And I think it's a recognition that unfortunately, the Republicans have a majority in the House, the Republicans have a majority in the Senate, and we have a Republican president who doesn't seem to appreciate the contribution that immigrants make to this country. And I think that the agreement that Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin and the rest of us have reached is a principled compromise. I hope people will explore it. There should be more of that in Washington, not less, in my view.

CHUCK TODD:

A lot of Democrats have come to the conclusion that the president's a racist after these previous comments and they, and they point to a series of things he has said over decades, not just as president. Is that a fair conclusion?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

I was raised not to call people racist on the theory that it was hard for them to be rehabilitated once you said that. But there's no question what he said was racist. There's no question what he said was un-American and completely unmoored from the facts. He seems to have this impression that immigrants to the United States, like my mom and her parents who were Polish Jews who came here after the Holocaust, somehow, you know, come to the United States and just are lazy and, and the truth is exactly the opposite. You spend any time in neighborhoods across Colorado, what you find is immigrants here striving to make this country better and provide for their families and for the next generation. So I think he has no idea what he's talking about. And-and on the question of what's in his heart, do you have any idea-thought, Chuck, that he would've called into question Barack Obama's birth certificate if Barack Obama were white?

CHUCK TODD:

That's been, that’s been an open question on that debate for a long time. Let me ask you this about the view of working with President Trump in general. There are many Democrats, and I'm sure you hear from them that say, "Stop, you're enabling him when you work with him." What do you say to that?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

This is a trying time in the country. I could never have imagined that we would have elected Donald Trump or someone like Donald Trump president. And I still worry about what that says about where we are as a democratic republic. But having said that, we need to work for the benefit of this country, its place in the world for the next generation of Americans. And this immigration compromise is a very good example of that. Donald Trump delineated four issues that he thought had to be dealt with in this immigration bill: DACA, border security, what he calls chain migration, and diversity visas. Those four things are dealt with in our bill because it's a recognition that he was elected president of the United States. But we still have an obligation to do the right thing for the country and we'll continue to try to do that. I think that it's incumbent on members of Congress, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, to elevate the things that really make us special as a country, including our commitment to being a nation of immigrants, but also our commitment to the rule of law. And both of those things are at work in this compromise that we've made in the Senate around immigration.

CHUCK TODD:

You used some troubling words when you said, "These are trying times," and you worry we're not going to recover. I mean, that’s I don't want to say it's apocalyptic, that's a little too strong of a description, but that is, that’s pretty demoralizing and-and so I guess the question is, you're an elected official. What's your obligation to do something about this?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

Well, I think, I think every elected official, and frankly every American, has an obligation to do something about this. We are a nation of immigrants. We are committed to the rule of law. The founding fathers, when they set this country up knew they were setting up something that had never existed before in human history, which was a democratic republic. We would be self-governing. And they knew as a definitional matter that we would have disagreements. And they set up a bunch of very elegant mechanisms for us to resolve those disagreements. And it's now up to our generation to decide whether we're going to destroy those mechanisms, whether we're going to have unprincipled disagreements in Washington, that actually don't advance the interest of the American people or the interest of this republic or establish us as the example that we've set over generations, making that republic more democratic over time when we're in a world filled with sectarian violence, people can't get along with each other, whether we're going to set that example. America needs to be that example. So I'm not apocalyptic about it, but we have to take our obligations as citizens and as elected officials very seriously in this moment in our history, just as people have done it at very important inflection points all across the history of this country.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, before I let you go, is it worth shutting down the government if DACA, if a DACA compromise doesn't happen?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

I - I - I, Chuck, I hope it doesn't come to that. I think that politicians --

CHUCK TODD:

But it is worth it?

SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET:

in Washington--

CHUCK TODD:

But it is worth it? It is potentially worth it?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

It should not come to that. We should stop shutting this government down.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

And we should start doing the work the American people sent us to Washington to do. Chuck, we have not passed a real budget for the 10 years that I've been in the Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

I know. I know.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

We've had 30 continuing resolutions. It's a joke.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

And places like China and Iran and North Korea are not waiting for us to figure out this Potemkin politics that we're having.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

It's time for us to pull together as Americans, as the sons and daughters of immigrants, and do what our parents and grandparents did for us. That's what we need to do for our kids.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Bennet, appreciate it. I wish I could go further, but I'm running out of time. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your views, sir.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET:

Thanks, Chuck. Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Later in the broadcast, the ballistic missile warning in Hawaii yesterday. For something that was a mistake, why did so many people believe it felt so real? But up next, much more on President Trump's comments and this question, are there a lot of Americans who agree with what he said?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel. Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, and David Brody, host of Faith Nation on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Welcome. One of the reasons President Trump’s immigration comments landed with such force this week is because the president has a long history of making provocative statements on the subject of race. Here's just a little sample.

DONALD TRUMP:

That a well-educated black person, male or female, has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white person. Why doesn't he show his birth certificate? Why aren't we letting people in from Europe? A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. I don't know anything about David Duke, okay? You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. Look at my African American over here. This judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall. African Americans, Hispanics are living in hell because it's so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot.

APRIL RYAN:

Are you going to include the congressional black caucus and the congressional Hispanic caucus?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?

APRIL RYAN:

No, no, no. I'm just a reporter.

DONALD TRUMP:

Are they friends of yours? No, set up the meeting. Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired

CHUCK TODD:

Helene Cooper, some people would say I just did a montage of dog whistles from the president.

HELENE COOPER:

Yeah. I feel like you just played that to wind me up. Wow. This has been--I mean, I think this has been really sad in a lot of ways. I feel like we've crossed the point now as this country when you look at our image abroad, internationally, this country has always been seen as a nation of immigrants. And I'm one of them coming from Liberia, which I guess would qualify for one of those African countries that President Trump disparaged earlier last week. What I find really disturbing about this, but just take President Trump aside, because I think this is the sort of thing that we expect from him, but what I find really upsetting about this is that for so many years, I felt like such a proud American. I feel very much like this is my country. But I also feel--one of the reasons I've always felt proud is because this is a country where when my family left Liberia when I was 14 years old, we could have gone anywhere. But I would never have gotten to the point that I got in my life if we had gone somewhere other than the United States. I would never have become a New York Times reporter. It would've been a whole lot harder to do what I was able to do here if we had gone to Europe or somewhere like that. And I--that has always made me proud of this country. That this is a country that you can come to with nothing and you can make something of yourself. And I feel like that--we're starting to lose that. And I can't begin to describe just how upsetting that can be personally, but just how much damage that can do to the United States around the world and how other people look at us.

CHUCK TODD:

Elise, you at one time worked for Rand Paul, once and future presidential candidate. And this was a guy who was trying to symbolize his candidacy by showing up at Howard, by talking about criminal justice reform. He was trying to get rid of the stereotype of the big ten. Yet, Senator Rand Paul there was trying to give the president the benefit of the doubt still. Why is that?

ELISE JORDAN:

I think that Republicans are put in a terrible position right now of having hitched their wagon with Donald Trump. And then having to spend time cleaning up after his constant missteps. And in this case, just completely language you cannot justify. And it is just not fitting for an American president to go out into the world and represent our country talking this way about other nations that we need as allies. That just for practical security reasons, we need other--we shouldn't just unnecessarily antagonize an entire continent. And unfortunately, that's what Donald Trump was hell-bent on doing this week.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

