MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday: Attorney General Eric Holder sits down for his first live Sunday morning interview. The question, what does the attempted bombing in Times Square say about the new face of terror? And what do you do to stop a homegrown threat?
Then, our political roundtable weighs in; the oil spill in the Gulf, the economy and immigration. Is the government doing too much or not enough? With us, New York Times columnist David Brooks, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, the BBC's Katty Kay, and Wes Moore, author of the new book, "The Other Wes Moore." Finally, a look back in our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE 21 years ago. Another massive oil spill in U.S. waters, and the questions: Who cleans it up? And who pays?
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
Good morning. The president is close to making a decision on a Supreme Court nominee. Over the weekend, aides prepared Mr. Obama with materials and their final recommendations, clearing the way for the president to now make his choice to replace retiring Justice Stevens. Here with us now, the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder.
Welcome to the program.
MR. ERIC HOLDER: Good to be here.
MR. GREGORY: My apologies for my voice, I'm under the weather. I'll keep my distance.
MR. HOLDER: All right.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about that Supreme Court choice. The president will make this decision, will announce this decision as soon as when?
MR. HOLDER: I think the decision will be announced very shortly. The president has had a wealth of good candidates to consider, and I think he's looking for a person who will understand that we have to have a Supreme Court that understands its decisions and the impact those decisions have on the American--the average American person.
MR. GREGORY: An announcement tomorrow?
MR. HOLDER: I think we're going to have an announcement very soon.
MR. GREGORY: Very soon. As early as tomorrow, is that fair?
MR. HOLDER: I'd say we're going to have one very soon.
MR. GREGORY: One of the people that you work closely with, of course, is thought to be one of the finalists, and that's Elena Kagan, the solicitor general of the United States. She's 50 years old, she was a former dean of Harvard Law School. She doesn't have much of a paper trail. Is it reasonable to expect that we can get an understanding of her judicial philosophy given that background?
MR. HOLDER: Oh, yeah. I think that she's done a great job as solicitor general, the first woman to ever hold that job, the first woman to be the dean of the Harvard Law School. I think people have a--will get an understanding of who she is, what her judicial, judicial philosophy is, if, in fact, she is, is the pick. She's done a wonderful job in the Justice Department. I've known her since the Clinton years, and I think she would be a great justice.
MR. GREGORY: Let me move on to the Times Square plot. The suspect involved here is Faisal Shahzad, who is responsible, you have said, for planting a bomb that did not go off in Times Square. The important question now is whether Shahzad is part of the ongoing jihadist campaign against the United States.
MR. HOLDER: I can say that the evidence that we've now developed shows that the Pakistani Taliban has directed this plot. We know that they helped facilitate it, we know that we helped--they helped direct it, and I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence that shows they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot.
MR. GREGORY: Now, the Pakistani Taliban is a militant organization that has pulled off huge terror plots within Pakistan, thought to be behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. What specifically was done here and over what period of time that they would plan to do something rather unusual, which is an external operation against the United States?
MR. HOLDER: Well, this is an ongoing investigation, there's only so much that I can talk about, but I am comfortable in saying that they were involved in what Shahzad tried to do. And I think that's an indication of the new threat that we face, these terrorist organizations, these affiliates of al-Qaeda or--these organizations are somehow connected to the kinds of things that al-Qaeda wants to do, indicates the worldwide concerns that we have to have if we're going to be effective.
MR. GREGORY: Well, before I ask you about that changing face of terror, is it a danger when you have officials like Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano saying, at this very table last week, that this appeared to be a one-off attack, or the general of Central Command, David Petraeus saying that Shahzad appeared to be a lone wolf, and now you're saying no, this was part of a, a Pakistani Taliban plot?
MR. HOLDER: Well, you know, the evidence develops, and I think we have to always try to be careful to make sure that the statements that we make is consistence with the evidence that we have developed. And it certainly looked, I think, at the beginning of this investigation, like it could have been a one-off. Over the course of this week, we've developed information, we've developed evidence that shows that the involved--shows the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban.
MR. GREGORY: Was there an attempt to falsely reassure the public?
MR. HOLDER: No, that's not it at all. I think that those, those comments--that certainly was my view at least, I think, initially that that was probably what we were, were dealing with, but as the days have passed and as we've had a chance to investigate, we've come to the conclusion that I've just announced.
MR. GREGORY: What kind of cooperation are you--we getting from Pakistan with regard to tracking down those elements who might be responsible and how high up within the Pakistani Taliban organization does this go?
MR. HOLDER: Well, again, I don't want to get in to too much of the ongoing investigation, but I am satisfied with the help that we've gotten from our Pakistani counterparts. I think they have done an awful lot; they have been aggressive. Do we want them to do more? Yes. And we will be making more requests of them in the coming days.
MR. GREGORY: What happened to this guy, Shahzad? He's an American, he's living happily here with his family, and then he starts traveling back and forth to Pakistan, leaves his family over there and comes back and lives a very different life. How does he get radicalized, if that's what happened?
MR. HOLDER: That's not something that we fully understand yet. He is in the process of cooperating with us. He's talking to people who are interviewing him on behalf of the United States government. And part of that is to try to understand what is it that took him over the edge and that converted him from being a person who seemingly was an average American to somebody who was bound and determined to kill Americans. We are in the process of trying to determine that.
MR. GREGORY: Why doesn't he get on the radar screen earlier? If he is ferrying money, as we know, back and forth over a number of years, if you think the Taliban is providing him with money when he's living--when he comes back to the U.S. in pretty modest means, how does he not get on the radar at a time when we know that law enforcement here and intelligence officials are tracking people who go back and forth to Pakistan?
