tv Meet the Press MSNBC August 31, 2014 11:00am-12:01pm PDT
get an auto insurance quote and see why 92% of our members plan to stay for life. good morning. huge challenges for president obama this holiday weekend from enemies old and new. the president admits he does not yet have a strategy for defeating isis as britain raises its terror threat level. i'll ask dianne feinstein, chair of the senate intelligence committee about the threat posed to the u.s., and whether the president's recent comments show weakness. and facing down an old adversary. ukraine's president says its country is near full scale war with russia. how far will vladimir putin go. can president obama and the allies get him to back down? plus, a new era on "meet the
press." a revealing look at chuck todd from those who know him best. >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, this is "meet the press." >> and good morning. two major military flash points this sunday, both with strong consequences for the u.s. after fierce fighting iraqi troops have reached a town in northern iraq that was under siege by isis militants. overnight the u.s. launched air strikes against isis fighters near the town and dropped humanitarian aid. an estimated 15,000 people have been trapped in the siege. and the ukraine crisis, the european union giving russia an ultimatum, change course in one week or face tougher sanctions. this morning a defiant president putin calling for talks on state hood for eastern ukraine and saying it is impossible to predict when the crisis will he said. how should president obama respond to both crises? i'm joined by dianne feinstein, chair of the senate intelligence
committee. senator feinstein, welcome. thank you very much. >> thank you very much. we're approaching another 9/11 anniversary and we've heard of this dire warning. great britain has raised its security level. how serious is the isis threat, the threat from isis and other related groups to the american homeland? >> i believe it's potentially very serious. they have announced that they don't intend to stop. they have announced they will come after us if they can, they will, quote, spill our blood. they have indeed done that by beheading mr. foley and who knows how many others that are unknown. this is a vicious, vicious movement and it has to be confronted. i think senator mccain and senator graham really laid the basis in saturday's "new york times" in an op-ed for confrontation. i happen to agree with what they said. >> then is the president wrong to signal indecision by saying we still don't have a strategy against isis.
>> well, in that same newspaper, down below the mccain op-ed is one by our second stair of state, john kerry. in that he does, in fact, lay out a strategy which against next week at the nato conference, nato summit talking with our nato allies. the united states taking over the presidency of the security council in september and the beginning of a strategy to put together a coalition of the willing, if you will. it's a savage movement. in this case they have money, they have direction, they have moved rapidly across the syrian border, take over mosul and then gi given a sermon from the mosque in mosul. they took over the mosul dam. all that is changing now. but i believe their goal is baghdad.
i think it's very, very serious and we have to have a strategy to deal with it in syria and in iraq in this new caliphate and to prevent that caliphate from expanding. >> the fact is, they have been on the march now for months, if not years. so why does the president say we don't have a strategy yet. doesn't that project weakness from the white house? >> i mean, i know what you want me to say. but i'm not going to say it in that sense. i think i've learned one thing about this president, and that is he's very cautious. maybe in this instance too cautious. i do know that the military, i know that the state department, i know that others have been putting plans together. and so hopefully those plans will coalesce into a strategy
that can encourage that coalition. from arab nations, you know, jordan is at jeopardy, lebanon at jeopardy. uaa and other countries are in jeopardy. so there is good reason for people to come together now and begin to approach this as the very real threat that it in fact is. >> the president said isis is the jv team. that was clearly wrong. >> well, i think it's wrong, too. i think it's a major varsity team, if you want to use that kind of monikers. i see nothing that compares to its viciousness. auto i've been on the intelligence committee since 9/11. i've watched this evolution of
nonstate actors into world terror very carefully and closely. this is really the first group that has the wherewithal in terms of financing. the fighting machine in terms of a structure. heavy equipment, heavy explosives. the ability to move quickly. they cross the border into iraq before we knew it happened. so this is a group of people who are extraordinarily dangerous. they will kill with abandon. >> was that an intelligence failure or was the white house not listening to the community? >> well, i think our intelligence in syria has not been good for a number of reasons. but i do know that the breaking through of the borders was not known ahead of time. i think a lot of that hopefully has been repaired now. i think the intelligence community is well aware of the need to get up and running in a major way both in iraq and in syria. >> and do we have to go to syria to get at the root of isis?
