MTP Daily, Transcript 12/27/2016

Guests: Tammy Leitner, Tom Cole, David Sanger, George Mitchell, Clarence Page, Robert Traynham, Yamiche Alcindor, Clarence Page

Show: MTP DAILY Date: December 27, 2016 Guest: Tammy Leitner, Tom Cole, David Sanger, George Mitchell, Clarence Page, Robert Traynham, Yamiche Alcindor, Clarence Page

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: In the meantime, that`s going to do it for this hour. I`m Steve Kornacki at "MTP DAILY" with Peter Alexander in for Chuck Todd. It starts right now.

PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, I`m Peter Alexander in Washington for my friend, Chuck Todd. Welcome to MTP DAILY on a historic day this holiday season. And we begin this hour with breaking news. We are watching a developing situation at Trump Tower in New York City where the building`s lobby has been evacuated. All indications are that the president-elect is not in New York. In fact, that he is still at Mar-a-Largo, his private estate in Florida. And also, right now, more breaking news as you look live at joint base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, that`s next door to the memorial at the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor where President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have just taken to the podium. They are set to speak. The prime minister of Japan, as you can see, speaking first, then the U.S. president. We will take you there momentarily. For President Obama, this is likely the last time that he will deliver remarks after meeting with a foreign leader as president. For remarks after meeting with a foreign leader as president. For Japanese Prime Minister Abe, just moments ago, he became the first Japanese leader to visit the memorial above the USS Arizona battleship that, of course, was sunk 75 years ago, during the infamous Japanese sneak attack that thrust the U.S. into World War II. Both leaders participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the historic site following a bilateral meeting between the two men. Prime Minister Abe`s visit to Pearl Harbor comes after President Obama made a similarly historic trip to Japan back in May, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima 71 years after the U.S. dropped the first bomb on the city toward the end of the war. The president`s remarks today come against a backdrop of global uncertainty, frankly that arguably resonates at the solemn site. There is uncertainty over the future of the U.S. foreign policy onto the next administration, uncertainty over nuclear policy following Donald Trump`s comments, suggesting he`s open it an arms race. There are also questions about the future of U.S.-Japan relations, along with the fate of decades old alliances built in the wake of World War II, like NATO, United Nations that were designed to avoid another global conflict. Folks in the U.N. are being scrutinized by the president-elect as either outdated or simply out of step with American interests. We`re joined now by my colleague, NBC`s Tammy Leitner. She is in Honolulu right now. She is covering the president on this day. And, Tammy, we`re expecting that they`re speaking just a short distance behind you. This is likely the last time that the president will meet with a foreign leader as president. What are we expecting to hear from him moments from now?

TAMMY LEITNER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NBC NEWS: It`s a very somber mood right now. There is a large contingency of Japanese press out here. There are a handful of survivors who were personally invited to attend today. I have spoken with a number of them.

And they told me that they really never thought this day would come that these two foreign leaders would be on the same soil here at Pearl Harbor where so many lives were lost.

About 20 minutes ago, both the president and the Japanese prime minister, they headed out to the USS Arizona memorial. And that`s where hundreds of sailors and Marines are entombed underneath the memorial. Let me describe for you what it looks like. It is all white. And on the wall, there are 2,400 names of all of those who lost their life that day. I am told that the president and the prime minister, they walked in. They stood for a moment of silence in front of the names. They, then, walked over and picked up two wreaths, laid them at the names. Afterwards, walking outside to throw some purple flowers in the water as an offering of remembrance of these soldiers who is lost their lives. Now, I am told that the prime minister will not be making an apology today. That is not what today is about. Today is about looking forward and building on the bond that as the United States and Japan has been working on for so many years -- Peter.

Tammy Leitner who is covering this visit at the historic site on this day. And, Tammy, I thank you.

And as we continue to await the president`s remarks at Pearl Harbor, I`m joined in Washington by David Sanger who is a national security correspondent at "The New York Times." David, thanks for being with us. DAVID SANGER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORREPSONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thank you. ALEXANDER: This is quite a backdrop on this historic day.

SANGER: It is.

ALEXANDER: You`re an expert. You understand the relationship between these two countries very well. What will you be listening from -- for from this president in just a moment? SANGER: Well, you know, in many ways, this -- while it seems to be about closing up the future, it`s really very much about President Obama trying to leave an image of what he has tried to do with the Japan relationship but also with the broader Asian relationship. He came to the conclusion about halfway through his own presidency that the biggest single impediment to both dealing with China and to dealing with North Korea was the fact that Japan had still not resolved with its own neighbors. And that the only way to begin to do that was to start with the U.S. and Japan and hope that spreads to Japan and South Korea, Japan and China. And this is a big part of that.

