MTP Daily, Transcript 12/6/2016

Guests: Michael O`Hanlon, David Sanger, Susan Page, Cornell Belcher, Hampton Pearson, David French, E.J. Dionne, Ramesh Ponnuru

Show: MTP DAILY Date: December 6, 2016 Guest: Michael O`Hanlon, David Sanger, Susan Page, Cornell Belcher, Hampton Pearson, David French, E.J. Dionne, Ramesh Ponnuru

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Thank you for that. And that is going to do it for this hour. I`m Steve Kornacki and "MTP DAILY" starts right now.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Tuesday. President Obama tries to secure his national security legacy.

(voice-over): Tonight, President Obama touts his national security legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can get these terrorists and stay true to who we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And encourages the president-elect to follow his lead. Plus, culture war confusion. Did voters in both North Carolina and all over the country on marijuana signal the end of the culture wars or is Trump`s election a new beginning?

And Boeing learns the power of the new presidency. How just a word or a tweet can mean a wallop or a windfall for corporations.

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(on camera): Good evening and welcome to MTP DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd on a very rainy and cold Washington.

President Obama just wrapped up what is being billed as his last major national security speech of his presidency. The closing argument, if you will, for the Obama foreign policy doctrine. And a rebuttal of critics who argue for a course change come January. He also provided a strong defense of what he calls America values on the national security front, a not so veiled attack on some of the rhetoric President-elect Trump ran on. The speech ran just a few hours before Donald Trump, himself, is set to speak in North Carolina, alongside retired General James Mattis, his pick for secretary of defense. Speaking at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, home of the central command, CENTCOM, of course. President Obama listed off some of his accomplishments in the eight years he spent as commander in chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, by any measure, core Al Qaeda, the organization that hit us on 911, is a shadow of its former self. Plots directed from within Afghanistan and Pakistan have been consistently disrupted. Its leadership has been decimated. Dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed. Osama Bin Laden is dead. The bottom line is we are breaking the back of ISIL. No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: The administration claims the speech was planned months ago and was not intended to be a reaction to Trump`s election. But Obama did seem to try to persuade his successor to continue some of his policies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A sustainable counterterrorism strategy depends on keeping the threat in perspective. The terrorist threat is real and it is dangerous. But these terrorists want to cast themselves as the vanguard of a new world order. They are not. They are thugs and they are murderers and they should be treated that way. We need the wisdom to see that upholding our values and adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness in the long term. It is our greatest strength.

We prohibited torture everywhere at all times, and that includes tactics likes water boarding. And at no time has anybody who has worked with me has told me that doing so has cost us good intelligence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But what was most striking, perhaps, was at the end of the speech when President Obama defended those American values.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we stigmatize good patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorist narrative. It will fuel the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill. If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we`re not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we`ll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend. The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Folks, the Trump doctrine is still TBD. His position on how to deal with ISIS and how to interact with our allies is often a bit contradictory and changes depending on the audience he`s addressing. So, the question remains, can Trump be persuaded? And in the absence of a secretary of state, should we assume the Trump doctrine is more in line with his national security advisor, Mike Flynn, or will the gravity of the office change him after he is sworn in in January. And, of course, what about President Obama`s legacy here? Is it a positive one, and will it be one that is seen positively in another generation?

I want to bring in my guests here. Michael O`Hanlon, research and a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institute here in D.C. And David Sanger who covers national security for "The New York Times."

Look, I want to do this in two parts. First, I want to start with Obama and then we`ll start with Trump. So, let`s talk about Obama`s national security legacy, Michael. What will it look like in 10 years? Because there`s so many ways you could slice this. But let me give you a simple one. The Middle East today, more chaotic or less chaotic since Barack Obama took office?

[17:05:03] MICHAEL O`HANLON, SENIOR FOREIGN POLICY FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Well, undoubtedly, Chuck, more chaotic. I don`t think that`s an indictment of all of Obama`s foreign policy. I actually think his foreign policy is looking better in other parts of the world.

I think he`s done pretty well, frankly, with Russia and China, although many would disagree with that assessment. The Middle East has, basically, blown up. The Arab spring became the Arab winter or the Arab chaos. And we know that there are several countries at war. But Mr. Obama`s right that Al Qaeda is a shell of his former self and that ISIS is now tactically losing on the battlefield, even if it still has a broader global diaspora and appear. So, there`s a mixed bag overall in the Middle East. I think his overall foreign policy is fairly good. I think its Middle Eastern policy is more like mediocre.

TODD: You know, David, it is interesting to me that Donald Trump you could argue successfully was able to run against two what President Obama would have argued were foreign policy successes of sorts. One is the Asian pivot, TPP, that whole thing. Well, of course, that turned into a domestic nightmare for him. That doesn`t help the Asian pivot.