You know, I’m looking at that clip, you could say that he had me at the birth certificate. I mean, how much evidence do we need? And I'm not, you know, one to use labels, but it is so upsetting to all of us who come from families of immigrants, particularly people of color, to children. And I was really struck by something, well, first of all, Paul Ryan, in the moment, saying it was, you know, unfortunate and unhelpful. And Rand Paul trying to make those excuses today. Republican leaders and others who refuse to call what it is by its name and speak to the ugliness, Philip Kennicott in The Washington Post yesterday wrote a very compelling analysis of this. And he confined what these Republicans and others, who did not walk out of the room at a dinner party if you hear an anti-Semitic comment, if you don't call it out, to what happened in Maryland when the University of Maryland hospital put a naked woman in a hospital gown and socks in 30° weather on the street close to midnight. Just patient dumping. But something is wrong with our culture. And it starts at the top. The leader of the free world, the leader of our country needs to show compassion and humanity. And that filters down at every level of society and it teaches our children and that's what really, really bothers me.

DAVID BRODY:

You know, the view within the base, not just the Trump base, but really more than Trump base, because this face it, if it was just the Trump base, he wouldn't be president of the United States today. So there were more than just the Trump base. Just because you're politically incorrect, and boy, is that all bold in a 16 font, doesn't mean you're racist. And I think there is a disconnect between what the media's saying in terms of “he's got to be a racist,” and the way he operates, born in 1946, a bit old school. And I know that scares folks. But old school and politically incorrect, you know, you put it through the Trump meter, if you will, trying to understand and dissect him, look, I've done 15 interviews with him since 2011. I think I have some standing to say a little bit about what he's about. But more importantly, his family. And not just his family, but people that are close to him that wouldn't necessarily be blood supporters of him, say, "This is not the Donald Trump that's being described in the media."

CHUCK TODD:

Then why doesn't he do something about it? Why doesn't he, himself, fix his own image? He is very media savvy. He seems to not want to correct this.

DAVID BRODY:

Right. There's a few things going on. First of all, when he's talking about these countries, okay, he is talking about economic conditions. Let me give you an example of that. For example, if Norway was in disastrous straits, for example, a bunch of white people in Norway, do you think he wouldn't say the same? He would say the exact same thing. Now a lot of people might say, "No, he wouldn't." But we know because he looks at it from an economic prism. That's his brain. "I can build it better. I can do it better. I see economic conditions and we've got to fix this out."

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Can I just say something quickly about politics? He has not tweeted or said anything that I know of about the disaster in California, the mudslides. This is a Democratic state, a blue--the bluest state that we have perhaps. Why does he not feel compassion and humanity the way he does for disasters in Texas?

CHUCK TODD:

Elise, you wanted to jump in on this.

ELISE JORDAN:

And I would just like to push back a little bit on that premise of he's discussing the economic conditions and that it isn't anything with racial implications. Certainly plenty of American presidents, both Democratic and Republican, you know, implemented the Marshall Plan, have reached out to other countries. They didn't go out of their way to alienate and antagonize them the way that Donald Trump has by using this kind of incendiary language that has become a culture of cruelty that far supersedes any kind of partisanship.

HELEN COOPER:

Not to mention that there are many, many, many countries that have far more diverse populations than Norway that are doing fantastically economically. He picked the whitest one that he could possibly find to make his--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, don't forget, it was just because he had just been with the prime minister of Norway. Go ahead and respond and then I better take a break.

DAVID BRODY:

I'm just telling you, in the heartland of this country, they look at these media headlines, and they see all of this, the clip, the montage that you just played, but what was not in the montage is in 1986, Donald Trump won the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award for diversity and tolerance. And oh, by the way, who was with him on that stage? Rosa Parks. So if we're going to go ahead and have a montage, we probably should include some of that. I'm not saying that defends what he did, but what I'm saying is is that that's why there's a lot of distrust in the media today.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, that's a good place to pause this conversation. You guys are coming back, I promise. When we come back on this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, I'm going to talk to one of those very prominent civil rights leaders in our history, Andrew Young, about President Trump's remarks, and the legacy of racism in the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. My next guest, Andrew Young, has been one of the leading voices in the civil rights movement for decades. He was the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the S.C.L.C., working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King. Later, he served as a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a congressman, and of course, a two-term mayor of Atlanta. When we last had Ambassador Young on Meet the Press, it was a week after white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, resulting in violence and the death of a counter-protester. At the time, Ambassador Young seemed to want to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt about what was in his heart, after the president said there were "very fine people" on both sides of that confrontation. So we were curious especially on Martin Luther King Junior weekend about Ambassador Young's reactions to the president's comments this week. Ambassador, welcome back to Meet the Press.

