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Meet the Press – September 11, 2022


CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday: My interview with Vice President Kamala Harris. The Vice President opens up on the threat posed by election deniers:

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think that we have to admit that there are attacks from within. And we need to take it seriously.

CHUCK TODD:

On the rightward shift of the Supreme Court:

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think this is an activist court.

CHUCK TODD:

And its abortion decision:

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

It is not right that we take a constitutional right from the women of America and deprive them of the ability to make decisions about their own body.

CHUCK TODD:

On eliminating the filibuster for abortion and voting rights:

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

The President has been very clear. He will sign into law and not let the filibuster get in the way.

CHUCK TODD:

On January 6th and those top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago:

CHUCK TODD:

What do you say to the argument that it would be too divisive for the country to prosecute a former president?

CHUCK TODD:

And on her plans for 2024. Plus: With less than two months to go to the midterms, independent voters speak out on whether President Biden should run for re-election …

CHUCK TODD:

Wow, you guys are all “no”s.

CHUCK TODD:

… and what they think of today’s GOP.

KARILYN VAN OOSTEN:

I just – I don’t recognize that party anymore.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me for insight and analysis are former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, Yamiche Alcindor, moderator of Washington Week on PBS, Republican political consultant Matt Gorman and Amy Walter, Editor in Chief of The Cook Political Report. Welcome to Sunday. It’s Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

And a good Sunday morning. There’s been no shortage of unkind things said about the job of Vice President of the United States, and many of them by vice presidents. The most famous may have come from the first, John Adams: “I am Vice President,” he said. “In this I am nothing, but I may be everything.” The number one job of the vice president is to be a good number two, to help make progress without making waves, and after 20 months Kamala Harris is familiar with the position’s unique challenges. She was seen as a new symbol of a racially-diverse country, but as President Biden’s approval ratings fell, so did hers. She’s been tasked with some intractable assignments, from enacting national voting reform to solving the immigration crisis at the border. Some of her supporters — and there are quite a few — argue she’s being set up to fail on some of those issues. But she’s also well-positioned to become president some day. Why? Fifteen vice presidents already have, including our current president, who was a former vice president. Today is September 11th. It was twenty-one years ago that we were attacked by foreign terrorists. Not quite 20 years after 9/11, the Capitol came under attack from domestic terrorits. With the 9/11 anniversary in mind, I sat down with Vice President Harris on Friday at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. She was there to talk about the space program in general and to speak with some astronauts on the International Space Station. I began by asking the Vice President about how over two decades our focus has had to shift from foreign terror to the threat from within.

[START TAPE]

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think it is very dangerous and I think it is very harmful. And it makes us weaker. You know, I have, I have met with and I’ve had conversations with over 100 foreign heads of state: presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, kings. And, you know, when we as the United States walk into those rooms around the world, we have had the honor and privilege historically of holding our head up as a defender and an example of a great democracy. And that then gives us the legitimacy and the standing to talk about the importance of democratic principles, rule of law, human rights. And one of the things though that comes with that privilege is that we hold ourselves out to be a role model, which means the rest of the world, like any role model, watches what we do to see if it matches up with what we say. So you look at everything from the fact that there are eleven people right now running for secretary of state, the keepers of the integrity of the voting system of their state, who are election deniers. You’ve got —

CHUCK TODD:

And what’s that sending, what message does that send to the world?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Well, you couple that with people who hold some of the highest elected office in our country who refuse to condemn an insurrection on January 6th. And I think what it sends is a signal that causes people to question, “Hey, is America still valuing what they talk about?” – which is the integrity of democracies, which means protecting a rule of law and the sanctity of these systems and speaking up when they are attacked. And I’m very concerned about it, Chuck. I’ll tell you, I’m very concerned about it. Because there are so many issues going on in the world that I think require, at least how we as Americans have traditionally thought about what is right, what is good, what should be fought for, what should be human ideals, and certainly the ideals of democracies. And I think that through the process of what we’ve been through, we’re starting to allow people to call into question our commitment to those principles. And that’s a shame.

CHUCK TODD:

Nearly 70% of Republicans don’t believe that the president and yourself won the 2020 election legitimately. Do you think you’ll ever be able to change their minds?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I find that polling interesting. And I’m going to tell you why. I’m traveling the country, we’re here in Houston, I was in North Carolina, I mean, I’ve been traveling all over the country. I don’t find that. I don’t get that kind of sense or feedback.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think you talk to a lot of Republicans? I mean, I say this, I mean –

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Well, I think I talk to a lot of Americans. And I’ll tell you, when I talk to folks and they know that, for example, there was a bipartisan infrastructure law that, you know, in Durham is going to fix I-40, or here in Houston, is going to fix Telephone Road, those are some of their priorities. When I talk to people about what we’re doing, that we’re going to make sure, especially after the pandemic, that all families, all working families have access to affordable, high-speed internet, and they’re going to, we’re going to bring the cost of it down, less $30 a month, plus people are going to get a $100 voucher to buy a laptop or an iPad, people want to hear that. Look what happened in Kansas on the issue of choice. People, whoever they voted for in the last election or in the next, stood up and said, “It is not right that we take a constitutional right from the women of America and deprive them of the ability to make decisions about their own body and instead say the government’s in a better position to do that.”

