Morning Joe | March 08, 2013
>>> man, that's a beautiful picture, sunrise, washington d.c. is that real, t.j., or did you doctor that?
>> on what date or day is that?
>> he instagramed that. it's beautiful.
>> it can't be today.
>> just after 7:00 in washington, up in new york city . welcome back to " morning joe ." a little bit different picture here. and that doesn't even stick. you can't enjoy it. you can't go make a snowman. it's just miserable. mark halperin , john heilemann still with us here no new york along with michael steele in washington. joining us now on set, former mccain senior campaign strategist and msnbc political analyst , steve schmidt and stephanie cutter .
>> good morning.
>> it would be interesting to get your takes on the front page of "the new york times." senator mccain with a chance encounter with senator rand paul in the senate elevator yesterday. after senator mccain had, well, accused rand paul of appealing to kids in their dorm rooms with his filibuster. thought bubble, steve ? what do you got there?
>> i said it doesn't look like his happy face to me.
>> you've seen that face before, haven't you?
>> i have.
>> what do you think senator mccain thinks of a younger senator like rand paul coming in and doing that on national security ? is this famed indignation, or is he seriously indignant?
>> mccain profoundly disagrees with paul 's views on this. you have this divide in the republican party that you will see widen, deepen, and become more pronounced and more vocal arguments taking place around it as we get ready for the 2016 campaign. and john mccain represents one viewpoint. it's been a dominant viewpoint. but this other viewpoint, one that rand paul represents in some of these other younger senators represent is beginning to express itself. we're going to have a big debate in the party .
>> should we take him seriously as a presidential candidate ?
>> absolutely rand paul should be taken seriously as a presidential candidate . you saw him, i think, have the requisite qualities of intelligence, oratory, showmanship. and he's a conviction politician. he's not one of these candidates where you're sitting around having eight-hour-long meetings talking about what should the vision of the campaign be? he has a vision. and his libertarianism has been a dormant part of the republican pear for a long time. but that's a potent strain of the republican party . and he's someone who can give it expression. he's able to take his father's act, bring it mainstream. i think he'll absolutely be one of the real formidable candidates. if you look right now, i think it's chris chrischristie, marco rubio , jeb bush and rand paul , of course.
>> just to stay with that question, one of the things we all covered when we covered the 2008 race and then the 2012 race, ron paul always having a very stable 8, 10, 12% depending where you are. they were diehard devoted to him. but he was kind of a nut on certain things. not just an isolationist. he believed in kind of conspiracy theories. you talk about mainstreaming. if you mainstream that view, if you take away the kookiness of it, if you just focus on the stuff that's appealing?
>> i think it's untested. i don't think we know because it hasn't had expression for quite a long time. we haven't seen somebody be able to get up on a stage and articulate a viewpoint aimed at the mainstream of the republican party . for example, on afghanistan, that's able to express some of the circumspection, a reverting back to the traditional viewpoint of american foreign policy which is a great reluctance to use force, great reluctance to become engaged in foreign entanglements all across the world. so he's going to, i think, on issue after issue express a viewpoint that just hasn't had a voice in the republican party for a really long time that i think a lot of grass-roots republicans are very sympathetic with out across the country.
>> let's hear what we're talking about exactly here. this is senator john mccain , also lindsey graham yesterday responding to the filibuster two nights ago from rand paul .
>> 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 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.
>> 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 limitlimitations. they also say the laws of war don't apply. the laws of war basically mean that you don't get due process . and i can understand that on a battlefield. i'm not for reading miranda rights to people that are shooting at us. if you're an opposing soldier and you shoot at me, we kill you. there is no miranda rights , no jury, no trials, there's no due process . but they say america is a battlefield. that's a huge mistake, and i think most americans would disagree with him if they knew the implications.
>> stephanie , that was quite a scene yesterday on the floor of the senate. you had senators john mccain and lindsey graham defending president obama against fellow republicans.
>> that was quite a scene. and that elevator picture is quite a scene, too. usually that look is reserved for some democrat who happens to stumble on the same elevator as john mccain . i think it's interesting when senator mccain , who i have a lot of respect for, says that members of his own party shouldn't be firing up, you know, kids sitting in college dormitories. but he had no problem firing people up over benghazi, over what happened in libya. you know, that fired up people, too. and much of it wasn't based on fact. so there's a little bit of a double standard here. obviously, he's trying to quell any potential division in his own party . you know, what steve talked about earlier in terms of a piece of the republican base, this has been brewing for a long time. and you can see some similarities between certain parts of the republican base and certain parts of the democratic base in terms of how they feel about war. how they felt early about the afghanistan war , about the iraq war . how they feel about some of the civil liberties involved with potential drone strikes or the debate around it. so i think that senator mccain and lindsey graham see a potential big division going into 2014 , 2016 that they're trying to take care of now.
>> but on the policy of it, though, stephanie , senator mccain said yesterday that rand paul 's argument was an insult to our intelligence. the idea that the president of the united states would authorize a u.s. citizen to be killed on u.s. soil. shouldn't americans be concerned a little bit about that? or do you share john mccain 's view?