ALEXANDER: How much of this should we be looking for any commentary overtly or covertly about the next president of the United States, Donald Trump, given his comments in recent days off camera.

Speaking to my colleague, Mika Brzezinski, in effect, basically saying, let there be an arms race going forward. Do we anticipate there would be anything that is directed toward the administration that will follow him?

SANGER: If so, it`ll all be in code words and you`ll have to, sort of, read between the lines.

But I think what has come through in those interviews that Mr. Trump has given, his conversation with Mika Brzezinski, his earlier interviews with several of us at "The Times" have been that he doesn`t yet think in terms of alliances. He thinks in terms of transactional relationships. So, you ask him about Japan and he`ll talk about the trade deficit. You ask President Obama about Japan, and he will talk about having a long-term relationship that`s our bull work in dealing with China, North Korea and then southeast Asia.

ALEXANDER: And, again, right now, we want to show our guest, our audience a live picture. This is President Obama and Shinzo Abe. They are at the USS Arizona memorial.

It was built in 1952 on top of, but notably not touching, the sunken battleship, the USS Arizona, a total of 2,335 sailors, soldiers, Marines died as a result of the attack as well as 68 civilians on that day.

We are -- David, I`ll ask you to stay with us if you can very quickly. And while we keep our eye on Hawaii, we want to bring you back there in a moment as soon as he starts talking. But on this similar topic, President-elect Trump isn`t the only one who`s been voicing his opinions on the United States and nuclear weapons. When it comes to nuclear weapons, he`s at odds with the Obama administration over the U.N. resolution regarding Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories as well. Israel is accusing the U.S. of orchestrating that resolution, a charge the White House flatly denies. The Republicans are now threatening to try and yank funding from the U.S. Others say the Obama administration is being petty, reckless and betraying a key ally. Trump, himself, tweeted that the U.N. has great potential, but right now is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. With the punctuation, so sad. With my colleague, Halle Jackson, she spoke today to the former senator and former special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell who also disagreed with the Obama administration`s decision, saying that while there is historical precedence, in this particular instance, it may interfere, he said, with the peace process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE MIDDLE EAST: President Obama would have been wise to veto this resolution, not because of the policy implications, but because of the timing and the circumstance that it leads to with respect to trying to get the parties together. Now we have a new administration coming in. They will make a new initiative. Unfortunately, this moves Israel further away from being willing to negotiate with the Palestinians and makes the Palestinians less likely to negotiate which is difficult. (END VIDEO CLIP) ALEXANDER: And joining me now is the Oklahoma Republican Congressman, Tom Cole. Congressman Cole, thanks for being with us during these holidays. Today, on "MORNING JOE," you called the decision to abstain for the vote petty. But President Obama was hardly the first U.S. president to abstain or support a resolution critical of Israeli policy at the U.N. In 2003, I think George Bush`s administration voted in favor of a resolution calling for a full settlement freeze. So, how is this different?

REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: I think it`s different because it`s extremely one-sided. If you actually read the resolution itself, it`s not remotely, you know, even handed.

And, frankly, again, doing something like this at the very end when you know something different is coming in a matter of weeks, you know, there is just no reason, particular reason, to do it, particularly if the Israelis prove to be right. That is if the United States actually colluded in this. So, --

ALEXANDER: Well, do you think -- is there evidence -- is there any evidence that suggest they did?

COLE: I don`t. I -- all I have is, you know, the charges that the Israelis have made and that they`re going to make that evidence forthcoming, at least to the new administration. I made that clear.

ALEXANDER: The White House insists it`s not very clear (ph).

COLE: We`ll see if they`re right. And, well, that`s certainly their right.

But, frankly, the record here I think is a pretty poor one, in terms of Israeli security, whether it`s the Iranian deal or some of the rhetoric that`s been leveled at prime minister Netanyahu by the president himself.