CHUCK TODD:

So, you say you take issue with this idea that there are 70%. Do you think there’s really —

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I just don’t experience that.

CHUCK TODD:

You don’t experience it. You don’t know if they exist?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think that —

CHUCK TODD:

Or do you think they just say it?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I’m not – I would not dare to tell anyone what they should think. I’m just telling you that I do believe that when it comes down to the things that wake people in the middle of the night, that worry them about their future, about their family, about their children or their parents, most of those issues, they think of not through the lens of the party with which they’re registered to vote.

CHUCK TODD:

What is a semi-fascist?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Listen, I think that when we — let’s not get caught up in politicizing the fact that most people in America know that it is not helpful to our country when we have people who are denying elections or trying to obstruct the outcome of an election where the largest number of people in our country voted for the president of the United States. And when we look at where we are, I think that we have to admit that there are attacks from within, to your first question. And we need to take it seriously. And we need to stand up together, all of us, and think of this not through a partisan lens but as Americans.

CHUCK TODD:

I think back to the president’s inaugural address. And he said the following: “Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.” And then I think about the construction, the language construction he used with “semi-fascist.” And I understand the dilemma. You’ve got to call it out in order to bring the country together. But it’s hard to do both at the same time, isn’t it?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Well, here’s the thing. I mean, let’s talk about our president for a moment. Joe Biden has spent his entire career — it is on for all to see — working across the aisle, his whole career. Sometimes he’s been criticized for believing in bipartisanship, for believing in compromise, for believing in working across the aisle, finding common ground. His whole career has been that. But there are moments in time when we have to also agree, all good people who care about our country, that there are those who right now are vividly not defending our democracy. And I think we want that our Commander-in-Chief, that the president of the United States will speak up and raise the alarm about what this means to our strength and our future, much less our integrity.

CHUCK TODD:

I’m curious. When you see the Democratic Party and some parts of the party funding ads to promote some of these election deniers in primaries, whether it’s in Michigan, the high-profile race there, Illinois, Colorado, New Hampshire. It looks like a cynical – you know, a little bit cynical. And the president went out of his way to say there are good Republicans here. Should you leave the good Republicans alone in a primary? Is the Democratic Party making a mistake here by — you know, those people could win if you’re not careful.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I mean, listen. I’m not going to tell people how to run their campaigns, you know? I’ve ran, in terms of statewide office –

CHUCK TODD:

Would you have done this?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I ran —

CHUCK TODD:

So would you have done this? Is this in your– is this something you’d be comfortable with?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I’m not going to tell people how to run their campaigns, Chuck. I ran for – statewide, for attorney general, re-election – won both times. For Senate, won that race. And I know that it is best to let a candidate, along with their advisers, let them make the decision based on what they believe is in the best interest of their state. I’m not going to tell people what to do that way.

CHUCK TODD:

You’re not worried that this reflects poorly on the Democrats?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think that what we have to focus on is that in 60 days as of this interview, in less than two months, we are looking at a midterm election in which so much is on the line. Take, for example, the issue of choice. The United States Supreme Court, in the Dobbs decision, just took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the women of America, from the people of America. Well, how does that relate to the midterms? Our president has said he will not let the filibuster get in the way. If the Senate, through a majority vote, votes to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, he will sign it into law. You know what that means in the midterms? We need to hold on to the Senate and get two more. And then we can put into law the protections of Roe v. Wade. Everything is on the line when you think about the millions of women and people in America who care about them, who understand the significance of protecting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body —

CHUCK TODD:

So if the Democrats get —

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

– instead of her government —

CHUCK TODD:

– 52 Senate seats —

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

– telling her what to do.

CHUCK TODD:

– 52 Senate seats or more, the legislative filibuster gone? Or just on this issue?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

The president has been clear: on this issue and on a very important issue in addition to that important issue, which is voting rights. And the president has been very clear. He will sign into law, and not let the filibuster get in the way, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Because what is happening in our country – in states around our country, including this very state – they are passing laws making it more difficult for people to vote. And so our president has said we need to have protections to make sure that every American, whoever they vote for, has the unobstructed ability to do that when it is otherwise their right. So everything is on the line in these elections in just less than two months.

