Meet the Press - June 7, 2020

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday: Turning point.

PROTESTERS:

We shall overcome.

CHUCK TODD:

Nationwide protests --

PROTESTERS:

No justice, no peace.

CHUCK TODD:

-- sparked by the police killing of George Floyd --

PROTESTER:

Nothing has changed. What are we supposed to do? Nothing has changed?

CHUCK TODD:

-- inspire a national recognition of inequality and police brutality against African Americans.

PROTESTER:

I won't be satisfied until I can wake up and have kids and have them not fear their lives just for being black.

AL SHARPTON:

It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say get your knee off our necks.

CHUCK TODD:

Why this time feels different. My guests this morning: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, and the founding director of the African American Museum, Lonnie Bunch. Plus, military pushback. After some protests get violent, President Trump urges domination of the streets --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and peaceful protesters near the White House are routed with flash grenades and chemical agents -- to clear the way for a photo opportunity, prompting criticism from military commanders and his own defense secretary.

SECY. MARK ESPER:

The option to use active duty military forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis. Plus, our new NBC News - Wall Street Journal poll on the protests, the pandemic and the presidential race.

Joining me for insight and analysis are: Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, NBC News white house correspondent Kristen Welker, and senior editor of The Dispatch, David French. 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. We have reached at least one inflection point in America, perhaps two. The killing of George Floyd has set off nearly two weeks of mostly peaceful protests in scores of cities across the country and the world, some of the largest of them yesterday -- awakening white America to the reality of police brutality and uniting a multi-racial coalition to say: enough. At the same time, the clearing of protesters near the White House to make way for a presidential photo opportunity has succeeded in uniting current and former military leaders to denounce the use of force against peaceful assembly and to say: enough. From the brutal police killing to the marches to the 110,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus to the tens of millions now unemployed, there is a growing sense that things are spinning beyond our grasp in this country. This is the scene here in Washington, where the White House has become a fortress, behind new fencing and concrete barriers. In fact, in our latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll fully 80 percent of all registered voters tell us that the country is out of control. Just 15 percent believe things are under control. Still, President Trump's approval rating stands pretty much where it's been for the last two years: 45 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove. And what does this all mean for November? It remains a very stable election. Joe Biden's lead over President Trump is a very durable 7 points, 49 to 42. And it’s exactly where things stood two months ago. And now, both candidates are challenged with facing a moment when an increasingly vocal public is demanding change and declaring that black lives matter.

MAYOR ELLA JONES:

It may not be in my lifetime. But it may be in these young people’s lifetime, that racism and injustice will be wiped out.

CHUCK TODD:

For nearly two weeks, thousands of protesters across the country and around the world have captured a shift in public attitudes on race and policing.

PROTESTOR:

Our ancestors built this ground and we're all standing on, we built this country and we feel like we deserve to be here

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:

There is a change in mindset that's taking place, a greater recognition that we can do better.

CHUCK TODD:

In our poll, majorities of African Americans, Hispanics and whites all say they are more concerned about the actions of the police in the George Floyd killing than about some protests which have turned violent. Floyd remembered on Saturday at a memorial service in North Carolina, where he was born. And Breonna Taylor - at a vigil in Louisville, Kentucky. Use of force policies are being reexamined across the country with new moments of violence caught on camera this week. In Buffalo, New York -- a 75 year old man pushed back by police on Thursday -- his head hitting the ground. In New York City, a police officer caught on camera pushing a woman to the ground -- another, pulling down a man's mask and pepper spraying him in the face. In Philadelphia, a police staff inspector facing aggravated assault charges after hitting a Temple University student with a baton during a confrontation.

CHUCK TODD:

At the same time - in other cases - protestors have attacked police with rocks and bottles. The president has embraced the idea of military units in the streets of the capital.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

You have to dominate the streets, you can’t let what’s happening happen. It’s called dominate the streets.

PROTESTER:

We are out here peacefully protesting. But they're armed like they're going to war.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump is hoping to run as a law and order candidate again --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I am your president of law and order

CHUCK TODD:

-- and is lamenting the chaos he presides over. On Monday - the government used physical force - dispersing peaceful protesters apparently with tear gas and flash grenades, clearing the way for the president's photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church.