>> well, i don't know exactly who was where when, but there's no question but they have a home base in syria. they have expanded that base now into iraq. that part of it is a fighting base. it is devoted to taking over cities. it failed to hold the mosul dam, thank god. i believe it is on its way to baghdad and i believe they will try to attack our embassy from the west, which is a sunni area where i believe they are infiltrating now. so i think this is extraordinarily serious, and i think the president is wise in this sense. what i understand he's trying to do is give an opportunity for this new iraqi government -- new because of the new prime minister al abadi, to make a
move that offer an alternative to the sunni people in his country. >> i'm going to ask you about vladimir putin. there's a lot of talk putin cannot be stopped. he's moved with tanks, artillery and troops across the border, we're calling itincursion, not an invasion. is there anything we can do to stop vladimir putin? >> i think there ought to be direct discussions with vladimir putin. i think he is the singular figure in russia. russia is a huge country. the ukraine is a large country. the crimea is gone. i think there ought to be steps taken to send people to talk with him. to have our secretary of state talk with him personally. i think this is deeply personal with him, i really do. and i think he's calling the shots himself. he's enjoying intensely high
favorability in his country. people say, well, just wait until the sanctions bite and the economy slips. i don't think so. i think if russians follow him and up-to-date they are following him, the russians are very brave and very long suffering. and they will tough out any economic difficulty. >> you don't see sanctions working in the short-term? >> i'm not sure they will work. i'm not sure that shakes the people that much. it's the people that have to be spoken to. it's their solitary leader, vladimir putin, that has to be spoken. >> dianne feinstein, chair of the senate intelligence committee. thank you very much. >> you're welcome. thank you. with more on the isis threat, i'm joined by our chief foreign correspondent richard engel, who has really been
studying isis for quite some time in the field. richard, what about the president's reluctance to take the fight against isis to syria. >> i spoke to military commanders, officials, they are apoplectic. they think this is a clear and present danger. they think something needs to be done. one official said it's a freudian slip. it shows how the united states does not have a policy to deal with syria, even when you have isis, which has effectively become a terrorist army, roughly 20,000 strong. about half of them foreign fighters and incredibly well armed after two major weapons hauls. the first when isis took over the city and u.s.-trained iraqi army disgraced itself by not fighting. the second, just last week when isis took over a syrian air base. like it or not, the u.s. may not be forced to take action against isis not only in iraq but also in syria.
this critic says it could mean helping the assad regime, which the president said had to go. >> if we think that we are not in their sights, we are delusional. they have the same agenda that al qaeda has. >> so what has the u.s. done about it? to a large degree the administration's policy has been to ignore syria, ignore it until the horrors there become too barbaric to stomach. a year ago that was a chemical weapons attack outside damascus when washington blamed the regime for gassing over 1,000 to death, including hundreds of children. the syria regime crossed, leapt over, in fact, the president's red line. >> this menace must be confronted. i will seek authorization for the use of force from the american people's representatives in congress. >> reporter: instead, without congressional support, the bombings against assad never came. neither did large scale support for the syrian opposition.
in retrospect, the bombings probably would have been too little, too late to have made things better in syria. isis was already on the rise. weapons given to the opposition would very likely have ended up in the hands of radicals. then after empty threats and empty promises, the administration turned away from syria again for another year until isis shocked the world by occupying large parts of iraq and declaring a new state, the islamic state, the caliphate. the u.s. is flying surveillance missions over syria, looking for targets it can attack from the air. >> this is not mission creep. this is establishing a vital mission for american security. and we need to do it, and we need to do it yesterday. >> the u.s. risks falling into what one former official calls
assad's trap. the search helped isis grow by attacking other opposition forces and rarely targeting isis. assad waited patiently until isis pushed out almost all other more moderate groups and is now telling the world he's fighting a just war against terrorism. if the u.s. starts bombing isis in syria, it will be helping the syrian regime. . in, pulling weeds out of assad's garden which he allowed to grow but which have now become a global threat. the buildup of isis in iraq and syria was incredibly predictable, andrea. we reported about it. reporters risked their lives going into syria to talk about this buildup of extremists in the country, yet nothing seems to have been done. now we have a very serious situation. >> indeed. thank you so much, richard engel. for more on the military options for taking on isis, i'm joined by michael leiter, nbc security analyst served as director of
the national terror center. and the ek xif director at the center for new american security. and a former commander in chief from u.s. central command and special envoy for the middle east. his new book is "before the first shots are fired, how america can win or lose off the battlefield." thank you so much. what we've seen is dianne feinstein just saying the president was too cautious in this instance. agreed? >> i agree with senator feinstein. isis has committed atrocities, potential genocide. that's unacceptable. i think we shouldn't be so cautious. we should blunt them before their recruiting really grows, before they gain more territory. i would say one thing is key to this, a lesson we should have learned in afghanistan, even back to vietnam, you can't give sanctuary to a potential enemy. we will have to go to syria.
