Morning Joe | January 24, 2013
>>> madam secretary, let me welcome you and thank you for honoring your commitment.
>> you have represented our country with tremendous strength and poise.
>> i want to echo the praise from my colleagues for your extraordinary service.
>> i want to start by just thanking you for your remarkable leadership.
>> it's great to see you here in good health. i am so appreciative of your service.
>> i can't think of a person that exemplifies that balance in a public service career as well as you do.
>> i salute you and i look ahead to 2016 .
>> madam secretary, first let me thank you for your service. and i wish you the best in your future endeavors, mostly.
>> she's fantastic. i'm sorry. welcome back to " morning joe ." jon meacham and donny deutsch are still with us. and joining the table, best-selling author and award-winning journalist, carl bernstein , author of "a woman in charge" about the secretary of state, hillary clinton .
>> biography. also with us from the white house , nbc news white house correspondent, peter alexander . and in washington, former democratic representative from california, now the director, president and ceo of the woodrow wilson international center for scholars , jane harman . jane, good to have you on the show with us this morning as well.
>> thank you, mika.
>> let's get right to it. that was quite something yesterday on capitol hill . today hillary clinton will introduce john kerry at his confirmation hearing to replace her as secretary of state. the session is expected to take on a much different tone than the tough questioning she faced yesterday about the deadly attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi . take a look at what happened.
>> when you're in these positions, the last thing you want to do is interfere with any other process going on.
>> i realize that's a good excuse.
>> number two -- well, no, it's the fact. we have no doubt they were terrorists, militants, they attacked us, they killed our people. but what was going on and why they were doing what they were doing --
>> no, no, no.
>> -- is still --
>> again, we were misled that there were supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that, and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact. and the american people could have known that within day, and they didn't know that.
>> with all due respect, the fact is we had four dead americans . was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some americans ? what difference, at this point, does it make? it is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator. for me, this is not just a matter of policy. it's personal. i stood next to president obama as the marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at andrews. i put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters and the wives left alone to raise their children.
>> senator ron johnson who we heard there would tell buzzfeed later, quote, i think she just decided before she was going to describe emotionally the four dead americans , the heroes, and use that as her trump card to get out of the questions. it was a good way of getting out of really having to respond to me.
>> jane harman , these personal exchanges aside yesterday, many of them very explosive, many of them very emotional on both sides. do you think we got any closer to the truth about what happened in benghazi in that hearing yesterday and the one in the house?
>> well, i'm wearing my solidarity green jacket . i watched much of it. and i thought under very tough circumstances, hillary clinton , who is always magnificent, was even set a higher bar yesterday. i think we're -- we got a bit closer. i don't know that we'll ever get all of it. the fog of war . the people who are dead can't tell us what happened. no question, mistakes were made. but as hillary clinton put it, we're right 99% of the time. we'll never be right 100% of the time. the bad guys only have to be right once. and so i support a continued investigation. as far as i know, the fbi is still on the case. all of the reforms suggested by the arb are important. plus this high-threat index that the state department is implementing. john kerry must make the security of our personnel abroad a very high priority. but let's understand, these people, these magnificent heroes who work in our state department sign up to put their lives on the line, if necessary, to project diplomacy and hopefully win hearts and minds around the world. and that is important. we can't just hunker down and live in bunkers in the united states of america .
>> senator rand paul who has expressed interest in running for president in 2016 said hillary clinton would have been fired over the benghazi attack if he were in charge. take a look.
>> i think that ultimately with your leaving, you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9 9/11, and i really mean that. had i been president at the time and i found that you did not read the cables from benghazi , you did not read the cables from ambassador stevens, i would have relieved you of your post. i think it's inexcusable.
>> currently the house has holds on bilateral security assistance, on other kinds of support for anti-terrorism assistance. so we've got to get our act together between the administration and the congress. if this is a priority. as i have said many times, i take responsibility. and nobody is more committed to getting this right. i am determined to leave the state depaountry safer, stronger and more secure.
>> jon meacham ?
>> i think if i had been secretary clinton , the first thing i would have said -- senator paul , it would have been so interesting that you would have appointed me in the first place in order to be able to fire me.
