tv MSNBC Live With Kate Snow MSNBC January 12, 2016 12:00pm-2:00pm PST
tuesday here on msnbc. just hours from now, president obama will deliver his final state of the union address. his first step in the yearlong process of handing over the reins to his successosuccessor. the president reflected on the ritual of tonight with matt lauer. >> it's a wonderful spectacle. i remember the first time i did it and you're standing behind the door and, mr. speaker, all right, the president of the united states, and you walk down that row and members of both parties are on either side and they'll shake your hands and as you said you see all of government gathered in one place and -- >> one time of the night where even the opposing side stands and cheers you. >> it is not just the cheers. it is a sense of a celebration of democracy. there's no doubt that i will always remember the ritual.
whether i'm going to miss writing the speech leading up to it i don't know. >> for more, let's bring in msnbc.com senior editor beth fuey. talk about tonight, the expectations and what the white house is saying he may talk about. >> yeah. this is not sort of a standard state of the union in the past laying out an agenda. this is the final, final speech, final chance to basically make the case for the eight years in office and most important political speech, kate, i would argue, because basically the democratic nominee for president, the entire legacy of the obama administration lies on that person's shoulders. we have a republican congress, house and senate. he has to elect a democratic president to succeecede or the legacy unravels. >> in a way it is a campaign speech. like the first of 2016. >> it is probably the most important campaign speech he's going to give this year. he'll certainly go out and
campaign for the next campaign running to secede him. >> i want to play a clip of the president this morning talng to matt lauer on the "today" show. >> we went through a lot over these last ten years. we went through katrina. we went through the iraq war. we went through the worst financial crisis in our lifetimes. we are still battling terrorism. people are still recovering from some of the economic blows that hit. and it is sometimes important for us to step back and take measure of how far we have come. >> is that a hint for what we're going to hear tonight, do you think? >> yeah. he makes that case quite often. where we started is really bad and we have come a long way in the presidency. we still see so much anxiety. people don't feel what he's talking about. this is his night to make them
feel it a bit and really true. the unemployment rate is half what it was when i came in fice or 2010. we have low interest rates, low gas prices, low inflation. all these indicators and mean people are happy and they're not and he brineeds to bring them b to thinking things aren't that bad. >> let's bring in white house senior correspondent chris jansing. what are they telling us to expect? >> reporter: i think what's clear from the beginning of this and working on the speech for months, it was months ago that his senior staff did what they do every year, sort of give him a list of things that they think he can push forward. he said, no, look, there's a reality here about him not being able to get things through congress this year although paul ryan said this morning criminal justice reform is a possibility. i think every state of the union is a sales job to some extent but never more so than a final
state of the union, first of all he will probably not give another peach that has many eyes and a president who has given great speeches. and so, i think what to look for is a soaring rhetoric to sell people on first of all as you were talking about what he believes he's accomplished like the economy and the opening with cuba and the iran deal. to say essentially to the american people who at least according to the polls have not been feeling it from him. you shouldn't have buyer's remorse. look at all we have done and then sell sort of a democratic brand. you called it sort of a first campaign speech of 2016. that brand is so integrally tied to his legacy so he's going to be on the road. he's taking virtually the c cabinet on the road with something lowe's to 30 stops over 3 days and essentially be saying this is what we stand for. this is what you should be willing to get behind in november. even though they won't put it in
those words, kate. >> beth, the president's approval ratings if you look at the latest numbers from gallup, 47% approve, 49% disapprove of the job the president is doing. how does that shape what happens in 2016 in terms of the presidential campaign in. >> he's been right about there most of his presidency. right at 50%, a little below. sometimes often his unpopularity's a little bit higher but compared to president bush at this time in his presidency was down around 34%, it's not a bad number. >> and, chris, last word to you. do you expect any direct shots at republicans tonight or does he veil anything? does he make an illusion to donald trump? >> reporter: maybe indirect. yeah. i don't think it's going to be donald trump per se. but there's no doubt that the republicans who have, you know, suggested that somehow the united states is diminished has
gotten under his skin so i think we're going to hear from him sort of that affirmation of american leadership in the world and in that sense in a sort of a slightly veiled sense taking a shot at their view of the world which he says is very negative and he wants it to be a positive forward-looking speech. >> all right. chris at the white house, beth here in new york, thank you to you both. i want to bring in connecticut governor dan malloy invited to sit with first lady michelle obama tonight. governor, nice the see you. >> great to be with you and thanks for the opportunity. >> absolutely. well, the white house released a statement saying that you and others were invited to sit with the first lady to, quote, represent the progress we have made since the president first delivered this speech seven years ago. a lot of the president's critics point to a lack of progress as we have been talking about. when you look back over the past seven years, from your vantage point as a governor what do you see as the progress?
>> well, this president created or seen the creation of more than 14 million jobs. twice as many as the predecessor oversaw in the eight years he was in office. this president has raised the issue of criminal justice reform. i was happy to hear speaker ryan say that perhaps they'll ordain to take it up. it's important that we take it up. when you have a system people don't have faith in, you have to make the important changes and what they're going to do. you know, the president and the first lady called for ending homelessness amongst veterans. i was very proud this summer when connecticut declared the first state in the nation to have ended chronic homelessness of yvette rans. very proud of that. that's a thing we're recognize ed for. and also guns and i'm happy to talk about that issue. 91% of americans believe that we should have universal background checks. they don't even consider part that of reform. they think it's second nature at this point. >> let's ask you more about that. last week as you know president
obama got really choked up and emotional talking about the first grader who is died at sandy hook elementary. that's your state, governor. he spoke about it with matt lauer earlier today. >> i was surprised by that. i wasn't surprised about how i felt because the day that sandy hook happened remains one of the worst of my presidency and traveling up there for the memorial service and meeting with the families a couple days after those children and those teachers lost their lives as hard as anything i've ever done. >> governor, after newtown, you wanted new federal laws. you couldn't get them. you end up with the president doing things by executive order. is that a failure? >> no. it would be a failure for him not to act and to have taken the steps he has and those he announced he would take. listen. we need more atf agents. we know it. let's hire them. we need a modern background check to be done instantly.
