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Meet the Press Transcript - June 21, 2015

MEET THE PRESS - JUNE 21, 2015

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, After Charleston, the worst race attack since before the Civil Rights era.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

Racism remains a blight that we have to combat together.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll be joined by the family members of Reverend Daniel Simmons, one of nine who lost their lives on Wednesday. And should the Confederate battle flag continue flying on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol? 2016 Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee joins me.

Plus, the dynasty candidates. Is America ready to embrace or reject them? The latest from our brand new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. Finally, a special segment on gun violence in America. A truly remarkable video. Convicted murderers and their regrets over ever picking up a gun.

MALE CONVICT:

I took his buddy away from him. Me. How does that sit with me?

CHUCK TODD:

I'm Chuck Todd. And joining me for insight and analysis this Sunday morning are the New York Times's David Brooks, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, Helene Cooper of the New York Times, and Jerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Well, good morning. This is the scene outside the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina this morning where the congregation is gathering for the first service since a gunman murdered nine people there on Wednesday evening at Bible study.

The victims: Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Reverend Sharonda Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr., Susie Jackson, and Cynthia Hurd. It was the worst racial attack in decades.

I believe brings back painful memories of other notorious incidents. The 1963 church bombing which killed four young girls in Birmingham, Alabama. And, of course, those killings of three civil rights activists in June of 1964 in Mississippi. But in Charleston, the process of healing has already begun.

And that was shown when family members of the victims showed such remarkable dignity at a hearing for the killer, Dylan Storm Roof on Friday. We're going to hear from the family of one of Wednesday's victims in a moment. But first, I want to go to my colleague Ron Allen who is outside Mother Emanuel this morning. Ron, tell me about the scene out there on this what looks like a very nice, sunny Sunday morning.

RON ALLEN:

It is, Chuck. But it's also a very emotional time, a very disturbing time, a very powerful moment. There have been people gathering here outside the church throughout the week since this horrific incident happened, paying their respect. So much public mourning, grief, and sorrow.

It's also a time for healing and a time to celebrate the lives of those nine souls lost whose names you just read. There's also a sense of history here. Because this church has existed, this congregation, for some 200 years. At other times, it was at the forefront of slave insurrections and rebellions.

Icons of the Civil Rights Movement like Martin Luther King Jr. have visited and worshiped here. And in more recent times, the pastor Reverend Pinckney and others have been in the forefront of the call for social justice. Remember, North Charleston is not far from here where Walter Scott was allegedly shot and killed by a North Charleston police officer not long ago.

But, again, today is mostly about healing, celebrating the lives of those who lost their lives, and trying to begin to move this community forward. A real sense that this could be a turning point for this community, if not the rest of the nation as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Ron--

RON ALLEN:

Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Charleston has been amazing in all this. Ron Allen, thanks very much.

CHUCK TODD:

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. was victims of the horrific attack on Wednesday night at Bible study. He not only served parishioners in multiple South Carolina churches, including, of course, at Emmanuel AME. He also served this during the Vietnam War. His family, who has lost a man described as gentle and humorous, joins us now, including Alana Simmons, who faced the man charged with her grandfather's death in court and told him this: "Hate won't win." Thank you, Simmons family for joining us this morning. And, of course, I join with the entire country in offering condolences.

ALANA SIMMONS:

Thank you--

DANIEL SIMMONS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Alana, let me start with you. "Hate won't win." Why was it important to you to send that message in court last week?

ALANA SIMMONS:

Well, earlier this week when all of the families spoke, I was actually inspired by some of the other families who immediately forgave the suspect when they had the opportunity to speak to him. And that made me think of how strong love is. And although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of the hatred from this man, the love of the community, and the love of Christ, and just the love of all of the families for the victims was so overwhelming that it outweighed the hate that he had for them.

CHUCK TODD:

Daniel, tell me about your dad.

DANIEL SIMMONS:

My dad was a loving father. He was a great, inspirational leader. He cared deeply for his family, his community, his faith and he loved God.

CHUCK TODD:

What would he say how the community should respond to this horrific attack? What would he be telling you? What do you think he would say to you if he were here to sort of bring the community together?

DANIEL SIMMONS:

First of all, I would like to thank the city of Charleston, how they have come together and shown unity and love. He would be so overwhelmed with how everyone has been unified to act on one accord.

ALANA SIMMONS:

My grandfather really loved Charleston. And one of our best memories of him was coming down two summers ago. And he took us on this grand tour of Charleston. And he just kept talking about how great the people of Charleston were. And we saw that. We saw that this week.

