msnbc | September 22, 2009
>>> house majority leader is echoing republican demands that the top u.s. commander in afghanistan testified to congress immediately. rachel maddow , of course, host msnbc "the rachel maddow show" and join us now.
>> thanks for having me here.
>> let's talk about this whole conflict, a tap dance that we're seeing with the commanders. don't officially request the troops, even though it's been leaked all over town. they want the troops, they want more troops, they think that it is necessary to avoid mission failure, but the question then becomes, what is the mission? what is the strategy? and how does the president get out of this bind?
>> i think the thing that was surprising about general mcchrystal's, they could not do more if they had more resources. what was surprising was how damming he was about the afghan government. these strong terms he's using. if the mission is that afghanistan has a prestanding state for the u.s. commanders to have that sort of assessment of what we're standing on made it seem like the mission was almost undoable.
>> when the president said we have to have the strategy before we decide on the resources. last march there was a big speech and we all covered it and we talked to depth and that speech was for military and civilian reconstruction and stabilization in afghanistan . what was that about?
>> well, one very big thing happened which was the disastrous afghan election. i think your previous guest was right. i think that changes the calculus a little bit. we think about starting year nine of this war on october 7th and what for? what are the 68,000 americans doing there now. so that afghanistan can have a real government and a real central state . is that possible under any circumstances? nobody knows . can america give that to them? it doesn't feel like that. that election made it feel more than ever.
>> if the president defines the mission as, we've got to stop al qaeda from having a safe haven so that they can regroup and attack the united states , we've got to protect the homeland. that's hard to do without stabilizing the whole country. and if you pull back from that, how does he avoid, you know, incredible criticism from the john mccains and joe liebermans and, you know, neocons, republican and democrats, if this young president, you know, pulls back from a war that he has described as a necessary war.
>> i think strategically and politically the big picture is with him. we can have afghanistan say safe havens and al qaeda has safe haven now and pakistan. why wouldn't thiey have a safe haven in pakistan. the neoconservatives have been wrong about everything they thought about. to look at joe lieberman and john mccain on some issues and we're worried about getting criticism from you, criticism from them is almost a badge of honor in american politics . those guys have never seen a war they didn't want to escalate and never looked at a country they didn't want to start a war with.
>> the whole question of race, the president dealt with it, i thought, very effectively on letterman, he was black people before voted for him.
>> i believe that some of the right wing extremists, which oppose president obama , are also racially prejudice. and we prefer not to have an aphfrican- american president . but i don't believe all the people who oppose him on health care and all the conservatives are racist. and i believe if he were white, every single person who opposes him now would be opposing him then.
>> did clinton have the balance right, as far as you're concerned? what do you think?
>> i think talking about racism on one hand is very simple and on the other hand very hard. it motivates american politics and racial prejudice affects lots of our hearts, it is who we are. part of the human condition and american condition. on the other hand, when you're talking about individual people and whether it motivates certain people, unless people will admit overtly, it's hard to say that's what's motivating it. multi-facetted thing and i think the most important thing for us as a country is to decide whether calling something racism helps us get past it. i don't feel it is a lot of shame, mostly just anger and constructive to say stop calling each other racist and let's shut down racism when we see it and just demand the basic level of civility.
>> fascinating to see bill clinton , president obama is going to be opening the clinton global initiative later this afternoon and they have that lunch in the italian restaurant in grenwich village and hillary clinton denying all interviews because it is president obama 's week and i will not try to get into his spotlight there or his space. watching the clintons navigate all this this week is so interesting, especially after the primaries and the election of after a year ago.
>> the curse of the clintons is that everything they do is fascinating, no matter what they're talking about. we're all riveted and the american politics of this generation. everything they say is interesting. who wouldn't die to be a fly on the wall at that lunch between the president and the former president last week. so, everything they do is interesting. if hillary clinton would let me interview her and some day if i live to be 100, it will happen.
>> are you watching?
>> i promise it will be substantive and useful. i want to know how she enjoys being secretary of state and whether she feels she's accomplishing a lot of things that motivated her to seek higher office. we haven't heard a lot from her about what she thinks about that job and it would be fascinating to know.
>> from traveling with her, she is loving it and especially redefining it to expand it to the women and human rights issues that she focused in on beijing more than a year ago. rachel maddow , what do you have tonight?
>> tonight is a wildcard because right now we're still talking health care and starting their big markup, not only substantive legislative notion but both politically important and, honestly, quite fun to cover. another day of wild bust politics.
>> all right, a lot of log rolling in the senate.
>> that's right.
>> thank you. it's a treat. thanks for coming in.