Hardball | January 08, 2013
>>> the folks that brought you the iraq war . let's play "hardball."
>>> good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start with this. the folks who quack for iraq have a knack for bad ideas. they pushed us into war ten years ago, they made their case with lies and half truths and flimflam. we had to get revenge for 9/11 so let's attack iraq even though it was al qaeda that hit the twin towers and the pentagon. we have to attack iraq because we've got evidence they have weapons of mass destruction , wmd, even if there's no evidence they have nuclear weapons and it would turn out they didn't have chemical or biological either. we have to attack iraq , the hawks, they promised it would bring peace between israel and the palestinians. the road to jerusalem runs through baghdad it was said. what we've got instead is the loss of even a chance for peace in the middle east . well, tonight the people who sold america the iraq war are out selling more warfare in the middle east . they want military action against syria , they want war waged against syria , and they want chuck hagel out of the way. why? because he's just the kind of guy who will ask, what should we have asked when w took us to war in iraq ? is this really the smart thing to do for us? we've got peter biner right now with the daily beast and sam stein with "the huffington post ." thank you. i have been reading your stuff. sam , you quoted colonel lawrence wilkerson who served as chief of staff to colin powell . here is what he told you about republican opposition to hagel . quote, it's not all about revenge or retaliation for anti-party stances in the past but fear of what hagel 's advice and counsel might be in the future. the hardline gopers and the neocannes have unfulfilled plans, plans for syria , iran , and the greater middle east , these plans that envision almost endless conflict in the region are in the main opposed by people such as hagel . the sense that the vision is for almost an orwellian war in " 1984 sktion ", endless war in the middle east is that the prospect that the neocons hold for us?
>> i don't know if it's that stated but it certainly is underlining a lot of what we're hearing about hagel now. a lot of the media attention has been on some of the past statements involving the jewish lobby as he called it, involving the gay ambassador to luxembourg but those are sort of side shows. what this comes down to is the future of obama's foreign policy . chuck hagel in many ways represents the clearest break yet by this administration from the george w. bush era foreign policy . keep in mind the president continued a lot of these bush era programs. we haven't really had a substan stiff comprehensive conversation about what went wrong in iraq . this nomination represents a clean break and i think that's scary for a lot of neocaans.
>> let me go to peter . i have always respected the way your brain works. you think a lot which is a good thing for a writer to do occasionally is to think. you think and you really change your mind which is very refreshing. and i think you've wrestled with these issues of the middle east , and i guess the question is if you get hagel in there, aren't you basically getting barack obama with a war record? what's the difference between barack obama and hagel ?
>> i think the difference between barack obama and hagel is that hagel says publicly some of the things that barack obama only thinks privately. and hagel would be to this administration what eisenhower was in the '50s and what colin powell was in the 1990s . the guy who has seen war really up close and doesn't allow any of his colleagues to imagine that once you launch a war, that you can control what happens afterwards. that's what eisenhower used to say again and again. you're a student of history, chris. you know that's why he kept us out of vietnam. that is exactly --
>> kept us out of suez, too.
>> exactly. that was eisenhower 's greatest sense of pride was at the height of the cold war for eight years he kept us out of a ground war . he ended the war in korea . this is the kind of guy that hagel is. and he will bring the very dark lessons of iraq and afghanistan into the iran debate, and i think that's fundamentally what the republican foreign policy establishment fears.
>> i had a couple middle eastern fellows on both sides of that line over there. add into that list of people who have seen the face of war and became peace fellows rabin, the great martyr in israel . throw in the aim anwar sadat . throw in the name of the president of israel , a great man, i love the guy, shimon peres . they understand what you're talking about, peter , and i think we all do.
>> and not only that, but mayor dagan. there's been a revolt in israel against bibi netanyahu .
>> the white house isn't exactly hiding the ball on this one. we quoted an administration official who said very forthright one of the reasons they want chuck hagel is he articulates the world view that war should be the absolute last resort, that you must exhaust all options. for a lot of people, that seems common sense , but for a good part of the foreign policy establishment in d.c., that's not exactly something they want to hear. so, yes, they are bringing hagel for that exact purpose that peter illustrated.
>> i have been reading -- i try to read everything of washington examiner , everything, i have to tell you i get the feeling there's some people pushing for a much more aggressive stance in syria . for hawks on iran , chuck hagel is a scary prospect since he's been skeptical of using military options there. here is what he said back in 2010 . let's listen.
>> once you begin a military operation and you ask any sergeant, and it's the sergeants and the guys at the bottom, not the policymakers that have to fight the war, they're the ones who have to do all the dying and all the fighting and make the sacrifices, not the policymakers, but my point is once you start that, you better be prepared to find 100,000 troops because it may take that or eventually where you're going, my earlier point, you don't know. and you can't just start out with a concept of, well, we're going to do this but it will be marginalized, it will be limited warfare. i don't think any nation can ever go into it that way.
>> let's take a look at those words themselves. sam and peter in turn, analyze what he means there because i am for a war with iran if we have to. i think all three of us are if we have to, but we also realize it's not going to stop with a bombing. there's a lot of reaction that will come from the other side. hezbollah could be launched against israel , launched against us in our hemisphere. we don't know what buttons they have to push and will push if we go to war. what did the former senator have to say there?