REPORTER:

"Is that your Bible?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

It's a Bible.

CHUCK TODD:

Prompting criticism from his former Defense Secretary James Mattis. "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people -- does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us."

SEN. MITT ROMNEY:

General Mattis’ letter was stunning and powerful.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I respect General Mattis. He has every right to express his opinion. That’s his opinion.

CHUCK TODD:

And these comments from former White House chief of staff John Kelly:

JOHN KELLY:

I think we should look at people who are running for office and put them through a filter - what is their character like? What are their ethics? Are they willing -- if they’re elected to represent all their constituents, not just the base?

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Senator Booker, welcome back to Meet the Press. You've called this a “moral moment” for this country. But these protests are also trying to spur more than just awareness. They're trying to spur a policy change. What are you more confident in, that we're meeting a moral moment, or that we’ll actually lead to changes in our policies?

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

Well, they're the same. In fact, when I look at everything from the suffrage movement, to the labor movement in this country, it's always been the people in the streets, often young people, who have demanded and forced a change in consciousness that made policy changes possible. I've been working all week with Kamala Harris and allies in the House to get real policies proposed. And we'll be releasing a bill tomorrow for things that should've been done in this country a long time ago -- banning certain police practices, creating deeper accountability. And so I'm just grateful to see this kind of nonviolent protest outpouring in the streets because they are leading. They're putting the pressure. They're creating a possibility that our policies can reflect the spirit of this country, that we can be, in the law, a more beloved nation.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you have a unique set of experiences. You've been a mayor, you're a federal office holder in the Senate. Where should most of this change be enacted, on the local level or on the federal level?

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

It's got to be enacted on every level. We are a society where we are culpable. We have created a nation distinct from any other on the planet Earth. We incarcerate the plurality of the human beings incarcerated. One out of every three women on the planet Earth that are incarcerated are here in America. We've taken so much of our treasure -- between the time I was in law school to the time I was mayor, we were building a new prison or jail every ten days. And explicitly and complicitly, we all have made a decision that we are going to treat mental illness with prison, jail and police.; addiction with prison, jail and police; poverty with prison, jail and police; and overwhelmingly, African Americans with prison, jail and police. We now in America have more African American men under criminal supervision than all the slaves, men that were slaves in 1850. This is astonishing. This is unacceptable. We need to be more courageous in our compassion for one another, more, more ambitious in our imagination, that we can create a society that's not so over-policed, or where police -- we don't tolerate certain tactics that have had a generation in fear. You said at the beginning of this that 80+ percent of Americans think this country's out of control. Well, for black people in this country, we've thought this country is out of control in the way it polices our communities and individuals for a very long time. And this awakening is so important to create real, substantive change, not just lip service from politicians.

CHUCK TODD:

Tell us how, tell me how your thinking has changed. Being a mayor, at one point you fought -- you didn’t want the federal government to -- you fought some of the oversight over the Newark Police Department at the time. In different ways, you've embraced it since. What have you learned over time about this issue?

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

Well, it shows the insidiousness of institutional racism. We are a majority black city in Newark. We had a majority black city council, black mayor, black police chief. And we knew we inherited a police department with decades of challenges. And so we went to work when I got into office to reform our police department. But we didn't have the data. We didn't have the transparency. And it took the federal government and their accountability and their systems of data analysis to show that we were not moving as fast as we should. And so we took on a very ambitious plan, that stood from everything, from changing our municipal court system with drug courts and veterans courts and youth courts, to pulling in experts from John Jay College to say, "You don't have to arrest people to create safer neighborhoods,” that there are other ways to go. And I partnered with the ACLU before I left to set a national standard, collection -- data collection practices. So I learned the hard way that this is not a system that is always explicitly done by overt racism. This is a system that's really baked, that we all have to take responsibility for and get practices that, like you're going to see in the bill we're going to release, that just give greater transparency and greater accountability for those who are doing policing.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about defunding the police. Last night in Washington, D.C. on 16th Street right next to the Black Lives Matter letters, the phrase "defund the police" was painted down there. There is a lot of passion around that issue. And when you hear that -- the phrase may mean different things to different people -- but when you hear that, what's your reaction?

