Luther Strange, Roy Moore make their case to voters in Alabama Senate runoff

This is a rush transcript from "The Story," September 25, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Breaking tonight, the NFL battle is now heating up. Clearly, the hottest topic of the day and now you've got "Monday Night Football" about to get under way. The president is speaking out tonight and so are the players. In response to a story that his chief of staff was not on the same page, the president tweeted this moments ago: "General John Kelly totally agrees with my stance on NFL players and the fact that they should not be disrespecting our flag or great country."

General John Kelly, for his part, responded as well moments ago about where he the standards on the fact that one in eight NFL players over the weekend took a knee on the sidelines or stayed in the tunnel during the national anthem. Kelly wrote this: "I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about the men and women who have been maimed and killed," Kelly said. "Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes." Those are the words of the chief of staff.

Moments ago, this, from Steeler QB, Ben Roethlisberger, who said this: "I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on the team's decision to remain in the tunnel for the national anthem yesterday. The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we had approached it differently." Here is what it looked like as we get ready for Monday night football and likely more of the same.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(THE SINGING OF THE NATIONAL ANTHEM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not about race. It's not about black and white, it's about right and wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of guys were upset by the things President Trump said. We were upset that he would imply that we can't exercise our first amendment rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a daughter who's going to have to live in this world. Do you know what I'm saying? I'm going to do whatever I got to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: A lot of emotion there, and many Americans turned their backs on the game. Ratings were down once again this weekend. Since Steelers generally like it escape politics on Sunday afternoon. Chief National Correspondent, Ed Henry, live from the White House with the developing news on this story tonight. Hi, Ed.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, good to see you. If there's anything positive coming out of all of this division, we can report tonight that the hottest selling NFL jersey does not belong to Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers, it belongs to a previously little-known Pittsburgh Steeler who served his country in the military, stood for the national anthem yesterday and now has Americans all across the country embracing him -- that man Alejandro Villanueva. He's a former Army Ranger, served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan. He decided to come out onto the field, stand for the anthem in apparent defiance of his own head coach.

Steelers' coach, Mike Tomlin, told reporters he was looking for, "100 percent participation and plan for his players to stay in the locker room during the anthem to avoid getting in the middle of the controversy. That didn't work. You mentioned the quarterback a few moments ago now have second thoughts about not coming out. In what could be one barometer of why the president feels he has public opinion on his side. The Web site fanatics tell us more fans have bought t-shirts and jerseys with Villanueva on it than any other player in the last 24 hours.

The president, also claiming the backing of NASCAR, tweeting: "So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won't put up with disrespecting our country or our flag. They said it loud and clear." However, NASCAR officials say it supports free expression and Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted: "All Americans are granted rights to peaceful protests. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will violent revolution inevitable," he says, quoting JFK. And even president's close friends from the New England Patriots, owner Bob Craft, and Star Quarterback Tom Brady say they don't support what he said at a rally in Alabama Friday night while NFL Spokesman Joe Lockhart says the league is more than willing to try and talk it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (BLEEP) off the field right now. Out. He's fired.

JOE LOCKHART, SPOKESMAN, NFL: If the president wants to engage in something positive and productive and constructive, he knows our number.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

HENRY: Lockhart, of course, the former White House Press Secretary. The current one, Sarah Sanders, pressed today on why the president has sent more than a dozen tweets on the NFL when there are all these other big issues. Reporters noting, Sanders got many more questions about NFL than healthcare or the crisis in Puerto Rico. But Sanders correctly noted, she doesn't control what the reporters are asking and this is clearly not going away. They kept asking about the NFL. And tonight, you mentioned, Monday night football, there are reports that some members of the Dallas Cowboys are planning a protest even though their owner, Jerry Jones, has warned he's not going to stand for that. Martha?

MACCALLUM: Ed, thank you very much. Here now to debate: former NFL Player, Jack Brewer; and former Navy SEAL, Carl Higbie. Gentlemen, welcome. Good to have both of you with us tonight.

JACK BREWER, FORMER PLAYER FOR THE NFL: Thanks for having me.

MACCALLUM: Jack, I'd love to start with you on this if I may. What do you make of that part of the story that Ed Henry just told us that Alejandro Villanueva has so much support that he had the highest selling jersey today and t-shirts and everything? Clearly, you know, a demonstration that people supported him coming out of that tunnel, even though the rest of his team did not.