And then, of course, there`s Syria. And, you know, on one hand, he spiked the football a bit in that one interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, going, hey, I have no regrets about not -- about not acting on the red line. But, I tell you, if you look at Brexit, and there are other people that say you look at the Trump election, and maybe he does regret the Syrian migration crisis. David, how do you read it?

DAVID SANGER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, certainly, the migration crisis ended up destabilizing Europe. And I think when the Obama administration first started looking at the Syrian crisis in 2011, the idea was that it wasn`t a vital American national interest.

But the refugees that ended up destabilizing some of our closest allies, that turned out to be a vital American interest. So, the interest shifted. At the same time, I think that the president set himself some goals that turned out to get in the way of their means of dealing with this. You`ll remember that he stepped out fairly early on, under some pressure, and said that Assad must go. TODD: Right. DAVID: But there was not a plan in place to make Assad go. And I think they spent the next two or three years trying to figure out, did they want to commit the kind of resources necessary, in order to achieve that goal? And maybe it was the wrong goal. Maybe they just needed to reach a political conclusion to this war much earlier, before the Russians got into it last year and made it a much more complicated situation.

TODD: You know, Michael, the president said something else today that is statistically true. But you can`t say the country has felt that. And that is the idea that he is the only two-term president to, basically, be commander in chief for the entire two terms at a time of war.

And many -- John McCain would say, he didn`t remind the country enough that we were at war. What would you say to that?

O`HANLON: Well, picking up on David`s last point, which was an excellent one about unrealistic goals, President Obama, of course, set out the goals of trying to leave Iraq and Afghanistan entirely. And he made that seem like it was the metric of success.

I actually think on Afghanistan, he`s done OK. And on Iraq, after some big setbacks, we`re now looking better. And so, if you adjust to a more pragmatic standard, the record doesn`t look so bad, at least in those two countries. But I agree, to some extent, with John McCain that there have been times where President Obama really wanted to talk down this. And in his re- election bid, he really wanted to make the complete exit from Iraq and Afghanistan the standard for success. I think that was an unrealistic goal. He would have been better off saying, listen, I`m still trying to protect the country, prevent terrorist attacks. And to the extent possible, help these nations stabilize themselves. By those more moderate, more reasonable standards, I think his record is mixed but a little better than against the unrealistic absolute one.

TODD: Let`s turn to Trump, David, saying that President Obama, I think, one clear message he wanted to send, and not just Trump but I think to some of his critics overall, is, hey, ISIS is a threat, but let`s not turn them into -- that they can stand toe to toe with a world superpower.

Explain the line he`s trying to walk there.

SANGER: Well, I think the line he`s trying to walk, Chuck, is a fairly straightforward one. That ISIS poses a regional threat and perhaps could have some reach into the United States because it has inspired some here, on fairly low-level attacks so far, where we`ve been lucky enough that they have been low level.

But when President Obama looks across at the range of threats that he knows the next president will be facing, he`s thinking, you know, you`ve got a lot bigger problems. You have Russians who are intimidating Europe, and you`re saying very little about it. You`ve got the Chinese in the South China Sea and elsewhere. You have a North Korea with a rampaging missile and nuclear program. [17:10:11] And so, the single focus that you`ve seen President-elect Trump and his national security adviser or national security adviser to be, Michael Flynn, have, just on ISIS. I think the president -- President Obama is having a hard time imagining that they`re going to be able to stay focused just on ISIS once they realize the complexity of the world they`re inheriting.

TODD: Michael, do you have a sense of what you think a Trump doctrine is going to look like? Is he a guy that`s going to, basically, govern crisis to crisis? I mean, I keep trying to tell people, the guy, he`s ideologically malleable when it comes to domestic policy. And while there`s some consistency on international policy, it`s not all -- there is some contradictions.

O`HANLON: Well, I think you`re right, Chuck. Certainly, he`s flexible. I`m just relieved that the doctrine is not going to be one of massive retrenchment, apparently. After all the talk we heard about U.S. allies who are not doing enough and, therefore, didn`t necessarily merit the defense of their territory by the United States, despite treaty obligations, ranging from NATO to Japan and Korea and elsewhere, it doesn`t seem that that`s the message Mr. Trump wants to send now.

So, whatever the doctrine winds up being, at least I don`t expect that it`s going to be one of a radical isolationism or a pullback from the world. Which whatever its merits might have been a hundred years ago, I don`t think is realistic for a world like today is where we already have 50 or 60 allies. And, frankly, the system of alliances is working pretty well at keeping the peace in most of these regions. TODD: OK. David Sanger, -- O`HANLON: So, I`m relieved at what the Trump doctrine will not -- apparently not be, compared to my expectations of months ago or weeks ago.

TODD: But if there`s one country that`s clearly going to be a rival, as far as Donald Trump is concerned, it is China. We`ve had, essentially, passive China -- passive on China with Bush, with Obama, with Clinton, with the other Bush, even with Reagan. We`re not going to have that with Trump, are we, David Sanger?