if we sort of honor that border, unfortunately they will only be allowed to rebuild much as al qaeda in iraq morphed into this isis. >> michael leiter, you led the intelligence center in very difficult times, after 9/11. in two administrations. now the brits have raised their threat level, the second highest threat level in great britain. the u.s. has not. what is the threat to american homeland from isis? >> i think the threat from isis is growing. the threat from other organizations in syria is probably even higher than it is from isis. what the british threat level increase really means is they don't know what's going on in their country. they don't see something specific but they know there have been many people in the west traveling to syria and iraq and they are not sure where they are and what they are doing. the u.s. doesn't have that same scale of problem, but we do still have that issue and it's really got people scared. >> when you say others, you mean al nusra and other militant
groups. >> isis is in the news now but the al nusra connected with same ideologies and more focused on attacking the west than in the past, but i suspect isis is very much going in that same direction. >> i wanted to play for you a little of what chuck hagel said a week before the president issued his caution. let's watch. >> they are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in iraq or anywhere else. this is beyond anything we've seen. >> the president seemed to be almost speaking to his own national security cabinet. you've served in the situation room, been on a national security team with this president. he seemed to be saying to chuck hagel and to john kerry and others, not so fast. >> i think we have in president obama a very deliberative decisionmaker. he wants to take his time to get it right. when you heard secretary hagel urge about the growing threat. when you watch what the administration is doing, they are putting the pieces of the
strategy together. you have john kerry going to the region to consult with partners and allies, start to bring them on board to a common approach. you have the intelligence mission flying over syria to try to understand the possibilities there to set up the possibilities of a strike. so you have engagement in iraq, trying to form a government that could enable the iraqi forces to be more effective against isis. the pieces are starting to emerge. but i think again this is a president who wants to take his time to get it right. >> the way presidents frame, words matter. the way they frame the threat does matter especially around the world. john mccain and lindsey graham, two frequent critics of the president's foreign policy were editorializing on the front page of "the new york times" and said, mr. obama has begun to take military actions against isis in iraq but they have been
tactical and reactive half measures. continuing to confront isis in iraq but not syria would be fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. we need a military plan to defeat isis wherever it is. general zinni, what is the military plan, what are the pieces. as michelle was just saying, beyond surveillance, don't you have to have boots on the ground in order to really do air strikes effectively? >> i think there are many parts of this. first the intelligence piece, tactical intelligence and targeting. the second is to provide the air support and the capability that will bolster the kurds, iraqi military. we need to revamp the security assistance program in both iraq and with the kurds that we have been reluctant to do because of iraqi objections. i think the same with jordan, saudi arabia and others because they have a front in this literally. the boots on the ground question is always the toughest one. i wish we were not so paranoid about boots on the ground, we can't even define it. there's going to have to be
special operations forces, people that can call in and adjust air and fire and advisers to be with these units. very simply put, if you put two brigades on the ground of u.s. forces, they would push isis back to syria in a heartbeat and probably take less time, less cost. i think in the long run fewer casualties overall. let me say one thing. the important piece of this is not just the military plan. that's not a strategy in and of itself. we need to rebuild the coalition in the region. it is fractured ever since we first went into iraq. we have allies that no longer trust us, believe in us or think we can have it down or have the leadership. we need to bring together a coalition of outsiders, europeans and others like we did in the first gulf war. i don't know why we're waiting for a u.n. resolution to condemn isis and use force which makes this easier. all the other pieces michele talked about that starting, we don't have the time for this kind of deliberation. there is a battle of the narrative going on, and we're losing it.