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

Well, I understand clearly the sentiment and the substance behind the slogan. And so while it's not a slogan I'll use, if people just dismiss it and don't get deeper into the substance. As I said earlier, it is not a mark of a beloved community to prey upon the most vulnerable in your society. We are using police. And, as a guy who ran police departments, I would have exhausted police officers saying, "Why are we using police to deal with the fragility or vulnerability of our society?" There's so much money going into our police departments that it's a more expensive way to deal with it. I remember being surprised in Seattle with a housing group called Plymouth Housing, where they showed me a data analysis where they looked at what was more expensive for society, providing supportive housing for Americans with mental illness that were homeless, or leaving them on the streets. And they found out they were able to save Seattle millions of dollars by giving people supportive housing because homeless people left on the streets with mental illnesses end up in hospital emergency rooms and jails. And so this is the outrage that I think people on the streets are feeling and that I share, is that we are over-policed as a society, that we are investing in police, which is not solving problems, but making them worse, when we should be, in a more compassionate country, in a more loving country -- and I know love is at the core of our ideals, but it needs to be made manifest in our policies -- we would actually spend less money. We would elevate human dignity and human potential. And we would set a standard on the planet Earth for how we treat those who are vulnerable, as opposed to what we're seeing right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, when you were running for president, you were quite critical of former Vice President Joe Biden, and you questioned whether, you questioned whether his past, whether he had the credibility, given his record on some of these issues, to be a reformer on this. Where are you now?

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

Well, I fully put my faith in Joe Biden to be the person who could preside over this transformative change. And I'm going to tell you right now, the heroes for me, as I look at great presidents past, the time of LBJ, for example, an extraordinary, capable leader, like Joe Biden. But the real heroes in that generation were the people who were sick and tired of being sick and tired. And if there are protesters listening to this show, I just pray, and I want to say to them with all sincerity, stay on the streets in your nonviolent protests. Stay demanding change. And I think that Joe Biden's election can do that. And look, Donald Trump can't center himself in this. This is such a bigger moment than him. This is not a referendum on one person in one office. This is a referendum on who we are as Americans and who we're going to be to each other. This is a moral moment. Will we become a more loving and compassionate society, not with our rhetoric, but with our laws and our rules and how we treat the most vulnerable? And so this is that moment that I think Joe Biden can be the president for, but the responsibility is not on any individual. It's on all of us.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. Senator Booker, Democrat from New Jersey, I have to leave it there. Really appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective with us this morning. Thank you, sir.

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump's threats to use the military to break up protests and the actual use of force to clear peaceful protesters near the White House has led to a torrent of criticism from former military leaders including multiple defense secretaries, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, yes, NATO commanders. Among those voices of protesters, retired Admiral James Stavridis, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. And he joins me now. Admiral, welcome to Meet the Press. Why did you feel so compelled to speak out and why do you think so many of your fellow four stars, if you will, felt the need to speak out this week?

ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS:

At the end of the day, Chuck, everybody in the military swears an oath every time they are promoted in rank. I did it as a mid-shipment at the Naval Academy and again and again up to four-star admiral. That oath is to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This is a moment when I think many of us watched the use of active duty military to clear peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Square. And it rang echoes of what the founders feared more than anything, which was the use of armed active duty military against citizens. And they built safeguards in, including the first amendment. So I think spectrum that kind of runs from reticent, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, who were part of this administration, to people like me kind of in the center, to people like General John Allen and Admiral Bill McRaven who've been quite critical, that whole spectrum jumped and felt that shock of watching active duty troops clear peaceful protesters. Wrong answer.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious, you know, it struck me today, being NATO Supreme Allied Commander, you didn't live in the United States. You lived overseas. Being an American diplomat overseas that, say, in Hungary, say, in China, say, in Brazil, you get where I'm going here, are you concerned about our loss of international moral authority?

ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS:

I am, Chuck. And often -- before I was NATO commander I spent four years, four stars, in charge of all military south of the United States. It's called U.S. Southern Command. So I spent a lot of time with the governments and the militarize of Latin America and the Caribbean who, let's face it, have a long history of dictatorships and repression. They've come a long way since the '60s and '70s. But I spent a lot of time talking to those leaders, making sure that they continued on that path. I never thought I would be criticizing my own government in that regard. It's a shocking turn. And to your point, yes, it reduces our moral influence and our leadership role in the world. We ought to worry about that deeply.

CHUCK TODD:

If you're Secretary Esper or General Milley who clearly, you know, they have tried to draw a line of distance now in what happened last Monday night. At the end of the day, though, they have to follow a commander in chief's order. So if he does want to invoke the Insurrection Act, what would you advise Secretary Esper or General Milley to do?

ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS:

I think two slightly different cases, Chuck. Of course Secretary Esper, although he's a West Point graduate himself and was on active duty in the military at one time, he's a political appointee. He's kind of signed up for this to a certain degree. But I was pleased to see him push back on the president during the course of the week and say he would not recommend the Insurrection Act. General Milley, very different situation. As an active duty officer he's really got two choices here. One is to follow the orders and the other is to reach up under his shoulder, grab those four stars and say, "Sir, I can not execute that order. I believe it violates my conscious, my view. I gave you my best military advice. You've rejected it." That's a very hard place for any active duty military officer to go. I hope General Milley doesn't have to hit that point.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you concerned about morale at the Pentagon, morale in the rank and file?

ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS:

I am, and here we get into simply the numbers involved here. You know, in this country we have about a million police officers. We have 500,000 National Guard who are citizen soldiers who operate under authority of governors. My view, that's plenty of people who can do the policing function. And their real role is to protect these peaceful demonstrators. This is not a battle space to be dominated. These are zones of protests to be protected. There are sufficient forces to do that. And I think the military is very concerned about getting pulled into the maelstrom of politics in an election year in order to push protesters, as they were at Lafayette Square. That was wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

Admiral James Stavridis, really appreciate you coming on, sharing your perspective and expertise with us from your point of view. Thanks for--

ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

--being here. When we come back, I'm going to talk to representatives of two different generations of leadership and the fight for African-American civil rights and opportunity.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. When President John F. Kennedy gave his nationally televised address on civil rights he said 100 years of delay had passed since Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. And that black Americans still were not free.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY:

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and as clear as the American constitution.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

That was 57 years ago this week. Generations have passed since and full equality still has not been achieved. This morning we're going to bring together two generations in this fight for equal rights, Lonnie Bunch is the secretary of The Smithsonian, a historian and the founding director of The National Museum of African American History and Culture here in Washington. And Alicia Garza is one of the three women who founded the Black Lives Matter movement. Welcome to both of you. Lonnie Bunch, I'll get to you in a moment. But I want to begin with Alicia Garza. Let me start with this, the symbolic painting of 16th Street with the yellow paint of Black Lives Matter. And I know its symbolism. But it was on the front page of so many newspapers on Saturday. I'm curious, it went from a hashtag in 2013 to now a majority of Americans, a multiracial coalition rallying around a symbol right now. What does this mean and how do you take this from symbol to policy?

ALICIA GARZA:

Well, I think what this means, Chuck, is that Black Lives Matter is not just a radical idea. And frankly, when we look at (AUDIO BREAKS) there is a lot of consensus. And the consensus is that it is time to see and use our money and our resources in a fully different way. At the end of the day, Chuck, everyone can agree that we don't have the things that we need to live well. And that we are using policing and law enforcement in a way that far exceeds its utility. And we have to pay attention to this, from generals, to congress people, to protestors, what we're hearing across the nation is that our priorities are in the wrong place and that this is an opportunity for us to change that. And so what I'm looking for right now, and I think what millions of Americans are looking for right now is real change. Not tinkering around the edges but going straight and directly to the roots. Why are we using so much resources to address -- (AUDIO BREAKS) -- making sure that we limit --

CHUCK TODD:

We're have a little bit--

ALICIA GARZA:

--making sure that we limit the size, scope and scale of policing in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

When you -- when Americans hear the phrase, "defund the police," you're not calling for defunding police departments and getting rid of police. Explain what you mean by that phrase.

