tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC September 30, 2015 9:00am-10:01am PDT
right now on "andrea mitchell reports," putin's power play. launching planes inside syria for the first time today claiming they are going after isis, but u.s. officials say they are targeting anti-assad rebels. >> we are seeing the true intentions of vladimir putin, which is to maintain a strong position in syria, his foothold in the middle east, and his proper up of bashar al assad. >> coming up, we'll speak to the chairman of the senate armed services committee, john mccain, right here. hurricane alert. joaquin gains strength in the atlantic and will head to the east coast with record rainfall already drenching the midatlantic.
brace yourselves, it will be a big one. >> now the cone of uncertainty, 520 miles. but it's still a category 1 storm off the new jersey coast right now. will it make landfall as a hurricane? we have to wait and see. but no matter what happens, we've got a lot of rain to talk about. and papal blessing. the kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses meets the pope in d.c. kim davis says the pontiff gave her a message of support. >> he told me before he left, he said, stay strong. and that was a great encouragement. just knowing that the pope is on track, you know, with what we're doing and agreeing, you know, kind of validates everything.
good day, everyone. i'm andrea mitchell in washington. breaking news today, russia launching their first air strikes today they say are targeting isis, but the u.s. says they are going after the opposition instead. i'm joined by john mccain, chair of the armed services committee. first of all, what do you think vladimir putin is up to? >> he's up to asserting his role in the middle east, for the first time, russia has had that role since they kicked out the russians in 1973. he's propping up bashar al assad. he wants to protect his base there to make sure that is secure, and he doesn't care who he has to kill in order to do it. you just mentioned that we have reports of air attacks on homs
where a number of men, women and children have been killed. >> we are playing some of that video right now as we speak. senator, i wanted to play the deputy national security advisor, ben rhodes, speaking at the atlantic conference today. because the white house and other officials at the state department are trying to downplay this russian move. let's watch. >> everybody's looking at putin as if this is some offensive maneuver. again, they've had basis in syria for a very long time. this is their principle state in the arab world. he's trying to prop them up. i think that's hardly someone in a strong position. >> is vladimir putin in a weak position as you've heard testimony from david petraeus saying he's broke, spending money on military engagements and he could be going to the banks for more money with very poor cash flow coming up in the next couple of years. >> but don't forget, david petraeus advocated very strongly
that we establish a no-fly zone, a buffer zone, to take down bashar al assad's barrel bombing capabilities in significant escalation of our behavior. also, david petraeus took note that in the past, dictators who have domestic problems sometimes strike out. i can only -- david ignatius' column, the most respected diplomat i know, ryan crocker said, russia has played a horrible hand vehemently. the russians played a bad hand and were able to turn this into an offensive one. i cannot describe that better than ryan crocker has. >> in fact, as you've correctly pointed out, what petraeus was testifying to your committee last week, sometimes out of weakness when cornered in the short-term, vladimir putin could be more dangerous. we may be seeing signs of that, in fact, today. do you think that the u.s. was
completely blindsided by his recent diplomatic and military moves? >> i don't know why they were, but obviously they were because john kerry and his spokesperson said it's not clear what russia's intentions are. it was perfectly clear what russia's intentions are, to prop up bashar assad, the father of, i isis. to make sure they are in a prominent position in the middle east. by the way, other countries are adjusting to that. the saudis just bought $700 million worth of equipment to them. all of these are adjusting to an absence of american leadership and an assertion of influence in the region by vladimir putin. >> we have been reporting from the pentagon producer, courtney
koobe, the way we found out about the air strikes is a russian defense in baghdad went to the u.s. embassy in baghdad, basically knocked on the door, and you know better than anyone how fortified that encampment is, and asked to speak to someone saying, we are about to launch air strikes. is this the deconflicting that was promised to us? we have planes in the air, they have planes in the air now, what about this alleged coordination that was supposed to take place when we get more than an hour's warning they are in the air? >> i think it's a sign of the contempt with which to putin holds us. and by the way, what we should be doing in saying to the russians is that we're going to fly anywhere, any time, anyhow we want to, in order to stem the flow of isis. and we also have going to stop bashar al assad's barrel bombing and you stay out of the way. instead, we're talking about trying to have some accommodation with russian