>> as you point out, even before the first shots are fired, you have to build these coalitions. has that become appreciably harder, michael leiter, you know the gulf so well, since the president backed down, said he was going to ask for congressional support after assad crossed that red line last year. is it now harder when secretary kerry goes to the region. are the saudis and others going to be more reluctant to follow us? >> i think they are. the best illustration of that is what happened last week with the uae working with egypt to bomb in libya. this is the place where we have been deeply involved. these are two important allies in the region, and we didn't even know they were doing it. that shows this view that there has been an absence of u.s. leadership in the region. so it is going to take very forceful leadership. i agree with michelle, the pieces are starting to come together. the question is how quickly they can do it. we've been playing on defense. we have to get on the offense because otherwise the counter-terrorism and intelligence people can't stop
all the threats. >> let's wait just a moment. we want to talk about another major foreign policy crisis and we'll pick it up there. that's ukraine, of course. our jim maceda looks at who is winning the showdown with putin, president obama or putin? >> reporter: vladimir putin, as he was for the fellow members to see him, the charge by land, air and sea and ever defiant. despite international condemnation for what nato calls an invasion of eastern ukraine like crimea before it. putin's response, sending in more troops and tanks over the border, nato sources say, and opening a new front in the four month conflict that's killed at least 2600 people according to u.n. figures. some critics fear putin is carving out new territory. the kremlin referred officially to the new russia. the kremlin referred officially to new russia. what's putin really up to?
theodore who advises the kremlin on defense matters, said putin has no grand strategy to resurrect the soviet union. >> the former soviet space should be recognized by the rest as a zone of special interest and exclusive rights for russia. >> reporter: for putin, ukraine is a red zone within that space, though he still denies russia plays any role in the war there. putin's unpredictability has made relations with the u.s. already at a post cold war low, even more straining with putin resists all efforts by obama and the west to reign him in over ukraine. in june obama told nbc's brian williams he and putin spoke, quote, repeatedly. >> we have generally a business-like relationship and are very candid and blunt with each other. >> reporter: according to kremlin phone records confirmed by the white house, the two have spoken just ten times, dismissing boots on the ground
in ukraine, the president says targeted sanctions have hurt the russian economy and putin, even if he doesn't admit it. >> russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the cold war. >> reporter: still, putin is undeterred triggering calls to arm the ukrainian forces lethally. >> we may give them light anti-armor weapons that would allow them to defend their country better. >> reporter: that could risk a major escalation with putin just this week warning nuclear is a nuclear power not to be messed with. >> thanks to jim maceda. joining our conversation is michael mcfaul, former ambassador to russia. first to you, ambassador mcfaul, let's talk about putin. what will it take to get him to back down? >> i'm not sure, to be honest. what you see today in jim
maceda's report is him escalating on the ground in response to the ukrainian military winning just a few weeks ago. he decided he did not want his separatists, his mercenaries in eastern ukraine to lose so he opened up this third front. until there's a stalemate in eastern ukraine, which i don't see any time soon, i think it's very unlikely we're going to have real negotiations. >> and michael mcfaul, we also heard putin saying today that if eastern ukraine should be able to vote on its own statehood, which sounds like the next step similar to what already happened with crimea. >> he said that and his press secretary rolled it back. they have communication problems like sometimes our leaders do, too, in terms of what the phrase actually meant. but it was notable for the first time he did use the phrase, which he hasn't used for about four months. and that inside eastern ukraine by the separatists was taken as a major vote of confidence from them from vladimir putin who had
not supported them for a really long time. it was a rhetorical escalation as well. >> michelle flourney, is there a military opposing as nato begins its meetings next week in wales? >> i don't think there's an exclusively military option that would be meaningful. i do think what we do with nato and what we do in terms of assistance to ukraine matters a great deal. this is a significant escalation. putin is now watching what are we, the west, going to do. i think bolstering nato's posture along nato frontier is more important. more importantly, i think we need to be having a serious discussion about enhancing military assistance we provide to ukraine. we cannot afford to see them be trumped on the battlefield and to see them lose even more territory in eastern ukraine. at the same time turning up the sanctions and opening a channel of dialogue with putin. it's very disturbing we're not