MR. HOLDER: Well, that's one of the things that we're looking at, to see if he was, in fact, in any of our databases and to see what we knew about him before the events of, of last week. Again, the investigation is ongoing, he is cooperating with us, and we think, through the combination of what we're doing and what he is telling us, we'll get a better, better sense of who he is and, and who he was.
MR. GREGORY: Look at this changing face of terror. We put up on the screen some of the people who have been involved in recent plots. You have Najibullah Nazi***(as spoken)***involved in that New York subway plot, an American citizen; Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood massacre, also a U.S.-born Army psychiatrist; then you have Hussain and other students from northern Virginia who go and are arrested in Pakistan; December 2009, Abdulmutallab, he's a Nigerian, but he had a visa to the United States; in March of this year, Colleen Larose, she was called "Jihad Jane" for a, a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist, she's from Pennsylvania; and then Shahzad. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC this week there is a pattern here. Here's how he described it. We put that on the screen. He said, "This is why they are recruiting people who ... have clean records, are American citizens, have lived in America, because they want to take advantage of that cleanliness as a way of invading our defenses." We have a new attempt here to use people who have easy access to the U.S.
MR. HOLDER: Yeah. I mean, you certainly hear from them that they're looking for people, as they call it, people with "clean skins." They're trying to get people into the country or use people who don't fit any kind of a profile or not people who you might expect to be involved in these kinds of activities. And that's why we have to redouble our efforts in terms of intelligence-gathering to make sure that we are fully cognizant of what is it they're planning to do, who are they trying to use in, in coming up with these plots? It makes our job more difficult, not one that we can't do, but certainly makes it more difficult.
MR. GREGORY: How many people right now are we tracking who are going back and forth to Pakistan?
MR. HOLDER: Well, 200,000 people per year go back and forth between the United States and Pakistan, and we're doing a, a fair amount of monitoring with regard to, to that number.
MR. GREGORY: When, in this context, when is racial profiling illegal?
MR. HOLDER: Well, I'm not sure--I don't even talk about whether or not racial profiling is legal, I just don't think racial profiling is a particularly good law enforcement tool. If one focuses on particular groups, that necessarily means you're taking law enforcement away from places where they probably ought to be, especially given...
MR. GREGORY: But what happened in this case?
MR. HOLDER: Well...
MR. GREGORY: Wasn't it racial profiling that led us to ultimately get the most important piece of information from this guy, which was a telephone number that he uses in the plot because he was held aside from for a second screening earlier this year?
MR. HOLDER: No. What led us to him was good normal law enforcement. Looking at what people did tracking down that car, where did that car come from, who owned that car, who sold that car? Doing all the kinds of things that we do in traditional law enforcement without any resort to, to racial profiling.
MR. GREGORY: But where is the line, Mr. Attorney General? Because, I mean, this is very complicated. If you have U.S. citizens who are being used who are going back and forth to Pakistan--we are tracking people from Pakistan and Yemen for reasons that are relevant, that are germane to law enforcement not because they just happen to be Pakistani. So where is the line when you talk about profiling?
MR. HOLDER: Again, I don't think that profiling is good law enforcement. What you want to do is to see people who are going back and forth, what, in fact, are they doing? Are they bringing substantial amounts of cash back and forth? What are they doing when they're over in Pakistan, when they're in Yemen? What are they doing here in the United States? Is there a predicate, is there a basis for us to believe that we ought to focus our law enforcement attention on them? Not based on the basis of the color of their skin or the kind of name that they have, but on the basis of what it is that they do?
MR. GREGORY: So if a Pakistani, who is a U.S. citizen, is coming back from Pakistan today and a white woman from Pennsylvania is coming back from Pakistan, you're telling me that at the airports they ought not pay more careful attention to the Pakistani?
MR. HOLDER: You ought to pay attention to the person who you have a suspicion about, a person who you have a basis to believe wants to do harm to our nation. If you look at the arrest that we made in Pennsylvania of white women, those were people who were bound and determined to do something very negative with regard to the United States...
MR. GREGORY: Do you...
MR. HOLDER: ...and racial profiling would not have picked those people up.
MR. GREGORY: Do you support stripping American citizenship from those who are thought to be involved in terrorist activity?
MR. HOLDER: You know, that's something that Senator Lieberman has proposed. I've really not had a chance to look at the bill that I guess he is in the process of, of putting together. But I do know that using just traditional law enforcement techniques we can put people in jail for extended periods of time, we can put them in jail for the rest of their lives, we can even execute them. I think there are constitutional concerns with the bill that Senator Lieberman is proposing.
MR. GREGORY: You issued a Miranda warning to Shahzad, the right to remain silent, at which point a lot of defendants, suspects could get a lawyer. You did that after eight hours and after you had already gotten him talking. There's criticism about injecting the possibility that a suspect will not provide intelligence if you give them that Miranda warning. Take me through that process of what the balancing test is before Miranda is actually issued.
MR. HOLDER: Well, I wouldn't say that we talked to him for eight hours without giving his Miranda warnings, but aside from that what you do is you use the public safety exception that the Supreme Court has defined to make sure that there are no immediate threats.
MR. GREGORY: The quote/unquote "ticking time bomb" scenario.
MR. HOLDER: Ticking time bomb. And then you make the determination whether or not it is appropriate, whether you think that giving Miranda warnings to that person is going to stop the flow of information or whether the flow of information will continue, and you make the determination. In this particular case, is it more important for us to get intelligence from this person, or is it more important for us to build the case? One of the things that we have certainly seen is that the giving of Miranda warnings has not stopped these terror suspects from talking to us. They have continued to talk even though we have given them a Miranda warning.
MR. GREGORY: Is that still the case here with Shahzad?
MR. HOLDER: It's clearly the case. He was given his Miranda warnings after the public safety exception questioning was finished, and he has talked to us and he continues to talk to us.
MR. GREGORY: But would you like interrogators to have more flexibility?
MR. HOLDER: I think we have to look at the rules that we have and look at the situation that we now confront. The public safety exception was really based on a robbery that occurred back in the '80s and something to do with a supermarket. We're now dealing with international terrorists, and I think that we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face.
MR. GREGORY: So let me, let me unpack that a little bit. What you'd like to see happen is that Congress would pass a law that would say to judges, "Hey, look, in this environment if we extract information that could be valuable intelligence about another terror plot, about who they're involved in, whether they're connected to the Pakistani Taliban, we want to get all that without them lawyering up and still be able to use that against them in the court of law." And you need more flexibility to do that, you think.
MR. HOLDER: Yeah. We certainly need more flexibility, and we want the public safety exception to be consistent with the public safety concerns that we now have in the 21st century as opposed to the public safety concerns that we had back in the 1980s.
MR. GREGORY: So that's news. I mean, that's an important development. Would you work with Congress to try to get that new law passed?
MR. HOLDER: Yeah. We want to work with Congress to come up with a way in which we make our public safety exception more flexible and, again, more consistent with the threat that we face. And yes, this is, in fact, big news. This is a proposal that we're going to be making and that we want to work with Congress about.
MR. GREGORY: So a new priority for the administration.
MR. HOLDER: It is a new priority.
MR. GREGORY: Will Shahzad be tried in civilian court?
MR. HOLDER: We will see. I suspect that he will. We have developed information that I think we can use in a civilian court. It's not even sure at this point whether or not there'll even have to be a trial.
MR. GREGORY: OK. But if there is a trial, it's not a decision you've made 100 percent yet.
MR. HOLDER: No. But I suspect he'd be in the civilian court.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about another decision you haven't made yet with regard to a trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind 9/11. You announced that he would be in a civilian trial in New York. And when you made that announcement back in November, this is what you said.
(Videotape, November 13, 2009)
MR. HOLDER: For over 200 years our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims. Once again, we will ask our legal system in two venues to rise to that challenge. I am confident that it will answer the call with fairness and with justice.
MR. GREGORY: Fairness and justice. That same month you were asked what happens if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is acquitted, and this is what you said.
(Videotape, November 18, 2009)
MR. HOLDER: If there were the possibility that a trial was not successful, that would not mean that that person would be released into, into our country. That would--that is not a possibility.
MR. GREGORY: So, if he's acquitted, he would not be released. How is that consistent, Mr. Attorney General, with fairness and justice that you believe in of our system?
MR. HOLDER: Well, he certainly would be provided fairness and justice with regard to the trial that would occur. And with regard to the outcome of that trial, we have--if--and if he were acquitted, what I was trying to say that there are other mechanisms that we have that we might employ, immigration laws that we could use, the possibility of detaining him under the wars of law. There are a variety of things that we can do in order to protect the American people, and that is the thing that I keep uppermost in my mind.
MR. GREGORY: But, but if he's acquitted and the United States says we will not let him free, then what is the point of having a trial?
MR. HOLDER: Well, there are other charges that are--that could be brought against him in addition to those he would stand accused of with regard to the 9/11 plot. There are a variety of other things that he could be tried for. And I think we can provide him with fairness and with justice in the systems that we now have in place.
MR. GREGORY: But you said, with regard to any KSM trial, failure is not an option, and yet you know full well you send prosecutors into court every day in this country knowing that there is plenty of uncertainty. Paul McNulty, the former deputy attorney general, said earlier this year with regard to the Moussaoui prosecution, he said, "The criminal justice process is not designed to guarantee any particular outcome. If that option (civilian court) is followed, we have to accept that it is unpredictable." A trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court is unpredictable, isn't it?
MR. HOLDER: Well, I'm confident that if we try him in a civilian court, given the evidence that we have amassed, given the experience of the prosecutors who would try the case, given the skills that they have, that we will stand a very, very good chance of, of convicting him.
MR. GREGORY: But that's not what you said. You said failure is not an option. You said he will not be released. And the broader criticism is, of you, that you say you believe in our civilian justice system. And you said when you became attorney general that "I'm going to stick to those principles even when it's hard." And yet, with all the political pressure to be tough on terrorists, you said "I believe in the system" at the same time you appear to be rewriting the rules of that system, which, ultimately, critics say, can undermine the system. Even with Shahzad, before he was charged, you held a press conference announcing that he had confessed. Shouldn't that be a concern to those who work with you and others who believe, as you say you do, in our civilian justice system?
MR. HOLDER: Well, I believe in the civilian justice system. I have certainly worked all my life in the civilian justice system. I have confidence in the civilian justice system's ability to handle these new threats that our, our, our country faces with regard to Shahzad, with regard to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I think that we have conducted ourselves in a way that's consistent with the best that is about our, our, our civilian justice system. I'm not--I don't think that I have to take back anything that I have said in the past. One of the things that we did with regard to that press conference was to get out there early to assure the American people generally and people in New York specifically that the person we thought was responsible for that attempted bombing was, in fact, in custody.
MR. GREGORY: Will KSM be tried in New York?
MR. HOLDER: We are still in the process of trying to decide where that trial will occur.
MR. GREGORY: What is the holdup? Everybody seems to be saying this is a foregone conclusion, it's never going to New York. Why won't you say that it won't be there?
