HH: I’m joined now by Chuck Todd of Meet The Press, and I always give Chuck a hard time about how he’s going to cover everything that happened in a week. Chuck Todd, I don’t know that you’ve ever had a week like this to cover before. What in the world are you going to do on Sunday morning?
CT: No, I was just telling Duane, I mean, I think the thing that feels as if it’s like the hardest story where we’re going to cover is all the terror threats that took place overseas. I mean, look, I think this is a consequential week in the trajectory of sort of where America is headed, particularly on the social front. And I think that you know, that’s where our focus is going to be.
HH: Let me play for you, Jeb Bush started the show with me today, and I’d like to play for you his first statement about being all in on religious freedom in the aftermath of today’s decision, cut number one:
HH: Jeb Bush, the last time we talked to you in my studio and you were defending the first draft of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is Jeb Bush all in to protect Free Exercise Clause rights?
JB: Yeah, I think, again, the balance is that we should have a society where we don’t, that we respect people, be respectful of, be respective of their sexual orientation, but I think we need to protect, this is, it’s called the first freedom for a reason. And I don’t think that that’s a contradiction. I’ve been speaking about this, actually, the callous of it started when we had our conversation on the radio, but it’s continued with my speech at Liberty University, and I speak about this a lot, because I think it’s a looming issue of real importance.
HH: So Chuck Todd, is that perfect pitch for him? What do you think?
CT: Well, I think look, of where the Republican Party is, and him trying to straddle that fence a little bit, I think that is a nominatible position for him. But you know, and I assume that once, if he is the nominee, and he, in the general election, I imagine you’re not going to hear the phrase religious freedom a lot. I imagine you’re not going to hear much about same sex marriage. I mean, I found it interesting watching all the reactions today from the Republican candidates, because to me, it was an MRI into being, and that is exposed exactly where they plan to take their candidacies, and sort of which constituencies they were thinking about. I mean, Cruz, Huckabee, Santorum, Jindal, it was, they knew who they wanted to talk to. They wanted to speak to Evangelicals, and really Evangelicals alone. You have the sense that Jeb was trying to send two signals, that he would, you know, not ignore Evangelicals, but he also wanted to send a message to swing voters that he wasn’t going to be antagonistic to them, either.
HH: I spoke with former Governor Bush about Chief Justice Roberts. Let me play you that cut as well. I don’t have the cut sheet here, but Duane can play it.
HH: Is he still a model for you going forward as he was for President George W. Bush?
JB: Well, I liked one of his rulings, and I didn’t like the other, but he is a person of unimpeachable integrity and great intelligence, and I’ve met him a few times. And he’s an impressive guy for sure. I think going forward, where we’re left as it relates to the marriage issue is it’s important for all of us to stay engaged, because I think what we need to do is try to make sure that religious freedom and conscience is protected, and also have a society that is just and loving that doesn’t discriminate. And I think if we can’t figure out how to do that, then we’re in a heap of trouble as a nation. I think we can do it, but it’s going to require a lot more than just this ruling to sort this stuff out.
HH: I also talked to him about avoiding David Souters, etc., Chuck Todd. How important are judges going to be in the nominating process for Republican primary voters, do you think?
CT: Well, as you know, it’s always a hot button issue, the judge issue. And I’ll tell you, I’m sure you saw this on your social media feed last night, and I saw it a lot, particularly after the health care ruling, which is H.W. Bush, you know, because as one conservative person said to me, saying on Twitter, H.W. Bush gave you Souter, George W. Bush gave you Roberts. Who’s Jeb Bush going to give you? I mean, I do think it’s going to be something that some conservative candidates try to use against Jeb in the early primary states. Whether it’s effective is a whole other story, but I saw a lot of traffic on that about Bush Supreme Court justices.
HH: So did I. And Jeb has to come back with Clarence Thomas was my father’s other nominee, and Sam Alito. And he has to defend Roberts. Now the Chief Justice is an old colleague of mine from the White House Counsel’s Office and a friend, and I’ve been defending him all week as wrong yesterday, but reasonably wrong, and today right. So you know, I think to a certain extent, it’ll be how well do you explain to people what you believe in. But let me get to where I think Jeb Bush outflanked Ted Cruz today on my radio show when I asked him if he would go after the filibuster in order to break an Obamacare repeal filibuster. Here’s what he had to say.
HH: There isn’t much of a way to get to 60 votes, though, if the Democrats hang together and block us in the Senate. At that point, would you at least be open to making the argument that on this issue, before it gets its tentacles too deep, that we break the filibuster and ram through a repeal and replacement?