DANIEL SIMMONS:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

Alana, a lot of people want to use this incident to have a bigger conversation to try to do something. Racial reconciliation, guns. There's a lot of issues that people want to grab onto. What do you want the country to take away from this? And what do you want the country to be having and our political leaders to be having a conversation about?

ALANA SIMMONS:

Well, we elect not to talk about politics, or policies, or race issues at this time. At this time, we just want to focus on our grandfather and the other victims and making sure that the communities and the families heal and move on from this tragedy.

CHUCK TODD:

And Daniel, the importance of his faith, the importance of faith to everybody in that room that is mourning your father. Explain it.

DANIEL SIMMONS:

It's easily explained. It's love.

ALANA SIMMONS:

That was a good answer. We love each other. We loved our grandfather. And the outpour of love from the community, and from the officials, from our community in Hampton Roads, Virginia, it's just been so overwhelming that it's given us, all of us I would like to say a grace that, you know, is past understanding.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, your family is quite an example for all of us in this country. Reconciliation, forgiveness, love, faith. Unbelievable. My condolences--

ALANA SIMMONS:

And Charleston has been a great example to the rest of the country as well. We just really, really appreciate how everyone has come together. And, like, people of all races, all religions, genders, orientations. At the prayer vigil we went to Friday night, everyone was there. And it was just so overwhelming and just so wonderful to see everyone coming together not to bash or to talk about the suspect but to celebrate the lives and to heal together.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's too bad that it took a tragedy like this to make that happen. But perhaps if this is what comes out of it, maybe we're a better society for it. Thank you, Simmons family.

ALANA SIMMONS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm joined now by the Democratic congressman from South Carolina James Clyburn. Of course, welcome back to Meet the Press. And Congressman, my condolences.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN:

Thank you so much for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

I know these folks--

REP. JAMES CLYBURN:

Thank you very much though.

CHUCK TODD:

They were constituents. But they were personal friends. Tell me about some of your friendships.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN:

Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. You know, speaking with Clem’s family, he and I are the same age. In fact, the last time that I did a morning service at Emmanuel, I think he was a pastor there at the time. I have gotten to know his family very, very well. His in-laws all constituents.

Pinckney, this guy was just absolutely the salt of the earth. I first met him when he was a student here at Allen University in Columbia. And, of course, his hometown, home church all in my congressional district. And Emmanuel is just one block outside my congressional district.

But he and I had a very close, personal relationship. Malcolm Graham, who has been on various shows this morning, his sister Cynthia was one of my daughters Mignon’s best friends. She was a librarian like my wife. And there's just so much interwoven in here. That Middleton, her father, he called himself my AME campaign manager. He was just a great guy. So I know all of these people--

CHUCK TODD:

I know--

REP. JAMES CLYBURN:

--in a very personal way.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman, you're from a generation that was in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. You saw the pain and protests of the '60s, some of these attacks that took place in the '60s. Did you think this was at all possible, that something like this could happen in the 21st century?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN:

Unfortunately, Chuck, I did. I have been saying for some time now, and my friends in the Congressional Black Caucus will tell you I've been saying to them, that there's a rightward drift in the country that I think has gone too far. And people are getting emboldened by all of this. We hear all the discussion about the Confederate battle flag.

And what is so interesting about that, Chuck, is that that is not the Confederate flag. That's the battle flag that flies in front of the statehouse. That is the flag of rebellion. We would not be having this discussion if that were the Confederate flag or the flag of the Confederate States of America.

Because that flag is not a symbol of hate. So when you see the resurrection of this, a young man, 21 years old wearing all of these apartheid things on his shirt, burning the United States flag, and glorifying the elongated version of the battle flag, certainly you're creating a climate that'll allow this kind of thing to happen.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, about ten years ago, you led a compromise effort on the flag. And there were Democratic presidential candidates who were threatening boycotts. And you were trying to be the peacemaker back then of saying, "Let's find a compromise on that flag." Looking back, do you wish you had just pushed harder and said, "You know what? No. We shouldn't have compromised?”

REP. JAMES CLYBURN:

No, sir. If they had followed the compromise, we would not be here. The compromise was to put that flag in front of the Wade Hampton office building next to the Wade Hampton statue. What happened was when some people rejected the compromise, the legislature out of defiance put that flag where it is today in front of the statehouse.

That is not what the compromise was. The compromise was to put it on the back side of the statehouse out of public view so it would not have any appearance of sovereignty. And that's not what the legislature did. And I wish they would come back. They are coming back here to do the budget. They can very well take it up. Now, let me say one other thing, Chuck. They keep saying that it takes two thirds to bring it down. That may be true. But it only takes a simple majority to get rid of that two thirds law.