BREWER: I don't disagree with that comment. I think his team supports him as well. I don't think no one does not support him. Let's call it as it is. The reason why you saw over 200 plus players take a knee, and the reason why you saw the entire National Football League rally together in unity is not that they're going against the national anthem, it's because they're going against a president that called them sons of bitches. Let's be direct and let's take it on as it is. Let's not make it onto a different issue.

The National Football League and its players support our veterans who support the military and law enforcement officers. We support those individuals through whether it's through our charity work, whether it's through our relief work, through our community service. If there is ever a crisis in America, the National Football League and its players are the first ones to step up to the plate and rally behind this country. And we cannot continue to have the divisive rhetoric, and just, really, changing the whole narrative of the story. And that's just not what happened.

MACCALLUM: So, you're saying it's become more about President Trump than it has about the initial reason that Colin Kaepernick took a knee in the first place and started this whole. So, has it migrated from being about police brutality to now being something against President Trump?

BREWER: Definitely. There were six players a week ago that kneeling. And now, you're seeing an entire league come together against this. I mean, we have to call it as it is. And we can't use politics and try to divide. Listen, National Football League players are some of the most united when it comes to law enforcement in the community. I'm a national spokesperson for the Police Athletic League. I mean, so the thought that just because I support NFL players being able to speak their mind peacefully, these guys are not out there causing violence, not doing anything in a non-peaceful way. And there's no reason that the president should call them sons of bitches.

MACCALLUM: All right. Carl Higbie, former Navy SEAL. The president used some pretty strong language. What do you think?

CARL HIGBIE, FORMER FIRST CLASS SPECIAL WARFARE OPERATOR, NAVY SEAL: Yes. You know, I'm behind him on this. I say, Mr. President, because the issue here is that, you know, you're talking about calling it how it is, let's call this how it is. This was started by Colin Kaepernick. He was the architect of this on racial inequality, and that was under a two-term Black president with a, you know, White adopted parents under two Black attorney generals to this NFL force that have 70 percent black making 30 times what their average White constituent viewer makes. Where is the inequality? I mean, what is the desired end result of this? And if it's to -- I mean, this is a divisive argument. This is not something that's going to bring the country together. Never bet against patriotism. President Trump is on the right side of this one. He's going to come out on top, as he usually does. And you never ever bet against patriotism and that's what the NFL is doing. Their sales were down eight percent.

MACCALLUM: Mr. Brewer?

BREWER: And I appreciate that perspective, but you cannot -- you have to call the facts as they are. There were six players.

HIGBIE: Those are the facts.

BREWER: There were six players last week that protested and took a knee. There were 200 this week and there's an entire league that rallied behind in the name of unity. I can't say that President Trump got this one right. I don't think that calling another man -- these men are fathers. They are sons. They are community leaders. They're citizens. And you're right, they make a lot of money. But they also pay a lot of taxes. They pay more taxes than 99.99 percent of people their age. So, you've got to respect that. I mean, these people are here. They are a law-abiding citizen and they're good in their community.

MACCALLUM: But the president is saying that they need to stand up during the national anthem. That it offends so many people in this country. It's fine to take a stand, it's fine to speak out the issue that you care about. And we're seeing a lot of Americans agree that this is not the way to handle this protest? Why would you kneel when the flag is being honored when the American military is being honored to protect the rights that you have as Americans, one of which is to go out and talk about this issue?

BREWER: I don't think -- the vast majority of the National Football League players are not kneeling during the national anthem. Let's call it like it is.

MACCALLUM: One a knee.

HIGBIE: Then what are they doing?

BREWER: They're standing up and their locking arms are in unity. There are some players that choose to peacefully protest and that's their right as an American, whether you or I agree with it or not. I've never taken a knee during the national anthem. But I support these guys speaking their mind if they feel that's the way they want to do it. It's America. It's their choice.

MACCALLUM: Carl?