aircraft. again, incredible sign of weakness. >> we understand now that secretary kerry and lavrov, foreign minister lavrov, talked in new york today by phone. secretary kerry expressed concern about the air strikes today saying they would not interfere with u.s.-led coalition strikes in the area. and that they had to figure out a way to deconflict. when you're in a situation where there could be an accidental engagement between russian and american planes. >> first of all, the russians should stay out of the way. second of all, isn't it fascinating that kerry keeps calling lavrov? he called him three times last week as the build-up went on to find out what was going on. i don't think he got much of an answer. isn't it clear, yet, that putin is going to do what he wants to do? because he believes he can do it with impunity. is this the way we're supposed to -- the russians respond to
our please to work to de-conflict? the scenario that you just described that took place in baghdad, it's really remarkable. >> and what about the fact that in just 48 hours ago the president was meeting for the first time in a formal setting with vladimir putin, the first time in two years. was this not discussed between the two men? >> i don't know, but i know this. that my friends in ukraine are very concerned that we might be throwing them under the bus because, obviously, the reason why there hadn't been meetings in the past was because of vladimir putin's dismemberment of the ukraine. let me emphasize, andrea, he's not -- putin is not strong. we have overwhelming advantage of him. but what he's doing is, as ryan crocker said, he's playing his cards skillfully with exactly his goals in mind and is pursuing them. we don't even have a strategy.
remember a year ago the president of the united states -- our goal was to degrade and destroy isis. can you see any significant progress in that area? of course not. >> well, in fact, there was a bipartisan house homeland security committee investigation, which we reported on yesterday, which said that they have doubled the number of foreign fighters, foreign fighter recruits now from 100 countries, this includes an estimated 250 americans, some of whom an estimated 50 have come back into the u.s. do you think our borders have not been secured adequately? in terms of isis recruitment? >> i don't know how they came back, but if they were american citizens or european citizens, all they had to do was get a visa, they didn't have to get a visa, all they had to do was get a plane ticket. so i would imagine that most of these people have come back by just getting on an airliner and flying back to the united
states, which is much easier. and that's a real danger. and i think that mr. baghdadi with all his refugees would very likely, i'm not positive, but very likely say to some of his fighters, hey, join the tide of refugees and you'll be hearing from us. >> senator, what is your bottom line with the news today of what russia is up to? what should the administration do? >> the administration should develop, first of all, a coherent strategy and recognize that bashar al assad is the enemy, not just isis. and recognize the fact that russia is now acting in the most aggressive fashion that they have acted since the beginning of the cold war. we have to have a strategy, we have to be steadfast and have to take the advice of people like general petraeus last week, and we have to understand that right now there's a series of crises unlike we have seen since the end of world war ii.
and that's the opinion of henry kissinger and madeline albright and everybody that it isn't just mine, we now have more refugees than any time since the end of world war ii. it's time to reassert american leadership and stop leading from behind. >> senator john mccain, thank you very much. we're going to go directly now to the security council where john kerry is speaking. and lavrov is listening. >> and these strikes will continue. let me be clear, the coalition that we have built more than 60 countries strong has been taking on isil for more than a year. by liberating sinjar mountain, liberating kobani and tekrit where more than 100,000 residents have returned to their homes and resumed their lives. defending mosul dam, protecting baghdad, rescuing endangered minorities, killing isil leaders
and facilitators and taking away the entire northern border of syria for isil east of the y euphrates river. at the same time, we have curbed foreign fighters and exposed lies that isil is perpetrating. today as we speak south of kukirk, they are liberating villages from isil under the coalition air strikes. in addition, we continue to add mire the courage and the resilience that has been demonstrated for four long years of struggle by the legitimate opposition to assad. let me remind this council, the coalition air operations are grounded and well established military procedures, firmly based in international law and the requests of neighboring states for self-defense under article 51 of the u.n. charter.
