tv MSNBC Live With Thomas Roberts MSNBC October 30, 2015 10:00am-12:01pm PDT
and because of this strategy, we have taken extremists off the battlefield inside of syria who were hoping to use a safe haven inside of syria to attack the united states and our interests. so we know that we need a political transition inside of syria in order to address the root causes, the root cause of so many of the problems that we have seen in syria and that those problems range from hundreds of thousands of syrians who have lost their lives in the civil war in that country, millions of syrians who have had to flee their homes to escape violence, some of those syrians have unfortunately died trying to flee their country. and it's a tragedy both in terms of the human toll that it's had on the syrian people. it's also significant in terms of the destabilizing impact it's had throughout the broader region, countries like turkey,
lebanon and jordan are bearing a significant burden in trying to meet the basic humanitarian needs of hundreds of thousands if not millions of syrians who have sought refuge in each much their countries. so this is a significant problem. we can take some military action to provide for the safety and security of the american people, but the root cause of all of these problems will only be addressed through the kind of political transition that the united states believes is long overdue. >> reporter: i just wanted to flesh out some details here. we have heard that the president has authorized fewer than 50 special operations forces. how many exactly, if this has already been authorized, can you tell us the exact number of forces who will be going into northern syria? >> the less than 50 number is accurate. i cannot be more specific than that, primarily for reasons related to operational security. there are a number of details
about this decision that i am not in a position to discuss in this public setting, primarily to ensure that our special operators can do their work as safely as possible, acknowledging that this is a very dangerous region of the world. >> reporter: you mentioned the call between the president and the prime minister talking about intensifying u.s. support in iraq to fight the islamic state there. will that include even the future, more special operations forces? is there any talk of sending, of intensifying that support through u.s. troops? >> well, there are -- i don't have any announcements along those lines to make from here today. but we have already found that pairing some u.s. forces, including special operations personnel, with iraqi security forces in a strictly train, advise and assist role, has been effective in enhancing the
capacity of those iraqi security forces to make progress against isil. so i don't have anything to announce along those lines today, but i certainly wouldn't rule out that something like that could be a possibility if it continues to be an element of our strategy that shows some promise. >> reporter: is there a reason why the president is not publicly speaking about this move today? is it because it's seen as a relatively small maneuver, a small impact as part of a larger strategy? why aren't we hearing from him today? >> i think i would answer that question in a couple of ways. the first is you have heard the president on many occasions discuss our strategy in syria. and the fact is our strategy in syria hasn't changed. the core of our military strategy inside of syria is to build up the capacity of local forces to take the fight to isil on the ground in their own country. there are a variety of ways the united states and our coalition
partners can offer our support to the local forces, whether it's resupplying them or conducting air strikes in support of their operations on the ground, and the president did make a decision to intensify that support by offering a small number of u.s. special operations military personnel to offer them some advice and assistance on the ground as they take the fight to isil. so this is an intensification of a strategy that the president announced more than a year ago, and he's discussed it with all of you on occasions and i suspect he will discuss it with you again in the future. justin? >> reporter: i wanted to see if you could maybe define what the difference between or what the limits of advise and assist versus combat are. i ask that for two reasons. one is the president has laid down the ground mark that we would not send combat troops into syria. i'm wondering why this doesn't qualify under that definition. i'm also wondering if you could
flesh out what exactly they're doing so we kind of have a marker to judge the president. >> on the last question, it will be hard for me to offer you many specifics about what precisely they are going to be doing, primarily because there is some operational security that needs to be protected. there may be more details that the department of defense could offer you, but from here, i can't be more specific than to say that those special operation forces will be in syria and they will be offering some training, some advice and some assistance to moderate opposition forces that are fighting isil in northern syria right now. as it relates to their mission, this is an important thing for the american people to understand. these forces do not have a combat mission. in 2003, president bush ordered a large scale long-term combat operation in iraq.
that is something that barack obama, then a state senator from illinois, spoke out against. he disagreed with that decision. and he didn't at that point believe that it would serve the interests of the country to try to impose a military solution on the problems inside of iraq. and president barack obama has that same view. he does not believe that that military operation was in our best interests and he does not believe that that's something we should do again. so that is why our special operations personnel inside of syria have a very different mission. it is not -- that mission is to build the capacity of local forces so that they can be even more effective than they have already been in taking the fight to isil on the ground inside of syria. >> i guess i will go back on the question one more time. the president didn't say there would be a large scale long-term ground mission. he said there would not be a ground operation in syria.
so -- a ground combat operation in syria. so i'm trying to figure out how can we measure that? what are soldiers in combat doing that these train, advise and assist soldiers aren't doing? it looks and smells and sounds like a combat mission. and soldiers are dying. the pentagon has described some of this -- >> let me say, what i'm trying to do is to be as specific as possible with you about the specific responsibilities that these special operations personnel have. this is not in any way an attempt to diminish the risk that they will face or the bravery that they will need to summon to carry out these operations. this is a dangerous place on the globe and they are at risk and there's no denying that. once again, that's a reason for us to remember the significant sacrifices our men and women in the military make for our safety
and security. nobody is more keenly aware of that than the commander in chief. at the same time, the responsibilities that they have there are different. first of all, i think if we were envisioning a combat operation, we probably would be contemplating more than 50 troops on the ground. but because the responsibility that they have is not to lead the charge to take a hill, but rather, to offer advice and assistance to those local forces about the best way they can organize their efforts to take the fight to isil or to take the hill inside of syria, that is the role that they will be playing. again, it still means they are in a dangerous situation. it still means that they will have all of the equipment that they need to protect themselves if necessary. i'm confident the department of defense has contingency plans in place to try to make it as safe as possible for those forces to operate there.
but again, i don't want to diminish the significance of the risk that they are taking in pursuit of this objective that the president has identified. >> reporter: last one, i apologize, but on the budget now that we have a broad budget deal in place, i'm wondering what's going on with the appropriations process that needs to happen by december 11th? are you guys in negotiations with congress on that? how confident are you that it will get done and that it won't include any of the riders you guys have objected to? >> when congress agreed to pass a continuing resolution back at the end of september, the goal all along had been to try to reach an agreement about these broader caps about a month in advance of the december 11th deadline to give appropriators in congress enough time to negotiate below those caps. so that goal has been met. congress now will have more than a month to put together appropriations bills in advance of the december 11th deadline.
