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Chuck Todd on Administration’s CYA and Mark Pryor’s Doom

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Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd joined me to preview Sunday show and among other things discussed the Administration’s “CYA” approach to Ebola and the doom of Mark Pryor’s re-election campaign:




HH: I’m going to go way out on a limb here and predict that Meet The Press on Sunday will discuss Ebola. Joining me to confirm or deny that is Chuck Todd, host of Meet The Press. Hello, Chuck, how are you?

CT: I’m great. How are you doing?

HH: What do you think? Is Ebola going to come up on Sunday?

CT: Is Ebola going to, yeah, I would say yes. The short answer is yes. And I think that, I tell you, talk about, as usual with this administration, one week too late, finally they sort of bring out the cavalry of trying to reassure the public about what is an issue with Ebola, what should Americans worry about, what shouldn’t they worry about, putting out some agency heads to try to explain what’s going on, what the U.S. response is. I’m wondering where was this ten days ago? Where was this two weeks ago?

HH: Chuck, I don’t know who they’re going to make available to you this weekend, but if Thomas Friedman comes on, he is the least able communicator I’ve seen in a long time. Earlier today, he said to the New York Times I wish we had a situation where we could say the risk is zero, but until we stop the outbreak in Africa, there is no way we can say that. That actually doesn’t communicate anything useful to the public.

CT: No, not at all. And the fact is, you know, look, I think everything I understand about this, everything that our medical team has explained, you know, there’s not a single Ebola case in this country, even rumored one, that isn’t connected to somebody actually having been in the hot zone in West Africa. So I think, though, that this sort of mercurial way that some of these agencies have answered questions, and frankly, it all comes under the umbrella of CYA, right? I mean, what you just described is an attempt by an administration official trying to not get, if somehow there is an Ebola case that does come here that isn’t connected to the hot zone, they don’t want to, I guess, lose their job, right, that that’s their concern, because they didn’t explain it clearly enough. But I think that there is a little bit of a panic, and trust me, I’m sure you’re hearing from folks. I’m hearing from folks that say like geez, you know, could this come over the border? Could people carry it this way? Or why aren’t we stopping people at the airports? And I think people don’t understand the nature of how you contract Ebola and you can’t contract Ebola. But again, the government, look, I think this is a larger credibility issue. I think folks would be giving government the benefit of the doubt if there haven’t been, I could count eight instances in the last eight months where government has fallen down on the job. We can go the VA. The President himself just said his own intelligence folks have let him down on ISIS. We’ve got the IRS and the emails. We’ve got, I mean, I’m leaving out a whole bunch of stuff here. I did the VA. Oh, the

HH: The IRS, you know…

CT: IRS, you could go right down the line here, and sit there, and you’re just, it’s no wonder to me, actually, I think, if the public is sitting there going yeah, trust us? We’re a little skeptical here, because every time you assure us of something, something seems to slip through the cracks. Oh, wait, we forgot about the Secret Service.

HH: Yeah, that’s right, and how can we forget? You just, in the segment before you, Brian Wesbury, very accomplished economist, very respected commentary on the markets…

CT: Yeah.

HH: …said he’s lost trust in the ability of any government in the world to persuade him that they’re telling the truth. Yesterday on this program, Kirsten Powers, she’s a liberal. She’s Clinton’s communications team, said that Obama’s been a huge disappointment, he’s not even in the same universe of competence as Bill Clinton. And then just about an hour ago, the Pentagon announced that they’re doubling the number of troops being deployed to Africa. What does that last fact tell you, Chuck Todd?

CT: Well look, the last fact tells me that they are, that the outbreak in Africa is not under control, okay?

HH: Yup.