>> there you go. that would have been a good comeback.
>> carl , hillary clinton has spent decades now, almost always at the center of a contentious arena. put this performance in context with the last 20 years.
>> well, that's the right question because we are looking at a woman of great stature, a public servant of almost unique stat injure ure in our culture, and i wrote a somewhat critical biography of her, and we are watching two pygmy senators in terms of th s of their public service , in all due respect to these gentlemen.
>> you can't add that.
>> they've become partisan tormenters. i think we have to be realistic and say why are they doing this? let's go back to condoleezza rice around the time of 9/11 or president bush . there were no calls for bush's impeachment because of not being ready on 9/11.
>> okay, hold on.
>> they were failed to be held then. this is a partisan shot. there is a colossal failure that happened in benghazi . no question.
>> and let's find out what happened. but the idea of saying oh, this woman ought to be impeached or this woman ought to resign, this is absurd.
>> you know, i'm going to take a different -- a contrarian point of view to that because i don't think anyone was that out of line. they were being aggressive.
>> rand paul was out of line.
>> we could argue that. i think that's debatable. having said that, if we argue it too much, it's undermining, i think, the fact that hillary clinton 's just fine. she can handle rand paul .
>> she can handle --
>> but that's not the point. that's not even in question. we're not undermining it, we're showing a disparity between the leadership of hillary clinton .
>> i'm saying one person who's a really substantive person with a record and some credibility and let's look at what happened here. look, we all know what this thing about benghazi has been about. there have been some people who really want to get it to facts. there have been other people who want to treat it as a partisan debt.
>> four people died and she takes responsibility for it.
>> and she should. and let's find out the facts. but the idea that it turns into a witch hunt , a partisan witch hunt , is something else again.
>> jane, jump in. go ahead. i've got to get to peter.
>> i want to weigh in on your side. congressional hearings are theater. they are also about something more important some of the time. this one was about something more important. but people play roles, whether we like those roles or not. hillary clinton can mix it up. congress is in an independent branch of government. and i disagreed with some of the comments made, but i had no problem with them being made. they diminished some of the people who made them, but that was the choice of those people.
>> yeah. she was just fine. i just -- i'm not sure we even -- let me just get peter alexander who's standing out in the freezing cold outside the white house . and what are you hearing from inside the white house about how hillary clinton did yesterday?
>> reporter: well, i think they thought she was perfect. they thought she was excellent. jay carney , press secretary, was asked about that and said she has been one of this country's greatest secretaries of state . we should note to the people in the d.c. area that snowplows are out behind us for the first time this winter, so drive safely as they head out the door this morning. but what was striking to me, mika, as i watched this conversation, these questions being peppered at the secretary of state yesterday is what the last two months of the republican campaign looked like. this was a topic that while mitt romney didn't bring up was brought up by everybody in the crowds that we would visit with over the course of that time. it's an issue that they thought was a real weakness for this administration. they were frustrated by it. it was a point that the local leaders brought up, even if the presidential candidate himself, governor romney, did not bring up. and it's one that certainly will play well back in the home districts for the people like ron johnson and for rand paul , of course. recognize that those clips, while in the moment hillary clinton handled them very well, those individuals in particular have to go back home and say, hey, look, i took it to clinton . i asked those questions we've been looking for answers for. and the other item that stands out is one that as we go forward for what the real lessons from this is while the fact that clinton so adeptly handled the question of how many -- how are you? good to see you --
>> that was rand paul .
>> reporter: it was rand paul trying to interrupt this conversation. that she gets, like, 1.3 million cables every year which she says obviously she can't read them all, but it does bring up the question, is she, as she discussed, that there has to be a better system where an ambassador in an embattled nation like libya is able to better communicate when there is a serious concern.
>> peter, can i ask you, it's jon meacham , is there a sense in the white house that i think you put your finger on it a second ago, that we're dealing with two sets of facts on this story? you mentioned during the campaign, the crowds were talking about this. there's a part of the more partisan media that will make -- continue to make an issue of this whereas there's more of an ideological view of what happened here as opposed to actually trying to figure it out? or is the white house concerned that the issue has legs in the partisan world?