update that system. let's have fbi agents specifically assigned to making sure that we are keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists. common sense approaches that we need to take and yes we need universal background check. you are sitting i think in new york today. the reality is that guns come up i-95 from florida, from the care lies that, from virginia where they have loopholes that you can drive a truck through. that's why people go down there and literally buy guns at gun shows, sell them ill lyle lel in philadelphia, newark, new jersey and dale ware, bridgeport and new haven and up to boston and beyond. let's close those loopholes. when's wrong with congress they don't get this right? >> how do you do that right? the first lady with an empty chair next to her to symbolize those lost to gun violence. you want a message to nra and how do you get them to move in
the final year of president obama's white house? >> there is going to be a sandy hook in every state. there is going to be a shooting at a community college or university in every state. this is coming to your neighborhood. we better do something to turn ourselves around. to make our society less violent. we are the most violent society in the industrialized world. start changing this. >> govern now, we have met before at events to help kids with learning disabilities. i learned your back story at the events. i wonder given that you struggled in school and you had trouble getting to college, now you're going to the state of the union tonight. once in a lifetime thing. what are your thoughts tonight? >> well, i wish my mother was alive the see it. and i can assure you my wife is enjoyi ining this day. overcoming learning disabilities, something i had to do, people bet against me, i was diagnosed as mentally retarded as late as the fourth grade. i overcome disabilities and what
i want our country to be about. overcome our problems. let's overcome our shortcomings. let's ren nate our criminal justice system so that we give poor people equal treatment in the system and we don't have a one justice system for urban people and people who don't live in urban environments. they're important issues. i draw on my own experiences as a kid growing up or as a prosecutor in brooklyn, new york, or as a mayor in connecticut for 14 years or a governor now in my sixth year. we can get things done when we work together. that's what america used to be about. i know every republican running for president doesn't believe that. i still do. >> governor malloy of connecticut, thanks so much for being with us. appreciate your time today. >> thank you. special msnbc coverage by the way of the state of the union kicks off at 8:00 eastern hosted by chris matthews and rachel maddow. while the president is focused on that state of the union, the candidates are focused on the campaign trail today. donald trump returning to the trail tonight with a rally in
iowa. meanwhile, his chief rival texas senator ted cruz has decided to skip the state of the union and instead of returning to capitol hill opting to hold a second amendment rally in new hampshire where he weighed in on who would be watching and what to expect tonight. >> you know, tonight, president obama's going to be giving a speech. nice thing is you and the rest of the country aren't going to watch it. you know, i think there's a canadian curling contest on at the same time. he's going to talk about how wonderful the economy is. and listen. that's true. if you're a government lobbyist the economy's doing great. >> mbs's hallie jackson in hudson, new hampshire. tell us how the day has gone so far, the second amendment rally that he had. >> reporter: kate, just cleaning
up from it. ended maybe an hour ago. ted cruz talked with some supporters coming out here in hudson, new hampshire, and then spoke with the media a little bit. about why he campaigned here in new hampshire instead of at the capitol tonight. he said it's because what president obama will say tonight will be no surprise. repeated sort of the same type of thing he said for the last seven years according to senator cruz. he also said that he believes president obama will reach a new level of what he called demagogue ri on guns and the second amendment and we know the president expected to talk about gun control tonight as he's been doing and making it a signature issue. ted cruz coming out strongly against gun control, trying to connect with supporters here in vermont. live free or die state and believe rights are paramount. the empty chair next to the first lady tonight, senator cruz
said there should be a row of chairs for middle class. it's a prebuttal to expect to see from the president tonight. we know that nikki haley giving the speech after the president. ted cruz getting in early reacting sort of an early reaction to what we expect to hear from the president and something that other candidates particularly on the republican side, of course, have been doing on the campaign trail. >> "the new york times" columnist david brooks writing about ted cruz. >> reporter: yeah. >> with some tough lang wage saying that ted cruz -- he talked about pagan brutalism. harsh words. harsh language out of ted cruz and said at churches he is mean spirited essentially. i'm paraphrasing. what is the cruz campaign saying? >> reporter: there's a point of a discord herbals of the values of the church and ted cruz. number one, conservative members
of the republican party, people that ted cruz trying to speak to, don't care what "the new york times" has to say about ted cruz frankly. second of all, there's a sense in the campaign and twitter account talk about this today and david brooks never liked ted cruz and not giving it much credence. >> all right. thanks so much for being with us. >> reporter: thank you. >> great to see you. coming up, new polls out today showing the state of the race on a national scale. at ally bank no branches equals great rates. it's a fact. kind of like reunions equal blatant lying. the company is actually doing really well on, on social media. oh that's interesting. i - i started social media. oh! it was my...baby.
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i won both of them. >> that was one of those unscripted moments from last year's state of the union. and while president obama preps for his final address tonight, the people hoping to move into the white house are out in force on the campaign trail this super tuesday. jeb bush is trying to turn around flagging favorability numbers while in iowa. as his superpac debuted a new ad with marco rubio. if we have that ad as a weathervane. chris christie in new jersey delivering his own state of the state address and live picture and booted from the main stage, carly fiorina says she will participate in thursday's undercard debate but rand paul said he'll skip the whole thing. it is a nbig day. every tuesday between now and election day, we will have the results of a new nbc
news/surveymonkey poll and it is the largest online poll of its kind. we'll survey over 1 million americans. over the course of this election. so let's break down today's new numbers with steve kornacki. >> start on the democratic side. this is the new nbc online poll. i think we can put it up there and where the race stands nationally right now. this is about what we have been seeing for a while now. hillary clinton with a pretty solid lead over bernie sanders. pretty steady since the last time we took the poll. flip it over and show the republican results now. again, national online poll here. donald trump basically 2-1 lead over ted cruz. marco rubio, the only other republican in double digits. again this is pretty much what we have been seeing and stable race nationally and other big polling news today and comes on the democratic side in the two key early states.
new hampshire, look at this. bernie sanders, a poll out just this afternoon has him leading hillary clinton by double digits. 14 points. 53-39 in new hampshire. now, there have been a number of polls out in new hampshire in the last couple of days. this is the second one that has sanders ahead by double digits. a couple others that have a closer race. putting them altogether, the fairest, safest thing to say is bernie sanders is leading in new hampshire. maybe a bigger surprise, this afternoon in iowa, hillary clinton's been leading. by a roughly double digit margin. but now in the new quinnipiac poll this afternoon, bernie sanders ahead by 5 points in iowa. look at this. this is an interesting thing. dig inside the numbers. this looks at first-time caucus goers. they have never participated in caucuses before and i think we can put it up on the screen for you. never participated before. they say they're going to this
year. sanders leads hong them by 40 points. if, if, if he can get those people out to caucus for him, a ten first day of february, that could give him a chance to pull off the upset in iowa. kate, that's the dream scenario for sanders. dooms scenario for clinton. >> we just mentioned chris christie a moment ago giving his state of the state of new jersey today. we may have a live picture of chris christie right now happening now. you have covered him for a listening time. he's had a tough week. >> yeah. what's happening with christie is getting traction in new hampshire and with that more scrutiny, more attacks and questions and so of course the uncomfortable thing for christie is as a rising politician in new jersey, a blue state, a culturally liberal state, said things and took positions he doesn't want people to remember and said 20 years ago running for office he told a newspaper in new jersey the reason he got into politics is gun control, to
support an assault weapons ban and says he doesn't remember saying that. also about 20 years ago back in new jersey bragged of personally giving a donation to planned parenthood. that's a group that republicans now want nothing to do with. so he was questioned about that this week. a few instances from his past may be catching up with him now at a time when he wants to keep the traction going in new hampshire. >> opponents remind him of those issues. thank you so much. sanders' lead in new hampshire comes as hillary clinton campaigned in iowa picking up the endorsement of the brady campaign to prevent gun violence and an assist today from her daughter chelsea hitting the trail for her mom in new hampshire. maybe not helping clinton's cause, vice president joe biden who this morning on the "today" show tried to walk back comments made last night talking about income inequality and suggested bernie sanders led on that issue. >> there's -- >> hillary is talking about
that, as well. >> but it's relatively new for hillary to talk about that. hillary's focus has been on other things up to now and that's been bernie's no one questions bernie's authenticity on those issues. >> and here's today's version from biden. >> for the last five years, she's been engaged in foreign policy. four years. this is bernie's mantra and when it wasn't as serious as it was today. that's his drum beat. that's what i meant. she's coming up with some very good ideas but bernie is pushing the envelope on this. and for everyone. >> nbc's kristen welker joining us from iowa covering hillary clinton v. to imagine the clinton campaign not excited to hear joe biden talking about so much about bernie sanders on income inquality. >> reporter: you wouldn't think so. the vice president said he'll be
a part of the conversation and living up to that, kate. the clinton campaign says we refer you to the clarification today on the "today" show and the comments were unwelcomed and the polls you were discussing with steve car knock i can. a tight race here in iowa and bernie sanders pulling ahead in the poll just out today and seeing secretary clinton on the defensive a little bit more today during her first event in ames. she laid out the instances she's taken on wall street, big banks and taking a different strategy in this, kate, which is to lay out the closing arguments. she is trying to make the case that she's more electable and that she's quite frankly the tougher candidate coming to going against republicans in the general election. he said today, i'll still standing in reference to the instances of republicans trying to tear her down. the sanders campaign says, look, she is dealing with inevitability issue here and heard bernie sanders slam her on
that last night saying maybe she isn't so inevitable after all. we see the battle lines redrawn. kate? >> thanks so much. let's turn to nbc's ron mott from new hampshire. ron, what did chelsea clinton have to say? >> reporter: well, it's a busy day for her today, kate. good afternoon. you see some of the campaign staff out here planning to sign up some volunteers. the event we think -- they know how loud i can talk so i stepped outside. she spoke about the family an power of her mother and believes in her mother. chelsea gave birth in 2014 to a young girl. she's also pregnant now with baby expected this summer so she opened the day talking about early childhood education and something that secretary clinton says she is very much committed to. chelsea is fielding questions from a lot of people about all manner of things, criminal justice, foreign policy, you
name it. she might step out during our hit here, kate, and been a fairly busy day for her. really good crowd inside. this particular event was a hillary or women for hillary event and a lot of men inside and might see them file out as they have just apparently wrapped up here and a good day of campaigning for chelsea clinton. they've got a lot of work to do. steve alluded to that poll over the weekend shows that senator sanders way ahead among people under 45 years of age. chelsea's 35 and perhaps trying to connect with that crowd that her mother apparently is struggling with. kate? >> nbc's ron mott, watching over your shoulder to see. she did just wrap up inside and watching to see if she walks out that door. any sign? not yet. all right. ron mott up in new hampshire. >> no sign yet. i think tied up a little bit shaking hands. >> probably so. thank you so much. good to have you. straight ahead, terror at a tourist hot spot in turkey and there may be a link to isis.