CHUCK TODD:

That's a very interesting way to put it. I'm going to leave it there. Congressman Clyburn, always a pleasure. Thanks for coming on Meet the Press this morning. And, again, my condolences. I know it's a rough, rough Sunday morning at church today.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN:

Thank you so much for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Well, the panel is here. Of course, the New York Times' David Brooks, author of the new book The Road to Character. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, a native of Orangeburg, South Carolina. Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times. And Jerry Seib, the Washington bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. Welcome all. Gene, I'm going to start with you. This is your home.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Yeah, it is. My whole mother's side of the family is from Charleston. I had a great, great grandfather who had a blacksmith's shop around the corner from where that church stands today. So it is personal. Just to what Congressman Clyburn said just now. Just very quickly on the flag issue. Do you know when that flag was first flown at the Columbia statehouse in Columbia?

CHUCK TODD:

That's right. This is very important. 1961. Not 18--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

1961.

CHUCK TODD:

Not 1861.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

1961. And why?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Well, forgive the metaphor. But it was a middle finger directed at the federal government. It was flown there as a symbol of massive resistance to racial desegregation. Period. It was all this all this nonsense about honoring the valor of Southern manhood, you know, 150 years ago. They didn't have any urge to do that for a century after the Civil War.

It was only after Brown v. Board, after Little Rock, after desegregation began that South Carolinians and put up the flag on the statehouse, that other states in the South adopted the battle flag as part of their state flags. So it was massive resistance.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me put up--Let me put up the two flags. Because you heard Congressman Clyburn talk about that one is not actually the Confederate flag. Here it is. The actual flag of the Confederacy, the first one is the one on the left with the circle stars. What is known as the Confederate flag today is actually the battle flag of the Northern Virginia Army that was led by Robert E. Lee. That was sort of adopted as the symbol as you say, Gene, in the '60s. David Brooks, you write about character morality. Your reaction to all this? I mean, I guess I didn't think in the 21st century we were going to have race-based massacres.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah. Well, there were two sides of the week. There was the massacre, which was the shocking side. But I thought the family's reaction and what we just saw at the top of the show was an equally newsworthy event. Somebody used the phrase grace that surpasses understanding.

And to see that forgiveness. You know, the natural human reaction is to greet hatred with hatred, revenge by revenge. That's the natural genetic reaction. But what we saw in the courtroom and then just now was lives transformed by faith, people living out the faith, people walking the walk. And it's an example to the rest of us. First of all, all of us who are in politics with these little petty feuds. And here's a bunch of families who have forgiven that?

CHUCK TODD:

I have to say Donald Trump was the story earlier this week. Could there be anything more opposite of wanting to discuss an-- you know, you're absolutely right.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah. So, you know, I just thought that's first of all an example of the beautiful role faith can play in private life and public life. And just something that should be seared into our minds.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Jerry Seib, this is not part of our NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. But we have this online poll conducted by SurveyMonkey. We just asked specifically symbolism. "This Confederate flag, what does it symbolize: Southern pride or racism?" Split right down the middle, 49-49. I wonder if there's an education process when it comes to the Confederate battle flag.

GERALD SEIB:

Well, I think there is. And, you know, it's interesting. We could be talking about how wonderful Charleston has been. Or we could be talking about the flag. We're talking about the flag. And I have to think people in South Carolina have to be asking themselves, "Is that really the conversation we want to have or not?"

That number, Chuck, also reminded me of something you and I have seen in polling over the years, which is that white people tend to like to think that racial issues have been put behind us. And African Americans do not think that. And this split comes out over and over again.

CHUCK TODD:

Can I just tell you, Helene? I want you to react to something here. Josh DuBois, who of course was the president's first head of the White House Faith-based Initiative, he wrote this in the Daily Beast about this, what Jerry just brought up. "The question now is: Will we convince ourselves of the delusion that this killer is the only one who is sick? Or will we examine our national conscious and finally take steps to become well?

One of those steps has to be white Americans having an honest conversation about white culture." And he goes on to saying, you know, "We always say we got to have blacks and whites having a conversation together. Blacks need to have a conversation. But we never do call on white America to look inward."

HELENE COOPER:

No, we don't. I thought it was extraordinary essay. And I was glad to see that he wrote that. And I think it's something that we probably-- I don't know that I'm necessarily the person to be talking about white America having conversations at their dinner table. But I think it's something that we as the media don't really call on when we talk about, you know, having a conversation about race.