>> reporter: i think the white house recognizes that it has legs in the partisan world. in that community from sean hannity and from others, a lot of the talking points that were mentioned by ron johnson and rand paul came from talking points that you've also seen on some of the most conservative blog sites. but i don't think the white house thinks that's any different than any of these other issues. i think there was a period of time during the campaign where they thought this one really could sting, and there was -- there were potentially legs to that. obviously that was in some ways satisfied by the president's quick retort to mitt romney over the issue of terror, saying that he had brought up that issue only shortly after those deaths.
>> jane harman , let me ask you before we turn, we have another important story about women in combat . you know hillary clinton well. a lot of eyes now as she moves out of that position will turn to 2016 . will you encourage her to run for president?
>> i'll encourage her to take a long rest and consult with those she loves and make the best decision for her. i think, as i said, she's a magnificent public servant, someone i've supported over many years and know very well personally. and she would add a lot as our next president. and she will add a lot as a bystander during this next four years. just let me add one thing to what was just said, which is that talk radio or tv can continue to stay stuck on this issue. but what matters is what we do going forward. with the unrest in mali, algeria and through north africa , all of our embassies and our consulates are at some heightened risk. our intelligence has to be excellent. our sharing of information has to be excellent. and africom which is the part of our defense department that projects force in north africa needs to be better resourced so we can better protect people. and if we do protect them well next time, this story will be over and should be over. notwithstanding the heroism of four, sadly, dead american diplomats.
>> that's why there were a lot of important questions to be asked yesterday. i'm not sure we got really to the core. but i will say, carl , if you think george w. bush didn't have calls for his impeachment, we need to get you on google a little more often.
>> not in the congress. a few.
>> before we get to women in combat , also, no matter what, rand paul was bringing up a point. you may not have liked the way he brought it up, but if an ambassador in a hot zone cannot communicate with the secretary of state on the issue of security, there's something to be looked at. that's a big problem.
>> there's a legitimate congressional investigation here. all i'm saying is that the notion that we have to put everything into a wildly partisan and ideological context instead of real fact finding is a failure of our politics. and this is one more failure of our politics instead of a reasoned investigation.
>> i agree with carl .
>> it's time to end the political theater and get to some really important fact finding.
>> but as congresswoman harman said, it is, in fact, theater. do you remember when the democrats made condoleezza rice read the title on the memo?
>> "bin laden plans attacks in the u.s." and they pounded her and pounded her.
>> did anybody call for her resignation?
>> i'm sure they did.
>> oh, my lord.
>> willie , get on the google.
>> i'm talking about members of congress.
>> i am, too.
>> that was on the the issue.
>> the point is there are dead americans . there are americans who are serving us abroad in dangerous places.
>> we need to absolutely understand how this happened.
>> we need to know -- and actually, again, it's what we talked about with kelly o'donnell earlier -- it's not true what secretary clinton said it doesn't matter and makes no difference. we can't take that quote out of context. in context, she said we have to find out and we have to move forward. they're two different things.
>> it was a good conversation, actually, willie .
>> another big story i really want to get to, congresswoman harman, the pentagon today will announce that women will now be allowed to serve in full combat roles. at first they'll be phased into roles working as medics, manning artillery, eventually could serve in positions directly in the line of fire . for the past ten years, u.s. military women have served at the front lines in both iraq and afghanistan but never technically in combat. 152 women have been killed in the course of those two wars. let's bring in now nbc news chief pentagon correspondent, jim miklaszewski . jim , how soon does this go into effect?
>> reporter: officials here and in the military, the most hard-bitten combat veterans knew this was inevitable, but i can tell you the announcement yesterday sent shockwaves through the military and pentagon. because it came so unexpectedly and quickly. and the way this will work, the military services have several months now to draw up a plan to combat, qualify and train women for many positions, combat infantry positions in the military. and then after that time, they will begin the implementation, the training. so none of this is going to happen at any time soon. and most likely, as you said, willie , they'll start out in some of the support roles and gradually work their way into actual trigger pullers, ground combat, infantry soldiers alongside their male counterparts who have been at war in iraq and afghanistan for ten years. now, the timing of this could take two to three years. so it's unlikely women will actually see any ground combat in the near future because that would be well after the u.s. combat mission in afghanistan is over, willie .