engaging him more fully. i'm not suggesting that will be immediately productive but you've got to have some kind of dialogue to try over time, to figure out, how is he going to come out of the tree, how is he going to come out of this situation he's created for himself? >> dianne feinstein also suggesting in that interview earlier this morning. now, samantha power, the same day that president obama was in the briefing room suggesting that we should take it slowly with vladimir putin, samantha power was at the u.n. let me show you this contrast. >> it is manipulated. it is outright lied. >> i consider what you have seen in the last week is a continuing of what's been taking place for months now. >> tone matters. doesn't it? >> yes. i believe putin is doing two things. one, testing american leadership, particularly in
europe. second, testing european will, resolve and cohesion. it's very important that our leadership be demonstrated clearly and decisively and that the europeans through nato stand. i agree with everything michelle said. now is the time to bolster ukrainian military support. it's also time to find a way to engage putin. maybe even leading to a meeting or a summit with the president and putin. but of course a lot of work done before that. i think one mistake we make, and it's a point i would disagree with senator feinstein. sending the secretary of state out to meet with putin probably insults him even more. i think you need to do the groundwork to build up to something. but we're going to need a way to walk this down where there's face saving or else we're going to have a confrontation we don't want. >> briefly, michael mcfaul, is there a way to give putin an exit strategy? >> yeah, i think it's easy.
this is not like a lot of other conflicts around the world. it would entail more decentralization in eastern ukraine, the use of the russian language, perhaps international monitors there. by the way, i think the government in kiev would be willing to negotiate along those lines. it's difficult who would sit down with them, because it can't be putin. but i think a deal is ready to be made but putin has to want to negotiate. so far i think it's very clear he doesn't want to negotiate. he thinks he can advance his interests through military means on the ground. >> thank you all. thank you, michael mcfaul, thank you here at the table. coming up next, is the white house playing politics with immigration? why president obama will likely now delay action until after the midterm elections. and why does a congressional leader greet visitors with this little guy? our roundtable will reveal all, coming up next. >> meet the press is brought to you by boeing, where the drive to build something better
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s we wes moore, army combat veteran and host of "beyond belief" on the oprah winfrey network, and columnist from the washington post. welcome, all. we've been talking a lot about the fallout from what the president said last week. what about his comments? do they matter if the strategy comes together? >> well, it matters a lot. i think what we're seeing here and everyone is pretty much describing, andrea, is a political model, foreign policy model they described earlier in the administration which was leading from behind. an idea that others would sort of coalesce and take the lead. i think we've seen that does not work. if you try to lead from behind, you are always playing catch up. clearly we're playing catch up in both the middle east right now and in ukraine. the problem when you do that is that your so-called partners begin to make deals on their own as michael leiter was just describing. egyptians and uae bombed libya on their own.
one might say that's a positive development. but in the short-term if people start making deals only in their interest and not in the u.s. interest, the united states will have a very hard time getting to the point where we can form a coherent strategy involving our partners. >> but doris, you've written historically about presidents and having teams of rivals, if you will, or teams that give them different points of view. is it a good thing he's hearing from a kerry, hagel and deciding on his own? >> i think the most important part of the discussion that history suggests we haven't talked about is whatever the right decisions are, and we've been talking about possibly special ops on the ground, air strikes going into syria, if it's going to be a long struggle and it sounds like it might, the public has to get involved. that's where the leadership challenge comes for the president at a time when we're very war weary. we've been to iraq, afghanistan.