HIGBIE: Yes. I want to back up a little bit here because you said that you were so offended that the president called people SOBs who refused to stand for a flag that, quite frankly, my friends came home draped in their boxes under that flag. I mean, that's offensive to me. That is absolute disrespect in my mind. And when I look at this, it's like, yes, you're right. Mathematically, you had six people that were wrong a week ago, and now you have 200 people that are wrong this week. This is not acceptable behavior because people look up to the NFL. And you can group together and show unity all you want, but just because there is unity on this topic doesn't make it right. It's legal and perfectly constitutional: poke yourself in the eye if you want to, it doesn't make it a good idea. This is a bad idea and it takes the country in the wrong direction. I think the president is going to come out on top on this.

MACCALLUM: All right. We got to leave it there. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Great to have both of you with us tonight.

HIGBIE: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So, one major update on the state of GOP health care and what you need to know about what happened there coming up next. A lot of volatility on the hill, we're going to show you some of that. And Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has more a little more on his mind than NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have anything to say about the NFL being someone who has served in the military?

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I'm the secretary of defense. We defend the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: And one Pittsburgh Steelers player, we just spoke about him, became a hero for doing what many others refused to do. Karl Rove on the presidency, the NFL, what it means about American culture and values coming up next. Plus, North Korea takes an aggressive step today, accusing the U.S. of declaring war and threatening to shoot down U.S. planes. A lot of escalation happening over the weekend. General Jack Keane on where he thinks this whole thing is going.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: Repeal and replace promised for seven years is now dead in the water tonight. Maine Senator Susan Collins and Senator Ted Cruz, Rand Paul as well, all "nos" on Graham-Cassidy's health care bill. Republicans, as you know, could afford to lose a couple of votes here but that would be it. Senators John McCain and Rand Paul, as I said, had already been "nos" on that vote. The declaration from Collins came just hours after a raucous protest on this Hill pretty much all afternoon today. They stopped the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the bill. Many of them were in wheelchairs. They were removed after disrupting the session with the chant that you can hear in the background here. We're going to keep you posted. But for now, dead in the water: repeal and replace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER, NBA: My voice, for me personally, is more important than my need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: LeBron James today on the national anthem protest as sports and politics collide again tonight. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writing this: "the politicization of everything." It feels like we're living in a world like that. And they say this: "the politicization of the National Football League and the national anthem, the divided states of America are exhibiting a very unhealthy level of polarization and mistrust." It goes on, "American democracy was healthier when politics at the ballpark was limited to fans booing politicians who threw out the first ball -- almost as bipartisan as a bipartisan obligation." And finally, "the losers are the millions of Americans who would rather cheer for their teams on Sunday as a respite from work and the other divisions of American life." Here now, Karl Rove, former Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush and a Fox News Contributor. Karl, good evening to you.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Good evening, Martha.

MACCALLUM: How do you think about how the president handled this?

ROVE: Well, first, let me start by saying there's a natural instinct in the heart of every American when our flag comes rolling by or we hear the first notes of the star-spangled banner to rise and salute. And I think if you walked down the street and ask people do you rise when the flag comes? Do you rise when the anthem is played that eight or nine out of every 10 Americans you would run into on a street corner would say, my gosh, of course, I do? But I think the president mishandled this.

I was struck by his comments in the speech at the United Nations -- really, touched what it is to be an American and to have pride in our country. He had a wonderful line in there. He said we aspire to the approval of history. What if the president rather than calling the players sons of bitches and saying they should've been fired. If he wanted to talk about this. What if he was an aspirational figure and said -- look, I understand some people are dropping to their knees and they have a right under our first amendment to do so.

But you know what, when they do so they ought to remember that when we salute the flag we are saluting the generations who have come before us, some of whom have served in uniforms; many of whom have in their lives endeavored to make our country better. And we do -- when we salute the flag, we do so because not because America is perfect but because America is constantly striving to aspire to the approval of history. We want our country to be better and that's what we do: we recognize the great efforts made by those who came before us. And we make a commitment to make our country even better in the future. That's why I hope every American will stand and salute our flag. Understand, you have a right not to do.

MACCALLUM: Well, that would've been nice, but that's not what he said. You know, and you quote him from the U.N. speech which reminds me of, you know, the discussions that we've had here on THE STORY over the past few weeks, which is that the president has put together several weeks of really strong performances, for lack of a better word, and actions.

ROVE: And look --

MACCALLUM: And it's inevitable. We see it over and over again. When that happens, you know, it's almost like he likes to, you know, kind of throw a spicy one out there and see if he can get some controversy going again. Do you think that's calculated? Is it because, you know, the healthcare vote just went down and he doesn't want the focus on that or does you think it's just instinctual? I mean, it's hard to say.

