Meet the Press Host Chuck Todd joined me this AM:
HH: Joined by Chuck Todd, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, and no better man to talk to after Tuesday’s wipeout of the Republicans than the guy who was Mr. Hotline. I recall him as Mr. Hotline. He’s like Kornacki was on Tuesday night. He knows all the data. Chuck, I think this portends a wipeout of the Republicans in the fall if things don’t change. What’s your assessment?
CT: Yeah, no, absolutely, because this is a district that, this is the next set of districts, right? You know, we knew what was vulnerable going in around the Houstons, the Orlandos, the Dallases, the Atlantas, the Phoenix, the true suburban districts. What makes this district, and why you’re saying wipeout, is that these are the next level of districts of these Republican-held districts, are in these districts that straddle the suburbs and the exurbs, and they had, basically were the key, were the real majority makers, right, were the type of districts when you said why is the House majority hard to unlock? It was a lot of these districts. And they’re around the Omahas. So this is Pittsburgh. They’re around the St. Louises, Kansas City. It’s all sort of the cities that don’t have big enough suburbs for one whole Congressional district, but they straddle. And if those are vulnerable now, that’s how it becomes 50 seats, right? We’re not talking about whether can they get to 24. It’s about, that’s how it becomes 50-60. And that’s when it turns into wipeout territory.
HH: People will get a little geeked out here, but I go back to the Canadian election of 1993 when the Canadian conservatives were wiped out. And they didn’t see it coming. I mean, they were just totally destroyed. I think they went down to 50 seats, and they had been the majority government, because things that happened that they had not, they hadn’t reacted to. And Chuck, I don’t know what you think about the banking bill. I like the banking bill that passed the Senate.
HH: I cannot for the life of me understand why the Republicans don’t do a slam dunk and pass it today and hold a party. Instead, they go home and Jeb Hensarling says we’ll get around to it. We are going to tweak it.
HH: And I think to myself, you’re idiots. I mean, it’s just…
CT: What did Conor Lamb, I’m so glad you say this, because this is a point we’re making on First Street today. Conor Lamb and Doug Jones, what was one of the, their best talking points were when they got to run against Washington and gridlock…
CT: …when they both would say I’m tired of these two sides fighting. Look, I’ll, Doug Jones would say I’ll work with any Republican that wants to work with me. And Conor Lamb, I’ll work with any…whether you believe it or not, whether they actually do it or not, the voter’s sitting there going, well, yeah. It’s a mess over there. Do you know that the Republican leadership plan going into this calendar year was we’re going to run on the tax cuts, let’s not do any more…
CT: …Let’s not do that much more legislating. I’m sorry, that’s a, so you’re basically going to go, you’re going to go to November now with the last major bill being the tax bill? I think that’s going to look like…
HH: They didn’t even pass a budget. They didn’t even pass a budget that would allow them a 51 vote bill.
CT: I think this just hands the Democrats, every candidate in the country, such an easy talking point against them. What have you done this year? What’s the answer going to be?
HH: So they could go tomorrow, or they can change on the banking bill, which is a bipartisan bill. So they could pass that.
HH: But would they, do they have the guts to look in the mirror and say we screwed this up? We’re going to do a budget and we’re going to pass a 51 vote bill? We’re going to work all summer. You guys are going to have to campaign on Sundays. You’re going to have to be here and work all summer. You know, the Senate’s down to two and a half days a week.
CT: And by the way, is that such a bad thing? I think, look, at the end of the day, the voters, right now, the voters are reacting to two things – one, it looks like nothing’s getting done in Washington, and two, the President’s behavior. Well, if at least you’re working in Washington, then you only have to worry about the President’s behavior as being a drag on you. And you can navigate that alone. But the problem is the voters that have a problem with the President’s behavior, they can’t forgive you if you haven’t done anything.
HH: That’s, they can’t talk themselves into a reason.
CT: That’s right.
HH: I just had Jim Talent on, and I said Jim, you can, we don’t have a single nominee in the 9th Circuit, because Dianne Feinstein is blocking them. Chuck Grassley has to change the rules, and Mitch McConnell has to keep them there seven days a week doing the 30 hour four corners offense, because they can’t run on oh, well, they actually don’t have anything, the tax cuts, that’s a very good thing. And Larry Kudlow arriving is going to help sell it. But you can’t blame Trump for all your problems when you don’t try and change the agenda.
CT: That’s right.
HH: What do you think of the Kudlow arrival, by the way? I love Larry. Larry’s an old and dear friend. Mike Pompeo’s a good friend.
CT: I’ve known Larry…
HH: I love him, too, so I’m happy with this week. What do you think?
CT: Well, Larry’s an old friend of mine, too, so I’ve known him in NBC world the entire time I’ve been here and then some. And I knew him a little bit in the old Hotline days. So look, I think it’s a, I think the President should appoint people he likes.
CT: …like you know, I sit here, and I see these Republican handwringers, or my friends in the media who are wringing their hands about, well the President is surrounding himself with some sycophants. Well, it’s true, and some of them are too, so you’ve got to, you don’t want somebody, you don’t want him surrounded by somebody that won’t tell him that’s a bad idea. But let him appoint people that he likes, and Larry Kudlow, look, he’s somebody that disagrees with the President on trade policy. But the President really personally likes him. That’s, nothing wrong with that. Why surround him with people he doesn’t know or doesn’t like? It’s always seemed to me like a dumb idea.
