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Meet the Press Transcript - December 28, 2014

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, outpourings of grief at the funeral of a slain New York City police officer.

JOE BIDEN (ON TAPE):

When an assassin's bullet targeted two officers, it targeted this city. And it touched the soul of the entire nation.

CHUCK TODD:

What can be done to alleviate tensions between the black community and police in this country? I'll be joined by New York Police Commissioner William Bratton. Plus, with the stock market at record levels, gas prices and unemployment falling, how a booming economy could change politics next year and in 2016. And why Hollywood and comedy loves Washington.

FRANK UNDERWOOD (ON TAPE):

For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy.

CHUCK TODD:

The public may be fed up with politicians, but the entertainment industry just can't get enough.

LEWIS BLACK (ON TAPE):

We're living on the corner where satire and reality intersect.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm Chuck Todd. And joining me to provide insight and analysis this Sunday are NBC's Luke Russert; Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post; Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report; and Ken Blackwell, conservative columnist and former Ohio Secretary of State. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

VOICE OVER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good morning. We start with some breaking news and a search is underway after an Air Asia flight carrying 162 people from Indonesia to Singapore lost contact with air traffic controllers. It's reported that the pilot of the Airbus A320 had requested a deviation from the planned flight path because of bad weather. President Obama was briefed on the situation late last night. NBC's Katy Tur joins me now from Singapore. And Katy, I know we don't know a lot. But you do have some new information. What do you know?

KATY TUR:

Thanks, Chuck. It's nighttime here in Singapore, so they've called off the search for the evening. They are going to resume it tomorrow morning. We do know this happened around 7:24 local time, when the plane suddenly dropped off radar.

Pilots asked for a change in the course. They wanted to go to 38,000 feet because of weather. There was a line of thunderstorms in the area. It was supposed to get to Singapore Airport at 8:30 in the morning, but it never made it. Now, there's a search-and-rescue operation that's been going on all day. But it has been called off for the evening and they will resume it once again tomorrow.

Now, if this is all sounding a little familiar, it's because it's the third Malaysian-based airline that's had an incident in the past year. First, there was MH370 which disappeared, which they believe to be somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Then, there was MH17, which was shot down over the Ukraine. And now, Air Asia. This is an Airbus QZ8501. That's the flight number, an Airbus 320, 155 passengers onboard, five crew members, two pilots.

The vast majority of them were Indonesian. We do have quite a few family members that have been here at Singapore Airport, about 47 family and friends looking for answers. Most of them were sequestered behind a corridor for the evening, but the few that did come in were, as you would imagine, very understandably distraught. Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Katy Tur, thank you very much for providing information and, of course, not speculation. Meanwhile, there were emotional scenes in New York City yesterday as thousands of police officers, city leaders, and Vice President Biden gathered for the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, who was killed along with his partner, Wenjian Liu, in an ambush shooting last weekend. The relationship is tense these days between minorities and police forces across the country, with many communities feeling like the cards are stacked against them when it comes to the police and law enforcement. And, of course, sadly this is not something that's new.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

In 1992, perhaps the lowest point in recent memory, the brutal beating of unarmed black man Rodney King by four L.A.P.D. officers, while 17 of their colleagues stood by. The four white officers were acquitted, igniting a storm of anger that tore apart Los Angeles and the nation.

In 2001, unarmed black man Timothy Thomas was shot and killed by a white Cincinnati police officer. The incident sparked that city's worst racial unrest in 30 years, the officer charged with negligent homicide, but ultimately acquitted. In 2008, a majority of the country came together to elect the first black man as president and he appointed the first African-American Attorney General, the nation's top law enforcement officer.

FEMALE CROWD LEADER (ON TAPE):

What do we want?

CROWD (ON TAPE):

Justice.

CHUCK TODD:

But any hopes of restoring trust between black America and the legal system has faded. In 2012, the Trayvon Martin case left African Americans feeling the justice system wasn't up to the task again. And this year, more lows. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Eric Garner in New York City, unarmed black males killed by white police officers. Then, last week, two N.Y.P.D. officers assassinated in their police cruiser by a black man who called it revenge. A national funeral memorializing the fallen men in blue.

JOE BIDEN:

I believe that this great police force and this incredibly diverse city can and will show the nation how to bridge any divide. You've done it before. And you will do it again.

BILL DE BLASIO:

Police officers are called peace officers because that's what they do. They keep the peace. They help make a place that otherwise would be torn with strife a place of peace.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, as 2014 comes to a close, despite an incredibly low crime rate, we're again at a low point, recent events highlighting this divide between minority communities and the police. I'm joined by New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, the man that may be at the center of the storm right now.

Commissioner Bratton, a low crime rate and it's the best of times for police. This problem with trust with African Americans and minority communities, the worst of times. What kind of level of crisis do you feel as if police forces around the country are having?

WILLIAM BRATTON:

Well, I've been at this for about 44 years now. So, I go back to the turbulence of the '70s, the antiwar movement, the Civil Rights Movement. So, what we're dealing with now has some similarities to that period of time and we move forward. What we need to do now is try to find some common ground to stand on, to find additional ways to collaborate. I share the vice president's words of optimism yesterday during his remarks, the idea that New York City, the old adage, "If we can make in New York, we can make it anywhere." We will make it here. But it's going to be difficult. It's going to be quite a lot of hard work, a lot less rhetoric, and a lot more dialogue.

CHUCK TODD:

You've used the phrase "common ground" a lot in your interviews over the past week. What is that common ground? What is the foundation that you built?

