NBC Meet The Press host Chuck Todd joined me on today’s show:
HH: It’s Friday. That means Chuck Todd, the host of Sunday’s Meet The Press, it’s going to be a great one on Sunday. He’s going to talk to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Chuck, Happy Passover to you, great to have you on.
CT: Thank you, sir, Happy Easter to you, my friend.
HH: And do you. Now you get the Commish on. I don’t know if you’ve already taped that or not, but obviously, the key issue in the game is whether or not to make Progressive Field in Cleveland the permanent home of the All-Star game.
CT: (laughing) I did already do the interview. There was one piece of news that he refused to make, but apparently there’s a big announcement coming, he promises, on Monday in Washington, and he’s attending the Nationals game. I kind of think it smells like…if it walks like an All-Star game, it quacks like an All-Star game announcement, I think it is an All-Star game announcement. So we’ll see on that.
HH: For the Nationals? For the Nationals picking it up?
CT: For Washington. Hey, man, Washington hasn’t had one since the 60’s so, you know…
HH: Well, I’m still holding out Cleveland as the best ballpark in the land. All right, let me ask you, though, did you talk about folks like Josh Hamilton and other drug abusers, because these guys are addicts. They turn themselves in. I’m not sure they ought to be under the same standard of steroid abusers.
CT: Well, I hear you on that, and I think it is different. I mean, I talked to him about a few things, one, a little bit on PED’s, and then also on this issue of where you have other commissioners, like Adam Silver, talking about gambling in a way saying hey, our fans like to do it, maybe we shouldn’t be so opposed to it. It was interesting to get his perspective on that, because I asked him about that before I got to the Rose discussion. And you could just feel that you know, the modern parts of the game, I think all these commissioners, they’ve got to start dealing with, you talk about personal drug addicts and how do you deal with that, which is different, how do you deal with marijuana users versus PED users? Should that be done differently? So I think this is, a lot of modernizing of their drug laws, I think, have to take place. But one thing he kept emphasizing is we can’t do anything until we deal with the players. And of course, that’s basically the first thing on his agenda. He’s got, you know, the baseball, the collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of ’16.
HH: Yeah, we can’t have another strike. That would be a nightmare.
HH: All right, let’s go to the big story of the week, which is the Iran deal. I have in front of me the Peter Baker piece from the New York Times, the Jay Solomon/Carol Lee piece. I’ve got Thomas Erdbrink from the Times, I’ve got the Jerusalem Post on Netanyahu’s denunciation of the deal. But let me read to you, Jeff Dunetz is a blogger who writes at Truth Revolt. He hates the deal, and he summarizes it this way. “Iran is not closing a single nuclear facility, not one centrifuge gets dismantled. Some of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium gets converted, but it all stays in the country. The entire nuclear infrastructure is intact. Iran gets to continue its nuclear research. The ballistic missile program continues. The sanctions come off as Iran complies. And while there are provisions for them to snap back, any action needed to prove through the U.N. Security Council and a possible Russian veto.” There is, on the other side, they are allegedly going to go from 19,000 centrifuges to 6,104. But honestly, Chuck Todd, this does not look like much of a deal, and I don’t think the Congress is going to size it up as a win.
CT: You know, I think Congress is going to tell him this, and I think the President has two things going for him this, short term, this week, on this deal. Number one is everybody’s out of here, is not in Washington this week, right? So the criticism looks muted. All the criticism is in print. It’s not on television. So he gets sort of the head start at spinning the deal. The second thing that I think is benefitting him a little bit is what had been leaking out about what the deal could look like was a heck of a lot worse than what appears to be what the deal actually is. That said, I mean, you’ve highlighted, I think, a lot of the concerns that skeptics of this deal have. And I’m with you. I don’t know, the most interesting response that I saw yesterday came from Chuck Schumer. It was two lines. It basically said I commend John Kerry for his hard work. I will look at the details.
HH: Oh, interesting.
CT: Period. I mean, it couldn’t have been a shorter, I think only his Chuck Hagel statement initially, and when you remember, he was an early skeptic of Hagel as Defense Secretary, only that statement, I think, was shorter, sort of acknowledging Chuck Hagel is a human being, that sort of thing, and that was about it. Schumer, to me, is a key player here, is about where Congress goes, because he’s the difference between a veto-proof majority opposing the President on this or not. And the fact is, and you know, the louder and more aggressive Netanyahu is against this deal, I think it puts people like Chuck Schumer, Tim Kaine, those guys in a box.