ROVE: I think it's impulse. I was watching the speech on Friday night. And you could just see the crowd. The crowd, he'd say something, the crowd would cheer. He'd say something even more incendiary, the crowd would cheer even stronger. I mean, look, there were a lot of people in that crowd that when he said those words, they screamed at the top of their lungs. Now, I suspect a couple of them, later on, thought, you know what, maybe, it wasn't -- he didn't need to swear at them like that. But they were standing for the principle of respecting the flag. But no, I think this is all impulse.

And look, he had a spectacular week last week. That speech at the U.N., and more importantly the patient diplomacy of the Trump administration has brought about a significant change in the North Korea situation by forcing the Chinese to step forward and take action. This has been something that the American -- that American presidents have been working for decades and he achieved it last week. And rather than us talking about what he has done there to make our country safer and move the process of peace forward, we're talking about the NFL and 200 NFL players taking a knee.

MACCALLUM: Yes. But you know what, Chris says, you know, his friend, this is a win. This is a win for the president. In fact, you see ratings going down. You see the players now are coming forward like Ben Roethlisberger and Villanueva and saying, you know, we agree. We want to stand for the national anthem.

ROVE: Villanueva came forward this afternoon and said, I'm not an ax. I was a hot dog. I shouldn't have gone out there. I mean, first of all --

MACCALLUM: That's a shame.

ROVE: This is a win with the "base." But the president is not the president of the base. He's the president of the country and he had a chance to win this argument and put the people who are dropping to the knee on the defensive end. There were six people who last week dropped to their knee. If the president handled this right, this thing would be five people this week, and four people next week.

MACCALLUM: All right. I got to go.

ROVE: And particularly, if he had done so in an aspirational way. That's what the president could do. Any president could do that if they put their heart to it.

MACCALLUM: Karl Rove, thank you. Good to see you as always.

ROVE: Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So, there is a humanitarian disaster for three million Americans. The governor of Puerto Rico is saying that they need help and that they need it now. The White House is saying that they are doing a lot to help Puerto Rico. The latest from the recovery effort from Hurricane Maria. And also, hours ahead of a vote of fierce Republican primary dividing Trump supporters in Alabama. Any moment now, the vice president and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon are going to be on opposite sides of this election a fascinating match in Alabama. We're going to talk to both sides. Both candidates are here with us on The Story tonight. Senator Luther Strange and challenger, Judge Roy Moore, coming up right here live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: Breaking tonight on the eve of a big vote, Trump supporters divided over who should win the Senate race in Alabama. The primary race in Alabama. Kind of like a boxing match. Moments away in this corner, Vice President Mike pence set to take the stage for the incumbent Senator Luther Strange. In the other corner, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon for the challenger, former Alabama Chief Justice, Roy Moore. And just one day ahead of this vote, both men are with us tonight. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls shows Mr. Moore leading 52 to 42 percent. We begin tonight with Senator Strange. Moments ago, I asked him whether his polling shows anything different.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE, R-ALA.: We're showing this toss-up race internally, but honestly, Martha, at this point, you have to throw out polls. Everything will depend on turnout. We have got to get our voters out to the polls. Whoever is most successful doing that will be the winner tomorrow.

MACCALLUM: Do your polls show that President Trump's appearance on Friday night helped you?

STRANGE: Yes, they do. And that's what you'd expect because the president is so popular in Alabama. For him to come to the state in the midst of everything going on in the world and let the voters know that I'm the person he needs and wants in Washington to work with him to get his agenda passed is really the key momentum maker for us.

MACCALLUM: Well, I got to play a sound bite from him for you because I want to get your thoughts on this one. Here is President Trump:

STRANGE: OK.

TRUMP: Both good men. Both good men. And you know what? And I told Luther, I have to say this. If his opponent wins, I'm going to be here campaigning like hell for him.

MACCALLUM: What do you make of that? It sounds like he's not so strongly in your camp.