We talk about blacks and whites having a conversation about race. I know when I first got hired by the Wall Street Journal and I had not really been very far South before, I remember driving. I was hired in the Atlanta bureau of the Wall Street Journal. Driving across the border into Georgia and realizing at the time-- this was 1994.

And the Georgia state side had the Confederate flag on it. And as a black woman, I blanched. And I can't describe for you. When I see that battle flag, for me it's a symbol of hatred. And so it's very hard for me to cross that bridge and try to understand when. You know, and I understand that a lot of people in the South believe that this is heritage. You know, and as a black woman, I see that. And it's a tough one for me.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. We're going to pick up this conversation a little bit later in the show. But when we come back, we're also going to pick up the other subject that has been brought up after this massacre. And that's guns. This is a unique look though at the issue of gun violence in America. It's a video of inmates who committed murder talking about their regrets about ever picking up a firearm.

MALE CONVICT:

And they say to themselves, "If I'm careful, if I'm careful, then I can reach this good thing as long as nothing bad happens." And then I happened to him.

***Commercial Break***

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

Every country has violent, hateful, or mentally unstable people. What's different is not every country is awash with easily accessible guns. And so I refuse to act as if this is the new normal or to pretend that it's simply sufficient to grieve and that any mention of us doing something to stop it is somehow politicizing the problem.

CHUCK TODD:

That was President Obama Friday in the wake of the Charleston massacre on the issue of the availability of guns in America. Earlier, we heard the moving words of family members of the victims. So this morning, we wanted to take a look at American gun violence from a different perspective: From that of the person pointing the gun. We have a remarkable video to show you.

NBC News producer Dan Slepian volunteered to make a video about gun violence on his own time with convicted murderers at Sing Sing. It’s the infamous prison just north of New York City. The circumstances you are about to see are very different from the racist violence in Charleston. In this case, the inmates are African American that you’re going to hear from. But their lessons remain important. We simply ask you to look at this be a colorblind issue, as about just simply gun violence. Dan Slepian put these folks alone in a room with a camera. And asked them to do something unique, talk to their 12-year-old selves. What would they say now that could've made them put down the gun that ended a life and landed them in prison?

MALE INMATE #1:

My name is Tyrone Abraham I’m 40 years old, I made a choice a gun. That I held in my hands. A gun, when I first held one gave me a sense of power made me feel strong. Made me feel like, I was invincible

MALE INMATE #2:

You can be the bad thing that happens to somebody. Think about that, right? There could be a family. There’s a child. And and and and a father and there’s a mother and there’s a family. They come here from Africa to build a better life and they say to themselves ‘If I’m careful, if I’m careful I can reach this good thing as long as nothing bad happens’. And then I happened to him. You want to be the bad? You want to be the bad?

MALE INMATE #3:

When I was 17 one of my friends suggested to me ‘why don’t you carry a gun? You need this.’ So I took up a gun. I held it. And then this gun became my security.

NEWS ANCHOR:

The bullets shot into the crowd were real last night at a premier of the movie Godfather III

MALE INMATE #3:

I entered a movie theater with a group of friends. Then another group of teens came in yelling. Pretty soon an argument erupted between my group and that group. One of them pulled out a gun and fired it. I returned fire.

NEWS ANCHOR:

Police rushed in to find four innocent victims wounded in the crossfire. Two of them them teenagers including Tremaine Hall.

MALE INMATE #3:

I didn’t think I was gonna hit anybody but I did it anyway. A little boy was shot. He died that night.

MALE INMATE #2:

And it is that fast and it is over and it’s done. And you don’t even know what you did. And by the time you understand. It is too late.

MALE INMATE #3:

When I think of that I think of what happened at my trial. His father got on the stand. His father called his kid his buddy. That was his buddy. I took his buddy away from him. Me. How does that sit with me?

CHUCK TODD:

David, you write a lot about character and culture in general. And it's usually among the always when you do passed around things. The political conversation is one conversation on guns. This is a different way to have it.

DAVID BROOKS:

First, thanks for coming to me first. That was tough. That was powerful. You know, I think what comes out of it: You got so many young men who feel psychologically weak. And then the gun is the source of power. It's all they got. They in some cases don't have educations, don't have jobs, don't have privilege. And then the gun becomes the power source. We even saw this in this Charleston's kid's photo of him with the guns. It has the psychological effect. "The gun is my thing. The gun is my thing"

CHUCK TODD:

When that one man described the security he felt holding it.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah. And so that's a powerful look at inside the mind of how the gun becomes this psychological totem, this thing of who I am. And it's almost as if using the gun is going to be the thing that's going to be my expression of how I make a difference in the world. And that has a distorting cultural effect of just the physical presence of a gun in the hands of someone who feels he has nothing else.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, and, Gene, changing a law, passing a law isn't going to change the culture.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

No. Well, but passing the right law, passing a law that we're frankly not going to pass would take a lot of guns out of circulation, would make the gun not the normal thing one reaches for when one wants to aggrandize one's self-esteem. You know, I thought that was a very powerful piece. One small thing I would mention because I haven't seen the whole piece is it wasn't a terribly diverse set of people who were talking. Right now, we're talking about a horrific crime committed by a white man

CHUCK TODD:

White man. That's right

EUGENE ROBINSON:

We're talking about the search for two escaped murderers.