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we're back with breaking news out of turkey where an explosion rocked the heart of istanbul. officials say the suspected suicide bomber a syrian man in the 20s with links to isis. joining me now with more from istanb istanbul, chief foreign correspondent, richard engel. what are we learning about the bomber? >> reporter: police sources are telling us that he was identified by a fingerprint, by a body part found on the scene that he was not on any terrorist watch list but that he had recently crossed into turkey from syria and registered as a refugee. they have identified him by name. say that he was born in saudi arabia. but a syrian national born in 1988 which would make him 27 or 28 years old.
>> and, richard, anymore about the victims? >> reporter: we're being told that nearly all of the victims among the dead and injured were german tourists. almost all of them from one particular german tour group that went to the old city. the main tourist hub in istanbul on a tour bus this morning. toured the sites. then the group actually split in two with some people going shopping and others staying with the guide. and it was the group that stayed with the guide that was approached by this suicide bomber. the guide reportedly tried to yell, say go ahead, way, go ahe alert the group that something terrible was about to happen but the bomb went off. the guide was also injured in the leg and then so many people were killed and injured. ten dead. 15 injured. most of them germans from that group and also some other foreigners who were in the area. >> wow. i know you know that area so
well. can you describe for us, it's a very touristy area, right? the part that probably many americans know if they visited istanbul. >> reporter: it would be the place that most americans or any foreign visitors would go to first when they came to istanbul. it is the center of the old city. across from the blue mosque and the explosion took place between two iconic landmarks by an egyptian obelisk. it is the heart of the old city. it used to be constant nope noble constant and overlapping in that one incredibly important spot and if you're a terrorist it's an obvious place to go and find tourists and try to kill them. a bad attack for turkey. for tourists, for its reputation and officials say it was a member of isis.
>> all right. richard engel from istanbul, thanks so much. recent polls showing terrorism is a top concern for u.s. voters. up next, how president obama plans to talk about national security in tonight's state of the union. i take prilosec otc each morning for my frequent heartburn because you can't beat zero heartburn! ahhh the sweet taste of victory! prilosec otc. one pill each morning. 24 hours. zero heartburn. in new york state, we believe tomorrow starts today. all across the state the economy is growing, with creative new business incentives, the lowest taxes in decades, and university partnerships, attracting the talent and companies of tomorrow. like in utica, where a new kind of workforce is being trained.
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number one concern for voters even higher than job creation and economic growth. joining me now to preview the national security angle of tonight's address, political correspondent kasie hunt here in the newsroom. nice to see you. >> great to see you, kate. >> welcome back to the trail. you were somewhere cold. >> i was in new hampshire and then south carolina which is a little warmer and chilly. >> i want to play -- talk about the president back in december we can play a little video giving a speech from the oval office that was meant to calm everybody down, calm fears and sort of didn't work. people responded not so well shall we say to that speech? >> kate, i think a lot of criticism for the speed with which he reacted. he spent sometime after the attacks in paris, san bernardino, before he addressed the american public directly and he took some criticism especially from republicans for that. so tonight i think you expect
him to try to set a different stage than the one that many of these republican candidates are currently inhabited. i'm with the republican s day a number one thing they're focused on and the physical security risen to the forefront and trying to use this, a different type of stage, right? it is not just the small kind of oval office and no audience and he will have to try to break outside of the box and fewer people watching being the final address. >> peter baker in "the new york times" this morning writes here's what president obama probably will not say tonight. americans are more alikely to die in a car crash, drown in a bathtub or be struck by lightning than be killed by a terrorist. the islamic state does not pose an existential threat to the united states. he adds by all accounts, mr. obama is sympathetic to this view. do you get the sense that president obama does think that people are sort of too afraid and shouldn't be so afraid and
will we hear him say anything like that? >> that idea that isis is not an existential threat to the united states of america is one that the president and people inside the administration say the president is sympathetic to. obviously, something that has affected americans. but, you know, every time you listen to the president talk about this, he is not setting it up in apocalyptic terms and change the way americans live their lives and the job is to convince people of this. you are more likely to die many other ways besides a terrorist attack. >> kasie hunt watching it with us tonight, the state of the union, thanks so much. >> thank you. this morning matt lauer had an exclusive conversation with the president and he asked him about this year's race in the context of what swept obama to power after eight years of george w. bush, people were hungry for hope and change and maybe this year's climate is a reaction to obama's two terms. >> after seven years of the
obama presidency, do you feel you're responsible for a certain hunger out there for the message that donald trump is putting out? >> the message of donald trump putting out has had adherence a lot of times during the course of our history. you know, talk to me if he wins. then we'll have a conversation of how responsible i feel about it. i'm pretty confident that the overwhelming majority of americans are looking for the kind of politics that does feed our hopes and not our fears. >> on the heels of trump's controversial proposal to ban muslims from entering the united states, house democrats are asking their colleagues to bring american muslim guests to the state of the union address. the initiative was started by dnc chair and minnesota congressman keith ellison, the first muslim elected to congress. congressman ellison joins me with his son elijah ellison
there on the right, an active duty combat medic. thank you both for being with us. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> why did you want to fill the gallery with people of muslim faith? >> to send an important signal there are no second class citizens in america. everyone is welcome to the american table, we're all equal and it's not okay to say that muslims can't emigrate. have to carry i.d.s or anything like that. you know, our country has grown from the ugly periods before. you know? the chinese exclusion act. japanese internment. segregation. anti-catholic sentiment. anti-jewish sentiment. we won't go back to the ugly days and inviting the colleagues to invite muslims guests, that's what we had in mind and stand up to it and one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all. muslims, to. >> elijah clearly you disagree
with donald trump's position and wanting to ban muslims from the united states and a poll con ducked after donald trump announced that ban that found that 59% of american republicans support the ban. how do you convince those on the other side of the aisle to join you? >> i mean, i think it's actually kind of easy for myself being a muslim in service. i set an example i feel. that others can follow and others can like learn from muslims, how muslims do act regularly when they're not extremists. >> and, congressman, when's the response been from your colleagues to this idea of bringing guests tonight who happen to be muslim americans? have any republicans accepted that offer? >> well, let me tell you. we have had 23 democrats who are going to do it. maybe even more and getting reports hour by hour that people are taking up the offer. three senators are doing it. and i just want to say this is
not a partisan issue. we have not been informed any republicans have taken the offer but we'd be very happy if they were. i know a lot of muslims who are republicans. and let me tell you. it wouldn't be any problem if they were to do this. we would welcome it. i would urge republican colleagues to not let their brand get spoiled by being associated with bigotry and intolerance. this is an important thing. i hope they take my advice on this. >> congressman keith eli son, his son elijah, thank you both for being with us and for your service. >> thank you. >> thank you. special coverage of tonight's state of the union address at 8:00 eastern and we have more coverage straight ahead so stay with us. more you know social side. (vo) pro plan bright mind promotes alertness and mental sharpness in dogs 7 and older. (ray) it was shocking.
