Full Transcript: Chuck Todd

- Maret 12, 2018

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Susan Glasser: This week on The Global Politico, our guest is Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press.” And our subject is a a pretty simple one that can be boiled down to this: What’s it like to be randomly called a son of a bitch by the president of the United States on a Saturday night — and keep doing your job?

First a little explanation is probably in order.

We’d been working on arranging this conversation for a few weeks; I’ve known Chuck for years and consider him on one of Washington’s best political handicappers — not to mention an excellent and insightful Trumpologist of long standing. I thought we’d talk Trump, the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election, and give some insight into covering this most unusual of White Houses amid the chaos and upheaval of the last few weeks.

As you’ll hear in this conversation that we recorded Friday afternoon at NBC’s studios on Capitol Hill, we did in fact cover all those topics and more. We also talked about what it’s like to be attacked by Trump — and his longstanding obsession with Chuck, which goes back years. The next day after our interview, President Trump pounced on Chuck again, calling him a “sleepy son of a bitch” in the middle of a Saturday night campaign rally in Pennsylvania.


The comment came from nowhere but then again seemed perfectly consistent with what we had already talked about the day before. Covering Trump, as you’ll hear in this week’s Global Politico with Chuck Todd, is a constant high wire act.

We've talked about doing this for a long time, but I'm so glad that we're doing it right now. We can mention that you, in your capacity as moderator of Meet the Press, accepted a really big and important and timely award last night, the First Amendment Award. Tell us about that.

Chuck Todd: Well, it's from the Radio, TV, and Digital News Foundation. They added the "D" I want to say about 10 years ago. But the whole point is honoring this award, just who helped sort of defend the First Amendment or encompass the First Amendment. And they gave the award to Meet the Press as an institution and look, it is—today's political journalism on television, if you go back and say, "Where's the cornerstone?" If you think of it as a building, right? The first building block is Meet the Press. It really is, like the idea of a televised press conference. That's really what it billed itself as; "America's press conference on the air" was the way Martha Rountree would even talk about it. And so in that sense, yes, it is. I mean, everything we see on television when it comes to political news is a derivative at some point of that first idea of Meet the Press.

Glasser: Well, it's a hell of a franchise, but it's also a hell of a moment in Washington. You referred to it last night in your speech, that "this is our Iraq War moment." What did you mean by that?

Todd: I've had these conversations with younger journalists quite a bit of the last 18 months on this moment that we're all covering and the importance of getting it right. No matter what you think, look, there's no doubt about it; this is an unusual moment in our politics, in the presidency, but it's in some ways, bigger than Donald Trump.

Obviously, Donald Trump got elected taking advantage, essentially of this divided moment in time that we're in, both culturally and all of this stuff, and so—

Glasser: He's a symptom of the crisis, not the crisis.

Todd: That's right, 100 percent. But when it comes to our role in this as the press corps, our credibility is being challenged now by the president a lot, by some of his supporters quite a bit. And maybe it's a tactic; maybe it's the same-old, same-old. But one of their strongest arrows in their quiver is the media's coverage of the Iraq War, and so we can't afford to get a big story wrong basically twice in a decade. Twice in, I guess, a generation.

The collective press corps coverage of Vietnam and Watergate gave the media its credibility. If we blow this moment, it could be something that we'll pay a price for a generation.

Glasser: I have to tell you, I've been really invigorated as a consumer of news and not just a journalist myself, to watch the return of aggressive original reporting to outlets like NBC, CNN. But NBC; in particular, MSNBC. You guys hadn't really been in that business.

Todd: No, there's no doubt. And I think part of this is an acknowledgment of platform neutrality, right? It's like we fell into this role for about 25 years of print did the reporting and television did the explaining.

Glasser: That's right. You were talking about it.

Todd: That's right. We helped viewers understand while the others did reporting. And if you notice over the last decade or so, a bunch of us print folks went to television. A bunch of print folks either went on-air into television, or off-air into the executive role. So we came from a reporting background and we're all going, "Why aren’t we reporting? Why don't we do this?"

And suddenly the barrier to entry to get into this game, for us to compete with The Times or The Post; it's much lower and frankly, we have this huge platform where we could grow an audience really fast, digitally in particular. And especially, look, if we're going to get held accountable for other people's reporting, we might as well be held accountable for our own reporting. It's hard enough to defend your own reporting. It's tough when you're reporting on somebody else's work and you don't know if it's good or bad.