STRANGE: Well, if you put that in context with what he talked about in the rest of the speech and what we talked about on the drive over, he's very concerned that if I don't win tomorrow that this puts the seat in play for the Democrats. It also creates a weakness across the board for all our Republicans that are running for re-election next year. So, it would be catastrophic in terms the conservative movement. And I think that's why he is so nervous and worried about it. Since his agenda is on the line, he needs a person who can get things done, who supports him and sees things the same way. That's what this is going to boil down to.

MACCALLUM: You have said that your opponent, Judge Roy Moore, would put a Troy Akin-like anchor around the neck of the Republican Party. How so?

STRANGE: Well --

MACCALLUM: Todd Akin, excuse me. Go ahead, sir.

STRANGE: There's no record that's concerning accomplishment. Right. Well, he just says the record of conservative accomplishments over ratings. And a lot of his legal rulings are more to the Democratic side than Republican side. Doesn't seem to be very well-versed on the issues. And he has got the history of making statements that pretty be hard to defend. So, you know, the proof is in the fact that Democrats are looking at this as an opportunity to have an option in the south, which they haven't had in a long, long time. So, the president sees that. He sees his agenda at risk. And plus, we're friends. And we work together closely. We need people who can get things done in Washington.

MACCALLUM: You don't think he's conservative enough? I mean, that surprises me because, you know, Mr. Aiken was known for being very, you know, sort of, an extreme conservative. So, you're saying that you don't think Roy Moore, given his entire background and his history, is conservative enough?

STRANGE: Well, he's taken a couple of protests, stances to remove from office. And I agree with him on the positions there, but I'm talking about conservative accomplishments. What has he actually done for the conservative cause? And I can't point to anything, actually getting stuff done. His record on the court has not been strong for law and order nor have been very strong for the conservative rule of law stances that conservatives believe in.

MACCALLUM: One last thought, healthcare looks like it's now dead. Your thoughts on that? You'd said that you would support it, obviously, as a Senator right now, and your opponent would not.

STRANGE: Well, it's another example why the president and I have both so incredibly frustrated that while I was fighting Obama for six years as attorney general, he was running against Hillary Clinton. I wasn't doing anything. Now, we get there, I've been there less time than he has and they failed to get their main promise accomplished. So, incredible frustration. Again, that's why he's here campaigning for me. He knows I can work with him to get it done.

MACCALLUM: All right. Well, we will see what happens. He said he'll support whoever the winner is in Alabama. It's an interesting race to be sure. Senator, thank you very much for being with us tonight.

STRANGE: For sure. Thanks, Martha. I appreciate it very much.

MACCALLUM: You bet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MACCALLUM: Our thanks to him. Here now with his reaction, the challenger, Alabama Senate Candidate and former Alabama Supreme Court Justice, Chief Justice Roy Moore. Sir, good evening, good to have you here tonight.

ROY MOORE, R-ALA. SENATE CANDIDATE: Good evening. Nice to be with you.

MACCALLUM: Let's talk about -- thank you. I think we have a little delay. So I just want to let everybody at home know that. He said that you would be a Todd Aiken anchor around the neck of the party. What say you?

MOORE: Well, I say that for the past three months he's done nothing but tell mistruths, lies, and things on television with $30 million coming out of Washington, D.C., and the senate leadership fund run by McConnell. And he's so far not told the truth about, hardly, anything, so I think he's probably very well mistaken and he will find that out tomorrow.

MACCALLUM: OK. Maybe he will. We will see. But the thinking is that given your stance on things, you know, you're well known for putting the 10 commandments in the Supreme Court in Alabama and where that led to, and eventually being pushed out of that position. But you've held a lot of firmly held beliefs that many of your supporters feels are much in line with the way that they feel, and that is probably why you're ahead right now in your home state. But he's arguing that you will be disruptive to the agenda that the president wants to put forth and that you won't line up with him on the issues like healthcare.

MOORE: That's absolutely untrue. I've supported the president from the very beginning and will continue to support the president. I stand for a wall. And when I made a statement that we could stop illegal aliens coming across the border without a wall, I went on to say we can do it with the United States military, and then build the wall when the money is available. What my opponent wants to do is sit around and waiting on the wall to be built to stop illegal aliens and it just doesn't work.

MACCALLUM: What about health care reform?

MOORE: It takes as long to build a wall.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: . if it takes as long to build a wall -- if it takes as long to build the wall as it does to pass the healthcare bill, we're going to be waiting a long time.