CHUCK TODD:

When you were a senator, you weren’t ready to get rid of the legislative filibuster, as of 2017. What has changed?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Well, let’s talk about what we have seen around the country, in particular after I – together with Joe Biden — when we won and he became president and I became vice president, which was as a result of some of the highest number of people voting that have ever voted in a presidential election. And then you almost saw, almost immediately, so-called extremist leaders around the country starting to pass laws making it more difficult for people to vote. Because I guess it worried them that people realized, “Hey, I’m working two jobs, but a dropbox makes it easier for me to fill out the ballot in the middle of the night and go drop it off instead of standing in line. Hey, voting by mail, especially if I have – if I have disabilities, the physical – physical disabilities that make it more difficult for me to stand in line for four hours, I can vote by mail.” And I think that scared some people that the American people were voting in such large numbers.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you comfortable that this could end the legislative filibuster for good, probably, even if you only try to do it –

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

No, I’m not. No, I’m not.

CHUCK TODD:

– for two issues —

VICE. PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

–that it won’t end up getting rid of it. You think it will be held into place on other issues?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think that there are – that is very likely, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

How much should president – former President Trump’s status as a former president and a potential 2024 candidate, how much should that factor into the decision to charge him?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Well, I wouldn’t dare tell the Department of Justice what to do. As a former prosecutor, I will tell you, I’ve — my — I am not in the business of telling a prosecutor what to do with their case because they know best the facts and the evidence as applied to the law. And so I’m not going to tell them what to do. And certainly, the president and I and our administration, unlike the previous administration, have been very, very careful to make sure that there is no question about any kind of interference in terms of the decisions that the Department of Justice makes –

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

– in that regard.

CHUCK TODD:

But let’s – let me try to go to 60,000 feet. What do you say to the argument that it would be too divisive for the country to prosecute a former president?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think that our country is a country that has gone through different periods of time where the unthinkable has happened, and where there has been a call for justice, and justice has been served. And I think that’s potentially going to always be the case in our country that people are going to demand justice and they rightly do.

CHUCK TODD:

Have you thought about – have you thought through the scenarios that you might face on January 6, 2025?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Not at all. No. I mean, well, listen, what have I thought about? I have thought about the fact that, right now, we have an election in less than two months. And if we’re going to look at timelines, that’s one of the most immediate timelines that I’m looking at.

CHUCK TODD:

I know. But, I mean, have you thought about how you might handle a certification that did not reflect the outcome of the popular vote in the state?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I have to believe that the United States Congress and all the people who have taken an oath to defend our democracy will ensure and will stand up against anyone who tries to destroy or circumvent the rules and the practices and procedures that we’ve had in place that have allowed a peaceful transfer of power since the inception of our nation and the founding of our nation. And getting back to the ultimate point, that is – that is what we’re talking about when we think about January 6th. We have always had a peaceful transfer of power in our nation, no matter our differences, no matter how –

CHUCK TODD:

We can’t say that now, can we?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

– bloody-knuckled we’ve been in campaigns.

CHUCK TODD:

Can we say that now?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Well, certainly, we were on the verge of having a very different outcome. And the injury was still an injury for which we still are experiencing the wound.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back: More of my sit-down with the vice president, including what she thinks of the Supreme Court after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

[START TAPE]

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think this is an activist court.

CHUCK TODD:

What does that mean?

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, returning to my sit-down with Vice President Harris. We talked about the Supreme Court in its now 6-3 conservative majority. In its last term, the Court expanded gun rights, limited the government’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and of course, eliminated the right to an abortion. When I asked the vice president about her views on the Court, she had a ready answer.

[START TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

We have some polling that shows confidence in the Supreme Court is at its lowest level that we’ve measured in over 20 years. How much confidence do you have in the Supreme Court?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think this is an activist court.

CHUCK TODD:

What does that mean?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

It means that we had an established right for almost a half a century, which is the right of women to make decisions about their own body as an extension of what we have decided to be the privacy rights to which all people are entitled. And this court took that constitutional right away. And we are suffering as a nation because of it. That causes me great concern about the integrity of the Court overall, especially as someone who – my life was inspired by people like Thurgood Marshall, the work on that court of Earl Warren to bring a unanimous court to pass Brown v. Board of Education. This is the court that once – on once sat Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor. It’s a very different court.

CHUCK TODD:

There’s a bill in the Senate, Senator Kaine and Senator Collins are working on that they say would essentially codify what Roe was, protect a right to abortion at 24 weeks, and include some religious exemptions. Is that, if that’s the bill that can pass the Senate, are you okay with it?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I’d have to read it and see. The details obviously matter.

CHUCK TODD:

Some abortion rights groups have not been as, as, as high on it as the other bill that didn’t get Susan Collins’ support. This one should get Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. Is it more important for the Senate to find some Republican votes here?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Ideally, we codify Roe, we put into law a protection for what I believe is a constitutional right for women to make these decisions, and it would be bipartisan. Ideally, yes, it would be bipartisan.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe the government should put any limit on abortion?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I believe government should not be telling women what to do with their bodies. I believe government should not be telling women how to plan their families. I believe government should not be criminalizing health care providers. I believe government should not be saying “no exception for rape or incest.” As a prosecutor, former prosecutor, who specialized in child sexual assault cases, understanding the violence that occurs against women and children, and then to further subject them to those kind of inhumane conditions – that’s what I believe.

CHUCK TODD:

Final topic here. Since we’re here in Texas, I want to ask you about the border. Would you call the border secure?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I think that there is no question that we have to do what the president and I asked Congress to do, the first request we made: pass a bill to create a pathway to citizenship. The border is secure, but we also have a broken immigration system, in particular, over the last four years before we came in, and it needs to be fixed.

CHUCK TODD:

We’re going to have two million people cross this border for the first time ever. You’re confident this border’s secure?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

We have a secure border in that that is a priority for any nation, including ours and our administration. But there are still a lot of problems that we are trying to fix given the deterioration that happened over the last four years. We also have to put into place a law and a plan for a pathway for citizenship for the millions of people who are here and are prepared to do what is legally required to gain citizenship. We don’t have that in place because people are playing politics in a state like this and in Congress. By the way, you want to talk about bipartisanship on an issue that at one time was a bipartisan issue both in terms of Republican senators and even presidents.

CHUCK TODD:

Right now, our – one of our inflationary problems is we don’t have enough labor, particularly in the service economy.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Yeah, you’re right. You’re right.

CHUCK TODD:

A solution on immigration reform that increased particularly lower wage job labor – lower wage labor could actually have an impact on lowering inflation. How is that not the motivating force to get something done here?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I do believe that, for all reasonable people, all reasonable people are motivated and desirous that we would get something done. I think a big part of the problem though is that there’s been political gamesmanship with this issue suggesting that it’s a zero sum game. If you want to deal with the issue, there are practical solutions, which include creating a pathway to citizenship, fixing a broken immigration system, dealing with the root causes of why people are fleeing their home when most people don’t want to leave home. And if they do, it’s usually because they’re fleeing some harm, or they simply can’t take care of their basic needs if they stay. There are solutions. And sadly, this has become such a partisan issue, instead of something where we work on it together, agreeing that what we’re doing is not working as a nation. It’s not working.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, there’s more to come, including Vice President Harris’s plans for 2024, but when we come back, we’ll get some reaction from our panel to this interview, so stay with us.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here: Yamiche Alcindor, moderator of Washington Week on PBS; Amy Walter, the editor-in-chief of the Cook Political Report; Republican political consultant Matt Gorman; and former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. Welcome, all. So I’ll shut up. Yamiche, initial reaction to the interview.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

My initial reaction to the interview is that she really wanted to get across how concerned she is about the state of the country. She talked about what she called the activist court in the Supreme Court. But she also talked about, sort of the fact that it’s a shame – that’s the word that she used – when you think about election deniers being elected all over this country and the state of democracy. I was very struck by the fact that she said she didn’t have an experience with the idea that 70% of Republicans don’t believe that she and President Biden were fairly elected. And that she hadn’t really thought about 2025, what she would do if she was presented with election results that didn’t reflect what the people had voted on because, as someone who’s been out on the campaign trail, I can tell you that a lot of Republicans around this country, and especially the ones that are showing up to campaign rallies, they do not believe that she and President Biden were elected fairly. It’s a big, big issue. It’s a divisive one. But it’s one that’s real. So those polls, I see that on the ground when I’m reporting. But you can tell that the vice president absolutely is really concerned about that and hopes that this country can figure out how to move forward.

AMY WALTER:

Yeah. But doesn’t that also – It melds perfectly with the case that President Biden is trying to make in this election, which is, the folks who do believe that the election was stolen or overturned, they are a minority. We are bigger than they are, right? Uniting the soul of America, that piece of the conversation. So it in some ways is a way to react to suggestions that that speech was too divisive, right? By calling semi-fascism and MAGA America, we’re really separating a very small portion of the Republican Party from the bigger American electorate. That maybe 70% of Americans say they believe this, but I don’t buy that. I buy that we’re stronger than that, we’re more united than that.

CHUCK TODD:

I got the impression she didn’t like having to define semi-fascism.