that foundation has not changed and we'll continue our mission with the full sanction of international law. pursuant to these procedures in syria over the past year, the coalition has now conducted nearly 3,000 air strikes against isil targets. and we are now in position to france, australia, canada, turkey and other coalition partners joining the campaign to dramatically accelerate our efforts. this is what we will do. over the coming weeks we will be continuing our flights out of the base in turkey to provide con strant pressure on areas held by isil in northwest syria. we will also be sustaining our support to anti-isil fighters in northeast syria. these efforts will put greater pressure on isil's operational areas and we will ensure through precision air strikes that isil leaders do not have any sanctuary anywhere on the ground
in syria. so isil will soon face increasing pressure from multiple directions across the battlefield in syria and iraq. but as we have said from the start, and as the geneva communicade codified, this cannot be one in the sphere. it will provide a military solution to the crisis of syria. one thing is certain, the vast majority of states around this table know that the isil forces, isil itself, cannot be defeated as long as bashar al assad remains president of syria. it cannot happy definition of the lines of this battle. it cannot happen because of who has lined up with whom and because of the nature of these protagonists. and the reason for that is defined in the beginning by how this fight itself began. this fight began when young
people, young syrians, looking for a future, wanting nothing more than opportunity and jobs and education, when they went out to demonstrate for the future. and to claim the aspirations of young people. and assad sent his thugs out to beat them up. the parents were outraged by the fact that their children, demonstrating peacefully, were beaten up. and they went out with their kids. and they were met with bullets. that is how this whole thing began. people in the country looking for a future who are instead met with repression, with torcher, with barrel bombs. assad will never be accepted by those he has harmed. never possible to become a legitimate leader in the future. never possible to lead a reconciliation nor unification of a country.
that could not happen until he makes clear his willingness to actually heal the nation and the war and decline to be part of the long-term future. today we must be focused in finding a solution that will stop the killing and lay the groundwork for a government that the syrian people themselves can support. we know that the terrorists can neither unite the country nor govern it. we know that assad can neither unite the country nor govern it. neither extreme offers the solution that we need and want. what is more, our ability to develop a credible international political process would be a farce from the beginning. incredible enough that it won't stop people from fighting. if it were perceived as a way to extend or strengthen assad's hold on power. as president obama said on monday, the united states is prepared to work with any
nation, including russia and iran, to resolve the conflict. but we must recognize there cannot be after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, asimple return to the pre-war status quo. my colleague, the government of russia has argued that we must support assad in order to defeat isil. but the reality is that assad has rarely chosen himself to fight isil. as the terrorists made end roads without large swaths of syria and iraq raping, enslaving and murdering civilians along the way, the syrian regime didn't try to stop them. instead, they focused all of its military power on moderate opposition groups who are fighting for a voice in syria. make no mistake, the answer to the syrian civil war cannot be found in a military alliance with assad. but i am convinced that it can
be found. it can be found through a broadly supported diplomatic initiative aimed at a negotiated political transition, a transition that has been accepted by the security council, accepted by participants of the perm 5. consistent with the geneva cumminica to build a stable and united society. so in conclusion, i call on all concerned governments, including russia, including syria, so support a u.n. initiative to broker a political transition. further delay is unconscionable. the opportunity is before us. and if we can succeed in marginalizing the terrorists in syria and in bringing that country together, we can, all of us together, do exactly what this was set up to do. the security council and this
institution. we can strike a huge blow against violent extremism, not only in syria, also in iraq, across the middle east and around the world. and nothing would be more in keeping with the high purpose for which this council was created 70 years ago. and nothing would better serve the interests of the people that all of us represent. i hope we can achieve that. thank you. >> as sergei lavrov begins his rebuttal, i am joined by senator kissinger. everyone is scrambling in the administration from this very unexpected use of air power, the bombings launched today for the first time by russia.
