Show: MTP DAILY> Date: October 5, 2016 Guest: Michael Steele, Ed Rendell, Charles Cooke, Bob Herbert, Beth Fouhy, Hampton Pearson, Danielle Pletka, Michael McFaul
CHUCK TODD, HOST: Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in New York City in election headquarters. There`s a lots to unpack from last night`s VP debate and we`re going to get to that in just a few minutes.
But, first, for many of us on the East Coast, we are obsessing a bit on tracking Hurricane Matthew as it threatens the Southeast starting tomorrow and throughout the weekend. Right now, Hurricane Matthew is still a strong category three storm and it could end up strengthening back to a category four as it hits warmer water when it moves completely North of Cuba.
Matthew has already left a path of destruction through the Caribbean. 25 deaths are being blamed on the storm. Officials fear that number, of course, could rise once the storm passes over some of those islands. Florida Governor Rick Scott says they are preparing for the worst.
Hurricane watches and warnings currently extend essentially the entire length of the Atlantic Coast on Florida`s East Coast. Let`s go over to Dylan Dreyer. She has the latest track for us. So, Dylan, walk us through where things are, where you feel good about the next 48 hours, 72, et cetera.
DYLAN DREYER, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: 72 is a stretch but --
TODD: I figured it might be.
DREYER: But over the next 48 hours, we know it is going to continue to move through the Bahamas and approach the East Central Coast of Florida. We just got the 5:00 o`clock update. Winds are still at 120 miles per hour and it is moving through the Bahamas.
So, naturally, we do have your hurricane warnings in effect all throughout the Bahamas and also East Central Florida because hurricane conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. Just to the North of that, we`re looking at the possibility of hurricane conditions. So that`s why the watch is in effect and that would be within the next 48 hours.
So here`s what we know in the short-term. It is expected to go back up to a category four storm, but, again, we`re looking at about a 10 mile per hour difference here. It`s the difference between 120 miles per hour and 130 miles per hour. So, either way, it`s a very strong storm.
Look at how close it gets to Melbourne, Florida as we go into Friday morning. And Friday afternoon, we`re looking at this storm to be hugging that Florida coastline, producing a three to five foot storm surge, up to seven inches of rain, coastal flooding and beach erosion.
Watch what happens here as we go into Sunday and beyond. The National Hurricane Center is starting to wrap this back around. Some models indicating it could do a complete loop and maybe had significant impacts for Florida again as we go into next week. Very bizarre, but it`s something we`re keeping an eye on.
TODD: All right. Dylan, when you grow up in Miami, you think you`re -- everybody there thinks hurricane forecasters, this has happened a couple of times. Why in this case could this happen? Is there multiple fronts coming in from -- what could make this hurricane where there is such a strong front sitting on it that it actually could make it do a U-turn?
DREYER: Which sounds bizarre to say, but if you think about it right up through here, there is a blocking pattern. And as that blocking pattern is stuck in place, everything is blocked. So the storm, say, wants to go like this which, at some point, during this hurricane forecast, it was looking like it could do, but it blocked.
So instead it has to go back around. I don`t think it will be as strong when it goes back around, if it goes back around. But it still is steering in that direction because it really has nowhere else to go as of now.
TODD: And how far south do they think it could loop if it goes on this model? Is it all the way back down to South Florida or are we looking at something where it threatens more of the central part of the Atlantic Coast?
DREYER: It was looking like it could actually loop all the way back down to the Bahamas and make its way back up. But now it`s meandering in through here, Central Florida, and then going back out to sea. Again, that`s taking us into the beginning and middle of next week. So there`s a lot of uncertainty with that part of the forecast.
DREYER: But I just want to show you why it`s actually making this crazy loop here.
TODD: Fascinating. And this eye may never hit the Continental United States?
DREYER: It might not, but it`s going to come very, very close. And it`s been getting closer and closer at 10 to 20 mile jog to the west. And we could be talking about landfall of a major hurricane in Florida.
TODD: Well, all right. Dylan Dreyer with a lot there. Dylan, thanks very much. Let`s turn now to the escalating fallout from last night`s VP debate and what could be a very short victory lap for Pence and the Trump campaign. But, right now, the champagne corks are still popping over at Trump Tower. This afternoon, Trump declared Pence`s performance a victory of truly Trumpian proportions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He was phenomenal. He was cool. He was smart. I would argue that Mike had the single most decisive victory in the history of vice presidential debates. I believe that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: All right. So let`s do the reality check. Pence was definitely depth and smooth, but he ended up being a walking contradiction on some of the key parts of this campaign. He broke with Trump on key policy issues and he seemed to do his best to fudge the Trump record, when necessary.