WILLIAM BRATTON:

Common ground, there's a wonderful book by Peter Lucas that talked about the school desegregation and housing desegregation crises in Boston that tore that city apart during my formulative stages as a police officer sergeant and superintendent of the Boston Police Department.

And it was how that city ultimately came back together again after that incredibly violent decade. So, I have that experience. It helps to inform my experience here in New York; inform the experience, certainly, I had in Los Angeles watching that city heal a lot of its significant racial divide during the period of time that I was chief of police there.

The common ground here is, really, to 1) as we've been doing in New York, deal with the demonstrations in a way that they don't turn into police riots, if you will, to allow some breathing room in the sense of allowing people to demonstrate, to vent; and at the same time showing on the part of the police remarkable restraint in the face of great provocation. My cops have been doing a phenomenal job dealing with these demonstrations that you really have to be on the front lines with them to understand what they're dealing with in these instances.

CHUCK TODD:

To heal this rift, though, there's going to have to be trust between the mayor and rank-and-file police officers, the folks that report to you. You're in the middle of this. Yesterday, again, a symbol of protest. N.Y.P.D. officers outside turning their back when Mayor de Blasio began his eulogy. How bad is this rift?

WILLIAM BRATTON:

I think it's probably a rift that is going to go on for a while longer. However, we will be making efforts to sit down and talk with the union leaders in particular to deal with their issues. The issues go far beyond race relations in this city. They involve labor contracts. They involve a lot of history in the city that's really different from some of what's going on in the country as a whole.

But recent events here, the death of Mr. Garner in Staten Island, a recent accidental shooting death in one of our public-housing developments, the fact that the police department's been without a contract for a number of years. There's a whole series of local issues that are impacting on our ability to move forward. But we will be making that effort. We have to make that effort. We have no other recourse.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, the rhetoric. You've talked about how heated it's become. The rhetoric from Pat Lynch, the head of the Police Benevolent Association (SIC) in New York, has certainly been one of the higher decibel levels. I want to read you something that Michael Tomasky wrote in The Daily Beast this week, talking about Pat Lynch.

He said, "By speaking of officers' blood on the steps of city hall and urging his cops to sign an online petition that de Blasio not attend their funerals should they be killed in the line of duty, what is he doing? His behavior is divisive to the point of savagery. He is actively trying to make the people who follow him not only despise de Blasio, but despise and oppose any acknowledgement that police can be faulted in any way, that black fear of police has any basis in reality. If Al Sharpton did the same, he'd be drummed out of society." What do you make of those comments by Mr. Tomasky? And do you believe that Pat Lynch is more divisive or that Mayor de Blasio has been more divisive?

WILLIAM BRATTON:

Well, I think this week, as we try to come together to work out some of these issues, comments such as those that you just read, a person's opinion of what they're seeing, it is unfortunate that we have at this time of such great success in dealing with the crime for New York City, for example, over the last 21 years, at a time that the city is effectively booming in so many ways, that we have these frustrations, these pent-up frustrations.

You need to understand this isn't just about policing. This goes to much larger issues. We're the tip of the iceberg at the moment. This is about the continuing poverty rates, the continuing growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor. It's still about unemployment issues. There are so many national issues that have to be addressed that it isn't just policing, as I think we all well know.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let's go to the crux, though, of what this issue is. And I want to play for you something that Eric Garner's widow said to me on Meet the Press a couple of weeks ago.

ESAW GARNER (TAPE):

I just don't want him to go outside. Because now that everybody knows who he is, you know, that he's Eric Garner's son, you know, I fear. And now, my other son is in college. And he's in Jersey, in Newark. And I make him call me at least.

He's like, "Ma, I'm 20." I'm like, "Call me, like, at least, you know, in the morning before you go to class, when you get out of school. Don't go to parties. Don't do this." You know, I'm so afraid of what could happen to them in the street by the police.

CHUCK TODD:

She's afraid for her son from the police. Mayor de Blasio spoke very openly about having the talk with his biracial son, Dante de Blasio. Do you acknowledge this issue here between police and African Americans?

WILLIAM BRATTON:

Oh, certainly. I interact quite frequently with African Americans from all classes, from the rich to the poor. And there's not a single one that has not expressed this concern, that their perception is the reality that we have to deal with. And it has to be part of the dialogue. It has to be trying to find that common ground, if you will, so that all parties involved here understand the perceptions of the other parties that shape the realities that we're trying to deal with.

So, there's no denying that among the black community there are those concerns. In policing that sometimes it's difficult to see those. And I made comments yesterday in my eulogy about seeing each other to understand. Right, when I say "see each other," that means to not look past each other, but to really see what is motivating what we're experiencing.

So, it's going to be a painful process. It has to be an open process. But the process that has to be engaged in, my mayor, myself, we are committed to engaging in it. We will seek this week to move forward to engaging as we have been doing all along, but to reengage in hopefully more successful ways.

CHUCK TODD:

And finally, in some of your comments you've been somewhat critical of the national attention from national leaders, the implication, perhaps, with Attorney General Holder, President Obama. What role do you want them to play in this?

WILLIAM BRATTON:

Well, this goes to the idea of seeing people. See us. See the police. See why they have the anxieties and the perceptions they have. They really do feel under attack, rank-and-file officers and much of American police leadership. They feel that they are under attack from the federal government at the highest levels. So, that's something we need to understand also, this sense of perception that becomes a reality. We have a lot of talking we're going to have to do here to understand all sides of this issue. This is not a one-sided issue.