ALICIA GARZA:

When we talk about defunding the police, what we're saying is invest in the resources that our communities need. So much of policing right now is generated and directed towards quality of life issues, homelessness, drug addiction, domestic violence and conflict between -- (AUDIO BREAKS) -- in order to address those issues. But what we do need is increased funding for housing, we need increased funding for education, we need increased funding quality of life of communities who are over-policed and over surveilled. And so, you know, I heard Senator Booker earlier say, "It's not a phrase I would use but I actually agree with the content." And so I would just ask all of us, are we willing to live in fear that our lives will be taken by police officers who are literally using their power in the wrong way? Or are we willing to adopt and absorb the fear of what it might mean to change our practices which will ultimately lead to a better quality of life for everyone. And so again, I want to be very, very clear. Seven years ago people thought that Black Lives Matter was a radical idea. And yet Black Lives Matter is now a household name and it's something being discussed across kitchen tables all over the world. Why can't we start to look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities so that people don't have to be in the streets protesting during a national pandemic? It’s really -- and a global pandemic. It's time for us to address the pandemic in our communities. And that pandemic is not having the resources we need to live well. And that's not just a black problem. That's everybody's problem.

CHUCK TODD:

Alicia Garza there. My apologies, our apologies for the technical hiccup there. But I appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective with us. Let me turn now to the secretary of The Smithsonian Institution, Lonnie Bunch. Lonnie, let's take a step back. Where are we on this arc in the cause for civil rights?

LONNIE BUNCH:

You know, in some ways, this is both a moment of optimism but it's a moment that, in some ways, we've been here before. I think that this is a time that there are great differences. There are more people involved. It's a diverse group of people trying to fight for change. But to be honest, as an African American, I'm tired of mourning. I'm tired, of sort, of carrying the burden. But what I realize is that the challenge for all of us is this is a time for America to finally confront its tortured racial past.

CHUCK TODD:

It does seem as if there is a majority of white America now sees the inequality and maybe it took the health pandemic, the economic pandemic and the examples of more police brutality all happening within this 90-day window, perhaps, to get there. How do you take that momentum and turn it into some policy fixes?

LONNIE BUNCH:

Well, I think first of all, you're right. That this is a moment where America can really grapple with questions of race. Have the conversations they need to do and turn that to policy. For me as a historian, I always look back and I'm listening to the words in my ear of Ella Baker who said over 50 years ago that, "Until the death of a black mother's son is as important to this country as the death of a white mother's son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest." So for me, until we get to that day, it means that now's the time to push and not rest, to demand change.

CHUCK TODD:

It was interesting yesterday to see the Marines announce that they were basically going to ban any -- they didn't want any of their active duty soldiers to have Confederate flag paraphernalia. It's symbolic. But is this the moment that -- and we saw Confederate memorials taken down in Richmond and in Birmingham. Though the state of Alabama's fighting the Birmingham one. Do you think this is the moment that we finally sort of get over this Confederate memorial dialogue that we've, we’ve seem to be running in circles around?

LONNIE BUNCH:

What I hope is that this is a moment that we can candidly assess our history. That we can look at the Confederate monuments and recognize that some of them need to come down because they represent not just a historic moment, they represent white supremacy and segregation. So I see this as a time that America can finally look at itself and be candid about what needs to change. I also think it's a time where you're really seeing allies across the board. You're seeing whites in Europe caring about this. You're seeing black and white people coming together in the United States. I think this is the moment. And the key for me is will there be leadership at the national and the local level to affect the kind of change that this moment is allowing us to do?

CHUCK TODD:

Is President Trump redeemable on this -- in this moment?

LONNIE BUNCH:

Say it again. I lost you.

CHUCK TODD:

Is President Trump redeemable in this moment?