JB: I’d have to see what the, if the replacement is what I’m going to advocate, then I might consider that, because I think a free market-oriented approach where people are empowered to make more of these health care decisions, where they’re supported through the tax code, and we focus on high-deductible, low premium catastrophic coverage as the replacement that’s portable, that allows us to grow our economy again, and allows for a rising disposable income for the great middle of our country, then I would certainly consider it. But first and foremost, I’m going to advocate that and try to persuade people that that’s a better way.
HH: Chuck Todd, my question is, is that too in the tall grass for voters? Or will they be demanding that Republicans against Obamacare be willing to campaign on getting rid of the filibuster in order to get rid of Obamacare?
CT: Well, look, I have to say, I think that if I’m running for president and I think I have a shot at being president, I would be awfully careful of what I’m promising to do on health care. And I think, look, I think the potential nominee is going to end up taking a position that’s going to promise a repeal and replace, but I’ll tell you, let’s fast forward to what 2017 is going to look like. Does a Republican president want their entire presidency defined on how they repealed the health care law? I think this is a, I think this is a fool’s errand. I mean, I think this is going to be, I think it’s good rhetoric, it’s good red meat in the primary, but I think if you actually base your presidency on trying to do this, your presidency could get consumed by it. Just as the current occupant.
HH: I will be right back with Chuck Todd, one more segment. I’ve got to talk to him about Hillary’s server as I talked to Jeb Bush about that. Don’t go anywhere:
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HH: Do you think that server and the fact that she put the national security second behind her privacy concerns is going to be an issue in the general campaign?
JB: I do think it’s going to be an issue, and I think it’s also an issue that President Obama hasn’t even gone to Fort Meade to the headquarters of the NSA to applaud the efforts of our counterintelligence people. These are patriots that are keeping us safe, and it’s been, it has been deemphasized, and we’re starting to see the results of this. The OPM is the worst of this, but there’s other cases as well, and look, Secretary Clinton is going to have to be held to account for her private server. I can’t imagine that the security of her server in her home in New York is going to be better than it would be at the Department of State… But this is a serious challenge. This is a threat to our national security. You think about security clearances. I don’t know how, you know, again, this is speculation on my part, but when you fill out these forms for security clearances, you’re giving up information that goes way beyond the person that’s applying for the clearance to all sorts of other information. This is a treasure trove, and if it’s true the Chinese have this stuff, this is, this is as bad as Snowden, or as bad as Bradley Manning.
HH: Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt with Chuck Todd, who is going to be doing an hour of the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt tonight, because today and this week was such an extraordinary week. Chuck Todd, the OPM hack is just buried under an avalanche of headlines – Obamacare, gay marriage, terrorist attacks abroad. But it remains, that’s what I was talking with Jeb Bush, he thinks it’s worse than Snowden or Manning. What do you think of that?
CT: Well, it could be. You know, what’s interesting here, though, is I found in his answers, you tried to go Hillary Clinton with him, and he went there. I think it’s fascinating the way he decided to pivot from that, and he didn’t want to go down that road, and instead went OPM. Look, I think the OPM thing, with all of these hacks, we always find out more and more, at some point, when are we going to galvanize all of our leadership in the country? I think Congress and the White House, I think all of us in the media, all of us in the country, we look at these hacks, you hear about a Target hack or you hear about an OPM hack, and it’s just sort of, we don’t really wrap our arms around it very well. I don’t think we fully appreciate the seriousness of this stuff, and I think that that’s on all of us.
HH: Do you think we fully, and are you covering…
CT: You know, I think it’s on leadership, and I think it’s on us in the media, too.
HH: And a last question, are you covering the overseas ISIS attacks? I barely had chance to mention it. There are three horrific attacks, and I’ve had barely a chance to mention them.
CT: I know, and look, we’re going to be talking about it, because we also have the 4th of July warning that’s coming here that a lot of people are concerned about, so we’ve been reporting on tonight. So doing the best, but I have to say, I think on the social front…
HH: Has the government put out, has the government put out a 4th of July…
CT: That’s, right now, there is a vague threat that our folks have detected.
HH: Oh, wow. Well, Chuck Todd, be safe. We’ll go watch NBC News with you. Thanks for coming in early so we could do this, always a pleasure, Chuck Todd at Meet The Press on Sunday. Do not miss it. It’s going to be one of the hardest shows to produce, because this is one of the weeks, well, you just don’t forget – pivotal in the life of the country. Thank you.
End of interview.