CHUCK TODD:

That's for sure. Commissioner William Bratton, I know it's been a tough week for the men in blue in New York City. And you've got a busy week. And you have to keep millions of people safe. Good luck. Thanks for coming on Meet the Press.

WILLIAM BRATTON:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's get some reaction from the panel, Luke Russert, Eugene Robinson, Amy Walter, Ken Blackwell. Perception and reality, Gene. Here we have best of times, worst of times. Lowest crime rate in 30 years.

GENE ROBINSON:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

Best of times. Worst of times, African-American perception of law enforcement.

GENE ROBINSON:

Right. You know, my first impression is number one, Bill Bratton's a really smart guy who is taking a big-picture view of the situation, which includes the fact that crime rates are, you know, at a modern-era low, basically. This is nothing like the situation that we faced 20 years ago.

You know, the second thing I guess I would mention is that this is not particular to every single city. It's true that in every city, I would imagine in Cincinnati where Ken Lives, and certainly where I live, all of us who have African-American sons have had the talk with our sons about how to behave around police. But the community policing here in Washington, for example, the relationship between community and police, I believe, is different from the relationship between community and police in New York. And that has to do with, you know, both sides, I think. But it's different.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Ken, it's interesting. I feel like New York and Washington, a little ahead of the curve when it comes to making sure the police forces look like the city policing. Cincinnati, some of these other cities in the Midwest have been farther behind.

KEN BLACKWELL:

Yeah. Well, Cincinnati got there. And we realized that we had to diversify our rank-and-file police.

CHUCK TODD:

And that was an issue. That was an issue.

KEN BLACKWELL:

And the management team. Well, look, one of the things that the commissioner underscored for me was the, I think, interlocking fears of influence. Our challenge will be met by voices in the street, in the action in the courts, action, you know, in the legislative bodies, across our community.

But where the real change has to take place is in the hearts of men and women. And I was reminded of something that Martin Luther King advisors used to say. Abraham Heschel used to say, "Respect discovers the dignity in others." And Martin Luther King emphasized that at a speech in Lincoln University, where he said, "We are all heirs to the legacy of worthiness." And that's where we have to start.

CHUCK TODD:

Amy and Luke, where the political rubber meets the road is going to be de Blasio. How does he recover from this?

AMY WALTER:

Well, listen, I think what's really interesting here when we talk about the rift and the divide, a lot of it is not going to just be healed overnight the way that blacks and whites see police. The one common ground, though, is the answer to this.

When you look at polling you ask people, "What do you think about police officers wearing video cameras?" black and white, almost 100% agree. What do we think about taking the prosecutorial piece out of the police department, have somebody that's independent? Almost 100% agreement, black and white. So, the solutions, thankfully, have agreement on both sides.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. That's for sure.

LUKE RUSSERT:

And I would just sort of add. Commissioner Bratton talked about a sense of history. Things are different now, though, because of how these protests came up. They were organic. And they were aided by social media. So, what's much more different as we move forward is that you have a lot of young people who are organizing through social media see how things are playing out.

It's on the police now, I think, to have to present more fact-based, nonprejudicial information about what happened in these specific cases that people aren't just going to take the police's word for it every single time. And it's on the media to further investigate it, too. So, I think this is the beginning of this conversation that started in Ferguson and it'll continue moving forward.

CHUCK TODD:

And let's not leave ourselves out of this. The media has played a role in this.

LUKE RUSSERT:

Indeed.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Coming up, the economy is definitely bouncing back. We're going to discuss if an economic boom in 2015 will totally reshape politics here in Washington and shake up the 2016 race. I certainly believe it will. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. 2014 has been the year that the American economy may really have truly bounced back. And a similar story in 2015 would have a significant impact on the dynamics of how Washington works and the 2016 presidential race. Let's take a look at the end-of-the-year numbers. The latest growth figures show the economy grew at 5% in the third quarter this year, and in the three months before the growth rate was nearly 5%, 4.6%, making it the best six-month stretch since 2003, more than a decade ago.

There's also been good news on the unemployment rate. It peaked at 10% in October of 2010. Now, it's dipped to 5.8%. Then, of course, there's gas. Big news for consumers. Gas prices have fallen dramatically. In May of 2011, we were paying an average of nearly $4 a gallon. Now, the price is $2.31, and in many places below $2. All of this has added up to consumer confidence going through the roof.

Look at the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. From the first quarter of 2009, when President Obama entered office, it was just 58%. Now, it's just shy of 90%. And 90 is an important number here. When it hits 90 or above, it is considered a good, consumer-confident economy. So, let's discuss with the panel the look ahead here. Luke Russert, a booming economy would change the dynamics of what Congress can do and what the president can do. Talk about tax reform.

LUKE RUSSERT:

It certainly would. But not to throw a wet blanket on the conversation, I still am a little skeptical. I think you've seen a lot of growth for the top income earners. The middle class has still not seen that type of growth. The stock market is high. But the U.S. stock market, while it's recovering, the global markets we've seen some cooling, China, Russia, other places in Latin America. So, I'm a little bit skeptical this is suddenly going to completely change the political discussion away from the economy.

However, if we do, in fact, have this robust economic growth the final two years of President Obama, what does Hillary Clinton do to attach herself to that? And what do Republicans do to try and make the race about something else when they have had a strength in trying to make it about the economy in the last midterm?