It could turn a short-term victory on television into a bit of a headache for the top of the ticket going into Sunday. So here are just a few examples. We`ll start with the biggest one and one that I imagine we will hear a lot about on Sunday at that debate, Russia and Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM KAINE, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Donald Trump and Mike Pence have said he`s a great leader.
MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: No, we haven`t
KAINE: And Donald Trump has as has Governor Pence said inarguably Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama.
PENCE: That is absolutely inaccurate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Okay. Both Pence and Trump have, in fact, essentially made those comments with one word change. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: I think it`s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.
TRUMP: I`ve already said. He is really very much of a leader. Certainly, in that system, he`s been a leader far more than our President has been a leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So what Pence was saying is he didn`t use the word better. In that case, he used stronger. Pence has also seemed to distance himself from Trump`s position of non-aggression when it comes to Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: The small and bullying leader of Russia. And if Russia chooses to be involved and continue, I should say, to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Striking Assad, a Russian ally, is the exact opposite of Trump`s recent pledge to stay out of Syria. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Will you stay out of Syria?
TRUMP: I would have stayed out of Syria. And I wouldn`t have fought so much for Assad, against Assad, because I thought that was a whole thing.
SCARBOROUGH: You wouldn`t go into Syria. You wouldn`t have fought Assad --
TRUMP: But I would go after ISIS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: There are also times when Pence seem to throw Trump under the bus a bit, specifically for Trump`s gaffe that women should be punished for having an abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Donald Trump and I would never support legislation that punished women who made the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy.
KAINE: And why did Donald Trump --
PENCE: He just never would.
KAINE: Why did he say that?
PENCE: Well, look, he`s not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton. And so --
KAINE: Why would -- that`s not a policy call.
PENCE: Things don`t always come out exactly the way he means them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Well, in case you missed Pence`s last comment there, he said things don`t always come out exactly the way Trump means them. That`s what he said. The Clinton campaign is out with a new video today trying to press Pence on these contradictions. Here`s a few more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAINE: More nations should get nuclear weapons. Don`t try to defend that.
PENCE: He never said that.
TRUMP: Wouldn`t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons?
TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.
KAINE: Donald Trump said keep them out if they`re Muslim.
PENCE: Absolutely false.
KAINE: Mike Pence put a program in place to --
TRUMP: A total and complete shutdown of Muslims --
KAINE: He is asking everybody to vote for somebody that he cannot defend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Folks it was clear what Kaine`s mission was, target Trump and protect Clinton even if he had to lose a bit of his own political dignity doing it, while Pence`s appeared to be to deflect Trump and defend himself.
Trump and Pence`s debate performances couldn`t have been more different. In this Sunday when Trump takes the debate stage again, it should tell us which performance was the aberration. I`m joined now by MSNBC Political Analyst and Former RNC Chair, Michael Steele. So, Michael Steele, give me your assessment of Mike Pence.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought Mike Pence did a fantastic job last night in the sense that he walked a tight rope that is very difficult to walk. He figured out when to defend and he figured out when to deflect to avoid that rabbit hole that Tim Kaine just kept putting in front of him to go down into.
So I give him kudos because it is very hard in that situation, number one, to articulate someone else`s plan, policy, or vision, particularly when you`re the Governor of your own state. You know you`ve been in the mix. But, two, given the difference and the difficulties of a Donald Trump policy on various things to articulate that.
TODD: All right. But let me pause there a minute. Why should he be praised for walking this tight rope? And I say this what. Mike Pence is not at the top of the ticket anywhere.
TODD: If we were talking about Kelly Ayotte in a debate performance in running for the U.S. Senate, which you just said to me, you said, yeah, Kelly Ayotte, she has done a good job finding a way to support Trump when she can, distance when she can`t, she is on the ballot on her own.
TODD: Isn`t Mike Pence`s job to defend the top of the ticket? I mean I get it is good for Mike Pence. Isn`t that a failure then?
STEELE: No. It wasn`t because he did -- as I said he defended it when it was reasonable and appropriate to do it, where it would cause less damage and he avoided that when he had to. I mean, look, you can imagine the rabbit hole on the whole issue with women, particularly given the way that Tim Kaine was nipping at his heels, wouldn`t let him really complete the thought or the sentence.
So as someone who has done these debates, you just step back and just like, you know what, okay, I`m not going to play that game. I`m going to take this in a different direction just to avoid those traps as much as possible. He showed how seasoned he was at doing that by holding a steady pace in the conversation.
TODD: No. I get that, but Kaine was relentless.
STEELE: He was.
TODD: Okay. He was relentless. And I get that it may have turn some people off during the debate itself. But, boy, did he get a lot of information out there and he did create moments where Pence now, in hindsight, you`re looking at it and going, why did they leave all of this unresponded too?
STEELE: Well, because of this. I can guarantee you -- almost I would guarantee you that there came a point very early in this process where people just stopped listening to Tim Kaine because he was that annoying.
