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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 11/02/15

Guests: Jonathan Chait, Katie Packer, Marc Caputo, Lawrence Lessig, JoshBarro, Molly O`Toole, Laith Alkhouri

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: NBC -- oh, look, right now, so, you should watch. And now it is time for THE LAST WORD, Alex Wagner sitting in for Lawrence tonight, good evening Alex. ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Rachel. Big night tonight including your tonight show interview, we are excited about that. MADDOW: Thank you very much too, thanks. WAGNER: And as Rachel said tonight, Lawrence Lessig will join me for an exclusive interview after ending his presidential campaign. And Jeb Bush says he can fix the country if he can fix his presidential campaign as one conservative voice says he hopes Bush stays in as long as possible to create more havoc for the Republican establishment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can fix it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Jeb Bush reboot. BUSH: I`ve gotten a lot of advice lately, more than enough, thank you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s down in the polls -- BUSH: I can fix it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need to clamp it down and fix it! (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ended up taking one little shot at Marco Rubio. BUSH: The challenges we face are too great to roll the dice on another presidential experiment. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This reboot also coincided with the release of his new e-book "Reply All". BUSH: An elderly woman in south Florida sent me an e-mail saying, governor, I`ve got a raccoon in my attic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you`ve heard all along that he was the smart Bush. (LAUGHTER) I don`t think there really is such a thing as a smart Bush. I don`t. LESTER HOLT, NBC HOST, "NIGHTLY NEWS": Carson seems to be solidifying his place as frontrunner. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Carson greeted his fired-up fans. (SINGING) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t listen to a word they say -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He jumped out in our poll to a six-point lead over Donald Trump. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does seem as though that no matter what Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson says, they`re almost bullet proof. BUSH: You can`t just tell Congress you`re fired and go to commercial break. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fix it! (LAUGHTER) BUSH: I can fix it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not waiting until tomorrow morning, it better be fixed! (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Good evening, I`m Alex Wagner in for Lawrence O`Donnell. As the old saying goes, if it ain`t broke, don`t fix it. And if it is broke, then by all means, fix it. That seemed to be the message from the Bush campaign today as its candidate tried to pressure supporters and donors and really anybody who was listening, that, yes, Jeb can fix it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I can fix it. I can fix it. I can fix it. (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: This week, Bush will tour Florida, South Carolina and New Hampshire to make his case. As part of the new fix it strategy, Bush is releasing an e-book titled "Reply All". It`s filled with old e-mails from his time as Florida governor, extensively to draw contrast between himself and potential Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. So far, Bush`s sales pitch needs some fixing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: Here`s my shameless plug. The book is called "Reply All", it`s out today, you can get it on, it`s pretty cheap -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes! BUSH: I hope you enjoy it. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Clinton wasn`t the only adversary on Bush`s mind today. He also took on opponents Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Ben Carson without exactly mentioning their names. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: This won`t be solved with more talk. The answer isn`t sending someone from one side of the capital city to the other. The solution won`t be found in someone who has never demonstrated the capacity to implement conservative ideas. And you can`t just tell Congress you`re fired and go to commercial break. The challenges we face as a nation are too great to roll the dice on another presidential experiment. To trust a rhetoric of reform over a record of reform. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: And Bush took on the fixing of his debate fail from last week. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: As you may have heard, last week, I was in Colorado for the third Republican debate. (LAUGHTER) If you watched the debate, you probably came away thinking that the election is about sound bites -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes -- BUSH: Or fantasy football -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes -- BUSH: Or which candidate can interrupt the loudest. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes! BUSH: I`m here to tell you it is not. This election is not about a set of personalities. It`s about a set of principles. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: But the one thing Jeb Bush cannot seem to fix is the polls. Including a new "Nbc"-"Wall Street Journal" poll that puts him in fifth place. Ben Carson tops the national poll with 29 percent, Donald Trump is in second with 23 percent, Marco Rubio is in third with 11 percent. Ted Cruz gets 10 percent and he is followed by Jeb Bush at 8 percent. Over in New Hampshire, the state in which the Bush campaign is spending the most money, Jeb Bush is in sixth place according to a new Monmouth University poll. Bush`s Florida rival Marco Rubio has tripled his support in the state since last week`s debate. Trump still leads the pack in New Hampshire with 26 percent. Carson follows with 16 percent, Rubio is at 13 percent and Kasich is at 11 percent, Cruz at 9 percent and Jeb Bush is at 7 percent. Which is exactly the same amount of support he received the last time this poll was taken September 10th through the 13th. Joining us now is Katie Packer, a political consultant and former deputy campaign manager of Romney 2012. Jonathan Chait, a columnist for "New York Magazine" and Marc Caputo, senior writer for "POLITICO" who covers Florida politics. OK, Jonathan, I want to start with you. There`s a choice quote in "New York Magazine" in an interview that Frank Rich did, where in Alex Carp is quoted as saying, "Jeb Bush`s campaign has been a study in incompetence that has mainly dramatized the candidate`s sense of entitlement." Jonathan, your thoughts, can Jeb Bush fix this? JONATHAN CHAIT, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I don`t think he can fix this. If this is his campaign, I don`t think he offers anything to anyone in the party that they really can`t get from somebody else at a -- you know, in a more attractive package. Marco Rubio is also from Florida, also can help their -- help their chances of stopping the bleeding with Latino voters. And conservatives have just as many problems with Jeb Bush as they have with any of the other mainstream establishment Republican candidates. So, who wants to vote for Jeb Bush except for people who are intensely personally loyal to the Bush family. And that`s a small group of people. WAGNER: I believe smaller than a polling margin of error. Katie -- CHAIT: Absolutely -- WAGNER: Let me -- let me get your thoughts on the utility that some conservatives think Jeb Bush plays in this race. This is conservative talk show host Steve Deace on Msnbc earlier today. Let`s take a listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE DEACE, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO HOST: He`s doing conservatives a favor by staying in and stopping the establishment from coalescing behind Marco Rubio sooner. So, I hope he hangs in there a little bit longer. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Katie, do you think that`s right? KATIE PACKER, POLITICAL CONSULTANT & FORMER DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER OF ROMNEY 2012: Well, you know, I certainly don`t think that that`s the motive that the Bush campaign is pursuing. He`s a tremendously accomplished governor. I think the challenge that they`ve got is that this electorate is really a changed electorate and it`s maybe something that they can`t really fix. Is the mood of the electorate is for something new, something different, and we`re seeing that in the kind of support that Ben Carson and Donald Trump are getting. I do think that ultimately, it will be a nominee that doesn`t come from those ranks in particular, but it will be somebody that represents a change and something new for the Republican Party. And I don`t think a lot of Republicans look at somebody with the last name Bush that way. WAGNER: So, Mark, let me -- let me ask you. In terms of the establishment candidates who remain in the race, Bush and Rubio seem like they have been warring overtures thus far. Bush was asked again about Rubio, I believe yesterday and this is what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In terms of -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you frustrated with Marco Rubio? BUSH: No -- (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rift if you will -- (CROSSTALK) A few Floridians going -- BUSH: No -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At it? BUSH: No, I`m not -- I`m not frustrated at all. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, and that will -- BUSH: I mean, he`s a good -- he`s a great guy, he`s a good friend, he`s a gifted politician. I just had the leadership skills to solve these problems. We have a little disagreement on that. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Marc, two Floridians going at it. That was Bush earlier today, actually in fact. Is this the -- are we going to see more fighting between these two as the campaign goes on? MARC CAPUTO, SENIOR WRITER, POLITICO: Well, Jeb`s campaign is certainly telegraphed that. There`s a reason that Jeb stood on stage and decided to kind of challenge Marco Rubio and then made the mistake of not realizing -- oh, no, Marco Rubio can respond and hit me back. And that`s why Jeb is currently in this situation which kind of looks like a tailspin. You know, what Katie said earlier about this being a change electorate or a change election, one of the big problems with Jeb is just as broad messaging. You know, he is coming across and saying, I`m the disrupter. I am an outsider from Washington. You know, the grandson of a senator, son of a president, brother of a former president, doesn`t really sound like an outside Washington character who is a disrupter. And then we talk about the Jeb can fix it slogan, if you look on Twitter, it`s trending worldwide. And it`s not trending on worldwide because people think Jeb can fix it. It`s trending worldwide because people are making fun of Jeb Bush. And when you become an object of mockery in a campaign and you look silly, that`s really tough to overcome. You know, a quote that Jack Walsh character from "The Godfather", he talked about, you know, a man in my position cannot afford to be made to look ridiculous. And right now, Jeb Bush actually looks ridiculous to a lot of people in both the political class and a broader social media. That`s a huge problem for him. WAGNER: Well, in all fairness, Jonathan, I mean, I think a lot of people acknowledge that one of Marco Rubio`s greatest weaknesses as an establishment candidate, if you will, is his role in the gang of eight and bipartisan immigration reform. And if, in fact, as Katie says, this is a changed election. The right wing base is not enamored of anyone that wants to conduct a bipartisan immigration reform and yet Marco Rubio has not been attacked on this subject. One can only expect that as it goes on, as the race goes on -- PACKER: I don`t know about that -- WAGNER: As he goes -- as he -- well, among presidential -- among his fellow Republican presidential