MR. HOLDER: Well, we're taking a look at all of our options and trying to decide where the case can best be tried. There are federal statutes that we have to deal with that dictate where the case would have to occur if we're going to seek the death penalty, as I've indicated that we will. There are a variety of things that have to be taken into consideration, both--in addition to what I've talked about, we also have to take into account what the political leadership in these various jurisdictions wants, what the, what the people in these various...
MR. GREGORY: New York doesn't want it. New York doesn't have the resources for it. You just deployed all these FBI agents to catch Shahzad. What if they had to protect a trial of KSM? I mean, it's fairly clear that it doesn't belong in New York, according to elected officials and other law enforcement officials, and yet there is this basically inaction on this issue of where the trial is. Is this being overly politicized by this administration and by you?
MR. HOLDER: No, it's not being overly politicized. What we're trying to do is come up with the best decision that we can. We're taking our time, we're considering all of our options. We want to make sure that we put this trial in the place where it can best be held.
MR. GREGORY: Should it be a military tribunal?
MR. HOLDER: That is one of the things that we are in the process of trying to decide.
MR. GREGORY: Is it more likely that now than a civilian trial?
MR. HOLDER: No, I wouldn't say one is more likely than the other at this point. We are, as I said, working our way through this and, again, trying to come up with the best place for the trial to occur.
MR. GREGORY: But critics, including more progressive, liberal critics of this administration and of you say, "Look, you said there was going to be a civilian trial, you said you were going to close down Guantanamo, you announced that there would be five military tribunals when you made the announcement about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. What is the holdup? Gitmo is still open, there is no movement on military tribunals. And, by the way, what happens if you capture operatives on the battlefield somewhere overseas? You have nowhere to put them."
MR. HOLDER: Well, there are a variety of questions you put up--you've packed a lot into that one question.
MR. GREGORY: You can unpack it.
MR. HOLDER: There are a whole bunch of things that we have to do. First, with regard to Guantanamo, we're bound and determined to close Guantanamo. It is a place that has served as a recruiting tool for, for al-Qaeda, and so we're in the process of working our way through that. We've asked Congress, in the budget for the Justice Department for 2011, to give us the money necessary to buy a facility in Thompson, Illinois, and we would be able to close Guantanamo, transfer prisoners there. With regard to the selection of a trial site, that is something that we are working through with our law enforcement components, with the intelligence community, to try to come up with ways in which we can find the best place to try, to try the case.
MR. GREGORY: But you will stick to your belief in the civilian justice system. If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is acquitted in a U.S. court, will the United States let him free?
MR. HOLDER: We will consider our options at the conclusion of that unlikely event. As I said, there are other charges that can be brought. It is hard for me to imagine a situation in which he would be let free given all the evidence that we have against him with regard to the trial that we would bring, and then beyond that with regard to other charges that we have and other abilities that we have to try to keep him detained.
MR. GREGORY: Two other matters before we are out of time. Arizona: What is specifically wrong with the anti-immigration law that has been passed there, and are you close to filing a legal challenge to it?
MR. HOLDER: Well, one of the things I think we have to acknowledge is that our immigration system is broken in many ways, and I think it requires a national solution. The concern I have is trying to do it state by state. I understand the frustration of people in Arizona, but the concern I have about the law that they have passed is that I think it has the possibility of leading to racial profiling and putting a wedge between law enforcement and a community that would, in fact, be profiled. People in that community are less likely then to cooperate with people in law enforcement, less likely to share information, less likely to be witnesses in a case that law enforcement is trying to solve.
MR. GREGORY: So you're close to filing a legal challenge to it?
MR. HOLDER: We are considering all of our options, and we--one of the things that we are thinking about is the possibility of filing, filing a lawsuit. But we're considering all of our options at this point. Whether or not it is something that we can file a lawsuit based on federal pre-emption grounds, whether we think that the law as enacted could violate federal civil rights statutes.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Finally, on the issue of race, when you first became attorney general, you, you talked about the country being "a nation of cowards," and you said we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. Do you think that's changed since the president's been elected?
MR. HOLDER: I think it's changed a bit. I don't--still don't think we're at a place where we need to be. I think that we need to talk to each other more about race and the racial things that divide us, especially when one looks at the demographic changes that this nation is about to undergo. The demographic changes we're about to undergo can, I think, be a real source of pride, real source of strength for this nation if we handle that change in the correct way. If we don't, it can be a very divisive thing. And one of the things I think we can do in that regard is to talk to one another about race and about these coming changes so that it becomes a positive force in this nation.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think the discussion about immigration, the arguments about what's happening in Arizona is, is part of more constructive dialogue?
MR. HOLDER: Yeah. I think this is, I think, I think a teaching possibility that we have here, to talk about why people think this law is good, why other people think this law is bad, and then to unpack that and go underneath what those arguments are all about and have a very frank dialogue about what we really think about ourselves as individuals, as members of different ethnic groups. I think we need to have that courage and, and have those kinds of conversations.
MR. GREGORY: We will leave it there. Attorney General Holder, thank you very much.
MR. HOLDER: Thanks for having me.
MR. GREGORY: Appreciate it.
Coming up next, big tests for the Obama administration--the oil spill in the gulf, the economy, and immigration. Is enough being done? Our roundtable weighs in--David Brooks, E.J. Dionne, Katty Kay, and Wes Moore. Plus, our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE, another massive oil spill and the cleanup that followed, only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. GREGORY: The economy, immigration reform and a major environmental disaster. Is government doing too much or not enough. Our political roundtable weighs in right after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: And we're back with our roundtable, columnist David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, both still trying to get use to the new surroundings here, Katty Kay of the BBC, and we are welcoming for the first time Wes Moore to the discussion. He's a newly published author of a book about two young men trying to find their way in a hostile world, "The Other Wes Moore." He works on Wall Street as an associate at Citigroup's global banking division and is a former White House fellow and retired captain in the U.S. Army who fought in Afghanistan.