MACCALLUM: Well, I think you're right about that. You would not have passed this Graham-Cassidy bill, what would you like to see?

MOORE: Well, I'd like to see straight repeal. I think straight repeal gets the government out of socialized medicine as it should be. The Reagan administration -- administrations in the past never turned to socialized medicine. What the Democrats did, the Republicans are now picking up. I see some good things about Graham-Cassidy bill because it does get some Planned Parenthood funding cut. It does some other things like take away individual mandates and employer mandates. But, I think, I still insist that if it's not repealed, we're going to be stuck in a quagmire. We need to go back to 1945 and repeal the McHale-Ferguson act. That's the problem because states have established monopolies and people don't have choice.

MACCALLUM: Let me just jump and ask you one more thing. I've got to go. I just have a couple of seconds left. But the president said that Roy Moore is going to have a very hard time getting elected against the Democrat, and he thinks that Luther Strange will not. Quick thoughts, sir?

MOORE: That's because the president has been told by Mr. Strange and his advisors that that's true. That's not true. In fact, the Democrats want my opponent to be elected. That's what they want. And they know what's going to happen if he does.

MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, sir. I apologize for the delay in our signal there. It's good to talk to you tonight. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

MOORE: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: You bet. So coming up tonight, we want to talk about the boiling tensions with North Korea. Very dangerous language back and forth. General Jack Keane will weigh in, tell us what he thinks. Where he thinks this whole thing is going. A little bit scarier tonight in the world than it was just a few days ago. Also, Hillary Clinton with the latest interview about her book and the 2016 election. We've heard she'll go after Comey, Sanders, the president, but now she is delivering hits to a new group, women who supported President Trump. When we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I see women doing that, I think why are they publicly disrespecting themselves?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: A hugely concerning national security question tonight, is North Korea and the conflict reaching a dangerous new level, given the developments over the weekend. The United States facing escalating tensions and an increasingly hostile war of words with the rogue regime. Chief national correspondent Ed Henry lays it all out for us tonight from the White House. Hello again, Ed.

HENRY: Martha, good to see you again. The stakes could not be any higher because U.S. intelligence officials believe that in recent months North Korea has been able to miniaturize nuclear warheads that they're able to then put on its missiles, raising the specter, at least, that the communist nation may try to reach American cities with nuclear weapons. That's at least the desire by the North Koreans. The L.A. Times reporting over the weekend that before President Trump's big speech last week at the U.N. General Assembly, some of his top aides warned him not to launch a personal attack on the mercurial leader from North Korea. The president though was intent on making a big splash at the U.N. You'll remember those photos of his chief of staff General John Kelly with his face in his hand as the commander-in- chief used terms like rocket man to describe Kim Jong-un at the General Assembly. The president declaring his counterpart is on a, quote, suicide mission. Then the president doubled down on the nickname, rocket man, at rally Friday night in Alabama, leading to extraordinary warning today from North Korea's foreign minister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TRUMP: I'm going to handle it because we have to handle it. Little Rocket Man -- we're going to do it because we really have no choice.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: United States declares war on our country. We will have every right to make counter measures, including the right to shoot down the United States strategic bombers, even when they're not yet inside the airspace border of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

HENRY: Talking there, warning about shooting down U.S. planes. A foreign minister claiming this tweet you see on the screen from Saturday from the president where he said Kim Jong-un won't be around much longer was a formal declaration of war. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, today said that was absurd. They're clearly trying to lower the temperature here tonight, Martha.

MACCALLUM: Indeed. Ed, thank you very much. Here now with his analysis, General Jack Keane, chairman of the institute for the study of war, and a Fox News military analyst. General, good to see you tonight.

JACK KEANE, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Good to see you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: You look at the nature of Kim Jong-un and the names that the president is calling him, and the words that are going back and forth, and you really have to feel a little nervous about where this is all going.

KEANE: Well, certainly, the president's rhetoric is totally different than previous three presidents in dealing with this. But let's really take a close look at what I think is happening. Yes, the president's rhetoric is way out there. But, what he's trying to do -- and I think he instinctively gets this, Martha, big power competition is fundamentally a test of wills. Roosevelt understood it, Kennedy did, Reagan did, and now President Trump is dealing with this. And he knows that Kim Jong-un, when Obama was president, rationalized the current strategy he has, which is to nuclearize ICBM's with -- under the assumption that President Obama would acquiesce to the acceptance of nuclearized ICBM's in North Korea, much as his predecessors acquiesce to nuclear weapons by themselves. That is his strategy and it's quite rationale in my view.