and we are told against homs and other rebel civilian areas, not against isis as russia as claimed. what do you make of this? >> i agree that this is alarming. and i just listened to what secretary kerry said. trying to get the u.n. engaged on this longer-term solution is necessary. this is highly problematic in the region and will continue to destabilize the region. and i think it needs a multilateral approach at this point. >> one of the things that you'll obviously be dealing with is the migrant crisis, because this is, clearly, escalated the war against civilian populations. there was talk at the u.n. of an agreement with russia and others to try to stop assad from using barrel bombs. now it seems that russia is not doing anything to stop assad. they are popping up assad. >> well, as you know, the number one victim of all of these activities are the children of
syria. and you see refugees pouring out of that country and desperately in search of a place to go. i think the united states needs to do more. we need to step up. i've heard from mayors across my state willing to take families now. i think we have to do everything we can to address this humanitarian crisis that's unfolding before our eyes. >> i also wanted to ask you, of course, about the senate vote today to avert a government shutdown to continue temporary spending until december. the house hasn't yet voted but it seem that is the leadership, at least, is signaling planned parenthood would not be defunded, yet there was a very contentious hearing with the head of planned parenthood yesterday. what is your concern right now going forward about the funding for planned parenthood and about criticisms that were made of planned parenthood, about their spending, about their use of some of the techniques that they have used in some of their facilities? >> andrea, unfortunately, this
is pure politics in its worst form. we have derailed the business of the united states government to defund an organization that's actually providing health care services to millions of americans. from cancer screenings to breast exams to contraception, things every day americans need and need access to. and to derail all of the work of the house and senate to debate access, to debate the funding of planned parenthood, i think, shows a terrible lack of judgment about what the people of the united states want us to be working on here in washington. we need to get back to the people's business and need to fund the government. and we need to stop the partisan politics. >> now with the bill extended temporarily until december, what happened to the funding for the 9/11 responders, which you've been fighting for, the money that was in that separate legislation to give those injuried police and firemen some kind of medical support and relief? >> well, today, andrea, the 9/11 health fund actually expires. it's been authorized for five
years. what we know is we have set up a program 100% transparent and accountab accountable. we have provided services to the 9/11 first responders, the firefighters, police officers, construction workers and members of the community who did so much in those days and weeks and months after 9/11, first to find survivors and then to clean up and find remains. and so, unfortunately, they are now dying of horrible cancers. over 4,000 have cancer today. so what we need to do is we need to reauthorize this, make it permanent, and we need to make sure every one of your viewers calls their member of congress. this is an unconscionable situation that this bill is about to expire. and these men and women will not have the health care that they need. so we are hopeful that we will get this support we need to get this reauthorized and make it a permanent bill in the very near future. >> senator kirsten gillibrand, thank you for joining us on a busy day, indeed. in other breaking news today, we are following that nbc
news has confirmed the kentucky clerk jailed for failing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples did have a secret meeting with pope francis here in washington. the meeting with davis and her husband happened thursday at the vatican embassy. this morning davis says the pope told her to stay strong. >> i put my hand out, and he rushed and he grabbed it. and i -- i hugged him and he hugged me. and he said, thank you for your courage. he told me before he left, he said, stay strong. and that was a great encouragement. just knowing that the pope is on track, you know, with what we're doing and agreeing, you know, kind of validates everything. >> and joining me now is nbc's hallie jackson. this is extraordinary, just the whole idea of that -- this meeting would have taken place, that the pope was sending a very strong signal for all of his support for compassion for same sex couples and other members of
an expanded family. this is a very traditional position, to say the least. >> and it is interesting, too, because as you know, the pope did not make same sex marriage an essential part of his trip to the united states last week. so the fact we are learning about his meeting with kim davis, this information is coming out, the vatican not denying it happened but not providing many details about it. davis, you heard her say how the pope took her hands and told her to stay strong. she and her husband who went with her were secretly shuttled here in washington for this sort of undercover meeting. they both received rosaries from the pope and the organization of lawyers that are defending davis have released a photograph of the rosaries as a sign of sort of how the meeting went. worth noting, though, that the pope talked about religious liberties and did last week. he visited the little sisters of the poor, another meeting the vatican didn't say much, only that it was a sign of support for that catholic charity. >> but fascinating in that there were cameras outside the vatican
embassy, so they must have gone in a back door and there must have been an agreement with the davis' not to mention this until he was back out of the united states. something they kept under wraps. i know you will continue to cover it. thank you so much. coming up, the latest on hurricane joaquin as it gets closer to the united states coast. and secretary ash carter will be briefing at the pentagon at 2:00 today. you're watching all this breaking news right here on msnbc. you focus on making great burgers, or building the best houses in town. or becoming the next highly-unlikely dotcom superstar. and us, we'll be right there with you, helping with the questions you need answered to get your brand new business started. we're legalzoom and we've already partnered with over a million new business owners to do just that. check us out today to see how you can become one of them. legalzoom. legal help is here.