AMBASSADOR ANDREW YOUNG:Thank you very much.

CHUCK TODD: You know, some of your fellow travelers in the civil rights movement, John Lewis, Jessie Jackson, and of course, Martin Luther King's son, have been pretty tough on the president. They said in response, "He speaks like one who knows something about being a racist. He speaks like a racist." Martin Luther King Junior III, "Yesterday caused him to lose any level of credibility." All of them stop short of calling the president a racist. Where are you, sir?

AMBASSADOR ANDREW YOUNG: Well, I'm, I’m of the opinion that we were born in a very complex, multicultural situation. I prefer to use the term ethnocentrism. Because it goes way back and it doesn't help to put the label on any single person. Dr. King said we were born in an unjust world. And none of us can take any virtue about being born black, white, liberal, or conservative. We have a difficult situation and he proved -- it was proven to me when he came out of the meeting with Senator Goldberg in 19--at the U.N. with -- on Vietnam and he refused to give any comment. And they asked him, "Well, what do you think of China?" And he said, "Well, 800 million people are not going to disappear because we refuse to admit their existence." He was attacked by every single newspaper from Washington to California, from Chicago down to Miami. That was the climate of the time. And it was absolutely stupid. One of the things he said, not related to that, but which was quoted but the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico last night at the King dinner was that Martin Luther King said that nothing is more dangerous in all the world than serious ignorance, sincere ignorance and enthusiastic stupidity.

CHUCK TODD: Yeah.

AMBASSADOR ANDREW YOUNG: And I think that that's not to be applied to any one person. That that could be applied to both parties. It could be applied to just about every member of the House of Representatives, that we don't really grasp the complexity of the times that we're in. And we're trying to simplify it and personalize it. And that will not work.

CHUCK TODD: You know, it's interesting, Martin Luther King's nephew, who stood next to the president when he signed the proclamation on Friday, Isaac Farris, afterwards as he was walking out of the White House, he was asked to respond to this issue, is the president a racist. And he said this: "I think President Trump is racially ignorant and racially uninformed. But I don't think he is a racist in the traditional sense." So it was basically backing up what you were saying. But let me ask you this. How do you educate a 71-year-old man, and Donald Trump, on the issue of race?

AMBASSADOR ANDREW YOUNG: Well, very easy. I think he's being educated. And it's not a matter of educating Donald Trump. It's a matter of educating our entire society. Getting President Trump to be a saint is not going to change the employment situation, it's not going to change the global economy, it's not going to deal with the tensions between North Korea and the United States. This, this is a difficult world. And it doesn't help to label people. You know, you don't ca--you don’t help someone who has an alcohol problem by constantly calling him a drunk. You have to deal with the sickness.

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you this final question then. Is the president redeemable?

AMBASSADOR ANDREW YOUNG: Let me tell you something. I'm a Christian. And all men's sin fall short of the glory of God, and women do too. And if we were not redeemable, we would not be committed to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ as much as we are. We are committed because we are sinners that know we cannot make it on our own. And I think he's kinda got to realize that too.

CHUCK TODD: I think that's a pretty good way to end this. Ambassador Young, I always learn something when speaking with you and I appreciate you coming on and sharing your views here on Meet the Press, sir.

AMBASSADOR ANDREW YOUNG: Well, god bless you.

CHUCK TODD: Thank you, sir. When we come back, tangled up in blue, why more Republican retirements this week have Democrats optimistic that a blue wave may carry them to control Congress in November.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

We're back, data download time. We're only two weeks into the year, believe it or not. Yet all eyes are already on the midterm elections this November. Democrats need just 24 seats to take back control of the house, and boy, are they getting closer to achieving that goal. Why? Because a whopping 30 Republican House members have already decided to leave Congress.