However, Trump is not Obama. And much of this rhetoric is design to convince Kim Jong-un that I am not going to accept nuclearized ICBM's even if it means exercising a military option. You have got to believe that I'm dead serious about that. And I think that's the basis for some of this rhetoric. All that said, Martha, our audience should understand this. We are not closer to exercising the military option today than we were last week. Our major effort on the part of this president is to isolate North Korea and put maximum economic pressure on him through diplomatic means, and that is what we're doing. And given the fact that China is now supporting him on this. He's succeeded in a way that no president has before.

MACCALLUM: Absolutely. I want to put up on the screen a statement by Richard Haass, the president of the council of foreign relations, and see if you agree. He says now it makes it official, NK asserts the right to shoot down U.S. bombers. This is emerging as most likely path to war. Do you agree with that statement?

KEANE: I don't agree with it. I mean, I understand what North Korea is saying. North Korea would be doing exactly what the president said they would be doing if they execute a mission like that and start shooting our bombers down. They are committing suicide. They are committing the end of their regime. That, as much as Kim Jong-un as we all know is personally reckless, the strategy he's announcing is very rationale, and this doesn't contribute to that. I think the rhetoric will continue for a while. But I believe our effort that we're making is a diplomatic effort with maximum economic pressure and we are in pursuit of that because it's beginning to work. Now, what Kim Jong-un wants, he wants to get his capability before there is economic collapse in his country. There's a race. There's a time clock here. That's what he wants. And he still believes at the end of the day that we will accept his nuclearized ICBM's as opposed to going to war over it.

MACCALLUM: Quite a standoff. General, thank you so much. Good to see you tonight.

KEANE: Yeah. Good talking to you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So still ahead tonight, an important update from Puerto Rico. We are getting a new look at the incredible destruction on the U.S. territory from Hurricane Maria, and that dam which has 70,000 people in its wake. Plus, Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan was, I'm with her, but that sentiment apparently doesn't extend to women who supported President Trump and voted for him. The debate over Hillary Clinton's latest scapegoat for how she lost and what happened after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I thought and I tried in my concession speech to make clear that we should all give him the space to be president for every American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: Breaking tonight. Puerto Rico officials are now saying that the devastation from Hurricane Maria has sent them back 20 to 30 years. New footage now of what has been left behind by this unbelievable storm. The governor is calling it a humanitarian disaster. Last week the storm killed at least 16, and knocked out electricity to the entire island, 60 percent of homes have no water. Most of the islands using generators for power, fuel is in very short supply as are cell phones. The White House has vowed to send more help.

And now to this, former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's book takes her now to MSNBC on here tour where she had some harsh words for a number of Trump supporters and for the president himself. First suggesting that he is doing a terrible job she says. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I really had such deep doubts about his preparation, his temperament, his character, his experience, but he's been even worse than I thought he would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: And then she was asked about the women who supported President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHANTING LOCK HER UP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: And those who made even more derisive comments about her calling her the B-word. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: When I see women doing that, I think why are they publicly disrespecting themselves? Why are they opening the door to have someone say that about them in their workplace, in a community setting? Do they not see the connection there?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Erin Elmore is a former Trump surrogate and Republican strategist. Julie Alvin is executive editor at Bustle.com and a liberal analyst. Good to have both of you with us tonight. Thank you very much for being here.

JULIE ALVIN, BUSTLE.COM EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: Julie, let me start with you. How do you read that, you know, what she's saying? Is she going after women who supported President Trump or something else?

ALVIN: What she's doing in that statement is not going after women who supported President Trump, specifically, she's going after women -- I won't say going after but she's being critical of women who were using sexist language and sexist descriptors to go after her. So she's kind of saying, you know, criticize my policies, criticize my politics, criticize the mistakes that my campaign made, don't criticize me as a woman. Don't use the B word. Don't use the C word. Don't say that I'm shrill, or that I'm unlikeable, or that I'm not warm and cuddly enough to be president. And, you know, I think this is something that was reflective of the tenor of this whole election that she wasn't criticized like any politician, she was criticized like a female politician, and that's what she is speaking out against here. Not just women who voted against her, but women who used language that could then in turn could be used against them.