TODD: You think that?
STEELE: Oh yeah. I watched the Twitter feeds. I watched it from Democrats. I watched it from Republicans and independents. The way he approached it, if he have brought his level down and kept pace with Pence the way Pence was responding, it would have been much more effective because then people would have heard the entire thought.
But when you interrupt the way he did, it takes people out. It distracts people from what you`re saying. So what they are doing now is the Clinton team is coming back and reinforcing it with commercials. And that may speak more to your point. But I don`t know how much that`s really going to resonate with folks after the fact.
TODD: Well, it`s interesting. I want to play a little bit of sound from John Podesta because he was basically trying to spin this, accept the premise that Pence won the debate, but with an asterisk. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Who won the debate last night?
JOHN PODESTA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Well, look, I think that Donald Trump lost. Governor Pence was smooth. He seemed sort of likeable, but he didn`t get the job done. The Vice President`s job is to go in and try to defend the top of the ticket. Mike Pence looked more like he was looking at 2020 than 2016.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So now let`s look at the -- we`ve been evaluating Pence.
TODD: And I felt like Mike Pence did Mike Pence a lot of good. There`s no doubt about it.
STEELE: He did.
TODD: But now let`s evaluate this from the perspective of Donald Trump. Was last night a success?
STEELE: Partly. I think Donald Trump probably would have wanted a more vociferous defense. He wanted something a little bit more upfront, a little bit more pushback, particularly on some of those more sensitive areas like women and the Muslim ban, et cetera, his taxes, for example.
He definitively said, you know, he will release them when his lawyers tell him, that kind of thing. But Donald Trump has to understand a couple things too. That`s not his running mate. And so there has to be some kind of marrying of the minds or meeting of the minds of what your expectations are going to be, how far this guy is going to fight for you.
TODD: I hear you but you do have Tim Kaine who is essentially willing to say, "Look, I`m going to risk hurting my own political image here to do the work that the Clinton campaign wants me to do".
STEELE: It`s easy to do when you`re cocksure you`re going to win.
TODD: Yeah. Mike Pence didn`t seem to have that attitude.
STEELE: Well, it`s because that`s not Mike Pence, number one. And, number two, I just don`t think the occasion called for it. Look, there is no doubt that Kaine had the upper hand going into this.
TODD: All right. Michael Steele, good to see you, sir. All right. Let`s go to the other side here, another former party chair from the DNC side, NBC Political Analyst, Former DNC Chair and Former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell. Governor Rendell, how are you doing?
ED RENDELL, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: Doing good. I`m doing good.
TODD: All right. Do you share the general consensus that Pence won the 90 minutes in particular and then we can talk about the Post, but that Pence did the better job?
RENDELL: Yeah. He won on style points although I think Tim Kaine was much more accepted. I thought he was very good on the plan to defeat ISIS. He laid it out nice and clearly and very good on the Clinton economic plan. But Pence clearly won on style points.
But Michael left out one factor. He said Pence learned when to support Trump and when not to defend him. He also figured out when to lie. And he lied at least three or four times about basic things like did Donald Trump ever say that it was good for other countries to get nuclear weaponry.
The clip you just showed said -- showed that Mike Pence was lying. And he lied consistently on things that Tim Kaine properly said Donald Trump said and Mike Pence denied it. And that`s going to make for some great commercials. Boom Mike Pence saying this, boom Donald Trump saying that.
TODD: All right. Obviously, though, the style -- you heard Michael Steele make the claim that he thought that Kaine, no matter how effective he was, did he wear the viewer down where they stopped listening? Let me show you what the RNC is putting out against Kaine and get you to respond to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: The heavy handed approach.
KAINE: You both have said Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President --
ELAINE QUIJANO, CBS NEWS REPORTER: Gentlemen, we`re going to get to Russia --
PENCE: Elaine, thank you. Thank you, Senator.
KAINE: You guys have praised Vladimir Putin as a great leader. How can they defend him?
QUIJANO: Yes. We will get to that, Senator. We do have --
KAINE: And paid few taxes and lost a $1 billion a year, Donald Trump`s premise. But let me talk about this.
PENCE: Senator I could --
KAINE: Okay. Now I can wait.
PENCE: She had a --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: You see the point they made. And look, Tim Kaine was extraordinarily aggressive, Governor Rendell. Was he too aggressive?
RENDELL: A little bit. I think particularly at the beginning, he may have been a little too hyper. But, look, Mike Pence was acknowledged by the moderator as much if not more Tim Kaine was. So I think there was a balance to that. Look, you assessed it correctly, Chuck.
Tim Kaine had a job to do and he did the job and I think he did it fairly well by focusing attention on Donald Trump, by getting Mike Pence to tell falsehoods about things that Trump said which are going to open up to some very interesting commercials. Tim Kaine may have lost the night, but he may have won the war.
TODD: All right. Let`s put on your Pennsylvania hat. You`re in Western Pennsylvania. It`s going to be a tough time for Democrats in Western Pennsylvania compared to years past. And obviously I know they think they will do even better around Philadelphia than ever before.
But on the tax hit, it does seem to me that the Clinton campaign believes this tax hit is a game-changer with some of these voters. Do you think it is? If you went into Western Pennsylvania and articulated this tax issue of Trump`s that we know, do you think that would somehow improve her chances in and around Pittsburgh, for instance?
RENDELL: I don`t think it would get voters who were saying they were voting for Donald Trump to vote for Hillary Clinton. I think a few of the people may just drop off in disgust because the disgust with Trump mounts virtually every day. Because those white, working class, non-college educated voters they have daughters too, Chuck. And they are not insensitive to that stuff.
So they are getting a little disgusted with some of the things Donald Trump said. And after learning that he paid no taxes for 18 years, they may just throw up their hands and say I`m not voting. Now, the majority of Trump voters, that`s not going to happen. They are going to be with him. They are going to like his explanation that he took total advantage of what the law says.
RENDELL: But I think that there will be some peeling off, not a great deal, but some.
TODD: All right. Former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell, Former DNC Chair, good to see you, sir. Thanks for coming on.
RENDELL: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: All right. Coming up, going back to the tax issue, his taxes were center stage last night. Clinton campaign believes they could make these charges stick and wound Trump. What are they seeing that the Republicans aren`t seeing or are they? That`s next.
TODD: Once again, two different ways that we see the two candidates prepping for the debate. Hillary Clinton is off the trail today as she prepares for Sunday`s debate. Her surrogates have been out in full force. Bill Clinton met with ironworkers in Canton, Ohio. Chelsea Clinton is heading up early voting events in Iowa.
Bernie Sanders stumping at Wisconsin with rallies in Madison and Green Bay. Tim Kaine holds his first post-VP debate event coming up 40 minutes now in Philadelphia. Donald Trump, though, is not taking time off the trail to prep. As you know, he`s already been in -- he`s in Nevada today anyway. We`ll continue our discussion of last night`s debate and whether these tax hits actually will pay off in just a minute. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAINE: Why won`t he release his tax return? Donald Trump started this campaign in 2014. He said if I run for President I will absolutely release my taxes.
PENCE: Donald Trump supports our veterans.
KAINE: He won`t pay taxes. Donald Trump must give the American public his tax returns to show that he is qualified to be President and he is breaking his promise. He said he would release his tax returns. Richard Nixon released tax returns when he was on the bottom. When Hillary said you haven`t been paying taxes he said that makes me smart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So just how potent is the tax issue. As you saw in that clip, Tim Kaine tried to refocus many of a question on to an attack on Trump`s taxes and his tax returns and he did it after many questions that had nothing to do with taxes. But according to last month`s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 6% of voters said Trump`s refusal to release his tax returns was a top concern about him.
And Republicans don`t seem to be acting as if they`re overly concerned with this issue the way they actually were with Romney, even though some in the Clinton campaign believe it`s worth hitting him hard on. And it begs the question. Does the Clinton campaign know something that either the Trump folks don`t or we don`t?
Let`s bring in the panel: Beth Fouhy, Senior Politics Editor, NBC News and MSNBC; Bob Herbert, Former New York Times Columnist and now a Senior Fellow with Demos; and Charles Cooke, he is one of the editors over at National Review Online. Thank you, all.
Charles, I`ll start with you. Certainly Trump`s voters don`t care about this tax return business, in the same way that those same voters four years ago did care about Romney`s return. Why is that?
CHARLES COOKE, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE EDITOR: Well, I don`t think they should care. I think they should care in that Trump lost $1 billion and thinks he is a political and business genius. I think they should care because he promised to release his tax returns and then has reneged on that promise.
In terms of the story The New York Times put out, I am a big Trump critic but I didn`t see much in it. I mean he lost money and then he took advantage of a provision that is used by a million people a year in that operating losses. It`s not some loophole reserved to billionaires.
It`s not something that Trump managed to carve out. It`s a pretty standard tax rule. You don`t pay taxes when you lose money and you can spread your losses across years. I don`t think it`s going to resonate because I don`t think it`s a huge story.
TODD: It`s interesting though what you focused on. And what he focused on, Beth, was that you were more intrigued by the $1 billion in losses. Like that, to me, seems to be what could resonate but the Clinton campaign seems to be more focused on no spending for military, no spending for this. Are they focused on the wrong thing?
BETH FOUHY, MSNBC POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, they may be but I found it intriguing that the Trump campaign has sort of changed their tune. We saw in your show over the weekend and other shows the line from the surrogates was he`s a genius. He`s a genius that he used the standard tools to avoid taxes.
FOUHY: That then, of course, begged the question. Does the rest of us who do pay those taxes were not geniuses?
TODD: That`ll be darn right.
FOUHY: Yeah. So they seem to very subtly but very assuredly change their message. And it became he was in a hole. He fell into a big hole, that the economy was terrible at the time, early 1990s. It was a result of factors out of his control, but he was able to use the tax laws, rebuild and come back stronger than ever. And that seemed to be, in their thinking, a more effective message. And, frankly, I agree. It is a more effective message.
TODD: It is interesting, Bob. It`s almost their way of trying to say, hey, you`re feeling down. He was down too. I guess that`s their way of trying to show some envy.
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS DISTINGUISHED SENIOR FELLOW: Yeah. But I think that`s not going to work. But I don`t think that this is a game-changer or as an issue an enormous thing in and of itself. But I think it isn`t negative for Trump in the sense that it bolsters the picture which is a clearer and clearer picture we have of Trump, that this guy is some kind of a flimflam man, that you can`t trust what he says, that he steps people, that he may not be as wealthy as he claims. So I think in that sense, I think, it`s helpful to the Clintons. Whether people are really crazed over the tax issue or not, I wonder.
TODD: Charles, I mean especially with voters who lean to the right, they don`t love the IRS. And it`s been so demonized. So there`s part of me that wonders are there groups of voters going yes, stick it to the IRS, that sort of thing.
COOKE: Trump is a flimflam man but I don`t think that this is evidence in favor of that proposition. And that, so he is a rich guy. He made a lot of money before he lost this money and then he didn`t pay taxes. Now the Democrats are trying to say look, you, Average Joe, you pay taxes every year. He was living this lifestyle and he didn`t pay taxes. That`s unfair. But I don`t think it`s going to stick because I think people are smart enough to understand that businesses have cycles, that businessmen go through cycles.
HERBERT: There is really no evidence. If you look closely at the Times story and the other coverage, there is no evidence that Trump made all this money before he took this loss.
TODD: That`s the part we don`t know.
HERBERT: That would justify a $1 billion or near $1 billion loss. So we don`t know on that.
TODD: I think this goes back to, Beth, I think the Clinton campaign is focused on the wrong thing. They have not focused on how did you lose $1 billion?
FOUHY: Yeah. And the fact that it`s his --
TODD: And that it means the story that`s lost.
FOUHY: And it`s his personal taxes. It`s not his business taxes. It`s one thing for a huge corporation to take a big loss that`s close to $1 billion. How does somebody lose that personally? He`s trying to make it sound as though it was business. He said I had a fiduciary responsibility to my investors. But wait a minute, this is his personal tax.
TODD: This was personal. This was different. You guys are sticking around. We`re gearing up for round two between Trump and Clinton. MSNBC, of course, will have all day coverage this Sunday leading up to the debate in St. Louis. A great thing to do, when there is an advertisement in football games, you come over to MSNBC for a little debate pre-game. Still ahead, the Trump campaign gets a boost from someone very close to Hillary Clinton. Stay tuned.
TODD: Got a lot more to digest including a little chatter about health care. But here`s Hampton Pearson with CNBC Market Wrap.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC REPORTER: Thanks, Chuck. Let`s get right to it. The DOW closing up 112 points, the S&P gaining 9, the Nasdaq up by 26 points. U.S. safety regulators are investigating complaints that side the air bags on some Nissan Versa small cars can inflate if the doors are shut too hard.
The probe covers about 155,000 cars from the 2012 model year. The nation`s largest shopping mall will be closed on Thanksgiving Day this year for the first time since 2012. Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota says it wants to offer workers time off with their families. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They say Donald Trump loves Putin. I don`t love. I don`t hate. We will see how it works. I can say this. We got along with Russia and Russia went out with us and knocked the hell out of ISIS. That`s okay with me, folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Well, you just heard Trump`s reaction to accusations that said he is too cozy with Vladimir Putin. Tim Kaine and Mike Pence sparred over Russian relations in the debate last night. And right now, the relationship is pretty fraught. Ceasefire talks have officially collapsed after an aggressive campaign from Syrian and Russian forces in Aleppo civilian zone.
John Kerry spoke with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov today who expressed his concerns. Putin says the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Russia caused him to pull out of part of a nuclear treaty that required both countries to dispose of their plutonium stockpile. That is more of a symbolic move that he made there.
Nothing truly that threatening on that front, but the U.S. said they haven`t even received official notification of Russia`s suspension there yet. Add in the hacking and the flight of planes too close to U.S. ships and reports of assault even on U.S. personnel. And this is all no doubt something that the next president is going to have to deal with big time.
Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, and Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and MSNBC contributor. Welcome to you both.
Danielle, I want to start with you. And I have to say after hearing Mike Pence last night and his descriptions of Vladimir Putin, I did not expect Donald Trump to do what he did today with Putin and sort of go ahead and imply that he is going to have a softer relationship with him.
DANIELLE PLETKA, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR FOREIGN AND DEFENSE POLICY AT AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, I don`t want to be in the position of defending Donald Trump, but I do think that what Trump said is essentially what is the policy of the United States, which is if we can have a better relationship with Russia and we can do the right thing together in Syria, then we should do the right thing.
You know, I think that the problem is that Donald Trump thinks that he is going to be able to bend Putin to his will where Barack Obama and John Kerry can`t. well, good luck to him with that. I don`t think it`s true, but I don`t think that it`s a great divergence from where we are right now.
TODD: Michael McFaul, I mean, Danielle is right I think in some ways. What Trump is saying is the policy that president Obama essentially tried to pursue with them. Correct?
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA AND MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it depends on what treaty we are talking about. In the early years when I worked in the government to the White House, we had a policy of working with president Medvedev (ph) and we got a lot of things done by the way. We got a New START Treaty. We got sanctions on Iran. We got new supply route to Afghanistan that helped us in a war after there and helped us to kill Osama bin Laden.
Then Putin came back, paranoid as ever. There were demonstrations against him. He blamed us for that. He blamed me personally for that. And so the ability to work with him faded very quickly, years ago by the way, not just in the last week. So, I think it`s incumbent upon Mr. Trump to say to echo what Danielle said, how is he going to make Putin do what he wants?
Yeah, I think it would be great if Putin would attack ISIS, but they haven`t for two years. You have to have a strategy to achieve the end. You just can`t talk about great objectives. You know, let`s have democracy in Russia. Wouldn`t it be great if Putin would work towards democracy in Russia? Well, that`s a nice statement to make.
TODD: Let`s move to what can be done now. What should the Obama administration be doing now before January 20th? Ambassador McFaul, I will start with you. I know you are probably more sympathetic to this perhaps than Danielle is on what the Obama administration has been doing. But it does feel as if that their policy on what to do in Aleppo, how to confront Russia is essentially handed off to the next president. Should he wait that long?
MCFAUL: Well, I do believe that the Obama administration including when I was still in the government chased the Russians too long with respect to Syria. They fundamentally, Putin always had a different objective. His objective was to preserve his guide in Syria. Our objective was a ceasefire and a political settlement.
And no amounts of negotiations, no amounts of talks or phone calls has changed that fundamental dynamic for the last three years. I think we now have greater consensus around that. My wish we would have gotten there sooner. The tragedy is I don`t see a lot of good options at this point. I don`t see a way to stop the horror that is happening in Aleppo. It reminds me of what Mr. Putin did in Chechnya.
I think the only other strategy is to think about ways to help the opposition in other places. Because you will never have a negotiation without either one side winning or a stalemate. We don`t have either of those two situations right now.
TODD: Danielle, what would you like to see Obama administration do now? I mean, look, we can go backward, what would you hope they can do now and essentially in the next four months, setting up or do you just wait for the next administration?
PLETKA: Well, I think you`re exactly right. I think the administration is basically sitting this one out and wants to kick the entire Syrian nightmare down the road. And I think that they are, you know, I think that they have basically played Putin unbelievably poorly. He has got them exactly where he wants them.
What would I like us to do now? I would like us to have done much more decisively what we should have done many years ago which is to -- which is to relegate Putin to where he is. A tin-pot dictator who is exercising power he doesn`t have.
I would like to see us do more to create a safe zone in Syria. I`d like to see us do much more to create the kind of humanitarian corridor that allow Syrians to escape from Aleppo. I`d like a no-fly zone. I`d like all those things that people have been talking about for years and haven`t done. TODD: Ambassador McFaul, what you -- it does sound like -- I know John Kerry would love to see a no-fly zone at least over Aleppo. There are some that would support that. My guess is former secretary of state Hillary Clinton would be in favor of that. Do you think he has moved on this issue?
MCFAUL: Secretary Kerry or president Obama?
TODD: President Obama. I think I know where secretary Kerry is. I`m talking about president Obama.
MCFAUL: I don`t think he has. I mean, I don`t know for sure. I would hope that the continued failure of the current policy and just the horror of what we are seeing in Aleppo might cause a reconsideration. I don`t think you will ever see a no-fly zone over Aleppo. Just let me be clear about that because those are Russian planes.
The administration has always been concerned about shooting down Russian planes. But there are other places that one could consider that in my opinion, and there are other means that one could do it without having Americans being involved. Whether or not they are willing to consider that with just a few months left, I simply don`t know.