So welcome, Wes, and welcome to everyone here.
David Brooks, there's plenty of news this morning to talk about from that interview with Attorney General Holder. The fact that he said the Pakistan Taliban directed Faisal Shahzad in this plot in Times Square takes us in a different direction.
MR. DAVID BROOKS: Right. Well, it internationalizes it. There, there was, as you mentioned, people say it was a lone wolf, but now we know it's part of a larger war, part of the longer war on terror. One of the reasons we--President Obama doubled down in Afghanistan is because the Taliban is not only an Afghan thing, it's a transborder movement, trying to destabilize Pakistan, trying to destabilize Afghanistan and that region and beyond. And we've been pretty devastating against them with drone attacks and other things; and in war, the enemy gets to fight back, and they're fighting back using American citizens. But it does take this event and put it in a much broader international context.
MR. GREGORY: And, Wes Moore, part of that context now includes our military posture with regard to Pakistan. What's Pakistan doing to crack down on the Pakistani Taliban, which, by the way, has been responsible for huge attacks there--Rawalpindi and Peshawar, as well as the assassination of Bhutto. Will there be greater pressure now for U.S. military operation in Pakistan? We can be in Afghanistan, the bad guys are in Pakistan.
MR. WES MOORE: Yeah. Well, I think the, the bad guys are in both places.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. MOORE: I think it's important to remember that as well. And I think we've started to see a lot more cooperation from, from the Pakistani side of the, side of the, you know, side of the borders in terms of elect, you know, intelligence collection and also in terms of military reinforcement. But I think one thing we have to remember about that border region is it is very porous, and the ideas of these distinctive nationalistic borders are, in some cases, relatively almost imaginary because it's still a very tribal system. So that's why making sure that we have forces on side of the, the Afghan side of the border, not only for reconstruction and development purposes, but also for intelligence collection as well, becomes a--you know, becomes very important, not just on the Afghan side, but also on the Pakistan side, as well.
MR. GREGORY: You know, Katty, the other thing, I talked to intelligence officials this week who said, it's not just the military questions about our posture in Pakistan, it also is what does this portend for Pakistani-Americans who are now coming into the United States? What kind of screening are we talking about? What kind of job are we doing that's not just about our defenses and how Shahzad got on an airplane when he was on a no-fly list, but a question about what are we doing to disrupt plots in Pakistan?
MS. KATTY KAY: Well, the issue of screening, of course, is one that Eric Holder raised, and it is something that, whether we say it or not, is happening. I'm sure that, you know, there is more scrutiny of Pakistani-Americans coming into the country than there might be of other Americans coming into the country. It is happening already. Whether that--there's an argument about whether that kind of racial profiling drives people to extremism. I've heard moderate Muslims here in America say to me they have known people who were moderate, law-abiding Muslims who, when they have felt racial screening when they were at airports, have actually then turned towards extremism. So it's, it's a dangerous weapon, racial screening. I think it is already happening here.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MS. KAY: But it is something that has to be used very carefully.
MR. GREGORY: E.J.?
MR. E.J. DIONNE: Well, I--first of all, happy Mother's Day to Katty and all the moms out there.
MR. GREGORY: Yes, indeed. Forgive me for, for missing that.
MR. DIONNE: The, the--you know, I, I was struck during that conversation about racial profiling that the woman from Pennsylvania would not have been caught or stopped or interrogated...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. DIONNE: ...if this were the central approach to stopping terrorists. I mean, this is a hard problem. How do we protect ourselves and, at the same time, remain a nation rooted in liberty and law? And we have faced this problem many times in our history going back to the Civil War, the two world wars, particularly World War I, the Cold War, and we haven't always privileged liberty as a country. And I think what you're seeing in this debate is a kind of choice between a muddled approach--and I think the Obama administration has been muddled because it's very complicated...
MS. KAY: Mm-hmm.
MR. DIONNE: ...vs. demagoguery, where anytime they seem to lean in any way toward civil liberties, somebody jumps on them. But I tell you what scares me is the rise of less sophisticated forms of terror. A car bomb is not flying a plane into a building, yet--you know, I spent time in Lebanon during the civil war there--car bombs are frightening. We are very lucky, a combination of luck and skill of our police forces that we've stopped things so far. But this...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. DIONNE: ...would portend--I just pray these things don't succeed because this really is terrorism by every definition.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But there--I mean the reality is you ultimately cannot stop attacks from happening. You can try, David, to disrupt the plots, you can, to be blunt about it, kill the people with predator drones or troops or whatever who are organizing them. And there are probably a finite number of really good people over there who can launch these attacks because Shahzad was clearly not the cream of the crop.
MR. BROOKS: Yeah. And what's amazing to me is the, is the personality is so consistent over so many of these cases. You get a young man from a privileged background, as this was, as Mohammad Atta was, as many others have been, they go to study, for some reason often engineering and medicine, and they're caught between two worlds, the modern world that we live in and an imagined pure Islam of the seventh or eighth century. And then they revert back to that Islam. So we focus on the terror networks and because we like to think on material things, but it is an ideology.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROOKS: And so in dealing that, that--we can't defeat that except through resilience. And one good thing I thought Holder did today was to talk about revising some of the Miranda rules, and that is to give them flexibility. We cannot lawyer ourselves up so that people on the scene of a crime are bound by rules that are very strict.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROOKS: It's important to give them authority and responsibility and then just hold them accountable afterwards. But, but loosening up the level of regulation and what they can do at the time of the crime seems to me really important.