So, again, it`s a -- this is good ally. We should not be in the position where we`ve got, frankly, not just Republicans but Democrats as well disagreeing with the president`s decisions. And, I mean, the incoming leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate, the former majority leader that you just had on. ALEXANDER: Sure. COLE: It`s not as if this is partisan. ALEXANDER: Congressman Cole, let me play devil`s advocate for a moment. So, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of Israel, in effect, said that friends don`t take friends to the U.N. security council. But don`t friends also have, in some way, an obligation, at times, to speak the truth to one another? COLE: Well, they do. And -- but I think this is one where you have to look at it -- it`s a very complex situation. Look, the Israelis withdrew from the Gaza strip unconditionally. And what they`ve gotten is literally thousands of rockets raining down on them from that part of the Palestinian territories. So, I think they`ve got every reason to be somewhat skeptical here. But they`ve made it clear, they`re willing to sit down and go into negotiations unconditionally. That`s the way that, by the way, they achieved peace with the Egyptians. They`ve shown they`re willing to trade land for peace if they`ve got a willing partner. So far, frankly, it`s the Palestinians who`ve been unwilling to sit down and negotiate. They want to have a negotiation and have the decision imposed on the Israelis. That`s never going to happen. Frankly, it forestalls a discussion that could be productive.

ALEXANDER: Let`s talk about the U.N. for a second if we can. Republicans spend a lot of time bashing the United Nations. Mike Huckabee called it a joke. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said it failed -- it has failed to do much good in the world for a long time.

How should the incoming Trump administration make the U.N., then, a stronger force? What can they and should they do?

COLE: I lost the sound here. But if I understand the question, if you`re getting what I have to say. Frankly, I think you have to be pretty nuanced in how you look at the United Nation. It has done some good in the world.

The Iranian elections were supervised by the U.N. There`s certainly a variety of humanitarian efforts. But there`s also times when, frankly, it becomes sort of a -- you know, a breeding ground for anti-western opinion that`s, frankly, very unbalanced. So, there`s a lot of frustration and certainly American taxpayers have every right to demand an accounting when they`re paying for almost a quarter of the total budget.

ALEXANDER: Congressman Tom Cole who is joining us on this day. Congressman, thank you very much. We appreciate your time.

Again, as we are joined now, again, by David Sanger from "The New York Times." And our panel is also joining us as, in a moment, we anticipate President Obama to be speaking at the site of the USS Arizona memorial. And we will take you there as soon as he does speak. Our panel is joining us right now. From "The Chicago Tribune," Clarence Page; the former Bush-Cheney adviser, Robert Traynham; "The New York Times" reporter and MSNBC Contributor Yamiche Alcindor. But, David, if I can, to you very quickly. Again, as we anticipate this president speaking right now. I just want your take on this moment because it is -- it is filled with significance beyond just the relationship between the U.S. and Japan as it dates back over the past 75 years, but filled with the anticipation of what that will look like. That critical alliance and our relationship to Asia more broadly will be like in the years going forward.

SANGER: Well, you know, first, Peter, I don`t think you can underestimate the emotional impact of standing above the Arizona. I know when my wife and I took our own two sons there to try to explain to them, the whole war seems to come back at you.

And I think that while to Americans it seems strange that we`re this ceremony 75 years later, for the Japanese, it`s something they live with every day. I was a correspondent there many years ago, and you would feel that and still see the remnants of the war. The trick now for President Obama is to reassure the Japanese that the nature of the alliance that was built in the years since that war is not about to come a sunder. And that`s why Mr. Abe wanted to be the first foreign leader to visit Mr. Trump at Trump Tower. But the Japanese, despite that, feel very uncertain about what`s coming next. And given what Mr. Trump has said about nuclear weapons, about pulling back American troops and about trade, you can see why they`re un -- they`re uncertain.

ALEXANDER: And, Clarence Page, to you. As David just indicated, you can see why they`re uncertain. There`s good reason, based on Donald Trump`s comments, in effect, you know, the basing agreements with Japan, there`s real concern that the U.S., in effect, is going to lead Japan on its own, in many ways. As it comes to its own security and its position in that region.

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": There is and it`s resulting from the use by Donald Trump with this blunt instrument known as Twitter which doesn`t allow for nuance and shadings of one`s feelings or plans.

It could be that Donald Trump is merely spinning webs in his head, thinking about possibilities and thinking about moving in the direction of a more aggressive foreign policy. But whatever he does will come as a result of consultation with other people, one hopes. And perhaps he will learn more about how much of an impact a simple 120 characters, or however long the message is, how big of an impact that has. But, in the meantime, Japan has reason to be nervous about what Trump is up to. That whole region over there, North Korea has indicated that they have a first strike posture, that if they feel like they are under attack, they`re ready to go to war immediately. We don`t know if they are blowing smoke either. But, you know, this is a very dangerous situation with a lot of question mark hanging in the air and very little clarity.