so based on the time line that congress had described that they would need, we have met that deadline. they should have ample time based on their own descriptions to put together legislation. we are hopeful, though, that that progress will not get bogged down through an attempt by members of congress to add idealogical riders that are completely unrelated to these funding bills and that is something that we have seen republicans be tempted to do in the past and we are hopeful that they will not do that in a way that derails what should be a relatively smooth process. okay? kristen? >> reporter: i want to be very specific about what the president has said in terms of putting boots on the ground in syria and he actually didn't even use the term combat. he said in 2013 quote, i will not put american boots on the ground in syria. so with this announcement today, isn't he effectively breaking that promise to the american people? >> kristen, in september of 2013, the president was receiving questions about what the united states was prepared
to do, given our insistence that the assad -- president assad had to go, he had lost legitimacy to lead. the president was making the point he was not prepared to put boots on the ground to take down the assad regime. that is precisely the mistake the previous administration made in implementing a regime change policy against iraq and putting u.s. forces in a large scale long-term ground combat operation to try to take down saddam hussein. that did not serve the interests of the united states and in some ways, we are still paying the price for that mistake. so that is, the quote you pulled there is a very different situation. >> reporter: but he said definitively he was not going to put boots on the ground. we heard him reiterate that same idea multiple times, that he wouldn't put boots on the ground in syria. >> again, you have read one quote. that to be fair, is out of context. the situation that the president has described is a description of the kind of mission that our men and women in uniform will have in our counter-isil
campaign. >> reporter: he consistently said he's not going to put boots on the ground, josh. you don't deny that. he's consistently said that. that would not be part of this strategy. >> well, again, kristen, the only quote you read to me is a quote from 2013 that is a direct question related to what we were prepared to do to ensure that our concerns about the assad regime and the need for regime change were implemented. the fact is the president said we are not going to implement a military strategy to take down bashar al assad. what we want to do is we want to build the capacity of local forces to make sure that they can be focused on isil and that's the strategy that the president has been focused on here. when the president has talked about combat situations, the president has been quite clear that he does not contemplate a large scale long-term ground combat operation, either in iraq or in syria. that was his policy at the beginning of our counter-isil
operations and it's our strategy today. >> reporter: you have acknowledged that these forces, these less than 50 forces, could be in dangerous situations, could wind up in combat roles. so given that, how is that not a change in strategy? >> because our strategy all along has been focused on building the capacity of local forces to fight these fights against isil for themselves in their own country. and our efforts to resupply them, to reequip them, to conduct air strikes in advance of their ground operations and in coordination with their ground operations, have improved their performance on the battlefield. that element of our strategy to build their capacity has yielded progress and so the president wants to intensify that assistance that we are providing and one way you can intensify that assistance is to pair them up with experts, with some of the smartest, bravest, most effective fighters in the united states military. that's exactly what we are
doing. i do expect that that will improve their performance on the battlefield. >> reporter: the u.s. forces could be in combat roles, their lives could be at risk, correct? >> they will not be in a combat mission. >> reporter: i understand that's not their mission but they could find themselves in a combat operation just as we saw with the rescue mission? >> there is no denying the amount of risk they are taking on here. they will be equipped to defend themselves if necessary. i'm confident the department of defense has contingency plans to try to make them as safe as possible in a very dangerous part of the world, and it is a good reminder of the appreciation that we need to have for our men and women in uniform. >> reporter: i want to ask you one more question, josh. does the president have the moral authority to put u.s. forces in syria, senator angus king said earlier today the war's not authorized, making the point that the aumf still has yet to pass through congress. do you need to redouble your efforts to try to get that passed? >> that's a great question. here's the answer to it. the answer simply is that congress in 2001 did give the executive branch authorization
to take this action and there's no debating that. what the president has said he would welcome is congress passing an authorization to use military force. to be more specific about what exactly they are authorizing. so it's not just the president would welcome congress taking that step. the administration actually wrote the bill for him. we wrote our own piece of legislation that congress could pass that would give the administration more specific authority to carry out our counter-isil campaign, but we didn't stop there. the president of the united states sent some of his top foreign policy advisors, national security advisors, to congress to testify under oath in open hearings to explain to congress what was included in the legislation and why they should pass it. after all those efforts, the president saying he would welcome congress' voice in this debate, saying that the administration, having the administration actually write the legislation to send it up to congress so that congress could pass it, sending the secretary of state, his secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to testify
before congress about why they should pass this legislation, what's congress done? nothing. so i don't know when congress is going to meet again. i know they often take fridays off and often take mondays off so maybe on tuesday they can have a meeting and a discussion about what should be on their agenda. i've got an idea about what should be at the top of it. jim? >> reporter: is this 50, fewer than 50 and no more? >> the decision that the president has made to add these special operations forces to build up the capacity of local fighters in syria will involve fewer than 50 special operations personnel. >> reporter: that's it? there won't be any other escalations beyond that? is that what you're saying? >> what i'm saying is that the decision that the president has made is to send fewer than 50 special operations forces to syria to offer some training, advice and assistance to local forces that are operating on the ground there against isil. >> reporter: it's possible there
could be further deployments? >> well, jim, i don't want to try to predict the future here. i think we have been quite specific about what our strategy is. we have shown a desire to intensify our efforts behind those elements of our strategy that have shown the most promise. and building the capacity of local forces, particularly in northern syria, has shown some promise and this is a further intensification of those efforts. >> reporter: and you said that these special forces would be doing advising, training, assisting, then to another question you said i can't get into the specifics for operational security reasons, i can't get into -- so which is it? are they going to be involved in some raids in northern syria, potentially? >> jim, the role that they will have is to offer training, to offer advice and to offer some assistance to local opposition fighters on the ground in syria who are taking the fight to isil in their own country. that is the responsibility that they have. that's the mission that the
commander in chief has given them. on an operational basis in terms of where they are going to be operating, with whom exactly they are going to be partnering, where the first mission will take place, i think for pretty obvious reasons those are not details that we can get into in public. >> reporter: i want to get back to what kristen was asking about which is i want to see if we can have just a moment of clarity here. >> okay. that's the reason i'm here. >> reporter: i understand that. i think kristen was asking a basic question, the question the american people have, which is this president, this white house, the officials here at this white house, repeatedly over and over again made it clear to the american people that there would be no combat role for u.s. troops fighting isis. that appears to be changing. not only is there this announcement you are talking about today which you say they won't be involved in a combat role but you're not ruling out the possibility they may be involved in some sort of combat operation, but on the iraq side, you have pentagon officials this
week saying we are in combat. so i'm just, it would be great if we can just have a moment of clarity here and you can acknowledge that yes, this mission is changing, it is not what it was said waits going to be at the onset of this. i just -- >> to say that, jim, would only confuse the situation. the fact of the matter is, the mission that the commander in chief has given our military personnel in iraq and now in syria, is a train, advise and assist mission. we have gone to great lengths to make clear that that is in no way dmiminishing the amount of risk or men and women in uniform will be facing. we have also been quite clear there have actually been situations where combat boots have been on the ground inside of syria. we have been quite candid about that. the president ordered a mission involving u.s. military personnel putting boots on the ground inside of syria to try to rescue manner hostages that had been taken by isil that. occurred more than a year ago. the president earlier this year
ordered special operations personnel to conduct a raid against a high value isil target inside of syria. that raid was successful in both taking that isil leader off the battlefield and recovering significant troves of intelligence. the department of defense has had contingency plans in place for search and rescue operations. fortunately, the united states has not been in a situation in which one of our pilots has been shot down or crashed in the skies over syria, despite the fact they have conducted thousands of military flights over syria. this is a testament to the professionalism of our armed forces, but there were contingency plans in place for search and rescue operations that would have put u.s. military boots on the ground in a fight against isil to potentially try to rescue american military pilots. so we have been forthright about this fact. this is not the first time we are discussing this information. in fact, we have discussed this at some length. and the desire here is to try to be as specific and clear as
possible exactly what it is that they are doing. their mission is a -- >> reporter: you are denying that the onset of this military operation against isis that the impression was not given to the american people that there would not be a combat role? i recognize there's potential double negatives in there. at the onset of this, i think any rational person would conclude that the impression was given to the american people that there would not be a combat mission. it now appears that there are going to be occasions from time to time where there will be a combat element to what u.s. troops are doing in iraq and syria. so you're saying that that's not the case? >> what i'm saying is the impression i think the president went to great lengths to leave with the american people in september of 2014, the president gave a national address on live television in prime time on september 10th of 2014, and the president did go to great lengths to make it clear that our counter-isil strategy in iraq and in syria would be substantially different, a
difference in night and day, between the strategy that president obama was implementing, to counter isil, and the strategy of a large term long scale ground combat operation that the bush administration pursued in 2003. the president did go out of his way to make quite clear that our strategy is quite different. the strategy was -- that difference existed then and that difference exists today. and what the president did in the context of that speech and in the numerous other times that you all have asked him about it and when he's given other statements about it, the president has been quite clear about the fact that they have -- they do not have a combat mission. they have a training, advising and assist mission that does mean that our men and women in uniform are going to be in harm's way. it means they are going to be taking risks. it means they're in a dangerous part of the world. it means we owe them a debt of gratitude. >> reporter: what about that raid where the u.s. soldier died just last week? that was a raid. >> that was in iraq. this is a raid that was led by kurdish iraqi security forces. the u.s. military personnel that
were there were in an advise role but when those kurdish security forces -- >> reporter: they're in an advised role, there's the potential for something like this to occur, where they may have to engage people who are in harm's way. that's reality. >> that's already happened. already happened. okay? major. >> reporter: how long will they stay in syria? >> well, we have been quite candid about the fact that this is not a short term proposition. in terms of our counter-isil strategy. so what we're going to continue to do and the instructions the president has given to his national security team is to continually assess our strategy and look for ways to intensify those elements of the strategy that are showing the most promise. >> reporter: so up to 50 or less than 50 will stay there for an open-ended period of time? >> i don't have a specific date to give you when they will come out.