Glasser: Do you worry at all about that? Do you have the capacity, given the stakes that are so high? That you don't—look at CNN: had this trouble with an investigative reporting team that was building up, and not maybe having the editing infrastructure, the procedures in place or the backbone. The thing about The New York Times, right, is the iron-clad commitment to its journalists.

Todd: Look, we have been concerned. I would like to think and I'm not going to judge how other news organizations have done this as they've sort of spread their wings. You have us on television spreading our wings into digital reporting and you have The New York Times talking about starting a TV show. So we're all—

Glasser: And here we are broadcasting on an audio platform.

Todd: That's right, an audio platform. I'm very mindful of this. Myself and another colleague, Dafna Linzer, who I know you know very well. Excellent journalist and Washington Post alum as well. She and I work on this very closely together. We try to basically say, "We're trying to hire smart and grow smart." So we're not trying to just throw numbers at this and throw reporters. And I think that is the danger when you're trying to be a startup news organization is that you suddenly—I think we have the luxury of being precise; a little more precision when you add a new reporter to this and decide, "All right, we're going to create a team that is on national security." And we're going to create a team here and you sort of build it slowly.

You don't try to be The New York Times immediately. I think the danger that other news organizations are kind of—I think it’s just too much too soon without putting in—

Glasser: Right, throw an army at the problem.

Todd: We are trying, like, "Okay, what's our editing process if we're going to add these four?" And so we have been trying to grow smart. The other thing is I don't want to over-hire because I've had to lay people off in a previous life. Not at this organization, thankfully, but I've had to do that at a previous job. It's no fun and so I'm hoping that we're hiring people and you're hiring jobs on a permanent and a sustainable permanent basis.

Glasser: Okay, so let's talk about that. So Trump is a risk for journalism, but in a way, he's also been a benefit for journalism. First of all, the guy loves the Sunday shows. He must be the last guy who talks about the Sunday shows.

Todd: Now it’s getting everybody—look, there are two ways to look at Trump if you're a journalist. You can look at him as this thing that's challenging the very institution and the First Amendment, or he is bringing more interest in what we're doing. He is engaging more people in civics. Now, we can have a debate about how it's being done. We can have a debate about all of those things, but it's at the end of the day, it's bringing more people to want to learn. So it's an opportunity. We've got to think of it as an opportunity to continue to gain credibility with new eyeballs all the time. Which is why it is a risk because more people are watching, and unfortunately, the margin for error is much smaller.

We live in a society that roots for failure collectively. I hate to say that on social media.

Glasser: That's a depressing point.

Todd: It is, but there is like for sport—

Glasser: No, I think you're right. Absolutely, the blood sport of politics in general, which has always existed, has also become more tribal, which means that there's more—

Todd: But it's a blood sport in life. Look at how we collectively enjoy humiliating somebody who maybe says the wrong thing on Twitter and we decide, "Oh, this can just”—and you've seen these extreme examples where somebody tweeted something inappropriate. They get on a plane, they get off, and they've been fired from their job, right? It's like you pile on to the point. So the outrage machine certainly makes it where we have a smaller margin for error.

So as we continue to expand in what we want to do, we've got to think about that. Look, when CNN makes a mistake, you and I pay for it. When I make a mistake, you pay for it. The point is, unfortunately, we don't own our own credibility. We're collectively in this and I want all of my colleagues to think about that. I think about it every day. I know there are certain things that if I say that I might want to tweet, but I know it doesn't reflect on Chuck Todd; it reflects on NBC News or it may reflect on the political press corps. And I don't want to do that. I don't want to hurt somebody else's credibility by making a snarky mistake.

Glasser: Well, so will the administration, it seems that the president is so focused on Fox and you have really a transformation of one network into—people joke about the state TV and the like. How much do you feel like they will participate in Meet the Press? That they are genuinely journalistically engaged, or if not, does that liberate you to come at the problem from more different vantage points? It used to be very access-driven kind of TV?

Todd: Yes, it was access-driven. I tell you, I cringe at the accusation of access journalism and I understand it. And it's like, look, I have—

Glasser: Just to be clear, that was in the past.