candidates, it`s basically Donald Trump is the only person that`s really brought it up. CHAIT: Yes, it`s absolutely right. But keep in mind in 2012, I expected the rest of the Republican field to just tear apart Mitt Romney for Romneycare, right? He invented the idea for the law that they decided was going to destroy the foundations of American freedom all together. But no one really had the chance to stand up and just go after Romney. He managed to kind of slick his way through that whole question and avoid it. So, it`s conceivable that Rubio managed to do the same thing on immigration reform, especially because the law never was enacted into law. He gave up and he turned against it, and now he`s saying he won`t do it again. And so, he may manage to muddle through on this. WAGNER: Katie, let me get your thoughts as someone that worked on the Romney campaign. I mean, do you think this is an issue -- do you think that immigration reform is a liability for Marco Rubio? PACKER: Well, my firm actually did a lot of research on this in early primary states just this Summer. And we found that really only about, you know, a fifth to a quarter of Republican primary voters in early states are particularly exercised about that issue. The vast majority of Republican primary voters do support some kind of a reasonable movement to allow these folks to have legal status. As long as there`s border security, as long as there`s some stipulation to that. So that, you know, the voters that are really energized about that are largely already in Donald Trump`s camp. But that leaves 75 percent to 80 percent of Republican primary voters sort of in the pond to fish from. So, the other candidates that do have a reasonable approach like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and some of the other candidates as well, do have some opportunity to grow with that -- with that pool of voters. WAGNER: Marc, really quick. In terms of reaching out to Hispanics, Jeb Bush has said today and publicly he wants the "Nbc Telemundo" debate to move forward. He is making a strong play for Hispanic-Americans. Do you think this slice of the electorate is basically been forsaken by the Republican Party? Do you think there are still inroads that they can make at this point? CAPUTO: Well, you -- there`s only so far you can fall. I mean, Mitt Romney was pretty low. And certainly, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio -- my general experience with them and also looking at the polling, they poll well among Hispanic voters. I`m not sure that "Telemundo" or "Univision" or anyone of the Spanish language networks is a make all-break-all for Republicans. However, you do see the Republicans are slowly inching toward estranging or infuriating Spanish language media. And that can eventually translate out into a broader crowd and people can start to think, well, this party is still is not interested in communicating to me. And one of the problems that Republicans have is forget about immigration reform. Polls generally show that -- polls generally show that they support mandatory minimum wage increase and Medicaid reform, Medicaid expansion. And Republicans don`t support that, and that`s a problem going forward, getting the Hispanic vote. WAGNER: A curious disconnect of voting patterns. Marc Caputo, thank you as always for joining us -- CAPUTO: Thank you -- WAGNER: Tonight. Coming up, Lawrence Lessig ends his presidential campaign saying the Democratic Party won`t let him be a candidate. Does he trust Bernie, Hillary or Martin O`Malley on the key issue of campaign finance reform. And who will get his vote? Lawrence Lessig joins me next for an exclusive interview. Coming up later, Ben Carson broke a record in the 2016 Republican presidential race today, plus, what President Obama says about boots on the ground in Syria. New comments from the President tonight from "Nbc News". (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WAGNER: Tune in to Msnbc this Friday, November 6th when Rachel Maddow moderates the first in the south candidates forum with Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O`Malley. The forum will cover all the important issues from the economy to policing, to the state of the Democratic Party in the south. You can watch it this Friday on Msnbc starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And coming up, amid all the talk of Republican debate drama, the Democratic Party had some of its own today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAWRENCE LESSIG (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is now clear that the party won`t let me be a candidate and I can`t ask people to support a campaign that I know can`t even get before the members of the Democratic Party. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Lawrence Lessig joins me for an exclusive interview coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WAGNER: Today, the field of Democratic nominees for president lost one more candidate, a Harvard law professor and campaign finance reform crusader Lawrence Lessig. While Lessig didn`t have the same name recognition or polling numbers as candidates named Clinton or Sanders. In the 12 weeks of Lessig`s campaign, he`d racked up some moderate successes. Within the first three weeks of the campaign, he had crowd-funded more than $1 million. His campaign was running TV ad buys in the key states of Iowa and New Hampshire. His one issue platform, campaign finance reform, had broken on to the main stage at the October 13th Democratic debate. But he had not. In fact, Lessig blames the DNC and the several times it changed the rules for qualifying for the debates as the reason that he is calling it quits. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LESSIG: It is now clear that the party won`t let me be a candidate and I can`t ask people to support a campaign that I know can`t even get before the members of the Democratic Party. I must today end my campaign for the Democratic nomination and turn to the question of how best to continue to press for this reform now. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Joining us now for an exclusive interview is Harvard law Professor Lawrence Lessig. Professor, thanks for joining me on this very big day. It seems -- LESSIG: Thank you for having me -- WAGNER: It seems like the DNC kind of changed the rules on you here. For those that aren`t aware of the exact situation, can you explain it to us? LESSIG: Yes, it`s pretty simple. Until this week, the rule that the DNC had announced, a rule that the chair had posted on a blog post on medium was that you needed to get 1 percent in three polls, "In the six weeks before the debate." So that means that between now and the debate, I would have to rack up three polls at 1 percent and we were on our way to getting that. Every poll that had my name since a Monmouth poll was finding me at 1 percent. But at the end of last week, my campaign director was informed by the DNC that the rule was now three polls, finding you at 1 percent, at least six weeks before the debate. Which means that we would have already had to have qualified and everything we`ve been doing for the last month was for no reason at all. So, under that rule, there`s no way we would qualify and there`s no way we would be in the debate. WAGNER: And as you point out, in three recent polls, Monmouth, "Nbc" poll, online and the YouGov poll, you`re polling at 1 percent, you would have qualified for the debate. I guess, I wonder if you think that there`s a motivation here in not having you on the debate stage, especially given the exit of two candidates, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee in recent weeks? LESSIG: Well, I`m not sure the motivation. The frustration is, you know, there is an issue that is not on that debate stage, that none of the people are talking about the debate stage. When you introduced me tonight, you said, I wanted to talk about campaign finance reform and that`s certainly the way people understand this campaign. But it`s actually something much more fundamental. What the issue is that I want to talk about is the core corruption, a crippled and corrupted institution at the core of our democracy, which is Congress. Which makes it impossible for these candidates to be able to do any of the things they`re talking about unless we find a way to address that crippled and corrupted institution. Campaign finance is one part of it. But it`s not the only part. And what I wanted to do was to begin to have a conversation to begin this focus because literally not once was the recognition of this elephant in the room. This fact that we have the core institution of our democracy failing, even acknowledged in that debate. And we have to find a way to talk about it if we`re going to have a way to solve it and be able to get any of the issues that we care about addressed by this government. WAGNER: Are you at all confident that either one of the former Congress -- well, one is presently, Senator Sanders and former Senator Clinton are going to bring this issue up at all, are capable of talking about it? And Senator Sanders has brought up the issue of citizens United and campaign finance reform. He did so on the October 13th debate. Does he have your vote as someone who might carry the banner on this? LESSIG: Well, there`s no doubt that Senator Sanders and Hillary Clinton, I think, have the right policies selected. But the question is, have they committed to getting these policies actually enacted first to make it possible for our Congress to actually do anything? And that`s the critical difference here. These issues that I am talking about which include campaign finance but also the way we gerrymander districts to create this radically polarized, completely dysfunctional House of Representatives. These issues require an attention and a focus to bring the American people around to recognize why we have to solve this problem first. And what I am concerned about is that it`s very uncomfortable for politicians to talk about the problem, the problem child in the room, which is Congress. To talk about how this institution has failed and will continue to fail unless we bring attention to how it needs to be reformed. And so, that`s why I don`t think literally anybody mentioned the problem of this institution separate from referring to the problem of billionaires and the problem of campaign finance. But those are separate issues. We`ve got to find a way to restore a representative democracy if there`s any chance for us to get the reforms they`re talking about. Whether it`s minimum wage or whether it`s a single-payer healthcare or taking on the banks or dealing with Wall Street. All of these are impossible if we don`t get a representative democracy back. WAGNER: So, given where you think we are on that issue, I mean, how -- what is your -- what is your correspondence been like with the -- with the chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Have you pushed back on this -- I guess what we can say is, what appears to be some criteria change for the debate rules? LESSIG: Of course we pushed back. Steve Jarden(ph), who is the one running the campaign and the one who has been meeting with the DNC, was quite shocked that the very same person who had uttered the earlier version of the rule flipped and then in almost an Orwellian-like way, said, no, this has always been the rule. But we have -- you know, he posted on his blog post in "Huffington Post", the evidence of this transition and, you know, the frustration at recognizing that as the political director put it, these are the rules that are being handed down from the top of the DNC. But what I am hopeful about -- you know, OK, it`s not the end of the world that I`ve been forced out of a campaign. Because this is not about me. What`s important here is this issue that the Democrats are not willing to address. They`re not willing to talk about. They`re happy to talk about the problem of billionaires and the problem of citizens united, but neither of those two ways of talking about this will actually get us any real reform. What we`ve got to begin to talk about is how we`re going to change the way campaigns are funded. And that means using words like public funding of elections, citizen funding of elections. A word which was not uttered once at that