Morning Joe | March 08, 2013
>>> paul for making this brave stance because it is good to know that they cannot kill us. and i am sure there is no classified second legal opinion overriding that one which we don't know about. it doesn't change my opinion. no matter what anybody says, i love drones. you hear that, drones? stephen love you.
>> good morning. that's a wintry mix if i've ever seen one here in new york city on this friday, march the 8th. with us on set, msnbc "time" magazine senior political analyst , mark halperin . national affairs editor for "new york " magazine and msnbc political analyst , john heilemann. "fortune's" assistant managing editor leigh gallagher, analyst and the former democratic congressman from tennessee, harold ford jr . and in washington, another msnbc political analyst , former chair of the rnc, mr. michael steele . good morning, everybody.
>> good morning.
>> good morning, sir.
>> i like sitting next to you, mark halperin .
>> you look good.
>> the two of us. joe and mika have the day off. this is america 's most beloved morning team for years now. halperin and geist. america 's sweethearts. you're going to love it. did you see this photograph on the front page of "the new york times"? i think we have it full screen. that is an awkward moment in the senate elevator between john mccain in the back there, rand paul in the foreground. if you go online of "the new york times," there's a forebox that shows the progression of how that run-in took place. why is that awkward? because senator rand paul 's filibuster a couple nights ago may have done more to expose rifts. the kentucky republican's nearly 13-hour stand on the senate floor was praised in a wide range of political circles from peace activist to the tea party . but some fellow republicans including senator john mccain and lindsey graham are slamming his public protest. and members of their own party who joined him.
>> the country needs more senators who care about liberty. but if mr. paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college remember dos. dorms. he needs to know what he's talking about.
>> 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.
>> kids in their college dorms. in an interview, paul hit back at some of those republican critics.
>> i think they're on the wrong side of history on this one. they are of the belief that the war is everywhere. so they kind of agree with some of the things the president's been saying, that there are no geographic limitations. they also, then, say that the laws of war apply. the laws of war basically mean that you don't get due process . and i can understand that in a battlefield. i'm not for reading miranda rights to people that are shooting at us. if you're an opposing soldier, you shoot at me, we kill you. there is no miranda rights . nears no jury, no trials, no due process . but they say america is the battlefield. that's a huge mistake. and i think most americans would disagree with them if they knew the implications.
>> john brennan whose nomination to lead the cia was temporarily blocked by rand's filibuster was confirmed yesterday by a senate vote of 63-34. in fact, both mccain and graham voted to support brennan with graham calling it, quote, a referendum on the drone program, adding that before the filibuster, he had planned on voting no. that infuriated supporters of rand paul who launched an online movement with the hash tag primarygraham. they hammered him for dining in a d.c. restaurant while at the same time paul was questioning the administration. that's why some believe that senator minority leader mitch mcconnell up for re-election next year decided to publicly support paul 's filibuster. and senator rubio who's faced criticism from some conservatives over his push for immigration reform was also a public backer of that filibuster. senator paul , meanwhile, is claiming victory after he received a letter from the administration stating that the president cannot order a deadly strike against an american on u.s. soil who is not engaged in combat. so now the freshman senator telling "politico" he is, quote, seriously considering running for president in 2016 . okay. let's take a step back. let's start with you, michael steele . what did you see yesterday as you watched john mccain go after rand paul and then to hand it off to lindsey graham ? what did it tell you about the republican party ?
>> well, it doesn't say much about the republican party as it did about the inability of some within the party to understand where this thing is going. i think rand paul made a very important stance yesterday. he got the administration to admit something that heretofore refused to admit to, and i thought it was rather insulting, the way these gentlemen responded to this. look, i got the joke. you saw a lot of folks waiting all day long to see how these winds were going to blow. the finger in the air to see if this is going to take off. and then by 9:00 last night or the night before they were jumping on the bandwagon. but rand paul made a very principled argument before the nation that asked the very simple question. will this administration execute a policy that will kill a united states citizen on u.s. soil with a drone? break it down and give us an answer. so you know, this concept that, you know, the war is everywhere does not mean that the laws of war apply to everything. and i think that that was something that rand paul very, very aptly brought out. you know, so, you know, graham and mccain have a difference of opinion here. i thought the way they aired that difference of opinion was insulting.
>> mark, you almost had to stop and process what you were seeing yesterday for a minute. here were senator john mccain and senator lindsey graham fighting vehemently to defend president obama 's policy. it was a little disorienting.