>> reporter: the reason i ask is because there's a distinction, i think you would acknowledge, between raids which you have said have occurred, and the permanent positioning of u.s. special operators. there's a difference, correct? >> i certainly wouldn't describe it as permanent. >> reporter: so it's not an in and out operation? >> stipulating that i would not describe it as permanent, i would acknowledge that there is a difference. it reflects the intensification of those elements of our strategy that have shown some promise. >> reporter: i want you also to acknowledge, because this is important operationally, will they have air cover if they engage in operations that take them close to the fight? yes or no? >> if it's an operational question, i refer you to the department of defense. >> reporter: you and i both know every contingency operation for special operators carries with it the implied support of air
cover. >> what has been under way for more than a year now is u.s. military pilots and coalition military pilots taking air strikes in coordination with local forces that are fighting on the ground. so that kind of air cover is something that local opposition forces have already benefited from, but in terms of -- >> reporter: so it would not be denied? >> for operational questions like this i would refer tyou to the department of defense. we have made clear they will have the equipment they need to keep them safe and i'm confident the department of defense has a contingency plan but for what those plans are, you should check with them. >> reporter: we can acknowledge that special operators would be not only generally at risk but because they represent the united states government, because they have not been in syria for any length of time, they have been moving in and out, they will have a target on
their back and if they are in some ways either encircled or in jeopardy, they will have military extraction operations to support them if they get into a dicey situation, also correct? >> there's no denying the significant risk that they are facing. is that risk elevated because they wear the uniform of the united states of america? i would allow that that's probably the case. but what those contingency plans are, check with the department of defense. >> reporter: just for the record, i'm trying to establish they are special operators, not desk people. they are as you just said, the best fighters we have. they will have air cover and they will have extract operations, three levels of combat operations that are implied with their continued staying in operations in syria. correct? >> well, again, what we focused on is what is their mission. they are not in a combat mission. >> reporter: you have, as you have acknowledged, these elements that must support them and always have supported them in what they are trying to accomplish. are you not going to take those
away from them. we have three layers of potential combat operations inside syria that we did not have when they were moving in and out. the placement of them in syria for any length of time implies these other levels of protection which are all combat, correct? >> again, i think what you primarily described are air combat operations that these are military pilots taking military strikes against enemy targets. they have been under way for more than a year. so i'm not sure that this represents a dramatic change in terms of our military air presence. you can check with the department of defense to confirm that or to understand what the impact on that would be. but the idea of our military pilots using weapons to protect fighters on the ground is not new. that's something that they have been doing for again, for more than a year now. >> reporter: can you name the local forces we will be working with? >> for operational security reasons, i can't.
>> a very boisterous hearing today, some aggressive questioning, but we expected that with this news, first reported for us by our chief foreign correspondent richard engel, who has been listening from istanbul, turkey, to this briefing and we will start, richard, with you. what did you not hear asked and what answer differed with the information as you understand it? >> reporter: well, as i have been listening to the white house trying incredibly hard to explain how this is not a combat role, but describing it with all of the attributes that go along with combat, these special operations forces will be in syria, they will be armed, they will have air support above them, they will be in close proximity to isis. the white house spokesman said they need bravery, they will be in harm's way, yet at the same time, in the same breath, he says time and time again that they will not be in combat, that
this is not a change, that this is some sort of evolution of policy. i have just been -- i can hear a lot of internal washington dynamics going on here. it seems like this administration is going to incredible lengths to prove that it is not contradicting itself, even more so than explaining how this change in policy is going to make a difference on the battlefield. >> jim miklaszewski at the pentagon, you deal with the coverage of both the hardware of the military and the blood and treasure of this country, our number one asset, and that is our people in uniform worldwide. same question. what perhaps didn't you hear asked and what answer differed from your understanding of the facts? >> reporter: well, to follow up on what richard was saying, you remember that operation with special operations forces imbedded with the kurdish forces and one of those soldiers, master sergeant joshua wheeler, was killed in that operation.
at that time, white house officials were saying it wasn't combat. secretary of defense carter was the first one in the administration to say from the podium here in the pentagon it's combat, it's complicated. subsequently, other military officials have said of course it's combat. if you're on the ground, if you're getting shot at and returning fire, it's combat. and i understand what josh earnest is going through. he's trying to protect more or less a political policy rather than a military mission here. and if there are u.s. military forces on the ground for a sustained period of time inside syria as the questions raised to josh earnest at the white house, they are inevitably going to end up in combat. that's a difficult thing for the white house to acknowledge but officials here say it's just plain fact. >> i keep thinking of jack jacobs, retired u.s. army colonel recipient of the medal
of honor. jack, as i hear this phrase advise and assist and i don't mean to be flip, i do recall you were at one point a u.s. military advisor for south vietnamese army forces and how did that work out? >> it worked out just like we expect this to work out. you had people on the advisory business who were supposed to be training people, indigenous forces to conduct combat operations and in order to do that, you go on combat missions with them. you help them plan to be sure. you're there to assist if they get into contact so you can call in air strikes and so on. but at the end of the day, you are carrying a rifle as well. at one point, i wrote a note back to a buddy of mine who was in a conventional unit and said that i was probably the highest paid rifleman in the united states army. every day in contact with enemy
forces, basically being at the forward edge of the battle area. this is not going to be very much different if the people who are involved in training the indigenous forces are doing their jobs properly, you can't possibly lead from the rear and you can't even train from the rear. you've got to be with it and with them when they encounter the enemy. so anybody who says they're not in combat doesn't know what he's talking about. >> now to retired four-star army general barry mccaffrey, recipient of two distinguished service crosses and a chest full of other medals in combat himself. general mccaffrey, i heard that great phrase that is used in the military i believe it was born in iraq war one, one of the wars in which you fought, force multiplier. it's used to describe everything from meals ready to eat to human
soldiers to aircraft and tanks. if you were briefing there today, what would you warn the american people about that perhaps you're not hearing from the white house press room? >> well, you know, i think josh earnest is a very effective spokesman. i think he did a great job trying to explain what has an element of alice in wonderland, all of this. the one thing that was shocking to me is that he would categorically state 50 or less inside syria. that was a dangerous thing to say. black hawk down, mogadishu, somalia, no backup armor, no gunships, and we lost a bunch of troops. they better have a reinforced ranger battalion in turkey ready to intervene. second observation, there's a lot of jumping around words here going on.
