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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 09/15/15

Guests: David Corn, Steve Clemons, James Richardson, Annie Linskey, EzraKlein, Mo Elleithee

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight, now it`s time for "The LAST WORD", Ari Melber, sitting in for Lawrence tonight, hi Ari. ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi Rachel, I was as confused as you were. MADDOW: Exactly, if that was a major foreign policy address, we have nothing to fear from a Donald Trump foreign policy. MELBER: Exactly, thank you Rachel -- MADDOW: Thanks Ari -- (LAUGHTER) MELBER: Tonight, we are going to tell you why the Bernie Sanders surge is not at all like Donald Trump surge. We have new sound from Joe Biden responding to Trump. We`re going to play that in a minute. And Donald Trump has, as we were just discussing, finished what was supposed to be a policy speech on that Navy battleship, but it turned into a speech about Donald Trump mission accomplished. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHEN COLBERT, TV HOST, "THE LATE SHOW": Knock-knock. AUDIENCE: Who`s there? COLBERT: Orange. AUDIENCE: Orange who? COLBERT: Speaking of Donald Trump -- (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump ramps up the rhetoric just one day before the next GOP debate. COLBERT: The Republican frontrunner is now running fronter than ever before in the polls. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve combined politics and policy and entertainment now into one thing. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unless I win, it`s been a waste of time for me, folks, I`ll be honest with you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moment, anger and entertainment are trumping substance. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With the debate tomorrow night, who goes after Trump the most? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump is an entertainer. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s Carly. She was the only candidate last time who went after Trump directly. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sadly, it`s becoming more like a cartoon than a debate about the issues. TRUMP: What would President Trump do? President Trump. CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN & TELEVISION HOST: Being on "Celebrity Apprentice" the host, is a clear path to the presidency, yes -- (LAUGHTER) Than being the governor of -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes -- O`BRIEN: California. TRUMP: What would President Trump do? President Trump -- President Trump - - President Trump. O`BRIEN: That`s who we`ve come to. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: It`s not every day a presidential candidate goes to a battleship, and Donald Trump definitely understands the power of big symbolic media events, but he surprised everyone tonight by failing to meet this moment. Just last hour, Donald Trump stepped aboard the USS Iowa to speak to a veterans group and turned in one of the shortest, most free-associating random addresses of his entire weird campaign. Here is the closest he came to foreign policy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I just want to say that we`re going to come out with some plans in a very short time. We`re going to be building up our military. We`re going to make our military so big and so strong and so great. (CHEERS) And it will be so powerful that I don`t think we`re ever going to have to use it. Nobody is going to mess with us. I learned a lot about the Iowa. By the way, Iowa is a great place for a lot of reasons, you know? We have been treated so well in the state of Iowa, it`s been incredible. Number one on the polls and we love those people, they`re great. So -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hawkeye! -- TRUMP: This is a great ship -- Hawkeye, he goes. This is a great ship and that`s a great state. We`re going to rebuild the military, we`re going to make it so strong. Right now, and you know it, we have illegal immigrants that are treated better, by far, than our veterans. That`s not going to happen anymore. (BOOING) (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Trump then told the people who gathered there in California about the people who gathered for him last night in Texas. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Last night in Dallas, at the American Airlines Center, 20,000 people, the basketball arena of the Mavericks. Twenty thousand people showed up and I want to tell you, it was a love fest. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Donald Trump praised Rush Limbaugh, he criticized his Republican rivals for not having read his book "The Art of the Deal" and then 12 minutes later, he was out of there. Joining me now is David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for "Mother Jones" and Msnbc analyst, Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large at "The Atlantic", also a contributor here. And James Richardson, Republican strategist and Managing Director at the global law firm Dentons. David Corn, what just happened? (LAUGHTER) DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: He changed his mind. Still, it was huge, it was incredible. It was beautiful. I mean, did anyone really expect Donald Trump to come out and give a 27- point plan on how to have a more robust military. MELBER: How about -- CORN: What he`s going to do -- MELBER: How about a point or two though -- (CROSSTALK) David -- CORN: F35 and the F47 and the F14? MELBER: How about -- CORN: I mean -- MELBER: A point or two? CORN: Well, maybe one. But listen, here is -- he gave us his plan. He said when there`s President Trump, there won`t be a trade deficit anymore with China. What else do you want, Ari? MELBER: I guess -- CORN: I mean -- MELBER: I don`t -- CORN: Come on, what else do you want? You know, Steve Clemons is going to tell you that we need foreign policy papers, but this is really just about -- (LAUGHTER) You know, and let Steve Clemons, he`s a beautiful person, he`s incredible, he`s huge. But really, this is just about playing to the crowd again and again and again. Once he gets into details, he`s not the Donald Trump that`s selling Donald Trump incredibly well -- MELBER: Yes, David -- CORN: To the Republican electorate. MELBER: I got bad news for Steve Clemons, you and James are here for the politics, we asked Steve to come on for the foreign policy and just witness a policy-free speech. I also want to play as promised -- this is breaking now this evening, Joe Biden speaking very directly and emphatically tonight about the message, that what he calls the sick message Donald Trump has been putting out. Take a listen to Joe Biden tonight. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t want anybody to be down right now about what`s going on in the Republican Party. I mean this sincerely now. This is not -- no, this -- I`m being deadly earnest about this. I want you to remember, notwithstanding the fact there`s one guy absolutely denigrating an entire group of people, appealing to the baser side of human nature. Working on this notion, a xenophobia in a way that hasn`t occurred in a long time. Sends the no-nothing party back at the -- at the end of the 19th century. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Steve Clemons, the Vice President drawing a direct line from Donald Trump`s sort of nativism and anti-immigrant rhetoric today all the way back. What do you think of those new comments from Joe Biden? STEVE CLEMONS, WASHINGTON EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE ATLANTIC: I think the clarity of Joe Biden on this is going to be searing and very important. I think that, you know, what we`re talking about when you look not only at Donald Trump, but Ben Carson. And you know, we`re not talking about him today, but the fact that half of GOP voters support these two men who are not talking in any serious way about the nuts and bolts of foreign policy. Forget the papers that David is talking about, but just any semblance of a strategic sense of understanding the priorities the nation needs to put forward. Neither one of them are doing this. And I think that the nativism, the jingoism, this kind of very base pugnacious nationalism that`s so dark has been brewing in this country for a long time. I mean, I remember Jesse Helms, you`ve had -- you`ve had John Bolton have, you know, quick spikes in some of this. So we`ve seen it before, but not consolidated in such a large footprint using modern methods of communication and the internet and the networking that`s bringing all of this together. And he`s seducing that party and I think it`s very dangerous. MELBER: James, as a Republican, what did you think of the Vice President confronting a lot of what Trump is saying there? And are you comfortable with the sort of thin foreign policy vision that Trump laid out tonight on that battle ship? JAMES RICHARDSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & MANAGING DIRECTOR, DENTONS: Absolutely not. You know, Mr. Trump clearly believes that there`s mileage in the issue of immigration which is why he spent, you know, 30 seconds in what he billed as a major foreign policy address on foreign policy, and everything else really pivoted back to immigration. But my own view is that, I don`t really believe that at the end of the day, America wants as president, a man who`s going to need to consult Wikipedia in national security briefings. (LAUGHTER) This is a guy who has absolutely no fluency in the issue of national security or frankly any transcendent challenge ahead for the next president. You know, if you look back in the last two weeks, he was twice asked about the Iranian revolutionary guard and twice he whiffed. One time so spectacularly bad that he actually mistook the Quds Force, which is effectively a terror organization incubator for the Kurds, which, as you know, Ari, is an ethnic group. So, one has to wonder if in Mr. Trump`s see-and-say foreign policy, if we`re going to be arming the Quds and bombing the Kurds. Because frankly, he has no idea what he`s talking about. Chuck Todd asked him too, last month rather, who he consults for military policy and his actual answer was "The Shows". MELBER: Right -- RICHARDSON: That`s terrifying that someone like me could influence the President`s foreign policy view just because he watches "The Shows". MELBER: Well, and to that point, David, what Trump was clearly giving away that he not only exists in a world where television entertainment "The Apprentice" is his reality, obviously, but that he thinks that sufficient, he has a lot of money. He`s now ahead in the polls. If he had any intellectual or policy curiosity, David, he could gather experts to consult with. He just doesn`t -- CORN: Yes -- MELBER: Seem to want to. Is that going to come up Wednesday night at this big debate? CORN: I mean, I`ll take a little credit here, because after he did that sit-down with our colleague Chuck Todd, I called up Jack Jacobs, who is also a consultant here at Msnbc -- MELBER: Sure -- CORN: Who Donald Trump had named as one of his go-to guys on national security. And Colonel Jacobs told me that he`s never once spoken to Donald Trump about national security or foreign policy matters. Now, imagine that Hillary Clinton or even Jeb Bush said something like that and he got called out that way. But let me just flip the script here for one second. The problem for the Republicans at least is not so much Donald Trump. It`s the fact that with all these deficits that we`ve talked about, others have talked about, still 30 percent, 40 percent of Republicans go for him. They don`t want the policy, they don`t want the details, they don`t want the