>> this announcement, jim , seemed to come out of nowhere, really. let's bring in peter alexander at the white house . any idea why now, what was behind the timing of it?
>> reporter: i think at least from the white house , it sort of caught them by surprise because there was only limited review that took place here. speaking privately to white house officials this morning, they say that the white house thinks this is great, that they didn't want to interfere with the decision-making process made by the chiefs. they're expected to put out some public statement on this very topic only a short time from now, a little bit later today . but it keeps with the theme, they would indicate, of what the president was speaking about during his inaugural address earlier this week. but in many ways, this just catches up with facts that already exist on the ground. if you travel to either iraq or afghanistan over the last ten years, you recognize that a lot of women are already serving in combat in some capacity. as the congresswoman from illinois, tammy duckworth , who lost both legs as an army helicopter pilot who was speaking to mik about a piece that she said i didn't lose my legs in a bar fight . i lost these in combat. so there are and certainly have been for quite a while women serving in those roles.
>> jane harman .
>> let me just pile on that last comment. women have been serving in combat for years. this fiction that they -- well, actually, this legal requirement that they can't serve in certain roles has prevented them from advancing to the top level of our military. i think the timing relates to the fact that leon panetta 's about to leave, and i think this has been cooking for years. certainly as a former member of congress and one who was in a group of women arguing for this for a decade, i am pleased that it's happening now. finally, our military, which is an incubator for the larger society, has caught up with the repeal of don't ask, don't tell and the repeal of this really harmful policy will allow women who are 15% of the military and a growing percent and very capable to have the same opportunities that men have to advance to the highest levels. and i think that's a very good thing.
>> hold on, donny, one second. jim , i think i saw you nodding. it's panetta leaving you think is the key here?
>> reporter: he's going to leave here probably in the next month or so after or if former senator chuck hagel is confirmed as his replacement. but i do want to make the point here, there are going to be growing pains . and we're hearing the same kinds of arguments oh, my god, you know, women are going to be integrated into the military academies . oh, my god, gays in the military . that's going to destroy unit cohesion.
>> that's right.
>> but those thinking soldiers, again, even the most hard-bitten combat veterans say this is inevitable. and i just want to point out what one combat trainer who is an army ranger , you know, one of the toughest jobs in the u.s. military , when i asked him, what about this argument that a 10-pound woman can't drag a 200-pound wounded comrade off the battlefield? and he looked at me and he said, how many times do you see a 130-pound man drag a 200-pound -- you know, and that's the sense of the argument. that women and men will work together just like the men work together. and the only thing different about this, while women have been drawn into combat, is this will be policy. this will be official. they will have ground combat roles. and what this will do for women is it will allow them then opportunities to advance up through the ranks because even male soldiers or service members who do not have ground combat experience are often passed over had it comes to promotions.
>> and now we're going to have more binders of women , seems to me we have plenty at this point, but wouldn't it be nice to have women who have proved themselves at every level of our military?
>> i'm glad there's no political theater .
>> very quick point because i think this is fantastic. but i would love a survey of men in the field. you know, there's this old saying, women and children first. will it ever affect a battle, a primal man's instinct to protect a woman before a man? will that ever affect anything in a battle? i would like to hear from servicemen.
>> i went through basic training at ft. benning, and i've got to tell you that women could have done the same basic training that i did at ft. benning and done it well. and this is a great moment for america.
>> i think it's a great moment, but once again -- okay. i made my point.
>> yeah, i think women have a primal instinct to protect men at times, too.
>> they need protecting.
>> well put.
>> you know what? we'll end on that note. thank you very much, jane harman , jim and peter, thank you as well. carl bernstein , stay with us if you can. coming up next, republican senator john barrasso joins us. and in a few minutes, the executive vice president of the denver broncos and hall of fame quarterback john elway will be here on set. you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks.