Martin Bashir | February 12, 2013
>> we are now less than five hours away from the president's state of the union address where he'll lay out the agenda for his second term in office. and it's safe to assume that his preparations received a severe jolt this morning with the disturbing news that north korea had carried out another nuclear weapons test in violation of the united nations , and this one significantly stronger than their two previous tests. and it's in this alarming context that republicans are seeking at this very moment to stymie the president's nominee for secretary of defense. the senate armed services committee has been considering the nomination of chuck hagel for more than an hour, and all against a backdrop of republican opposition.
>> with respect to chuck hagel and brennan, defense and cia just in the last week, their performance in front of the committees that have to confirm them has been pretty poor.
>> i don't think we should allow brennan to go forward for the cia directorship, hagel to be confirmed to secretary of defense until the white house gives us an accounting.
>> and so as the president prepares to address the nation focusing on flash points overseas and major challenges at home from gun violence to unemployment and immigration, attention also falls upon whether the republican party will spend the next four years doing exactly what it has done for the last four, opposing and obstructing everything that this president has sought to achieve. for more now let's go right to nbc's kristin welker who is live for us at the white house . good afternoon. what's the white house reaction been to word that republican senators may try to hold up the nomination of chuck hagel ?
>> reporter: well, martin, the white house says it's a numbers game, and they believe that they have the votes to get the nomination through. talking to my sources here, they believe that they have at least 55 votes when it comes to democrats and independents and then at least another two republican votes and then you have senators like john mccain saying that they are not going to back afilibustl a filibuster. so they are still confident that chuck hagel 's nomination will be confirmed. you have mitch mcconnell coming out suggesting he might try to slow walk this process. majority leader harry reid saying he's not going to let that happen. again, the white house at this hour, martin, still confident that hagel will be confirmed.
>> and this in the context of what happened last night. what are your sources telling you about the likelihood of the president referencing north korea and its nuclear weapons test in his speech tonight?
>> reporter: well, martin, my sources are telling me it is very likely that he is going to reference what happened in north korea overnight. remember, the white house put out a statement overnight condemning the action saying that it was a highly provocative action. i can also tell you that president obama spoke to the president of south korea today. they shared their concerns about this third nuclear launch, what is perceived to be really the most aggressive nuclear test that north korea has conducted to date. the u.n. security council con seming it, including north korea 's closest ally in the region, china, condemning the action overnight. i think you can expect to hear president obama address this threat. my source is telling me he will talk about the fact that north korea serves to only further isolate itself with these types of provocative actions and it will call on that country to cease these actions if it wants to rejoin the world and internation community.
>> kristin welker, thank you so much. joining us now is democratic congressman charles rangel of new york. good afternoon, sir.
>> hi, martin.
>> given the seriousness of this latest nuclear provocation from north korea , can you please explain to us why republicans think it's a good idea to block the immediate appointment of a defense secretary ?
>> it really is heart-breaking with all the international problems that we have in the middle east and now what's happening in north korea to believe that a couple of senators can just because of their own pettiness can hold up the president's appointments. it seems as though every issue now that the president is bringing up he has to take to the american people , and i'm glad, i hope he gets angry enough to realize that you just can't do business with these people and that the american people have spoken and that he ought to get out there and remind them that in order to fulfill this mandate, they have to get behind their members of the house and get behind their senators and tell them to get on with the job of making america safe.
>> congressman, you fought as a soldier during the korean war . what would it have been like had democrats told president eisenhower , sorry, we don't like your nominee for defense secretary because he's a democrat.
>> it's a terrible thing. it's a terrible thing for republicans and democrats to believe that a president of the united states sf trying to bring peace to the world. it's not just what happens between republicans and democrats. it's how we're seen in the world. does china recognize that if she doesn't cut off the umbilical cords to north korea , that japan may want their own nuclear weapon ? everyone can't come to the united states and make certain that we resolve all of the problems that we face, but they should believe that we are united as one nation and that when we speak, we expect other democracies to come and to share this responsibility. but if the word gets out that the president's cabinet cannot get the support of its own government, albeit that there are just a handful of republicans , then the whole credibility of the united states not only in national security but in fiscal responsibility as --
>> but you see, here is the problem, sir. a new abc news/" washington post " poll shows overwhelmingly people like this president's policies and they don't like the gop's. now, given the republican's performance over the last four years, do you expect exactly the same in terms of obstruction, opposition for the next four years and can this country afford almost a decade of republican obstruction?
>> the president gave them a free ride when he came to affordable health care . he tried to compromise. he listened to both sides. he allowed them to put up 32 different amendments. i think this time he has to go directly to the american people . this is his last shot out to give a report to the entire american people as to what he wants to see for america , get our jobs back, make certain that we have education, make certain that we have a secure national defense and to make certain that we rebuild our infrastructure. you can't do this sitting down with a group of guys that are crying in their own beer because of what happened to their own mitt romney . i don't know how many people they got to have this evening responding to the president, but the only people that the president has to respond to is the american people , not a handful of republicans , and i hope that after this speech that he can unite us all, that we can get out there and let the republicans know the election is over, the american people have spoken, and they're not on the agenda.
>> congressman, i have to say to you that even before the president has spoken, here is john boehner , the speaker of the house , who said this about the president and tackling fiscal issues. to do the kind of heavy lifting that needs to be done, i don't think he's got the guts to do it. and then later says boehner , he doesn't have the courage to take on the liberal side of his own party. sir, i'm shot sure which is more deeply hypocritical, john boehner criticizing the president over his leadership ability or dick cheney dismissing his foreign policy record. which is worse?
>> i tell you one thing, i think boehner has his own internal problems and that he shouldn't run out there and get in the president's way because in doing that he's getting in the american people 's way. i think it's time that people want to see us go above party and think in terms of our country. i think they're exhausted at the partisan politics and now is the time to rembuild america and move forward.
>> i thought it was speaker bain mother didn't have the guts to do a grand bargain deal with the president because he was frightened of eric cantor in 2011 . now he's saying it's the president who doesn't have the guts. i mean, this is total revisionism, isn't it?
>> well, you can see that boehner wants everyone to respond to the president, the tea party , the republican party . if there was a moderate part of the republican party , i guess there will be a chance to respond, too. i don't really think that boehner is speaking for the american people or the republicans for that matter. i think that he is trying to keep these primaries -- tea party primaries down, and by doing that, they're scared to death of tea party candidates that are more conservative. what we have to do now is bring america together and let the tea party and the republicans fight it out and move forward with a positive agenda. that's what the people voted for and that's what they deserve to have.
>> and so, congressman, do we expect another four years of obstruction and opposition from republicans in the house? is that what the american people should prepare themselves for? just as we've had four years in the past, so we're going to have another four to come.
>> i don't think the president of the united states is going to waste any more time trying to negotiate with these people. four years almost was wasted as he had to get every democrat to vote for the affordable care act and to get no support at all from republicans . they have proven just how far they're willing to go to embarrass the president of the united states , to embarrass the fiscal integrity of the united states , to really put in jeopardy our national security . i really think that it's time now for the president to go back to the american people and to say that if they want the things that he has promised to do in the campaign, the campaign is not over. they have to get on the telephone and call republicans and tea party and whomever is in washington saying give the country a break and get off the president's back.
>> congressman charles rangel of new york, sir, enjoy this evening and thank you for joining us.
>> thank you, martin.