HH: The other thing to look at is what’s going on inside of Iran. We have not yet heard from Khamenei, the supreme leader. The television is full of pictures of Iranians dancing today. And from the Erdbrink piece in the New York Times comes, “We should say in a word that we gave a saddled horse and received a horned bridle,” according to one newspaper man there. And no matter how we try to sugarcoat it, another says this means we no longer will have an industrial scale enrichment program. And so it’s just the price we pay for earlier mistakes. So there are some critics, hardliners are criticizing the deal there, perhaps leading us to say maybe they had to give up something. But in the Solomon/Lee piece, the problem is this underground fuel production site. I’m not sure what the inspection regime is. I’ve read every piece, Chuck Todd. What is your understanding of the inspection regime?
CT: We don’t have one, yet. I mean, that’s part of the difference between now and June 30th. You know, they’re talking about the inspection regime, they’re talking about unfettered access. John Kerry told Andrea Mitchell about cameras that are going to be, you know, monitoring these nuclear facilities on a 24 hour basis as well. But I think part of this is what’s being hammered out And you see that you’ve gotten the Iranians, they’re upset at the fact sheet that the Obama administration put out. You know, I kind of wonder if we’re all talking about this deal in done terms and realize boy, there’s a lot of things the Iranians maybe have agreed to in the room orally, but they have not put pen to paper here, yet. And so, you know, do things slip? Do things change? And I think what the actual inspection regime looks like, I think, is still a huge sticking point.
HH: Who are you talking about the deal with on the show this weekend?
CT: Well, we’re going to, I’ll be honest, I’ve got a couple of people we’re waiting to confirm, but it would be some high end guests on the Iranian deal. I’ve got Bobby Jindal. We’re going to be talking about the religious liberty debate that’s taking place inside the party. And I’m going to do that with him. And then of course, you know I’ve got Rob Manfred and also Cardinal Dolan…
HH: Oh, very cool.
CT: …who he had a fascinating answer which I think we already put out. I interviewed him yesterday, and you know, he’s kind of a busy guy on Easter Sunday itself. But he had some interesting thoughts on the religious liberty debate.
HH: Well, let me play for you Jeb Bush on this program on Monday on the Indiana law. This is what former Governor Bush told me?
HH: What do you make of the controversy? Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, a great company, had a blast at it in the Washington Post yesterday. What do you think?
JB: I think if you, if they actually got briefed on the law, that they wouldn’t be blasting this law. I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of consciences. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.
HH: Now Chuck Todd, yesterday Governor Pence signed revisions, which I’ve been over this morning, and they appear to be very minor and actually not change the RFRA. They protect things that I think would be protected in any event. The Arkansas governor’s changes were merely cosmetic. I think we’re where we were at the beginning of the week, and that Jeb Bush and the Republicans are going to stand with RFRA. What did Cardinal Dolan tell you? And do you think this one’s going to go on for a while?
CT: No, look, I mean, he was, he has positive words for Governor Pence on this, but he also, he sort of acknowledged that the difficulty in finding that balance, and that is, you know, but his, he was, you know, lamenting the fact that it got polarized so fast, that the opposition, that the back and forth became so political, so partisan, so quickly, that we no longer were actually having a conversation about what does religious liberty even mean. So but he basically ended it the way you want a man of cloth to answer something like that, like hang on a minute, can we actually talk about the issue itself rather than the politics of the issue?
HH: You know, Chuck, you’re celebrating…
CT: But you know, to bring up Jeb Bush, Hugh, I want to ask you something.
CT: That’s what he told you on Monday. What do you make of what he told the Silicon Valley guys a couple of days later when he seemed to, he seemed to, he came across as sort of, he was trying to have both sides of this debate?
HH: You know, if I had done more follow up, I think I would have gotten the same consistent expansion of it. Most RFRA conversations are truncated by time. And I’ve been teaching it for 22 years. It’s a really hard thing to do without time.
HH: I think he’s good-natured about this. I was just about to say, you’re celebrating Passover today. I’m going to Stations of the Cross. I’ve never come across religious discrimination against same sex couples. I don’t know anyone who does this. It’s one of those things when the world’s on fire and they slaughter 147 people in Kenya, I just sometimes wonder, Chuck, that we’re arguing about stuff when the rest of the world looks at us and says what are those Americans talking about?
CT: Yeah, what are we arguing about? And by the way, we’re arguing that just the margins win, when you look at around the world, there are people that actually are discriminated against in ways that are horrifying, absolutely horrifying.
HH: Yeah, I mean, al-Shabaab killed Christians and didn’t kill Muslims yesterday. That’s like the biggest one…
CT: Right, I mean, you know, let’s…You’re absolutely right.
HH: Have a blessed Passover. I’ll talk to you next week. Thanks for joining me on a holy day.
End of interview.