tv Hardball Weekend MSNBC August 31, 2013 2:00am-2:31am PDT
war talk. let's play "hardball." >> good evening, i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start with this. it's about killing people. when all the words are spoken, the conversation about needing to enforce a red line to protect an international norm, any decision by president obama to bomb syria will kill people. it will kill the guys working the night shift, people just doing their jobs to put food on their family tables. daddy who went to work that morning will not be coming home because of what this president decides to do. the assad family will be okay, of course. the designers of that vogue
magazine spread won't be anguished by this sight of this thoroughly western family lying on the floor. no. the people who will die in an american cruise missile attack will be the working, praying, little family people whose husbands do the cut work. war sucks, even in neat little bite-sized act of war like the one that might come any day now. and yet, and yet, how do we avoid this flagrant reality if we don't? those deciding in tehran right now whether to build a nuclear bomb are looking to see what the people in washington are doing. if we threaten the country, if it uses one weapon of mass destruction and it goes ahead and ignores us, what worth does our threat hold against that other country deciding whether to build theirs. is there any way we can convince iran not to go nuclear if we let syria so flagrantly go chemical. and anne gearan, correspondent for "the washington post," and jeremy bash.
i want you first to start, secretary of state john kerry did an amazing performance today in certainly one of his most forceful and most passionate speeches i've ever seen him give, laid out the reasons this average afternoon for action against syria, including the first hard numbers on the death toll, numbers much higher than we had heard before. let's listen. >> we know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year. we know that for three days before the attacks, the syrian regime's chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations. we know that the syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions. we know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods. breathing difficulties, people
twitching with spasms, coughing, rapid heartbeats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness, and death. we saw rows of deadlined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a drop of blood. the united states government now knows that at least 1,429 syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. this is the indiscriminate, inconceivable terror of chemical weapons. this is what assad did to his own people. >> and years ago i saw a book on world war i and you saw what happened to the gassed victims of the war, when gas was used i long the european front. even in world war ii, as bad as that war was with the holocaust, at least on the war front they didn't use it.
and now here we have assad using it. apparently his chain of command using it. this president has to commit an act of war. in order to say they did something wrong, the only appropriate response today is to commit an act of war against syria, which kills a bunch of people who may have had nothing to do with this. >> yeah, it's the inoculation war. he is saying we're going to do this small thing, this small military thing if they go as we expect they will. >> perhaps over the weekend. >> perhaps over the weekend. in order to avoid a much larger threat and the potential for much wider war. you heard kerry say very specifically today that there are at least three other countries or terror networks -- iran, north carolina, and hezbollah, who will be watching to see what the united states does. all either have chemical weapons, or in the case of iran, have some access to them, but also access potentially to a nuclear device.
>> do we know whether shooting in syria will be taken seriously by the people deciding, the mullahs, whether to weapon nice their nuclear capability in iran? do we know that they think like we do? >> we certainly don't know that they think like we do. and iran is such a complex and many-layered place, with so many layers, areas of control that it's hard to identify one position for the government. one thing the obama administration is hoping is that the mullahs would say wow, we don't want to get our nuclear facilities whacked like just happened in syria. so let's not do anything provocative in response. >> jerry bash, your thoughts on this. keep the focus on deterrents. we have a military capability. can we, should we use it in this way to signal our potential future enemies, don't go nuclear, because we're not going to let this bum go chemical? >> well, chris, it's good to be with you. i've probably sat through
several hundred intelligence briefings over the past couple of years at the cia on capitol hill and not one has been as definitive as this or horrifying as this. this really ranks up there as one of the most convincing and compelling intelligence cases for using military action in this way. and in terms of your question about deterrents and talking about iran, let me point out two things. in 2003, iran suspended its nuclear program. we know that definitively. why did they do that? in part because that was the same year we invaded iraq. we were in both countries around iran and they feared our military. now that wasn't the objective of the iraq war, but that was one of the consequences. >> right. >> also know in january of 2011, chris, if you'll recall, iran announced it was going close the straits of hormuz. if iran closes the straits of hormuz, they were going to cross a red line. we were ambiguous what was going to happen. the uss lincoln was going to the straits.