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say, and Ken Blackwell, let me get you to respond. I mean, let me just throw up some random rhetoric we heard over the years of criticism of President Obama and his policies when it comes to job creation. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JOHN BOEHNER:

Speaker Pelosi is pressing ahead with her $1.3 trillion government takeover of health care. We believe that her health-care bill will destroy 5.5 million jobs in our country, according to our methodology developed by the president's senior economic advisor.

MITT ROMNEY:

He'd never led before. He'd never worked across the aisle before. He never truly understood how jobs are created in the economy.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Ken Blackwell, what is the criticism if that criticism didn't really take hold, meaning the economy did grow? We have added jobs. The health-care law hasn't take jobs away. Does that make the Republican rhetoric essentially uncredible?

KEN BLACKWELL:

Not in the least bit. And let me sort of tack onto what Luke just said. The real numbers to take a look at is the labor-participation rate, which is at the lowest that it's been in almost 40 years. We have a wave of legislative regulation that's getting ready to have an impact. The EPA, Obamacare is kicking into full bloom and others, which will, in fact, slow down capital investment. We have $2 trillion sitting on the fence because of government overreach.

But, at the same time, everyday people, 50 million people on food stamps, record numbers. So, while I don't wanna be the Grinch that stole Christmas, and I'm a cheerleader for growth, I'm also a realist. And I think that we have to look at how sustainable these numbers are and what they really reflect and what they don't reflect.

CHUCK TODD:

But this will impact the 2016 race. Because if it's not a domestic election, then what does it become?

GENE ROBINSON:

Well, if it's not a domestic election, almost by definition, it becomes a foreign policy election, right?

CHUCK TODD:

And that changes the dynamics, particularly in the Republican side.

GENE ROBINSON:

That would definitely change the dynamics. You have an interesting debate within the Republican Party over the direction of U.S. foreign policy, sort of traditional Republican hawks versus the new wave of, you know, Rand Paul and others who have what some would call a more neo-isolationist view of U.S. foreign policy. I wouldn't use that pejorative term, but that's what they use. And that's an interesting split in the Republican Party that I think you're going to see no matter what.

AMY WALTER:

But I think this is just, very quickly, a change election, right. And I think the big driving issue in all of this is the fact that 70% plus of Americans said they wanted to go in a different direction from the president. That's the biggest challenge for Hillary Clinton, whether it's on foreign policy or the economy.

That's what Republicans are going to have to figure out, is how to be more optimistic. Because I think that's what Americans are looking for, is a sense that somebody's gonna come back and make us feel better about themselves. That is going to be a driving message--

CHUCK TODD:

That's December 2014. But in December 2015, what if they don't want the same change? What if the economy is booming?

AMY WALTER:

There we go.

CHUCK TODD:

This is how it's the biggest thing that could shake things up. Anyway, coming up, the state of satire. I put together a very special roundtable on politics and comedy in America with some forthright opinions from, among others, Lewis Black.

***COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED***

CHUCK TODD:

And welcome back. We all know the old joke that politics is showbiz for ugly people. Well, it seems the beautiful and not-so-beautiful people in the entertainment industry are rather fascinated by us ugly folk who inhabit Washington. In a moment, a special discussion on satire and politics that I taped in New York City with a panel of comedians earlier this week, including Lewis Black. But first, let's take a look at how the showbiz world views this town.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FRANK UNDERWOOD:

There is but one rule, hunt or be hunted.

CHUCK TODD:

Americans may increasingly loathe Washington - but Hollywood can't get enough of the place -

SELINA MEYER:

Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, (knocks over lamp), preserve --

CARRIE MATHISON:

You didn't want to hear how your golden boy was doing it, that he was out there trading top secret information to God knows who.

CHUCK TODD:

From political dramas to satirical news, audiences are tuning in to a new breed of anti-hero ... the Washington operator.

OLIVIA POPE:

That is what i do - and there is no one better in the entire world at it than I am!

CHUCK TODD:

As long as politicians have been trying to shape their images on television--

RICHARD NIXON:

Sock it to me.

CHUCK TODD:

Political comics have been cutting them down to size...

DANA CARVEY:

I meant all three words. I meant no, I meant new, I meant taxes. I meant ‘em all.

CHUCK TODD:

The fascination with power - how to get it, who's losing it - and the odd personal quirks of those who have it is nothing new...

MODERATOR:

I will instead ask each candidate to sum up in a single word the best argument for his candidacy. Gov. Bush?

WILL FERRELL:

Strategery.

MODERATOR:

Vice President Gore?

DARRELL HAMMOND:

Lockbox.

CHUCK TODD:

Television has forced politicians to play along with the most ridiculous versions of themselves

AMY POEHLER:

I believe diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.

TINA FEY:

And I can see Russia from my house.

CHUCK TODD:

Since George Carlin became famous for the "seven words you can't say on television,” political satirists have also enjoyed making Washington - and their audiences - uncomfortable. Now, very little is off limits:

CHRIS ROCK:

In America there are no sacred days, ‘cause we commercialize everything. So we're only 5 days away from 9/11 sales.

CHUCK TODD:

The line between news and entertainment is increasingly blurry -

JON STEWART:

Basically all it took was one bad midterm election to make Obama go from this--

BARACK OBAMA

I'm not the emperor of the United States.

JON STEWART:

To this--

MEL BROOKS:

It's good to be the king.

CHUCK TODD:

And politics can be hard to pin down--

ERIC CARTMAN:

Lawrence, remember how i was telling you how the government listens to everyone's phone calls and reads all our emails.

LAWRENCE:

Yeah, yeah you said that. My dad says the government keeps a database on everyone.