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country's highest office. tonight he prepares for the final state of the union address. i want to bring in tavis smiley following the obama white house for eight years and a critic of president obama in many of the politics of health care to jobs. author of "the covenant with black america" and author of "death of a king." that's out the paperback now. good to have you with us. >> good the see you, kate. >> ten years ago you wrote "the covenant with black america" laying out a national plan of action. tonight, the president gets up there delivers his final state of the union. you've been very critical. do you not think there's any accomplishments that he can point to particularly for the african-american community? >> critical belongs me. our jobs to try to get at the truth and telling the truth i don't want to be called a critic for doing that. a tell teller or searcher for how to make america a better
place to live and work and i see it as trying to hold him accountable to what he said he would do and black america is conce concerned, kate, black peopl now, the data, not me talking. we have lost ground in every leading economic category, every major economic category. black people lost ground over the last decade. historians will have a difficult time trying to juxtapose how black america bottomed out. >> the unemployment rate i think is 8.3% right now for black americans. that's the lowest since september of 2007. is that not an accomplishment? >> it is a good number. no one's suggesting there's not pockets of progress. you read ten years later, pockets of progress on health, on the digital divide, pockets of progress even on education. there is some progress here and there. my point here again on the mayor economic indicators black america has lost ground and for a community that represented the most loyal constituency to the
president i think they would tell you, maybe not in public, they expected a little bit more. >> you have been speaking out lately about donald trump. i want to play a clip of sunday morning, this is you expected a little bit more. >> you've been speaking out lately about donald trump. i want to play a clip from sunday morning, this is you talking about donald trump. >> trump is still, to my mind, at least, an unrepentant, religious, and racial arsonist. so when you talk about how he's rising in the poll, you can't do that after the issues and the kind of campaign he's raising. for us to say he's rising in the polls and not connect it to the base message he's putting out there. >> donald trump tweeted back, why does this week allow a hater and racist like tavis smiley to waste go airtime? abc can do much better. >> this.
>> our job is to get at the truth. when you are going after muslims and undocumented workers and we in the media are letting you get away with it, our job is to not just cover the stories and to condemn them when they are doing something that is beneath the pale. when donald trump does this and you cover him, but we don't get to the truth of the matter and the matter is, the truth is, that you're rizing in the polls because you're appealing to the dark side of america. so he ought to be covered, but he ought to be challenged in the process. i'm not saying he doesn't have a right to say what he wants to say. but we're not doing our job when we let him get away with it. >> but i hear people say there's a coarseness now, a lot of name-calling. >> anybody who's followed my work for years, we don't do it that way. but when you ask me why donald
trump is rising in the polls, i'm gonna tell the truth. when you demonize people and tell people they're under attack, and say too many people are pacifists and tell folks they're in daer, in a space like this -- >> what if he wins the republican nomination? >> god help us all. >> what do you do then? >> tell the truth. i want to believe that america is better than that. you mentioned the king book is out today and i want to leave you on this note which comes from dr. king. he said expediency ask is it politics. vanity asks is it popular. conscience asks is it right? if our conscience doesn't say to us that this is not the right direction for america, to
demonize people, to appeal to racist elements, then something is wrong with america. what kind of nation are we going to be? what kind of people do we want to be? >> tavis smiley, always great to see you. >> good to see you. president obama, known as the first digital president. after his final state of the union he's answering questions on youtube. coming up, the top five digital moments of his presidency so far. e hugging the tree. (man) that's why we got a subaru. or was it that tree? (man) the twenty-sixteen subaru outback. love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru. it takes a lot of work... but i really love it.s. i'm on the move all day long... and sometimes, i just don't eat the way i should. so i drink boost® to get the nutrition that i'm missing. boost complete nutritional drink
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platforms, announcing tonight's speech on twitter. also using snap chat. we have for you the top five digital moments in my humble opinion. i'm going to do a casey kasem here. number five and obama and zach galifianakis, it helped introduce a more personal president obama to america. number four was president obama's first ever tweet, saying after six years, they finally gave him his own account, which brings us to number three, which was bill clinton's response. asking if the handle would stay with the office, #asking for a friend. i think that's quite funny. number two, we have white house firefighter, pete souza has documented barack obama's interaction with kids. we have another one, kids don't behave anywhere you take them.
there in the oval office. number one, jerry seinfeld, this was last month when jerry seinfeld went into the oval office to do his show. comedians in cars getting coffee. we don't have that clip. we will next hour. so the digital president using medium. it will be very interesting what we see tomorrow, and how the president leaves that chamber to return to the white house. we do expect to see that tomorrow morning on social media. >> love those moments. i'll put the comedians in cars on my twitter page. coming up, at the top of the hour, final prep for the state of the union address. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are going to join us. stay right here. you owned your car for four years,
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country. speaking with matt lauer, president obama also addressed the polarization in washington. eight years after he pledg to bring hope and change and end gridlock in the nation's capital. >> as you stand in that room, you will be looking out over a room that is as divided as it has ever been. do you see that as a failure of your presidency? you came to town saying it was about hope and change, you were going to change the tone in washington. you wanted to unite people. >> right. >> and they're not united. is it a failure? >> it's a regret. i could not be prouder of what we've accomplished. politics in washington are so much more divided than the american people are. part of what i want to do in this last address is to remind people, you know what, we got a lot of good things going for us and if we can get our politics right, it turns out that we're not as divided on the ideological spectrum as people make us out to be.