TODD: That`s what it does seem to be anyway. Danielle Pletka, Ambassador McFaul, always good to have you guys on. Appreciate it.
TODD: Thank you. Up next, why I`m upset with something Americans no longer trust. Stay tuned.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with the public rejection of established institutions in government. And it`s not just here in United States. It started with Brexit. British voters` decision to leave the European Union. Obvious here in the support from Donald Trump despite the most unanimous rejection of his candidacy by America`s top leaders on the right as well as the left.
And now, it`s happening in South America. The government of Columbia negotiated a peace deal with the fighters from the revolutionary group, FARC. The deal is to end the longest running war in the western hemisphere, 50 years of fighting. It took four years of negotiations. The fighters were to lay down their arms. U.N. monitors were to set to seal the accord. All the principals were celebrating the agreement.
Columbia president Juan Manuel Santos was so confident to the deal that he decided to put the final agreement to a vote to leave no room for further conflict. So ending 52 years of work came down to a yes or no. And then the voters said no. In some many ways, it`s Columbia`s Brexit moment. They don`t want to be told what to do. Voters everywhere are angry to elites, they don`t trust the elites.
The deals that they cut, the leaders whom they feel have pulled them out, and that anger with the status quo has fed the rise of outsider politics and it`s easier to communicate outside of the opinion leaders in every country in the world. The danger of course is that to be against something, that`s easy, but it doesn`t leave solutions for anything. In the case of Columbia, it may have come at the price of lasting peace.
We will be back in a moment with something even Bill Clinton is calling the craziest thing.
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BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF U.S.: The people that are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little too much to get any these subsidies. And they`re getting whacked. So you`ve this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people that are out busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week.
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TODD: Call it a moment of the Clinton campaign this week, Bill Clinton criticizing ObamaCare, Monday in Flint, Michigan. We`ve talked about it yesterday. President Clinton tried to walk it back a bit, but didn`t walk it all back and republicans are gleefully seething on his words. Trump brought it up on the trail. Pence mentioned it at the debate. Kellyanne Conway called the former president, our campaign`s best surrogate this morning.
Real problem for democrats though is Clinton`s comments may leak down the congressional ballots where ObamaCare is more of a central issue than in the presidential race. Check this out. Since Monday, three republican senators released this citing Clinton, calling ObamaCare, quote, crazy system with that. And there is more to come. Expect T.V. ads particularly in Indiana on this one.
Panel is here; Beth Fouhy, Bob Herbert, and Charles Cooke from National Review, not to be confused with our friend at National Rail. Bob, what did you make of Bill Clinton`s comments?
HERBERT: You know, it`s really difficult. What is he doing? The first thing I thought about, it just seems going all the way back to 2008. It teams like he has this deep and unending dislike for Barack Obama.
TODD: I wonder -- that did cross my mind.
HERBERT: I really believed that. You know, maybe he can rationalize it in some way that this is a way to bolster her to prevent her from taking incoming on ObamaCare, you know, but ultimately it`s not helpful because she still has to defend ObamaCare. You know, she is gonna say we need to fix it or whatever, but she still got to defend it.
TODD: You know that the fact is, what Bill Clinton articulated is basically what the headlines all year long have been on ObamaCare. Insurance companies are pulling out. Premiums are going up for these people that are squeezed in the middle who don`t make too much to get any of the benefits.
FOUHY: Right. He just likes to kind of get into it.
TODD: He knows this. You can tell he knows this very well.
FOUHY: And you know, we both seen Bill Clinton out on the campaign trail. He will do this. He will suddenly sort of like freelance and he will bring up a policy point that he really wants to kind of get to the bottom of it and lose track of the politics around it. There is no question that it has been said by many democrats that ObamaCare needs to be fixed. This isn`t the first time. For him to use the term crazy and for him to bring it up without anybody asking about it is bizarre.
TODD: Charles, I think you still can`t believe what you heard.
COOKE: He sounded like me.
COOKE: The reason it is so damaging I think is threefold. Firstly, he said crazy which is an inflammatory word. Secondly, he is right and what he said was true and comprehensible to most people who were listening. And thirdly, the only real way he can get out of it is to say, well, I`m in favor of a single payer, I`m in favor of a public option.
The problem is that wouldn`t really do the business owners and middle class people talking about too many favors because you have to raise taxes pretty drastically for a single payer system. So he was essentially making an argument from the right against the ObamaCare.
TODD: Let me -- let me play Mark Erelli (ph) here. Is it possible that if Bill -- this group of voters, that -- that are most concerned about how ObamaCare is impacting their lives, they`re also part to say, they may not be big Trump fans but they probably want to vote republican but they may say to themselves, well at least Bill Clinton wants to fix, wants to change ObamaCare. Does that oddly help Hillary a tad?