ALEXANDER: Robert, what do we say about where Republicans, and specifically Donald Trump stands on this issue right now? As he failed to do a sufficient job in communicating his position vis a vi Japan and, frankly, Asia to this point.

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, FORMER ADVISOR, BUSH-CHANEY ADMINISTRATION: Yes. I think the president-elect, very quickly after he`s inaugurated, has to address the nation as well as the diplomatic community as to what the Trump doctrine is. Not only just in the Middle East, but also in Asia and Europe as well. He really needs to articulate what his vision is for the next four years to calm people`s fears.

To Clarence`s point and to other people`s points out there, a lot of people are nervous. And the reason why they`re nervous is because the president-elect tends to make policy, very impulsive policy, on Twitter. Clarence Mitchell, a few moments ago, the shades of gray and nuances. And, obviously, that`s what diplomatic people live by. And Donald Trump is very declarative and very black and white. The other question becomes as whether or not secretary-to-be Tillerson will be able to alleviate some fears. Whether or not speaker Ryan and leader McConnell and also whomever the foreign relations -- ALEXANDER: Robert, will you excuse me as I interrupt you. I apologize for the quick interruption. The president of the United States is now taking the mic. He`s about to speak at the USS Arizona memorial. We`ll take a listen.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (live): On behalf of the American people, thank you for your gracious words, thank you for your presence here today. A historic gesture that speaks to the power of reconciliation and the alliance between the American and Japanese peoples. A reminder that even the deepest wounds of war can give way to friendship and lasting peace. Distinguish guests, members of our enforcers, and most of all, survivors of Pearl Harbor and their loved ones, aloha. To Americans, especially to those of us who call Hawaii home, this harbor is a sacred place. As we lay a wreath or toss flowers into waters that still weep, we think of the more than 2,400 American patriots, fathers and husbands, wives and daughters, manning heaven`s rails for all eternity. We salute the defenders of Oahu who pulled themselves a little straighter every December seventh. And we reflect on the heroism that is shown here 75 years ago. As dawn broke that December day, paradise never seemed so sweet. The water was warm and impossibly blue. The sailors ate in the mess hall, were readied themselves for church, dressed in crisp white shorts and t-shirts. In the harbor, ships at anchor floated in neat rows, the California, the Maryland, and the Oklahoma, the Tennessee, the West Virginia and the Nevada. On the deck of the Arizona, the Navy band was tuning up. That morning, the ranks of men`s shoulders defined them less than the courage in their hearts. Across the island, Americans defended themselves however they could, firing training shells, working old bolt-action rifles. An African-American mess steward, who would typically be confined to cleaning duties, carried his commander to safety and then fired an anti- aircraft gun until he ran out of ammo. We honor Americas like Jim Downing, the gutter`s (ph) mate, first class of the West Virginia. Before he raised to the harbor, his new bride pressed into his hand a verse of scripture. The eternal god is thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. As Jim fought to save his ship, he simultaneously gathered the names of the fallen so that he could give closure to their families. He said, it was just something you do. We remember Americans like Harry Payne, a fireman from Honolulu who, in the face of withering fire, worked to douse burning planes until he gave his last full measure of devotion. One of the only civilian firefighters ever to receive the purple heart. We salute Americans like chief petty officer, John Flynn, who manned a 50 caliber machine gun for more than two hours and was wounded more than 20 times, earning him our nation`s highest military decoration, the medal of honor. And it is here that we reflect on how war tests our most enduring values. How even as Japanese Americans were deprived of their own liberty during the war, one of the most decorated military units in the history of the United States was the 442nd infantry regiment and its 100th infantry battalion, the Japanese American Neasa (ph). In that 442nd, served my friend and proud Hawaiian, Daniel Inouye. A man who was a senator from Hawaii for most of my life and with whom I would find myself proud to serve in the Senate chamber. A man who was not only the recipient of the medal of honor and the presidential medal of freedom, but was one of the most distinguished statesmen of his generation as well. Here at Pearl Harbor, America`s first battle of the second world war roused a nation. Here, in so many ways, America came of age. A generation of Americans, including my grandparents, that greatest generation, they did not seek war, but they refused to shrink from it. And they all did their part on fronts and in factories. And while 75 years later, the proud ranks of Pearl Harbor survivors have thinned with time, the bravery we recall here is forever etched in our national heart. I would ask all our Pearl Harbor and World War II veterans, who are able to, to please stand or raise your hands because a grateful nation thanks you. The character of nations is tested in war but it is defined in peace. After one of the most horrific chapters in human history, one that took not 10s of thousands but 10s of millions of lives. With ferocious fighting across this ocean, the United States and Japan chose friendship and they chose peace. Over the decades, our alliances made both of our nations more successful. It has helped underwrite an international order that prevented another world war and that has lifted more than a billion people out of extreme poverty. Today, the alliance between the United States and Japan bound not only by shared interests but also rooted in common values, stands as the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asian Pacific and a force for progress around the globe. Our alliance has never been stronger. In good times and in bad, we are there for each other. Recall five years ago, when a wall of water bore down on Japan and reactors in Fukushima melted. America`s men and women in uniform were there to help our Japanese friends. Across the globe, the United States and Japan worked shoulder to shoulder to strengthen the security of the Asian Pacific and the world, turning back piracy, combatting disease, slowing the spread of nuclear weapons, keeping the peace in war torn lands. Earlier this year, near Pearl Harbor, Japan joined with two dozen nations in the world`s largest maritime military exercise. And that included our forces from U.S. Pacific command lent by Admiral Harry Harris, the son of an American Naval officer and a Japanese mother. Harry was born in Lakoska (ph), but you wouldn`t know it from his Tennessee twang. Thank you, Harry, for your outstanding leadership. In this sense, our presence here today, the connection is not just between our governments, but between our people. The presence of Prime Minister Abe here today remind us of what is possible between nations and between peoples. Wars can end. The most bitter of adversaries can become the strongest of allies. The fruits of peace always outweigh the plunder of war. This is the enduring truth of this hallowed harbor. It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different. The sacrifice made here, the anguish of war, reminds us to seek that divine spark that is common to all humanity. It insists that we strive to be what our Japanese friends called (INAUDIBLE.) With and for each other. That`s the lesson of Captain William Callahan of the Missouri. Even after an attack on his ship, he ordered that the Japanese pilot be laid to rest with military honors, wrapped in a Japanese flag sewn by American sailors. It`s the lesson in turn of the Japanese pilot who, years later, returned to this harbor, befriended an old Marine bugler and asked him to play taps and lay two roses at this memorial every month. One for America`s fallen and one for Japan`s. It`s a lesson our two peoples learn every day in the most ordinary of ways. Whether it`s Americans studying in Tokyo, young Japanese studying across America, scientists from our two nations together unraveling the mysteries of cancer or combating climate change, exploring the stars. It`s a baseball player like Ichiro lighting up a stadium in Miami, the shared pride of two peoples, both American and Japanese, united in peace and friendship.