way, way back in 1937, fdr understood the threat mussolini and hitler posed. we've got to do something. you look back and no one is following. that's the trouble. so he has to move step by step to get the country involved. so congress better debate this. they have to come back. i don't know why they aren't here talking about this. this is important. the country has to understand it. they have to have simple language. is it containment, destroying, arsenal, what are we doing? we need to understand this before it goes further. >> you have military experience in afghanistan. the military also wants a congressional debate. they want to know what direction the leaders are taking them? >> what they really ultimately need to do for miller expression is congress can give air cover. congress can help enact the president enact policies that n need to be enacted. we need to be clear about that. we need domestic support but we also need international partners on board. it's important, one for the idea of capacity. the idea this is not just our war. last week alone we had a lebanese soldier who was
decapitated, who was beheaded. thirty turkish diplomats held by isis. this is not just our issue. this is an issue for global conflagration. if we're so cautious about putting boots on the ground, ironically we already have boots on the ground, adding to the boots on the ground, but the challenge is in order to be effective, you have to have intelligence on the ground. not just air intelligence but human, human intelligence. the third reason is if we go it alone we're playing right into isis hands. they are complex in terms of their social media strategy and how they are affecting the disaffected. we have to bring in international coalition. not leading from behind but international coalition that can help justify these actions and be truly effective on what we're trying to do. >> while we're talking about all these foreign challenges, domestically the president is signaling a retreat on a promise he made this summer when john boehner said no congressional
action on immigration. the president said i will come up with a plan, my people will come up with a plan and i will act on it quickly. >> yes. it's very similar to the debate we're having about the president's handling of foreign policy, because senator feinstein used the nice phrase too cautious. i'm going to use a slightly less nice phrase, herky jerky, one direction then the other. so on immigration, he told the hispanic groups and the labor groups, which are very focused on this issue, that he was going to act, essentially by the end of the summer. all of a sudden he's changing his mind. he's now in a position where he's going to aggravate everybody. it's not yet decided but it's fairly clear which way this is trending, to put this off until after the election. so he's going to have hispanic and labor groups angry with him for not acting swiftly. he has democrats agitated that he raised the profile of the
issue and endangered them, so they are all worked up. >> whatever major states, red state democrats are trying to hang on. >> then whatever he does, he's going to have republicans asserting that he's overstepping his executive authority. why was this not made though when he made the announcement on june 30th that he would be getting recommendations and acting essentially by the end of the summer? the border crisis did explode immediately after that but it was entirely predictable that immigration would be an issue in the fall campaign. >> it is predictable they will yell at him. every executive order in history is the cry of dictator. they knew that was going to come anyway. some executive orders important, housing, executive orders that have done socially just things. the question is, he shouldn't have promised i'll do it by a certain time.
he may be right to relay the timing until after the election because he can still do it in december, but if he wouldn't have promised, it would have been fine. he wouldn't have gotten cries of dictatorship, yeah, this is a good thing being done. >> the president has put his party in a very difficult spot. the most important metric in midterm elections is the president's approval rating. that's what's going on in all the red states democrats are running in. his handling of foreign policy just keeps going down, it's below 40%. and i'm sure it's going to drop further after the past week. so i doubt these democrats want to come back to washington and have a debate. perhaps they should. but it's the last thing they are going to want to talk about. somehow they are out there on their own having to defend themselves against criticisms we're now hearing of the president. >> but as promised, we do have the monkey in the room, which is that congress hasn't come back. take a look at the monkey, the only thing we've seen from congress is john boehner putting out a video where he introduces
the monkey on the table when people come into his office. now, basically, they are missing in action, members of both houses. we've had a serious crisis, why haven't they come back? >> the reason they haven't come back, exactly what we're saying. there are certain things they don't want to debate before the midterm election. the problem is we don't have time to wait until after the midterm election. the problem is people in office are in office to make actions and decisions. people want leadership that's going to be driven by a sense of passion and pragmatism and not polsters. these issues people have been waiting on for years needs be addressed and have to be addressed and we can't simply wait for an election cycle. >> being so passive about it. everybody is mad at congress. everybody who says what's going on in washington is horrible, dysfunctional. what do we do? somehow there has to be some way to move people. they were elected for a reason.
they are supposed to be doing the business. they should be proud of politicians, yet we're looking at the monkey in the room. >> speaking of other issues that come up on capitol hill, coming up next, sexism in the senate. our roundtable discusses shocking representation of boorish male colleagues. stay with us. >> meet the press is brought to you by the morgan stanley institute for sustainable investing. but the energy bp produces up here creates something else as well: jobs all over america. engineering and innovation jobs. advanced safety systems & technology. shipping and manufacturing. across the united states, bp supports more than a quarter million jobs. when we set up operation in one part of the country, people in other parts go to work. that's not a coincidence. it's one more part of our commitment to america. can you fix it, dad?
