Hardball | March 07, 2013
>>> drone ranger. let's play "hardball."
>>> good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start tonight with this. america is the land of liberty. people born here get the greatest most well-guarded rights in the world and there's nothing i'm prouder of. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what america is all about. so we have debates, debates about the most central questions, these questions, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. and those words are the ones that jefferson gave us. tonight we go after those questions starting with the question as out there as it may be. does the united states government have the right to target an american here in america with a drone strike? we have a great person to address that question. senator dianne feinstein , chair of the united states senate committee on intelligence. anyway, late this afternoon before we get started, john brennan was confirmed to be the next head of the cia, the final vote was pretty strong, 63-34. brennan's nomination reig nated debate about the use of drones against american citizens overseas. and then senator rand paul added a wrinkle. he wanted to know can the government kill americans here on u.s. soil? last night he staged an epic nearly 13-hour filibuster on the senate floor to raise alarms about the possibility. earlier this week attorney general eric holder wrote that paul 's seen care yo was entirely hypothetical, would only be possible under extraordinary circumstances. such as after pearl harbor or 9/11 attacks. that did not satisfy senator paul . let's take a look.
>> very specific question we're asking is, does the president believe he has the authority to kill americans who are not engaged in combat in america with targeted drone strikes and i think the answer is no, but they haven't given us that answer.
>> well, today white house spokesman jay carney said the attorney general sent paul 's letter a new letter -- sent senator paul 's office a new letter answering that question. let's listen to the comment.
>> this is from the letter. quote, does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an american not engaged in combat on american soil. the answer is no. the answer to that question is no. and that is a letter that is signed by the attorney general and was submitted to senator paul and his office.
>> finally this afternoon rand paul , the senator, said he was satisfied with the administration's response. let's listen to paul .
>> hooray. for 13 hours yesterday we asked them that question and so there is a result and a victory under duress and under public humiliati humiliation, the white house will respond and do the right thing. so now after 13 hours of filibuster we're proud to announce that the president is not going to kill unarmed americans on american soil. my next question would be why did it take so long? why is it so hard? and why would a president so jealously guard power they were afraid to say this? but i am glad, and i think that answered that question -- the answer does answer my question.
>> senator feinstein , thank you for joining us from capitol hill . was that a reasonable demand by your colleague, senator paul , or is this sort of a story built up by him, hyped up?
>> well, i think it's built up, i think it's hyped up, i think it's cleared up. it was cleared up yesterday when senator cruz asked the question in the judiciary committee , and, you know, it can be a complicated question. when it's reduced down to the basic simple fact of what it was said, the answer is clearly no. and no drone is going to be used in the united states against an american citizen walking down a street or sitting in a cafe. and, you know, and then there was a stupid example of a drone being used against jane fonda . i mean, i don't think this is befitting the senate floor. having said that, clearly senator paul got the answer in writing signed by the attorney general which is very definitive.
>> yeah. here is your colleague, john mccain . he took to the senate floor today and attacked senator paul saying he's giving credence to people who fear the government -- that fear that the government is out to get them, sort of the black helicopter crowd. let's watch your other colleague, john mccain , in action here.
>> to somehow allege or infer that the president of the united states sf going to kill somebody like jane fonda or someone who disagrees with the policies is a stretch of imagination which is, frankly, ridiculous. we've done a, i think, a disservice to a lot of americans by making them believe that somehow they're in danger from their government. they're not.
>> do you think, senator, that technology , and you and i have grown up with the dynamic, almost unblofable exponential growth in what mankind can do with technology , is that playing to the paranoia in people. they think if we have the capability we're going to use it against average citizens who are of a different political persuasion? is that why the far right is so nervous?
>> well, i think the drone is a new technology . in some respects it's the perfect assassination weapon. it can see from 17,000, 20,000 feet up in the air. it is very precise. it can knock out a room in a building if it's armed. it's a very dangerous weapon , and right now we have a problem. there are all these nations that want to buy these armed drones. i am strongly opposed to that. we have no regulation of drones in the united states in their commercial use. you can see drones some day hovering over the homes of hollywood luminaries violating privacy. this question has to be addressed, and we need rules of operation on the border, by police, by commercial use, and also by military and intelligence use. so this is now a work in progress . we are taking a look at it on the intelligence committee trying to draft some legislation. the administration is looking at a rules playbook as to how these won't be used and how they will be used. so it's a very complicated subject of new technology , and i think we have to take a pause and get it right.
>> it's great to have you on, senator die ann feinstein who chairs the senate intelligence committee . thank you for joining us. eugene robin nis is a columnist for "the washington post " and an msnbc political analyst . the great thing about having you on, you know washington theater. you have seen mr. smith a thousand times like most of us. you know how this is done. did paul score a big point on the right or even across the country by standing out there for 13 hours in a real filibuster?
