Morning Joe | March 20, 2013
>>> of president obama speaking at the airport in tel aviv where he just arrived the past hour. the past few minutes, he talked about this moment in history and how there is the historic opportunity to reaffirm unbreakable bonds between israel and america, to support israel and to support the israeli people . let's listen in for a few moments to the president.
>> when people are suffering from africa and asia we stand together because peace must come to the holy land . for even as we are clear-eyed about the difficulties, we will never lose sight of the vision of an israel at peace with its neighbors. so as i begin this visit, let me say as clearly as i can, the united states of america stands with the state of israel because it is in our fundamental national security interests to stand with israel . it makes us both stronger. it makes us both more prosperous, and it makes the world a better place . that's why -- that's why the united states was the very first nation to recognize the state of israel 65 years ago. that's why the star of david and the star and stripes fly together today and that is why i'm confident in declaring that our alliance is a term, it is forever, eternal. thank you very much.
>> joining us on the set tom brokaw . the host and also alex wagner joins us, along with jeff greenfield . before we it turn to syria .
>> tom brokaw , as dan senor was saying before, presidents don't go to israel unless they have a plan in hand regarding the middle east peace . in this case, you start to get the impression is the president is going over there to send a message, not so much to the palestinians , but the israelis.
>> as i was listening to that, that phrase came back to my mind, show me the money .
>> what are we going to do if it we are interested in peace ? what is the big plan that we have in mind? what is the timetable that he is prepared to share? i've gone back on a number of occasions and looked at the earliest days of huntley and brinkley. as long as i've been in this business, 50 years. i've been on that tarmac a number of occasions and spent a lot of time in that number of world and there is never more chaos than at the moment. what is going on in syria is in danger of spreading across the middle east . richard engel who is over there now says we have a new kind of war fare between the shiite and the sunni from lebanon across the gulf. times are extraordinarily chaotic. we know tensions against maybe netanyahu and the president of the united states . nobody should have any illusions how this is going to advance, the common interests of israel and the united states .
>> your father, mika , the architect of the one great breakthrough in 1979 . two years later the man he helped strike the deal with was dead. it is one step forward , two steps back.
>> i guess the question always is, jeff and alex , you know, how much of a lead this country should take. there are those who know a lot about this who say we should lead the way in the path to peace .
>> i hate to sound a skeptical note but just to underline what tom said, several years ago i went back and tried to count the number of piece plans, you know? even before huntley/brinkley back from john cameron swayze days as the anchor of nbc news. there is the other neutralists. outside of a couple of breakthroughs, sadat and decision to sign a peace treaty probably the one -- to peace . my feeling is at some point, i almost think an american secretary of state or even a president should say, look. you have my number. 456- 1414 . if you got a serious plan, i'd like to help but i'm not going to put the united states once again in the middle of a deal where two folks think that god gave them the same piece of land.
>> that is what is so fascinating.
>> alex , we have a debate inside our country where george w. bush was going in in 2001 , if they want peace , give me a call. i'll do whatever it takes. dr. brzezinski saying the past year there will be no peace unless the united states gets in the middle of it, grabs both sides and forces them to the table.
>> but you look at the polling on it. two-thirds of the country thinks that peace process should be left to the guys involved in it which is israel and palestine. i think it's also worth noting, joe , this is the tenth anniversary of us deciding to go to war in iraq . it can't be underestimated. he does not want to get involved in another situation in the middle east that doesn't have clear end points and broad national support.
>> joining us now live from jerusalem, nbc news host of "the daily rundown" chuck todd . chuck, what are you tell us?
>> i want to try to do this in a way that will not drive joe crazy because of the satellite delay and talk over everybody. but just to pick up --
>> wait, wait, wait, chuck, hold on.
>> we love this when we have the satellite delay.
>> hey, joe !
>> how are you doing?
>> how are you?
>> i did such a good job tossing!
>> i thought mika did great there!
>> she did.
>> we get somebody overseas and i'll introduce them and they will stop and say, hey joe , how are you doing? i'll go up and get some coffee and come back and stir my drink and say, i'm fine. chuck, you do your job and you do it as well. take it away.