As nations and its people, we cannot choose the history that we inherit. But we can choose what lessons to draw from it. And use those lessons to chart our own futures. Mr. Abe, I welcome you here in the spirit of friendship. As the people of Japan have always welcomed me. I hope that together, we send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war.

That reconciliation carries more rewards than retribution. Here in this quiet harbor, we honor those we lost, and we give thanks for all that our two nations have won together as friends. May God hold the fallen in his everlasting arms. May he watch over our veterans and all who stand guard on our behalf. May God bless us all. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

ALEXANDER: You just heard from President Obama speaking at Pearl Harbor. We are joined again by our panel and my friend David Sanger who is sitting here with us. Our panel includes Clarence Page, Robert Traynham, and Yamiche Alcindor.

We just heard from the president speaking about the power of reconciliation, saying today as a reminder that the deepest wounds of war can give way to friendship and lasting peace. He said the alliance between our two countries has never been stronger.

David, what was also striking though as we talk about the current politics of this day related to our relationship with Japan among others, he had some thoughts that I think may reflect on the relationship we may now have with other countries going forward with Donald Trump.

He said it`s important to resist the urge and the risk to demonize those who are different. Is there anything to read into those comments beyond just words about this relationship with Japan? SANGER: I think there certainly is, Peter. I think it was a very powerful speech, but it was a very Obama speech. It was incredibly personal. It brought up the experiences of those who had been there just as his speech at Hiroshima brought up the experiences of Japanese who had been victims of the bomb.

But Prime Minister Abe offered no apology. Instead he was making this as a moment to move on. I think President Obama was doing the same. In that line that you cited, it was basically saying to Donald Trump, look, I have left this alliance in about as good shape as one could leave it. And if in a year or two from now, it`s not in that good shape, if we have eroded it because of trade disputes or whatever, that`s on you.