CHUCK TODD:

As new audiences learn to love to hate the political show ... will more Americans engage in politics - or will rising cynicism mean many tune in to television ... but drop out of the process?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

With me now to talk about comedy's role in the American political dialogue, we've put together our own little round table here, comedian Lewis Black who was, of course, a regular

contributor to The Daily Show, W. Kamau Bell who is currently on a nationwide stand-up tour, and comedy writer Laura Krafft. Thank you all for being here. Well, Lewis, I'm going to throw a

conversation starter here. When we put this together about a month ago we first started talking to you guys about this. And this week is a takedown of The Daily Show of sorts, so Salon.com, Jon Stewart's expiration date, why liberalism needs to outgrow the snark. But basically it built off this idea and I've heard it from other corners that the political satire is dumbing down regular politics. So you've read the piece. What do you say to that criticism?

LEWIS BLACK:

That you could say that we're somehow dumbing down something that has been dumbed down during the course of my life that we could even be-- that it would be possible for us to take it

further is beyond belief. Because in the sense, the thing that has struck me about the last 20 years is that we've moved closer and closer to where we're living on the corner where satire and

reality intersect. So you can--

CHUCK TODD:

My question is why are we there? I do agree with you, right, and it's how did we get to this place?

LEWIS BLACK:

I think in part it's social media, it's in part cable which exploded everything, it's in part the fact that we have, you know, it's 24 hours of news a day, six days on six different channels. You guys do the nightly news. Everybody does the nightly news. PBS does nightly. You have all of that pounding away on a consistent basis. And that really broke things open too because then all of a sudden you watch these people over and over and over again saying the same thing and eventually by the third time you hear somebody initially you’re going what and the third time the politician says something you're laughing at them.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, are you a political satirist or a media satirist?

LEWIS BLACK:

I'm a social satirist. That's what I like to--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

W. KAMAU BELL:

Can I get in on that? I like that.

CHUCK TODD:

Your stand-up routine right now when you're talking about ending racism in an hour. Every time--

(OVERTALK)

W. KAMAU BELL:

The people leave if we just stayed in the room we'd be able--

CHUCK TODD:

In the room it’s solved.

(OVERTALK)

W. KAMAU BELL:

Then they get back on Facebook and they go, "Ah, I got opinions."

CHUCK TODD:

Shame on them. Laura, I'm going to do a very Meet the Press thing and throw something you said back at you. It was interesting. You were asked on a NPR interview, "What's your media diet?" And you said, "I would hope people would be getting their news from the same places I get my news from, newspapers, magazines, blogs, television and radio. Lord, I hope people only use our shows," referring to the satirical shows you'd worked on one of them. "That they are satirical addendum to the news. We are definitely not a news source. We are a comedy show."

LAURA KRAFFT:

Yeah, I stand by that. I don't understand whenever there's criticism of, like, "Well, they're feeding this misinformation." Information is out there for everybody to get. It's how you choose to find it. But I also think that there's something off of what you were saying with all the news being so accessible. I also think that it's made, you know, you had to really seek out the news, get a newspaper, you know, and then there's, like, maybe one newscast a night, five nights a week, maybe a Sunday night.

Now it's everywhere. So people ask me, like, friends of mine, you know, are getting more in depth on the issues in the same way that you get the surface because you get the same, you know, often times jingoistic,in a way information thrown at you. You also can go deeper into-- I feel politics is becoming more exposed to broader audience.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the larger critique is that the rise and popularity of political satire is creating a more cynical public citizen. Right, it feeds the cynicism.

W. KAMAU BELL:

I don't know. Have you been on Twitter lately?

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I know.

W. KAMAU BELL:

Have you been on Facebook? I feel like the cynicism is there. If anything, The Daily Show gives you some hope. You know, the first piece is like, "Oh I can laugh my way through these--"

(OVERTALK)

W. KAMAU BELL:

I don't know if you've ever been in a deep comment thread on Facebook with the guy you went to high school with, your uncle and some dude you don't know how you became Facebook friends with. And you're all talking about, you know, like, Ferguson. And you're like, "I think I need The Daily Show to sort of to calm, to bring me back down to reality. What should we take away from the fact that political satirical news in some ways is more popular obviously than what we're doing? Or is sometimes in cases more trusted. You know, you see these things where Jon Stewart's more trusted than the evening news anchors.

LAURA KRAFFT:

Well, I think part of that is because there is, like, something-- comedy's usually, like, truth in comedy. It's the heightened truth. So you feel like you trust a comedian more than you would trust maybe somebody who's a member of the media who's been fed information for different reasons from different political groups. You know, I--

CHUCK TODD:

And you guys are totally pure. We know that nobody has ever fed you anything.

LAURA KRAFFT:

No. No.

CHUCK TODD:

You've never taken money from a corporation ever, right?

LAURA KRAFFT:

No, no.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, they're offering. But no, I mean, I get your--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--I get your point though that that--

LAURA KRAFFT:

Yeah, I'm--

LEWIS BLACK:

I'm ready to put on whatever logo they want on my butt, you know, as long as I agree with the product.

W. KAMAU BELL:

When people watch Jon Stewart or Jon Oliver they feel like they're at least getting that person's perspective. But I don't think people believe with the news-- I think they feel like they're, you know, you're getting a corporation's perspective. You're not getting that individual person.

