Martin Bashir | February 15, 2013
>>> it's just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when i'm still presiding over a war in afghanistan and i need a secretary of defense who is coordinating with our allies to make sure that our troops are getting the kind of strategy and mission that they deserve.
>> we are awaiting the president. he's expected to give a speech at a chicago high school in a moment in which we expect him to address, among other things, gun violence. the president is also trying to guide through the confirmation of chuck hagel . and why doesn't the president have a secretary of defense? and why have republicans decided to prevent chuck hagel from leading the men and women of our armed forces ? there is an answer, my friends, but you might find it a little bizarre. take a listen.
>> there's a lot of ill will towards senator hagel because when he was a republican he attacked president bush mercilessly. at one point said he was the worst president since herbert hoover .
>> are we really to believe that senator john mccain , who once had a few objections of his own towards george w. bush , is really upset because chuck hagel compared w. with herbert hoover ? you are republicans trying to subvert the foreign policy of the united states over an old and bitter grudge? let's bring in ari melber and democrat strategist julian ep sto epstein. what is senator mccain 's problem? is he trying to defend a mode okur president bush or is he trying to defend a failed war in iraq ?
>> i think it's more iraq where we know senator mccain has long stood by our presence there and adding troops there, but bottom line if you take this as the mccain filibuster standard, then no one in any democratic administration ever gets a vote because, guess what? a lot of them have good faith and i think well-grounded disagreements with george w. bush . so this cannot be the standard. it's not defensible on its own terms and that's the problem. they are erecting a supermajority hurdle for all of this legislation and all of these nominees. this is an old problem from the way the republicans have been acting and it doesn't stand up because by this standard again you would not let anyone serve in government that you di agreed with.
>> but it's based on a grudge. it's based on a bitter grudge 4e held by senator mccain . what possible principle is he using to uphold the nomination of a defense secretary given that this nation is at war?
>> i don't think it's principled. i think it is unfortunate, and equally important it doesn't stand up because this is a senator here who wanted george w. bush and republicans , of course, to get their team in, and now he's got this grudge. if you take a step back, i'm not the biggest chuck hagel fan in the world anyway. if republicans don't like it, when president obama appoints republicans , he won't even try to reach out. it's not a two-sided problem in washington. the democrats have a role because harry reid didn't get through filibuster reform. he should have so they held onto the process --
>> but that had nothing to do with what happened yesterday?
>> but they are not the abusers, they are the enablers and the abusers are john mccain and people who don't want -- it sounds like rhetoric, literally don't want the post filled at the pentagon because of their grudges.
>> julian , the senate will take up mr. hagel 's nomination when it reconvenes in ten days atime but i want to bring in something from richard hass. here he is with our own joe scarborough .
>> we're hearing in the end most likely he's going to pass and be secretary of defense, so why hold him up over a recess when the pentagon desperately needs somebody at the helm?
>> because in a funny sort of way, joe, it's exactly what mccain said. it's a way of getting their pound of flesh.
>> julian , pound of flesh. is that really what this is all about? given that our troops deserve a leader because they serve with every ounce of their bodies, they give their bodies.
>> well, i don't know that they will get a pound of flesh and it is a rizable reason. politics is about picking good fights. this is a fight the republicans will lose and it's a bad fight and you wonder why after what's happened to the republican party they continue to pick bad fights they're going to lose. they're going to lose, one, because there's pressing security issues. two, because there's no precedent for holding up a secretary of defense. and, three, you ask about mccain 's principles here. mccain has uttered four different conflicting positions since february 4th about whether, in fact, he would filibuster the hagel nomination. it's i am possibmpossible to divine what his principle or reason is. he also started out saying they were going to hold it up because they wanted more information on benghazi . now mccain says they have enough information. now they're taking the position they're going to hold the nomination up until they can get more information about financial issues relating to organizations that hagel spoke to. nobody has ever been through that kind of pretextual reason for holding up a nomination. as ari knows, when you're nominated for a position, the fbi does an extensive background check on you including financial information, so this is a bogus reason, it's a canard. then you have people like senator cruz who seems like he's from another planet suggesting there's an alignment between hagel 's position and iran's position. and you have mccain fessing up yesterday and saying this is about a personal grudge and that's what this all comes down to. a personal grudge because --
>> hagel took a position that the majority of the american people actually support, which is that the iran war was a mistake.
>> ari, you worked in the senate once. i want to quote from a tweet by ben white of politico who gives an anonymous snalt staffer saying this, senator hagel is going to be confirmed as soon as we demonstrate what a bunch of whack doodles we are. i mean, there's plenty of evidence that they're whack doodles and in the case of ted cruz , the junior senator from texas, he's kind of ample evidence, isn't he, already?
>> yeah. well senator cruz has clearly decided not to do the normal thing, which is to show some humility when you enter the body which is like entering a room. there's conversations already going on and the tradition in the senate has generally been to listen before you scream. he's not following that --
>> listen before you scream. this guy smears and slurs before he speaks. he's made allegations about chuck hagel receiving monies from enemies of this country and has produced no evidence whatsoever.
>> that's correct. under the disclosure requirements which we have no reason to believe the obama administration is not following any contact with foreign government are required under those rules and that's why even senator mccain , mr. personal grudge, had to rebut senator cruz . it goes to something larger and something we have talked about on this show and we had some big disagreements. i had a big exchange with jonathan alter about susan rice ' n rice's nomination. mr. alter was saying you have to move on sometime. susan rice wasn't a battle worth fighting. what i said now and obviously i'm biased, but i think history has born out that i was right. what i said then was it's not about the nominee. they are looking for certain fights and they will go at anyone, chuck hagel , a conservative red state republican to them is as objectionable and terrible and bengha benghazi -related as susan rice . the president should learn well from this experience. should nominate fewer republicans , should pick the original picks whoever they may be, susan rice is still on the team. she can be picked later --
>> and stick with them.
>> they will fill biser anyone. stick with them and ride right over them.
>> i'm not sure about that, ari, because this is not an instructive moment for democrats. this is an instructive moment for republicans . we have seen republicans in the last year offend women, immigrants, african-americans, on down the line, and here they're taking a position that's just odious to most americans which is attacking somebody who had nothing to do with benghazi , wasn't in government during that time, attacking a guy who is a decorated war veteran and even republicans are coming out saying they're going to vote for the this guy. this is a low moment for the republican party . this should be an instructive moment for the republican party who keeps going from the party of 47% towards the direction of a party of