Mitchell Reports | February 25, 2013
>> good day. i am andrea mitchell live in london today. secretary of state john kerry is trying to salvage a key meeting with syrian rebels . they are threatening to boycott the session in rome because the united states and europe have refused to give them arms and other critical aid. kerry took time in london today to call a key rebel leader and all but plead with him to show up. joining us for our daily fix chris calizza and managing editor of post politics.com. steve clemons , editor at large for "the atlantic" and david rothcoff, editor at large of fp group. welcome all. first to you, chris . this is the first trip by the new secretary of state, and already he's facing a real rebellion from the syrian rebels . they are saying no more international conferences. they, we are told, are really pressured by the fighters on the ground who are seeing horrendous loss of life and also some recent gains, and want to know why are you leaders going to fancy hotels and meeting at these summits in europe when we need help now?
>> this is, andrea -- i'm not telling you anything you don't know, but this meeting in rome was supposedly the centerpiece of what is sort of a whirlwind trip nine countries for secretary of state kerry , so this was the piece that was, i think, designed to show him on the world stage in a way to show the u.s.'s power to sort of bring about change. the problem here -- and this is not new -- is that foreign policy and other countries do not -- are not necessarily operating on the same schedule as we many america are. that is, john kerry would love this meeting to happen sxb able to kind of flex his diplomatic muscle, but, as we are seeing at least at the moment, that many people within the syrian rebel group don't view that as beneficial to them and their interests in the country.
>> and what he and also william hague were sort of foreshadowing today, the foreign secretary here, is that there does have to be some change. in fact, the brits have been pushing for this very hard. this is what secretary kerry had to say about whether or not the policy is going to change and we're going to do more for the rebels . zoog.
>> i want our friends in the syrian opposition kuns council to know that we are not coming to rome simply to talk. we are coming to rome to make a decision about next steps and perhaps even other options that may or may not be discussed further after that. we are determined that the syrian opposition is not going to be dangling in the wind wondering where the support is or if it's coming.
>> so steve clemons , look at the situation. he is going to berlin. is he in the air right now flying to berlin. he is going to meet with the russians. the russians have made no secret of the fact that they are propping up assad. yet, the rebels have made key advances. we've seen, you know, huge fighting around damascus. where do you see this going without any change in russia's policy?
>> well, i think that one has to look back and remember that hillary clinton had exactly the same experience with the rebels in libya . there was a period of time where the rebels used every meeting as a potential negotiating ploy for what they wanted to extract from britain, france, and the united states , and you also have, i would say, greater diversity in the syrian opposition and more inconsistencies in the broad syrian opposition than you even had in libya . libya was not great. what we're seeing is standard fare. it's not anything unusual. i think where it goes is that john kerry is going to go in and, you know, basically offer a lot of resolve, perhaps more posturing, but the syrian knot continues to be something that i think that the president wants to remain from being deeply engaged in, and i don't think he is going to turn the switch on for heavy arms transfers to the opposition, so i suspect more of the same with a little bit more toughing rhetoric that assad needs to leave, but when it comes to what the syrian rebels most want, nothing really new.
>> let me share, david , you know john kerry well. you all do. you've watched him in the senate. for this job for which he has prepared all his life, this was john kerry on the plane talking without being on the record, but talking to us about just how it feels to now be the secretary of state and taking this trip. others on the plane talked to us about just how tough these issues are. syria foremost, but iran and others, just as difficult for him to try to untangle. david .
>> i think that, you know, you become secretary of state, you think you're going to drive u.s. foreign policy . the reality is the rest of the world drives u.s. foreign policy , and he is seeing that here on his first trip. the fact that he is going to this meeting has been used as a negotiating point, and he is going to have to react to the initiatives of other people. i think in all likelihood the highest post that he has held is going to be rather humbling experience for him for a while.
>> and i wanted to ask steve clemons also about chuck hagel because we expect a vote tomorrow now even very close to hagel and asking for him to be confirmed. they suggested last week the white house that he did have the votes with richard shelby , a republican saying that he has endorsed him, that he at least stops the filibuster and gets a final confirmation sometime this week.
>> we now have about 66 votes. not all of them declared to basically call on cloture, and they have well over the number of needed of majority votes, including richard shelby , potentially lisa murkowski , but she hasn't declared where she is on hagel per se . this looks like it will go forward. we're all expecting this vote to take place tomorrow afternoon. probably get e yet again during your show, andrea . if ted cruise and jim inhoff want to drag this out to the furthest possible end, they could call 30 more hours of debate and the vote could take place on wednesday.
>> chris , now we have the sequester. only four days away . no sign of progress. the governor's role there, very strong republican governors, you some real rising political republican stars within their party. they in the president's house and no sign of any accord on what to do to bridge these gaps.
>> no. you know, andrea , it feels like everybody saying this is a terrible thing. this was put in place so that we wouldn't do it, but no one actually doing anything meaningful. both sides are doing things, but they're doing things in the sense that they're saying, well, we pass this or propose this, knowing that there's -- having done those things does not offer a path forward, but, andrea , i'm interested to see -- i'm almost certain it happens. i can't imagine it not happening at this point. i'm interested to see this period march 2nd to march 31 post-sequester pre-continuing resolution and potential government shutdown. given how far apart the two parties seem to be about the right way forward on debt and spending issues, tax reform , tax increases, cutting spending, can they finish it? can they find some common ground in those 28 or so days? that to me is even more concerning.
>> chris and david and, of course, the atlantic's steve clemons , thank you all for joining