>> well, they've been very hawkish, and they have pressured not just this president but the previous one to some extent. you know, rand paul , like his father, scrambles republican politics. at least foreign policy questions from the libertarian side, it scrambles everything. and you've also got, i think, a larger issue in the senate. you have younger republican senators who are not afraid to go after the establishment, the old bulls. there's pictures in "the new york times" you pointed out on the elevator, those elevators are pretty big. in this case, i don't think it was quite big enough because senator mccain , when he's angry, and i think it's fair to say he was angry yesterday, he doesn't hide it very well. and rand paul is fearless. like mike lee of utah, like some of these other younger republican senators, ted cruz now, they're not afraid of older senators. they're willing to kind of break some china and mccain and lindsey graham are coming right back at them. as you said, in support of a democratic president.
>> john, what did you see yesterday?
>> well, i think it's interesting. "time" says in its headline, the drone debate scrambles both left and right. there are a set of issues, and particularly issues that resolve around civil iberties that standard partisan categories don't work very well. it's not only that there's fractures, fissures, you have pat leahy , totally respectable democratic senator who voted no on the brennan confirmation. you have ron wyden , the senator from oregon, who's very much on rand paul 's side on this issue of drones. so you have these civil libertarian questions. you have the libertarian impulse that lives on the left and the right. you see suddenly the even weirder bedfellows and the notion that ron wyden , far to the left of rand paul on almost everything ends up being an alley ally. they go to core issues around due process , around interpretation of the constitution, around war powers . that kind of stuff sometimes, when it gets introduced in these debates, is not a democrat/republican thing. it's places where different weird coalitions get exposed and get built. and i think, you know, it's not that surprising that this is happening because this is one of these issues that really is -- it cuts to something very deep and core. and we're seeing like really the first stages of a debate that's going to go on for the next 20 to 30 years. it redraws the battle lines in interesting ways.
>> it does seem it raised his profile. everyone was talking about him for 13 straight hours and again today. also, he managed to form, as john said, this strange coalition. had he progressives coming up with him, his republican colleagues, and a group of civil libertarians for whom this has been a huge issue for a long time, the drone program.
>> yeah, i think that's more interesting than the rift it exposed in the republican party which is divided in many ways right now. so i think that's really interesting. and it is a debate that's going to be with us for a while. you know, we've talked about this. there are serious questions here. what are the standards? you know, there's 50 countries that either have or developing drones. we set the standard. we are the -- people are looking to us, you know, how to handle this. this is a very big, important conversation. and it did, as michael steele said, put it in the light yesterday.
>> harold, what do you make of this back-and-forth -- not only that, but also the policy, the drone policy?
>> i'm not as bothered by the policy as rand paul or even my dear friend ron wyden is. i think that the president clarified the remarks by his white house spokesman, jay carney , as well as by eric holder , making clear that extraordinary circumstances is all that would cause the president to make a decision about whether to use lethal force against someone on american soil, albeit an american. the president swore to uphold the constitution. and i believe that he will. this president, i believe presidents going forward, if not, the senate has an obligation and a responsibility to act. this program has worked and worked successfully. it has kept american soldiers out of harm's way around the globe. i understand the focus of yesterday's conversation and debate over the last 36 hours is whether or not forced this kind of method could be used on an american on american soil. but i think it's been clarified by the administration. i think it was appropriate for rand paul to raise these questions. i have no issue with him filibustering as he did. the dispute between he and lindsey graham and john mccain is something they need to litigate and work out themselves. but the fact that he raised these issues, i think to john's point and to leigh's point, it demonstrates how issues of war thankfully don't invite and inspire the kind of partisan rancor that we generally see around everything from taxes to entitlement policies. so in a lot of ways it was refreshing to see the senate have this big discussion. but i think the president and the justice department , in particular, were challenged on this. they laid out the facts clearly. i thought the person that was most out of line in all of this was probably ted cruz , but that's another conversation. i thought general holder did a phenomenal job in answering the questions. he probably could have answered a little more succinctly, but i think his justice department responded quickly and frankly sufficiently.
>> do you have any questions -- forget on u.s. soil -- questions about targeting u.s. citizen as broad, though?
>> as i've said on this show many times before, and joe and i have disagreed, i think if you socialize, dine with, spend time with known terrorists who are on a list of those who want to do harm to america , you put yourself at peril. i don't dine, socialize or spend time with people who are on a terrorist list around the globe. so i think -- don't get me wrong, these are messy and complicated issues. but i happen to have some level of trust and confidence in our military personnel and intelligence personnel to make these kinds of decisions. now, what i do think has to happen for the administration is they've got to lay out this criteria, these rules, these guidelines in a clear and more transparent way. that's what i hope will come out of this discussion in the back-and-forth between -- or among paul and senator graham and senator mccain .