SANGER: No, you`re not. And he brought up, as soon as he got defensive about the Taiwan phone call, he sent out some tweets about not only the trade issues with China but the South China Sea issues with China.

And where this is going to get really interesting, Chuck, is he`s going to need China`s help on whatever North Korea strategy he puts together. TODD: Right. SANGER: And I`m not sure he`s setting himself up right now for getting that help.

TODD: Well I`ve heard that from a lot of U.S.-China experts, that the North Korea issue may bring him back into saying a little fewer nicer things about China. Coming up.

Anyway, Michael O`Hanlon --

SANGER: It wouldn`t be the first president that happened to.

TODD: That figures that out, exactly.

Anyway, I appreciate you both. Thanks for your expertise.

Coming up, the real fall-out from so-called fake news. The made-up stuff. And why it`s not just dishonest but now a possible threat to human beings.

Plus, is hindsight 2020 for vice president Joe Biden? Our own Kelly O`Donnell tries, again, to get a straight answer about whether he does plan to run for the big job a third time.

Stay tuned. [17:13:14] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Welcome back. A few weeks ago, a group of Democrats tried to recruit Joe Biden to be the next DNC chair. Well, that failed. But last night, the vice president told reporters he might have one more office that he may run for.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to run again?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I am. I`m going to run in 2020. So --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what?

BIDEN: For president. You know, so, what the hell, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to be clear, were you kidding about running for president in 2020?

BIDEN: I`m just -- I`m not committing not to run.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TODD: I love that. I`m not committing not to run. The old double negative. Anyway, but we`ve got to ask. Is this serious? Is it not? Biden will be 78 years old. By November of 2020, of course, 78 is the new 68. NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell did try again today to get an answer to that question. She caught up with the vice president during his trip to Capitol Hill to see the Democratic House caucus. Well, guess what? He kept the speculation a little bit alive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice president, are we right to take you seriously about 2020?

BIDEN: I`m not announcing -- I`m not announcing it right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you keeping the door open?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Is Biden not hearing not another call to not serve? Sorry. Or is this more about the realization that he may have had the better chance at winning in 2016 than his former colleague in the Obama cabinet? Anyway, stay tuned for more MTP DAILY show not not ahead. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Welcome back. According to a BuzzFeed analysis, in the three months before the 2016 presidential election, articles with made-up news, made-up facts from made- up sources shared a higher rate than actual news that`s fact-checked from, you know, the so-called mainstream media. And as we`ve been reporting, one of those fake conspiracy theories had real-life consequences. Over the weekend, a North Carolina man was charged with one count of assault with a deadly weapon, among other tabulated charges. According to court documents, the gentleman traveled to Comet Pizza here in Washington, D.C. to self-investigate a false Internet conspiracy theory that had been dubbed pizzagate. It erroneously claimed that the pizzeria is -- was somehow harboring a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton and John Podesta. Folks, all too often these days, ridiculous stories get swept up in social media and spread like wildfire, sometimes even by people in power. Politico reports that Trump`s pick for national security adviser, retired General Mike Flynn, tweeted dubious news stories at least 16 times since August 9th. And then, hours after Sunday`s incident, the Twitter account belonging to Flynn`s son tweeted about the pizzagate conspiracy theory, to the point of saying, well, prove that it`s not true. The younger Flynn, by the way, is Flynn`s -- is his father`s chief of staff at the Flynn Intel Group. On "MORNING JOE" today, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said the younger Flynn has no involvement in the transition process. But Trump`s spokesman, Jason Miller, later said that the younger Mikel Flynn was helping his father early on in the transition but is no longer involved. In fact, he was getting so involved, they were trying to get a security clearance, but it`s since, apparently, been totally checked out. Let`s bring in the panel. Democratic (INAUDIBLE) and "USA Today" Washington bureau chief, Susan Page, and Ramesh Ponnuru, goo roo of the "National Review." Hopefully I won`t botch his name a couple more times during this show.

Susan, when I say fake news, our friends on social media say, oh, that`s you people in the MSN. But let`s be realistic here. This is conspiracy theories that made -- are made to look like a news story that almost cost somebody their life.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": And, of course, it seems not just false but ridiculous, absurd to allege that Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring out of a pizza joint in northwest D.C. But this guy believed it.

[17:20:06] TODD: Right. PAGE: And it shows how dangerous it is. Someone could have been killed.

TODD: Yes, affirmation not information. There`s so much of that. People -- you know, there`s a joke in reporting, we call it too good to check.

PAGE: Yes. TODD: You know, and that`s, sort of, (INAUDIBLE) and you`re, like, I heard this. And then, you actually check it out and it`s not true. It`s more fun to read stories that are not true. That`s why novels outsell non- fiction on book shelves.