>> well, i share john mccain 's view that it's not possible. the debate we're having is about the technology, the drone technology. but the laws and the constitution that the president has to abide by haven't changed. so whether it's a drone or a machine gun, it's the same laws that apply. the president can't use lethal force against an american citizen . you know, unless that citizen is an enemy combatant or engaged in terrorism. so nothing has changed here except for the use of technology.
>> but let's be clear. one of the reasons that rand paul did this was the fact that that question was put to the administration repeatedly, and it did not answer it. and there was a reason for him to ask, to press this point. it had been raised in brennan's confirmation hearings. and no one would answer that question as forthrightly as stephanie just did. that was the principle he was upholding there. michael steele , in the end, we've talked about ways in which there are fissures being exposed on the republican side . stephanie pointed out there's also fissures on the democratic side. as we proceed to warfare and issues about national security come up, is this more destabilizing for your party , or is this potentially equally destabilizing for the democratic coal incision
>> i think it's equally destabilizing, but i think paul is going to be more proven right than wrong on this issue which is the central focus. i think steve hit it exactly on point. you've got this original strain, the traditional view on warfare and national security within the gop that has been largely dormant since the neocons have grabbed ahold of the party and sort of ratcheted us into this, you know, this sort of warfare mindset. that's now beginning to reemerge. you know, i take issue with senator mccain 's response. you know, libertarian kids in their college dorms is who rand paul is talking to. guess what, senator? those kids vote. and they pay a lot of attention to these matters. you know, they're sitting in their college dorms watching the world unfold around them. and at some point you're going to come back and say, we need you to go fight a war. and so there's a connection here that rand paul has made that is legitimate. his father made it. and the way the party has treated this wing, if you will, of libertarianism, which is the traditional part of the gop, as we saw unfold in the last election cycle, particularly at the national convention , that was insulting to a lot of those folks who now are finding their voice and are reemerging. the democrats also recognize this, which is why the president felt a little bit pricked on this issue on the drones because it did cross over . it appealed to code pink as much as it appealed to libertarians and tea partiers. so i think rand paul is finding sort of a wedge here. what he does with it will be interesting going forward.
>> steve , since the kids are in charge today, we're making the show all about social media , facebook, twitter. i want to read you a tweet. rick wilson , republican strategi strategist, i finally just saw the mccain and graham clips. just wow. twilight of the old order much? so obviously there's a lot going on here in terms of policy. but in terms of senator mccain and senator graham, do you think they are clinging to some old conception of politics in terms of denouncing young people and their support, or are we not in a transitionary period?
>> and by the way, the viewpoint that senators mccain and graham are expressing is not a minority viewpoint in the republican party . there's a lot of people who would agree completely with the point that they made. but there's going to be a big, robust debate that plays out now over the next couple of years. and what has been a strain of libertarianism in the republican party that's had no expression for a long time is going to begin to express itself. and i think it's going to find itself to be popular with a lot of people in the country because in the republican party , the knee-jerk interventionism in places ranging from libya to syria, that wherever there is a crisis in the world that there is, we must intervene there. we need to put an air cap over the airspace. we need to arm the rebels. i think there's a lot of circumspection about how the united states should carry itself forward in the post-iraq, post-afghanistan world, and we're going to have a big foreign policy debate in the republican party headed into 2016 . and the other thing that rand paul talked about, we've had this debate in this country for our entire existence, the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. the balance of power has moved decidedly towards the executive, uninterrupted over the last couple of decades. and he's saying, wait a second. congress ought to begin to assert some of its traditional prerogatives back in. it's a sophisticated argument. it's a deep argument. it's an important argument. it doesn't fit in our sound bite culture, but it's an important one for us to have as a country. and he's giving voice to it. i think people will come to it. and he's going to be a serious figure. he arrived on the national stage the other day. and he's going to stay there for a long time.
>> let me ask this question of stephanie , just to flip the coin on the other side. your party , and you've been involved in a lot of democratic presidential contests. your party 's going to have an open field in 2016 . maybe joe biden will run, maybe hillary clinton , big players, maybe not. is this same debate going to play out in the democratic party ? with very different conceptions about the use of force around the world? the president has run a relatively conservative, relative assertive foreign policy in a lot of ways. is this going to be as big a wedge among the members of your party as it is among the members of steve's party , as he suggests?
>> i think it's too soon to tell because we're not sure where this debate is going to go yet. but i think it's less likely on the democratic side than it is on the republican side because of the principles the president stands for, the principles of the people that you will likely see running for president in 2016 , about, you know, protecting civil liberties at home, using smart warfare to fight wars abroad. but having that balance between our national security and our civil liberties . you know, it's too soon to tell. we don't know who's going to be running for president. you know, as soon as this debate started, what struck me is, you know, how quickly president obama and john brennan said that they wanted to work with congress to figure out the best structure of open communication and moving forward on drones. because this is all new territory. yes, we've been using drones for quite a long time, but, you know, it is a primary means by which we fight terrorism today. and structures need to be put around that. the first person to give a speech on the need for structure was actually john brennan . so there is some leadership, you know, being shown on the part of the administration to figure out what structure do we need going forward to ensure that congress can play an oversight role here, and this can be a much more transparent process.
>> much more to get to this morning. we're going to bring in david gregory , moderator of "meet the press." also "the washington post 's" eugene robinson . you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks. morning, brian! love