MR. GREGORY: And that is interesting. I mean, what they're saying is, as we outlined it with Holder, is that they want a new law that gives them--gives the interrogators more latitude than they apparently have now because even Holder has said, back in 2002, when you introduce a lawyer into the equations--into the equation, it's sometimes hard to get the information you need.
MR. MOORE: It is. And actually, I wholeheartedly agree that I think it--it's good that we are willing to revisit and look at the Miranda laws. But one thing I also know is, is one of the core, one of the core things about our country is that we are nation of laws.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. MOORE: And that's one of the things that people respect about us, you know, throughout the world. And I know from, from firsthand experience that when we have people who, who--if we have situations where it looks like that's not being administered, where we're not living up to those highest tenets, it makes things a lot more difficult and dangerous, not only for our soldiers abroad, but also for our people at home.
MR. GREGORY: I want to--while we're talking about overseas developments, I want to talk about Hamid Karzai. The president of Afghanistan will be coming to the United States. He last, of course, met with President Obama in--this was back in March in Kabul. This was a meeting that did not go well. The message has gone down from on high in this administration, "Stop publicly trashing Karzai. We got to work with this guy." He's coming for a big visit here to the United States.
MS. KAY: Yeah. And the hope will be that they can improve relations in some way, that Karzai has--seems to now be sticking with the White House, and the White House seems to be sticking with Karzai largely out of default. I mean, there doesn't seem to be anybody else in Afghanistan that they can deal with particularly. He is elected in--to the extent that the elections were free and fair at all, he is the elected leader of Afghanistan. I think, you know, it is very worrying. There are two measures by which we can measure our success against Islamic extremism, one is attacks against the West, the other is violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MS. KAY: On both of those measures, we still see attacks against the West and attempted attacks and violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan is at record highs. So clearly the, the situation there is still extremely volatile. The Pakistanis are on board to some extent with dealing with extremists, but they're not dealing with all the extremists that they need to be dealing with.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let me--I want to talk about some domestic matters now.
You want to make a point on that, E.J.? Go ahead.
MR. DIONNE: I just want to say, I just want to say I, I just hate this term "lawyered up."
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. DIONNE: Because if you are accused of a crime and you are innocent, you want a lawyer to defend your innocence. And we totally forget that we have civil liberties protections not only to protect the guilty but to protect innocent people. And this is...
MR. GREGORY: But E.J., this is not just an ideological argument. There is a reality that...
MR. DIONNE: Well, I'm not making an ideological argument. I'm making an argument about...
MR. GREGORY: No, no, but you're saying you don't like the term "lawyered up."
MR. DIONNE: ...what a term that's...
MR. GREGORY: There is--even the attorney general is making the point--it's not a question just of civil liberties, it's an issue of there are intelligence values, there are--there is valuable intelligence that you get from people who are true enemies of the United States who are not just, you know, suspects in a criminal trial. Even the attorney general recognized back in 2002 in the--for the purpose of interrogation, sometimes lawyers are an impediment. He's acknowledging here that Miranda is sometimes an impediment to ultimately making the, the best case and also getting the intelligence information you need.
MR. DIONNE: And what I objected to is a term, "lawyered up," which is used over and over again to imply that any kind of use of normal judicial process, which is designed to protect innocence, sort of pushes us so far down the line that we forget why we have these protections in the first place.
MR. BROOKS: Yeah, but I, I wasn't being...
MR. DIONNE: Yes, this is a--this is--I said right at the outset, protecting liberty and protecting ourselves, this is a tough matter when it comes to terrorism. But we should not throw out our rights with sort of the, the--blithely, which is the way a term like "lawyered up," I think that's imposed.
MS. KAY: And that...
MR. BROOKS: No, no, nobody's talking, nobody's talking about throwing out their rights. But we do have a balance here. We have a tension, a tension between the rights of the individual and the safety of the country, and that tension cannot be settled abstractly from Washington from far away. It's context by context, case by case. And we have people with authorities, and at some point you just have to trust the people with authorities to make the decisions...
MS. KAY: But, David...
MR. BROOKS: ...based on that specific context.
MS. KAY: ...some of, some of this is intensely political. Look, President Bush tried hundreds of terror suspects in civilian courts. He tried Zacarias Moussaoui, he tried Richard Reid in civilian courts. Nobody ever criticized his administration, either from the left or the right, for using civilian courts. Now here's President Obama who, perhaps because Democrats are--always seem to be softer on terror, and that is a very big issue in this country, can--is even being criticized by Democrats for using civilian courts. It's a double standard.
MR. BROOKS: Yeah, I'm not--listen, I'm defending the Obama administration today because the Obama administration is moving in the right direction, away from overly strict and abstract rules into some sort of local flexibility.
MR. GREGORY: Let, let--can--I just want to, I want to, I want to get the issue of the Supreme Court here because it looks like we're, we're about to have news on that in, in some immediate period, maybe tomorrow, and that is the president's Supreme Court pick. Here are the finalists as best we can determine it. Among the names, you--we talked about Elena Kagan, the solicitor general; Judge Merrick Garland is on the D.C. circuit; and also Judge Diane Wood, with whom the president has a pretty close personal relationship, has known her for some period of time.
E.J., back to you on this. What's going to make up the president's mind?
MR. DIONNE: Well, I think putting this in the context of future fights is one, he's got--he probably will have another nomination. But he is somebody who really has--he has a lot of self-confidence. There's probably no issue on which he has more self-confidence than this one. He is a law professor--he was a law professor, he knows all these people. The scuttlebutt around Washington is Elena Kagan is going to be the choice, I have no idea if that's true. I think--I should confess a bias, I've known Merrick Garland since college. I think one of the questions here is what is this fight going to be about? I think the fight should be about the rise of a new conservative judicial activism, going back to the same fights we had during the New Deal of trying to limit Congress' authority to intervene in the economy. I think--you know, I think Elena could do a good job on that. Merrick Garland also, as somebody who really has been a restrained liberal judge, would be a good person to have that fight on the court.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. Katty?