CHUCK TODD:

Should you guys be held responsible if people are cynical and think all government's broken? Because that's the other premise of this--

(OVERTALK)

LEWIS BLACK:

No, no, no, no, no, no. That's our debate (?) what it is. I really do think part of the problem is that the cynicism is caused by the fact that more in the course of my lifetime and having lived in Washington, that Washington's increasingly been a bubble much the same that a lot of people who live in Hollywood are in a bubble.

And when I started going on the road 25 years ago and I was going, "Well, you're too angry. They're not going to get it." What I was discovering was they were angrier than I was. And there's a sense of disenfranchisement now that I think is seen in the number of people who went and voted that I had just never experienced in my lifetime. And I've watched you and everybody else when somebody comes on. And I don't know how you do it. I don't know how you do it. I'd be barking at them. You sit there and go, "Blah blah blah blah blah." I sit there--

CHUCK TODD:

We all sit there because we all know the first time we bark, the last time we do the show.

LEWIS BLACK:

--yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Sometimes it's the last time you're able to-- all of a sudden, nobody will come on your show. Right, there is that--

(OVERTALK)

W. KAMAU BELL:

And the thing that comedy gets to do--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

You get to do some stuff that we don't.

W. KAMAU BELL:

--yeah, comedy gets to bark. And I think that, well, the weird thing is that Fox News also gets to bark. And I think sometimes the left, you know, the left-leaning media is afraid of barking. A lot of left-wing media, they will play a clip of The Daily Show or they will play a clip of John Oliver and go, "Look at this guy barking." Anyway, back to a reasonable discussion even though I know that's what I want you to believe. Let me have a reasonable discussion."

CHUCK TODD:

I want to just put a pause here. I want to talk about your role in bringing-- your role meaning political-- comedian's role in bringing up some uncomfortable social issues right after the break.

***COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED***

CHUCK TODD:

And we're back with our political comedy roundtable here. Comedians Lewis Black, W. Kamau Bell and Laura Krafft. Alright, Laura, it was a stand-up comedian named Hannibal Buress at a show in Philadelphia whose YouTube went viral in going after Bill Cosby and re-raising allegations against Bill Cosby that had been out apparently in the Hollywood community for years.

LAURA KRAFFT:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

But got resurfaced. In fact, we have some clips of Saturday Night Live routines by Tina Fey ten years ago that were making veiled references to this fact.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TINA FEY:

A California lawyer alleged Wednesday that 30 years ago Bill Cosby drugged her and tried to molest her, and after she fought back, he dropped 2 two hundred-dollar bills on the table and fled. Cosby says he can’t be held responsible because at the time he was suffering from “the brain damage.”

AMY POEHLER:

That’s funny, is Kenan coming out to imitate Bill Cosby now?

TINA FEY:

No, Kenan is not coming out because of the Fat Albert and the money and the sequels

KENAN THOMPSON:

Ha. Wow. Thanks. Good job, you guys. I didn’t say any of that, because Kenan Thompson loves to work, okay? Peace.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And is was sort of the role that political comics or comics, like, in raising uncomfortable issues that we won't. A good thing?

LAURA KRAFFT:

Is it a good thing that Hannibal Buress--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, no. A good thing that that's a way to use the stand-up routine?

LAURA KRAFFT:

Absolutely. I mean, I think it's really funny also that Hannibal, as a black man, because one of the things that prompted the whole conversation was that Bill Cosby sort of talks down. He--

CHUCK TODD:

Lecturing young black men.

LAURA KRAFFT:

--lecturing young black men, "Don't wear your pants a certain way," or whatever. And I like that his lead-in was like, "You had a sitcom in the '80s that did well. Like, why are we listening to you? And you have this whole despicable background that everyone knows about. You know, I've heard allegations about it for a long time." And is it a good thing? Yes, I think that's the role of comedians. That's one of the things that comedy people should be doing.

W. KAMAU BELL

I'm of two minds about that. I think it's great when comics will do acts to sort of, like, as a battering ram into an issue, as a way to clarify an issue. I also feel sort of weird about Hannibal and the fact that he didn't upload that video. He--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

He is the chief new accuser of Bill Cosby and--

(OVERTALK)

W. KAMAU BELL:

--and the worst thing you can do to stand-up comedy is write it down in a newspaper and have people read it without hearing a comedian say it. And I know--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

I feel that way in regular television.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Say, "Well, wait a minute, did you see my face? Did you see what I was talking about?"

W. KAMAU BELL:

Yeah, and to sort of see Hannibal's bit written down all over every blog and every newspaper article, "This is what he said," taken out of context. And without a context that he didn't provide I feel there's, you know, I think it opened up a great discussion about Bill Cosby. And also with more women’s feelings. It's funny to think Hannibal's intention, I don't know, is to empower victims to come forward. But that happened. But also it's leads to a bigger social media discussion.

CHUCK TODD:

It is a social media discussion. Yeah, go ahead.

LEWIS BLACK:

But what I didn't understand is why was that the trigger that blew it up? How did that become--

CHUCK TODD:

Not all the women who accused him before--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--or not the allegations that had been out there for decades.

LEWIS BLACK:

Always hear, I mean--

LAURA KRAFFT:

Maybe it's because it's from a comedian. That's why I keep thinking of that's the thing that I liked about it. Like, I just read today somewhere that Chris Rock says he doesn't want people having cell phones in his audience now because, like, a stand-up should be able to have the freedom to try stuff out. And I like that Hannibal was being free. There's so many people you see being so careful. He was just being honest and true that it was taken without his permission.