>> let's go straight to ron allen at the white house with the very latest. is that the theme tonight, we got a lot of good things going? >> i think the theme too is i'm going to talk to the people, not to the politicians. i've been struck by how much buzz there is around here, kate. every day is interesting, but today there's a lot of energy at the white house. there are a lot of guests. there are a lot of briefings. the media are so aggressively promoting this evening because they know this is perhaps one of the last opportunities that the president will have, certainly as president, to talk to such a large audience of people and he still has a lot of unfinished business that he wants to get done. and he knows that the congress is not going to help him on many of the big things that he wants to get done, like guns. which is why we're going to see an empty chair in the first lady's box, symbolizing victims of gun violence. like so many other things on the president's agenda, he may get some things done in congress, like criminal justice reform and the asia pacific trade deal, but
there are other legacy issues that he still wants to accomplish. and he wants the public to focus on these things. he wants to look down the road, not just to the next year, to the final year, but to the next generation. i think the rhetoric's going to be lofty and soaring. this is a president who has a lot on his mind and i think today, tonight, he's going to let the public know what he's thinking and what he's feeling as he winds down his time in office. >> ron allen at the white house there, you're probably going to be hearing about this at the white house in just a moment. but we have some breaking news out of the pentagon. two navy boats, u.s. navy boats, apparently in iranian custody, but iran telling the u.s., that the crew will be returned promptly. let me go straight to the pentagon and jim miklaszewski who covers the pentagon for us. what do we know about this? >> according to u.s. officials who tell nbc news, it was about noon eastern standard time, noon new york time here when two navy
boats were on a training mission near farsi island, it's an island that has claimed territorial by iran. one boat encountered a mechanical problem and drifted into iranian waters. the two boats were seized by iranian coast guard. we're about four hours into that episode. and according to officials, secretary of state john kerry got on the phone to his counterparts in tehran and convinced the iranians that it was indeed an accident. it was not intentional to violate iran's territorial waters and that the iranians, reportedly, according to officials, have agreed to release the ten americans. now, according to the officials, the iranians are apparently going to take the americans back
into territorial waters and turn them back into the hands of the u.s. navy. so far, there are no indications that anybody was injured in the incident and we're not clear what the mechanical difficulties there are, but it really raised concern among u.s. officials here at the pentagon and over at the white house. for fear that in the past, when such incidents have occurred, when some british sailors wandered into territorial waters, they were held for a long period of time by iranians. and given the diplomatic situation between the u.s. and iran right now over the nuclear deal, there were high concerns here in washington. but apparently and reportedly from u.s. officials, those ten american sailors who were taken into iranian custody, will be released sometime within the next couple of hours. kate? >> i was going to ask you, jim, in that context of the iranian
nuclear deal, does this look like evidence that we have better relations now to the pentagon and to the white house? are they reading this as, at least we're able to talk to them now and able to get these folks released? >> at this point, it's impossible to tell. he weren't privy to that discussion that went back and forth. we don't know if it was contentious, understanding. all we know, according to officials, is that iran is apparently prepared to release those ten american sailors who were taken into custody about four hours ago. >> jim miklaszewski, we'll let you go. thanks so much. joining me now, california democratic senator barbara boxer. she's here to join us to talk about the state of the union. if i may, though, since you're on the foreign relations committee, let me ask you about what we're just learning now, that the pentagon says that it briefly lost contact with two navy vessels in the persian gulf. the iranians apparently took the
people that were on those ships into custody, but now as jim miklaszewski was just reporting it would appear they're going to release them back to the united states. what do you make of that? >> well, as you know, i'm hearing this breaking news from you and my staff at the same time. so let me just be clear of what i know. it's basically that there was some type of mechanical problem and they weren't planning to be anywhere near iran-claimed territory. it sounds like diplomacy is working and, look, it's not over till it's over. so we hope that your point is well taken, that we have some better diplomacy going with iran right now, and hopefully this will be resolved and it won't be an issue we'll be talking about in a couple of hours. i certainly would expect that and i would hope that. >> let me ask you about the state of the union while i have you. president obama campaigned on
hope and change. we played some sound from his interview with matt lauer, where he basically admitted he hasn't been able to achieve all he had hoped eight years ago. as you sit there tonight, what is your take on the acrim oni in congress and why more hasn't been accomplished? >> look, i could talk to you for hours about why the two parties are not working as well together as they used to. i believe there are fundamental reasons. i believe the republican party has gone so far to the right that most of them are extreme and the american people are mainstream. but that's a political discussion. but you know, when i think about this president, i just re-read his very first state of the union address. when he made that address to the american people and to congress, this economy was in a free fall. we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. he inherited two wars that were placed on the credit card. the deficit, $1.4 trillion.
that's been cut by 2/3. the unemployment rate is down from 10 to 5%. we see the housing crisis. we've gotten past that. the auto industry, 640,000 new jobs created, a million saved. nine million jobs in all. so whether you look at that or the fact that 17 million more americans now have health care. i could go on. the fact is, with this leadership of this president, with a hostile republican caucus, let's not forget that. he did take these issues straight to the american people, and we are on our feet. and it showed that we can be resilient as a nation, that we can come back from remarkable challenges if we have strong leadership. we had that from president obama, and i hope he'll lay that out. we have more work to do. we could do so much more if politically we were able to come together. i'm a person that believes me
can. i never stop trying. but i think it's important for the american people, with all the negativity around, to see what we have done in these eight years together. >> senator barbara boxer, appreciate your time on a busy day. thanks so much. >> of course. i want to turn to someone on the other side of the aisle now. utah republican congressman chris stewart is with us, he serves on the homeland security subcommittee, among other committees that he's on. congressman, first of all, have you been briefed or heard about this situation that the pentagon is dealing with, with these two u.s. navy boats taken into custody by iran? >> you know, we haven't. i've been waiting to talk to you since this broke. i'll go down to the intelligence committee and i'll be briefed on that at that point. but what we would expect of iran is at least what has been indicated here, that's return these sailors and return their equipment. this is very clearly an inadvertent excursion into their territory and it shouldn't be
read as anything more than that. they should be returned. for them to do that, i don't think we can assume that our relationship with iran has developed into something that is going swimmingly well. there are many with deep concerns about iran and some of of the things they've been doing. >> and this comes at a time when there's a lot of fear, people are worried about other countries, worried about terrorist attacks. you disagree with the president on a lot of issues. speaker ryan observed the state of the union as a mess. is that how you see it? >> unfortunately i do. in several areas and none more than national security. i would challenge the president to say which area of the world is improved compared to when he came to power. things have been remarkably worse. it comes down to the idea that
we can lead from behind, that the u.s. can withdraw its influence and power and it leads to chaos. it leads our allies to think, as i've had conversations in the last 24 hours with some of our key allies, they say, we don't know if we can count on you anymore. we don't know if we can trust you anymore. that's not good. i hope the president addresses that tonight and creates a new vision of american leadership internationally. because the world is begging for american leadership. >> congressman, thanks so much for your time. chris stewart out of utah, thanks so much. >> thank you. i want to go now to chuck todd, who is with us from washington. and again, chuck, we were here to talk about the state of the union, obviously. you're on capitol hill already. but can i start with this news that we're running on the bottom of our screen there, u.s. navy boats in iranian custody. and jim miklaszewski was reporting that it appears that the iranians are willing to release the ten people that they took into custody back to the united states.
something like this happening on the day of the state of the union, i don't want to overplay it, but it's got to be one of those situations where the white house suddenly has to pivot. >> let's talk about the country in question here, it's iran. right? one of the achievements that the president believes he deserves credit for and many republicans in the audience tonight are going to disagree with, is getting an agreement on a nuclear deal with iran. is this the way to have a working relationship with iran? so this is how this could explode into a political football on capitol hill here in washington, where you already have so many, so many -- a lot of republicans, even a few democrats, so upset by the iran deal in the first place. we're on the verge of doing some verifications. iran has shipped off some of his plutonium, has put concrete in that one facility. this would be the ultimate setback for the administration if suddenly this turned into a huge problem. so it's one of those that i have
no doubt that the secretary of state is desperate to resolve this situation asap, considering where we are on the implementation of the nuclear deal with iran. >> and jim miklaszewski was reporting earlier that secretary kerry has been on the phone working on this. apparently this has been going on for a number of hours. and for our viewers, we're trying to get as much information as we can. we'll go back to that as soon as we have it. but while i have you, let's talk about the state of the union just for a moment. >> sure. >> president obama, there's a funny headline on the huffington post today. they just want me to light myself on fire. how obama came to hate the state of the union address. it's a reference to 2012 where after reading commentary about himself, the president said, they just want me to light myself on fire. he doesn't really like giving these speeches? >> oh, no, that's not true. what he doesn't like is, look,
he recoils when it comes to specific washington traditions that he feels as if -- where there's too much phony pomp, i think is probably the way to put it. and he's not alone. there are a whole bunch of members of congress here, that there's some rituals that you enjoy and there's great about it, but i think the way we chew through a state of the union, and the way we chew through it on policy and how it gets digested by the press, that's the part of it he doesn't like. it's not the speech itself. it's the reaction to the speech. the fact that it seems to go nowhere. so that's why i've had a lot of people close to him tell me this is gonna be a different one. this is finally the state of the union he's always wanted to give. you'll be intrigued by this one. i'm look, okay, i'll be watching. >> let's hear it. >> there's only so much you can
do under these circumstances. so i don't know how different it will be. it may have fewer laundry list of issues mentioned tonight. it may be more aspirational in tone, which is the type of speech the president prefers to give. the laundry list stuff is i think what he recoils at. >> we have been seeing a different sort of tone from the president lately. haven't we with? -- haven't we? in a lot more casual settings, being sort of reflective. do you expect that tonight? >> i do a little bit. i'm looking at this speech not as his final state of the union, b but actually as his first foray into the 2016 campaign. i think he wants to set the agenda, have influence on the primary race, assuming it's hillary clinton as the nominee and we shouldn't be making those assumptions yet. but if she won, it would cement
his legacy, getting your party a third theerm. that's a big deal. so it would cement his legacy. i think he wants some credit if hillary clinton does win, that the agenda she's running on is a continuation of his agenda. so tonight is not the last state of the union. tonight is the first foray for president obama into 2016. >> chuck todd, thanks so much. we'll all be watching tonight. our coverage here on msnbc begins at 8:00. i want to turn back now to the breaking news that we've been telling you about. we told you we'd bring you an update soon as we had it. the pentagon saying that it briefly lost contact with two small navy craft in the persian gulf today, but receiving assurances from iran that they will return some of the crew that they had apparently taken into custody. brian williams is going to pick up from there. brian, what have we learned since the initial report? >> kate, we'll swing to the pentagon to further add to this. we heard mechanical failure
initially attach ed to this report. if there are two vessels, the second didn't want to leave the first and the sailors on board. jim, for folks just dialing in, seeing the red banner at the bottom of the screen, seeing this story, take it from the top and tell us what's known as of right now. >> according to senior u.s. officials, these two navy boats, they operate primarily in coastal waters and in rivers. they were transiting the persian gulf when apparently, according to officials, one of those boats developed mechanical problems and the two boats inadvertently according to u.s. officials, drifted into the iranian territorial waters off the island of farsi. which is smack dab in the middle of the persian gulf. the iranian coast guard
responded immediately, seized the two boats and took, according to u.s. officials, took the ten sailors into custody. it was shortly after, we're told, that secretary of state john kerry got on the phone to his counterparts there in tehran and convinced, apparently, the iranian government that this was all a mistake, unintentional, that the sailors never had any intention to enter or violate iranian territorial waters and that the iranians agreed and would soon release the two boats and the ten sailors back in international waters within the next couple of hours. but it's been about four, four and a half hours now since the incident occurred. but according to officials, john kerry's phone call apparently drove the point home to tehran and those sailors will be released. so far, there's no indication that there were any injuries
involved in the incident and this should be resolved within the next couple of hours. but you can imagine the consternation with all the politics and diplomacy involving iran as of late. >> absolutely right, jim. and i'm thinking, when you say riverine craft, i'm thinking of somewhere between a launch and a pt boat with an open stern, perhaps stand-up cockpit, center cockpit, but not a very large vessel? >> there are several versions of them, but you're exactly right. they're manned by a small number of crews. and in vietnam, they were used wi widely. in fact, john kerry served on a riverine boat in vietnam and was wounded. it was his final purple heart that brought him out of vietnam during the vietnam war. but again, you know, what raised everybody's concerns here is that sometime ago, a similar incident occurred with a number of british sailors, and when they inadvertently drifted into
territorial waters, they were held for some period of time by iran. and that reminded here in the pentagon and officials over at the state department, that they had to move quickly to resolve this situation. as you can imagine, if it was, well, noon here, it would have been about dusk in the persian gulf. and it would be very easy for two crew, if they're trying to repair a boat in open waters, to inadvertently drift while they're doing those repairs into those territorial waters, which is apparently what happened. and the iranians at least believe it. >> for those old enough to remember apocalypse now, that's the kind of vessel we're talking about here. jim miklaszewski, we'll keep you standing by. let's go over to the white house, nbc's ron allen standing by. as chuck todd just indicated and as jim repeated, for a white house going into the state of
the union address this evening, not good to have this in the background. >> well, they're emphasizing the positive, i think, brian. what we're hearing on background from senior administration officials is that they have been assured by the iranians through perhaps the conversations that secretary kerry had, that the crew are safe and well, are the words that we're hearing, safe and well. and we're also hearing again that there's a very reassuring message coming from the administration here. you're absolutely right, this is the last kind of thing that they want in the background while the president is trying to reassure the nation that he is in control and that this is a good, positive time for the united states. we know that the persian gulf has been a flash point for tension between the united states, iran, over the years. and when you hear persian gulf, in the american public, you're automatically concerned about what's going on there.
it's a very narrow waterway where there's a lot going on and there's the potential for conflict at any time. not intense conflict, but just a situation that could perhaps become more dangerous than it is. but again here, the tone here that we're hearing from the administration are words of assurance, are words that say that the crewmen are safe, that their well-being is good condition and they expect this situation will be resolved very promptly. in other words, what we're reading here, and what was being told. again, the administration trying to downplay, if you will, the urgency of this. again saying that there they've been informed of the safety and well-being of personnel and they expect it to be resolved promptly. >> ron allen at the white house. back to jim miklaszewski just for a moment. now, jim, it's clear we're not
talking about amaya guez here, but we we hear the words safe and well, we should explain about these waters, tolerances are quite thin and are enforced. there are often a number of vessels from the various nations there, and down between them, in international waters, passes some big ticket, large vessels, doing the, of t business of the persian gulf. >> that's right. they're very crowded and disputed waters. you'll recall a couple of weeks ago, that when an american aircraft carrier group was transiting the strait of hormuz that the iranians carried on a very aggressive, live fire operation, very close to that carrier battle group in international waters, causing some consternation there. so iran for some period of time has harassed, not only u.s.
warships, but we've seen before where they've seized tanker ships, they've harassed other military warships that go through the strait of hormuz in those hotly contested waters. that's why, when the first reports flashed here in the pentagon, it raised some very serious red flags. >> jim miklaszewski at the pentagon. for those just tuning in and seeing this graphic at the bottom of the screen, this comes with the caveat that iran has apparently given its assurance to the u.s. secretary of state, john kerry, that they fully intend to release these ten u.s. sailors. they had mechanical difficulty, apparently. and this is two vessels' worth of u.s. sailors who have been detained, but it is iran's intent, apparently, to release them. let's get some reaction from washington. a member of the democratic leadership is with us. the veteran maryland democratic
congressman steny hoyer. and i know you were scheduled to come on at this hour to preview the speech tonight. this suddenly becomes if not part of the backdrop, part of a din, something that appears may still be going on. what's your initial reaction to hearing all this? >> well, brian, let's hope it's part of the backdrop, if in fact they inadvertently crossed a line and the iranians have said they're going to promptly return the sailors. this will be backdrop. the night's news hopefully is going to be what the president of the united states has to say, not only about where we are in the state of the union, but i expect him also to talk about where he hopes this nation will be five years, ten years down the road, long after his presidency. i expect it to be an address about vision, as well as about state of the union. and hopefully as i said at the onset, that this will be backdrop, because it would be simply a mistake occurred, the
iranians took people into custody, in their territory, and are returning them as has been reported, promptly. and i quote the word promptly. which hopefully will be within hours, if not already being effected. >> and hopefully we'll be talking about this in the rearview mirror and perhaps even a good reminder that the world is full of dangerous places and the world is also full of americans in uniform, serving far from home 24/7. >> brian, i think you're absolutely right. we deploy people all over the world. they're in very dangerous places and we need to keep them in mind and be ever-vigilant. hopefully, again, as i say, this will be backdrop, simply a mistake, it will not lead to anything more serious than a recognition a mistake was made and the people are returned in good order and very promptly. but we ought to be focused on
what the president has to say. hopefully we'll come together as a nation. because one of the things that these incidents show us, brian, is that if we are a divided country, whether it's on international security issues or on domestic issues, we will not be as strong as we should be in a dangerous world. >> steny hoyer, democratic whip in the house, which means he's the persuader and will have a prominent position at the state of the union address. he has votes upcoming. congressman, thank you for joining us at this late hour. >> thank you, brian. >> thank you, congressman. >> we're joined on the phone now by a retired naval commander and a senior analyst for the study of war. commander, can you hear me? >> yes, loud and clear. thanks for having me. this is like a bad trip down memory lane for me, because i spent a lot of time in the persian gulf flying in and around farsi island. and i have a tremendous amount of sympathy for these sailors.