intellectual depth for rigor, they want someone who`s a celebrity venting and angry, and that`s good enough for them. And if you throw in the Ben Carson vote, which is a little bit different, you get over half of the Republican Party. That shows me Trump is not going to go away and just calling him out on details is not going to be an effective strategy for the Republican establishment. MELBER: So Steve, connect the dot from there to these Republicans on that main debate stage tomorrow night. Because it would seem after this address which we know the other Republican campaigns were watching, Donald Trump is basically daring everyone -- he`s saying he feels no pressure even in a military setting with an emphasis on veterans to offer anything. CLEMONS: So what Donald Trump is doing and I think -- I think we all need to take it seriously because it is resonating for many Americans. Is, he`s presenting a picture of a gravity-less environment in which America has no boundaries, no limits, can continuously work its way through boxes, he`s all powerful. You know, it`s interesting the comment that he did make tonight about a military so big that we wouldn`t need to use it. That`s a different message from the neo-conservatives who want a big military and want to use it. You know, there are these moments where he`s harkening back to a time when the world looked at the United States and Americans felt, we were, you know, king of the hill. And I think that what most of the rest of the candidates in both parties are doing is they`re operating where the gravity switch is turned on. But you have a lot of Americans and the kind of economic mess we have in this country, the great divide in wealth, the sense that, whether they blame George W. Bush or they blame Barack Obama, they sense that we have economic limits, they have military limits. So, even though he`s coming out with a detail-less, you know, position on this stuff, he is reaching deep into the souls of these people because they want what America used to be back, and he`s not being compelled by everyone. So, as long as he dominates that rhetoric, that posture, you can ask for details, reports, detailed plans, and no one is going to be able to basically get through that teflon-skin he`s got. MELBER: Right, all right, the panel stays with us, so hang, guys. Coming up next, one of the most powerful groups in the conservative movement now calling Donald Trump`s tax plan way too liberal. And it`s not just the Trump show tonight. Who is running the better outsider campaign, Trump or Sanders? We`ve got a special report on that with Ezra Klein. And later, Vladimir Putin joining the fight in Syria, guess whose side he`s on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: You may think that immigration is Donald Trump`s number one campaign issue, but if you go to Donald Trump`s campaign website, it turns out his only issue, literally, at -- you can scroll over the positions tab in there, it is immigration reform, that is it. So, maybe at the top there, instead of saying positions, it should just be labeled position. Now, unlike Trump`s page, Ben Carson`s site takes you first to a page asking for money, but his issues page to be fair, has half a dozen conservative positions on issues like abortion, a balanced budget amendment and even one called keeping Gitmo open. For the record, Hillary Clinton`s site lists her positions on 23 different issues and they`re listed in alphabetical order. Up next, the Club for Growth is attacking billionaire Donald Trump because Trump`s position on taxes they say is too liberal. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: You know, at the beginning, three, four months ago -- well, he`s just doing this for fun, he`s doing this for his brand. I need this, like for my brand -- (LAUGHTER) OK? But he`s doing it for his brand. One person, a real loser said he`s a clown, he`s a clown! Now, they`re saying -- oh, how do we stop this guy? No more clown. I haven`t heard the word clown in a while, I`ll tell you. They don`t use that word anymore. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Many Republicans don`t use that word anymore. The Trump candidacy began as something most politicos laughed off in Washington, Republicans said they could just wait it out. And this week, there are signs it`s something they`re genuinely scared of. Consider all the talk about a third party run. Just weeks ago, Republican elites were saying, they were the winners in Trump`s agreement to sign that loyalty pledge. Now, some Republicans are openly talking about having their candidate run as a third party Republican if Trump wins the nomination. Bill Kristol, the former Bush White House official and a conservative leader says if Trump is the nominee, he`d support getting someone good on the ballot as a third party candidate. Top Wall Street executives are terrified Trump could actually win, and some conservative money is now pouring in to stop the momentum. The Club for Growth; a powerhouse conservative group that`s ousted several members of Congress is spending a million dollars on these new ads in Iowa. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which presidential candidate supports higher taxes, national healthcare and the Wall Street bailout? It`s Donald Trump? TRUMP: In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump wants us to think he`s Mr. tell it like it is, but he has a record and it`s very liberal. He`s really just playing us for chumps. Trump, just another politician. TRUMP: In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: This is the kind of well funded right-wing attack that any typical candidate would fear. But Donald Trump is not a typical candidate and he doesn`t seem to be afraid of anything right now. Joining us to discuss, Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief for and Msnbc policy analyst. Annie Linskey, national political reporter for the "Boston Globe", and back with us, David and James. Annie, starting with you, what is the significance of this kind of conservative attack in Iowa for Trump? ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BOSTON GLOBE: Now, I think so far everybody who`s tried to attack Trump has found themselves back under the heels. And I think that is fascinating to see some of the leading voices of the Republican Party take the stance. I mean, you mentioned this in your intro that the Republican Party for weeks was wringing their hands, trying to force Trump to the table to sign this pledge that he wouldn`t mount a third-party run. And now, you know, literally, you know, days later, the leading voices in the party are turning around and doing the same thing to him that they made him pledge he wouldn`t do to them. And I think there`s a real question about whether, you know, the people who Donald Trump is really speaking to are going to see some of that unfairness. And you know, one would just warn that this far, everyone who has made this, taken these swings at Donald Trump that hasn`t been the way to get at him. Conversely, you look at somebody like Ben Carson who is surging a little bit in the polls and is just taking a different approach. MELBER: Right, and part of what you`re getting at is who has the credibility in this environment, now James as a Republican you know, Club for Growth has swung a big bat in the past, but Trump to be fair and accurate seemed to have a strong point, which he was pushing on the "O`Reilly Factor" tonight. And the public documents support this, that the club had actually asked him for money. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: And by the way, Club for Growth is a phony outfit, they came to my office a few months ago, they asked me for a million dollars, I said, no. Right after I told them, no -- because I don`t even know who these people are -- right after I told them, no, they came out with a negative kind of an ad. BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Well, you know -- TRUMP: Now they put on an ad, just so you understand -- O`REILLY: OK -- TRUMP: I`m lowering taxes, I`m not raising taxes -- O`REILLY: On me, OK -- TRUMP: So, what they -- O`REILLY: On me -- TRUMP: Said is a lie. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: James, does that rebuttal help him? RICHARDSON: No, the Club for Growth has an actual record of advocating for conservative positions. But in the last 30 years, Donald Trump has advocated for so many positions that are virtual anathema to the party. I mean, he advocated for a fourteen and a quarter percent tax on the wealthiest of Americans, you know, he once supported the decriminalization of all narcotics. He said he`s very pro choice at one point, he supported a single-payer healthcare plan. You know, he`s not going to out-conservative the Club for Growth. That`s simply not going to happen. And what you`re seeing among conservatives is that, they were first transitioning from amusement at Trump`s candidacy to bewilderment that it was actually catching on. And now they`re moving into frustration. And they`re realizing that you can`t attack Trump on policy, you just can`t. Because he`s going to respond back in generalities that you can`t really engage on. MELBER: Well, that goes -- RICHARDSON: So, you have to -- MELBER: You -- RICHARDSON: Fight Trump with Trump. MELBER: Yes, you list the policies, Ezra, that goes to something you look at a lot, one of these candidates actually stand for. So, apart from whatever people think of the Club for Growth, Iowans are going to see these ads. Here`s a policy-oriented one on a somewhat arcane issue, but one that people are going to see about Trump but in his own words. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Supreme Court`s Kelo decision gave government massive new power to take private property and give it to corporations. Conservatives have fought this disaster. What Donald Trump say about the decision? TRUMP: I happen to agree with it a 100 percent. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump supports eminent domain abuse because he can make millions, while we lose our property rights. Trump, the worst kind of politician. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: You know, Ezra, loyal viewers of the broadcast will know you get pretty excited about having a domain advertisement. (LAUGHTER) But what do you -- what do you make of this? EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF FOR VOX.COM: Yes, that`s one of the first eminent domain attack ads I`ve seen. I think -- every time I watch these ads, the same thing comes into mind. Donald Trump is not trapped in there with the Republican Party, they are trapped in there with him. That other Club for Growth ad you played, when it ends, Donald Trump, just another politician. And the Club for Growth wants you to vote for Jeb Bush probably? (LAUGHTER) There`s a huge problem here. The Club for Growth is really worth putting in context. The Club for Growth is the player in the Republican Party among its interest groups that advocates for cutting taxes on extremely rich people. Like, they are so much as there is one part of the Republican Party you can identify as basically the millionaire and billionaire lobby, it is the Club for Growth. They are very consistent, they have a real record, and that record is they want taxes lowered on very rich people. And one thing that Trump is doing on a policy level is that he just doesn`t care about that. And it`s just not the case -- most Republican voters. If you go and talk to them, if you go and poll them, care a lot about lowering taxes on very rich people and cutting Medicare and Social Security. And so one thing Trump is doing -- and this I think we do not give him enough attention for. The -- one reason people are responding to him is he`s blowing