Meet The Press’ Chuck Todd joined me for our regular Friday conversation which included the news from Paris, Nigeria, and Manhattan –the last about the return of Mitt Romney:
HH: I’m joined now by Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet The Press. Chuck, what in the world are you going to do this weekend?
CT: I have this Friday news dump whiplash today, I’ll be honest with you. Look, I’m heavy, look, we’re heavy on terrorism. I’ve got Eric Holder, who’s going to be on the show live from Paris. He’s actually going to Paris tomorrow meeting with law enforcement colleagues over there. Look, this is, the larger here, and I talked to a bunch of security officials this week, the concern, the nightmare scenario for our security apparatus us soft targets with a lone wolf or some sort of small conspiracy that’s much harder to break up. Now with all that said, I think the more we’re learning about these terrorists, I’d like to think that anybody that had traveled to Yemen and come back to the United States, that our security teams wouldn’t have allowed them to have the freedom of movement the way the French intelligence did. But I think that that is, that that after-action report on sort of how that happened is going to be very important.
HH: Well, CNN’s doing amazing reporting this afternoon about, and I don’t know if NBC has picked it up, yet, that there is a recruiter who brought three of the four terrorists in who is believed to have networks operating in Netherlands and Belgium as well.
HH: Which suggests a level of sophistication and degree of threat that I just think is dawning on people right now, Chuck Todd. I don’t know that a lot of people have focused on the sophistication of the Islamist network.
CT: Well, and it also is, you know, this is more of an acute issue for Europe, for a couple, I was talking to another security official who said you know, not to downplay, you know, obviously the Boston Bombers are an example that this can happen here in the United States. That said, the issue of basically the lack of assimilation of Muslim populations in Western Europe versus the assimilation of, say, look at Dearborn, Michigan, where the Muslim populations in our country are middle class, upper middle class, have assimilated in a much better way than what’s taken place in France. That is, that is something that is a unique issue for Europe that they’re going to have to deal with. And it’s going to be an ongoing problem for them, and that there’s just more susceptible, downtrodden, at-risk Muslim youth that are easily recruited in a way that, when I’m told, and knock on whatever wood that you have around you, that they’re just, we just don’t have those numbers here in the United States, thankfully.
HH: Now there is an ongoing issue. Lindsey Graham came on the show on Tuesday and said look, we are in a religious war. This is not a cartoon problem. Last, on January 1st, the president of Egypt, al-Sisi, went to the biggest university in the Islamic world and to an audience of imams assembled said you must reform Islam. We are breaking the ummah, meaning the Muslim world. But yet today, the French president has this to say, Chuck Todd, to his grieving nation.
FH: Not to be divided means that we must not make any confusion, and to make it easy to remove any out-trumping concerning these terrorists, these fanatics who have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.
HH: So how are you going to handle this, Chuck Todd? The president of France says these fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion. The president of Egypt says it’s got everything to do with our religion, and it’s being hijacked, and Lindsey Graham calls is a religious war. How do you even cover this?
CT: Well, it’s funny, I’ll tell you what I’m doing, is I’ve got two Muslims coming on the show, one who is going to make an argument that there is a dangerous strain of Islam that is catching on, and we have to acknowledge. You know, there is a debate that’s going on, that is there a dangerous strain, basically the Sisi argument? Or is this just a perversion, and it’s not sort of something the Muslim community has to worry about, because really, these are just wackos that are perverting Islam? And look, this is a debate that is active that is taking place, so that’s how I’m going to…
HH: Are they going to be on at the same time?
CT: Pardon me?
HH: Are they going to be on at the same time?
CT: Yes, they’re going to be on at the same time.
HH: Now you see, that is exactly what needs to happen. And I read The Looming Tower years ago, and Lawrence Wright’s the best guy to go to on this. And I think it’s a strain. And I don’t know what the percentage is, but it’s not single digits that are sympathetic to the Takfiri jihadist strain, Chuck Todd.
CT: Hey, and Hugh, who was the, and I mean, here’s the thing. And one of the things that I think of just as a citizen is where are these moderate Muslims that can talk these folks down? Where are these Muslim leaders? And that’s the problem. There’s no leadership in the Muslim, in the mainstream Muslim community that seems to be able to want to own this. That’s almost, they act out of fear. Well, they don’t want to become targets.
HH: I think that’s it. I think a lot of this is fear. Lawrence O’Donnell admitted to that on this show six years ago.
HH: …that you don’t go out of your way to antagonize them, which brings me to the media story of the day. I’m actually shocked by this. Dean Baquet, who’s the executive editor of the New York Times, sent an email, or actually a Facebook posting to a USC Annenberg School professor by the name of Marc Cooper. He’s kind of a rad. I’ve known Marc forever. And Cooper was bagging on Baquet for not publishing the cartoons, and so Baquet wrote him a Facebook. Dear Marc, I appreciate the self-righteous second-guessing without even considering there might be another point of view. I hope your students are more open-minded. A**hole. Are you surprised by that?