CHUCK TODD:

Who are white men.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Who are white men.

CHUCK TODD:

That's right.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

So we should point out--

CHUCK TODD:

Absolutely--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--that this is not just an African American problem.

CHUCK TODD:

No. No, no, no. And it wasn't intended to be that way. But, Helene, guns in our culture, that's what makes it politically so difficult.

HELENE COOPER:

Yes, that is what makes it politically so difficult. We seem in this country to be very wedded to them. I've heard so many different reasons for why. People say that, you know, gun control can't pass in Congress and that taking it on is political suicide. The first thing I thought, you know, when Charleston happened was that this isn't going to change the debate.

Because if Newtown, Connecticut isn't going to change the debate and we're not going to do anything about somebody going into an elementary school and shooting up a bunch of kindergarteners, we're certainly not going to do anything because a lunatic walked into a black church and shot nine people.

And that was a really cynical reaction on my part. And I think that's sad. I think that says a lot about, you know, sort of giving up hope about any sort of change or any real attempt to address gun control in this country. And I think that says a lot about the media and how we approach it. That the first thing that we say is, "It's going to be done--"

CHUCK TODD:

It's not going to happen.

HELENE COOPER:

"So forget it."

CHUCK TODD:

So forget it. Yeah.

GERALD SEIB:

Well, that's true. But, you know, it's interesting. We're all Washington creatures here.

CHUCK TODD:

That's right.

GERALD SEIB:

So we think what are politicians in the government going to do. We've used the term conversation several times here. You know, if nothing else happens, there are conversations going on in society. And that's not nothing. That's kind of the reaction I have to that video and to watching the families in Charleston.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. By the way, that inmate video is being shown to young people by, among others, the New York City Police Department. You can see the entire video on our website, MeetthePressNBC.com. When we come back, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joins me.

ANNOUNCER:

Meet the Press is brought to you by Morgan Stanley, where capital creates change.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

Republican presidential candidates flocked to Washington this week to make the case to evangelicals that their religious convictions would be at the center of their decision making if they are elected.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE:

But when you're pro-life, you need to be pro-life for the whole life.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

I would encourage everyone here to be lifting up in prayer the court.

RICK PERRY:

Bring this nation a revival, a revival of opportunity for everyone.

JEB BUSH:

And when I was asked to intervene on behalf of a woman who could not speak up for herself, I stood on her side. I stood on the side of Terry Schiavo and her parents.

CHUCK TODD:

Many of the messages to evangelicals were familiar. But this week, another religious leader introduced a new topic, climate change. That was a big part of Pope Francis's encyclical, which turned out to be a 184-page indictment of the global economy as a whole. The science of climate change is clear, the Pope said.

Humans are at fault. And they're turning the Earth into a, quote, "immense pile of filth." Well, suddenly several Republican candidates for president were put in the awkward bind of arguing that religion and religious leaders should stay out of political debates.

JEB BUSH:

We don't go to Mass for economic policy or for things in politics. I got enough people helping me along the way with that.

RICK SANTORUM:

Pope can talk about whatever he wants to talk about. I'm just saying, "What should the Pope use his moral authority for?"

CHUCK TODD:

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas and, of course, a former Baptist minister. And he joins me now. Governor Huckabee, welcome back to Meet the Press.

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

Thank you, Chuck. Great to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I get to that topic and the intermingling of religion and government, let me start on a couple of Charleston things in South Carolina and get your reaction. The flag debate is something you were a part of back in 2008. I want to play what you said when you last ran for president when the issue came up during the South Carolina primary.

MIKE HUCKABEE (ON TAPE):

You don't like people from outside the state coming down and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell them where to put the pole. That's what we'd do.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor, how do you feel this morning?

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

I still feel like it's not an issue for a person running for president. Here's what I think the question underlying all of this is: We're asking, "Is South Carolina a racist state because of the flag that flies on their Capitol grounds?" Here's what I can tell you as a frequent visitor to South Carolina.