up the consensus in the Republican Party that has not worked for a lot of its voters. He`s much more populist and even if his policies are not at all fully formed, they are much more oriented towards middle class, sort of primarily white voters. I would say right now than anyone else running for president on the Republican side. And that`s part of his appeal. MELBER: Annie, you`re shaking your head, go ahead and then David after that. LINSKEY: Well, I`m just thinking, you know, listening to those ads, they just sound like such a typical attack ad that kind of like low, mean, voice, you know, this is Donald Trump and then this, you know, repeating the kind of grainy footage of him. And I just think that the rise of a Trump candidacy, the rise of a Sanders candidacy is people in the -- in the bases of the party are saying we kind of are tired of this. So, it`s just hard for me to see how you use this kind of like -- you know, the standard attack against a nonstandard candidate and think it`s going to work. I mean, so far nothing has, so -- CORN: Yes -- LINSKEY: We`ll see -- CORN: Yes, when I see -- LINSKEY: You know -- CORN: Those -- when I see those ads, I think of the Godzilla movies, remember? They always bring in the artillery, we`re going to fire these machine guns. And even though there had been 20 Godzilla movies already, they don`t -- LINSKEY: Yes -- CORN: Understand that you can`t take Godzilla down with this. These ads are lame, they`re like pea-shooters against Donald Trump. And Ezra is right on, you know, talk about the populism, the policy here. But really what Donald Trump is doing is responding to people`s resentments and passions. And so, coming up with an ad about eminent domain abuse? I mean, God, I mean, the smartest thing he ever did was not give a million dollars to Club for Growth, that is Donald Trump to waste on such foolishness -- MELBER: Yes, James -- CORN: They really don`t understand what they`re dealing with here. MELBER: To that point, James, there was a great "Wall Street Journal" interview with Trump where he basically says, this is you guys, this is you reporters, you media types, and you in Washington that want me to come up with a list. He says nobody cares, nobody -- I`m talking -- who cares about the list of policies because I`m speaking of something deeper. RICHARDSON: So his biggest asset right now is, of course, his name identification, which is virtually 100 percent. But the voters actual appreciation for Trump`s policies is totally superficial because they are nonexistent. But what you`re going to see over the next couple of months is that, a very extensive robust education campaign on the positions he staked out previously. And I don`t particularly think that eminent domain is going to move voters in Iowa. But I will tell you that his comments on abortion definitely are going to have a serious impact on evangelical voters in Iowa. His comments about single payer of healthcare are really going to wriggle a lot of people out there. So, I don`t know if this issue is going to move a lot of people, but he is vulnerable, and this tape is going to start rolling out of his old comments. And it`s going to be pretty ubiquitous. (CROSSTALK) MELBER: We got to run because -- CORN: All right -- MELBER: It`s timing, but if there`s one takeaway is that if you weren`t interested in eminent domain before tonight, you don`t need to be interested in it after tonight. (LAUGHTER) I want to thank David Corn and James Richardson for joining us, the rest of the panel stays. Coming up next, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush say they have the experience to get things actually done as president. So why are insurgents, not only Donald Trump, but this Bernie Sanders surge, why is that happening? We`re going to dig into that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We are tired of being pushed around by incompetent people. We are just tired of what is happening. We are sick and tired of what is happening. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRIATC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What is going on, which is getting the establishment nervous is that we are seeing from coast to coast hundreds of thousands of people getting involved in this campaign, knocking on doors, making phone calls. And that is the political revolution. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: The outsiders are surging. When you look at the Huff Post polling trend, Trump is over 33 points, leading the field. And, when you look at the same trend for democrats, Sanders is near 50 percent in New Hampshire. He does still trail Clinton nationally. Now, that may sound like a similar dynamic in both the parties. And, you may have heard people comparing Trump and Sanders. But, there is actually a lot of evidence that the Sanders surge is far more significant than Trump`s. Because he began the race unknown to most voters, because he does not have billions of dollars of his own money to spend. And, because Sanders is surging against a single establishment quasi incumbent favorite in his party, not just pulling ahead in a divided fractured field of 15. And, that is why some political experts are starting to point out that Trump`s loud unusual campaign is actually distracted from the bigger story. Our own Chuck Todd said this on Sunday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK TODD, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Still, as I have been saying for a while, if it were not for Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders would be the biggest political story of the year. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: The biggest political story of the year. And, Vox`s Ezra Klein wrote an analysis saying, quote, "In a normal year, Sanders` rise would be a shocking unbelievable story that would be dominating political media. It is just currently being overshadowed by Trump`s story, which is arguably more unbelievable and certainly makes for better TV." Joining us now adding to the panel is Georgetown University`s Mo Elleithee, who worked on Hillary Clinton`s 2008 campaign. Ezra and Annie still with us. So, Ezra, what do you mean by that and what is special about what Bernie Sanders is doing? KLEIN: So, Sanders is mounting an insurgent candidacy. He is now ahead in some polls in Iowa and way ahead in New Hampshire. And, he is doing it without -- he is really in a way the anti-Trump. He comes in with virtually no name recognition in the national democratic party. He comes in with no money. He does not get the kind of wall to wall media coverage Trump gets, not even a shadow of that. He does not make the kind of provocations trump does. He is not doing the same kind of stunts. He is not getting a lot of attention for the terrible things he says about certain groups of people. And, he is not even going into negative campaigns. He promised early on, he would not do any negative campaigning and so far he really he has not. And, yet week by week, month by month, he is gaining in very serious ways on Hillary Clinton. That is a tremendous kind of victory. And, it is worth noting, too, he is doing it without really an issue that is splitting the Democratic Party. This is not like when Howard Dean or Barack Obama used the Iraq War, where there was a tremendous fissure in the party to vault ahead of more establishment candidate. Sanders is doing it really on a strength of a kind of pure approach to politics to sort of small money donor democracy. MELBER: Yes, I think that is -- KLEIN: That is just a tremendous political accomplishment. I do not think we quite are able to recognize the magnitude of yet because we are so distracted by Trump. MELBER: I think that is dead on, Ezra. I mean you think about, you mentioned the Dean example, anti-war, or folks think back to Eugene McCarthy`s campaign. In many ways, politically, it is easier to organize around that energy. This is a proactive campaign, "The Wall Street Journal" was looking at his proposals, what Bernie wants to do, looking at it. Running up to about $18 trillion with Medicare for all, social security, infrastructure, college affordability, paid leave fund, bolster private pensions, which of course have been a problem in the country; a new youth jobs initiative at around $5 billion and some plans on child care. This is a detailed proposal. It is the mirror image of the lack of detail on the Trump side. And, there is I should mention some fighting about the numbers. Here was Bernie Sanders talking about some of the cost in an interview on an MSNBC today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: Ezra, that is not the reality. And, we will be responding to the "Wall Street" Journal on that. I think most of the expense that they put in there, the expenditures have to do with a single pay out health care system. They overly significantly exaggerated the cost of that, and they forgot the tell the American people in that article that, that means eliminating the cost that you incur with private health insurance. Second point, which they really did not get into, is we are going to demand that the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country do start paying their fare share of taxes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Mo, he is exciting the democratic base with a very detailed national populist plan. MO ELLEITHEE, FMR. DNC SPOKESMAN: Yes, I think Bernie has been running a tremendous campaign. Probably, one of the best two or three campaigns of anyone on both sides of the aisle, that is being run this cycle. I would say, he and Carly Fiorina, maybe are running two of the best campaigns I have seen so far. But, I do think it is worth noting and making some historical comparisons. I think, the Democratic Party has a long history of having a strong insurgent candidacy in its democratic primaries. I worked for Bill Bradley in 2000 on the ground of New Hampshire. Right about this point in the Campaign, we were surging ahead of Al Gore in New Hampshire and starting to catch up to him in other states. The Gore campaign was the establishment campaign. It was clunky. It was big. It was having trouble reacting in real time. The Bradley campaign ended up making Al Gore recalibrate and run a much stronger campaign. In 1992, there was Paul Tsongas running against Bill Clinton. In 2004, there was Howard Dean running against John Kerry. So, we have that history. I do not want to take away from what Bernie Sanders is doing, but I do think it is early to see how sustainable this is and how the Clinton campaign reacts. MELBER: Annie, you have been out on the road. Do those analogies hold up? LINSKEY: I think it is really hard to know. I mean, quite frankly, does everything everybody has said so far this year has been wrong. And, one of the critical things is when you talk to people and I spent a lot of time today talking to people in New Hampshire, and you say like, what is going on with the Clinton campaign? How can they be -- There was a CBS poll earlier this week that suggested that she is 22 points down in New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders? And, I have been asking people why? How is this happening in New Hampshire, a place that really for all of this discussion of Bradley and previous campaigns, New Hampshire is supposed to be a very, very friendly place for her. I mean that was always supposed to be the way that it was. And the answer that I am getting is somewhat alarming for Clinton`s campaign, which is that -- and I know you discussed it before, but that this e-mail story has not gone away and she has not shut it down. And, when you look forward, I mean, you are going to have the end of this month, another batch of e-mails are going to be released. And, then you are