Todd: The sense of you want to—the Sunday shows looked at themselves as, okay, they're a conduit for the administration so that we know what's going on and we're there to question them as they come on. So yeah, I would say there's less of that; there's less of a feeling of that. If he comes on, great. If I never interview him again, that's too bad. But I don't think we should be in the business of begging for anything.

Glasser: Now, President Trump does have a—he's had his issues with you.

Todd: Yeah. Look, I've always chalked it up to a couple of things. One is NBC is his home network—for him. Okay, everybody—we all grow up with a home network. I actually—and I'm not just saying this for PR purposes; the very reason my parents went and got—my mom wanted a color TV. We never had a color TV. My mom really wanted a color TV. She goes, "I just want to watch the Today Show in color once." And she just wanted to see the Today Show. It was all about that.

And so my dad was a Cronkite guy and a Brinkley guy. So it meant we were CBS and NBC. Trump has just been a—NBC is his home channel, for New Yorkers, especially of his generation. The Today Show is a home place. So NBC is his home. Never mind the connection with The Apprentice. So he watches. So I've been in his consciousness. For a long time, he used to call me up and be upset because I wasn't taking the idea of him running for president seriously in 2011. And we would have these half-hour conversations regularly and I would sit there and I remember one time with Savannah Guthrie and I, we literally put him on mute going, "Does he have other things to do but call?" We were just confused but he does care and I do think it's NBC related.

I don't think it's me personally. Because he once said, he goes, "Come on. We're colleagues. I make you a lot of money." I'm like, "What?"
Glasser: That's so revealing.

Todd: It is more of a, "Aren't we all on the same team? You're NBC, I'm NBC." And I think that's his—look, he's a transactional mindset so I think that's what he believes.

Glasser: And so any interaction since he's been—

Todd: Yes, I've had actually quite a bit of off-the-record interaction. Always, very respectful, always very interesting. There was one thing that leaked out on one during a group meeting where he in one second called me a monster and the other second going, "And I love this guy." Or, "He's fun." Or whatever, but he goes, "But man, you turn on the TV and you're beating the heck out of me." So it's this—he doesn't want to scorch the Earth yet with me.

Glasser: Which is the paradox in general of Trump and the press, which is that on the one hand, there's this unprecedented, rhetorical assault in your daily—both from him, his press secretary, and yet on the other hand, his level of engagement with it remains very high.

Todd: The one-to-one engagement is. "You're so unbelievable. I just don't know why you're so tough on me." Or, "Don't you think I'm doing well? What do you think?" It's the oddest conversation. He's begging for compliments sometimes. "Isn't my economy running and humming? Isn't this great? Don't you think I made a good decision with this person?" It's always a fascinating way he tries to—and I always am careful. I'd like to think we're off-the-record, but I never know when he thinks we're off-the-record.

Glasser: Well, and then there's the thing with him and his advisors don't seem to know that either, which has gotten him in trouble.

Todd: There is a part of this I do think that and I think there's a growing—it's funny how you can watch conventional wisdom form. And you always feel like—I always say, “We all”—

Glasser: That's our contribution to the--

Todd: We all crap on conventional wisdom correctly, right? But it's conventional for a reason: it's usually true. Okay? My joke was at Hotline, "We were wisdom before it was conventional." But there is this—you could feel it jelling because I think there's some truth to it, that those of us that have watched him very closely, he's getting more and more comfortable shooting from the hip and conducting his presidency by his gut.

I think this last week; these last 10 days of him is the presidency he's dreamed of doing, of being. "Yes, oh, there's the little scandal over here. Well, that will entertain the troops over there. But, look at everybody's begging me to save them from the tariffs, but I'm getting tough and the steelworkers love me and look, Kim Jong-un wants to meet with me. I'll be able to handle this." If you think the last 13 months have been tumultuous, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Glasser: Yeah, I'm totally with you on the "you ain't seen nothing yet." That one of the things about Washington elite consensus that, you and I both know, it's right for a perilously small moment and then it's wrong and just figuring out at the moment in which it's right and all of the rest of the time when it's wrong. But in this case, I think both of us have struggled with the idea. People keep thinking there's going to be some normalcy or some routine and the idea that it might not get crazier has not really entered into people's minds enough.

Todd: Well, and it depends what you think is crazy, he thinks is successful.

Glasser: Right, correct.

Todd: And this is a dichotomy. Many of his West Wing advisors actually come from a more traditionalist point of view. That's why you have the Rex Tillersons of the world. "These are not negotiations." Which is exactly what Susan Rice said they shouldn't be. There's this conventional view when it comes to the Korea issue, which is, they're informal talks, and he's sitting there going, "What are you guys talking about?" And he's going back to his gut going, "I can handle this guy." And this is exactly what he said he'd do.

So that's why I look back at these 10 days and think, "We're looking at it and saying, "Oh, my God. This is the most chaotic. Who knew it could get like"—we keep saying this can't go over 11 and it's 12, to 13. He's going, "Finally, it's the presidency I've been dreaming of."

Glasser: Yeah, that's a really interesting frame to put around it. So back to your role as a—you're a great interpreter and Trumpologist, if you will. But as a Sunday show moderator and now you also have the Daily show as well. You have multi-platforms. You have your newsletter as well—

Todd: You have to. Just like you do.

Glasser: That's right, but you're not going to get Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis. In the past, you would have spent a lot of time kind of working the system and lobbying people.

Todd: They don't want to go on. It's they don't want to go on. What we have noticed is quite a few people who either work—either have to feel aligned with the White House or traditionally are supposed to be aligned with the White House or work in the executive branch don't want to be put in the position of having to contradict the boss or having to defend him maybe in something they're uncomfortable to defend, so they just say, "You know what? Not available."

Glasser: So that's an interesting dilemma. Do you have any policies, formal or informal, about the kinds of people that you'll have on representing Trump? There is the issue also of credibility and truth. A lot of people didn't want to have Kellyanne Conway back on after she talked about “alternative facts.” What's your view of that?

Todd: Look, I try to put myself on Sundays not—I try to remove my own personal view of whether a person is credible or not and I try to say to myself, "I want the viewer to have the White House perspective. Can this person do it credibly or is it going to be a rabbit hole and a waste of time?" So that's the way I view it. I don't have any singular ... on any individual person. There are some things that you would have certain people on because they will go deep on that issue and then you're like, you're not just going to generically have them on because they're just going to fight you and it's not going to be good for the viewer.

And ultimately, what I don't want to do—and this happens a lot more on cable and I'm glad to see my Sunday show colleagues don't do this—is put people on just because you might do something to go viral. That's a cable trick, it's a clickbait trick, and we hate that. We know what it is.

Glasser: We can talk about Sam Nunberg later.

Todd: No, and it's like when I see the Anthony Scaramucci interviews sometimes and you're like, "What's he doing? Is he really"—but people are interviewing him as if he's been this integral part of the Trump Organization. I think there are certain times that he is a relevant interview as sort of understanding maybe Donald Trump the person or what the New York investment crowd thinks of him. But I think you've got to pick your spots. Don't just do it to do it.

And I think that's sort of the mindset to have.

Glasser: Right, so you're not trying to kind of troll us on Sunday mornings?

Todd: Right, I wouldn't troll. Right, everybody, I want to put on there—number one, I want everybody to feel as if their point of view is represented at some point and I want everybody to feel uncomfortable for five minutes at some point in their own point of view.

Glasser: But what if they're lying to you?

Todd: Look, it’s no crime to lie to the press, which has been a dilemma we've all had for a long time, especially when it comes to going deep on the Mueller probe, when you ask certain questions when you interview, whether it's a Roger Stone or a Corey Lewandowski or a Reince Priebus. And you find out later maybe that they contradicted something with Mueller, and it's like, "Boy, I wish I could put them under oath."

I'll tell you this: when I catch somebody lying to me, that's it. I never use them as a source again.

Glasser: So they won't come back?

Todd: Correct.

Glasser: And have you had that happen?

Todd: There is not somebody who's lied to me on camera but there are people I won't put on because they've lied to me as a reporter.

Glasser: Well, if anybody's listening to this, consider yourself on notice. If you lie to Chuck on camera, you're not coming back.

Todd: Let me ask you, Susan. I mean, will you ever use a source again if you caught them lying to you?