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": It seems like true stories have been pretty crazy lately.

TODD: Yes. You know, what do we do about this epidemic?

PONNURU: Well, it`s a real problem, and it`s a real problem figuring out how to solve it. One of the problems you`ve got is that we`ve already had stories about Facebook, for example, having a political tilt.

And so, even if there is a problem, do you trust them to actually clamp down on it in a neutral and objective and transparent way?

TODD: But what does that even mean anyway? I understand that. It`s, like, but look at Mike Flynn`s son, going, oh, wait. Cornell, no, no, prove to me that it`s not true. Nobody has shown me evidence that it`s not true. That is literally the, have you stopped beating your wife question?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, it is dangerous. We`re in this idea of post truth period. It`s dangerous -- it`s dangerous -- it`s dangerous for our democracy. And it really challenges you all because you all sort of in the -- who are real sort of press people, not me.

TODD: Honestly, though, political consultants have to be --

BELCHER: I was going to say that.

TODD: -- politicians do, I would say, play a greater role.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: Because now -- because now politicians can, in fact, you know, go above and around you, Chuck. And they can go directly to the groups of people that they are trying to communicate with in a way they could not a decade ago.

So, you become -- (INAUDIBLE) I hate to say this. But you become less relevant in this conversation. And you see that slipping away right now with the -- with the fake news. They don`t have to go through you all who are going to be hard on them. They can go directly to the people they want to.

PAGE: But it goes to the erosion of credibility and trust in institutions, including the press.

BELCHER: Yes. PAGE: That people are willing to believe something they see on Facebook, an item that`s shared by a friend rather than -- (CROSSTALK)

TODD: By the way, this is not -- I mean, we shouldn`t be surprised by this, though, the Facebook effect, in that aren`t you more likely to buy a product that a friend likes, right, than somebody that you don`t know likes? So, that I s-that has always been the power of sharing on social media.

PAGE: The e-mail chain letter.

TODD: Right. But that`s the problem is it becomes a chain letter.

PAGE: But let me also make the point that the Flynn story and the Flynn Jr. story isn`t just a fake news story. It`s also a story that goes to the judgment and temperament of people who may be or are going to be involved in this new administration.

TODD: You could -- I mean, what -- the fact that Flynn -- I mean, if Flynn is getting involved with this, at what point does it disqualify him from the job?

PAGE: Well, of course, he doesn`t need confirmation. He needs to be --

TODD: Well, that doesn`t answer my question. At what point does that disqualify him from the job?

PAGE: And that question goes do Donald Trump.

TODD: Yes. PAGE: It`s entirely up to him. Now, if he was nominating a cabinet secretary who had done this, then I would hope the Senate would try to explore this in confirmation hearings. But that`s the power of the presidency.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: But it doesn`t disqualify him, because the person who is now president, came into power largely on this same sort of thing, saying whatever he wants to say whenever he wants to say it, facts be damned.

TODD: Well, one of this -- so, the person we need to bring up here is this Info Wars cat. This guy Alex Jones who just -- let me play a clip where he has been a big Trump supporter from the very beginning and thinks he and Trump are like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX JONES, HOST, INFO WARS: And I`ll tell you, it is surreal to talk about issues here on air and then, word for word, hear Trump say it two days later. It is amazing. And it just shows how dialed in this guy is and that`s why they`re so scared of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: This guy, in the 1970s, would have been on the high end of a.m. radio and no one would have ever heard of him. This guy`s got such a following. And he just is cuckoo for cocoa puffs. I just don`t. I mean, -- PAGE: (INAUDIBLE.) TODD: -- he, like, rips his shirt off sometimes and, like, gets really angry at made-up news. It`s creepy.

PONNURU: He thinks -- he thinks Sandy Hook was a hoax, was fake.

TODD: Yes, right. PONNURU: But we should also evaluate with a grain of salt, his assessment that Trump is right on the same page with him. He`s a crazy person.

TODD: That`s right. Now, Trump has sort of flirted with him, right? He, like, doesn`t necessarily -- you know, he doesn`t associate with him but he did call in once.

BELCHER: Right. But I think this is -- I think we have to make two points simultaneously. One is that Trump and people around him have been cavalier about this kind of thing.

Trump, himself, remember, just casually spread this totally unfounded rumor about justice Scalia maybe having been killed. But, at the same time, I don`t believe there is evidence. And that this is what grot Trump elected. And I think people are going to respond negatively if they -- if it seems like excuse-making for the election results.

TODD: Is this a tactic that gets attributed to LBJ? And I want to say -- and I want to say it`s definitely LBJ. You know what? Just say it. Who cares if it`s not true. Say it and make them deny it. That maybe Trump is operating a -- he doesn`t care. He knows it`s fake. But put it all in there, because you know what? It slimes the real journalists.