CT: Yes, I am. Look, I think it is. Look, I thought David Brooks today had a fascinating sort of, I know you, I thought he got to more of the nuance position. And I think there’s nothing wrong with mainstream news organizations saying you know what? We’re not going to go out of our way to antagonize. That doesn’t mean we don’t support freedom of expression if there are satirical groups that want to antagonize. That’s the nature. This is what living in a free society is about. And as I say, I’m surprised that a leader of a major publication would get that snarky in sort of a public forum like that, because again, as he himself said, there are two sides to this argument, but you know, there’s a way to debate without being self-righteous on either side of the argument.
HH: I’m just, I’m kind of flabbergasted. Okay, I want to turn to the political thing before we run out of time. I kind of always thought Mitt Romney would get into this, but I didn’t think he’d get into it this early. And this is all but a declaration, if it’s correctly reported from CBS. I have no independent confirmation of this.
CT: I have independent confirmation, for what it’s worth. And this is, you know, he did say this to this group of donors that he is, and he’s now formally, but let’s realize, Hugh, for three months, he’s been meeting with donors. Why do you do that?
HH: Right, and he told me circumstances can change.
CT: And he would have done that in ’12, right?
CT: So he’s been pondering this for a while. He just said it and wanted this to go public. Let’s remember this. They wanted this to go public. Now what is this in response to? It’s in response to Jeb Bush. And I’ll be honest with you, Hugh, I don’t know if there’s room for Mitt Romney with Jeb being as aggressive as he is in trying to essentially corner the market on donors. And you know, they fish from the same pond, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.
HH: Here’s my question for you.
CT: Let me put it this way. If Mitt Romney gets in, then this was a good day to be Rand Paul.
HH: Possibly, although I actually don’t think Romney would join the debates. I think he would stand aside and say to the 14 people on the stage, you know who I am.
CT: Yeah, you go enjoy yourselves.
HH: Yeah, go enjoy yourself. I’ve been there and I’ve done that, and I’ll let the primary voters…
CT: Well Hugh, it’s funny you say this. Here’s what I was told about where Romney’s head is at. He is not going to run through the gauntlet again. He’s not going to do Iowa and New Hampshire. What he wants to do is basically be there ready to take the nomination when the party totally is on the verge of, they can’t decide who to be with – is it Huckabee, is it Paul, is it Jeb, and then in March or April of ’16, he says okay, you know, you know I can raise the billion and a half dollars. You know that I’m not going to mess this up. I know what I’m doing. But that’s basically the turf he’s trying to carve out. I just think Jeb has just made it that much harder for him.
HH: Now you as the former editor of HotLine, you know the devil’s in the details. There are filing deadlines and delegate slates that have to be…
CT: Yeah, that’s right.
HH: There’s legal stuff. When do those start to provide tripwires for Team Romney? I actually don’t know the answer to this question even remotely.
CT: It’s, I’m going to go by previous years, and some of the rules have changed. Some of the first sets of delegate deadlines are much earlier than you realize. They’re in the calendar year of 2015, you know, whether it’s petition to get on the ballot, like Ohio has a ridiculous, and New York have horrible, crazy petitions where you’ve got to get a certain amount of signatures in a Congressional district to get your delegate slate on the ballot. And if you’re not doing that stuff in September, October, November of the calendar year before, you’re not going to be able to get on the ballot, as we saw. Remember, Rick Santorum couldn’t get on every county ballot in some states late in the game, and this was stuff that, deadlines that he missed three and four months previous is when you have to do it. So I would say it’s late, you know, it’s Thanksgiving at the absolutely latest.
HH: Yeah, and I expect Romney’s not going to miss deadlines. I just think he’s going to file on every ballot and wait and see. Now the last and most important non-terrorism question of the day, Chuck Todd. The mighty Buckeyes or the little Ducks?
CT: You know, I watched them do what they did to Florida State. I have to say I’ll still going to bet against the third-string quarterback.
HH: Oh, Chuck Todd.
CT: Cannot bet on a third-string quarterback in a national title game.
HH: You are so wrong. That is, you are absolutely so wrong.
CT: I know. But I thought it was going to be Florida State and Alabama, so what do I know?
HH: You’re just, when Cardale and when Ezekiel Elliott runs for 320 yards, remember I told you first. Thank you, Chuck Todd. On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, two Muslims will square off on whether it’s a strain or just a few wackos, plus a lot more. Don’t miss the program.
End of interview.