CT: This is a, and there really isn’t another country, and you know, I wish we were having a separate debate here. We’re apparently the only country capable of even trying to stop this. And obviously, if you don’t stop it in Africa, and you don’t try to contain this as best you can, you know, this could kill millions on that continent. And then you could have the type of outbreak that everybody’s concerned about, could get over into Europe. And then from there, you know, Lord only knows. So it tells you, I think, that they’re concerned that they’re not containing this thing, and that basically, there’s nobody else to turn to but the United States. I mean, this is where you sort of laugh at Russia and China claiming that they want to be superpowers when this is kind of something that the world’s supposed to come together and do something, and apparently there’s only one superpower capable of dealing with it.

HH: There is, and there’s only one president of that superpower. When we come back from break, we’ll talk to Chuck Todd about his guest set for Sunday, because it’s going to be fascinating what happens in 48 hours, or actually, more like 36 hours between now and Meet the Press because the story changes so rapidly.

— – – –

HH: Meet The Press is back and relevant in my life, because I think Chuck is like Ryan Lizza and Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, or Jake Tapper over at CNN, or John Fisher Burns of the New York Times, a very fair guy. And on a weekend like this, Chuck, ISIS beheaded its fourth victim today. There are, according to the Telegraph, a lockdown in North Korea and rumors of a coup against Kim Jong Un. There’s renewed, very violent fighting in Ukraine. There’s violence in the Hong Kong street, as street thugs, probably organized by the government, have attacked the demonstrators’ camps. They’ve broken off negotiation. There’s the Ebola news. How in the world do you do a rundown for MTP. I guess you can’t do it until Sunday, can you?

CT: Well, it’s a little bit a struggle on that front, but you know, on some of this stuff, I feel like it is all wrapped up in one, and that is sort of this American anxiety, right? I mean, honestly, that’s sort of how I am framing the top of the show, because I think when you throw in Ebola, you throw in ISIS, and frankly, even the Secret Service story, all of that is feeding into this insecurity that’s out there in the American public. Some of it is perhaps insecurity and distrust of the government. Some of it is just concern about terrorism. Some of it is concern about Ebola, but there are different reasons for it. But you feel it, you sense it, you see it in the polls. So you know, I think that’s the larger frame, and I think the real challenge for the Obama administration is they have to realize that they, you know, some of this is their own problems that they’ve, you know, this is the unintended consequence. When you have real crises that aren’t of your own making, but you’ve got a built-up distrust of how the government is working, some of it because of dysfunction, some of it because of incompetence, maybe even some of it because of something even more nefarious than incompetence, that it’s at a moment like this when you need the public’s attention, and you don’t have it, that I think puts you in the position that he’s in.

HH: Now Chuck, when the President goes to Northwestern last night and gives basically a pep talk and a pat on the back, my own back, hey, I’m doing great and the economy is good, that is not responsive to that anxiety that you’re leading the show with.

CT: Right.

HH: Does that further diminish, I mean, his standing in the polls are horrible. He’s bringing down all the Democrats. He’s nationalizing the elections, and they don’t want anything to do with him except Allison Grimes, because she’s doomed in Kentucky. Is he disconnected?

CT: I don’t know, no, I think he’s disconnected. I think they’re fully aware of sort of where they’re at. I think they are convinced that if they talk about, I think they believe they’re not getting enough credit on the economy, on the fact that while the economy is not booming per, you know, and actually, I’m going to, I’ve actually got an interesting one that I’m going to look at this on Sunday, is to show that this economic recovery, that the reason why the public isn’t giving credit to everybody is that it’s uneven, okay? There is pockets of the country, I’ve got an interesting local example I’ll share with you. The unemployment rate has been dropping in two identical counties in the state of Iowa. One, the unemployment rates are dropping because they have been adding jobs. Another, it’s been dropping because jobs have disappeared. The labor force has shrunk.

HH: Oh, that’s interesting.

CT: And the point is…

HH: Oh, that’s interesting.

CT: …it’s a way to explain, because I’ve had people say I don’t understand. Why isn’t the President getting credit, you know? The other recoveries, when you’ve seen this go, you know, you’ve seen them, whether it’s Reagan, whether it’s Clinton, you’ve seen them get the credit over time for the economic recovery, because this one’s different. It’s a different type of recovery.