COOKE: I don`t think it helps her. I think it mitigates the damage. I think republicans have had for a long time is that their standard bearer is Donald Trump. And every single criticism of the democrats can be added to the phrase, but we nominated Donald Trump. And I think Hillary is not going to benefit from this in any way. Will people gonna trust Trump to fix it? I don`t know.
TODD: That`s why I`m focused.
HERBERT: Here`s what I think it doesn`t help Hillary. You`re not gonna get enough of those voters to come over to Hillary to really make a difference. What Hillary really needs to do is get out her base and she needs Obama behind her, strong to get that base out, and this doesn`t help the matter. I don`t think it hurts her a lot but it doesn`t help.
TODD: I`ll tell you where it hurts her. If she becomes president of the United States and there`s a republican senate. Because let`s -- I`m just gonna start with one campaign that I think this impacts the most, it`s Evan Bayh. He is the one, quote, democratic challenger who also has to defend his ObamaCare vote.
FOUHY: I don`t disagree with you. But I do want to posit the notion that ObamaCare is not going to decide any election this time. It simply hasn`t risen to the level of being that controversial that people are going out there and making really tough ads. You`re just not seeing it. It`s just not there. I mean, that`s not saying that it doesn`t need to be fixed and it should be something that comes for the next president to repair. Is it a huge political issue the way it was in 2014, 2012? No.
TODD: That gets to, though, Bill Clinton. He has not been an asset to her. I mean, let`s talk about, where has he been an asset?
HERBERT: He hasn`t been an asset for a long time now. He really want to delve into the psychological aspects of it. I wonder if he is not am I have about lent about Hillary.
FOUHY: The only time we ever hear about Bill Clinton is when he makes a gaffe. He is out there every single day talking to audiences, not getting an awful lot of news coverage and he is doing just fine. We only hear about him when he makes a gaffe.
HERBERT: He is so smart, he is so savvy politically. I just think that it`s weird when he makes these bad moves, gaffes or whatever you want to call them.
COOKE: I think he`s lost some of it. He was the most talented politician of his generation. I`m not sure that he is. I`ve been watching political campaigns, the recall in Colorado, for example, where he`s been wheeled in at the last minute and has just done nothing. That was not the case for a long time. He really was an asset. TODD: I guess when we talk about these working class white voters, the last time a democrat had a connection to him was Bill Clinton. That`s why I thought, well, I am curious to see, does Bill Clinton have any magic left in western Pennsylvania? Any magic left in, you know, it`s not gonna be but it would be a western Carolina which is just like parts of Kentucky and things like that. It doesn`t look like he does.
FOUHY: We don`t know that because the only time we ever see him do anything on a campaign trail is when he messes up. When he is not messing up, he is out there, he gets good audiences. They`re, you know, voters that are a little older. They remember the 90s. They stand in long lines to see him. They cheer.
He is certainly not at the top of his game. I totally agree with that. But he does the job for the most part with the audiences that he is speaking to except when he gaffes and then when he gaffes, it`s huge.
COOKE: That could be true. Isn`t there a sense in which he can be a liability? Because much of the democratic base now has a negative year of the 90s. They say this will start the regulation. They think he was the guy who imprisoned all of these minorities. Black Lives Matter, for example, is extremely critical of him. And I wonder whether it is a wash.
HERBERT: I think that`s a good point. I think Bill Clinton`s time has come and gone. The Clinton-Gore era was a quarter of a century ago, the beginning of it. It is a different generation.
TODD: I had hair and no gray hair. Clinton and Gore. All right. Beth, Bob, and Charles, thank you very much. We`ll be back with one more story you might have missed. Especially if you were tune in the to last night`s debate. Stay tuned.
TODD: Finally tonight, in case you missed it, the spin room last night was electric. No, not the spin room in Farmville, Virginia, at the vice presidential debate. It was the 1,607 miles to the north, in Toronto. After a manager`s move that led to heartache and anger. Actually, it`s not much of a debate.
For those of you who are not baseball fans, a quick update. The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays were tied in extra innings. It was a winner takeoff playoff game last time. The Orioles have the best relief pitcher in the game. Zach Britton, he hasn`t given up a run since May. But the Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided to wait and wait and wait to use Zach Britton until the Orioles got a lead, a lead that they never got.
The last reliever threw just five pitches. The last one, a season ending home run. Afterwards, the spin began. The Orioles other pitchers are great. They`ve success against Toronto. You have to wait to put in your best reliever. You play by the book. At one point, Showalter actually said that except for Zach Britton, the pitcher he put in was the Orioles` best, except for Zach Britton.
By midnight, Showalter who is universally recognized as a terrific manager and well liked probably wished he had been spinning for either Tim Kaine or Mike Pence last night, as it stands he gets to have his entire winter to think about last night. And it`s a reminder that managers and football coaches, they`re just like politicians too.
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