MS. KAY: I think Elena Kagan is known as somebody who can lead and I think that is important to the White House as well at the moment. She can sway opinions of other judges. And, of course, Justice Kennedy as a swing judge is particularly important. She has a fierce intellect. She's known actually, curiously, people from Harvard describe her similar terms to the way they described Obama...
MR. DIONNE: Yes.
MS. KAY: ...that she's known as a consensualist, somebody who can listen to different points of view and bring people together. And I think in this divided court, that might be important for the White House as well. The other thing is, if he is looking down the road and, perhaps, one of the women was to go, if he appointed another woman now, that still leaves him with two women on the court further down the road.
MR. GREGORY: And there's a political calculation as well, which is you--you've got a large enough majority to maybe go with a more progressive nominee, and there's a thought that somebody like a Judge Garland is somebody that you save when you've got a tighter political climate because he might be more noncontroversial. The question of how big of a lift this is going to be is an issue.
MR. MOORE: I think it is, and I think that's, you know, definitely something the president's trying to evaluate in terms of how much political capital will have to go into the decision.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. MOORE: But I think that one thing the president is also, you know, seemingly, when you're looking at him making this final decision, are some of the other intangibles that have been, that have been spoken about. And looking at what type of court is going to--is this--you know, what type of addition is this going to make to the court, and also, what type of, what type of addition is this going to make in terms of the stability of the court, the challenge to Justice Roberts as well, and how do you balance that court decision out?
MR. GREGORY: The, the politics also interesting not just in terms of the Supreme Court but because of the midterm race as well. And we had a development yesterday that really makes you stand up and take notice. Senator Bennett, Bob Bennett of Utah, a well-known conservative, been in the Senate for a number of years, is out in a primary in Utah. He spoke to reporters afterward and was, was obviously emotional about it.
(Videotape, May 8, 2010)
SEN. BOB BENNETT (R-UT): The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic, and it's very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment. ... I offer my congratulations, as I say, to whoever wins. But I assure him he will not have any more loyal, dedicated, or efficient staff than I've had.
MR. GREGORY: David Brooks, a reliable conservative for 18 years, yet he proposed an alternative on health care and he voted for the bank bailout.
MR. BROOKS: Right. It is a damn outrage, to be honest. I mean, this is a guy who was a very good senator, and he was a good senator for--and a good conservative, but a good conservative who was trying to get things done. The Wyden-Bennett Bill, which he co-sponsored, if you took the healthcare economists in the country, they would probably be for that bill ideally. It was a substantive, serious bill, a bipartisan bill, but with strong conservative and some liberal support. So he did something sort of brave by working with Democrats, which more senators should do, and now they've been sent a big message, "Don't do that." The second thing is the TARP. Nobody liked the TARP, but we were in a complete economic meltdown and sometimes you have to do terrible things. And we're in a much better economic place because of the TARP. So he bravely cast a vote that nobody wanted to really cast, and now he's losing his career over that. And it's just a damn outrage.
MR. DIONNE: I agree with David on this, and I think that something's happening inside the Republican Party that I think in the long run won't be good for the Republican Party. You just had an election in Britain where David Cameron, the conservative, almost got a majority by saying, "We need to detoxify, take the rough edges off conservativism, appeal to a broader constituency." And here you have a state party convention, by the way, not a primary. It's almost a nonviolent coup because they deny the sitting Republican senator even a chance of getting on the primary ballot. And I think the party, over the long run, risks a backlash among voters who may not be liberal at all but don't like this kind of politics. And before people on the right crow too much about this, it is a party convention in Utah.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. DIONNE: I would imagine the left would win a party convention on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. So let's not sort of make this into a bigger thing than it is. But it is a big deal to dump somebody like Bob Bennett.
MS. KAY: Well, well, it isn't just Utah, because there are other places around the country, clearly, where the Republicans are going to sit through the same sort of fight. I've just come back from Kentucky and was interviewing Rand Paul. He's in exactly the same position. He's being backed by the tea party, he's up against the Republican establishment candidate. He says he's facing very strong headwinds, but the movement is in his favor and he's ahead in the polls. There is something, as you say, going on in the party and going on in the country of, you know, this anti-incumbency mood, which is actually really playing out.
MR. MOORE: And, and I think that's actually a really important point too, that it, it's not just within the Republican Party. I think this, this was a clear message to all incumbents that, that everybody's put on notice. I mean, one of the safest seats and one of the safest jobs traditionally has been if you are a member of, of Congress. The vast majority of congressional seats are not contested generally.
MR. GREGORY: But we're not having the kinds of purity tests across the board that we see in some of these Republican races where they are looking, in, in part because of the tea party influence, to say, "Where were you on the bailout? Where are you on the issue of, you know, big government right now?"
MR. BROOKS: Right. And that's become the big argument we've talked about this show on the--in the past. I think it's because people have a sense--and to be fair to the other side, which I disagree with--they have a sense, "I went to high school, I worked hard. Other people didn't. I started a company, I worked hard. Other people didn't. And now I'm being taxed to bail out people who either didn't work hard or screwed up. I peel--feel my basic values are being violated."
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROOKS: And that's what's motivating these people, and I completely understand that. But the fact is in government you can be a conservative and still deal with the other side. And people like Senator Bennett or Lindsey Graham, they're solid conservatives who know how to deal with the other side, and you have to allow room for that in politics.