[17:25:05] BELCHER: But it`s so cynical, right? It is so --

TODD: OK. But it`s -- but guess what? It successfully slimes all of us. BELCHER: Right. But then, what`s our responsibility? And, again, I`m not a journalist. But what`s our responsibility, as journalists, to confront this? A lot of people out there -- the perception is that you all, quite frankly, weren`t hard enough on him. And I know you all pushed back on that pretty hard. But there`s a perception of out there that so much of what he said wasn`t true and he got away with so much of it in the mainstream media.

PAGE: I don`t know, he got -- I think the pushback -- and certainly criticism fair enough about press coverage of this campaign. But pushback was pretty severe, fact checks all the time on things he was saying, didn`t have an effect on the voters who wanted to support him because that wasn`t why they were supporting him. They were supporting him for other reasons. And not a big penalty to him --

TODD: No. PAGE: -- on things that even if he said over and over and over again, the Iraq War, for instance, no penalty for him, apparently, for saying things that were not true.

TODD: I think the irony is that these fringe news groups that have gotten mainstreamed, they`re wrong. But the general public, when they`re wrong, says -- thinks it`s us. That`s also is part of this, that is just the forcing of him, you know, treating everybody the same. I think it has some of that.

PONNURU: Well, that`s also -- people aren`t careful media consumers, and they know that a lot of us in the media got the general story of election wrong. And they`re not making all these distinctions.

TODD: No, they`re not.

All right. Cornell, Susan, Ramesh, as the republic phrase, we will take a break. Stay with us. Still ahead, are the culture wars over or are they coming back in an odd way? Keep it here. We`ll discuss.

[17:26:44]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(START VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Four, three, two, one! Hey, hey, look at that. CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: That`s a good looking tree there. Just moments ago, it may be a rainy evening here in Washington, D.C., but that was House Speaker Paul Ryan lighting the Capitol Christmas tree on the west lawn with some help from a Boise,Idaho fifth grader. Nice work. Because the 80-foot Engelmann spruce by the way did come from Idaho`s Payette National Forest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: We`ll have more MTP Daily just ahead, but here`s Hampton Pearson with another good news report.

HAMPTON PEARSON, REPORTER, CNBC: Hey, Chuck, great looking lights on the tree, by the way. Stocks ending the day with gains. The Dow rising by 35 points. To close at another record. The S&P up by seven. The Nasdaq climbing by 24.

A tough session for Chipotle, one of the company`s CEOs saying he`s, quote, nervous about achieving the earnings guidance provided in October. Shares slid more than 7 percent today. And U.S. trade gap widened sharply in October, growing nearly 18 percent, $42.6 billion, a four-month high. It was the biggest one-month increase since March of 2015. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. So, where does the culture wars in America stand? Are we just getting started, or are they about to end? As Bob Dylan might say, the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Right now, it is blowing all over the place, from voters, from Trump, and his cabinet picks.

In North Carolina, folks seemed to sent a clear message that voters simply don`t want the headache of big social fights. The backlash against the so- called bathroom bill cost an incumbent republican governor, Pat McCrory, his job despite very good economic numbers.

But Trump Tower is picking a cabinet that has culture war conservatives like Mike Huckabee. Trump has picked Ben Carson, born again Christian to run HUD. Senator Jeff Sessions, who is pro-life, anti-marijuana, voted to ban same-sex marriage. This is AG at the nation`s top cop.

What`s Sessions gonna do by the way on some hot bath and social issues like the fact that 29 states have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana in this country now. What`s he gonna do about same sex benefits for federal employees? That`s a Donald Trump decision perhaps.

And if you`re looking for clues from Trump, you might want to keep looking, because Trump himself is a bit of a conflict, a contradiction, when it comes to various social issues. He says he`s fine with gay marriage as the law of the land, but is promising to appoint staunchly conservative justices.

Trump took five different positions on abortion in three days at one time as a candidate. At a single day back in April, Trump said he was against the North Carolina bathroom bill when he woke up, then he said he supported it before he went to bed. But if you`re Trump, you can`t be wishy-washy when you run the country, or appoint supreme court justices, or sign laws that You`re A.G. must enforce.

So, how`s he gonna govern? What do voters want? Where are we? Once we look at the polls, maybe we`ll find a clue there. Gallup says 60 percent of the country supports legalizing marijuana. Quinnipiac says 67 percent agree with the supreme court decision establishing a woman`s right to an abortion. And Gallup says 68 percent say gay marriage should remain legal.

I`m joined by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and the National Review`s David French. David, let me start with you. What do you read? What do you take out of North Carolina? That on one hand, they sent republicans to Washington, but they fired a republican governor, essentially, it appears, over one issue, a social issue. How do you take, what do you read from that?

DAVID FRENCH, STAFF WRITER, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE NATIONAL REVIEW: I take the same thing from that I`ve taken from a lot of disputes. I feel like the public when it`s looking at these culture war issues, unless you`re dealing with the bases of both parties, kind of looks at who do they think is picking on whom. Who is being the bully in the situation?