>> what i take from talking to people close to chuck hagel is he views all of these issues through the mindset and lens of people who are on the ground because he's been there before. when you talk to people in the administration what they say they're excited about is what he can do on things like veterans affairs and soldiers that are returning from war zones. what my colleague josh hirsch is reporting is that hagel actually is semi supportive or has been in the past of the drone program. part of the reason he has been supportive of the drone program is because it involves the minimum amount of soldier casual casualty. you're literally not getting people on the ground fighting the war. i think going forward if he is confirmed as secretary of defense, what you're going to seese a lot policy making from the vantage point of how do you limit suffering, how do you limit the need for soldiers on the ground and what do you do when sold urs return from the battlefields.
>> your thoughts, peter ?
>> there's going to be a huge battle in 2013 about whether we can get syria 's diplomacy going with iran . of course, we don't know to what degree iran is going to play ball , but what we know is there's going to be a fight in washington about whether the united states will be able to compromise at all in order to get a diplomatic deal or whether we have expectations that iran is going to get rid of all its inretched uranium, even levels that are not necessary for creating a nuclear weapon that would make a deal impossible. and what this is really about is essentially deciding how bad war would be so we figure out how much we're willing to push for a deal. that's what a lot of this fight is really about.
>> i think that's it. i agree with you completely, peter , and sam you agree it's about weaponization and what stage do you cut off this or what stage the iranians say we're not going to create weapons can you live with it. wrer not going to create weapons.
>> but it's also about limiting the domestic political fallout of doing something like that. and, you know, the administration does need cover when they do pursue things like diplomacy with iran , when they hold back on putting forces into syria or trying to arm the syrian opposition, and certainly on the israel /palestine question and hagel does give them cover. the other thing to add is we will have a drawdown of troops from afghanistan. there will be a faction of people in this country that argues it's a bad thing. hagel gives you cover.
>> do you think he's a credible republican or is he so outside the party sort of apparatus now, especially with lindsey graham trashing him, is he still a credible bipartisan evidence?
>> it's a great question. what is a credible republican on this thing? i think we don't give enough credit to the fact that there's a big fissure within the republican party over these very questions. we quoted dr. brzezinski in this article talking about how this goes back to the basic debate over interventionism. it used to be republicans were hesitant towards that. i think there's going to be a lot of republicans in this town who end up speaking out in favor of chuck hagel strictly because they don't like what happened over the past 12 years with respect to u.s. engagement overseas.
>> i would add --
>> you beat my opt minch on that one, sam .
>> i'll answer. coo keep at it.
>> there have been an avalanche of ex- reagan administration people, frank car lucci, colin powell , others, who have come out -- john warner , who have come out in favor. i think there's a generational split. look, barack obama beat mitt romney on foreign policy easily. this is not a guy who walks around in the way that democrats used to for all those years looking over his shoulder at this republican party that america trusts on national security . those days are gone. so i don't think he has the same fears that democrats did in the past.
>> let's be frank. the public is very wary on the two wars we've waged. they want them to end. i think that works obviously towards hagel 's favor. jo jon warner saved us from ollie north . weekly standard editor bill cross to kristol has been leading the charge against hagel . why is he doing this and why do people listen to his views on foreign policy in i think we know the answer. he's a charmer, he's brilliant, a great networker. anyway, let's watch him.
>> whatever else you can say about this war, let me make one point, george bush is not fighting this like vietnam. we don't need to --
>> saddam may be.
>> but it's not going to happen.
>> let me take a call --
>> this is going to be a two-month war not an eight-year war.
>> it's going to be a two-month war in iraq . a hell of a predictor. like dick morris making his pregixs and karl rove . dead wrong. what is the genius of bill kristol ? i swear he's got organizations all over the place, he's everywhere, and yet he's wrong a lot. how does he get away with it, sam ?
>> he's very good at being part of the media conversation. he has a lot of platforms that he can utilize and as you mentioned, he's very charming. his predictions have been wrong a lot of the times but it doesn't seem to stop him from getting a megaphone or an outlet and i think a lot of people like the idea of having debate over these things. be they like the idea of one side and another battle it out over the direction of u.s. engagement overseas.
>> i agree with you completely.
>> there's another point, we live in a media ecosystem where by and large you can usually go on to discuss the current foreign policy debate and never be called on your past views.
>> not here. not on "hardball." not on "hardball." we do it here.
>> that's why i think this conversation is so valuable. if you look at most of these interviews, especially on some other networks, by and large you don't have to do that.
>> we're going to keep calling them here. stam and peter , respect you both.
>>> if you want to know what gun control advocates are up against, look at what happened on cnn last night. what a horror show .
>> and i'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms. doesn't matter how many lemmings you get on the street begging for them to have their guns taken. we will not relinquish them. do you understand?
>> number one reason we need background checks. that kind of guy. keep him away from weapons. he's a radio talk show host and you heard him. alex jones he doesn't want hunting for protection or personal protection. he wants guns to fight the government with. that's what he said last night. the oaks finally has the wind on its back on the issue of gun control . we know what the opposition looks like. it's that guy.
>>> red storm rising . the crisis in the republican party . some republicans resent the hostile takeover by the tea party . some republicans in the tea party is fighting with itself. we have one of the combatants joining us, nick army. and the latest outrage involving penn state . the governor of pennsylvania has decided that the real victims of jerry san duchy were not the children that were raped and abused and raped but the penn state football program itself. he's filed a lawsuit against the ncaa seeking to reverse those sanctions and exonerate the school.
>>> finally, only one of the following four things are less popular than congress. meth labs, nfl replacement labs, and root