HH: My colleague, yeah, my colleague, Michael Medved, just before I came on, had pointed out that real family income has declined by $4,000 over the six years of the Obama presidency, from $56,000 to $52,000 dollars a year. That’s not a recovery in any sense, and Karl Rove, who was on with him, pointed out that even if you call this a recovery, it’s the weakest recovery not just since World War II, but since we actually began keeping economic statistics that were reliable. That’s why he’s not getting credit. It’s not real.

CT: Well, it is, it’s not real for everybody. And it’s, you know, look, there are economists that will argue that this is because this recession and recovery hit at the exact time that we’re in a transition from our economy, we’re transitioning in this case from an industrial economy to this sort of service economy. So, and what happens at that, and the reason why they’ll explain the reason why the recovery is not even is this is what happened in the 20s and 30s, you know, where people moved to where they could find jobs. So they’re leaving, they’re literally, physically leaving. That’s why cities are growing, you’re seeing their population gain, because that’s where they’re finding some new employment opportunities. But it’s leaving rural America behind, and I think that is, you want to try to get at the root of why there is so much unrest, frankly, in both political parties, why there’s this populist movement? On the right, it’s the Tea Party. On the left, it’s more of the, the sort of Elizabeth Warren crow. But why is it getting traction? It’s getting traction because there is a group of Americans that have been left behind in this recovery.

HH: Left behind? It’s also promotional for the new movie coming out starring Nicholas Cage. Next hour, I’m talking with J.B. Simmons, who’s one of these young adult fiction writers who’s tapped into this vein of dystopian unease about end times, etc. But really, the end times are for the Democrats, Chuck Todd. Now whether it’s Stuart Rothenberg or Larry Sabato or Michael Barone, or anyone who studies this…

CT: Yeah.

HH: It’s a nightmare out there for Democrats right now, and I think they’ve given up on Arkansas. I don’t think they can close that gap. I think they’re giving up on Iowa, not Alaska, yet. Louisiana’s gone, isn’t it? I don’t know how they stop this.

CT: Well, here’s where I’m at. And look, we’re going to have three polls, by the way, we’re going to have three Senate polls coming out on Sunday….

HH: Oh.

CT: …in Kansas, Iowa and North Carolina, because my theory is this. Here’s the way I look at the landscape. I think there are four races that are truly the most volatile right now, and that is Kansas, North Carolina, Iowa and Alaska. If either party wins three of those four, or I guess counting Kansas, let’s just say if either, whatever party loses three of those four, they can’t, then they’ve lost the majority. They’re not going to get the majority. And so you know, I think, because I’m with you. While Arkansas is still competitive, it feels as if you can’t picture how Pryor wins, right?

HH: Right.

CT: He may only lose by two or three, but you can’t figure out how he gets over the top. I sort of put Mary Landrieu in a separate category. You know, it’s going to be a run-off. If it’s for the majority, I don’t see how she wins, right? If it becomes red versus blue…

HH: Yeah.

CT: …if it’s a nationalized race…if it’s not, if it doesn’t matter for the majority, then it becomes Landrieu versus Cassidy, and she can play off the personal stuff, then I think she has a shot, because perhaps let’s say Republicans already have the majority, or maybe because of Kansas, they can’t get it, well, there might be some demoralization, and they might not, you know, you might not see the turnout.

HH: I’ve got to watch that. I can’t wait to see the Kansas poll. I think Orman is going to sink significantly when that Topeka story, the Topeka Journal had the worst headline for a candidate I’ve ever seen.

CT: Yeah.

HH: Investigation to Orman’s ties to felon continue. So you know, I will watch Sunday for three Senate polls. I agree with you – Louisiana, Arkansas and the three gimmes put the Republicans at five, and then four in Kansas, North Carolina, Alaska and Iowa, although I’m feeling real good about Iowa. Chuck Todd, we’ll be watching on Sunday morning. Thank you.

End of interview.


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