LONNIE BUNCH:

I think it's important to realize that this is something where all Americans need to own this. That this is not a black problem, this is a quintessential American problem. And my hope is that leadership from the national all the way down to the local will recognize this is a time to bring the country together because it's splintered in ways that are very, very painful. But this is a moment to take that pain and seize the promise of America. A promise that means that we could finally live up to the stated ideals of this country. That's the challenge for all political leadership. Candidly, that's the challenge for all Americans to say this is our moment of change and transformation.

CHUCK TODD:

Lonnie Bunch, I'm going to have to leave it there. Appreciate your -- appreciate you coming on, sharing your perspective and sharing it from that historical context that you always do so well. Thanks for coming on, good to see you, sir.

LONNIE BUNCH:

Thank you, Chuck. Good to see you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come President Trump and former Vice President Biden on Monday. What these photos tell us about the two men who will be facing off in November. Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is joining us from their remote locations. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, and senior editor of The Dispatch and a Time Magazine columnist, David French. And David, I want to start with you. You wrote a pretty powerful, sort of, first person essay, if you will, about what you've learned about institutional racism, and you attempt to explain it to white America. Tell us more about it.

DAVID FRENCH:

Yeah. I think I could sum it up in four words. Don't be like me. And by that I mean when I first began to learn about terms like systemic racism or institutional racism, I kind of took it like a lot of Americans do, as an attack. That it's saying that, "David, you're a racist. Or the employer you work for is racist." And I had a much more rosy view of what America was and what the American experience was. And then something very dramatic changed in our lives. We adopted a beautiful young girl from Ethiopia. And our family became multiracial. And our experiences changed dramatically. A trip to the mall we couldn't guarantee was going to be routine anymore. A trip to the neighborhood pool we couldn't guarantee was going to be routine anymore. And then we faced vicious online racism during the 2016 election. And what began to open my eyes was this understanding that, wait a minute, you don't take 345 years of legally-sanctioned racism in a country that was often enforced by violence, remove it finally by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then in the ensuing 56 years, solve everything, where we can say, "Look how far we've come." Yes, we've come far. But we should also say, "Look how far we need to go." And the point of my piece was to say, and it shouldn't have to take having a multiracial family to reach that conclusion. We should listen to the testimony and understand the experiences of people and believe what they're saying about their lives and respond accordingly.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Eugene, I was thinking, you and I, we're not that far apart in age. I went to desegregated schools in Dade County. But I was among the first that went. As David points out, it hasn't been that long. So sometimes you look and it feels like we've made a lot of progress, sometimes you look at it and it feels like we've made hardly any.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Yeah. I grew up and my early years were under Jim Crow segregation in South Carolina. And so those are my earliest memories, are of, you know, there were playgrounds I couldn't go to. There were roads that my father would not drive down because it was Klan country. And what's heartbreaking though, you know, yesterday at my house we rewatched the film “Selma,” of the famous Selma march, Selma to Montgomery march, and the scenes of those protesters being attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, it's so resonant today. And you watch something like that and you can't help but be disheartened and say, you know, "How much have we changed? Have we made the progress we flatter ourselves in thinking we have made?" And, you know, I come back to what Reverend Sharpton kept saying at the memorial service for George Floyd. "Get your knee off our neck."

CHUCK TODD:

Kristen Walker, the president has struggled with this. But what's been interesting is he seems more on an island. I mean, he tried to praise Drew Brees for taking a knee -- for at first having one stand, and then he attacked him for withdrawing it. And then he tried to -- he seemed to be alone on that. There wasn’t a lot of -- the amen choir for that is just not as loud anymore. Does the White House realize the president might be in the minority on this now?