on a number of occasions i nearly violated iranian airspace myself and would have if i had not had radar keeping me clear. the tolerances are so small because there's so many vessels packed so close together, so many aircraft packed close together. this isn't like the pacific or atlantic ocean or even the gulf of mexico. it's a tightly constrained water space, tightly constrained airspiai airspace. so i have a lot of sympathy for these sailors and i hope they get home soon. >> farsi island has been in the news and public discussion before for exactly this kind of thing, given it's almost equidistant location. when i heard initially ten sailors, two vessels, both of
them detained, common sense would indicate that if one of them had a problem, the other would pull up alongside, thus if they drifted into iranian waters, that would put them both in harm's way. >> yeah. that seems like a pretty reasonable explanation. we don't have any official word from the pentagon yet, but it's entirely possible that ship had -- one vessel had a mechanical failure, and the other was there to assist. both vessels got task saturated on trying to fix the mechanical failure, nobody was paying attention to navigation. i know for your viewers, it seems unlikely that military personnel would just get lost with all the equipment they have, but it happens more often than you think, especially when people get over-reliant on electronic and gps navigation systems. they're very convenient, but they're not always accurate. when they don't work, if you're not using your mechanical or analog navigation systems, very quickly you can get out of position. and it seems like that's the
most reasonable explanation for what happened. the other thing i heard you earlier saying these are comparable to maybe something you have seen in apocalypse now. that's exactly what it is. they're riverine craft, not commissioned warships. the biggest thing that you can really put on those things is about a 50 cal machine gun. so if the iranian coast guard came out, there was no way to defend themselves. you wouldn't want to escalate the situation. there's a plausible explanation. they got in trouble, got lost, drifted into iranians water and hopefully cool heads prevail and this situation will be resolved. >> retired navy commander chris harmer, for those listening at home, who collect great military phrases, we just learned another one. task saturated. commander, that must mean really busy. >> yes, sorry about that.
i'm retired navy, but i still use the lingo, and that's exactly what task saturated means and people focus on the one thing at hand and they don't think about the other things they need to keep in mind. >> no apology necessary, it is a great phrase and a net gain for all of us linguistically. also with us on the telephone, u.s. army retired four star general barry mccaffrey, a military analyst for nbc news. general mccaffrey, what was your reaction what you heard this headline and now when you've learned the subsequent reporting? >> well, everyone is going to try to make sure that the tendency to escalate this is tamped down. and obviously there's a lot yet to learn technically about what has occurred. however, i think this is very bad news. why didn't the navy have surveillance of their two small boats? why wasn't there a report
rendered? why wasn't assistance sent to them? at the end of the day, we simply can't allow ground, air, or naval units to be seized by a foreign, hostile power. so i hope they're back, both the vessels and the crews real quickly, because this is an affront to our military presence in the gulf and will unsettle our allies in the region. >> general, for those in the audience who have not visited or seen this waterway in question. there's little mystery to it. you can often see the vessels. you can't see boundaries or barriers in the water. but you can see the vessels of the other countries. you can often see the aircraft and you're aware of their presence as you are aware as a mariner of the border. >> yeah, quite true.
but to remind our viewers, we have incredibly precise and effective electronic navigation and positional locating systems right now. not just for vessels, but for smart munitions, you name it. so it's not clear to me, again, why if we had two small boats in the region, why wasn't there an active oversight of those small boats by a larger naval or air elements. again, i think we need to understand, the revolutionary guard naval forces have predominance in the gulf. the regular navy is out in the wide ocean. so this was a deliberate -- a series of deliberate provocative acts that have taken place, and we'd be ill advised to let them ratchet up their apparent freedom of action against u.s. naval forces. >> and to your point, general, let's hope we learn later that the navy had eyes on this the entire time. and to use another great phrase,
because of op-sec, operational security, they those not to share that with us or the american people until this is all over. but the general raises a good point about how much supervision and surveillance could have, should have been in use here. general, i've learned in a note just handed to me, these two riverine vessels were apparently transiting from kuwait to bahrain. it's unclear if they will continue on that mission to bahrain. sometimes the gears of this kind of thing can move slowly. >> yeah, no question. well, you know, ten young sailors out at sea confronted by a paramilitary power, i find no fault with these two small boats. clearly they weren't capable of going down with the ship. there's no implication of that. but we ought to view this as an extremely serious affront to
u.s. military power in the region whose credibility is vitally important to keeping the peace. so hopefully the iranians will turn back the vessels and the crews and do it rapidly and put this behind us. >> general barry mccaffrey, thank you very much. as we heard from democratic whip steny hoyer who will be attending in short order the president's state of the union address, this will be part of the backdrop tonight. all we know is what jim miklaszewski initially reported from the pentagon and that is that these two vessels, one of which apparently had mechanical problem. they're called riverine vessels and that kind of sweeps up an entire category of u.s. navy vessel. again as we've been saying if you're familiar with the film "apocalypse now," that type of
boat, river boat, in the case of the movie, going up the mekong delta. in this case, next to farsi island. these two vessels and the ten u.s. sailors combined on board were taken up by iranian forces. some quick work ensued, a phone call apparently from the u.s. secretary of state to the highest levels in iran. this is inescapably the night of the state of the union address by the president in this country, not something you want to have lingering or looming in the background. and the assurance was reportedly given to the u.s. secretary of state that these ten u.s. navy sailors would be released. as we were just saying with the general, sometimes the gears of that mechanism can grind rather slowly. our long-time correspondent in
the region, ayman mohyeldin joins us with anything more you've collected on this subject. >> brian, we're still getting some initial indications as to what may have happened. certainly from the pentagon, hearing it was a mechanical, possible mechanical failure is going to be of great interest to learn how the iranians responded. we know the iranian navy maintains a robust presence all throughout the persian gulf. that island, farsi island, further up north, closer to some territorial waters that have been historically disputed between many countries in the region. so it will be very interesting to see just how much diplomacy played a factor in this. and the context of what has been happening between the united states and iran over the past several months cannot be lost. had this situation happened a year ago or even before then, when there was no agreement, no direct communications between u.s. and iranian diplomats, which would be a very complicated dance to negotiate.