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and at this hour a lot of weather to talk about. hurricane joaquin is gaining strength as it moves southwest to the central bahamas with torrential rain and 80-mile-an-hour winds already. storm watchers here in the u.s. are keeping a close eye, of course, on joaquin's track, as the storm travels north it could hammer the east from north carolina to new england by this weekend. this is the midatlantic region
already being clobbered by heavy rains and flooding. james madison university down in virginia has already had flash floods on the campus. joining me now, nbc meteorologist rafael miranda. wow, look at that. >> yeah. >> rafael, i know we're already bracing for this, tell us what to expect. >> well, there's a lot of uncertainty with the forecast but it is becoming more ominous over the past 24 hours. yesterday there was the thinking this storm could go out to sea. now it's strengthening to a hurricane, maybe a major hurricane, and that out to sea scenario looks less and less likely. so we're looking at probable landfall across the southeast or the midatlantic next week or this weekend. we'll look at the current hurricane, much more organized at this hour and rapidly strength anything. a lot of warm weather near the bahamas and not much wind shear to impede it. current winds are at 80-mile-per-hour and moving slowly across the warm waters.
lots of fuel for strengthening. and we can see in the official forecast path over the next two days, not much movement at all. really hanging out near the bahamas gaining strength and then things become interesting. saturday morning, the potential for a major category 3 hurricane. and then this is where the million-dollar question is, which path will joaquin take? right now this is the official forecast path. sunday morning, looking at the potential for a hurricane making landfall near north carolina, virginia perhaps, or if it takes a more easterly path, we could see landfall closer to the northern midatlantic around the jersey shore, maybe to new england. of course, we'll watch this closely over the next several days. the scenarios for out to sea are not happening. most of these are suggesting landfall late this weekend into early next week. we'll have another update around 2:00 from the national hurricane center. andrea? >> rafael, thank you so much. tell me about new hampshire this weekend as well. thank you.
and georgia has executed the first woman on death row in 70 years, despite last-minute efforts by her lawyers' appeals and a plea from pope francis. they denied her request for clemency. she was convicted for orchestrated the 1997 murder of her husband. gabe gutierrez is joining me from jackson, georgia. gabe, we know the pope spoke about the death penalty, spoke against it in congress here just last week. now we hear -- excuse me, we hear that he's also reached out on an oklahoma case. fill us in on that. >> reporter: yes, that's right, andrea. good afternoon. first we'll talk about kelly who was put to death at 12:21 this morning after frantic appeals from her attorneys going all the way to the u.s. supreme court. several appeals, in fact, as well as to the georgia supreme court. those were all denied and she we want and sang "amazing grace" as that execution was carried out.
and this followed that -- clemency hearing earlier in the afternoon where her three adult children were also there and a representative from pope francis that had written a letter to the parole board asking for the sentence to be commuted. that didn't work either. and so she was the 21st person put to death in the united states so far this year. so now there's another execution scheduled for this afternoon in oklahoma. richard glossip was convicted of masterminding the 1997 murder of his boss. however, it was just revealed today that a representative for pope francis also sent a letter to governor mary fallon in oklahoma as well as the parole board asking for glossip's sentence to be commuted. the spokesperson for the governor says she doesn't have the authority to do that. the and so that execution is set
for 3:00 this afternoon. >> thank you so much. and the next speaker of the house makes a surprising remark about the clinton investigative committee. we'll have that coming up next. you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" only here on msnbc. it's time for the "your business" entrepreneur of the week. bill schaeffer saw opportunity in the midst of california's record-breaking drought. using a trick that golf courses have known about for years, his bay area company, brown-lawn green, uses an organic grass coloring to make a dry dormant lawn look lush and green with minimal watering. for more, watch "your business" on sunday mornings on msnbc. >> visit openforum.com for ideas on how to grow your business. i was calling in every favor i could, to track down enough lumber to get the job done. and i knew i could rely on american express
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every day, thousands of boeing volunteers help make their communities the best they can be. building something better for all of us. today the clinton campaign is pouncing on a damming display from kevin mccarthy. the man expected to replace john boehner as speaker of the house. mccarthy seemed to pull back the curtain on the committee investigating clinton and her e-mails saying they were accomplishing a political purpose. >> everybody thought hillary clinton was unbeatable, right? but we put together a benghazi special committee. a select committee. what are her numbers today? her numbers are dropping. why? because she's untrustable. but no one would have known any of that had happened had we not
thought that something -- >> missouri senator claire mccaskill is a hillary clinton supporter, of course, and joins me now. senator, this is just happening because he was on fox news. was this a case of him actually explaining what the benghazi committee is up to? >> yeah, it was a startling admission by the speaker in waiting. i think he forgot that, just because you're on fox news, doesn't mean that the rest of the country's not going to hear about it. and what he really did, andrea, is lay out for the american people that this is a tax-payer funded political hit job, and the most disgusting thing about it is that it's being done on the desks of four brave americans. and i think people should be outraged that this is now out in the open. we all believe that's what this was. they are not even going to finish their work, they say, until next year. now what are they doing next year?