>> to pick up on alex 's point. yesterday in ramallah, palestinians were protesting the president's visiting that is taking place there in the west bank . this is the friendlier territory of the palestinians . this is abbas. this is not hamas, okay? he is getting protested there, the president is, and iraq was the reason among the things that they were yelling about was the iraq war . and protest the iraq war and they had president obama dressed in israel defense, fighter's uniform, idf uniform and looking like he was a member of the israel military . then you come on the israel side and he realize that 40% of those surveyed in the public opinion believe president obama is hostile. you have a situation the president is coming here right now, when it comes to the peace plan , and neither side seems to have trust in him in some form or another. that really is what the president is trying to fix by coming over here, which is sort of lowest common denominator stuff. improve his relationship with people on the ground because if that gets better, he can push things. bill clinton was enormously popular here and some palestinians and why he got so close.
>> we will be following this as it develops. chuck todd , thank you very much.
>>> we are going to turn now to syria where both government and rebels are accusing each other of using chemical weapons . comes after deadly attacks where a news state agency reported 25 people were killed yesterday. an american official said they are looking into the allegations and white house president secretary jay carney issued a warn to the assad regime.
>> we have no evidence to substantiate the charge that the opposition has used chemical weapons . we are deem skeptical of a regime that has lost all credibility and we would also warn the regime against making these kind of charges as any kind of pretext or cover for its use of chemical weapons .
>> tom, obviously, alex brought it up. we just basically remembered the ten-year anniversary of a disastrous war in iraq and, yet, we see now in syria , 70,000 now killed. you've got democrats like dianne feinstein on the intel committee and mike rogers in the house on the intel committee talking about chemical weapons and other talking about red lines being crossed. are we moving towards a military intervention ?
>> i was watching earlier this morning and i saw senator graham saying we may have to commit american troops there. i hope that is not going to become the case. i think if this is an opportunity, obviously, for some kind of an ally effort and, by the way, why do we have the united nations if they can't act in the face of something like this? this is a great opportunity, it seems to me for the president and the president of russia , putin, to get together and say it's not an interest of either country for us to have this go on and not just the use of chemical weapons , but the spreading war fare and the utter chaos in the middle east , complete unsettling of that entire region in which borders don't mean anything any more. it's not about shiite and sunni and hezbollah. i think the real urgent issue i think they have to move forward because we are witness to a great tragedy in that part of the world.
>> but, alex , it always turns back to the united states . afghanistan, after 9/11. iraq when, you know, a lot of our allies, other than french, the french were saying, got weapons of mass destruction we have to do about it now in syria . do we continue to exist in the middle of an international order where nothing is done unless it's kids from kansas and california and upstate new york and florida that do the fighting?
>> yeah. i think this is one of those moments where, i think, you can almost sense the internal conflict in the white house giving the agagenocide. i don't know how the president will commit any troops given the state of affair of our troops when they return home, 600,000 veterans are stale waiting for their claims to send more boys and women, men and women over there. it would not seem to be any actual support for that. at the same time, how do you reconcile that with the blood shed? 70,000 people are dead.
>> jeff ?
>> a few months ago, tony blair was speaking to it a group. i asked him yesterday q&a about iraq and the danger you think you know what is going to happen. you have outside view of what you can gop you're in a region a hundred years ago more or less winston churchill and few countries drew countries that didn't exist. he still has, i think, some feeling about what happened in iraq and his role. he said, that's right. if you stay out and do nothing, you have rwanda . everything that happens, everything that you look at with regret yields to another conclusion that may be the wrong one. munich told us to go into vietnam and that was a disaster and vietnam told us to stay out of places like rwanda and that didn't work out. rwanda may be telling us to go into syria where we could produce another disaster. i don't know what lessons there are here. god knows i'm no expert in that region. but when you watch -- when you watch great powers, the single overriding mistake they make is to think they know more than they know.