This is a state that largely white people elected a female governor of Indian descent and the first ever African American United States senator from the South. They have more diversity in the people that they have elected to statewide office than New York, Connecticut, or Massachusetts. There's 4.8 million people in South Carolina.

I don't think you could say that the presence of one lunatic racist who everybody in this country feels contempt for and no one is defending is somehow evidence of the people of South Carolina. I think we've seen the people of South Carolina and their character by what you saw in Charleston with people of all races, Democrats, Republicans from every perspective hugging, praying. Nobody was burning down their community. They weren't breaking windows. They weren't beating up on cops. They were exhibiting a true Christian spirit that really is, I think, exemplary to the rest of the country.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess the question is: Should government be sanctioning a symbol that a large chunk of residents believe is a symbol of racism?

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

Well, it depends on which level of government. If the state government of South Carolina wishes to address an issue in their state, that's fine. But, Chuck, if you can point me to an article and section of the Constitution in which a United States president ought to weigh in on what states use as symbols, then please refresh my memory on that. But for those of us running for president, everyone's being baited with this question as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president. And my position is: It most certainly does not. If you--

CHUCK TODD:

Would you ever fly the flag--

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

People want their president to be focused on the economy, keeping America safe, some really big issues for the nation, I don't think they want us to weigh in on every little issue in all 50 states that might be an important issue to the people of those states but it's not on the desk of the president.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me just ask you this personally. Are you comfortable displaying the Confederate battle flag in public?

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

I don't personally display it anywhere. So it's not an issue for me. And so that's an issue for the people of South Carolina. Do you display it? I doubt it. Does anyone on your panel display it? I doubt it. For us, it's not an issue.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move on to this larger debate about race relations in America. If you were president of the United States today and you have this racially motivated massacre that took place in Charleston. But we've had some social unrest as well, this trust issue between African Americans and law enforcement officials. How would you be addressing this today if you were president?

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

I think the best way to address it is the way that we have seen from the church members there at Emanuel AME Church. If you look at the pastor, the pastor who was murdered, it occurs to me that here is a shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. A great example of biblical love, of Christian spirit.

And when you hear the family members as we heard on that very powerful interview earlier, it reminds us that Christianity is not this cartoonish, contemptible, laughable faith that people today try to marginalize. It is a powerful force of healing and reconciliation.

And while I know there are many people in our culture who don't want people to bring faith into the discussion, Chuck, after watching that family and seeing the members of this church in court the other day, I would say that most Americans stand back in awe and maybe would understand that it is precisely faith that would help this country have true racial reconciliation.

Let me just add this personally. When I was a young pastor in my 20's, I stood in front of what had been an all-white church. This was well over 30 years ago. And I welcomed the first African American member to that church. I had death threats. There were people who said they would leave the church.

But instead, I held my ground. I said, "If he goes, I go." The result was our church grew exponentially. And even though people said that they would cut off their giving, the very next month we had a record level of giving in that church. Sometimes it just takes courage to stand up and call out something to be evil and to express that the reason it's evil because it is a defiance and a defilement of God's grace.

And we've seen God's grace in the Emanuel AME Church and its members. A great testimony to the leadership of that pastor who instilled such a faith in his members that when they were faced with the greatest crisis of their experience, they reflected all that he had taught them. That I believe is the greatest witness we can hope for.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me go to the question that I introduced this topic on. And that is what the Pope said about climate change. And what's interesting is the way he based his position on climate change is actually very similar to the way you have based your position in the past.

And you have said this back in 2007. "Whether there is or there isn't," when it comes to climate change, "It doesn't release us from the responsibility to be good stewards of the environment. It's a spiritual issue. The earth belongs to God. I have no right to destroy it." It sounds like you agree with the Pope, sort of a faith-based focus on dealing with climate change. Do you still believe that?

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

Well, I've always believed that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. I believe that I'm not the owner of the natural resources. I'm just a manager, a steward. I get to use them, but I don't get to abuse them. I think what the Pope has done is to help us to start talking about our stewardship.

But let me be very clear. I think one of the ways that we would really help a lot of people is to use the energy that we have until we develop energy that right now is not that economically viable. I also would say to the Pope if we could get the prices of energy down and make it more affordable, the difference between $5 a gallon gasoline and $2 a gallon gasoline is a pay raise to a single mom strapping a couple of kids into car seats, taking them to daycare, and then on her way to work.