those forces are with kurdish units, ypg in syria. they are with kurdish units in northern iraq. there is no northern iraq. these aren't iraqi security forces. by the way, he said abadi had control of the forces. he doesn't. primarily they are shia militias as well as effective kurdish forces up north. the iraqi army unfortunately after a huge effort on our part, came apart every time it gets hit. i thought this was a bad press conference. they shouldn't have had it in the white house. they should have the department of defense explain in objective terms what we are actually doing. >> i'm allowed one question on hardware. it seems to me as we talk about this mission, we are going to hear some of those great military abbreviations for aircraft. two of them that come to mind, you just mentioned one, the ac-130, last in the news sadly
after the doctors without borders incident, and the a-10, the big hulking not very attractive wart hog tank killer. these are two weapons that have been around a long time. they may not be fast and beautiful and precision guided, but they are fierce combatants on the battlefield and both of them have been targeted for retirement, yet we still keep relying on them and i know in your years of service, you have had a lot of contact with both of these. >> yeah. no question. look, thank god the united states air force and naval air, they are incredibly effective. if they are in turkey where they don't have to have air-to-air refuelers coming off an aircraft carrier, they will be more effective. both the ac-130 which has a 105 cannon side shooting on it and the a-10 which operates very low to the ground, 30 millimeter
cannon and missiles, are clearly capable of being engaged successfully from the ground with either surface-to-air missiles or automatic weapons. so not to forget, you know, we have got air power at risk also. those insurgent forces don't need much advice. i mean, the jsoc going in on this raid, 30 delta force and 40 kurdish commandoes, that's not advise and assist. that's backup. so what the insurgents need is ground coordination of air power and better weapons. that's the issue on the ground in syria and iraq. >> general, thank you for your assessment of this briefing we just witnessed. finally to andrea mitchell, whose time period we blew to bits today because we have been covering this breaking news. andrea, concurrently, you have been listening to the diplomatic front so while general mccaffrey
argues that this should have been a pentagon briefing, it was not, it was white house, we also have the state department involvement in diplomatic talks which seem almost dainty in comparison to everything we have been discussing here. >> it seems like a parallel universe, in fact. i agree with general mccaffrey. there should have been an announcement, not a question and answer at a white house briefing. there should have been a detailed announcement of what this is and what it isn't, because there's a lack of clarity in this process now and way too much subjectivity and room for interpretation. i think that's what they wanted. they wanted it to be as ambiguous as possible. but people need to know. the american people need to know what is our government doing, what is our military doing, how are our men and women going to be in harm's way and what has been happening in vienna right now is a briefing by secretary kerry and what they are announcing is that there are disagreements, continuing disagreements with the russians and iranians but they sat at the table, they are calling for a
u.n. process which will lead to a negotiated cease-fire to try to protect the syrians on the ground from being barrel bombed from their own government, but which would keep assad in power in a transitional government that would somehow involve the opposition. so the pressure would come from russia on assad, which has been propping up, to have a transitional government that would include assad for some indetermined amount of time. all of this seems to be highly mythical, some sort of process that engages assad to meet and engage the opposition. something he has not been willing to do for all of these years. in any case, they are talking about trying to negotiate a cease-fire. they did not get there today. i think this is just the beginning of years and years of possible diplomacy but it is now diplomacy including the iranians and the russians and what he did acknowledge, kerry, is this is a two-pronged effort involving diplomacy on one hand and also
an intensified effort with the military in syria. so it seems as though it's hard to understand how these two things work together but it is the point we have been trying to make that america has seemed to its allies and to its adversaries to be very weak because of the failures to arm the rebels in syria and now they are trying to bolster that with some more engagement on the ground. >> thank you for your coverage and as andrea and all of our contributors would want us to add as we wrap up just this subject matter for this segment, at the heart of this of course, the suffering going on in syria. the enormous number of deaths that we have witnessed and the rise of what we called earlier the face of evil in the modern world, really, and that is this movement called isis. we will take a break for now and when we return, some of the ongoing and major political news
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liberty mutual insurance. welcome back to "msnbc live." i'm erica hill. we are covering breaking news in 2016 politics. a short time ago, the chairman of the republican national committee announced he would suspend nbc news from participating in a republican debate scheduled for february. the reason? criticism of the most recent debate on cnbc. this network, nbc news and cnbc share the same parent company. here's what party chairman reince priebus states. while the debates are meant to contrast visions candidates' policies for the future of america, cnbc's moderators engaged in a series of gotcha questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone and designed to embarrass our candidates. here is nbc's response to the suspension, saying quote, this is a disappointing development.
however, along with our debate broadcast partners at telemundo we will work in good faith to resolve this matter with the republican party. cnbc has previously disagreed with the rnc's interpretation of the wednesday night debate. on thursday, issuing this statement. quote, people who want to be president of the united states should be able to answer tough questions. this letter comes as sources tell nbc news that representatives from some of the candidates' campaigns are meeting on sunday to work out possible format changes moving forward. a common concern according to those sources is frustration with the rnc and its handling of the debate process. sources tell nbc news the rnc is not invited to this weekend meeting. last hour, presidential candidate lindsey graham spoke to my colleague andrea mitchell. here's what the south carolina senator said he sees as the problem. >> the difference between fourth place and last place is within the margin of error so using national polls this way has never made sense to me, and the
top tier debate, you're having too many people, not enough time to talk. so what i would suggest to the republican national committee is that we have an embarrassment of riches. we have a lot of good candidates. don't overly micromanage the process. let's have two debates, randomly draw names out of a hat and over time, this will work out. >> we begin our coverage now, looking over the debates. hallie jackson joins us from sioux city, iowa this afternoon. always good to see you. so as we look at this meeting, tell us more about what you're hearing in terms of the campaign, who will be attending and what their main frustrations are. >> reporter: yeah. it seems to be really unhappiness with how the debate process played out among some, but not all campaigns. for example, the tone of the questions, how this debate unfolded, this one this week. it looks like moving forward you may see some campaigns call for fewer debates, especially the
bigger campaigns which understand these debates take up a lot of time to prepare for, travel to, et cetera. but the maller campaigns, the lower tier candidates will likely want to see more debates to try to get themselves out on the national stage. it sounds as though at this weekend meeting, according to our reporting, that you will see these campaigns come together, some of them, to try to come to a consensus what they want to talk with the rnc about. the rnc as you referred to trying to assuage concerns with its statement today. as we talk about the debate, the interesting thing is it's yet two days later still driving news coverage, particularly when it comes to three people. ted cruz, marco rubio and jeb bush. different reasons why we are talking about all those guys today, but marco rubio, for example, seen as one of the winners of the debate. jeb bush seen as having a pretty rough night. we have learned today that marco rubio's super pac, the super pac supporting him, has sent out a memo to supporters indicating who it believes are the biggest threats to marco rubio in 2016. ben carson, donald trump, and ted cruz.
notably, no reference to governor jeb bush. marco rubio's former mentor. on the other hand, the bush team has doubled down on its attacks against marco rubio. you heard jeb bush talking about this last night in new hampshire, that he believes people need to show up for votes. he's redelivering a line he used against rubio in the debate earlier in the week, essentially calling him out for not attending senate votes. we did see marco rubio cancel a campaign event here in iowa to fly back to washington to cast a vote on that budget deal last night, but it remains to be seen whether this attack line will stick. >> we talked about, too, one of the things come out of it in terms of the winners. there has been all of this talk about money. we knew that was an early bit that we were hearing from the rubio camp saying they were already getting calls initially from some of bush's former donors. as they have been putting out some of the information on that, is that continuing to be a driving force on this friday, especially moving into this conversation over the weekend about the debates?
>> reporter: well, i'll tell you, the campaign aide for team rubio has said to me that they have seen more so than the last debate, more supporters of other candidates, particularly jeb bush, reaching out to them. on the other hand, we have talked to even loyal bush supporters who say yes, they are frustrated that bush is continuing to attack marco rubio. some of them believe that's not a strategy that will stick. but there is a sense they are going to stick with their guy for now. they will continue to back him. as bush pointed out, last night in new hampshire, he still has the money advantage. he's got the money, he's got the organization. his campaign is in this for the long haul. they are making a play for new hampshire. they are going to try to make a strong stand and push forward. slow and steady, he's called himself the joyful tortoise. he seems to have had an attitude shift lately. it looks like next week when jeb bush speaks in florida, we will see a sharper jeb bush. we will see new material from him as he shows his donors, as he promised them in a conference call yesterday, that he can in fact be a better candidate and he is in it to win it. >> as he said to them, we are hearing in that call, he knows
he needs to do better. hallie jackson in iowa this afternoon, thank you. turning now to msnbc's steve kornacki, steve, what at this point for jeb bush, what does he need to do to change not only how he's doing in the polls but really, the message he's sending out? >> well, we say all along we have been saying there's all these turning points that were supposedly going to be the moment that jeb bush shows some life, the moment he gets traction in the polls. he's missed all of these potential turning points. this week the most dramatic example of it, i think now the bush campaign from what we understand is facing a bit of a dilemma right here. the bush campaign and the super pac affiliated with it and the dilemma comes down to this. marco rubio really handed it to him on the stage there on wednesday night. does the bush campaign respond now by stepping up its attacks on marco rubio, by spending money on attack ads against marco rubio, by really trying to step up the attack on this question of missed senate votes and all sorts of other things.
i think u.s. news and world report obtained some of the slides that were shown at this donor retreat that the bush campaign organized last weekend. one of the slides focused on all sorts of negative information, opposition research information about marco rubio. a huge risk if you start going negative as a candidate. you risk a backlash and running up your own negatives, people saying i don't like the dirty campaign this guy is running and a potential risk for marco rubio. we have seen it happen before. when two candidates start fighting with each other, sometimes they end up sort of destroying each other and creating an opening for a third candidate to come up. you welcome at the others poised right now, maybe like a ted cruz when's been moving up in the polls lately, if jeb bush and marco rubio essentially go to war with each other, maybe it creates an opening far ted cruz to rise up in the polls, maybe helps donald trump or a ben carson when's been running, you know, such a sort of low-key campaign. maybe by contrast people like that. they have to decide, look, their numbers are sinking.
rubio positioned to rise. do you go after him or stay above the fray? >> a lot of factors to weigh. thank you. want to take a look at the radars. lighting up across a huge section of the south. check this out. the storms there not letting up. we'll fill you in on what you need to know next. ♪ everything kids touch during cold and flu season sticks with them. make sure the germs they bring home don't stick around. use clorox disinfecting products. because no one kills germs better than clorox. ♪ [ girl ] my mom, she makes underwater fans that are powered by the moon.
