Hardball | November 19, 2012
>>> we're back. according to some reports the president could name a successor to hillary clinton as early as next week. i think it could come this week. it's a decision fraught with risk. "the new york times" reported yesterday that the white house aides say the president's favored candidate is susan rice , the current ambassador to the u.n. but republicans like senator john mccain and lindsey graham have threatened to filibuster her nomination thanks to her appearances on tv following the benghazi attacks. would the president risk starting off his second term with a decision that would likely lead to a bitter confrontation fight? richard wolffe is vice president and executive editor of machines.com. he's also an msnbc political analyst . and jay newton-small is a diplomatic correspondent for "time." richard , i want to get your sense of the president's thinking here. now, i think the most successful thing he ever did in terms of policy or personnel was naming hillary clinton , the senator from new york and former first lady, to be his secretary of state because he established a second principal out there besides himself in foreign policy . he could let her leaded way as his partner, a minister, a foreign minister. not a staffer, she had other own stature apart from him. that's my preference. you need that creative tension and second terms die when the president gets too comfortable with the people around him because he's promoted them from within. i look at all the recent presidents that have screwed up that way. you know my prejudice and i hope it doesn't get in the way of my feelings towards these candidates. what do you think is going on in the president's head right now based upon the influences of mrs. clinton, valerie jarrett, and other people in the white house ?
>> susan rice has been a preferred candidate for a long time and susan rice has -- i take where your question is going, but she's had a foot in both worlds as a trusted member of that inner circle who was there very early on in terms of the obama campaign , but she's also proved herself on this world stage which is what the u.n. job really is. when you think about the sanctions against iran , she's been pushing ahead with that. when you think about the air war in terms of the support for the rebels in libya, which apparently people like john mccain do say they care about, she was instrumental in that. and then even the harder piece of diplomacy, bridging the gap between the obama world and the clinton world because she has worked very well with hillary clinton . susan rice has the whole package there. to kind of suggest she's a staff person really doesn't get to her credentials.
>> i think she did one other thing besides that, that very finesseful way in which she handled the push by the palestinians for statehood.
>> good point.
>> somehow she pushed back very successfully on that. so what's your sense though? you're a political reader like i am, rimpd. who is he going to pick if you had to bet right now?
>> i think it's susan rice . there is the question about john kerry , but i think now that john mccain has sunk his teeth in, he's made it about presidential authority, and, frankly, it's outrageous that there is this witch hunt going on on the right about these people of color , let's face it, around this president. eric holder , valerie jarrett, now susan rice . before it was van jones . this is not about who is hawkish in the same way john mccain is about foreign policy because if you look at iran and libya, susan rice checks those boxes. this is a personal vendetta --
>> so you think mccain is being -- mccain and people like lindsey graham , mccain , who had his own daughter attacked, was accused of having an illegitimate child when he adopted a young girl from south asia , you're saying that mccain 's being driven by racial prejudice here?
>> there is no other way to look at this because look at her foreign policy and by the way, look at what john mccain said about condi rice 's nomination. we're running this story on the front page of the msnbc website righ four years -- eight years ago, john mccain said the people -- the elements who were questioning condi rice 's credentials they were engaged with bitter innocence, they needed to move on. why has he changed his tune? what is it about susan rice ? and the answer is there aren't any good foreign policy explanations for it.
>> let me go to jay on this question. jay, what do you read as the issues here for the president? and his personal decision? it's a huge decision he has to make in the space of a week now it looks like.
>> it is a huge decision. whomever he nominates will be number four in line for the oval office in case anything happens to the president or the vice president or the speaker. you want somebody with gravitas, somebody who is tested and who, you know, can -- you feel comfortable with in trusting not only the nation but your foreign policy but potentially the nation as well. so in that sense hillary clinton certainly fit the bill for the job and they're hoping that susan rice would fit the bill for the job. keep in mind these five interviews she did on the morning shows were essentially a tryout for her. she was trying to prove herself to the president, and in that sense as you were saying earlier, she sort of stuck to the talking points . and i know it's unfair to get pilloried tor sticking to the talking point but do you want someone who will think for themselves or do you want someone -- she was trying to show they would be a good soldier and do what you wanted her to do and she did that and that got her into a lot of trouble. if she thought perhaps a little more independently, questioned the talking points , read the intelligence herself, she might have answered these questions differently or spoken differently on the shows.
>> richard , you disagree. you say she would be an autonomous member of the cabinet, she would be a separate principal with her own stature, would not be someone who would do something that tom donnelly would send over the notes and she would do it. you don't see her as that kind of appendage.
>> let's look at benghazi itself, okay? if she were someone who just followed everyone else's orders, she would not have been one of the leading voices along with hillary clinton to support the rebels in benghazi and protect the civilians there. john mccain knows that full well. senator mccain knows full well there was cia engagement not just with these talking points but with the actual operation around the ambassador in benghazi . everyone knows what the real story is behind here in terms of the operation, in terms of susan rice 's independence, and if you want to take a sunday show talking points performance as the measure of a secretary of state, you're on very thin ground in terms of how anyone for any position could get nominated in the future.
>> let me follow this thinking here. who is going to take the bullet for what looked to be the failure to protect chris stevens ? who is going to take the bullet for what looks to be a misrepresentation in real time as to what happened? who is going to pay the price?
>> certainly --
>> first of all, jay go first.
>> i think certainly republicans want it to be susan rice . they're essentially calling for her scalp. and you had white house press secretary jay carney out there at the same time going even farther than rice was and talking about how this was all just due to a protest and not really -- not having much to do with terrorism, and they're not calling for his scalp because he is essentially a spin doctor and it's not the scalp they want. they want somebody in policy and somebody who will draw blood from the obama administration and that is susan rice .
>> that sounds like richard . thank you, richard wolffe , thank you jay newton-small.
>>> up next, how close is the middle east to an all-out regional war? is israel headed to a war with iran ? i see a possible precursor to a war with iran . the latest on the fight between israel and hamas coming up next. this is interesting and scary. the place for politics. we'll be right