>> another big story this morning. the nation's debate on gun reform where president obama 's initiative to reduce violence in america has been severely weakened. democratic majority leader harry reid announced the most controversial and ambitious part of the president's proposal a ban on assault weapons will not make the final cut when he brings the bill up for a debate.
>> but, right now, her amendment using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes. that's not 60. i have to get something on the floor so we can have votes on that issue and the other issues i talked about and what i'm going try to do. i'm not going to put something on the floor that won't succeed. i want something that will dianne feinstein , who sponsored the bill, was clearly irritated. the california democrat told reporters, quote, obviously, i'm disappointed. i tried my best, but my best i guess wasn't good enough. you'd think congress would listen, but they clearly listen to the national rifle association . the ban would have outlawed 160 semiautomatic weapons and limited the size of magazines to ten rounds. really? is it that hard?
>> yes it is that hard.
>> why is it that hard? because i was laughed at hysterically last hour when i talked about being in a roomful of 100 republicans. that image.
>> we can't believe you said that.
>> i asked this question, would it bother you if you couldn't have a bush master? anyone who disagrees with that we should get rid of at least those guns, it was unanimous. they are the ones voting for these people who are beholdent to the nra and clinging to the nra as if the nra holds the key to their political future.
>> apart from the nra , a lot of passion in the west and where these votes are coming from and from the south about the right to hang on to their guns because they believe and too many of them believe this, that it's not overwhelming majority, they need their guns to hold off their government. . they really believe, i'm here to tell it you, mika , they really believe, someday, the government will come to their door to take away at gun point their guns and put them under their control and they want to think back. it's a whacko belief.
>> we have drones now. i'm not coming to your door!
>> but the.
>> but what about universal background checks ? there was a moment here we thought we would get sensible reforms and now it may be almost nothing. it's an open amendment process. you may have this strengthening gun rights as opposed to safety at the end of the day .
>> there's a guy intimately involved in the middle of this and he still thinks perhaps optimistically that there is a chance they can get to the background check . what tom says, you know, is not only right, it's the nra . this may sound very strange to some people in this neighborhood. they are pressured by other gun groups that make the nra look moderate like the gun owners of america . what this negotiator said for a lot of these people background registration equals confiscation. he thinks, i'm skeptical about this, there is a chance that background checks are conceivable and he was predicting before this happened that the assault weapons ban was not going to happen.
>> i've been involved in this from the very beginning looking at gun control and what the prospects were on "nightly news" and the "today" show.
>> mike mccarthy is a congressman from napa valley . he called a town meetings in napa valley , of all places, in california , and had his head handed to him on the assault weapon ban. different when he got to san francisco . once you get out in the country, the whole gun and the right to possess them of any kind that you want is beyond our ability, very often, to understand. i've sat here before. i have a whole closet full of guns. i spend a lot of time in montana. i don't believe we should have assault weapons . i don't think there was any more persuasive argument for that than when stan mcchrystal was on this program and said they are only designed to kill people.
>> you asked the question of general mcchrystal and other generals and they say the same thing. bottom line is where they are right now. jeff , i think you're right. where they are right now, they are talking about universal background checks and talking about really tough gun trafficking laws.
>> the debate, right now, is do the universal background checks cover the friend-to-friend transfer?
>> and family to family.
>> and family to family transfer. and if they do not, if it just closes a gun show loophole and closes the online loophole, there is a chance that the nra gives members a free pass and doesn't score it, and they will then get hammered like you said by gun owners of america . i tell you what, if you are a republican and you're voting against something that 92% of americans support, lots of luck. if you are a democrat, one of these 12 democratic senators, and you're going to vote against universal background checks that don't ban -- don't require background screening for individual-to-individual, familiar-to-family purchases, lots of luck explaining that on the campaign trail. have fun. i hope you and wayne la pierre enjoy your time outside of public service .
>>> coming up on " morning joe ," two former governors, one republican and one democrat, are teaming up on immigration reform . haley barbour and ed rendell will join us straight ahead.
>>> up next former director of the congressional budget office is here with a market base plan for health care that is called the republican rebuttal to paul crudeman. douglas hotel-eakin