MACCALLUM: Erin, what do you think?

ERIN ELMORE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I couldn't disagree with Julie more. This is part two of the basket of deplorables rhetoric here. Hillary Clinton refuses to take any blame for what happened in November of 2016. She didn't win this election. It's been Jim Comey. It's been the FBI. It's never her own fault. And for her to say that she respects women. She victim shamed her husband's accusers of sexual assault. She victim shamed Monica Lewinsky. Moreover, her foundation has accepted money from countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and --. They have terrible tack record on women's rights. Those women in those countries in many instances are not allowed to drive an automobile or even get an education. So once again, we're seeing hypocrisy, and the person who should really be embarrassed here is Hillary Clinton.

MACCALLUM: I remember Madeleine Albright during the campaign saying, you know, there's a special place in hell for any woman who would vote for Hillary Clinton. And I do think that women who supported Donald Trump for president, Julie, feel like, you know, people on your side of the fence look down upon them, and think that somehow they are, you know, less caring about their own gender, or that there is something wrong with voting on policy rather than on voting for the woman just because she's a woman.

ALVIN: I'm not saying that women should have voted for Hillary Clinton specifically because she is a woman. I think that if there had been a viable Republican candidate, clearly, there was one that the country found viable to elect, but one that I personally don't find viable as far as being qualified for this position and for living up to, sort of, the sacredness of this position. I have no problem with women who vote Republican in general. This is really a Trump specific problem. He disrespected women throughout his campaign, throughout his life, and that is the problem here.

MACCALLUM: I think about this a lot, actually. You know, this sort of idea that you have to vote with your identity group, you know. And here's a poll that was taken in last August, and then again in October. Who is more trustworthy, and you see that in August, Hillary Clinton was ahead 48 to 43. In October, she was behind, 46 to 38. So voters -- regardless of whether they were men or women, found her to be not honest or trustworthy. Now, it seems to me that would have been a much more deciding factor for many voters than whether or not she is a man or a woman, Julie?

ALVIN: I think there were so many factors here at play, obviously. I think there were, obviously, question of trustworthiness. And I think there's a lot of reasons why people chose to vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton. It's not something that I personally understand. I think that it's left us in a place whereas I would agree with Hillary Clinton on this point, Donald Trump has been far worse than I would have ever expected. But I don't think that, you know, voting specifically on the basis of gender is something that somebody should be expected to do. And I do think that trustworthiness is something that came into account here. And I also think that Donald Trump's trustworthiness should have been examined more in the lead up of this election.

MACCALLUM: Quick thought, Erin, and then we've got to go.

ELMORE: You know, I think we're watching this slow motion implosion of Hillary Clinton here. She is on a book tour. She should be happy and jovial and celebrating her successful run at the presidency. Instead, she just looks bitter and unhappy and just doesn't show, really, any sort of contrition at all. So I think we should just look forward to the Democratic Party and hopefully they can make changes and have chance in 2020.

MACCALLUM: Erin and Julie, thank you very much. We'll take a quick break and we will be back with some special words from John McCain after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: Arizona Senator John McCain speaking outs for the first time since he was diagnosed with brain cancer. The 81-year-old Republican leader just returned to Washington where he came to fight the deadly disease and in some ways his party on some fronts. McCain telling CBS "60 Minutes," he starts his day with chemo and radiation, and that he feels more energetic and more engaged than ever before. But what he says about his difficult diagnosis is our quote of the night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since the diagnosis, you've never once had that, I guess, that feeling in your stomach of.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Oh, yeah.

UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: . panic?

MCCAIN: No, no, no. I have feelings, sometimes, of fear of what happens. But as soon as I get that, I say, wait a minute, wait a minute. You've been around a long time, old man. You've had a great life. You've had a great experience. I want -- I want -- when I leave, that the ceremony is at the Naval Academy and we just have a couple of people stand up and say, this guy, he served his country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: That's our story for tonight. Thanks for joining us here on "The Story." We'll see you back here tomorrow night at 7:00. Tucker is up next. And Sean Hannity returns to 9:00, in prime time tonight.


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