msnbc | August 29, 2012
>> that was a stirring performance by john mccain . who at least has the credentials of having been born the son of a naval warrior and is the father of several warriors. he's endorsing the presidency and the position as commander in chief for someone with no family background future, past, or present in the military. the frightening aspect of what we heard is a former presidential candidate encouraging us to take a military leadership position in the overthrow of the gadhafi leadership, continued military presence in afghanistan and also in iraq, a military action against iran , a military action against the government of syria . this candidate, if this man speaks for him, would have us on a war footing , in fact, involved military on the offensive in five different islamic countries . he thinks that should be sound u.s. policy. that's a frightening concept and it picks up on what we were talking about a few moments ago about the sig nns of putting dan senor in head of the campaign, perhaps bringing back john bolton . all of the hawks from iraq are coming back, festering for a chance to get us into iran , and if you believe john mccain and the agenda of countries who want to begin military action , beginning with a backward look at libya, a forward look at iran , that was a frightening, frightening speech.
>> there was no mention of someone who used to be a focus on u.s. international thinking, osama bin laden , not brought up in this, which is the first really national security speech of the convention, and it might be the only national security speech of the convention. by putting forth a ticket that doesn't have any foreign policy experience and isn't associated with any real foreign policy line of thinking, neither of them have any record on the subject at all, having john mccain there tonight is important, not just for john mccain and his biography, but because that is the republican foreign policy ticket. and unless you have someone who is going to displace the guys in washington who live there permanently who think this way, those are the guys you bring back from the bush administration and their thinking on international-affairs.
>> there's nothing more frightening than the neocons surrounded by a president with no experience in foreign policy or national experience to push back from. the thought of another george w. or dan quayle under the influence of bill kristol , and have people like john bolton coming back to advise someone who has no experience and advise them always in a militaristic action, never relying on the kind of things we relied on, that shot that mccain took was really a shot against international sanctions . to be effective, they require participation by the major economic powers. to say we can't go that route is to say we must go the military route. he seems to be saying forget about the sanctions bah we can't get the russians to go along with us. this is dangerous talk. i hate to hear it from mccain . i respect his service for the country. i certainly respect the way he ran for presidency where he refused to play on the fact that obama may be a muslim. he pushed back on that. i give him full credit for that honesty and courage, but here he was giving a real bell ringer for war. and i think that was the last thing, even anyone in the room, was happy to hear.
>> steesk, as someone who was so intimately involved with the campaign, the point chris made about strategy and the campaign, that mccain himself personally didn't want to go there in that racially inflected stuff, is that something he continued to advocate for in the party? here he's making a pure national security speech, not talking tactics, not talking politics, a couple shots at the president, but it's mostly why aren't we invading syria . does he have a political strategy role that people pay attention to?
>> when you're a defeating presidential candidate and you stay in the united states senate , his political future is much more in line with what happened to ted kennedy , for instance, after he lost the race in 1980 . he's not a political player in the sense that he has control over strategy. his involvement, and you just heard it, is directing a republican foreign policy critique of the administration, and to chris ' point, broadly speaking, i do think that there's a fundamental disconnect between the republican foreign policy establishment and even republican voters on these questions. this is a war weary nation. you can talk about our strategy in afghanistan . you can talk about we must say there until peace is at hand or victory is won, but the reality is we're going to leave afghanistan . we will leave afghanistan , nothing will have changed in that country. it is a tribal, islamic society with forces rooting it in the seventh century. we have had dozens of american men murdered by afghan comrades of arms. there's no discernible strategy, and i think that when the american people think about syria , they think about iran , they think about libya, they understand that after a decade of war, that it's easy for the most powerful military in the world to enter these places, but not so easy to get out. and i think --
>> that's a mainstream republican perspective.
>> i do think in the years ahead, in the months ahead, there will be some fighting in the republican party between, you know, between the realist approach and the neocon approach.
>> don't you think this creates some kind of problem for the candidate? this opens up a whole can of worms. does mitt romney believe everything that john mccain just said? does he buy into that? this is at their convention. there's about 1,000 questions we need to ask mitt romney on each one of these countries individually. is he buying into international intervention as a strict policy of solution on everything that mccain is talking about? because we don't have any resources for that at this point. mccain is talking as if this just started last week. i think it's a problem for romney.