Eighteen are retiring outright while the other 12 have decided to run for a higher office, the old up-or-out move. And things already look good for Democrats to pick up at least some of these open seats. Why? Well, Hillary Clinton won five of these districts in 2016 and came within single digits in another five. These are places that are already trending Democratic. But good feelings about the incumbent likely caused many to split their tickets in the last election. They may vote differently with no incumbent in the race. Then there's the demographic makeup of some of these districts. They show good signs for Democrats as well in these open seats. For one, many of these open seats are for more racially diverse districts. Twelve of the retirement districts are above the national average for their minority population, 38.7%. Many of these places have growing Latino communities. A group Republicans already struggle with, more so now with this president. Also, 11 districts have populations where more than 30% of those are 25 or older have a bachelor's degree, higher than the national average. Better educated voters, like these, have also been trending blue. And then finally, there's simply the geography. Fifteen of these 30 districts for the retiring Republicans are either in urban or suburban America. That's one more good sign for Democrats who already are dominating the urban areas and are seeing big gains in suburban America. As NPR's Jessica Taylor noted, the last time we saw close to this many retirements in a midterm year was 1994, when 28 Democrats decided to retire and the G.O.P. took control of the House by a big margin. So so far, we've had 30 announced retirements, three just this week. And we're not even out of January. Don't be surprised if we hear of several more before the end of the month, let alone the end of the quarter. We'll be back in a moment with endgame and more on just how big the blue wave could turn out to be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with endgame. And before I get to campaign politics, I've got to remind ourselves, it's January 14th. It's only been 14 days, okay? It's only been two weeks of this new year. David Graham in The Atlantic wrote on Friday the following: "Here's the paradox. Everyone from the president to his staff to the Congress to the pundits to the people knows that the current situation is a disaster. And yet, there is no apparent way to end the situation. That means until at least the end of 2020, the situation will remain much as it is, with a president widely acknowledged to be dysfunctional, and no way to change that. There is no exit." I found it fascinating, Andrea, because it just sort of, like, no matter what's your view of this president, you want him to succeed, you want him to fail, yet everybody feels the same. Stuck.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Senator Bennet actually acknowledging that, that you have to work with he is the president that we have. Twenty-fifth Amendment is a fiction because it requires a two-thirds vote of this cabinet. Imagine this cabinet--

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, that was done for incapacitation purposes. Not for something else, arguably.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And to be quickly remedied if--

CHUCK TODD:

That’s right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Necessary by them taking over. So that is not going to happen. Impeachment, unlikely, and would tear the country apart again and certainly unlikely with this House. So not to expect that. So what are the other options? There are no other realistic options. This is the situation we are in. And I kind of like what Andy Young said about you don't keep telling an alcohol you're a drunk. You work with it. And I guess that is the way they’re going to have to work to avoid a government shutdown and come up with some kind of compromise.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, David Brody, there is a really foul, every once in a while, every two years, it's called midterm elections. And it looks like many Americans may express their opinion then.

DAVID BRODY:

Uh-huh. Yeah, for sure. And we're going to find out those suburban women that we hear so much about. I will say the White House, look, they can trot out the childcare tax credit, they're looking at paid family leave as well. And here's my point. What they need to do from a communication standpoint is really push that forward and make sure that's a common theme going into 2018. Because obviously, it is going to be challenging. And I think the question is, how much water can be in the boat before the boat capsizes? And I think that's going to be crucial.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Elise, I mean, and two weeks in, it feels like we're losing a member of Congress on the Republican side about every couple of days. Let me just put up here, past House waves, the last three times Congress changed hands. In '94, Republicans needed 41, they got 52. In '06, Democrats needed 16, they got 30. In 2010, Republicans needed 40, they got 63. The point is, when a wave happens, it's always even much bigger than what's necessary. And that's what this smells like.