MATT GORMAN:

No. And to your point though, I think it reminded me and it pointed out that this whole strategy it seems from Biden – the strategy is very ham-handed. He goes and says, “Everyone’s a semi-fascist,” walks it back. MAGA, “Well, not everybody’s MAGA.” And now you have her seeming to walk this back. It’s totally incongruous. And look, again, I think all of that rings hollow if, you know, as you asked it, they’re boosting these candidates who are “threats to democracy” in Senate primaries across the country. So if you’re so concerned about that, what about Colorado Senate, New Hampshire Senate right now? Peter Meijer voted to impeach Trump. Well, he’s going to be gone. So it rings hollow.

CHUCK TODD:

Claire?

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Well, first of all, I thought she did a terrific job in the interview. I think she has had a rough road to go. I remember distinctly, Chuck, being in the cloakroom in the first two years of the Biden vice presidency, and how many of my colleagues were looking down their noses at Joe Biden.

CHUCK TODD:

Mock him, right?

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Mocking him, you know? There is – it’s a hard, hard job, the vice presidency. It’s even harder, I think, if you are a woman in that job who is seen as an opponent by a lot of the insiders in Washington for the presidency. And so there’s a lot of chattering behind the scenes of trying to dis Kamala Harris. I think this interview shows that maybe all the dissing of Kamala Harris is way premature. I think she did a good job and stood strong.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to point out the court stuff because this was coincidental, but we heard from the chief justice, John Roberts, on Friday about this issue of court legitimacy. You heard what she called the Court. Here’s his defense.

[BEGIN TAPE]

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS:

The Court has always decided controversial cases. The decisions have always been subject to intense criticism ,and that is entirely appropriate. But I don’t understand the connection between opinions that people disagree with and the legitimacy of the Court.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Claire, I’m going to let you go first on this one. I – this is one you’re, like, “I guess he did not follow the confirmation process.”

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

He’s so, so out of touch. I mean, this – really, this interview shows why the numbers for the Supreme Court are so bad. For him to say something like that, he just doesn’t get it. You don’t take away a right that has been around for 50 years, and then you don’t have a party go to the extremes of trying to make sure rape victims have to have forced birth. You don’t do all that and not have it splash back on the Supreme Court. And they all said they respected precedent when they were confirmed. I heard them. America heard them. Clearly, they didn’t. And you know – you can feel me getting angry at John Roberts right now because he knows better when he says that stuff.

CHUCK TODD:

He’s trying to defend the Court, and I do think he – it gets harder and harder for him.

MATT GORMAN:

It does. And look, that was his mission when he came in. He wanted to try and depoliticize the Court. But look, is the Court more politicized, or are we? If we had upheld Roe, if the Court had upheld Roe, you wouldn’t be hearing that. I think activism really is lying in the eye of the beholder right now. And we’re in a situation where, if you don’t like it, then it’s really not about the decision, it’s about the legitimacy.

CHUCK TODD:

Is court – by the way, is court a better issue than abortion specifically?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Is court a better issue than abortion? I will say that when I talk to women out on the campaign trail, they’re both attacking the Court and attacking the fact that they feel like they do not have the rights to their body that they had for 50 years. And I’m talking about Republican women because I’ve been surprised at the number of Republican women, especially young Republican women, who have come up to me and said, “I voted for President Trump, former President Trump, but I now feel like this big government is in my doctor’s office, and I will now, for the first time, be voting for a Democrat.” I’ve heard that in Ohio, in Missouri, in Michigan, in other places because women in this country, I feel this passion and this anger from them. And it cuts across political lines.

AMY WALTER:

Well, that’s the thing. We’ve been throwing around the term “pro-life” and “pro-choice” forever without really —

CHUCK TODD:

These are meaningless.

AMY WALTER:

They are meaningless terms.

CHUCK TODD:

They are meaningless labels now. Yes.

AMY WALTER:

The number of women that I have heard too who say, “Well, I’m pro-life, but I didn’t think that meant no exceptions. I of course wanted an exception for that.” And even pro-choice. “I’m pro-choice, but I do also believe in some of these restrictions, right? There should be some sort of framework here.” So I think again we’ve been debating this in a way that voters don’t talk about it.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, do you think the GOP’s got to change how they’re talking about this?

MATT GORMAN:

I don’t think it’s an issue in 2020 at all. I mean, I talk to Republicans every day who see these internal polls. It is not in the top four of issues. Even look at your poll last month. It was 8%. It was under climate change as an issue.

CHUCK TODD:

Don’t you think that democracy, though, is sharing some of those – that those who concerned about the abortion decision, maybe are in the democracy category?