going to have the -- MELBER: But Bernie is not surging because of the e-mails. I do not think that is what is going on. LINSKEY: Well, I think that is that is -- that is what the Clinton campaign surrogates are saying. MELBER: Well, let me take it to Mo as a former -- they can say that all they want. That is insane. You are not getting 15,000 and 20,000 people turning out for Bernie`s popularism because she got to watch a server issue. ELLEITHEE: Well, the crowd size is probably the least relevant metric to look at. If went by crowd size as we be talking about President Rand Paul at this point on the republican side. But, I do think that his surge is a combination of things. It is one, this nagging e-mail thing that is getting to an issue of trust that the Clinton campaign needs to deal with. But more importantly, and this is the one parallel between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump that I think is very relevant. They are both fearless. They are two candidates who are out there right now, saying what they want to say. Not sounding like they are overly calibrated candidates. Bernie Sanders is going to liberty showing that he is willing to go -- that is the kind of people will react to. MELBER: That speaks to some of the energy out there. Mo, Annie and Ezra, thank you, very interesting discussion. Coming up, NBC`s Richard Engle reporting from that Serbian-Hungarian border about this crisis among the refugees. We got that report. Also next, Kanye West releasing what could look like a campaign video. (MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: Kanye West recently said in an MTV award show that he will run for President in 2020. Now, few took it very seriously, but we have learned to underestimate celebrity campaign plans at our own peril. And, now some people online are making their own ads for Kanye`s potential future campaign. This is essentially fan fiction, putting Kanye`s real words against the motif of typical American campaign ads. And, it is brilliant. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KANYE WEST, AMERICAN RAPPER: We deal with racism, because they are different races. We focus on the different races as opposed to the human race. All they want to present to young black men as the idea of making it to the league or making it to be a rapper, but not the idea of becoming an owner. They would do anything they can to make it seem like a truthful idea is a stupid idea or a crazy idea. Our power, our oil -- our oil is our expression, is our influence. Do not never let them take that away. And, when we have the chance to express it and to influence, do not only just do it for us, do it for the human race. (END VIDEO CLIP) MEBER: Not bad. Now coming up. We do have that report on the hundreds of thousands fleeing the fighting in Syria. Vladimir Putin sending in supplies but maybe not the kind you would expect. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: Welcome back. Today, Hungary declared a state of crisis on its border with Serbia, stranding thousands of refugees. Hungry is implementing these new border laws that can basically land these refugees in prison. Only those who applies for Asylum in Syria are now allowed through. Hungry also announced that it will create another new fence along its border with Romania. The Romanian government called that, quote, "Out of Line with the European Union Spirit." NBC`s Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engle is in Hungary with the latest. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Hungary has sealed its southern border, stranding thousands of desperate refugees and migrants. But no fence is going to keep them out. This morning, soldiers repaired a hole cut overnight and waiting for those who do get through are smugglers. The government promises to crack down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are trying to step up against human smugglers that is illegal organized crime, and we are going to introduce Draconian measures against organized crime. ENGEL: Draconian measures like what? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meaning, prison sentenced up to ten years. (END VIDEO CLIP) ENGEL: But smuggling is thriving and it did not take us long to spot these Syrian men negotiating with two locals. When they spotted our camera, the smugglers walked away and the rest of the family emerged from hiding. We are scared of the smugglers, but we have no choice, what he tells us. You cannot live in constant fear of death. You have to take risks to arrive at a safe place. We hide our camera in the tall grass by the side of the road and see the family approached by one smuggler after another. This one offers to take them to the next town over. The price, $100 each. Others offer to take them all the way to Sweden for $1,000 each. Half off for kids. The family cannot afford that, so they keep walking. You see them everywhere. Men lingering in their cars. With a cell phone recording in my pocket, I approached one driver. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ENGEL: If somebody wants to go to Germany, can you take? How much? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many. ENGEL: Four or five people. All the way to Germany. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Germany. ENGEL: Germany. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. (END VIDEO CLIP) ENGEL: Then he gets suspicious about my phone. We leave before things escalate. But the smuggling continues with no shortage of potential customers. Richard Engle, NBC news, Roszke, Hungary. (END VIDEOTAPE) MELBER: Thanks to Richard for that report. And up next, Vladimir Putin enters the conflict in Syria. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: Syrian rebels have posted a new video online showing what they say is their attack on a Syrian government outpost near Damascus. Rebels, of course, constantly post videos online in their battle against the Assad regime as well as against the ISIS. Now, because these are videos taken on the battlefield, NBC news cannot independently verify much about what happened. But that is what we are seeing in the region. Now up next, Vladimir Putin joining the fight in Syria against the rebels. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: Another report and story we wanted to get to, Russian President, Vladimir Putin defending his countries military assistance to the Syrian government and encouraging other countries to essentially do the same. Now, speaking at a defense summit, Putin said, quote, "We are supporting the government of Syria, that is Assad, in the fight against a terrorist aggression, offering and will continue to offer necessary military technical assistance without an active participation of the Syrian authorities in the military," he says. "It would be impossible to expel the terrorists from that country and the region as a whole and to protect the Syrian people from destruction." Over the past several days, Russia has moved tanks, artillery, mobile housing units and troops to an airfield near a Syria`s coastal city of Lotakya (ph). The Pentagon says the Russian military is building potentially a forward airbase there, which could complicate U.S. and coalition air strikes that target ISIS. The Obama Administration, also concerned that this military build-up could boost Russia`s ally Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his regime. U.S. blames the region of course, for the unfolding refugee crisis in and around Syria, while Putin says, quote, "Without Russia`s support for Syria, the situation in the country would have been worse than in Libya and the flow of refugees would have been even bigger," end quote. Steve Clemons is with us to break it down. Steve, no surprise to anyone who has been following this what the alliance is. What is new and concerning in the eyes of the Obama Administration about this right now? CLEMONS: Well, Russia is expanding its influence in a lot of places in the world, but they have just amped up their role in whatever Syria becomes. They have made themselves the block that matters the most. If there is going to be an outcome in Syria that is the Syrian regime without Assad, Russia is going to expect a very high price for that from the United States. They worry about the disintegration of the Syrian state. Almost like we do, but they are much closer. They got 20 million Sunnis in and around countries that border Russia. And, so, the radicals and the Islamic extremists that have been drawn in its Syrian conflict become roving in a certain extent. So, Russia has genuine security concerns in the region. But, for us, it is complicating because we would rather from a distance, arms length, continue to maintain our own influence there. But Russia has -- when you put troops on the ground, you put housing units. You got military advisers. You got other kinds of equipment, it is not that they just get in the way of our bombing runs, what is on the ground matters. You also have Iran supporting, lots of Hezbollah troops. And, so, both of those forces are now much more determined about what happens on the ground with the government in Syria than we -- than we are. MELBER: State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, spoke about this today as well. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Nothing is changed about the fact that we do not want to see the Assad regime getting any support. There cannot be a role of the Assad regime in efforts to stabilize the situation in Syria, much less go against ISIL. And, there is an international coalition fighting ISIL, 62-some-odd nations. And, as I said yesterday, we would welcome a constructive role by Russia in those efforts, but it cannot begin and it cannot continue under the condition where the Assad regime continues to get military support. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: I mean the bottom line on that on policy, Steve, is fine. The U.S. says they are anti-Assad. But, there is nothing -- CLEMONS: Yes, well -- MELBER: Go ahead. CLEMONS: Look. I love John Kirby. I mean he is a great guy. But that is almost Orwellian in this notion that you have a two-front war. MELBER: Right. CLEMONS: You got rebels on one side. You got Assad. We sort of want to imagine, you know, you cannot really fight the rebels. You got to fight both at the same time. We are not really fighting Assad. We are just sort of hoping he disappears. MELBER: Exactly. That is what I am saying. It is Orwellian. CLEMONS: And, yes, and I think it is disheartening for many people, particularly the moderates that are stuck like a -- you know, in the middle of a vice between all of these groups. And, then it is not just ISIS you got on the news that David Petraeus said the other day, "Maybe we should ally with them. An Al Qaeda affiliate to basically deal with ISIS." So, it is very, very confusing Rubik`s cube in there. And, the notion -- and I think the Russians -- you know and the Iranians are basically saying, Assad is their client. They are also scared whether Assad heads the state or not, disintegration of the army, a disintegration of the backbone of that state could lead to another Libya or another meltdown situation, which has dramatic ramifications through the region. So, whether you like what Russia is doing or not, you can understand that disintegration piece is something -- we deal with the regime and Assad together and that is probably a mistake in our own rhetoric and posture. MELBER: Right. We now we have a lot of enemies there, but we are not actually fighting a two-front war. CLEMONS: Yes. MELBER: Steve Clemons for "The Atlantic," thank you very much. CLEMONS: Thank you. MELBER: I am Ari Melber have been filling in for Lawrence O`Donnell tonight. Chris Hayes is up next. END