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, I think there's a sense within the White House, Chuck, that President Trump needs to at some point say what he is going to do about this crisis. He's trying to cast himself as the law and order president. He is inside the White House when you have this fencing, additional fencing, that has gone up to create a larger perimeter. And he is literally and metaphorically blocked off from the protesters outside and the crux of their demands, which is that they do want to see change throughout the country, throughout police departments all across the country. I was with President Trump when he made that walk to St. John's Church and held up that Bible, that moment that has come under so much scrutiny. And I was among the reporters asking him questions. "What specifically is your plan to address this crisis? Do you see this as an issue of systemic racism?" He didn't answer our questions then. He shushed us. I can tell you that on Friday, he was pressed again. "What is your plan?" He again shushed reporters. I think that there is going to be increased pressure for him to lay out specifically how he sees this and what he plans to do about it, Chuck. On your point about the NFL, this remarkable sea change that we're seeing in the NFL, Roger Goodell coming out and essentially saying, "Black lives matter." That could be significant. And it could underscore the fact that this is a real moment potentially for transition.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I want to play that. I want to play the Roger Goodell sound here. The NFL did -- NFL players basically almost seemed to challenge the league to say something more meaningful on this. In many ways, I think what they were looking for almost, and they didn't say it, but maybe also an apology and an acknowledgement of what Colin Kaepernick did. It was a very powerful message, powerful enough that Roger Goodell felt as if he had to respond. Let me play his response and I'll ask you guys if you think it was enough.

[START TAPE]

ROGER GOODELL:

We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Gene, look, the video itself, we're all struggling with video. And sometimes the video can make you not look good and all this stuff. I am curious though, without saying the name Colin Kaepernick, does that mean Roger Goodell's words ring more hollow to some?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Say his name. They should say the name of the player who was ostracized and banned from the league, essentially, for taking a knee in protest of police mistreatment of African Americans. And so I will believe the NFL is serious when I hear buy in from the NFL owners, when I see the reaction, how they react. I know players will take a knee this year. Probably a lot of players. And there'll probably be a lot of tweets from the White House critical of that. And how will the owners react? How will the league react? We'll see.

CHUCK TODD:

David French, I know you're, A, a big sports fan. But I'm curious, it was interesting to watch Drew Brees this week.

DAVID FRENCH:

Yeah, it was interesting. You know, look, I mean, Drew Brees is a leader of a team that is majority African American. And I think a mistake that he made was that I think he got lost in the form of the protest over the point of the protest. The disagreement over the form of the protest became something that overwhelmed the point of the protest. And I think that that's something that's a common error that a lot of people make. Don't be distracted by the form, focus on the point.

CHUCK TODD:

Well said, Mr. French. Eugene, Kristen, thank you all. We've got more to come here so let me pause right here. When we come back, the warning signs for President Trump and our new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll. Stay with us.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Data Download time. Let's dive a little deeper into our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll with a look ahead at November. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by two points. Right now, Joe Biden now has a seven point edge, 49 - 42. Biden's lead has been stable in our poll and narrowing it may prove difficult for President Trump. And here's why. First, the educational divide. While Hillary Clinton only won college-educated voters by nine points according to the 2016 exit polls, Biden is now up by 24 points with that same group of voters. President Trump still leads among voters without a college degree, but the gap has shrunk since 2016, from eight down to three points. Then there's the gender gap, or canyon, if you will. Clinton won women by 12 points. Biden now has a 21-point edge with them. President Trump still leads with men, but his advantage there has shrunk as well. And there's a particularly ominous sign for President Trump among white voters overall. Biden has a commanding lead among black voters and among Hispanic voters, though he's behind where Hillary Clinton was in both groups on Election Day. But look at what's happened to President Trump's lead among white voters. It's down from 21 points to just six. That could be fatal to President Trump's reelection chances. For perspective, Biden is sitting at 43 percent with white voters, which is exactly what Barack Obama got in his seven point win in 2008. Of course, 2020 has provided nothing but surprises, like Friday's much better than expected jobs report, which had President Trump heralding economic growth and promising more good times ahead. And our poll does show the economy is still a point of strength for the president. When we come back, cases of COVID-19 are rising slightly again. So why are many people acting as if that crisis is already over?

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Let's take a look at our poll through the prism of the pandemic. On the issue of masks, our poll shows there is a big divide between Trump and Biden, depending on whether you wear a mask. Check this out. Folks that wear a mask always, according to our poll, 66/26. Forty point advantage for Biden. Among those who rarely or never wear a mask, it’s an 83/7 advantage for the president. David French, I guess we now have politicized mask wearing. It did seem as if when this first started, it was elected officials trying to polarize us on masks, but the public wasn't there. We're starting to see a little bit of this creep into the public now.