could it be we are electing a president next year? this is outrageous and i hope many people are upset as many of us are. >> i did ask the chair of that committee who is considered to become majority leader about a possible political motivation. this is back on august 12th. and he did push back hard on all of this speculation. what do you say to those in her corner who say she's answered all these questions about ben a benghazi and that this is a political motivated witch hunt? >> well, i have about six pages of questions that are exclusively related to benghazi. i don't think it's asking too much that she do what she says she's going to do. which is come before congress and answer all the questions that we have with respect to the security profile, dependency of the attacks and the administration's response in the aftermath. and ultimately it will be you and my fellow citizens to judge whether our questions are fair and appropriate.
>> that hearing is going to take place on october 22nd. hillary clinton said she's looking forward to it. but senator mccaskill, even the most fervent clinton supporters would have to say what a lot of clinton supporters are saying privately, that they have not handled this well. she herself has said they have not handled it well. and you'll have a drip, drip, drip as she said to chuck todd on "meet the press" because there are going to be releases court ordered from the state department of more e-mails later today, then the next month and next month and the month after up until the first primaries and caucuses. >> well, political hit jobs are, by the very definition, drip, drip, drip. you're political opponents want to try to make you look bad every single day. but enough is enough, andrea. every single e-mail she sent or received did not have classified material in it at the time she sent or received it. the policy was allowed by the state department. no one has given out more personal information or e-mails than hillary clinton under the same circumstances. and frankly, it is outrageous
that we are not spending more time talking about the things that hillary clinton wants to champion. increasing the minimum wage, making student loans affordable -- >> senator, with all due respect, isn't this a self-inflicted wound? it was a mistake. she acknowledges that. she should have had a government and a private system. she was doing national security communications, whether classified or not, at the time. on a private system that could be hacked with a server in her basement. and she's made herself vulnerable to these attacks. >> that's why i give her credit for acknowledging she should have done it differently. but look at the proportionality here. this is the amount of time that is being spent on an issue where she is being incredibly transparent and forthcoming. and by the way, somewhat sarcastically on the side, her server was the only one that was not hacked by the chinese. so this notion that somehow she
was doing this to jeopardize security of our country or that her motives were somehow not to do the best job she could for the united states of america, is just hogwash. and it's time to begin to focus on the things that americans are worrying about around their kitchen table. how can we afford college? how can we retire and still pay our health care bills? these are the things that hillary clinton is providing substantive policy. and eventually, i know the american people are going to want to start talking about that. >> are you concerned, as a lot of democrats tell me they are, at this point for whatever reasons, partly because of this controversy, joe biden now has more favorable, higher favorable ratings and would be more competitive against republicans, all the top tier republicans, than hillary clinton? >> this is all context. i think you can go back historically and look at polls a year out and find all kinds of polls that turn out not to be
the case. we all love joe biden, but if you look at the record and her accomplishments, there's no one who is better qualified to be president of the united states than hillary clinton. and by the way, if he gets in, that's fine, she wants to earn this. she wants to show the american people that she'll fight through anything on their behalf. >> senator claire mccaskill, thank you very much for being with us. i know it's a very busy day up there. >> thank you. joining me now for "the daily fix," ruth marcus and huffington post political editor sam stein. ruth marcus, first to you, where do we stand? the e-mails come out later today. each time this comes it's a setback for her efforts to talk about policy. >> well, i think it's a self-inflicted wound and it's also a wound that republicans are very happy to help her inflict on herself. and, you know, i'm reminded of michael kingsley's famous definition of a gaffe in washington, saying the truth out
loud. shocked that the benghazi committee might have had something to do with politics and the political aspirations of the former secretary of state. i actually share senator mccaskill's desire to talk a little bit about some substance in this campaign, because there's a lot of substantive things to talk about, but it's getting -- it's really hard to stop talking about e-mails when facts keep emerging and e-mails keep getting released. >> and sam stein, how does hillary clinton ever get out from under this? and what are you hearing about joe biden? >> well, kevin mccarthy helps hillary clinton get out from underneath this. obviously, behind closed doors and increasingly public, democrats have been arguing that the benghazi committee was politically motivated. when you have the likely incoming house speaker admit as much, it gives you an interesting and effective pivot, i think. and the october 22nd hearing in front of the committee that clinton will have, the campaign