CHUCK TODD:

If that had been a white comedian that had done it, would it have gone as viral? Was it important--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--that it was, you know, here's the most-- arguably a living legend of African-American comics, Bill Cosby--

LEWIS BLACK:

I thought you were talking about Hannibal.

CHUCK TODD:

--is being accused by an African-American comedian.

W. KAMAU BELL:

And I think it's also interesting, I think the source of it, because Hannibal's not an explicitly a political comedian. And even implicitly a political comedian. He is joke before that was probably about pickle juice and he probably had an applesauce joke coming up after that. And in the middle of it was the Bill Cosby thing.

And I think because it came from such a, quote unquote, unlikely source, it also gave it more power. Because it's like, "If this guy's talking about it," you know, it's not Lewis Black, or you know, or W. Kamau Bell it's like, "Oh, oh, oh." You know, it's Hannibal Buress. Well, I want to go to something, has your career been harder in the comedian world? Is there a gender bias in comedy?

LAURA KRAFFT:

People ask me that a lot. I mean, I will say that there's many times where I'm the only woman in the room. But I don't really think about it. I really think about, like, just what kind of person likes what kinda joke. They'll get a hard joke, they'll get structure, whatever. Well, I think there's also there's more women. I mean, I think it's really shown right now, there's more and more women going into comedy and going into comedy writing--

CHUCK TODD:

You think that's--

(OVERTALK)

LAURA KRAFFT:

--than I think when I started.

CHUCK TODD:

--self-fulfilling. Like, so for a while there just weren't a lot of women in--

(OVERTALK)

LAURA KRAFFT:

I think maybe it was a numbers game. I mean, I think there also was definitely, like, misogyny. And, you know, and people sort of hiring people who were more like them and in that case oftentimes it's, like, a white guy hiring a white guy.

CHUCK TODD:

Now let's talk about race in comedy. You know, Norman Lear, I had him when his book-- and he in his book admits when he was writing these ground breaking comedies based on African-American families it was all white writers. And he said in hindsight now he knows that was a mistake. At the time he really didn't believe-- he didn't see what was wrong with them.

W. KAMAU BELL:

Well, I'm glad he admits that now. I mean, corporate America, the Hollywood is not much different than corporate America in that, you know, that there's a predominance of white males who are running things and making the decisions. And whenever they bring, you know, black people in or minorities in it's part of a diversity initiative.

And usually diversity initiatives ends on the announcement of the diversity initiative. And, you know, I had a TV show on for about a year or so. And that was important to me to get more than one woman in the room. And also races that aren't black people. Turns out there's other races out there that aren't just black people--

(OVERTALK)

W. KAMAU BELL:

--which I learned recently. And so it was important for me to get different voices in the room so there can be voices that push you out of your comfort zone. And I feel like that's why comedy starts to feel same from a lot of these places is because people are hiring people like them. And they're hiring people they want to hang out with, not people who are actually good comedy writers.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think now politicians use comedy shows to duck real interviews? Which is obviously my point of view. So I'm going to close with that loaded question.

LEWIS BLACK:

I think they do it to try to look human and to humanize themselves. What would help is if they really spent time-- this is something I've believed for a long time-- leadership training would be a really great thing. Get into--

(OVERTALK)

LEWIS BLACK:

--get into a camp. My brother had to do it when he was in high school because--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--thing. Yeah, yeah.

LAURA KRAFFT:

Learn how to build a fire.

W. KAMAU BELL:

With the backpack and some short shorts and having to walk through and do a trust fall. Yeah.

LEWIS BLACK:

The thing is that you still want them to-- you want to just feel like they're coming from somewhere.

CHUCK TODD:

You want to know what they're coming from.

LEWIS BLACK:

Because there's that thing that leaders have when they're standing there in front of you that is that voice that a lot of them use. And that voice is bull--. That--

CHUCK TODD:

You think BS. That's what you want to say.

LEWIS BLACK:

--yeah, that's--

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'll let you do that. It's Sunday morning.

LEWIS BLACK:

--it's BS.

LAURA KRAFFT:

I think it's interesting that they're using comedy as a means to make issues more palatable and understandable like when Obama went on Between Two Ferns to talk about Obamacare. I thought that was a great way to reach a new audience who probably wasn't aware of a lot of the parts of Obamacare that he wanted them to be aware of. It seems to me that that's why they go on it more often than to humanize because they're trying to hide from--

CHUCK TODD:

It's not to hide. I know. But it's like it is becoming more of a comfortable place for them to go.

LAURA KRAFFT:

Yeah.

W. KAMAU BELL:

And I think that, you know, sometimes Jon Stewart has done more hard-hitting interviews with John McCain than some journalists I've seen. You know, because I think sometimes comedians can-- because we're barking, as we said earlier--

CHUCK TODD:

You can get away with something.

W. KAMAU BELL:

--you can get away with barking.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that was fun. I hope you guys had fun. I hope you haven't ruined your careers by going mainstream here on serious Sunday morning. Lewis Black, Laura Krafft, W. Kamau Bell, this was great. I hope you maybe come back one more time. We'll see. Thank you, guys.

***COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. On the program today, we've been looking ahead to what 2015 will bring. But it's also the time of year to look back and remember those in Washington politics and political culture that we lost over the last 12 months.

JIM BRADY:

Because I know firsthand the damage that guns can do.

MAYA ANGELOU:

Say simply, very simply, with hope, good morning.

FRANK MANKIEWICZ:

Senator Robert Francis Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. today.

BEN BRADLEE:

It must be remembered that Nixon got Nixon. The Post didn't get Nixon.