>> i think he did, and, look, my column for tomorrow is first and probably only column i will ever write that's kind of complimentary to rand paul in that i think he did a service by making us focus on drones by making us focus on this new technology for all the reasons that senator feinstein enumerated. they're very precise, they're very deadly. she called it the perfect assassination weapon and that's kind of what it is. and even if you -- if it's ridiculous to think that a president of the united states is going to assassinate a citizen on u.s. soil with this technology , even if that's far-fetched, if it served -- if raising that question served to focus us on what's happening, not what's going to happen, but what's happening now on the fact that there are reasons to use these things domestically --
>> are you concerned that we have to have this kind of debate publicly. that there is a possibility somewhere out there on the edge that -- not going to say he did it, but somebody on the far right like dick cheney , who has pushed waterboarding and things, will push this thing that far? do you think it's possible that a jane fonda could be targeted even by the most right wing american politician we can imagine?
>> i don't think anybody is going to target jane fonda --
>> or any american -- unless they're carrying a gun.
>> there are police departments across the country that have filed applications to be able to fly drones for surveillance or for whatever. we had this situation in -- outside of los angeles the other week where the rogue cop was -- had killed all these people. potentially you could have used a drone to do surveillance there and if you decided the cabin wasn't approachable and he was putting lives in danger h would police departments have wanted to have the option --
>> what would be wrong with using that technology rather than a bomb thrown in the window?
>> good question. good question.
>> we've had experience in philadelphia when they blew up a whole bock.
>> philadelphia as usual ahead of its time.
>> in all sear yusness -- why is using the drone worse than, say, smoking out the house or killing the guy.
>> it's killing the guy, and there is a certain antiseptic, creepy, at a distance quality --
>> stand back weapons.
>> to drone warfare that i think we need to deal with. we're goss to use them in various ways and we need to figure it out.
>> i think you're right and i think hemingway used to write about that, it's tougher to be an infantry man than tank driver because you have to do the walking into the fear, physically walk into it. look at this point lindsey graham made about the republicans who joined with senator paul in that filibuster yesterday. let's listen to graham.
>> to my republican colleagues, i don't remember any of you coming down here suggesting that president bush was going to kill anybody with a drone. you know. i don't even remember the harshest critics of president bush on the democratic side, they had a drone program back then. so what is it all of a sudden that this drone program has gotten every republican so spun up? to my party, i'm a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we're at war.
>> you know, this is the fascinating thing about the right wing and people watching this show are students of it, maybe in danger of it. you have the neocon people like lindsey graham and john mccain who are ready at the snap of the fingers to go to war. that's the first solution. let's go to war. they always have one ready. then you have the very conservative, old pat buchanan breed, of people like rand paul who are very suspicious of our power being used for any purpose besides basic national defense .
>> yeah, right. that's the split in the republican party and they're going to have to deal with that. the other thing he was driving at i think is, look, i personally, like a lot of democrats i guess, i have confidence -- i know that president obama thinks about the use of drones and i know that he and -- i have confidence in him --
>> suppose cheney were president right now.
>> right now.
>> he's only going to be president for another 3 1/2 years. others are going to follow, and unless we kind of think about what sort of limits, if any, we want to put --
>> you remember cheney's speech about the shadowlands and the gray areas of the world and the hallways and the back hauls.
>> he talks like that. i'm glad -- my son michael has been tough on me on this. he's a very civil libertarian guy. i've become less of a skeptic. i think rand paul probably did something good for the country in the last two days and i'm sure he hats to hear me say that.
>> he's going to hate my column tomorrow.
>> look. a broken clock is right twice a day as i have said before. thank you. you can all remember that one. thank you, eugene robinson .
>>> coming up, if there's one thing we learned from rand paul yesterday is senators want to filibuster, they ought to stand up and talk in the old way. jimmy stewart , get out there and talk. did he it for 13 hours. the republicans have filibustered president's choice for the d.c. court of appeals even without doing anything. they didn't have to do a thing. up next, hand it to arkansas. now has the most restrictive abortion law in the country on the books at least. republicans, of course, passed a law setting a limit down there at 12 weeks when a fetal heartbeat can be heard. well, this is because on the ride feel the country isn't moving fast enough to ban apportions. maybe that's because most people are pro-choice.
>>> president obama followed up his dinner with a lunch today with the very important guy, paul ryan , who is chair of the budget committee . is it possible the republicans have decided that opposing the president at all costs is no longer worth the price?
>>> let me finish with how republicans and democrats can actually compromise. it's doable. this is "hardball," the place for politics.