And I think that the media frankly did a really good job of portraying the North Carolina governor as the bully here. And there was brave dissidents standing up against him. When you cast in that dynamic, it puts him in a public relations hole that he couldn`t really dig out of.

But in other situations, there`s been some very fascinating analysis that says essentially a lot of the Obama`s administration overreach on some of these culture war issues, alienated working class voters who said the Obama administration seemed more focused on the culture war than it does on jobs. So it was a mixed bag, I think.

TODD: E.J., same question to you. How do you read North Carolina?

E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: I think Governor McCrory got in trouble for that, but also for voting rights issues, the whole Moral Mondays movement down there, Reverend Barber`s movement, I think, mobilized a lot of people to actually vote and participate.

TODD: Remember, they voted Trump, Burr, Cooper.

DIONNE: Yes.

TODD: Okay. Those voters, Two Rs and a D. There are a chunk of voters that clearly did that or you wouldn`t have the result.

DIONNE: That`s right. I think it was a lot of issues at the state level, the bathroom bill being one of them.

TODD: Right.

DIONNE: But the problem with Trump as you suggested in your opener, he`s been all over the lot on many of these issues. But Trump seems to be ready to delegate his views on these issues to his constituencies.

And he had 81 percent of the vote from white evangelicals, the best share a presidential candidate has gotten in a long time. And he gave a very strong anti-abortion pitch in one of the debates that I think.

TODD: Right.

DIONNE: . he`s made implicit and explicit promises to them. So whether he`s comfortable with the position or not, whether he really cares about the position or not, I think that`s the direction he`s going to move in, in a broadly social conservative direction, but not on gay marriage, it looks like.

TODD: David, what you said -- E.J.`s take on that -- I go back and forth. I think he is going to respond to the election results, be thinking about 2020 and think, well, I can`t disappoint evangelicals, because they were more supportive of me than perhaps they should have been given my mixed message that I sent to them.

FRENCH: Yeah, I don`t think he cares one bit about the classic culture war issues. I really don`t. I don`t think he cares all that much about abortion one way or another. I think he`s more than happy to use these issues to get what he wants.

And I think he`s more than happy to use the evangelical vote to get what he wants. I think he`s paying the evangelical voter back right now. And I don`t have a problem with many of his cabinet picks either. I think he`s put some outstanding picks out there.

But when the going gets tough on these issues, if these issues are flaring up and his approval rating is low, that`s where as a social conservative I would be concerned about his level of conviction, because I don`t think he has any level of conviction on this.

And if these issues are seen as an impediment to him or albatross around his neck, I would look for him to jettison his commitment quickly. DIONNE: I agree with David by the way. I don`t think he feels any of this stuff, and he doesn`t really care passionately about these issues. But I think he knows where his political base is, and the people who will stick with him. The definition of a base or the people who are with you.

TODD: That`s right.

DIONNE: . when you`re wrong.

TODD: That`s right.

DIONNE: . and I think these people are more likely to be with him than others in the electorate.

TODD: I`m curious at one thing that`s gonna come in a conflict for sort of conservative like yourself David French, and that is the issue of marijuana, right? It`s going to be states` rights and morality. Jeff Sessions has made his position on marijuana very clear. Let me play a bite. (START VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, JUNIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM ALABAMA: We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, that it`s, in fact, a very real danger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: As we all know, the federal government can just simply decide to enforce federal law and all of what these states have done, essentially, most of it can be nullified. David, what`s your -- what do you expect -- do you expect a fight between social conservatives and libertarians on this one?

FRENCH: You know, honestly, I`ve been running around social conservative circles for years and years and years, and marijuana is about number 100 on the list.

(LAUGHTER)

FRENCH: . that the base really cares about. You know, my view is leave it to the states. I don`t think this is going to be a flash point in the conservative movement, because it`s not been a flash point in the conservative movement. There are many things that people care about far more than this.

I think leaving it to the states. In fact, if you`re going to talk about cultural issues more broadly, if you want to ratchet back culture war issues and ratchet back some of the culture war rhetoric, increased emphasis on federalism I think is the way to go. Let California be California, and let Tennessee where I am, be Tennessee.

DIONNE: But what we`ve seen, Chuck, is that conservatives enforce states` rights except when they`re not. You`ve seen that at the local level where when cities do something that conservative governments don`t like, they take the authority away from the cities.

What you`re setting up here is if Trump doesn`t actually doesn`t care about marijuana, but Sessions goes on the offensive against these states, Trump is either going to have to break with his attorney general or you`re going to have a conservative breaking with states` rights.

TODD: Obviously, the Supreme Court pick is going to potentially buy a lot of time for Trump, assuming he goes in a social conservative route. Do you expect him to get this right, David, as far as social conservatives are concerned?