JAMES TRAFICANT:

Beam me up. I say it's time for Congress to shove these illegal tactics right up the assets of the I.R.S.

ANCHOR:

The mayor took a second puff. Then, F.B.I. agents and police came bursting through an entrance from the room next door.

ARIEL SHARON:

For a genuine, durable, real peace, we are ready to make painful compromises.

GARRICK UTLEY:

I'm Garrick Utley. I'll be back next here with Sunday Today and Meet the Press.

CHUCK TODD:

Remembering those we lost this year, including an important member of the Meet the Press family there, as you saw. After the break, we'll see how closely the panel was paying attention over the last year. We're going to close the year with a little trivia test from 2014.

***COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED***

CHUCK TODD:

And welcome back. It's been quite a year in politics. But was the panel really paying attention? We boiled down 2014 with the help of the Cook Political Report, by the way, to three numbers and a word. Here they are: 86, 1928, 30, and mark. All right, Amy, I'm going to let you start here. Eighty-six and 1928 are related. And let me show you here. This is the first time since 1928 that Democrats have experienced this depression of election.

AMY WALTER:

It is true. You've got to go at the House, legislative.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, it's at lowest number of House seats, lowest number of Senate seats, fewer state senate legislative seats.

AMY WALTER:

Right. I mean, this was a drubbing at all levels. And I think the legislative piece is the more significant. Because this is where the next crop of candidates comes from, right, the state house speakers, et cetera. And when redistricting in 2020, which is what Democrats hope is going to be their answer to getting the House back, may not happen when control of the state legislatures is all Republican.

CHUCK TODD:

Luke Russert, 30. Thirty is an important number here because 30 is now the number of seats Democrats need in order to win back control of the U.S. House in 2016. And 30 is now the number of control, that Republicans control chambers in 30 stages, both chambers in 30 states. That's something. Now, Luke, no Democrat is talking about winning back the House in 2016, are they?

LUKE RUSSERT:

That's impossible. And I always think it's funny when the poor person that has to lead the D-triple-C goes out there. And it was Steve Israel's turn. He goes out and says, "You know, we're fighting all these districts. We're keeping them competitive."

The math and the gerrymandering, the way it adds up, it's not going to happen. I think the redistricting in 2020 is their best shot. What's interesting, though, is moving forward, how do House Democrats make themselves relevant? Do they stop big deals like they did with the CRomnibus, the government-funding bill, the last time where Nancy Pelosi was able to coalesce around the progressives and hold it up a little bit?

CHUCK TODD:

Ted Cruz strategy?

LUKE RUSSERT:

Yeah. Is that what they do? And how does that move forward? And lastly, there is no Democratic bench, though. And it's a very smart point that Amy made.

CHUCK TODD:

All over. Like, look at your home state of Ohio. Ohio's a 50/50 state.

AMY WALTER:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

But you don't know it by the election results.

KEN BLACKWELL:

Well, you know it not by the election results for president. But Ohio is a very red state. All of the statewide--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

The Democratic Party has sort of, like, filed for, like, bankruptcy.

KEN BLACKWELL:

And, you know, it really does point to an issue. Republicans have to stop acting as if they're a minority party in this country. They're not.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we just pointed out they're a majority party on all levels of government after the president.

KEN BLACKWELL:

But they play small ball. And that's a problem.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. And the word "Mark," Gene Robinson.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Three out of the five incumbent senators who were all named Mark, Mark Begich, Mark Pryor, Mark Udall out. Off the mark. This was remarkable. Look at that.

GENE ROBINSON:

The other thing they have in common is that they were Democrats. And, so, it was a very, very bad year for Democrats.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, Democrats named Mark, Republicans named Scott, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, only Scott Brown.

GENE ROBINSON:

Scott Brown didn't do so well. No. I mean, look, it was a terrible year for the for the Democrats. Republicans, on the other hand, are going to be vexed by their success, I think, in the year to come. Because they're going to have to figure out what to do with this big majority in the House. They're going to have to figure out how to behave as a party in control of both Houses of Congress. Now, I don't think they know that yet.

CHUCK TODD:

Who is the face of the Republican Party in Congress? Is it going to be McConnell or Boehner? It had been John Boehner, Amy Walter. Is it now Mitch McConnell?

AMY WALTER:

Well, it still has to get through the House. And John Boehner knows that he's got to figure out how to keep this coalition from blowing up.

CHUCK TODD:

But doesn't he have more freedom?

AMY WALTER:

In what way?

CHUCK TODD:

He could pass a bill and say, "Okay, Mitch, you do it."

AMY WALTER:

If he can pass the bill, right. I mean, it is clear from that CRomnibus vote there are about 35 or 40 Republicans who are going to say no to anything that leadership wanted.

LUKE RUSSERT:

The questions is do they become strengthened by the last midterm results and say that we want to double down on holding the line?

GENE ROBINSON:

And remember, what can pass the Senate has changed, but not all that much, right. Because you still need 60 votes.

LUKE RUSSERT:

And what does McConnell do with these guys running for president in his own caucus? That's a huge issue there.

CHUCK TODD:

The Republican presidential race, in some ways, is already starting because Jeb Bush is in. Does that hurt McConnell and Boehner in their ability to govern?

KEN BLACKWELL:

No, I don't think so. And one of the things you have to remember is that this is probably the closest Speaker of the House and majority leader in terms of friendships that's existed in a long time.

CHUCK TODD:

We shall see. All right, that was fun. That's all we have for today. Have a very happy new year. We'll be back next week and next year. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.