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back in with breaking weather news on this friday. two possible tornadoes are touched down in south texas. damaging buildings near san antonio. the other major problem, of course, have been the flooding rains. some areas receiving seven inches in a matter of one hour. and the problems we're learning are not over yet. msnbc meteorologist raphael miranda is watching the radar for us. busy one out there. >> and not getting better any time soon, unfortunately. we are tracking the heavy rain in and around the us aen area. there's more heavy rain off to
the south. flash flooding occurring. months month of rainfall this morning and then a brand-new tornado warning in effect helded to caldwell, texas. moving to the northeast. here's the radar picture with the flash flood warnings in effect. a flash flood emergency in effect. that will continue to rise as more rain is expected to move in over the next few hours. exactly how much have we seen? i said month's worth of rain. see it on the doppler indicated rain so far. anywhere in the blue and gray area over half a foot of rain. some of the highest totals that we have seen approaching 11 1/2 inches of rain just this morning. of course, all of this water has nowhere to go and tracking that severe weather flet, as well. tornado watch remains in effect through 7:00 this evening. an ongoing situation, erica. keeping you posted with the very late sbooes the afternoon. very grim situation there across the south central texas.
>> all right. you are on top of it for us. thank you. still ahead, much more on the breaking news covering throughout the day here about u.s. troops sent in to fight isis in syria. how would that work? live reports from the white house, the pentagon and overseas. plus, you'll hear from senator chris coons. you have two choices; the easy way or the hard way. you could choose a card that limits where you earn bonus cash back. or, you could make things easier on yourself. that's right, the quicksilver card from capital one. with quicksilver you earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, everywhere. so, let's try this again. what's in your wallet? ...are taking charge of their acrotype 2 diabetes...... ...with non-insulin victoza®. for a while, i took a pill to lower my blood sugar.
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you can even choose a car for them. (mom) honey, are you ok? (child) i'm ok. (announcer vo) love. (mom) we're ok. (announcer vo) it's what makes a subaru, a subaru. welcome back. i'm erica hill in for thomas robert this is hour. today, u.s. special operations forces deploying to syria. boots on the ground against isis for what the white house is attempting to characterize as a shift, not a change, in its strategy and intensifying as we've been hearing. there will be we're told 50 than fewer special operations forces who, will quote, train, advice and assist kurdish syrian fighters. white house press secretary josh earnest spoke earlier. >> i certainly wouldn't
underestimate the capability and capacity of our u.s. special operations forces to be an important force multiplier anywhere around the world they're deployed and the president does expect that they can have an impact in intensifying our strategy for building the capacity of local forces inside of syria to taking the fight on the ground to isil in their own country. that has been the core element of the military component of our strategy from the beginning. building the capacity of local forces on the ground. >> this news comes as press secretary john kerry is in vienna together gathered with global foreign ministers for talking on a political solution to the syrian civil war. secretary kerry spoke in the last hour. >> four and a half years of war in syria, we all believe has been far too long. and the consequences of that war for so many people, innocent people, is beyond description.
devastation. and refugee camps. migration affects all over. >> joining me now at the top of the hour from the white house, nbc's ron allen, from the pentagon nbc's jim miklaszewski. good to have both of you with us. i know you both were watching that and we're listening to josh earnest and a question seemed to keep coming up again and again. our own kristen welker tried to get clarify kay multiple times with the statement of the president in september of 2013 an he said, i will not put boots on did ground in syria. and yet, what we're seeing today for many folks it is tough not to categorize the news that less than 50 special ops forces going in to train, advise and assist and tough to see how that does not equal boots on the ground. ron, how did he leave it? >> reporter: well, what they mean by boots on the ground, they would say, is a large-scale, long-term offensive
combat operation as was in iraq for many, many years until recently. that's what their definition is to some extent of boots on the ground and josh earnest is trying to explain this. i think the bottom line is while they say the mission has not changed and that it is train, add visz and assist, those words suggest some sort of almost hands off approach to helping the iraqi military. but the assist part of that especially means going side by side on occasion with combat troops taking the fight to isis forces on the ground and now not just in iraq but in syria, as well. and that's the point here. and that's what the white house is admitting while saying that the mission has not changed. things are getting much more dangerous there. and i think it's also a tacet admission that the mission as has been going has not been successful. you will remember a few weeks ago the administration announced they were ending the so-called train and equip mission part of
the mission and trying to bring them become into the country to fight the fight. well, that was a complete failure and now essentially they're trying to do something similar with existing forces. they say they have been successful when they have been able to enhance the work of existing forces in iraq and syria. the problem is they have not been able to find reliable partners on a -- as is often need be to really make a difference in this war. also, a part of this, of course, is diplomacy. the point you raised, diplomacy in vienna and the administration hopes that by stepping up its military game and diplomacy to bring a change to this very difficult situation. erica? >> ron, thank you. mick, one of the things that kept coming up trying to get clarification and josh earnest may still be trying to clarify this at this point in the briefing room and jack jacobs said anybody that says they're not going into combat doesn't know what they're talking about because of that role that ron
just described. how much discussion has there been today in terms of information coming out of the pentagon? because that's the other criticism that we are hearing is if there's some sort of statement from the pentagon, from the defense department to say, this is what's happening, this is how it's being laid out, it may have offered better clarity. >> reporter: well, it certainly offered clarity and they said there's forces on the ground in syria no matter what you call them. and while i admire josh earnest's attempt to explain away all of this, and obviously he's trying to take the administration's best possible explanation for this, nobody has suggested either here at the pentagon or even in the public in the media that there would be or should be large numbers of u.s. military units in iraq or syria for that matter to fight
isis. it was thought all along that it would have to be small units like the ones we're seeing now that will be deployed to syria and the one that conducted that operation along with kurdish forces in iraq about a week and a half ago. so, in that way, it was -- for him to keep saying this is not a major combat operation and that's what they mean about boots on the ground, seems to officials here anyway disingenuous. to be frank, they know what this is all about. they understand it. they give their advice. they take the final order and decisions from the white house. salute smartly and carry out the mission. i don't think you're going to hear public, public complaints from the u.s. military. at least they think it's some progress to solving some of the problems there in both iraq and syria. >> something else that stood out to me in this briefing is that josh earnest asked about further u.s. troops moving perhaps into iraq and he said and this is not
a direct quote but here's what i wrote down. an approximation. there's no announcement about further u.s. troops in iraq today and then used today again. basically, what we're hearing, not ruling out the possibility that there could be further troops going in. are you hearing anymore about that? >> reporter: well, you know, u.s. senior military officials have sold us that they realize that the current strategy, air strikes alone primarily, train and assist a little bit, but is not working. either in iraq or syria. that the war against isis and both countries is at a stalemate and something else has to be done. and those kinds of recommendations don't have the specific recommendations but the recommendations to get the u.s. military more active involved, not necessarily combat in all phases, but working directly with the indigenous forces fighting isis on the ground with, you know, some american support embedded with those
forces, that has long been one of the recommendations made to the white house and for josh earnest to use the phrase that you pointed out a couple of times, at least not today, indicates that it is under active consideration. and i would think that many military officials would be encouraged at at least that their message is finally getting across perhaps. >> we want to bring in from istanbul richard engel watching this closely and first brought us this information earlier this morning. when you heard what was announced based on what you were able to glean ahead of time, what stood out in any of this announcement to you? because you have been there and know the areas so well and what it is like to try to find the reliable partners as ron mentioned in some of these areas. what is this announcement today in both the way it was said and what has been laid out for moving forward? what's that tell you about the strategy in this area of the world for the u.s.? >> reporter: well, i think the
white house was going to great lengths to justify how little it's doing. that this is a very minor change. it's so minor it's no change at all. that even though troops will be engaging in combat-like activities like operating in syria, the most hostile country in the world right now, armed with air support above, working in an open war zone where they will need bravery according to josh earnest today, but says that they will not be in combat. and the fact he kept saying 50 or fewer troops and wouldn't speculate on if more would be needed. i was somewhat surprised he put such a specific number on it and put what sounded to be like a cap of 50 there. it is an incredibly complex situation, incredibly dangerous place with artillery coming in.