you know what they did? not a thing. the lincoln sailed. >> let's make some news here tonight, jeremy. the secretary of state was incredibly impassioned. i know the guy. i've never seen him this deadly serious about something in a moral context. but he was also confident that he kept saying there are things that i can't tell you, that can't be declassified. what is your hunch that he would like to say but he can't to further make the case for action? >> well, i think it's the granularity of the intelligence. so we can say that there were human sources on the ground telling what's the assad regime did. there was signals intelligence, intercepts of certain regime conversations there was geospatial intelligence. that's the phrase. that really means imagery, satellites, looking down at the ground to see what we saw. but we don't want to be that specific about who told us, which phone lines did we tap and what did we take pictures of because that would give too much information to the assad regime. >> but he is personally much
more assured that there were weapons used at the behest of the regime than he can say. >> yes. one of the things that intelligence analysts do is they red team things. that means they look for alternative hypotheses. it possible? is it possible, is it plausible that someone could have pulled this off as a hoax, as a fraud, as something that the opposition did to gain our sympathy. they look at all the scenarios and determine it and they say that's simply not possible, chris. >> i'm glad to hear that. here is secretary kerry further emphatically making the case that inaction is not an option. this is where i'm coming from. if we don't do it, will the neo cons and everybody else politically say for example, you let iran happen because you didn't act when you had a chance. this is your munich. let's listen. >> we need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing. it matters, because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like bashar al
assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the united states and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve. >> this is in our american dna, our western dna. if you don't stop the bad guys at some point, you're going have to stop them later and you're going to be at an disadvantage. if you don't stop them grabbing the land, you're going to have to fight over poland. on the other side, germany. you got to fight now or never. >> it's happened to every american president, certainly going back as far as world war i and the widespread use of chemical weapons the first time. in some way or another, every american president, as president obama is now is faced with this only bad choice choice. what do i do? do i do the little thing i don't want to do. >> this is a question you won't like. why were the tones so different between -- i want to show you
the president. the president was no drama obama compared to that very emotional john kerry. here is president obama's tone. it was different from kerry's. in a meeting he did it as a photo spray right before his meeting with some baltic state presidents. >> i have not made a final decision about various actions that might be taken to help enforce the norm. but as i've already said, i have had my military and our team look at a wide range of options. we have consulted with allies. we have consulted with congress. we have been in conversations with all the interested parties. and in no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would
involve a long-term campaign. but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure not only syria, but others around the world understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban. >> and it's so different. usually presidents say everything is on the table. i'm not telling what we're up to, because it could be worse than they think. here he is saying don't worry, bashar al assad. it's not going to be a long-term war. we're not bringing boots on the ground. he seems more afraid of the war skeptics than he is of the enemy, more worried about them. >> yeah, i think there is definitely something to that. you're seeing the administration's own ambivalence about how strong a case to make and who should make it play out here. kerry genuinely feels very strongly about this. you heard his voice break and all that i am perfectly prepared
to believe that is entirely genuine and sincere. it is. coming up, the chronic lies and deception of the bush administration in iraq have underlined the case in syria, don't you think. as one british member of parliament put it, the well has been poisoned. too many crying wolf out there. and the obama/clinton alliance. bill clinton is making a speech pushing the affordable care act. who is the big dog trying to help? the current president or possible future one? plus, segregation ones are a thing of the past, yeah, but we have often self-segregated ourselves into white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods, the challenges in culture shock for the african-american youngster when he leaves his neighborhood for college. finally, let me finish with the usual suspects pushing the war in syria, and this is be "hardball," the place for politics.ve face moisturizer. [ female announcer ] aveeno® with soy
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our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and rereviewed information regarding this attack. and i will tell you, it has done so more than mindful of the iraq experience. we will not repeat that moment. we also know that we have a who does what he says he will do. and he has said very clearly that whatever decision he makes in syria, it will bear no resemblance to afghanistan, iraq, or even libya. it will not involve any boots on the ground. it will not be open ended, and it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well under way. >> there is absolutely no question that when secretary of state john kerry made sure to
point out that any action against syria would not be like iraq, that the ghost of iraq from the selling of the war on false premises to its execution hovers around any decision about action on syria. and the ghost of iraq haunts international leaders as well in describing the effect the iraq debacle had on british lawmakers' rejection of prime minister cameron's request for military action, a tory legislator said the prime minister knew that the well had been poisoned by iraq, but i don't think he realized how much that was the case. great quote. and the wording in this "washington post" piece, the main bar piece this morning on the british parliament's rejection shows the degree to the deception of the last war that sold the iraq war has become baked into our language. quote, many of his government, that's the british government, attributed the vote loss to the legacy of british participation in the 2003 u.s.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of iraq based on false claims about weapons of mass destruction.
michael scherer is "the o washington bureau chief. and josh rogin, senior correspondent for politics for "newsweek" and the daily beast. gentlemen, you watch and see how the boilerplate changes and how the regular conventional after it's been added and stuff in the major papers and magazines begins to be written into our history. false case. the word false, not some would argue allegedly false. it's false. so whatever it, it's come down to bogus arguments for the war. crying wolf on iraq has led this president to have to fight off those who say he is crying wolf now. michael? >> it's absolutely right. and has a global impact. and there is an enormous irony here that obama's entire career is based on opposing the iraq war. >> it's how he got the nomination. >> now he finds himself on the other side of the coin trying to push is t country into a war.
>> by the way, i was telling you guys beforehand, i remember when he testified in 1971, my first year in washington, he was the guy back from the war in vietnam talking about how hellish the war was and how wrong it was. >> and now he is playing the colin powell role, right? he is the one out in front. >> and what is wrong with what you just said? >> i'll tell you there is a big difference. >> what was wrong with what you just said? playing the colin powell role whom. wants to be there. >> he doesn't want to. but there is an important difference if we're talking about iraq and now. in 2003, the weapons of mass destruction debate are about weapons that no one had seen, that hadn't been used for years at that point. and it was based on this intelligence about where we think they might be. this is a situation with a lot of open intelligence. we know an attack tack place. the issue of whether or not there are chemical weapons that have been used in syria is not really in question. >> i'm with you. the use of the weapons is not an argument any more whether they're existing. the whole question, do you want to be in a position of colin powell, his credibility was used
to make the case for war. i don't know what he thought, but he was used. this guy today, didn't you feel that kerry really wanted to fight this war? he wants to do something. >> they've got two issue here we have obama in his second term working on his legacy. he wants his legacy to get america out of engagements in the middle east. he doesn't want his legacy to get into another one. then you john kerry. he has a serial problem. he was pushing for engagement with assad. he thought that assad could be turned, that he was basically a guy who was willing to break from iran and go with the united states. so now kerry has his own legacy problem. he doesn't want to go down as the guy who let assad skate by. he's got to double down. >> let's talk about the numbers in this country. we've gone over progressives who watch this show, a lot of them. look at these numbers now. 46-46, which is the argument we had last night with ignatius and somebody else right now. he is a state reporter, ignatius, but he is a moderate. the problem faces among smart, progressive people who are skeptical about military
involvement, now look at this is a 50-50. even given the iraq. >> but you mentioned that the republican numbers are probably slanted because people dislike obama. >> he can say i'm going pardon the thanksgiving turkey and they'd oppose him. >> that number is probably slanted because they trust obama. so the number would probably be much lower. >> so people are the two sides flipping the anti-war democrats flipping him back into war a little more? >> here is the issue with the polls. it depends exactly how you asked the question. you guys asked the question in a sort of broadway. if you ask about cruise missile strikes, the number goes higher. >> this is the general one. should the united states take military action. >> if ask should get involved in a general war, the numbers go way down. we're going to be right back.
it's undeniable that the president of syria is using weapons of mass destruction. kerry said that president obama needs to build a coalition of countries and attack soon no matter what others may say. today former president george bush said hey, good luck with that. let me know how that works out. i'd be curious, yes, yes. >> wow. welcome to the sideshow that was jay leno last night on the topic making headlines today, syria. well, "the tonight show" certainly hasn't shied away from us policy lately, foreign or domestic. here he was on the irs' reversal on same-sex marriage. >> now the irs announced for first time it will treat same-sex marriages the same as heterosexual ones. that shows how far we have come, when gay couples can be screwed by the irs just the same as straight couples. yes, yes. yes. >> wow. well, i guess there are two sides to every coin. finally, the nixon tapes released last week are a treasure trove of material for
historians. i actually listened to the last conversation the former president had on tape before the recording system was shut down, removed from the white house in july of '73. classic nixon here. here he is speaking with his secretary, rosemary woods, just before leaving for hospital with a bad case of pneumonia. these were the final words caught on tape. >> we had the x-ray, and they did find it was viral pneumonia. so i have to go to the hospital for perhaps a week. >> i think the main thing is just try to get some rest. you know, if you want anything, just -- >> i rest all the time. >> oh, sure. sure. >> got it. in the hospital, boy, that about drives me nuts. >> i know. it's very difficult. if you want anything and you want us to bring or you want me to come out and doing anything. >> oh, okay. thank you. >> and good luck. >> oh, it's going to be fine. >> i know it is. it will be a lot better tomorrow. >> tell ziegler to make the announcement. i says it's the only time in his career he'll hear the press corps clap. >> oh, those bastards, they
won't clap. >> don't you love it? you won't have nixon to kick around anymore. he is in the hospital. coming up next "your business" with j.j. ramberg. beat down. crushed. as if the weight of the world is resting on your face. but sudafed gives you maximum strength sinus pressure and pain relief. so you feel free. liberated. released. decongested. open for business. [ inhales, exhales ] [ male announcer ] powerful sinus relief from the #1 pharmacist recommended brand. sudafed. open up.
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