ALEXANDER: Yamiche, let me ask you if I can quickly on that issue, the Asia pivot was such a critical element of this president`s administration of its desire to sort of improve relations with that part of the world. Where was this president successful and where perhaps did he fail on the issue of the transpacific partnership, something that he and Abe had agreed on and put so much time and energy into it, it appears to be in tatters as his administration comes to an end.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: The fact that you bring up the TPP, I think, is a prime example on where this administration maybe struggled. At the end of his term, President Obama had both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both democrats, who were first fighting for the nomination and then of course Hillary Clinton winning that nomination, both of them were very much opposed to the TPP.

It became an issue that Donald Trump then could throw back at Hillary Clinton and talked about the fact that he at one point at least it looked like she was going to be the one that would supporting that issue. So I think when I went on the campaign trail and talked to people in rural Pennsylvania or in Ohio, they were not just talking about their own economies and bringing jobs back.

They are also talking a lot about TPP and feeling as though their trust of President Obama was eroded because of that alliance. I think that was definitely something. To go back to that point that you made about the idea that he was talking about demonizing people that are different from us, I think he was I think in some ways talking directly to Donald Trump.

A lot of people of course not the people who voted for him, but a lot of people feel as though his campaign was really about demonizing people who are different, either Muslims or people of different nationalities or different cultures. So I think President Obama there is hoping that his words might in some ways hope and motivate Donald Trump and his supporters to think deeply about what that means going forward.

ALEXANDER: Clarence, this was a historic set of remarks and a moment not just because it was the president speaking with the prime minister of Japan at this historic site, but also it is because this was one of the last times we are going to see this president speaking publicly after a private meeting with a foreign leader, likely his last private meeting of this kind with the foreign leader before he leaves power on January 20th. What struck you as we witnessed this unique day in Hawaii?

CLARENCE PAGE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: I was very touched by the historical moment of it. Being a Vietnam era veteran, I know how it feels to be surprised that this day has come. That there is such peace and reconciliation and productivity in the relationship between our two countries.

We are facing a new administration as I mentioned earlier with a lot of question marks around what its foreign policies or strategic policies are going to be. It`s important now for President Obama as he leaves office to as has been said that he leaves this relationship in about as good of shape as it could be in. In a stable shape and predictable shape. We are moving into what pretty looks like is going to be unpredictable and let`s hope not too unstable.

ALEXANDER: Robert, how will history remember this president as it relates to Asia and specifically Japan, that region?

TRAYNHAM: That`s a good question. We don`t know yet. I think we are going to have to wait at least five or 10 years actually to see what crops for lack of a term that President Obama has laid whether or not they will grow or not. When you take a look at the world globally, the president is leaving it a little bit fractured.

There is no doubt about it that the reset with Russia is a little bit fractured. There is no doubt about it that if we take a look at the Middle East, there is a lot of strain there. If you take a look at Turkey, if you take a look at China going back to the Asia, there is a lot of fragile pieces right now.

The question becomes is whether or not Donald Trump will be able to fix those pieces or whether or not he is going to shatter them even more. But your question, Peter, I just simply -- we don`t simply know yet. But everyone else points are very well taken that he probably left the world in as best shape as he possibly could.

ALEXANDER: Robert Traynham, Clarence Page, Yamiche Alcindor, David Sanger with us here, thank you all very much. Coming up right after this break, the very latest on that evacuation of the lobby at Trump Tower. While Trump transition staff was working inside, many as you can see were forced to quickly head to the exits. We will have the latest. There is an all clear. More details on what police found. You are watching "MTP Daily" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALEXANDER: Back live with an update on the breaking news. The NYPD has given the all clear at Trump Tower after its lobby was evacuated. A senior NYPD official tells NBC News a suspicious backpack was found near the Nike Town that is there. It turns out that children`s toys were found inside.

But of course as a precaution, the bomb squad was called to investigate. As we said at the top of the show, the president-elect is right now at his property Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida with his family and some members of his core staff.

However, there are some transition staffers inside that building and their office is specifically getting back to work after the holiday weekend. Again, most importantly, they are all clear after a bomb scare inside the lobby of Trump Tower. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALEXANDER: After a bruising election in a sharply divided country, President Obama said that he could have bridged the cultural shifts, that partition voters. Take a listen to his candid interview with his former senior adviser, David Axelrod.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse and open. I am confident in this vision because I`m confident that if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized the majority of the American people to rally behind it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALEXANDER: Donald Trump rejected that notion saying in a tweet, quote, President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He would say that but I would say no way. Jobs leaving, ISIS, Obamacare, etc.