has long viewed that as something that will help her clear this hurdle, maybe move on to more the policy topics and specifics. so those are two things here. as for biden, i think claire mccaskill is right, there's universal love of the vice president within the democratic party. there's universal sympathy for the vice president beyond the democratic party. the biggest question, of course, is what happens if he enters into the campaign arena? does -- do the numbers start going down much like they did for secretary of state clinton when she entered? and i think that's the big unknown right now. >> and let's talk about the republicans for a moment. mitt romney just a few moments ago at the atlantic aspen institute conference was asked about donald trump. let's watch. >> i will support the republican nominee. i don't think that's going to be donald trump. my party has historically nominated someone who is a mainstream conservative. and someone who has a foundation in foreign policy that gives people confidence that they can
guide the ship of state in troubled waters. mr. trump, over the weekend, i think on "60 minutes" said that he thought it would be a good idea to let isis take over syria and that we can pick up the pieces. and i thought that was both absurd and dangerous. >> but is the republican party, are the republican voters listening to mitt romney or are they listening to donald trump? ruth? >> well, one of them is running and one of them is not. and the one who is not running, mitt romney, might be -- might have been sitting there thinking, gee, maybe could've, should've, would've as hillary clinton likes to say. he did toy with it. and think about what the world looked like at that time. jeb bush looked like he was unbeatable. wow, times have changed, but good for mitt romney using blunt language about donald trump and his irresponsible comments on syria. >> and same question to you, sam stein. >> i just -- if mitt had run in
this hypothetical, i just don't see how things would be any different than they are now. clearly, the republican party is driven by an appetite to change leadership. and we have seen it in the house, we are seeing it on the campaign trail. a lot of the dysfunction within the gop is because people feel like the current group of leaders has been completely ineffective. now, does it sustain through the winter? i think mitt is completely right about the historical patterns that happen here. but there's no evidence to suggest that mitt romney would be in a better position today had he entered the race. in fact, you can make the case he would be worse off than jeb is and jeb is doing pretty poorly. hindsight is 20/20, i think. >> indeed, sam stein. ruth marcus, thank you both very much. what a day in politics and foreign policy. up next, today's russian air strikes in syria with the former american ambassador to syria with us. you're watching "andrea mitchell
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ambassador robert ford was our last ambassador to syria from 2011 to 2014 and joins me now. ambassador ford, thank you for being with us. this is a remarkable day. today russia is launching air strikes and we are told against homs. and these are not strikes against isis as russia claims, these are strikes against rebel groups and civilian populations. >> we shouldn't be surprised by this. russia has long been a close friend, a close allie of the bashar al assad government in syria. russia vetoed four different rz resolutions the united states supported for the brutality he's inflicted on syrians in the civil war. so this isn't a surprise. what's interesting about it to me, andrea, is that the russians
rushed in military forces and are now launching air strikes, not against the islamic state, but against other people that are fighting assad. and that tells me two things, one that the assad regime is getting weaker and weaker in this awful lure of attrition in syria. second, the russians were so scared about the sustainability of assad that his survival, that they had to rush in forces and start air strikes. >> doesn't this raise the possibility of some sort of accidental clash? we've got air power, we've got fighter jets in the air over syria as well. >> absolutely. there will be a need to deconflict air operations, but the russian strikes today were in the western quarter of syria where the american air strikes have been operating basically in the northern and eastern third of syria. so they don't necessarily have to come into contact, but i think it would be exceptionally
prudent for military to military discussions so that we don't have an unhappy incident. >> how extraordinary is it that the president met with vladimir putin 48 hours ago and that the u.s. had no notification, had one hour's notification, at the embassy in baghdad level rather than a formal notification from the foreign minister of the president to the president? >> well, i think we are accustomed to the way vladimir putin operates. and it's not really a surprise that he's using his air force -- i'll tell you what surprises me, is i thought the russians might hit one islamic state target while they hit others among the moderate opposition, fighters that are slowly prevailing over assad. but the russians aren't even trying that fig leaf. they are just going directly to help assad. and so we need to understand two things out of this, number one, it's going to make a political settlement much harder. bashar al assad is going to be less inclined to negotiate in a