ELISE JORDAN:

And the common strain of all of those years that the opposition party, that they were polling double digit with Independents. That the incumbent wasn't popular by double digits. And you look at that's what is happening right now in Donald Trump being between 11% and 16%. So Democrats are on track with those prior years.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

HELENE COOPER:

What I find interesting is just wondering how President Trump behaves if he does end up with a Democratic House or a Democratic House and Senate. And do we see a different President Trump? Do we see a President Trump who's not anywhere near as the conservative right-wing dream that he's been.

CHUCK TODD:

Didn't we get it this week? I mean, in a weird way, the schizophrenia of Trump on immigration. I mean, where one day it's a bill of love, the next day it's like, "Now, no DACA. Democrats don't want DACA." That's what he's tweeting this morning.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

What seems so surprising is that he immediately after, as he pointed out, getting rave reviews for that stagy thing in the White House, immediately responds to the base, when Ann Coulter and others go after him. So he seems to be more worried about protecting that 30-something, whatever 38% base is than anything else. And that really is not a reelection strategy.

DAVID BRODY:

Well, I would just say, yeah, speaking of that 38% base, David Graham used the word dysfunctional. Look, in that base world, and an evangelical world for sure, the word is functional. It's not dysfunctional. And that's the disconnect. And that's what people didn't really pick up on in 2016. And you just wonder if that same narrative isn't continuing.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Helene, your beat is the Pentagon. Andrea, your beat is the national security here at NBC. Hawaiians were woken up in the morning to this alarming thing. And it turned out to be the mistake of somebody in Hawaii State Emergency Management. But there are a lot, thousands of people who took it very seriously, and understandably so. But boy, this is a wakeup call to when we live in the nuclear age, the speed of communications and the atmosphere.

HELENE COOPER:

It really is. It was so frightening. Many of us knew pretty early on that this was not actually a ballistic missile.

CHUCK TODD:

But not Hawaiians.

HELENE COOPER:

But not the Hawaiians, not Hawaiians. And in the climate that we're in right now, given the sort of the rhetoric, even though it's calmed down considerably with these talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, it still was a really, really scary thing. And that's the sort of thing that you just can't get wrong. But it's very easy to get wrong.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And in terms of instantaneous communications, well, the one thing that you really worry about, and I got the call instantly and was calling intelligence officials and getting the all clear, very, very quickly. But what you don't know is what kind of response. Is there going to be a military response if someone in the chain of command believes there's an error or believes that there is a rogue in the rogue regime. There is some element not wanting these talks. You really can't absolutely be sure unless you have clear intelligence, clear lines of communication. Congress is going to hold hearings, the F.C.C. is going to do an examination. But we really have to upgrade our responses because this is the first real misfire on a system that was put in in 2012 to have cell phone notifications. And that's what made the difference here.

ELISE JORDAN:

But when you think of the chain reaction that that could've sparked.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

That's exactly right.

ELISE JORDAN:

I mean, where the United States thinks that they're under attack and the United States retaliates and you think about people in Seoul and people in Japan and people in South Korea. At that point, you could be at DEFCON whatever in seconds.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, especially because we have a president who we know tweets based on what's on Fox and Friends sometimes. And the timing of it, that has been a concern to some, Elise.

ELISE JORDAN:

Well, and this is a all comes back to Twitter. And it comes back to can this president use his Twitter feed in a responsible manner. And this past week, it didn't even seem that way because he was your pretty all over the place. And then the first day of the new year, the first official day of business, he's taunting Kim Jong-un. So White House officials are desperate for him to stop personalizing his spat with Kim Jong-un to make it about negotiations and not about his personal beef.

CHUCK TODD:

Well.

DAVID BRODY:

Good luck with that.

CHUCK TODD:

Maybe a little less executive time might be in the (UNINTEL). Anyway, thank you very much and thank all of you for watching us as well. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.