DAVID FRENCH:

A lot of it is creeping into the public. I mean, everything, everything becomes culture war eventually in these times, it seems. And it seems unlikely to say that masking would become part of the culture war, especially since prudent masking is an indispensable part of opening up the economy that so many folks, and, and particularly in the less hard hit red states, have been asking for for a very long time. And so you have this dichotomy where on the one hand, people are saying, "Open, open, open" in many of the red states and red parts of America. And at the same time, saying, "Don't tell me to mask." But, you know, but the virus doesn't care about your politics. It doesn't care if you're out in public shoulder to shoulder with people because you're protesting racism. It doesn't care if you're not wearing a mask because you think it's a sign of weakness. It doesn't care. It can afflict people left, right, poor, rich. And it feels as if we've moved to a point where we're saying, "Oh, that's over now. That's over. That was, that was the spring. We're coming into the summer." And again, we're dealing with a virus that it doesn't matter what we think about it, it's going to do what it's going to do. And we can only hope and pray, for example, looking at the protests over this last week, that outside transmission is not nearly as dangerous as we thought it could be. But again, politics, the culture war battle here is irrelevant when the virus doesn't care about it.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and Kristen Welker, the president obviously was very excited about having unexpected good news on the, in the economy, showing an up arrow on job gains, rather than the expected down arrow. But I want to put up some numbers from our poll to show you why this is -- he wants it to be a “V” and why it's unlikely to be a “V.” There’s still a -- half the country is still uncomfortable with a lot of economic activity. I want to show, just on the issue of flying, going out to eat or attending public events, basically, 28% of those we surveyed are, feel comfortable doing a couple of those things. Another, I'd say, another quarter tell us that they have some medium level of comfort, 20%. One in five voters that we tested call themselves, you know, quasi-comfortable. But you still have over 52% who call themselves very uncomfortable in some form about flying, eating out or large groups. And I looked at those numbers. And I heard the president's rhetoric. And I thought, I know he wants this to be a “V” recovery, but that demand issue shows me it won’t, it's unlikely it will be.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Right. And White House officials, Chuck, are saying the bottom line is that it is remarkable that we are seeing these signs of recovery at this point. And so you can expect the president to continue to try to focus on the numbers that are moving in the right direction because the economy is going to be key to his reelection. And that's why you had that Rose Garden event on Friday with the president essentially taking a victory lap, Chuck. But I'm told that the Biden campaign, the former vice president, is going to focus on this as well. You can expect to see a number of events in the coming days and weeks focused on his plans for the economic recovery and revival. And Biden knows that he needs to be, in essence, more out front. We saw that this week when he spoke in Philadelphia and in Dover about these protests. And so for Biden, he's going to really try to make this a leadership issue. But I do think, Chuck, that this reelection is going to largely focus on the economy and the broader questions about leadership and handling these dual crises, the protests, of course, and then the coronavirus, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. You know, Gene, though, I do feel like Democrats have to be careful here not to, not to look like they're unhappy that the economy surprisingly looked better in that jobs report. I go back to 2004 when there were times it looked like the Democrats, because the Kerry campaign thought, “Oh, if the jobs --you know, the worse the economic picture, the better shot they have. It’s a, you've got to be careful when you walk that line. There's no doubt the president might be over-spiking the football. But you can't look like you're unhappy about it.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Right. And I haven't heard Democrats who have sounded unhappy at the signs of economic progress and recovery. I heard some questioning of the Bureau of Labor statistics figures. But not seriously. I mean, these are experienced and dedicated professionals who've done this for generations. And so I believe the numbers. And I think everyone has to celebrate economic recovery. I think that the issue for the president though is the number of people who, just by our poll, think the country is sort of spiraling out of control with these multiple crisis, on top of crisis, on top of crisis. Pandemic and, econom-- Great Depression level unemployment, protests. And that is not good for an incumbent president to have an overwhelming majority of the country feeling that, that things are out of control.

CHUCK TODD:

No. That to me is definitely the toughest number in our poll there. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. Thank you for trusting us. We really appreciate it. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.