debate even though Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O`Malley all have endorsed these type of proposals. But if we don`t explain it to the American people, if we don`t show the American people why these changes are necessary, they will never happen. It will be exactly like Barack Obama who made this a fundamental issue all the way through April of 2008. And then when he got to Washington, of course, he made no effort to bring about a change in the way campaigns were funded or the change in the corrupted system which he had identified and campaigned against -- WAGNER: Given where you think the party is on this issue, are you prepared to make an independent run? LESSIG: I`m not ruling out anything. I don`t want to make an independent run right now. But what I want to do is to find the best way to put this issue in the center of this debate. Because what I found when I was out on the campaign trail, and it was an amazing experience. It was the happiest work I`ve ever done, to meet voters and to talk about this issue. What I found is that people are passionate and so frustrated with the corrupted government that they think they have got right now. And when somebody talks to them about how it could be fixed, not by pointing to constitutional amendments which nobody thinks are going to happen, but actually bring about real change, then they are incredibly passionate. And what I hope is that we can find a way to get our leaders to lead on this issue, because I think there`s an incredibly untapped energy out there that would actually transform this election if, in fact, someone were to talk about it openly and strongly. WAGNER: Lawrence Lessig, thank you for joining us tonight. LESSIG: Thank you. WAGNER: Coming up, the Republican response to the U.S. policy shift on Syria. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a failure on all fronts. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think it`s a good idea. DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Either do it or you don`t do it. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: So what is the Republican strategy on Syria? That`s just ahead. But up next, what Ben Carson said today about Republicans. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WAGNER: Ben Carson is leading Donald Trump by six points in the latest NBC News "Wall Street Journal" poll, but the good news for the doctor does not end there. Carson is the second choice of 20 percent of republican voters in the poll, meaning he is leading that category. That makes Dr. Carson the first candidate to get 50 percent support from republican voters as either a first or second choice. Donald Trump gets 35 percent combined support. Today, in Florida, Carson was asked about his surge in recent polls. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: When you look at the polls and you see your name at the top, you see Trump`s name at the top, what does that tell you how voters feel about politics in this country? CARSON: It tells me that they are a lot smarter than anybody thinks they are and that they recognize that if we continue down the path that we have been going, be as democrats or republicans, it does not matter. If we continue down the traditional political pathway, we are going to get more of the same and more of the same will take us across the brink, and we will have no return. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Carson also continues to receive strong fund-raising support. Yesterday, his campaign tweeted, "In the month of October, we raised $10 million and today we will receive our 800,000th donation." Joining us now is Josh Barro, A Correspondent for "The New York Times" and MSNBC Contributor, Katie Packer and Jonathan Chait are still with us. OK, Josh, looking at these numbers, consistently every time a new poll comes out. And, it shows either Trump or Carson at the top, I think it feels to a lot of the republican establishment and certainly some people in the media, that it is like looking -- it is going through the looking glass. I mean, this is counter to all the narratives we hear. This week it is Marco Rubio, but you look and it is Ben Carson, who is getting 50 percent of the vote. JOSH BARRO, "THE NEW YOROK TIMES" CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, so -- Yes, so, it is 52 percent when you add it together the support for Donald Trump and Ben Carson, then you have Ted Cruz even though he is a U.S. Senator, who is obviously not an establishment candidate. And, you know, people say, "Well, it has been like this before." Herman Cain led the polls in 2012. But, the combined totals for these candidates are just so high and the combined totals for the establishment candidates are so low. I do think there is this correct thing in the narrative, though, which is that there is this silent primary to be the establishment candidate. WAGNER: Uh-huh. BARRO: And, that is not necessarily going to show up first in the polls. It is going to show up in fund-raiser. It shows up in endorsements from elected officials that they can then call in later when there is an ability to consolidate all that establishment support. So, I do think there has been a real swing in that support from Jeb toward Marco Rubio. But, if the rules have all been thrown out in this campaign and the establishment candidate is not going to be able to bring along those voters like they did in the last few campaigns, then all that stuff will not matter. I also think the other thing missing from this campaign is Mitt Romney. People forget Mitt Romney was actually really good at a lot of aspects of politics. He was never super charismatic, but he was very on point in debates. He was very good at identifying his opponent`s weaknesses and pointing them out to voters and getting the better of them. You might remember those exchanges with Newt Gingrich. He really beat Newt Gingrich very badly in those debates. None of the establishment candidates here have that level of skill, especially not Jeb Bush who has been super - - WAGNER: Well, Marco Rubio, I think, if we are going by the last debate performance, certainly, made a forceful showing. But, to that