Is Donald Trump fit to be president?

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now back to the presidential race, and new questions this week surrounding Donald Trump’s temperament.

For two views on what exactly makes a presidential candidate fit to lead, we are joined by retired Air Force General Michael Hayden. He’s former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and of the National Security Agency. And Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, he served as an aide to former Attorney General John Ashcroft in the George W. Bush administration.

And we welcome both of you to the “NewsHour.”

General Hayden, to you first.

You were one of 50 Republicans to sign an open letter this week saying that Donald Trump shouldn’t be elected president. You said he would be the most reckless president in U.S. history. What do you base that on?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, Former NSA and CIA Director: Well, I mean, obviously, that’s a prediction that is based on our analysis. He’s not yet become president and he’s not done anything in the Oval Office.

But we based it upon what we have seen of the candidate during the campaign. We have based upon the kinds of things that he said, the kinds of responses that he’s had to provocations. We see a lack of the proper temperament, character, patience, civility, knowledge, and let me add, curiosity.

When we were waiting for a turn — and we understand there is a political process here. Some things happen early in a campaign. Some things happens later. We were waiting for an adjustment, where the candidate was more serious, more fact-based, more concerned about the specifics of what he was saying, and it just didn’t happen.

So, we felt we had to point that out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Temperament, character, and so on, Kris Kobach, as someone who supports Donald Trump, what do you say to that?

KRIS KOBACH, Secretary of State, Kansas : I disagree.

And I have had the advantage of the opportunity to meet with Mr. Trump on several occasions. And my experience is that he’s very intelligent. He’s thirsty for information. He wants to hear what you have to say. He listens to his advisers. He digests the information very quickly, and he’s got a good memory, because I remember one time I was talking to him about something, and then he pulled some information out of his memory banks that was a great connection that I hadn’t even thought to mention to him.

So, I think there is another difference here, too. Different presidents are different as far as their public persona vs. their persona meeting with advisers. For example, George Bush was pretty much the same in person as when he was speaking publicly.

I think Donald Trump has a stage persona and he also has a temperament when meeting with his advisers. Now, the positions are the same, but the attitude is a little bit different.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you General Hayden about that.

What about that? What if there is a different Donald Trump who is more reasoned and more rational in private?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: So, why isn’t he running? I mean, that’s a little bit like pay no attention to the man in front of the screen, to paraphrase “The Wizard of Oz.”

We have campaigns so that the electorate can get to know the candidate and make an intelligent choice. And so if the candidate is hiding his true persona, seems to defeat the whole purpose of electoral campaigns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Kris Kobach?

KRIS KOBACH: In the course of a — speaking at a public event, you are not going to suddenly change course or then show a lack of confidence, whereas, in person, he may say, OK, well, tell me more. I need to know more about this.

And so that’s the point I’m making. The public is getting to see who Donald Trump is. My point is that the allegation General Hayden had made was that he doesn’t listen to people. And I don’t know how he can make that allegation unless he’s seen the person in a room and been talking with him and providing information.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you do say, General Hayden, in the letter that your sense of Donald Trump is that he doesn’t listen. You say that he met with Henry Kissinger, he met with James Baker.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Jim Baker, right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Didn’t seem to change his views.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: And came out, and asked, did talking to those very prestigious members of the American national security community, above party, actually, said, did they change your views on anything? No.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kris Kobach, let me come back to Donald Trump’s comments yesterday in North Carolina about Hillary Clinton, about the Second Amendment, suggesting that — quote — “Second Amendment people” might put a stop to Hillary Clinton naming certain judges.

We now learned today that the Secret Service is having conversations with Mr. Trump’s campaign about that comment. How did you read what he said? How do you explain it?

KRIS KOBACH: Oh, I think it was pretty clear, if you look at the video.

The audience is interacting with him while he’s giving a speech. And he says, look, it’s too bad. If Hillary gets the ninth nominee on the Supreme Court, they’re going to take away your Second Amendment rights. And then he says, well, the Second Amendment people might be able to do something about it, in so many words.