MATT GORMAN:

I don’t know how the question was phrased, but I think with abortion and threats to democracy, we tend to connote it with, “Okay, that’s Democratic base, angry at Trump, or it’s pro-choice, angry at the decision.” Not necessarily the case. That could be a single-issue voter on abortion who’s so thankful, you know, pro-life, or folks in the Republican base think Biden’s on the way to socialism.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

I can just say that, as someone who’s been out on the campaign trail, even if you ask a voter right now about health care or about the state of democracy, abortion comes up 90% of the time. And I think that to say it’s not an issue I think is very interesting to hear because, just as someone who’s out there reporting, abortion is absolutely an issue, along with inflation, along with the threat –

MATT GORMAN:

It’s not borne out in data. It’s just not. It’s not borne out in data.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

I hope, I hope, I hope Matt keeps saying that everywhere he goes, that abortion really isn’t an issue in this election. I think that is exactly what infuriates women when they hear that. You’re asked in a poll what’s the most important issue, you may not be comfortable saying abortion. But if you say to a woman, “We are now in your state,” like they are in my state, forcing incest victims to give birth, when you are having doctors having to make life and death decisions around whether they go to prison or whether they take care of their patient, that is motivating voters, and it will in November.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I think an underrated headline from this interview is her declaration on the filibuster. Do you think: two seats, it’s dead?

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

I think the filibuster is on life support. And I think if the Democrats pick up more seats, I think it will probably go away. And frankly, I think it’ll probably go away if the Republicans take control.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you concur with that?

MATT GORMAN:

I mean, they should change the filibuster right before the election. You know, the polls look pretty good for Republicans. It could. But I think it would be a massive mistake because, again, they overreach on this and the pendulum goes right back. And, without a filibuster, Republicans will take back the Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

Amy, we know how this town works. You can take it away for two issues. The other side’s going to say, “Eh, forget it. All of it.”

AMY WALTER:

Yes, you can’t. This idea that there’s a carve out, that is impossible. It’s either there or it’s not there.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. When we come back, we’re going to get a little hint at Vice President Harris’ plans for 2024 and beyond. Stay with us.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. There is always speculation around a vice president of the United States that he — or she — would like to lose the word “vice” from their title and become president someday. Kamala Harris is no exception to that speculation, particularly since Joe Biden is the oldest president in American history. So, naturally I asked her about what she sees as her future:

[START TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

2024. Should we expect some form of an announcement from the president and yourself after the midterms, right after the midterms, in a traditional – sort of that traditional timeframe?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

You’re talking about the election?

CHUCK TODD:

The election. Yeah.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Listen, the president has been very clear that he intends to run again. And if he does, I will be running with him proudly.

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you say “probably?”

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

I said proudly.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, “proudly.” I’m sorry, I thought – I thought I heard “probably.” I don’t want to get that – that would create problems.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Proudly.

CHUCK TODD:

Proudly.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Proudly. I’m very proud to be his vice president.

CHUCK TODD:

There is no job description, technically, other than tie-breaker vote in the Senate, which you’re now the record holder – move over John Adams – when it comes to tie-breaking votes in the Senate.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Who would have thought –

CHUCK TODD:

That you’d break John Adams’ record?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

– that this kid born in Oakland, California just broke a record with John Adams.

CHUCK TODD:

I think that’s –

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Kind of, you’ve got to appreciate that.

CHUCK TODD:

That’s pretty interesting. But the one who was the very first one. How do you prepare in case of the worst – the worst case scenario that your job may hand you? How do you prepare for that?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Well, I pray that it does not. And listen, I think that there is no question that the role and the responsibility of vice president is a very important one. And Joe Biden knows that more than anybody. He and I talk about it. And it is the job of working with the president, doing what I can to be a great partner, to take on and help take on some of the biggest issues that impact our country, both domestically and in terms of foreign policy. And so that’s the work that I do. So that has been the work of meeting with over a hundred heads of state around various issues, be it Ukraine or what we need to do around our space program. So that is the work of vice president, and it is important and it is something that I take very seriously.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you one final question, and it’s a little off the beaten path, but it’s about Jackson, Mississippi.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, and it’s more of a, “Here we are, the United States of America.”

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

This is a capital city of one of our fifty states.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

And it’s tragic what’s happening.

CHUCK TODD:

And there’s no –

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

It’s tragic.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, state, city, federal, everybody’s let these people down, haven’t they?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

Well, I’ve talked to the mayor, Lumumba, and the president has talked to him, and we have – the governor there has declared a state of emergency. We’re, FEMA is sending in –

CHUCK TODD:

Well, everyone is trying now.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

And –

CHUCK TODD:

But isn’t that the frustration? It’s now.

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS:

However, that was – it is a Jackson, Mississippi that is an example of why we were pushing for the infrastructure law that now is the law of the land. So that we are sending billions of dollars to places like Jackson to upgrade what is a decaying infrastructure across our country. And so that’s why talking to you earlier about what we’re doing here in Houston on, on, on a through way called Telephone Road. What we’re doing on I-40, in North Carolina, because this is the work that needs to get done. And so, help is coming because we actually came into office knowing that generations of leaders have been talking about fixing America’s infrastructure and failed. And we actually got it done.