HH: And Mike Pompeo, yeah, Mike Pompeo is a Russia hawk. I’ve had him on this show…
HH: …as often as you. He’s been on a hundred times on this show when he was a Congressman.
HH: He is a Russia hawk, and so people, he ought to be up for a vote right away. And I just asked Jim Talent just to prove something. I said Jim, would you go to work for Mike Pompeo, because he’s a natural undersecretary, deputy secretary, you know, former senator, smart guy. He said sure, I would. Everyone will work for Mike Pompeo. They didn’t really want to go to work for Rex Tillerson. I think the untold story is that there was bipartisan agreement that the State Department is a wreckage. I think our colleague, Andrea Mitchell, knows that, right?
CT: Oh, 100%. I mean, look, Pompeo’s getting such an opportunity here. The irony is had he been the first secretary of State, that building probably would have revolted against him. They would have, oh, he’s too conservative, too neoconish fit for that, right?
CT: But coming in now, number one, the reputation of him at the CIA, you know, you had some people who say well, he spends too much time with the President. That would be the only criticism I hear, right? As far as rank and file, they were like oh, yeah, he’s an agent’s agent, you know, that sort of thing, like he was everybody, nobody had super negative things to say about him, and people, as a manager, had very positive things to say. And the State Department just needs a good manager right now.
CT: It just needs a good manager, and they’re begging for it.
HH: And he knows his mind. Yeah…
CT: They’re begging for it. So Pompeo has, he has an easy opportunity to have a honeymoon here in a way that would shock people had he, if you know his politics compared to that State Department politics.
HH: Now let’s talk for a second, the big rumor of the morning is Scott Pruitt to Justice. I always tell people he’s my friend. My son works at EPA. I want to get that out there. I kind of throw a flag on the media here. Ever since Joy Reid and I were doing the Washington University debate, and a nut menaced her, and I mean, I was going to be the last line of defense, which is no defense at all, because I’m old, slow and not very good. But this nut just got in her face. And it was really scary. And so they fly him in first class. They put in the cybersecurity things they have to do, and the media goes all over him and they say he’s on thin ice. But in fact, the President’s talking to him about being the AG.
HH: Do you think that the media has gone so anti-Trump that they’re amplifying things like Scott Pruitt’s travel?
CT: Hugh, I, here’s the thing. It depends on how you’re going to define media. I mean, I just get tired of having to answer…
HH: For everyone, yeah.
CT: …because, you know, exactly. I just sort of, I’m sort of, I throw up my hands at it, and I refuse to do it anymore. And I don’t think you can collectively say the media’s anything, because you know, who’s the most influential media organ on television now? It’s Fox News, right? They have the most viewers in the country, so…
HH: Actually, it’s Rachel. I think Rachel’s winning, isn’t she?
CT: Well, Rachel’s, well, but my point is who’s got influence over the agenda?
HH: Yeah. Oh, that’s Fox, yeah.
CT: My point is that, my point is that if you’re going to define the entire media by what happens in prime time, you know, that’s a little, I think that’s a little disingenuous.
HH: I’m reacting to the Washington Post this morning.
CT: Again, look, let just, let’s go back to, let’s go back to Scott Pruitt. I think Scott Pruitt’s a lightning rod. I think on environmental issues, I think you’re right. I think that there is an institutional bias on environmental issues towards climate science and things like that, right? So that is perceived as an ideological bias. So I think that there is an institutional bias when it comes to some of these science studies and things like that on the climate. So that…
HH: So that leads people to go after him.
CT: That, I concede. Okay, that’s right. That, I concede. So I think it automatically puts him sort of on the defensive. Let me go to the political side of this, as far as Justice is concerned. I think it is opening up a can of worms if the President tries to mess around at Justice. I think you mess around everywhere else right now. I think it is too precarious for him to be messing around at Justice. You fire Sessions…
HH: We may disagree on this for reasons unrelated to politics.
CT: I, no, but I think there’s too much, I think he, I just think he’s putting himself, the President, this is, more at risk if he does that.
HH: See, I like Jeff Sessions a lot, but not being in charge of everything, you know what that, Chuck, you’re the political director. You’re in charge of everything we do.
CT: I hear you. No, no, no, I get it. I completely agree that the President should have thought this through going in when he, and should have said, and should have put Sessions at DHS, okay? I think he should have thought this through going in. If he put Sessions at DHS, right, which would have allowed him to still be the point man on immigration, which I think the base would have loved, would have, you know, it’s not what Sessions wanted, but I think ultimately, given where Russia was going, you know, had he been prepared, that’s what they would be, and they wouldn’t be in this situation.
HH: So right. That’s, it’s the original sin of staffing. You have to get it right at the beginning. Chuck Todd, who’s the guest on Sunday, 10 seconds?
CT: I don’t know, yet. It’s Thursday, Hugh.
HH: (laughing) I love talking to Chuck Todd. Thank you, my friend. Follow him on Twitter, @ChuckTodd.
End of interview.