there is a variety of people operating on the ground. it's hard to know who you can trust, cannot trust. it will be very challenging. we also didn't hear much from the white house about the larger mission. that there's other components involved here including more aircraft coming to turkey, some of those aircraft are already here. to carry out an intensified air campaign against isis. about more troops going to northern iraq where they can be in a coordination role, also in a rapid response role. so i think what we saw the president, saw the white house doing today was really trying to roll out in as gentle a way as possible in a way to try to avoid the sense that it was contradicting itself a change in policy. but policy is changing and it is changing in quite a significant way. >> no matter which words we use to describe it is clearly a
change. thanks to all of you. ron, jim, richard. we'll be checking in with you more throughout the day. joining us from capitol hill, senator chris coons of delaware. sir, thanks for being with us. >> thank you. >> so first, just your reaction? are you surprised at all? did you have a prior warning to this announcement? >> yes. earlier this week the members of the senate foreign relations committee had a classified briefing with secretary kerry where he went through with us some details the various options fordy loam sy and stepping up the military engagement in the region. without going into anymore details, i'll simply say today's announcement did not surprise me. there were a number of other public briefings in front of armed services and foreign relations and that is moment where it's more important than ever for the administration to continue to engage closely with congress. haven't authorized this war that's more than a year old and
it is a challenge in this very sharply divided, very partisan congress for us to come together and authorize the use of force but i think we need to and i think today's announcement makes it more important than ever. >> that's a point that senator an gus king brought up today with our an gree yeah mitchell. is this something we'll see happen, bottom line? >> there's a lot of folks in leadership, republicans and democrats, in the rank and file who don't think we can pull together an authorization across the very big differences. we have some republicans, some running for president, who are calling for major troop deployments into iraq and syria in the tens of thousands. we have folks in the democratic caucus want no boots on the ground at all under any circumstances. finding a middle ground i think is important for us to do and i'll continue working with colleagues to try to accomplish that. >> senator chris coons, appreciate your time this afternoon. thank you. >> thank you.
with us now, david rothkop and kevin baron. good to have both of you with us. david, as you look at what we learned today and what it means not just in syria but there is a three-apronged approach, more aircraft in turkey, there will be this rapid response area, not area but folks set up there, troops in northern iraq should they be needed. looking at that three-pronged approach, what does it tell you about how long we could be there with this particular move and perhaps how large it could become? >> well, it doesn't tell you a lot about that. you know, i think it tells you about some other things. when a military move is too small to have a significant military effect, it is probably not being made for military reason. it is made for political reason. and i think in this particular instance, the president's responding to the fact as was stated earlier, what we have been doing in syria isn't working very well. he's responding to the fact that
isis has gained some ground. but he's also responding to the fact that vladimir putin has taken the initiative in syria and the u.s. looks like it's doing nothing. in fact, i would think that we could probably credit putin as much for this decision as we could obama. it also has the effect, of course, of providing a little more engagement for the u.s. that they can then use as leverage in the talks right now in vienna to try to move towards a political solution which after all is secretary kerry's primary objective. >> you brought up the next point to ask about. the potential leverage to secretary kerry. kevin, if you could weigh in on that for us. how is this going to impact those talks? >> you know, that's a good question. the talks are just so new. but i think to go back to what david said, there are a couple factors what we're hearing today and most importantly in my mind
is this last raid where master sergeant josh wheeler was killed. the administration's hand was forced. and i think it's unclear to me how much that anything we heard today is something new versus an admission of what's been happening. you know? this is to me a question of how do you make a secret war public? this is the way counter terrorism is fought and has been fought and will be fought going forward. so, at some point this was going to happen. the administration was going to have to acknowledge special operations activities in some way. i think what david is right on how with russia, with the state of politics, with sienna, the political factors gave a moment for the administration to, you know, show a little leg and say, okay, we are doing more than you realize. whether you think it's enough or that it's doing what needs to be done in syria, that's a question i think for criticism for the administration. >> appreciate you both joining us this afternoon. thank you. >> thanks. turning to politics is the
campaign on life support? could jeb bush recover from this week's disappointing debate performance? so many questions for the former florida governor's campaign. we'll speak about that with former governor john sununu next. damaging storms hitting texas. reports of tornados touching down. flooding near san antonio. a look at the remaining threat for this afternoon. and we'll go to florida where investigators are trying to figure out what caused a plane to catch fire on the tarmac thursday afternoon. passengers speaking out now about their harrowing ordeal. >> i'm like, what's happening? i turn around and look in the window and it's like flames all over the turbine of the plane. i accept i'm not 22. i accept i'm not the rower i used to be. i even accept i have a higher risk of stroke due to afib, a type of irregular heartbeat not caused by a heart valve problem. but i won't accept is getting out there with less than my best. so if i can go for something better than warfarin, i will.