What I read that is, even if the Supreme Court rules, Congress still has the pass a law confiscating weapons or banning certain firearms. And Second Amendment people are the NRA, the Gun Owners of America, all these organizations that have incredible influence on Capitol Hill.

I think that’s exactly what he meant. And I don’t see a person why a person would read into that some sort of threat of violence or assassination, as the Hillary Clinton campaign hyperventilated. I just don’t think that’s even plausible.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know, General Hayden, even some people in the audience took to it mean — may have been a joke, but that he was referring to…

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Well, let me — I don’t. I watched it, and I believe what he said was what he said.

But let me just for the moment accept Kris’ approach to this. It shows a certain lack of understanding of American political history, American political culture, that even if he actually meant to say this, that he chose to say it like this, given our darkest history in terms of political assassination, in what universe does someone want to be president of the United States and think that that’s an OK formulation?

I can go further because it’s part of a pattern. In what universe does someone who might actually become the president of the United States say, nah, you know, we may not — we may not live up to our NATO commitments, an attack against one — or an attack is an attack against all, unless everyone has paid their bills?

I mean, in what universe does someone who is actually going to be the president of the United States think it’s OK to say, they hate us, they all hate us, Islam hates us?

You don’t have to become president for those statements to actually harm American national security.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kris Kobach?

KRIS KOBACH: I don’t think those statements are exactly as the general has characterized them. He doesn’t say all of Islam hates us.

He has said that we have to vet people coming in from places in the world where Islamic radical terrorism is prevalent and put a temporary halt on some of those entries from those parts of the world.

I mean, look, he often will express something in a general principle or general idea, and then usually he will come back and give some specifics. I would like to turn, though, to presidential temperament again.

Another factor is independence. Right? You want the president to be uninfluenced by any factors other than his advisers and the best interests of the United States. I think, on that category, Donald Trump easily beats Hillary Clinton. We have the example of the Clinton Foundation.

At the very time that the Algerian government was having multiple meetings with the Clinton State Department, she was receive — the foundation was receiving half-a-million from the Algerians. At the very time that a Russian uranium executive transferred $2.35 million to the foundation, she then OKs a deal where the Russians gain control of 20 percent of U.S. uranium interests.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me put that…

KRIS KOBACH: That’s a big issue, too. And I think people will wonder, as long as the Clinton Foundation exists, has there been a recent contribution and is she going to look at that before she makes a decision?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me put that question to General Hayden.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sure.

Look, I agree with Kris that you don’t want a president who is subject to external influence, external being outside of the United States, outside the proper course of our political process. I get that.

And I’m not carrying any brief here for Secretary Clinton. But what — I’m just simply pointing out that if you look at the series of things that the candidate has allowed himself to say, if he governs in any way consistent with those statements, I think we have grounds to be afraid, very afraid.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you mean that literally?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: One of the things that prompted the letter was the seeming tenor of the campaign and of the candidate, frankly, to think that the world’s an ugly place right now simply because his predecessors were stupid or weak or corrupt.

The world is an ugly place because the world is very complicated place, and there doesn’t seem to be any appreciation for the complexity of the problems that he’s going to have to face as president. And if he goes in there with a simplistic understanding and simplistic answers, it’s going to make the world worse.

And, again, that is no brief for his predecessor, whom I have criticized more often than not.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Kobach, final last word.

KRIS KOBACH: I certainly agree with the general comment that Mr. Trump has made that the world is a dangerous place. And it’s a more dangerous place than it was seven years ago.

And you also have to think about the president’s position with respect to our enemies. And I think there, too, you have a better person, a better chief executive in Mr. Trump, because no one doubts that he’s willing to walk away from a deal if it’s a bad one. No one doubts that he’s willing to punish our enemies if they transgress U.S. interests, whereas, with Hillary, she is very predictable.

And you don’t expect anything different than really than we saw under the Obama administration. So I think that in terms of the American interests, I would feel more safe with a President Trump representing those interests to the world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, we thank you both.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Thanks.

Thanks, Kris.

KRIS KOBACH: Thank you.

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