Glasser: It's a huge problem, because we both know that there's no monopoly on truth in Washington and it's not about party, it's not about—I was just talking with somebody the other day, interestingly related to Russia and this investigation about a situation, where clearly, somebody who is very well-known—one of two people is not telling the truth and these are people that you've talked to, that I've talked to. If you don't want to talk to anybody in Washington who lies, you're not going to be talking to people.

Todd: No, it's true. But I've had somebody who I consider a friend lie to me once so I won't use him as a source anymore, and yet, he's still a friend. In a weird way, but it's like, they thought they could take advantage of our friendship and I called them out on it and it led to an uncomfortable moment. I've let the friendship recover and this person probably doesn't realize; I've never used them or asked them to be a source again.

Glasser: Do you believe that there is something that distinguishes the Trump Administration or perhaps just the president himself in the level and degree of their misrepresentations?

Todd: No, I actually think this has been a problem that has been eroding or evolving or metastasizing, I don't know.

Glasser: Truth eroding, metastasizing problem. Pick your metaphor.

Todd: Yeah. Trump doesn't have a monopoly on this, but we have had, I would say over the last five years, there's a new, younger generation of political operatives that believes myths of bias. They believe the myth that—particularly on one side of the aisle—that believe the myth that we're in the tank, against them. And actually try to approach me sometimes, "Well, I know you're not for this." I'm like, "What are you talking about?" They basically believe the BS that the Roger Ailes wing of the party created. That the mythology that all reporters are against conservatives, all reporters are against the Republican Party. Well, if you say that enough over a 35-year period and you'll get a bunch of people to believe it and there's a whole new generation of operatives and of staffers who are much more antagonistic to the press.

And by the way, while it mostly a phenomenon on the right, it is a growing phenomenon on the left, and so it's the constant degradation of the press that over time—and you know what, I actually think it will be healthier. I do think in general that the collective press corps in Washington and the Washington power brokers were too cozy.

Glasser: The clarification of rules is what's happening now.

Todd: And it's like, I don't think being at a dinner party with somebody that I cover is a big deal, but I see why it looks bad to others, right? I'll tell you something I've changed over the last—ever since I got this role and this was before Trump—this was from last year. I'm not going to many Washington events where the old traditional mingling between the powerful and the press. Part of it is, I'm just tired and exhausted and my kids are at a certain age that I just want to go home and hang out with them.

But I also think rebuilding the wall is important to the public and that's something we owe.

Glasser: It's very interesting you say that. Peter, my husband, who is the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, that's really his view as well and again, this predates Trump. The New York Times, as you know, has this policy of not even going to the White House Correspondents Dinner and there's some grumbling about it in a sense that I don't think anybody thinks they're going to be kind of bought off by attending an event like this.

Todd: Right, and they're not.

Glasser: But the flip side is that I think where it is in clarifying the roles and helping people to understand that we call it like we see it, regardless of what party is in power. That is the value that you and I grew up with.

Todd: And by the way, though, it is true; once you get to know somebody, you do soften up on them. And you do want to give them the benefit of the doubt, because guess what? We're humans.

Glasser: That's why Donald Trump wants to have those off-the-record interactions.

Todd: Right, we're all human beings, we're all human beings. And look, I do try to put myself in the shoes of the people I cover in a human way. To understand better of why they might have made the decisions that they've made. I do constantly think about that. I think about it with viewers. I think about it with the people I cover, with the interviewees, because I think that helps broaden how you ask questions and things like that. Let me put it another way: I think we in the press corps need to not care if people don't like us. I don't care.

Glasser: Remember that famous scene in Broadcast News where Albert Brooks is getting beat up by the other kids? A future TV news reporter.

Todd: Yes.

Glasser: Listen, 2016, just when it comes to politics, clearly people all around this town are still collecting themselves to try to figure out, "Did we just misunderstand how elections are going to work in America going forward?" You've always been one of my go-to people when it comes to just understanding in a way most journalists don't the nuts and bolts of American elections and how they work. That's where you came up through Hotline. Have we recovered our sense of how American politics works? Was that an aberration? Has it caused you to do anything differently?

Todd: Well, I'll tell you, it has a little bit. I'll say this: we're in the middle of a political realignment, but the two parties aren't there yet. Okay, that is a fact and that is why there—I think part of the reason we're in the tumult is that the public is realigning but the parties have yet to and they're struggling to catch up. And I think obviously, it'll take the millennials to decide what the parties are going to be and I think we kind of see an idea, but we may be a good 20 years away before we have a good sense of which party is the party of international realism and which party is American nationalism, right? Some form. Which one is the inward party, which one is the outward party? Which we always have had, and it can go back and forth.