FRENCH: Oh, I think the first one. I think, you know, he`s going to be replacing Scalia, the pressure on him to go off his list, which his list is good, is going to be overwhelming. If he goes off-list with his first pick, that`s going to scare an awful lot of people, and he would see immediate erosion in his base.

So I think this first pick is the easy pick. The hard pick is if he has another one, and what is his approval rating then, what`s the temperature of the country at the time? That`s gonna be the hard pick. TODD: All right. David French, E.J. Dionne, fascinating discussion from both of you. I want to re-create this discussion every few months. You guys are very, very interesting on this topic in particular. Thank you both. Appreciate it.

Up ahead in The Lid, Trump steps up to the bully pulpit. We`ll look at what`s behind the Boeing backlash.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I`m obsessed with the democratization of media. Not all of it, giving America a voice and liberating the flow of information from three networks and a handful of newspapers, all of whom for years were run by people who look and thought the exact same way is not a bad thing. It`s a fantastic thing.

What I`m talking about is a plague of fake news. That virus came very close to taking lives this week as we were talking about that dangerous incident at the comet ping-pong pizza restaurant here in Washington. It`s hardly the first time fake news has gained currency.

The pamphleteer James Callender famously spread rumors about John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton. And those old enough to walk through airports in the `70s can remember all the crazy Lyndon LaRouche followers spreading malicious non-sense about the queen of England.

The more that news organizations debunk the sex slave story at the time, the more it inspired new fake news and new followers that comment. Fake news is a virus that changes and replicates as it adapts to survive.

There`s no easy answer to this fake news plague, no quick fix, but politicians could start by not re-tweeting lies and conspiracy theories because it feels good. And by realizing that when they relentlessly bash the press, they nearly soften the ground for false news to spread like a contagion.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(START VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Well, there you go, Donald Trump took his bully pulpit sky high today. This time it`s aircraft manufacturing company Boeing. Trump went after the company in an early-morning tweet, saying, Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order. Exclamation point.

Well, Boeing responded saying in part, we are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serves the unique requirements of the president of the United States.

Trump`s numbers on Air Force One don`t appear to match the current arrangement between Boeing and the Department of Defense, but Trump`s words do have an impact. After that tweet went out, Boeing`s stock dropped 1.6 percent.

By closing time, it had leveled off, but the message Trump sent seemed clear. So with that, panel is back with me for The Lid. Cornell Belcher, Susan Page, Ramesh Ponnuru. Ramesh, did you expect a republican president to be so aggressive against corporate America? Carrier, carrier, you know, capitulated, now Boeing. This is the power of the bully pulpit.

RAMESH PONNURU, COLUMNIST AND SENIOR EDITOR FOR NATIONAL REVIEW MAGAZINE: It is a new power of the bully pulpit. I think if a democratic president were getting involved with these individual companies, micromanaging them, calling them out on an individual basis, republicans in congress would be apoplectic.

TODD: What would you be saying?

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: Would you be apoplectic?

PONNURU: I`m saying they ought to be now as well. This is not the appropriate role for the president or the president-elect to be playing.

TODD: I wonder, Susan, how much. It was interesting that Kevin McCarthy to me yesterday, who has been very much capitulating the Trump on a lot of things more so than Paul Ryan, but the number two in the house said, hey, we`re not going to be for this 35 percent tariff business.

Does this Boeing thing, will that give stiffen the backbone of other sort of more private sector conservative republicans? SUSAN PAGE, JOURNALIST AND CURRENT WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR USA TODAY: Maybe or maybe it will make some business leaders really nervous about getting crosswise with the president for fear that he could be critical of them in a tweet and cost them stock prices. I mean, this is like different territory. Have we ever had a president in the past 50 years engage in behavior like this?

TODD: We`ve had industries, right? Presidents had gotten involved in industries. Obama in auto, Kennedy in steel. Certainly, George W. Bush did it with steel. Hey, Teddy Roosevelt held up on a pedestal for being tough on corporate America.

: Well, you know.

PAGE: But not intervening with individual companies.

(CROSSTALK) PAGE: . with the federal government.

CORNELL BELCHER, PRESIDENT OF BRILLIANT CORNERS RESEARCH AND STRATEGIES: Let me tell you what our republicans and friends have said. He`s a socialist. They would call him out as a flat-out socialist. But at the same time, I think it`s interesting.

It has to make Wall Street folks and some of the republican establishment nervous, because he is interfering it with the markets and republicans are not supposed to be for free markets, right?

And clearly, he`s interfering in a way that doesn`t make the markets so free. But at the same time, Chuck, if you think about his base, if you think about the voters that voted for him, and think about the people who have been hurt by the free market economy, this makes a lot of political sense for him, although, I think there`s going to be conflict with the republican establishment here.