Lower energy prices means that 84-year-old woman in south Arkansas can turn her air conditioning on in the hottest day of 100° sweltering August sun. And so those are real, true moral and economic issues for a lot of people. So our goal is not just to say, "Let's not use the resources." Let's use them in a way that empowers people to live the best life they can possibly live.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, I understand that. But go to the key point of climate change. A) Do you believe it's man-made? And B) do you think that if you're elected president, this has to be on your agenda?

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

Whether it's man-made or not, I know that when I was in college I was being taught that if we didn't act very quickly, that we were going to entering a global freezing. And, you know, go back and look at the covers of Time and Newsweek from the early '70s. And we were told that if we didn't do something by 1980, we'd be popsicles.

Now we're told that we're all burning up. Science is not as settled on that as it is on some things. I find it interesting. The Left has completely embraced the Pope's message on climate change. But the Pope in that very same encyclical talked about the science of life and that there's no justification for taking the life of an innocent person when we know that the science is settled on the biology of the human life coming into being at the point of conception.

So let's embrace all of the Pope's message. And I'm waiting for the folks on the left who love this part about climate change. I'm waiting for them to also agree with him on the sanctity of every human life and that there's no such thing as an unwanted, disposable, or expendable human being.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. So if president, climate change is not in your top of your agenda? Just to--

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

Well, climate change is maybe the wrong question. Good, stable energy prices and making America an exporter of energy not just for economic reasons but quite frankly to disrupt the balance of power with Russia, Iran, and the Saudis. This is a game changer. And America needs to be using the resources that it has, use them responsibly, but for heaven's sakes use them to empower Americans, help poverty, and also change the global balance.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, governor. I got to leave it there. We had a lengthy conversation obviously about the horrific news of the past week. I hope to have you on again. We can talk taxes, spending, foreign policy, a lot of other things. It's a long campaign. Be safe on the trail, sir.

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

Yes, it is.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

FMR. GOV MIKE HUCKABEE:

Thank you very much, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Up next, just out this morning. The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll on the presidential race and the two names that have been with us for a long time, Bush and Clinton. Stay with us.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

Last week, we introduced our new segment, Meet the Next. The idea is to bring you interesting or intriguing ideas from around the country. Well, this week's new idea comes from the Annenberg Working Group on Presidential Campaign Debate Reform. This group of political operatives have many ideas that they would use to improve the debate process.

Among them, a chess clock like this one. The idea is this: Instead of allowing a set time for each answer for candidates to give, instead they would get a total amount of time that they can use for the entire debate. So it would work like this. Let's say you're Ted Cruz and your position on health care reform is crystal clear, repeal every word of Obamacare.

Done. You hit the clock. And then you have more time for other answers where you might want more nuance. The Annenberg folks had other suggestions. Eliminating most on-site audiences, embracing social media. But the chess clock was probably the most intriguing one and maybe the only one I really wanted to embrace. Well, now I'm being told I'm out of time. So we'll be back with the latest from the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll and what voters think about the dynasty candidates Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

In this week's nerd screen, we have some brand new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll results. And the big headline: America is not all that concerned about Jeb or Hillary's last names. In fact, we asked people to tell us what their top concerns were about the upcoming presidential race. We gave them a list of choices. And here's what came out on top. Ready for this?

33% were concerned that wealthy people and companies will have too much influence. That was number one. Number two issue with 25% was the idea that there will be more negativity in the campaign instead of actual debate about solutions to problems. That was a big surprise, that both issues were process issues that the country was concerned about.

Only 4% chose too many people from the same family running for president as their top concern. Conventional wisdom has been that the names Bush and Clinton are an issue to voters. But our poll shows that people are much more worried about how the campaigns will be conducted and paid for, not who's running.

And speaking of these famous last names, there is actually more good news in our poll for Jeb Bush. Back in March, only 49% of Republican voters said they could picture themselves supporting Jeb Bush eventually as the nominee. Well, guess what? After his announcement, that number is now 75%.

A huge jump for him and a big noteworthy point post-presidential announcement. As for the other guy that got into the race last week, Donald Trump. 66% of Republicans said they could not see supporting him. That is by far the highest on the list of can't support among Republicans of all the candidates that we tested.

But guess what? The good news for Trump: It was better than his showing in March, which was 74%. Now, here are the top five Republicans who have the most potential support in the primary: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, and Rick Perry. There is your top five among the Republicans that say they could see themselves supporting as the nominee.

So there's your sneak peek on the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. We're going to have a lot more tomorrow. But in a moment before we go to break, a reminder. If you can't be in front of a TV to see Meet the Press live, there's no problem with that. We're always available on demand. And don't forget to make us a season pass on your DVR. So even if it's not Sunday, it's still Meet the Press. Back in a moment with our end game segment.