There was a terrific piece by Matthew Continetti in the Washington Free Beacon about the comparisons of William Jennings Bryan and McKinley and those coalitions and what would have happened had Bryan won? Because Donald Trump is William Jennings Bryan 100 years later.

Glasser: Right, but he evokes McKinley, which is hilarious. Actually, just the other day.

Todd: It is funny, right. But it is sort of in that same way and that period where William Jennings Bryan sort of was the populist hero to rural America, the Republican Party became the dominant entity in America in the cities and in the urban areas and among intellectuals and elites. It looks like we're going down the other road, except Democrats aren't quite sure what they are yet and Republicans are still trying to figure out.

So I think we're in the middle of this realignment, which tells me that I think there's still more uncertainty to come. I used to say it's possible 2016 is a black swan, but I also believe we're going to look back on 50 years and look at the fact that we've had Congress change hands multiple times, that nobody can get more than 53 percent in the presidency. What are we up to like seven straight? Really not since Bush '88. We're paralyzed as an electorate, so why are we surprised that our politics are paralyzed? And I think that we're not quite sure where to go as a nation yet, collectively the populace. So I think sometimes people still have to tell us which way they want to go.

Glasser: So when you look, though, at the numbers, right? If you analyze the fundamentals, it would suggest that Republicans are in line for pretty much of a thumping, as George W. Bush would call it.

Todd: Yeah, the question is: Is it going to be a good Democratic year or a great Democratic year? I think that's a fair thing to say about '18. But what's 2019 going to be with a Democratic House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican presidency? It's probably going to look a lot like the second term of Obama, which is a lot of noise and not a lot of action.

Glasser: But with Mueller thrown in.

Todd: With Mueller thrown in. Look, to me, the big wildcard of 2018 is the impeachment message. Does Donald Trump run on it? I always actually have believed that Donald Trump would be most likely to embrace it, saying—

Glasser: Not the Democrats?

Todd: Meaning, "They want to impeach me. If you give them this, they're coming after me."

Glasser: Right, if you want to keep me, you've got to—

Todd: Yeah, make it a referendum on his presidency. Make it a referendum on impeachment. What's interesting is I've had these conversations with strategists on both sides. Democrats are petrified of impeachment—of the impeachment message. They're petrified.

Glasser: I know. I just did a piece of Jerry Nadler and it's clear.

Todd: Republicans, they're not running to embrace it, either. Don't get me wrong. And I think that the president may grab onto it and put them in a box. But it is interesting that that is a—that's the hanging meatball that's just hovering over 2018. It's not just the Mueller probe, but how the president politicizes and uses the Mueller probe. Does he try to use it and say, "They're coming to get me." And is that the way he gets his base out?

Glasser: Any early handicapping on people you think might be effective at running against Trump in 2020?

Todd: It's interesting to watch Joe Biden be the only Democrat that the Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania invited. The only one with presidential ambitions that Doug Jones down in Alabama invited to him. So we have gotten this little Biden-Trump preview at least in Pennsylvania, which feels as if anybody could match up against Trump, right? But for the life of me, I don't know how Biden gets through the Democratic primary. How he survives what feels as if it's a party that wants to have this debate, that wants to have this. Look, we're in an identity crisis, let's figure it out type of debate. I think that party wants to do that, which means this could go any number of directions. I think the person's first name is not "senator."

Other than that, I don't know and I say that because I just think the Democratic electorate is going to gravitate to a non-Washington person. I think that's going to be the place to be, even though there's so many popular senators, or even former senators or former Washington people sitting out there: a Biden, a Warren, a Sanders. But I think you're going to see a lot of voters kick the tires on the Steve Bullocks, on the Mitch Landrieus, on Eric Garcettis, on maybe whoever wins the governorship in Florida or whoever wins the governorship of Ohio. We may not be talking about—we may not even know—the Democrat who may end up the nominee in 2020 right now may not think they're running yet.

I think the potential to easily sort of surge on the Democratic side is that great.

Glasser: It's almost like a Bill Clinton coming from a Mario Cuomo not running.