TODD: You know, this strikes me as sort of the way Trump actually built this real estate empire, which is, he doesn`t worry about the long-term consequences of the debt of the deal. It`s short-term gain. And right now politically, this is short-term gain. And it`s good gain for him.

PONNURU: Well, short-term gains have added up.

TODD: Bashing China. That`s right.

PONNURU: He did actually, you know, win the presidency with the strategy that people didn`t think was going to work.

TODD: Mocked him.

PONNURU: . and so I`m sure this is giving him confidence in every single thing that he`s doing. But the problem here isn`t that it`s anti-business, the problem is that it`s a disagree of interference. A kind of unhealthy connection between the government and industry that I think is not good for the long run economic well-being of this country.

PAGE: And as one more sign, he`s not a conservative republican, he`s a populist when it comes to these issues. This is a populist.

TODD: He`s a nationalist.

BELCHER: I think nationalist more than populist. Because, and frankly, this is the sort of thing that you all would have called Barack Obama socialist on, right? So I think you can go farther than this. When you interfere with the free markets, you know, republicans aren`t supposed to be against this. It will be interesting on how he gets along with members of congress.

TODD: This presents some uncertainty in corporate America, which they have said they don`t like.

BELCHER: And they supported him, right?

TODD: Did they?

BELCHER: They certainly supported the republican party.

TODD: Name a CEO in the fortune 100, though, that was supportive of Trump that wasn`t one?

BELCHER: That`s fair.

PAGE: They would have supported any other nominee much more than.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: Let me move to Joe Biden yesterday. Was he joking or was he not? I`m still sort of trying to figure that out. Should we play the Biden sound real quick? I think we have it. Let`s play it. We don`t have the bite of Biden with reporters, but it was, I think some people say it wasn`t serious, but part of me thinks, boy, there is a.

PAGE: There was a germ of truth. The question was jocular. The question wasn`t a serious question. He answered in a way that made people think, is he serious? And, you know, I don`t think he was serious exactly, but I think there is a germ of truth in the idea that he`s sorry he didn`t run this time. He would like to be president. If he could run in four years, I bet he would. BELCHER: I think that if Biden would throw his hat in, you would be surprised at how many people would be supportive of him. This is someone who has stood beside the president and someone.

TODD: Would you have said that two years ago?

BELCHER: I would have. I would have. Because Joe Biden is really liked. We`ve talked a lot about politics, but in the end, Chuck, people tend to vote for people they like. He is someone who would start off a lot more better position in the general public than Hillary Clinton did.

PAGE: And right now there`s sentiment among democrats that, gosh, he should have run.

TODD: He`s the one guy that could have somehow kept the party from fracturing the way he did. He could have played frankly both identity politics and blue collar politics. He could have straddled that. PAGE: Yeah, but you know what? For four years, democrats surely are gonna want to move on to a new generation, surely get past their leaders who are in their 70s. BELCHER: I agree with you.

TODD: Is that right?

BELCHER: . but who isn`t?

PAGE: Gillibrand.

TODD: Do you think republicans in `93 were saying that and ended up with Bob Dole in `96? Trump say that a lot of people thought Bob Dole`s days were done.

PAGE: How did it work out for them? (LAUGHTER)

PONNURU: If they`re up against a Donald Trump that`s running for re- election, that does somewhat neutralize the age issue, I would think. BELCHER: But I also think that, you know, there is a warren sort of segment of the party, sort of that populist sort of left-wing grassroots who they want for the candidate and I don`t know Joe Biden is their candidate.

TODD: It could mean we`re all curious now if he`s going to somehow find ways to get to Iowa.

BELCHER: The election has started already. TODD: Oh, don`t laugh. Of course it has. I`m waiting for -- I think I saw where Jason Kander, who didn`t even win, is somehow going to Iowa.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: So everybody will be going to Iowa in the next month. Anyway, Cornell, Susan, Ramesh, thank you, as always. We`ll have a little more MTP Daily right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Finally, in case you missed it, democrats are getting just a little bit desperate these days when it comes to senate seats. Louisiana as it normally now does is holding its senate runoff election on Saturday. The president-elect, Donald Trump, is traveling to the state to support the republican candidate, John Kennedy. No relation to the Kennedy family, by the way, on the democratic side.

Meanwhile, the democratic candidate, Foster Campbell, who is trailing in the race just put out a press release today attacking Kennedy as a one-time liberal democrat and saying this about Donald Trump`s visit. By the way, it is true, Kennedy used to be a democrat.

Foster Campbell, I`m glad the president-elect is bringing attention to Louisiana and I look forward to working with him on the things he agrees with me on like term limits and rebuilding our roads, bridges, and ports.

You get that. That`s a democrat not just saying nice things about Donald Trump, but hugging him in hopes of picking up republican votes. My, how things have changed in just over a month. That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with a lot more MTP Daily. But Chris Matthews picks up our coverage right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END