CHUCK TODD:

You can see my entire interview with Vice President Kamala Harris without edits, including what she says about her relationship with President Biden, that will be on our website: meetthepress.com. Also we have another programming note for you. We’re running a season four – a marathon of our half-hour magazine show “Meet the Press Reports.” That will begin today at 6PM Eastern on NBC News NOW. So check that out. And, good news: season five of “Meet the Press Reports” premiers this Thursday at 10:30 Eastern on NBC News NOW. When we come back: Independent voters will likely hold the key to November’s midterm elections, particularly in the state of Arizona. Up next, I spoke to some of those Arizona Independents. They shared their thoughts on President Biden… and a Republican Party that’s increasingly in Donald Trump’s image.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is back with us. I had a pretty busy week. Before I flew to Houston to interview Vice President Harris, I went to the battleground state of Arizona to report on the many races there this November. In some ways, this is sort of the center of election denialism on the GOP side of things. And with more than 70% of voters we’ve polled saying the country is on the wrong track, it wasn’t surprising to hear these Arizona Independent voters feeling pretty sour about the state of our politics. Here’s what they had to say about the Republican Party.

[BEGIN TAPE]

KARILYN VAN OOSTEN:

As a whole, I just — I don’t recognize that party anymore.

AL BELL:

What they’re really promoting is not effective programs or strategies to fix our problems. They’re promoting distrust.

AMY JENSEN:

A more perfect union. That – really, that necessitates compromise and discussion and listening. And I don’t see that from a lot of the candidates on the ticket.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Amy Walter, I came away — this is, you know, Arizona’s fascinating. For – first of all, these voters were almost more focused on the secretary of state race with me than they were their Senate race or their gubernatorial race on that front. But I came away believing Mark Kelly is stronger than I thought and so is Kari Lake.

AMY WALTER:

Right. And it’s — being on television, as she — Kari Lake, being a former TV anchor for, what was it, 20 years? There is a sense from voters that, “I know this person. And whatever’s being said about them in attack ads, et cetera, well, maybe that’s true, but maybe it’s just politics. She can’t be like that because she’s been in my living room for the last 20 years.” So she has a benefit there. But, look, I think this is what’s really fascinating about Arizona. It’s a swing state that never — the voters there didn’t really expect to be a swing state.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

AMY WALTER:

And the two parties haven’t accepted quite yet that it’s a swing state, especially the Republican Party —

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

AMY WALTER:

— that is run by folks very much on the extreme. And so they continue to support —

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

AMY WALTER:

— promote candidates who can’t win the middle. Now, Kari Lake may be an exception to this, but the kinds of candidates that are coming out, especially on the Senate side —

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

AMY WALTER:

— are the candidates that can’t win those Independent voters.

CHUCK TODD:

Matt, this voter panel should panic you because two of those three, were, were, basically, they’re Republicans. They’re Paul Ryan Republicans. They were that wing of the party.

AMY WALTER:

John McCain Republicans.

CHUCK TODD:

John McCain Republicans. And they’re, like, “I’m out of this.”

MATT GORMAN:

So you watch that in a vacuum and you say, “Well, Kari Lake has to be down ten.” And you’re right. And you see the polls, and it’s neck-and-neck. And I think there are three countervailing forces that have — make it to equilibrium. To your point, they’re not ready for it to be a swing state yet. They don’t have the Democratic bank. Kelly came out of nowhere. He was a celebrity. Sinema is a political talent. I’ll give her that. But Katie Hobbs is not a good candidate. And you combine that with, I think in the state we have economy and border security on our side as an issue. And also, we lose some of those white suburban voters, but we’re gaining in Latino voters as well. So you have those three forces. It counterbalances a lot of that.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. Claire, Arizona’s fascinating when you have — I do think it’s also a Libertarian state.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Yep.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, abortion is — it is — there are so many odd crosscurrents. And I think we’re going to learn a lot.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Well, I, you know, maybe not. Maybe we’ll learn that candidates matter, which is not a new concept.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Maybe we’ll learn that extremes are not healthy for general elections. And I don’t think that’s a new thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

I think more importantly, what we’re going to see, and this is what I really do believe, is that will we defy history by having the kind of turnout with the party who holds power and holds the presidency, will we have the kind of turnout that we never have in midterms? That’s what everybody should be looking at, I think, because, you know, the old saying about midterms: It’s all about who shows up.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

And that’s what’s the struggle with midterms, is getting people to the polls. And I think we have more motivation on the Democratic side this year than anybody anticipated we would have.