Chuck Todd spoke with President Obama`s pollster from his two winning campaigns about the divides that are shaping America`s politics and his new book about how to overcome them.

(START VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: And joining me now is democratic pollster, Cornell Belcher, who got this interesting new book with an interesting theory here. It is called, let me get it right, "Black Man in the White House." Barack Obama and the triggering of America`s racial aversion crisis.

CORNELL BELCHER, PRESIDENT OF BRILLIANT CORNERS RESEARCH AND STRATEGIES: Crisis, yes.

TODD: Well, let`s begin with just simply define racial aversion first.

BELCHER: Well, it`s another way of saying racial resentment of negative racial attitudes without saying racism because that`s such a loaded term and quite frankly when I talk about the book, it`s how we have to get beyond quite frankly the negatives of the loaded terms and finger pointing in order to bring the country together. We grow more diverse. In fact, if we don`t come more together, the more separate, we cannot win the future.

TODD: You know, I have been thinking about this a lot. I have this -- it is when political parties are divided by race, it is, you know, that is something that is fraught with peril every election cycle. Where you will have one side feeling oh my gosh, he is not my president, right?

We have just seen this. We saw the right say that about Obama and now we are seeing some of the left say that about Trump. It donned on me, we are the world`s first social experiment on this. Every other democracy is homogeneous democracy.

BELCHER: Yes.

TODD: We are the world`s social experiment on democracy to see if you can truly have a democratic society that is diverse.

BELCHER: Well.

TODD: I don`t mean to be apocalyptic about it but.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: Nowhere else in the western world do we have such diversity but also such a history of racial -- of racism or racial clashes, right? We talked about it in the book. We talked about this. We are at a tipping point demographically, right? Within the next decade, you know, we are going to be close to a plurality minority country. So as one group loses power and others sort of gains power, it causes clashes, right?

And how we deal with sort of this polarization is going to determine how we in fact win the future. Chuck, we are not going to lose the future because of terrorism. We are not going to lose the future because someone comes over and invades us. We are going to lose the future because black and brown and white people can`t get together in this country.

TODD: Let me ask you this question about the election. Is this a -- we look back in 2016 and say, oh, this is a reminder that all the demographic changes that we were noticing in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, hey, for every action there is a reaction.

Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin are gonna slowly continue to move in the republican direction because of your thesis here. And this isn`t a dead cat bounce for the republicans or is it?

BELCHER: Well, I think.

TODD: You don`t like that phrase. It`s old school phrase.

BELCHER: An old school phrase.

TODD: The idea is that the dead cat bounces one more time.

BELCHER: Right. But if you look at sort of a state like South Carolina which we talked about before where you had democratic senators there and state like Georgia where democrats won for a time, as you see, those states were growing in diversity.

You see whites growing in their strength for voting republican. So you see republicans gaining more white voters. And this is the thing right here with Trump. He won 1 percent more white voters than Mitt Romney, right?

TODD: Right.

BELCHER: But he got a small percentage of the overall electorate. I would argue that this is the last time we are ever going to see someone elected president at 46 percent. I think it was an out liar that ultimately is problematic for republicans because of the conversation they had to have in their party about how they win the future.

TODD: They are not going to have.

BELCHER: They are not going to have it now at all. There is a doubling down on quite frankly, you know, the same sentiment that Donald Trump has been talking about. I don`t think that helps the republican party long-term and I don`t think it helps the country.

TODD: It`s a provocative book. That`s the most important part. Cornell Belcher, always a pleasure to have you on, sir. Congratulations on the book.

BELCHER: Thank you, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALEXANDER: That was Chuck`s interview with Cornell Belcher. And before we head to a break, the sci-fi world is mourning a star who would be remembered in this galaxy and certainly the galaxy is far, far away. Carrie Fisher died earlier today just four days after suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.

She was an accomplished actress and author too, but she is best known of course for her role as Princess Leia in "Star Wars." Remembrances are pouring in from her costars. Mark Hamill tweeting he was devastated. Harrison Ford calling Fisher one of a kind, brilliant, original, funny, and emotionally fearless. He wrote, she lived her life bravely. Carrie Fisher, dead tonight. She was 60 years old.

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OBAMA: Even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALEXANDER: That was President Obama just moments ago, speaking at Pearl Harbor, alongside the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, with comments that some folks might interpret as perhaps a parting shot at the next president, Donald Trump.

It`s now time for our Lid. Our panel is back, Clarence Page, Robert Traynham, and Yamiche Alcindor. We will do a left to right so nobody gets lost as we go through that process. Yamiche, let us get to you right away. I just want your take on this.