ANNOUNCER:

Stay tuned for end game brought to you by Boeing.

**Commercial Break**

ANNOUNCER:

Time now for Meet the Press end game brought to you by Boeing, where the drive to build something better inspires us every day.

CHUCK TODD:

End game time. The panel is here. I want to go back to the gun video we showed because we've gotten a lot of comments on social media already. I'm going to read one tweet. It says, "Unfortunately Meet the Press decided to show that guns don't kill people but black powerless kids with guns kill people. Wrong time." Gene, you brought this up. That was the first reaction you had.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Yeah, I just--

CHUCK TODD:

Look, that is not, we wanted to have a different conversation about guns, about the societal issues, the why people choose to go get one. It wasn't meant to be a black and white issue. And I understand maybe in one of these moments where everybody's only seeing things through black and white.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Yeah. You know, here's one thing it teaches, is, you know, we have to be conscious of the way we talk about race. And we ought to do it more often. If we did it more often and it was part of the general conversation, then it wouldn't be so striking and so noticeable to so many people when, for example, you do something about gun violence and you only have black people in it. So, again, let's keep the dialogue going. And let's broaden it as well.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, David, look, the reason to bring up gun violence is we looked up these statistics. 50 Americans since 9/11 have been killed in terrorist attacks. We're up to nearly 400,000 people since 9/11 have been killed by firearms.

DAVID BROOKS:

Right. But the way the news events have happened with Ferguson, and this, and a bunch of Baltimore, a lot of them have had huge racial components. But then the conversation has slipped over into things like poverty and things like that. And so we've overly intermixed race and poverty.

I mean, most poor people in America are white. The family breakdown issue is an issue that crosses all sorts of racial lines. High school dropout issues. But because of the flow of events which involve the racial component, we've sometimes confused racial issues with other issues which are trans-racial.

CHUCK TODD:

No. And this is, I think, the challenge for political leaders. And, Jerry, it may go to the fact that, you know, the president, he went guns, not race in his immediate aftermath. And I talked to people close to him. The president is self-aware that when he talks about race, he thinks it polarizes the conversation. And therefore it defeats the purpose that he wants to have.

GERALD SEIB:

Yeah. And this is the great irony, I think, of the first African American president. In some ways, he finds it harder to talk about race because he carries, you know, his own background into it obviously. He's not seen necessarily as a neutral observer. He's not having much effect. And I think you see the frustration when he talks about these things on either front, on the racial front or on the guns front. You can tell that bothers him.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Helene, I had long conversations with aides. "Why guns, not race?" And they were just saying, "Well, guns is, believe it or not, less polarizing."

HELENE COOPER:

Yeah, it is sort of ironic. I don't necessarily think that Obama has problems talking about race. I think that he has been jumped on a lot whenever he has. I remember the Skip Gates thing back at the beginning of his first term where he said the Cambridge police behaved stupidly for arresting Professor Henry Louis Gates for trying to go into his own house.

And when he said it, I remember sitting at the press conference and thinking, "That's what I thought." That kind of made sense to me. And I remember writing a story. And then the next day came the backlash and everybody saying, "Why is he going after the Cambridge Police? He's a police officer's blah b;ah blah."

And it was very much, I thought. And that sort of has dogged him, I think, for years ever since then. That he gives his initial reaction. And then that ends up being polarizing because of who he is and because he is a black man. I think when he has spoken about race in a real issue, he can be great on it. He can be awesome.

CHUCK TODD:

He was the most powerful--His symbolism may be more powerful than anything else. But, Gene, to go back to the gun video that we showed, it is a reminder and in fact on law enforcement that, you know, white people do not see this issue the same because I've never been pulled over because of the color of my skin--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Right--

CHUCK TODD:

--by a police officer.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

And white parents don't have to have that talk with their sons about how to act when you're approached by police, and, "Don't make any sudden movements," and, "Keep your hands, you know, visible," and that sort of thing. You know, look, we could talk about this all day.

We could talk about mass incarceration. We could talk about disparities in drug sentencing. We could talk about a lot of things. I do want to point out that at the conference of mayors the other day Hillary Clinton gave a very tough speech on race where she really went into the issue in a very tough way. And also, President Obama on the second day--

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, he did--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--in fact did get into race in a more substantial way than he did the first day.

CHUCK TODD:

Well--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

But Hillary Clinton was very tough.

CHUCK TODD:

It's Father's Day. It's been a heavy day for a lot of people. Heavy issues for a lot of Americans that are having these conversations. But I want to wish a happy Father's Day to all dads and granddads out there. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.