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politics at this hour. a short time ago the chairman of the republican national committee announced he was suspending nbc news and telemundo from a debate in february. the reason? criticism of the debate on cnbc. this network share the same parent company. here's what party chairman states in the letter saying, quote, while debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates' visions and policies for the future of america, cnbc's moderators engaged in a series of gotcha questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone and designed to embarrass our candidates. nbc has to say. this is a disappointing development. however, along with the debate broadcast partners, we will work in good faith to resolve this matter with the republican party. cnbc for its part previously disagreed with the interpretation of the wednesday night debate. on thursday, issuing this
statement. saying, quote, people who want to be president of the united states should be able to answer tough questions. letter comes as sources tell nbc news representatives for some of the candidates' campaigns are meeting on sunday to work out possible format changes moving forward. a common concern according to sources frustration with the rnc and the handling of the debate process. sources also tell nbc news the rnc is not invited to the meeting. last hour, presidential candidate lindsay graham spoke to andrea mitchell. here's what the south carolina senator said he sees as the problem. >> the difference between fourth place and last place is within the margin of error. using national polls never made sense to me and the top tier debate, you have too many people. not enough time to talk. so what i would suggest to the republican national committee is that we have an embarrassment of riches. we have a lot of good candida
candidates. have two debates, randomly draw names out of a hat and over time it works out. >> meantime, jeb bush's campaign has its own concerns on thursday. the former governor called 0 donors after another poorly received debate performance night. >> you told donors today on the conference call that you said you're going to get better at this. whatre you going to do to get better at this? >> look. we have eight more debates. i'm going to do what others do which is rudely interrupt, not answer the question that is are asked and hopefully the debate moderators will ask for substantive questions, as well. it is going fine. >> are you having any fun? >> oh yeah. you saw it. i'm having lots of fun. >> john sununu was a governor and not endorsed a candidate yet. nice to have you with us. >> thanks for having me. >> i know you haven't endorsed anyone but as you look at jeb
bush's campaign, there's a lot of talk about it falters. he's talked about how he has plenty of money, the donors are happy and yet some of the criticism stems from the way that he is communicating and getting that message out comparisons made to his brother former president george w. bush and how he was able to really connect with voters. is that something that jeb bush needs to work on as he moves forward with his campaign? >> well, i think we have to put a context to it. there's 100 days until the new hampshire primary. so he has time to make whatever adjustments he needs to make. i think this whole campaign has been a very different campaign with the trump and carson effect in there. it's been hard for any of the candidates that have been elected to something to get their message out. i think jeb is suffering with other candidates from that. i don't think his debate on wednesday was a very good one. i think he knows that. he acknowledged it. there's time for him to fix this and i think you'll probably see
a very different jeb coming up in the next couple of weeks. >> you bring up an interesting point about it being tough for any of the candidates to get the message out and the fact is there are 100 days. is that something that you do see changing in the next couple of months that the messaging from all the candidates to change a little bit? >> i think so. i think you will see more aggressive advertising for the non-trump and non-carson candidates and only getting into the media buying the time. i think there's a fascination in the media with what i call the dancing bears, the entertainment components of trump and carson. and so they're covering them. but at some point the thing gets down to issues, this thing gets down to past performance, this thing gets down to character, capability to be a president. and to understand what the presidency's all about. the presidency is not deal-making. it's not making character-filled statements. it is dealing with hard issues
and tough people in a way where you get results. >> there has been a lot of talk, though, looking at the poll numbers and most recently poll out today seeing donald trump and ben carson essentially tied when you factor in the margin of error there. a lot of what you hear and what our reporters heard from folks on the trail is they want something different. they don't want the politician like perhaps a jeb bush who puts out his record saying i want the show you what i did in the state of florida. if this mind-set isn't changing among voters, can the message then change with the candidates? >> well, i think the mind-set has to change or else the voters, particularly the republican voters, are going to make a disastrous mistake and send to the white house somebody as inexperienced and uncapable of leading. >> up next, breaking news unfolding in texas this
afternoon. reports of tornadoes and flooding storms slamming the lone star state a. look at the damage on the ground and the threat that could stretch through the weekend. and then developing news out of florida where investigators are piecing together the cause of yesterday's plane fire to determine what went wrong. surprise!!!!! we heard you got a job as a developer! its official, i work for ge!! what? wow... yeah! okay... guys, i'll be writing a new language for machines so planes, trains, even hospitals can work better. oh! sorry, i was trying to put it away... got it on the cake. so you're going to work on a train?
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we are following breaking news out of texas this afternoon. reports of tornado damage and flooding throughout the south central part of that state. the potential tornadoes touching down near san antonio and the worst of the flooding hitting wimberly forcing evacuations in that area. the severe weather expected to continue throughout the day. the threat of flooding will stretch into the weekend. investigators are trying to figure out today what caused a plane departing from florida's ft. lauderdale airport to catch fire.
21 people were injured when the engine on a dynamic international aircraft burst into flames yesterday moments before takeoff. at this hour, two adults remain hospitalized. officials said about 45 to 60 gallons of fuel leaked on to the taxiway. a pilot on a separate jet behind noticed a leak coming from the aircraft and alerted the crew. >> what we're doing now is that cleanup is being accomplished and there was damage to the asphalt from the jet fuel. the asphalt will be milled and replaced today. we hope to hope it either later on today or tomorrow morning on that portion of the taxiway. >> the national transportation safety board is investigating the cause of the fire involved with that investigation, as well, the faa, boeing, dynamic airways and pratt and whitney. the administration announcing special ops forces in
syria. wesley clark joins me next. also, the new speaker of the house. more on the challenges for paul ryan. ♪ everything kids touch during cold and flu season sticks with them. make sure the germs they bring home don't stick around. use clorox disinfecting products. because no one kills germs better than clorox. and sometimes i struggle to sleep at night,blind. and stay awake during the day. this is called non-24.
back with that major breaking news out of the white house today. u.s. special operations forces are deploying to syria on the ground with lo allies in the fight against isis. the white house say it is deployment fewer than 50 commandos with an intensified air strike campaign and a so-called task force based in iraq. white house press secretary josh earnest spoke earlier. >> the president has been quite clear that there is no military solution to the problem that is are plaguing iraq and syria. there is a diplomatic one. the president has put in place a multi-faceted strategy to degrade and destroy isil. and a -- this military component of that strategy is an important
part of the president's top priority which is the safety and security of the american public. >> joining me now, retired four-star general wesley clark, nato supreme commander for europe and nice to see you again, sir. >> thank you. >> give us a sense. when you look at this on the surface, there's been a lot of talk about the influence of russia when it comes to this decision. is that in some ways you think one of the main reasons that they went forward with this move and with this announcement? >> well, i think there are two reasons. there's a military reason and there's an overriding dip plo mattic reason. on the military side, of course, the -- several thousand syrian rebels trained to fight have been in there, on the battlefield, they're not terribly effective according to the reports. saudi arabia's given them some missiles. they have destroyed some syrian armored vehicles and could do more if they could pass
targeting information back to u.s. aircraft who could conduct strikes. so, with the u.s. advisers organizing and helping and collecting intelligence and assessing the situation on the ground, there's the promise that these syrian forces can be much more effective. but the diplomatic reason is probably what's driving this. and that is that if you're going to go into negotiations against the russians and against assad and against the iranians and these are negotiations against them in the sense that the russians will be perfectly happy to keep assad there and president obama wants him gone so then the president is, when's your leverage? the russian strategy is pretty clear. they will target the forces we have trained until there's no alternative but isis or assad. and then they'll ask the west, what would you prefer? so, by putting our forces in there and aircraft in turkey and doing more, we're establishing leverage that says to the
russians, you can't -- you can't pursue your strategy so easily. there's going to be an alternative. not isis and not assad when all of this stops. so that's very important diplomatic move. >> is that going to be enough? >> don't know if it's going to be enough. the effort is advisers could carry shoulder-fired ant anti-aircraft missiles in case the russian aircraft came over and started bombing near them. that's a -- that would be a big step forward and it certainly hasn't been said but if you were the russians, you would have to be thinking about this and you would have to decide do you pull your aircraft off those strikes? considering there might be americans on the ground or do you want to push it into a confrontation with the united states? and so, this move cleverly puts the onus for the escalation on
russia. >> it is a situation we'll all be watching very closely. general clark, appreciate your time today. >> thank you. turning now to politics, newly minted house speaker ryan's team is started to fall into place this morning he named two close aides as top advisers and settling in, he told reporters in his home state he thinks it will be easier to unify the party saying, quote, our party in congress has lacked a vision and lacked an agenda. we don't have time for that anymore. we do not have time to be timed. joining me is mark sanford. nice to have you with me today. >> my pleasure. thank you. >> we have talked a lot about the challenges that paul ryan faces, not just when it comes to uniting the republican party, but when it comes to dealing with democrats and getting things done. why do you think he is better suited to make that happen? >> in part, because he's not john boehner. i don't think it's a fair wrap