the u.s. would probably have had to rely on some allies, but at least what we're hearing in the initial reports, the secretary of state was able to pick up the phone and call his counterpart directly and that perhaps saved hours, if not days was very critical time in trying to secure the release of these american sailors. important to emphasize, we know the iranian revolutionary guard maintains a presence on farsi island. and if those ships were there, they were more likely than not under the control of the iranian revolutionary guard. one of the most important and powerful institutions in iran. >> and it's no mystery, you can can se can se c se opposing sides, sometimes vessels and aircraft, everybody knows where that
corridor is. the shipping lanes, and some big ticket vessels pass through there every day. >> absolutely. i've been on u.s. aircraft carriers in the region. i've been on civilian vessels as well. i can tell you that the navigation of that entire persian gulf, and particularly through the straits of hormuz, the narrow part between the united arab emirates and iran, that is extremely delicate. those ships do not have a lot of wiggle room. they do not have a lot of territorial waters to stray in. so the united states knows this area very well. they've had a very robust presence there for decades. they have the fifth fleet stationed in bahrain. so they have a very big naval presence. they know almost every inch, if you will, of that entire area. it's unlikely that u.s. vessels strayed into iranian waters as a result of some kind of navigation error. we don't know that for a fact, but given the fact that the u.s. has been patrolling these waters for decades, they know it very, very well. so it will be interesting to see
what caused this incident to take place, what caused these ships to get to farsi island. and again, farsi island is certainly known to the americans because of the presence of iranian warships in the area. so it would not have been for any other reason at this point than what the u.s. pentagon is saying, that it was a mechanical reason. >> yeah, i'm guessing that's why everybody pointed to mechanical. the gps on the dashboard of the average car made in the last five years would give you enough science to be able to avoid the no-go areas on either side of the shipping lanes there. let's take a break in our coverage and we'll continue right after this. still be pain. it comes when your insurance company says they'll only pay three quarters of what it takes to replace it. what are you supposed to do? drive three quarters of a car? now if you had liberty mutual new car replacement, you'd get your whole car back. i guess they don't want you driving around on three wheels. smart. with liberty mutual new car replacement,
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brian williams here with you from new york. we are back and there at the bottom of the screen you see the headline of the story we are covering at this hour. we are hoping and certainly the guidance to our coverage has been that it is not all that it seems, and to that end, let's go to the white house, nbc's ron allen. the white house is an interesting place, because in a few hours, the motorcade leaves from there for the president to deliver the state of the union address across town to capitol hill, ron. anything new as far as guidance from the west wing? >> let me take you back to a statement that we have from ben rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, the face of the administration for all
things foreign and dangerous and difficult like isis of late. the statement said, we are aware of circumstances surrounding the patrol in the persian gulf. we are working to resolve it so any u.s. personnel are returned to their normal deployment. we are tracking very closely and hope it will be resolved. that was the initial statement. since then, as you know, brian, we've been hearing some chatter in the background and some guidance from other officials in the administration who have been much more reassuring that they are aware that the sailors involved are well and safe. and i've also heard that this may take some time. we heard the word promptly, but we're also being reminded that it's the middle of the night in that part of the world. and that they may have a better idea of what's happening by morning. now, i'm not quite sure how long that might take. they've been trying to get a better idea of the timing of this. we believe this has been going on for several hours. i heard four to five hours
earlier. now it seems that the situation may take a little while longer to resolve perhaps. again, we're not clear, but again, it's important to emphasize that it's the middle of the night there, and of course this is a very important issue for the administration for a number of reasons, as we've been discussing. on the evening of the state of the union. the president of course has been widely criticized for his foreign policy, and one of the things that he wants to do tonight is to reassure the nation that the united states is safe and bei protected. he's been widely criticized for the iranians nuclear deal. i think the president if he revises his speech at all, to allude to this, and also i should tell you, the speech is going to be 52 minutes long, per chris jansing, the senior white house correspondent here, who has been briefed on the speech, which would be his shortest speech, which would be interesting from a president not
known for his brevity. but the president's going to, in his remarks, reassure the nation that everything is being done to keep the country safe. that's his top priority. and in these matters of foreign affairs that he's been so criticized for, that he is in control and making things happen. and as others have pointed out, in this situation, it appears that that the work that's been done with the iranians enabled secretary kerry and others to be in direct contact with their iranian counterparts to resolve the situation promptly. >> and the elephant in the political room here may be of all people donald trump, who has been campaigning on the iran deal. the deal he has called stupid and then some. so this is not just any country, not just any part of the world, but of all nights, of all the speeches, and of all the themes that have been previewed to us, the president talking about our
safety in the world, this comes along and as you point out, in the middle of the night, halfway around the world, hours can stretch on. >> indeed, brian. and again, that may be where we are on this. we don't know. i've been trying to get some sense of the timing of where things stand. and also the logistics. it's unclear exactly where these sailors are, what the condition of the ship is, or ships. where they are vis-a-vis the iranians. so a lot of unanswered questions. and as others have pointed out so astutely, this is a very volatile and very dangerous part of the world. but getting back to the speech tonight, again, the president is going to talk a lot about the nation's security. he's going to talk a lot about the nation's strength. he's going to talk a lot about the accomplishments that have happened. and when you listen to that, some of it, a lot of it, of course is about the u.s. economy and the strength of the economy
as they see it here, but a lot of the president's accomplishments have been also been on the foreign side. the iranian nuclear deal, the opening with cuba, the asia pacific trade deal and the shift towards asia and the pacific that the president has talked so much about in terms of the global strategy that the united states is pursuing going forward into the years ahead. and i think also a lot of the speech is going to be about the years ahead, about the next generation, about where he sees america going, and what the goals and challenges are for this nation going forward. but again, this situation is a reminder and again if the president alludes to it, it's just a reminder of how volatile things are in the world and i think the president will do everything he can to try and reassure the nation that he has a steady hand on the wheel. >> ron allen from the white house, thank you for that. with us by telephone is former u.s. navy admiral joe sift ak, former democratic congressman
from pennsylvania. but was director of defense policy in the clinton white house and director of the counterterrorism unit within the u.s. navy. and admiral, first of all, is my assumption right that the way you get to two vessels being boarded or towed and ten u.s. sailors taken in, is for one vessel to have a mechanical and the other to join it? >> that is true. i mean, look, i don't know much about this situation. but i've operated in my aircraft carry battlegroup there as well as as small destroyer. and farsi island, where i understand they are, is the navy base for the iranian revolutionary guard. but my understanding of this is we may have had a mechanical problem. one of the two vessels may have drifted into what's called territorial waters, and that these ships were taken under, u.s. ships, into custody, temporarily we hope, by the
iranians. it's also can be -- if it is by the u.s., iranian coast guard that has them in custody a totally different force than the iranian revolutionary guard. i found the iranian coast guard is extraordinarily professional. it's the revolutionary guard that tends to be those that i have seen come towards small vessels, racing towards them, and at time we'd move or helicopters over there just to make sure that anything untoward happened we were able to take care of our vessels. this appears to be a different situation where at times when a vessel breaks down, drifts into territorial waters, it understandably is taken into territorial custody. >> and that's not a hostile experience, there's nobody firing over anybody's bow. and are the vessels boarded or just towed? >> most times they are towed.
and we practice that, actually. and we work with other nations on exercises like that incidents at sea. in fact, there was a situation like this when i was a navy admiral out there, i sent off that we should have an incident at sea agreement with iran. we used to have it with the soviet union, with the people's republic of china, even when we were in a much more hostile situation in older days so that when situations like this happened, there's a hotline and we understand this is just normal routines that sometimes happen. if this is the case, what you really want at this moment in time, is to have cool heads out there and understand that it is tradition on the seas that if someone is in peril, others take care of them. and that's what we want to make sure just continues, if that is the issue. >> admiral joe sestak, thank you very much for adding your hands-on expertise as head of a
carrier battlegroup formerly in those waters to our coverage of this crisis, which we hope is fleeting and will be resolved shortly. as we head to a break, let's check in with hampton pearson, with the cnbc market wrap. >> hello, brian, we actual saw the markets rallying heading into the close. the dow climbing by 117 points. the s&p up by 15. the nasdaq rising almost 48 points. that's it from cnbc, first in business worldwide. glad i could help you plan for your retirement. alright, kelly and promise me that you'll try that taco place on south street. and we have portfolio planning tools to help you manage your ira. yeah, you're old 401k give me your phone. the rollover consultants give you step-by-step help. no set-up fees. use your potion. sorry, not you. my pleasure. goodnight, tim. for all the confidence you need. who's tim? td ameritrade. you got this.
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brian williams back with you from new york. our live coverage having barged into kate snow this afternoon, covering the story you see there on the banner, ten american sailors, two vessels apparently taken into custody, but also the u.s. has apparently been given assurances they'll be released in short order. among our guests, we're joined by medal of honor recipient, retired u.s. army colonel jack jacobs. and i'm thinking not to make any comparisons at all to the situations with those two vessels, the matt ux and a sea turner joy. no evidence that has a shot has been fired, no evidence it won't end peacefully, but there are some great telephone recordings between secretary mcnamara, president johnson, where both of them are talking about how tensions can run high, the water can look differently at night, young sailors out there and we have to hope that tempers remain
calm. >> well, it did here. i think if we were in the same situation, we'd probably do what the iranians are doing, tow them to a port and wouldn't release anyone until we get orders from headquarters, and take lots of pictures of the vessels that we captured. >> jack jacobs among our other guests, thanks. the 5:00 hour has arrived here in the east. a night unlike any other in the political calendar here on capitol hill, where the president tonight will deliver the big speech. chuck todd is there to anchor tonight's "meet the press daily." chuck? well, if it's tuesday, it's the last state of the union for president obama. we know he'll say it's strong. but just how much of tonight's address will actually be a campaign speech. this is