earlier you saw my interview with california senator dianne feinstein about iraq and ukraine. i also asked her about the so-called cia torture report. she said that report will not be released, if it's redacted or censored too heavily. and it doesn't include her committee's main findings. that extended interview on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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with excerpts from her new book "off the sidelines" about sexism in the senate. "people" magazine says she describes one older male lawmaker as telling her in the house gym, "good thing you're working out because you won't want to get porky." another house member says, "you know, kirsten, you're even pretty when you're fat." and one older senator once squeezed her waist and said, don't lose too much weight. i like my girls chubby. ruth, you've written about this today, i like my girls chubby, squeezing her waist. we both cover the senate and the clarence thomas hearings and ruckus after that. have things not changed? >> well, yes and no. certainly anyone who has been around there, any woman who has been around there, is not shock shocked there are comments
going on. by the way, from positions politicians from both parties, weight is the new race. it's important not to talk about with colleagues. it's simultaneously important to note and senator gillibrand caucus about how this is a generational thing. there is a difference between the 60, 70, 80-year-old politicians and the way they handle gender issues. not to say it's a gender equity paradise in congress. it's not. and the way some of the younger senators, when i say younger senators i mean middle age like me. they are different. they work for goldman sachs, lobbying firms. they are used to dealing with working women. from the conversations i've had with women senators, their male colleagues of a younger age are a little bit more adept at dealing with them. >> this is generational. but there still is a lot of sexism on the hill? >> a tremendous amount. the thing is, we can't just have senator gillibrand speaking out about it, we also need males speaking out about it as well. i have a dear friend who met his
wife at harvard law school. and when he met his wife at harvard law school, there was a professor who would only call women on tuesdays. it was unspoken. when they raised their hands, he only called on them on tuesday. he talked about how embarrassing wasn't embarrassing he did it because that's who he is. what's embarrassing is no one said anything, not a single man said anything. it can't just be a conversation among female lawmakers, male lawmakers have to speak up as well. >> we'll have to leave it. there. thank you very much. and coming up, a special shout-out from president obama this week for the new moderator of "meet the press." >> i'm going to start with somebody who i guess is now a big cheese. >> i'll be joined by the big cheese himself coming up next. ♪
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coming up, a new chapter coming up, a new chapter from "meet the press." chuck todd joins me next. i've helped many people in the last 23 years. but i needed help in quitting smoking. along with support, chantix (varenicline) is proven to help people quit smoking. chantix reduced the urge for me to smoke. it actually caught me by surprise. some people had changes in behavior, thinking or mood, hostility, agitation, depressed mood and suicidal thoughts or actions while taking or after stopping chantix. if you notice any of these, stop chantix and call your doctor right away. tell your doctor about any history of mental health problems, which could get worse while taking chantix. don't take chantix if you've had a serious allergic or skin reaction to it. if you develop these, stop chantix and
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welcome back. for the 10th anniversary of "meet the press," john f. welcome back. for the 10th anniversary of "meet the press," john f. kennedy wrote, "i know of no other radio or television program which has become such a firm and widely respected institution in american life. there's no one better suited to uphold and build on that legacy than my friend, chuck todd. >> announcer: this is "meet the press" with -- >> chuck todd. >> chuck todd. >> chuck. >> chuck. >> chuck todd. where is chuck? >> i'm going to start with somebody who i guess is now a big cheese. i understand it's going to be his last chance to ask me a question in the press room. i want to congratulate chuck todd and give him first dibs. >> i'm glad you said in the press room. >> chuck todd defined white house correspondent. he would ask the question, ask a follow-up. >> chuck, how many you got? >> he'd ask another question.
>> this is not a kosher question but don't hog it. >> my colleague over here, the follow-up he had and then another question i have for you. >> he's relentless, like a dog with a bone. >> why do you believe the israeli people have not embraced president obama the same way they embraced our last two presidents? >> so you had to get a polling question in there. chuck, i mean, you're incorrigible. >> i think chuck has an amazing brain, which he, i'm sure, inherited from his father. he always knew who was running for what office locally. he knew who was running for what office locally, he knew who was running for the office in the state and nationally. >> if you've ever seen him on election night, it's like a tour deforce of political nerdfest. >> i have to get the geek out a little on florida here. >> hang on, chuck. hang on, chuck. we've got a critical call. >> yes, we do. >> chuck, i don't say this often enough. great work on the board tonight.