MR. GREGORY: Part of the debate that we're having that is a bigger debate, and, and in this context we can think about Arizona immigration, the president says he does want an immigration law this year; the oil spill in the gulf, the government's response, the issue of regulation. I thought, E.J., you, you caught this in, in your column on Thursday about the role of government. We posed this at the top of the program, doing too little or doing too much? This is the big political question this year. This is how you phrased it, E.J.: "The more important and dynamic force behind the current disillusionment with government comes instead from those who actually believe it can and should be effective. They do not think that the market is automatically rational or that the government has to be dumb. They are fed up with government not because their ideology, ideology or philosophy tells them to be but because they don't think government has been doing a proper job of promoting prosperity, equity and fair-dealing. So far, the Obama administration has missed the opportunity to demonstrate to such voters how it is changing the way government works." So what has to happen?
MR. DIONNE: Well, I think that the--we, we talk so much about the tea party folks, who represent a current of opinion in this country, but it's a current of opinion that's always been there. I think the increment in mistrust to government comes from people who actually want government to work, who don't look for a sort of tiny government. And these recent events suggest that we need government there at certain moments. It's a line I quote all the time from former Senator Bill Cohen, "government is the enemy until you need a friend." And whether you look at what's happened in the gulf, what--in the Gulf of Mexico, what happened with that coal mining incident where we're going to look at how regulation work, you need a government role in certain instances. And I think one of the things Bill Clinton did with Al Gore's reinventing government project is accept the idea that if you are a liberal or a progressive, you're going to use government. But people don't trust that government will always work well.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. DIONNE: And you have a constant task of persuading people, "I am changing this in ways to make it work." There have been reforms in our agencies under Obama. People don't see any of them. I think that people who are progressive really have to persuade people, "Yes, we're doing this in a better and different way."
MR. GREGORY: Dave, do you, do you have a different view of it?
MR. BROOKS: Yeah, I think it's all about values. Is government reinforcing my values about hard work and individual responsibility? And the bailouts violated people's sense of that. If government--welfare reform, it was big government. It was kind of intrusive, but it reinforced the values you work and you get something for it, and people were fine with that. And so to me it's about whether government is enforcing our values or seemingly undermining our values.
MR. GREGORY: And yet in the U.K., Katty, you have a third party that rears its head in this election and has an impact. As you analyze for us what's ahead on that, you know, we're all thinking about, in, in this context of government, how the notion of a third party plays here.
MS. KAY: Well, actually, I think the lesson from Britain is that the third party didn't get very far. I mean, there is a king maker. Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are in negotiations this weekend with David Cameron and the conservatives to try and see if they can form a coalition government. But there was all that excitement, largely fueled by the television debates that we had, about Nick Clegg and the rise of this personality. But in the end, when it came to voting, British voters tended to go back to their old parties. They went back to Labour, and they went back to the Conservatives. And to some extent, what's happening in Britain would be just fantastic political theater if it weren't happening, again, in this incredible economic backdrop where we have major fiscal problems that have to be dealt with, a minority government can't deal with them, and which actually then have ripple effects around the world.
MR. GREGORY: All right, I'm going to have to make that the last word. Thank you all very much. We're going to leave it there, but we're going to continue our discussion with author Wes Moore here in our MEET THE PRESS Take Two Web extra. You can read an excerpt from his book, "The Other Wes Moore," and find updates from me throughout the week. It's all on our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com.
And up next, our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE. Twenty-one years ago, another massive oil spill threatening the U.S. coastline. Who cleans it up and who pays the bill? Right after this brief station break.
MR. GREGORY: And we're back with our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE. The attempt to use a containment dome to stop the leaking BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico appears to have failed. The well exploded 19 days ago and has since spewed three million gallons of oil into the ocean, threatening the economic and ecological well-being of the region. It is the biggest such disaster since March 24th, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound Alaska, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil across 1300 miles of coastline. Six months into the major cleanup effort, EPA administrator William Reilly appeared right here on MEET THE PRESS and challenged Exxon's claim that the job was done.
(Videotape, September 10, 1989)
MR. GARRICK UTLEY: Mr. Reilly, let's begin with Alaska, the oil spill there, the Exxon Valdez, as you know, as we said on "Sunday Today" this morning, that cleanup is ending this week. Exxon says it's done the job, it's done it well. What's your comment?
MR. WILLIAM REILLY: Well, my comment is the job isn't done. We had a catastrophe of extraordinary magnitude, really unprecedented for the United States, back in March. I think in fairness the government, the corporation, the state anticipated nothing of that sort. We all perhaps have been lulled by the great success of those tanker shipments, some 9,000 of them, that had come down without major incident. But there's a lot still to do. I was up there just last month, and it's very clear we're going to have to go back in. Exxon is going to have to go back in in the spring, as they intend to do, and survey what the problems are, and then, if there's remaining work to be done, to do it.
MR. UTLEY: Now what happens next spring if Exxon says, "We don't really want to continue," or next summer they say simply, "The job's done." What do you do? What should Congress do?
Mr. REILLY: Well, if the Coast Guard, if the federal government essentially disagrees with that, we will take the route that has always been open, which is to undertake the direct cleanup ourselves and then bill Exxon for the price, for the cost.
MR. UTLEY: Congress should just send them the bill or the government should send the bill?
Mr. REILLY: That's, that's right.
MR. GREGORY: Preliminary estimates say it will cost billions of dollars to clean up the BP spill now in the gulf. And while the government is assisting in those efforts, the Obama administration has made it clear that BP will be responsible for all of the cleanup costs.
And we'll be right back.
MR. GREGORY: That is all for today. We'll be back next week. Happy Mother's Day to mine, to yours, and especially to my Beth. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.