>> i just think this idea, let's take syria for a second. it's very hard for me to think that a poll of republicans. even the republicans in that hall, have an appetite for american military intervention in syria . and yet that is john mccain , i follow him on twitter, is more or less calling for that nonstop. and if you read the platform, i mean, the american exceptionalism exception, it's basically rachel's book in reverse. it's the opposite of everything in drift. it's basically the john mccain line on this.
>> the maximalist line.
>> totally unchanged, totally unlearned the lessons of the last ten years even though i think your average republican voter has in a lot of ways.
>> let me say this, i think it's very important. and i disagree clearly with senator mccain is saying in terms of syria or iran in terms of military intervention . i disagreed even with the democratic party and obama on afghanistan . i think we should have gotten out of there a lot faster, but i think it's very important to underscore that i do respect the fact that mccain refused to race bait. i give him and steve a lot of credit, as much as i vociferously got on you about george bush , i must commend you because they did not take the cheap out in '08. i think you have to give them credit, that you can disagree with them, which i do, but i have to respect what chris said, that they did not do that, and even did that probably to the detriment of some of their voters. i know he's the minority of the table today, and i favor minorities so i'm going to stand up and speak for that.
>> whenever you have a big chasm between what policymakers are talking about and what the public generally believes, that's a political opportunity. what you were just articulating, steve . about this skepticism about why we need to stay in afghanistan longer, why we're still there now, that's not a partisan -- that's not a partisan position. a lot of americans believe that left, right and center. our feelers about intervention and war right now are actually very nonpartisan things, and yet the republican party on policy is the party of dan senor and condoleezza rice and john mccain and maximalist intervention and that platform does read like it's september 15th , 2001 . and that's a real political opportunity for the democrats should they choose to take it. are democrats even wired in such a way that at their convention next week, they can go on offense on that subject? if they choose to, the opportunity is almost limitless. there's a huge gap between what most republican voters believe and what the party is offering them.
>> you can't deny the successes that the obama administration has had on executing the war on terrorism and protecting our country. we haven't been hit on his watch. we have protected the borders which is a big part of security. he's resourced the borders three times more than the bush administration did, and also the number of terrorists he's been able to take out. you may not agree with the drone atta attacks, but the result has been overwhelming compared to what we looked at the last eight years.
>> our cause in afghanistan was righteous and just. american service men and women have served valiantly in the last decade. under this president, al qaeda , as it was under president bush , has been decimated. the country has killed osama bin laden . the notion that we will stay in afghanistan and that afghanistan will join the community of nations as a tolerant, secular, democratic society is fantastical. it's a corrupt regime. afghans are murdering on a daily basis american men who are supposed to be their comrades in arms, our allies. and we're absolutely not having a discussion about this at any level in either party in this country. it's absolutely wrong.
>> chris matthews , let me give you the last word on this.
>> i agree completely with steve and the rest of you. for all of the saturday night live lampooning of the vice president, joe biden , he was so insightful, i thought so visionary when he said the smart policy a couple years ago was to go with a counterterrorism policy basically projecting our strength from outside the country, not in country, and not a counter insurgency policy which is to get in there and fight village to village and actually join the tribal war warfare, was so visionary, and the president as i'll point out and reverend al sharpton pointed out, he wasn't wise enough to pick up on what joe biden said. sometimes we confuse the whimsical nature of the vice president with his knowledge. here he was dead right, and the president was wrong. sometimes wisdom doesn't come from the usual places. the vice president was right here, counterterrorism was right. counter insurgency took us deeper and deeper into the same pit the soviets fell into and the british before them trying to rule and reform afghanistan and not a smart move.
>> outside of the foreign policy sort of hawk's nest in washington when other people, even people paid to talk for a living like us, talk about foreign policy , you can not by closing your eyes match the comment to the partisan affiliation. that's why we're ready for a really robust debate in this country on military intervention , size and use of the military and foreign policy . the democrats have that moment to seize next week