What was striking as we heard from this president, he`s a man who`s celebrated by those who love him as professorial, contemplative in his thoughts, in his public commentary, and he`s a stark contrast to Donald Trump, who is much more visceral, reacts from the gut, by his instincts, as he`s the first to indicate.

How will the world have to change his understanding of what America is communicating from a new president, an incoming president who is so different in his means of delivering his message than this president is? ALCINDOR: I think what they`re going to have to in some ways get used to is the fact that Donald Trump is really not afraid to use these new age ways of communicating to people. So, of course, he`s someone who will be on Twitter, tweeting about all sorts of policy issues, tweeting about people that he thinks are his adversaries, of course, with President Obama, we didn`t have that.

I think the other thing he`s going to be pushing back on is the norms. You think about that idea where you had a phone call with the president of Taiwan, and this idea that he`s willing to kind of look at these kind of norms that have been around for decades and break them. So I think the world is going to really have to get used to someone who`s really going to be a completely different person than President Obama.

I should say, though, that one of the things I thought was interesting, I wrote a story before the election about the idea of people who had supported President Obama and who then were supporting Donald Trump. And in that, a lot of voters I talked to said they saw both men as really wanting change, really pushing change, really trying to make America its best self.

Now of course the supporters of those two people, I would imagine, vehemently disagree, most of the supporters. But I should say that I think that world leaders are going to have to get ready for someone who`s going to be way more outspoken than President Obama, I mean, ready to voice his opinions unfiltered, not through the media.

ALEXANDER: So on this day, Robert, as we looked at the president of the United States and the prime minister of Japan, a relationship ultimately that dates back decades, not just between these two men, but between these two countries. 75 years to World War II. What is the future of nuclear policy in a trump administration?

TRAYNHAM: I don`t know. And I don`t think anyone knows. I don`t think Donald Trump knows. I think what you`re going to see from the president- elect over the next four years is very declarative statements. It`s going to make people feel very uncomfortable.

But you`re going to know what he stands for. You`re going to know what he believes. And the whole nuances and shades of gray and talking in code and so forth, I think those days are over for the next four years which could be a good thing or perhaps a bad thing.

ALEXANDER: Those days are over, but in 140 characters, since it doesn`t allow for nuance, as you say, you`ll know where it stands, it`s easy to sort of as you read his position recently on Twitter about nuclear policy and this arms race, you can go a lot of different directions, as you read into that.

TRAYNHAM: There`s no doubt about it. Which goes back to my early point, which is, I`m not sure he knows what he believes. I think he`s thinking out loud here. The real question, Peter, when he goes into the White House, when he gets the presidential daily brief, when he has an accomplished staffer around him that says, Mr. President, this is really what we think, this is really what the capabilities are, is he going to change?

We shall see. And if he does change, I think he`s going to be very, very clear about where he stands. And again, I think that`s going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. There`s no doubt about it.

ALEXANDER: Clarence, last thought to you. The president and Donald Trump are pulling this country in different directions. What does the U.S., the public wants?

PAGE: I just want to say, very quickly, I can`t wait to read Cornell Belcher`s book, first of all, because I really respect him a lot. But let us not forget how many people out there voted for Obama twice and then voted for Donald Trump in several hundred counties. And this shows you as David Axelrod has said, that you can reach these voters.

That`s what any politician is supposed to do, reach all those voters. Hillary Clinton fell short. She didn`t campaign enough, if at all in Wisconsin and Michigan. Those are states that she could have won. So you can go on and on about this. Nothing is permanent. Both parties have better listen to the public.

Clarence, I`ll pick up this conversation the next time I see you. I appreciate all of your time. Clarence, Robert, and Yamiche, thank you all very much. Up next, in case you missed it, what happens when a senate -- well, when a senate septuagenarian goes after other septuagenarian in the senate? We`ll have it coming up.

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ALEXANDER: In case you missed it, 77-year-old outgoing senate minority leader Harry Reid is known for being soft spoken but sharp tongued, and his one liners aren`t reserved for republicans. According to New York Magazine, here`s what Reid said when asked whether he would support Joe Biden for president in 2020.

"It depends on who`s running," Reid replied. "It appears we`re going to have an old folks` home. We`ve got Elizabeth Warren. She will be 71. Biden will be 78. Bernie Sanders will be 79." Yes, in case you missed it, septuagenarian, I want to make sure I say that right, Harry Reid referred to much of the potential democratic 2020 presidential field as on old folks` home.

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