CHUCK TODD:

There is — it feels a lot more like a ’98, like, odd scenario that we had there. Yamiche, let me play for you — I did ask them about 2024 and President Biden. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

2024, Joe Biden, should he run?

KARIL VAN OOSTEN:

I don’t think so.

AMY JENSEN:

Yeah.

KARIL VAN OOSTEN:

I honestly don’t think so.

CHUCK TODD:

Wow. You guys are all “no”s.

KARIL VAN OOSTEN:

No.

AMY JENSEN:

I’m a bit on the fence because I’m not too sure who’s going to fill the spot.

KARIL VAN OOSTEN:

That’s the challenge.

AMY JENSEN:

And I think that was the reason why I voted for him in the first place, is it was a safer middle ground to kind of pull us away from the extremism we were tending toward on either side.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche, I wanted to play that clip because I wanted to also remind people these really are Independent voters. There is this — and in Arizona, they really have been turned off by both parties. But the Biden situation, you know, I’ve asked this question to swing voters all over the country. Some of them are Democrats, some are Independents, and they’ve all said the same answer. They all think he’s too old to run again.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Well, the key issue will be whether or not them thinking President Biden is too old outweighs them thinking that the future of our democracy is on the line. And when I talk to voters, they are — even if, even Democrats who say, you know, “Biden, he’s a little slower. He’s a little bit quieter. I’m not sure if I want to back him,” when they think about the state of our democracy, they’re, like, “Well, that’s the bigger issue here.” In our NBC poll, we saw people say that the sort of threats to democracy are their number one thing, even above cost of living. So I think if you’re a Democrat, even if you’re Joe Biden looking at this and saying, “Okay, I understand people think maybe I should be a little bit more lively,” you’re still thinking they say — they use the words “unrecognizable,” “distrust” and that there should be some compromise. Those are words that I think are probably worse for Republicans, especially when you think of while we might have a minority of Republicans who don’t believe that 2020 was was fair, they’re the people with the loudest voices, right? They’re the people who are still winning the elections. That’s where the candidates are. And I think that that, to me, is probably signaling that Republicans have a bigger problem here.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Claire, I think it was Amy Jensen, I think is her name, the, the the middle woman in our group there. I found what she said, “Well, it depends on what the other side is doing,” right? Her vote for Biden was exactly the premise that Biden ran on, which is he knew there were people like her that would vote for him, maybe not vote for a more progressive Democrat, but would vote for him because of Trump.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

And that’s what I think his Philadelphia speech was about. I think it was all about trying to invite the Amys of America —

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

— into the tent.

CHUCK TODD:

Not that Amy, right?

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Not that Amy –

CHUCK TODD:

Right, right. Yes.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

— the Amy that you interviewed in Arizona. I think that’s what it was about. But I will tell you, I do think the Democratic Party is struggling with an issue that is real. And that is that all of our leadership, and I say this as somebody who’s ancient, you know —

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

— a lot of old folks are running the Democratic Party now in every part of the Democratic Party. I think the Democratic Party will benefit from really doing some navel-gazing about how can we get more young people to the forefront because young people are going to be really important to us in 2024.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, ironically, Matt, if Republicans have a good election night, particularly on the House side, it’s actually going to be because it does seem like House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy’s campaign arm, really went after a diverse set of candidates.

MATT GORMAN:

They did a phenomenal job recruiting —

CHUCK TODD:

Not like the Senate side. The House side is in a much better place —

MATT GORMAN:

House side really went after it. I mean, I think a good story, a good candidate, is worth about two points on the ballot. And look, you want to talk about fundraising, we had about 20 candidates back in 2020 raise a million dollars through July 2020. Now, we have over 90. So it’s not only good on the ballot, it helps you raise money too.

CHUCK TODD:

Boy, it’s amazing how poor the Senate Republican candidates are compared to the House candidates.

AMY WALTER:

The class. And yet, and yet —

CHUCK TODD:

And yet.

AMY WALTER:

— no matter what happens on Election Day this year, it is not going to impact the views of Donald Trump, right? If the Senate stays in Democratic hands, even though every single one of those Senate — Republican Senate candidates was endorsed by Donald Trump, I do not think that that’s going to make a reassessment —

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

AMY WALTER:

— of whether Donald Trump should be on the ballot in 2024.

CHUCK TODD:

Even though in every other political election —

AMY WALTER:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

— we’ve ever covered, that actually has mattered.

AMY WALTER:

That actually matters.

CHUCK TODD:

But with him, it defies it. Yeah.

AMY WALTER:

But it didn’t — it didn’t matter in 2021. Didn’t matter in 2022. Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

And this Amy has the last word. That’s all we have for today. Thank you for watching. We’ll be back next week because if it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.



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