but the wrap that ended up being stuck on john was that he became sort of a personification of everybody's dislikes within washington, d.c. and again, i'm not suggesting any way that was a fair wrap but that's what happened. and so, part it's a few phase. part it's -- his propensity, if you will, to go out and sell a message. you saw him do that chairman of the budget committee. he did an awfully good job for or against what he was proposing in at least throwing ideas out there. that was not as much the former speaker's nature. i think this idea of painting a picture of where we are going to go is awfully, awfully important to folks following in that direction. >> what's the sense from you? do you get a sense from colleagues on both sides of the aisle they're in fact behind him moving forward in the house and trying to get some things done? >> well, that's the $94 question. i think from a democratic perspective, no. they're not necessarily on board
with where he may want to be nudging the republican conference. what i would say is, you know, these are just tough governing times. the jet fuel behind the ben carson campaign, the donald trump campaign, go down the list of outsiders in the presidential race this year, a lot of that jet fuel is dissent. it's peoples' frustration with regard of washington and the lack of trust of what goes on there and filters up to the political system, rank and file membership. so you have a fairly ungovernable body but again if anybody can bring it together i think it will be paul ryan. both with regard to the goodwill he's developed over a long number of years in the house and his ability, again, to sell a message which i think is, again, will be very, very important within the republican conference itself. >> you bring up two interesting points that americans it seems talk about a lot. as you know, approval ratings for folks in washington rather low on a consistent basis. you call them tough governing
times and so many americans looking at the outsiders now as we move into the race for 2016. but hearing a lawmaker say that and knowing that you all get the messages in washington begs the question of, then why isn't there more reaching across the aisle? maybe not even across the aisle but the party? it's great to seat the stage for that but what many americans don't always see is a lot of action. are you saying that now we are going to see more on the action front and less on the lip service front for lack of a better term? >> well, we saw action, you know, day before yesterday when the budget deal was signed. but i'm not saying it's action necessarily that the conference liked. the body as a whole liked or for that matter the american people liked because it was top down. i think one of the real keys that, again, paul ryan talked about and in fairness his challenger daniel webster talked about in the whole speaker's race was sending power down to, again, a membership level, allowing things to go through regular order, which is
basically to say an idea make it is way from a subcommittee to a full committee to the full house floor but allowing that to happen will allow a lot more people, republican or democrat, to buy into those ideas as opposed to being -- having them dispensed from on high. people don't like in the conference level or the grassroots level this notion of deals spun in back rooms that are given to membership with 48 hour it is look at them which means the members don't have a clue of what's in the package nor do the grassroots, it breeds a lot of dissent. >> thank you. >> my pleasure. take care. thanks. we should point out, speaker ryan will join nbc's chuck todd this sunday on "meet the press." a grim breast cancer milestone. the risk of the disease in black women is on the rise. now matching that of white women so why does the disease becoming more deadly for african-american patients? this week, on the first
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it's why edward jones is the big compan that doesn't act that way. as we come to the close of breast cancer awareness month, there's a debate of what's called pink-ification. you have seen it. landmarks illuminated. that's left some asking whether the movement is less meaningful and more of a marketing strategy. executive direct tort of the women's health network joins us now. >> thanks. >> i want to bring up something you said, quoted in "the new york times" saying the month of october from football cleats to coffee cups isn't helping women. it raises awareness about the disease. how is it not helping women? >> awareness helpful 20 years ago. it's long past time for that now. most women know full well how to check their own breasts, that
they should be familiar with their own body and how to tell there's changes. most women are well aware of and have access to mammograms. they're covered through medicare and the affordable care act. what we need now is answers for when's causing breast cancer, particularly with it on the rise and black women as the other news report said today. an we need answers about how to stop the worst cancers, the one that is are the true killers. >> we should point out and it's a little bit tough looking at the pink-ifiction the money for products sold and benefit a number of organizations and do different things with the money but that's a point of contention for some people that this money may not be helping in a way that perhaps consumers might think it is, may not be going to research. in your mind, what would be the best way then, because there's this opportunity that's been created to use the
pink-ification to further the need. >> use it as a springboard for conversations about what kind of research could make a difference and what kind of treatment still isn't available for everyone who needs it. so, take the next step. that's what's important in the month of october. go on one step past awareness to action. >> do you think that that conversation is changing? you look at the number of men and women, we should point out not just women with breast cancer. there's a small but important not to forget number of men, as well. is that conversation, though, changing? you look at all of these events, walks, runs and people come together for days on end to raise money for a cause they care about and likely touched someone they love. there are conversations probably safe to say moving beyond awareness, are they not? >> i think you're right, people whose lives directly touched by breast cancer once they
understand that treatments have improved, but the likelihood of curing those tough bad cancers that just keep going even if they're caught early and treated hasn't changed that much in the last 20 years. that kind of understanding and sort of bitter knowledge can galvanize people to wanting a different kind of conversation than just awareness. >> we mentioned, too, that this sharp rise in the number of cancer rates among black women. just real quickly, why do you think that is happening? >> well, the centers for disease control did the study. they believe part of the explanation is in the rising rate of overweight, that is more of a problem in black women than it is in white women but i think part of the problem is possibly environmental. we don't understand all of the reasons why women get breast cancer, overweight is only part of it. and exposure to environmental
toxins is more common in african-american communities because of the economic status and where they live. we don't have a good way to test for environmental exposures that might be linked to cancer. that's one of those action steps that's hard but really necessary. >> cindy pearson, executive director of the women's health network, thank you. >> thank you. he took the first-ever spacewalk and reached a milestone. astronaut scott kelly hold it is record for the longest trip off the planet. commander kelly speaks with us from the international space station. that's next.
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together, we're building a better california. see you from this view and scott kelly's camera. getting a pretty spectacular look at the earth below and the latching end of factor of the robotic arm. >> astronaut scott kelly stepped outside the safety of the international space station on wednesday, the first space walk of his career. the retired u.s. navy captain
set a new record in u.s. space flight. today marks his 217th day in orbit. and if you can believe it, he has another 125 days to go. msn msnbc's frances rivera spoke to commander kelly about the milestones. >> huge congratulations on the first-ever space walk. huge congratulations on that. you left the space station to get some maintenance chores done and a long laundry list if you call it that of things to do. over seven hours d. you take a moment before knocking those out to kind of soak it all in and really realize how exhilarating it really is when you stepped outside? >> yeah. there were certain times when there was a little downtime that i could appreciate the view. one was when we opened up the hatch and it took us a little while longer to get outside so i had the view of the earth down below and that was pretty spectacular.
>> before you left, you said probably the toughest part of what you'll miss most is human interaction. the contact with others. you've been in orbit 217 consecutive days with limited human contact. now that you're at this point, is it tougher than you thought it would be, just as tough? >> that's -- you know, it is hard to say when you think back to, you know, what your expectations were of i think anything in life. i definitely feel like i've been up here for a long time. almost like i have forgotten what it's like to live on earth. and do, you know, certain, you know, all the stuff we get to experience on earth and i do recognize that i have a long time ahead of me, you know, but having said that, i think i'm pretty sure i'll get through it without much issues. >> how is that for you knowing you're literally worlds away and detachment and hear and see the things on earth, world events,
politician politics and race for president, we saw your instagram picture of hurricane patricia and knowing there's a detachment that you can't be a part of it. is that tough for you at all? >> you know, it's a good question. i think in some ways you have a different sense of being, you know, an audience for the things that happen on earth and you feel detached from it and i think as a result you pay more attention to it with kind of a different level of attention. maybe, you know, more empathy, more trying to, you know, understand why certain things happen and why we are the way we are. >> well, it is fascinating. your view and how you share it with us on your instagram feed. i'm your newest follower. you gave yourself a flu shot and
a space burger. was it good and if not what are you looking for most when you get back as far as eating or doing? >> well, you know, space burger was not an earth burger. so it definitely wasn't as good. >> commander kelly, thank you so much. congratulations on that space walk and best of you can to you. hope to speak with you again. >> nice little flip at the end there. our thanks to frances rivera and commander kelly. that's going to wrap things up for today's show. thomas back with you on monday. i'll see you tomorrow morning on "today." craig melvin is in for kate snow picking up the coverage.
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(vo) wit runs on optimism.un on? it's what sparks ideas. moves the world forward. invest with those who see the world as unstoppable. who have the curiosity to look beyond the expected and the conviction to be in it for the long term. oppenheimerfunds believes that's the right way to invest... ...in this big, bold, beautiful world. good friday. i'm craig melvin. first time, u.s. boots will be on the ground in syria. the announcement from the white house but not president obama. a short time ago, we'll go there
live. the military strategy, the number of special ops is limited. what impact will they have? and the high stakes of the mission, nbc's bill kneely with a first hand look at refugees fleeing the violence in syria. we start with that deployment on this friday. the white house this afternoon announcing an increase in u.s. involvement in syria. including u.s. boots on the ground for the first time in the war-torn country. >> the president does expect that they can have an impact in intensifying our strategy for building the capacity of local forces inside of syria to taking the fight on the ground to isil in their own country. >> the plan involves a small number of special operations forces stationed in northern syria along with increased air strikes against isis. the announcement coming as secretary of state john kerry in vienna right now w