political negotiation. and the second thing we need to understand is that this will boost jihadi recruitment into extremist groups like the islamic state, like al qaeda. before i came into your studio, i looked at twitter full of stuff from jihadis saying remember afghanistan, join the groups. very unhelpful what the russians have done. >> robert ford, thank you so much. now to the white house where josh earnest is briefing on this subject. >> you recall that when president obama and president putin had the opportunity to meet just two days ago, both presidents agreed that it was a priority for both countries that tactical, practical conversations between our militaries take place to ensure that our military activities inside of syria are properly deconflicted. that continues to be a priority. the u.s. military officials have
been in touch with their russian counterparts already. to set up those discuss cushions. >> but russia says they are going after isis. you see reports coming from the region that other groups are being targeted, including a u.s.-backed rebel group. at least the way you described it in the past, mark larger effort by putin to try to simply go after extremists like the islamic state. so what do you make of the fact that it seems like they are bombing in areas that are not necessarily isis held and could be expanding this military operation to really try and shore up the assad regime? >> well, the department of defense is going to take a look at the russian military activities there. it's too early for me to say exactly what targets they were
aiming at and what targets were eventually hit. >> reporter: do you take putin at his word he's only going after the islamic state? >> well, the department of defense will take a look at the russian military activities in syria and may have more information to share about that in the days ahead. your question, though, does raise, i think, something that warrants mentioning here at the outset. which is, we are seeing the russians ramp up their support for president assad. they have been supporting him for quite some time. and it's clear that they have made a significant military investment now in further propping him up. the fact that russia has to take these noteworthy steps to ramp up their support for assad is an indication of how concerned they are about losing influence in the one client state they have
in the middle east. and -- this is in contrast to, or at least calls into question their strategy. because when president putin and president obama had the opportunity to meet at the u.n. earlier this week, much of their discussion was focused on the need for a political transition inside of syria. now, there are well-known differences of opinion about what that transition looks like, but there was agreement on both parts about the need for a political solution to the problems that are plaguing syria. that means russia will not succeed in imposing a military solution on syria anymore than the united states was successful in imposing a military solution on iraq a decade ago. and certainly no more than russia was able to impose a military solution on afghanistan three decades ago. so this goes to the case that the president made in his speech at the u.n. on monday, which is
that to confront these significant global challenges, nations around the world can exercise strength and exercise influence by being part of a large international effort to address those challenges. that's precisely what the united states is doing inside of syria. the president is leading the coalition of now 65 countries that are implementing an integrated strategy that includes a robust military effort but also efforts to try to counter isil's online radical efforts, shut down foreign fighters, engage in counters to their finance efforts, and that is part of -- that's the most effective way for the united states to lead the international community. it's also the most effective way for us to advance u.s. interests in the region and around the world. it also is the most effective way for us to eventually arrive at the kind of solution to the significant problems that are plaguing that war-torn country.
>> reporter: in afghanistan, you said the military commanders from the u.s. are recommending that they would like to see additional troops remain in afghanistan beyond that small presence at the embassy we have talked about in the past. is the president agreeing with those recommendations and is that something he's actively considering? >> well, josh, let me start by saying that the united states continues to monitor efforts by the afghan national defense and security forces to retake kandus. they have conducted a limited number of air strikes, primarily for the purposes of force protection. the united states will continue to work closely with president ghani, the rest of the afghan government and the international partners to ensure the afghan forces have the capabilities necessary to protect the gains
that have been made there over the last 13 years. when it comes to policy decisions, i don't have a lot of to news to make in this regard. but there are two observations i have, the first is that the president when announcing these decisions in the past, when it comes to our military commitment to afghanistan, has routinely noted that the conditions on the ground influence that policy process. and so i would expect that that would be the case in this circumstance as well. at the same time, we have always warned against the inclination to essentially make snap decisions on policy, almost literally overnight. and so that's why we're going to continue to monitor the efforts by the afghan government and afghan security f