point, Katie, I mean to Josh`s point, let us talk a little bit about Dr. Ben Carson. Because, I think a lot of people do not understand. I mean one of his senior advisers today said or an adviser to him said on Andrea Mitchell today that he thinks Dr. Carson and Mr. Trump are almost bullet proof. That there is really nothing that can be done to topple them in a way. And, I guess I wonder what is your take on that and what is the establishment missing about the narrative in this case? PACKER: Well, I think that there is a lot of misunderstanding about who the voters are that are supporting these candidates. The notion that Ben Carson and Donald Trump sort of represent the same kind of voters, I think is really faulty. You know people that are supporting Donald Trump already know everything there is to know about Donald Trump. The people that are supporting Ben Carson are still kind of learning about him, the rest of the electorate is learning about him. But, he is attracting a really different kind of voter. He is attracting the very strong evangelical, Christian conservative voter. That is why he is doing well in Iowa. That is what really different kind of voter than what Trump is attracting. And, so, they are not really one in the same. And, frankly the notion that Donald Trump is some kind of outsider. This is a guy that is grown up, driving in chauffeured driven limousine, living in Manhattan his whole life. He has had access to power. Bill and Hillary Clinton were at his wedding for crying out loud. The idea that he is not part of the establishment, and he is some kind of outsider is something that I find a little bit laughable. WAGNER: Yes. To that end, Jonathan, Ben Carson tackled the subject of evolution at the Cornerstone Church in Nashville, Tennessee, yesterday. This is what he said. Let us play the sound. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARSON: "Listen. Carson, you know, how can you be a surgeon, a neurosurgeon, and believe that God created the Earth and not believe in evolution, which is the basis of all knowledge and all science." Well, you know, it is kind of funny, but I do believe that God created us and I did just fine. So, I do not know where they get that stuff from. You know, it is not true. And, in fact, the more you know about God and the deeper your relationship with God, I think the more intricate becomes your knowledge of the way that things work, including the human body. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: And, that basically proves Katie`s point, Jonathan. I mean, this is -- he is going or an evangelical audience right there. CHAIT: He is. But, I also have to say I do not think he is running for president. I think he is trying to use the forum of a presidential campaign to build a brand that he can monetize. I think one person, who is much smarter than people give him credit for is Ben Carson. I think because of his soft-spoken exterior people do not realize that I think what is underneath that is a real smart shark, who understands that he got a situation here that he can leverage. He is using the money he raises to just build a bigger and bigger and more lucrative list. He is not really doing a lot of things you would do if you want to become president. But, he is going to make himself very rich out of this. WAGNER: Well, so -- and we are brought full circle to Donald Trump, Josh. BARRO: Yes. WAGNER: The person that everybody thinks is in it for the business and the sort of brand awareness. BARRO: Right. WAGNER: Maybe it is actually Ben Carson. BARRO: Well, but you can do both at the same time, right? It can be a great double play. Maybe you become president. And, if you do not -- WAGNER: Side benefit. BARRO: -- "Hey, you double the staff to build your brand." I am sure Ben Carson -- WAGNER: Well, Mike Huckabee, sure did it. (LAUGHING) BARRO: -- would happily accept the presidency if it were handed to him. I do not think there is a pure brand play for him. But, I would note about the impressive fund-raising totals we have seen there and the impressive poll numbers. I would have two caveats about Carson. "The New York Times" poll that came out last week, 80 percent of Carson voters said they may end up voting for somebody else. It is not firm support. He raised $20 million last quarter, but it cost him $11 million to raise $20 million. He is doing a lot of advertising, direct mail, et cetera. So, that number is not as impressive as it looks. WAGNER: The spend rate. BARRO: Yes. WAGNER: Josh Barro, Jonathan Chait, and Katie Packer, thank you all for your time. PACKER: Thank you. BARRO: Thank you. WAGNER: Up next, what President Obama said today about American boots on the ground in Syria. (MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WAGNER: The Obama Administration announced on Friday that for the first time American troops will be deployed on the ground in Syria to battle ISIS. Fewer than 50 Special Operations Forces will head to the country to advise and assist U.S.-backed rebel groups, who have been fighting ISIS in Syria. President Obama defended this decision tonight on "NBC Nightly News." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Keep in mind that we have run special ops already. And, really this is just an extension of what we are continuing to do. We are not putting U.S. troops on the front lines fighting --firefights with ISIL. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: The president`s explanation is unlikely to sway any of the republican presidential candidates, who began criticizing the White House move this weekend without offering much of an alternative. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I think we have a president that just does not know what he is doing. He either do it or he either do not do it. 50 people. He puts 50 people. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, this a failure on all fronts. These 50 American special Operators are going to go into a very bad spot with no chance of winning, and at the end of the day, this will not destroy ISIL. (END VIDEO CLIP) CARSON: I think it is a good idea. I actually agree with that, but I think that, that is only a small part of it. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not think it makes sense to send a hand full of ground troops into harm`s way, when there is no plan for them to win. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I do applaud him for engagement with the special operators, but we cannot get into a quagmire. There should be a real strategy to take out ISIS and to take out Assad. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R-FL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not have a problem with the tactics of it and the numbers might have to be larger at some point, but I think the bigger issue is, can they arrive at a strategy. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: To date, there are nearly 4.2 million registered Syrian refugees. More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes. And, more than 220,000 people have been killed since the Syrian Civil War started in 2011. Joining us now is Molly O`Toole, Political Reporter for "Defense One." Molly, let me just first politically get your thought on what is happening here. Rand Paul was asked about the president`s recent Syrian strategy and says on Saturday, "He is not ready to send our sons and daughters back into a war, but is not completely doing nothing to fight the Islamic State." I guess I wonder on the right, among conservatives, which wing do you think is ascending, the isolationist wing or the wing of the hawks? MOLLY O`TOOLE, "DEFENSE ONE" POLITICAL REPORTER: I certainly think we have seen that it is the wing of the hawk that sort of having a resurgent here. I think it is as much about anxiety prompted by the rise of the Islamic State, particularly the beheadings we saw of the American journalists. They really menace to tap into that and sort of have a resurgence after that wing of the Republican Party sort of quieted down after the Bush Administration, they are tapping into that. The hawkish wing is ascending. People thought this would be sort of a moment for Rand Paul, that he was going to tap into that war weariness, but with the rise of the Islamic State, we have really seen the rhetoric favor the candidates, who say they are strong on defense, that we should do more in the Islamic State fight. Although as you pointed out, we have not seen a lot of specificity. They focus on the Obama Administration does not have a strategy. This is too little too late. We do not have specific recommendations from them as of yet as to what they do differently. WAGNER: Yes. To that end, the president said tonight in an interview with NBC that this is basically an extension of what we are continuing to do. That this is the way, and I think that is a view that in some circles widely shared. That this is now how we do not wage but sort of engage in -- overseas, which is to say limited, special ops, elite command units go in and where we can use -- where we do not have to use American boots or American treasure, drones, we use those. I mean, that is increasingly the way wars are fought. And, I guess I wonder do you think that sort of -- that strategy, that calculus changes if another party controls the White House? O`TOOLE: No, I do not. And, I think that that is the difficulty that the republican candidates have had when they are more specifically asked about what they would do differently. This is sort of the way that a wars will be fought by the United States. I do not think any republican candidate thinks -- although Lindsey Graham has gone the furthest to say, we need -- I think he said, 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops, but as part of a coalition on the ground in Syria. I think even the republican candidates acknowledged that the American public is not going to be supportive of the kind of large-scale, ground combat deployments that we saw in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, we will be much more supportive of something more akin of what the Obama Administration has done, which is focus on counter terrorism operations, special forces for select missions, the war against Islamic State has been fought primarily from the air, and with very -- with less, much less of a U.S. presence on the ground. But, it is somewhat disingenuous in a way for the president suggests that this is not a change in strategy at all. And, we have explicit statements from the president as recently as 2013, more recently than that, that he would not put any U.S. boots on the ground in Syria. So, there is a bit of disingenuousness there as well in suggesting that this is not a shift even for President Obama. WAGNER: Molly O`Toole, thanks for joining us tonight. O`TOOLE: Thank you. WAGNER: Coming up next, what Jeb Bush said about Abraham Lincoln`s beard. Do not miss that. (MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WAGNER: Jeb Bush spent part of his reinvention speech today lamenting the fact that everybody everywhere seems to be telling him he needs to change, something that no great leader like, say, Abraham Lincoln had to face in his day. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: If Lincoln were alive today, imagine the foolishness he would have to suffer. Think about it. Advisers telling him to shave his beard. Cable pundits telling him to lose the top hat. Opposition researchers calling him a five-time loser before he was 50. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: But, Lincoln actually did have people giving him advice on his appearance. In October of 1860, 11-year-old Grace Bedell wrote this letter to then candidate Lincoln. "Dear, sir, my father has just gotten home from the fair and brought home your picture. I have got four brothers and part of them will vote for you anyway. And, if you let your whiskers grow, I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you, and then you would be president. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man, I would vote for you, too. Signed Grace Bedell, Westfield, Chautauqua County, New York." Four days later, Grace Bedell received a response from Mr. Lincoln. "As to the whiskers," he wrote, "having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly of affectation if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well wisher, A. Lincoln." On his inaugural train ride from Illinois to Washington, the president elect stopped in Bedell`s hometown and asked to meet her. She later said that president Lincoln told her, he had been growing his whiskers for her. Coming up, the latest on the mystery of the airliner that may have exploded over the Sinai Peninsula. We have new information to share with you tonight. (MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WAGNER: Tonight, President Obama took the stage on Broadway. The President spoke to democrats at a fund-raising performance of "Hamilton" which is at the Richard Rogers theater and he shared his view on the republican debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. OBAMA: Every one of these candidates say, "You know, Obama is weak. Putin is kicking sand in his face." When I talk to Putin, he is going to straighten out. Just looking at him, I am going to -- he is going to be -- and then it turns out, they cannot handle a bunch of CNBC Moderators on a debate. (LAUGHING) If you cannot handle those guys, you know, then, I do not think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you. (LAUGHING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WAGNER: A U.S. infrared satellite may mold clues as to what caused a Russian commercial jet to break apart in midair and crash into the desert of Egypt`s Sinai Peninsula on Saturday. All 224 passengers and crew were killed. According to a senior defense official, an American satellite detected a heat flash in the vicinity of the Metrojet crash at the same time been. U.S. intelligence analyst believe a fuel tank or a bomb could have caused an explosion on the plane. Investigators have recovered the plane`s flight data and cockpit voice recorders. And, tonight, experts are examining a number of possibilities for the crash. Metrojet`s deputy director said they ruled out human area reporter and technical problems, and the only possible explanation is an external impact on the plane. But the head of Russia`s federal air transportation agency says the claim is premature and is not based on any real facts. And, then there is a local group affiliated with ISIS that claimed it downed the plane. Egypt and Russia have dismissed that saying Islamic militants in the air do not have the military capability to shoot down a plane flying at that altitude. The U.S. has not ruled out terrorism but intelligence analysts say there is no indication that a surface-to-air missile brought down the plane. We do know that investigators are looking closely at a previous accident in 2001 when the plane`s tail hit the ground and dragged along the tarmac and was subsequently repaired. Joining us now Laith Alkhouri, an MSNBC Analyst and cofounder and director of Middle East and North Africa Research and Analysis for Flash Point. Laith, good to see you. LAITH ALKHOURI, TERRORISM EXPERT: Good to see you. ALKHOURI: So, let us start first with this idea of an ISIS affiliate in the area. What do we know about this local group that is claiming responsibility? ALKHOURI: So, it is originally called Jamaat Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, and it was established somewhere in the Sinai -- North Sinai Peninsula shortly after 2010. It started right before the revolution in Egypt and it began operating in the Sinai. Now, most of its operations were directed at Israeli cities, until it has placed allegiance to ISIS back in November of 2014 that we saw most of its operations get directed to Egyptian security forces. And, of course with pledging allegiance to ISIS, it started training its cadets with the same weaponry and on the same methodology -- militant methodology that ISIS trained its fighters on various factions. WAGNER: There has been dismissal of them being responsible for this because they do not necessarily have the capabilities to launch a surface- to-air missiles to down that plane. What about bomb making, is that in the repertoire of ISIS training? ALKHOURI: Well, in repertoire of terrorist training, generally speaking, we know that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, attempted to down an airliner over Detroit at the end of 2009, what we know as the failed underwear bomber, who smuggled unconventional explosives that would have air in igniting on the plane -- WAGNER: Sure. ALKHOURI: -- but could have actually had devastating outcome. And, so, terrorist groups have attempted that. And, now the groups has, you know, Eagles, which can down helicopters, for example, but only at about a maximum of 16,000 feet. But, they do not have anything more powerful than that. WAGNER: To the bomb making though. I mean Al-Qaeda is known to be a more organized, coherent, hierarchical structure compared to ISIS. Is it possible the elements from that sort of -- the Al-Qaeda could have trained -- I mean we know that there is a split between Al-Qaeda and ISIS. ALKHOURI: There is a split. It is very far fetched for Al-Qaeda to be involved in this attack unless somebody is inspired by it, who probably smuggled on IED onboard, somebody made an operative of some sort. Now, the unconventional explosives could have passed through scanning machines that are not the new ones and not -- maybe some of the old scanning machines that cannot detect these types of explosives. But to shoot the plane down while it is in the air using man pads or surface-to- air missiles is going to be pretty impossible for them. WAGNER: Really quickly. How confident are you that we are going to get full transparency from the Russians on their findings in the investigation? ALKHOURI: Very little. Very little. They have not been transparent in most of their operations. They have not been transparent in their intervention in the Middle East, generally speaking. So, you know, I do not think we are going to get transparency on this issue. I think it is going to come from investigators, who might be assigned by number of, you know, the Egyptian authorities and others. WAGNER: A lot of eyes on this case. Laith Alkhouri gets tonight`s last word. Thanks for your time, Laith. ALKHOURI: Thank you. WAGNER: Chris Hayes is coming up next. END