Todd: Right, which is why you're going to see everybody run. Like, you've got this guy, John Delaney nobody's ever heard of.

Glasser: There's no downside.

Todd: I don't write him off. I remember everybody laughed at Paul Tsongas. He announced three years in advance. I think he announced sometime in the late '80s and he ended up running in '92, right?

Glasser: Of course. You and I are the only ones who remember the Tsongas candidacy, but it mattered for—

Todd: I actually can do Paul Tsongas. I used to do an imitation of him… And literally, there are three people who will remember.

Glasser: Everybody's dad loved Paul Tsongas, right?

Todd: Paul Tsongas, “I'm not going to be your pander bear.”

Glasser: Pander bear? The Pander bears.

Todd: Your poor producer here. She's like, "I think it's funny that he's doing Kermit the Frog. I just don't know why."

Glasser: She's like, "Who the hell is"—

Todd: But yes.

Glasser: But by the way, Bill Clinton was kind of a pander bear, right?

Todd: He was, and Paul Tsongas did sound like Kermit the Frog. But the point is that he was totally dismissed and laughed at and he became—had he not had his own health issues, he might have taken Clinton all the way to the convention. So I don't laugh at a John Delaney. I think voters are going to kick the tires on a lot of candidates.

Glasser: That's going to be the headline out of this podcast: "Chuck Todd says John Delaney has a good chance in 2020."

Todd: And I also think that it's possible the Democrats go way left with their nominee, Trump alienates this certain—

Glasser: A McGovern scenario.

Todd: Ben Sasse, primarying him and making his life miserable. I'm not going to write off the idea of John Kasich as an Independent. If you have something that's way left versus right or this idea that there's this vast middle here and a John Kasich could convince, say a Claire McCaskill to run with him—I'm just sort of spitballing here and I'm not—where you get this sort of coalition of left-right, but sort of center-left, center-right. I think particularly millennials are more open-minded about where to go here. There's a lot more opportunity for new candidates and Independent candidates to make noise.

Glasser: Maybe Macron can win.

Todd: Macron.

Glasser: Macron.

Todd: Look, that happened there. Their system makes it easier for a Macron to come out of nowhere. They have a system that's a little easier to come out of nowhere. I wouldn't write off a come-out-of-nowhere scenario.

Glasser: Well, I know you have to go do one of your many other things, which is hosting a daily show. I want to ask you: if you could have anybody on your Sunday Meet the Press—

Todd: Oh, I hate this question.

Glasser: You hate this question, so—

Todd: No, no, go ahead and ask it. I'll admit it.

Glasser: Just tell me the answer. You hate this question because there are so many people you'd like to talk with.

Todd: There is that and there's always personal—

Glasser: Kim Jong Un.

Todd: Yeah, there's personal itches I want to scratch at.

Glasser: That's who you want to talk?

Todd: I really wanted to interview Fidel Castro in my lifetime. I did. I grew up in Miami. He was such a towering figure. So for me personally, I just missed it. Maybe in the late '90s, had I been a generation sooner, I maybe would have had a chance at it. But that's the one that I wish, just personally.

I'll tell you what my daughter asks for. She said, "What will it take to get Taylor Swift on Meet the Press?" And I said, "Well, she has to think about running for president." And she goes, "Well, she might." And I said, "You know what? I'm not writing it off."

Glasser: So your daughter will end up running her campaign and—

Todd: My daughter, I'll tell you, if Taylor Swift announced tomorrow, my daughter I think would try to run Virginia for her, that's for sure.

Glasser: She's a brilliant eighth-grader, right?

Todd: Yeah, just like your brilliant eighth-grader.

Glasser: Exactly, we have a nice match—

Todd: Eighth-graders in common, yes.

Glasser: Exactly. Lucky us.

Todd: What a weird—teenagers. Ugh.

Glasser: My motto to Theo is, “Nobody ever loved eighth grade, so it's okay.”

Todd: That’s right. Oh, the drama and what you want to tell them, you know, "This is nothing." But they don't believe you.

Glasser: Then again, they watch President Trump and maybe that gives them a sense of perspective. Chuck Todd this week on The Global POLITICO. Thank you so much. This is a fantastic conversation and thank you to all of our listeners.

Todd: Thanks, Susan.

Glasser: Thanks.


 

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