>> if you look up political junkie in the dictionary, you will find a picture of chuck todd and his goatee. >> the control room would like you to shave, too. >> good luck with that. >> the first time he was on with tim russert, that was a dream come true for him. >> what is a blg blog? >> well, the actual term itself is short for web blog. you drop the w and you get the blog. >> tim used to say "meet the press" was a national treasure you're. i can't think of a better custodian than chuck. >> i wouldn't be standing here as a member of congress. >> and president obama? >> and president obama would not be president. >> chuck todd is my best friend. people think he only wants to talk to high-level folks at the white house. it's not really that at all. he wants to hear what everybody thinks. >> i've known chuck todd since tim russert brought him to nbc news. we agreed he was a walking encyclopedia of politics.
he knows all the players, all the moves, the consequences and polling, he knew where the country stood on these issues. chuck todd is the perfect man for this job, especially in this critical year. i'm here in montana where chuck and i have been talking about how republicans hope to pick up a senate seat. a lot of these contests across the country, this is a time when american politics is not only in play but on trial in many ways. chuck is the guy who can bring this home to the american people. i want to wish you all the best, my friend. i want to wish all the best to another friend, david gregory, for his future. >> what have we learned? chuck todd is a goatee enthusiast, walking political briefing book. most of all he's a good guy. he is, by the way, the only good reason to allow a camera crew on a good beach day in the waning summer days of the jersey shore. mostly for me, he's a friend and a guy with whom i can talk
football year in and year out. the new nfl season is about to start and so too begins a whole new season for my friend, chuck todd. >> chuck said politics not a game, it's a passion. because it reflects the worst and best of our democracy, and he's here now. chuck, politics, how did that become a dirty word. >> i am still recovering about my wife and seem saying things so nice. i did not see or hear any of that stuff. the issue of politics and the art of politics is a very important part of how the world governs itself, how americans govern itself. this show today is "meet the press" at its best. when i think about the roundtable, mike leiter, mike mcfaul, these are people who
have been in the room helping translate what's going on inside the situation room to the american public. you were doing a great job asking what the american public is asking. and that's our job as political journalists in many ways. we are the go-between. which is why people sometimes get angry at us, politicians get angry at us, the public gets angry at us, because they know that they want us to be that sbre interpreter. my issue these days when they say, i hate politics. no, you don't. what you hate is politicians who don't know how to practice it. it's like watching a game. you want to compare it to a game. it is like watching a game. people who don't play the game very well, you'd stop watching the game. those baseball players stink. or those football players don't respect it. if you have politicians that know how to practice the art of politics, the democracy gets stronger and the world gets safer and that's when you realize politics. >> it doesn't stop at the beltway. >> not at all. sometimes the beltway is part of
the problem. >> so we go outside and we look at the elections, midterm elections coming up, but it all has to be with redistricting, things very granular but really affect the way people live. >> it is. i'm frustrated by the fact people are not participating. that's where i'm really upset. okay. you guys have really broken in. we have had plenty of advice or critiques that say, you in the media helped break this. that's the part of this i think that is problematic is that people aren't participating. that's one of our jobs is sort of make it big, make it important enough people realize they have to participate. if you have problems with washington, look in the mirror. >> participation, making people care, the passion you bring to all of this -- it's all very exciting. >> it is fun. politics is fun and can be fun, too. >> you have the last word? >> if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." i'll see you next week.
that's who i am, a physician, whether in politics or out of politics. >> where politics meets medicine. a remote journey to guatemala where a u.s. senator is known as dr. pablo. >> hello, dr. pablo, coma esta? >> they don't see perfectly well but they see better than before. >> there's never been anything quite like this on the national political stage. a humanitarian journey abroad where unlike in washington recently things actually get done. >> i don't know the politics of any of those doctors in there, we don't care, we just want to help people see better. >> but will performing eye surgery for the poor convince voters at home that