msnbc | December 08, 2012
>>> in today's office politics , my conversation with "new york times" pulitzer prize winning columnist nicholas kristoff. some of the extraordinary things he's picked up on his travels around the world. i began by asking him about the crisis in syria .
>> let's talk a bit about syria . you were just there. you wrote about the difficulties of even getting into syria . the government certainly wouldn't let you in. but the free syrian army said okay, pass through this checkpoint.
>> this time i went to turkey and crossed over the border into rebel-controlled areas. and you pass through turkish immigration and walk through this sort of no man's land. and then the free syrian army folks who look at your passport. they say welcome. and that's about it. then you're in syria .
>> and what goes through your mind? you're in syria . that's not a place a lot of people want to be right now.
>> look, i spent a lot of my time pretty scared, frankly, reporting in the case of syria i was in an area that was rebel -- clearly rebel controlled. and so it wasn't as risky as it sounds. and people always look at me, my job and think oh, boy how dangerous. meanwhile, i always think of those photographers and camera crews who are out there. i mean when they hear gunfire their rule is to immediately rush toward the gunfire. and my basic rule of traveling in war zones you never accept a ride from a photographer because then when they hear the gunfire they head for it.
>> don't be going there. it was interesting because you wrote about a man who is a pro-western businessman who los his son to sniper fire. he dead despite his leanings being pro-western, he actually welcomes all of the rebels whoever they may be. you know what i'm implying there. because of western indifference. is that a pervasive feeling in syria ?
>> you know, i'm not sure they really spent enough time to be able to say what syrians think and there's certainly a huge range. but i do think that we kind of blew it, that we've been behind the curve all the way along for about a year and a half now. and that people feel to some degree betrayed that we haven't played a more supportive role and that the people who have been playing a supportive role are these fundamental islamists. and that has given those islamists more influence.
>> the argument being we don't know exactly the makeup of these rebels. and the possibility of weapons of mass destruction , chemical weapons getting into the hands of terrorists.
>> i think you're right that one of the reasons we haven't been more supportive of the rebels is real concerns about who they are and whether they're radical to some degree. but i'm afraid that our posture has simply amplified the strength of the radicals within the free syrian army . so our policy is helping create a situation that we're most nervous about.
>> if there was an easy answer we would have found it.
>> absolutely. there are a lot more problems in international relations than solutions.
>> a couple of things you have in this office. what is this mural as people would walk in here? what does that say?
>> that's caligraphy. freedom of the press. it's written by a journalist who was from china and was imprisoned for his journalism. and it's somebody i admire greatly. he's now in exile.
>> yes. this is hanging over the door as you get in. it is the holiday season , nick. any chances this chinese mistletoe?
>> it's from a shrine in japan where my wife and i lived for years. and the shrine was started when they found the head of a samurai warrior 500 years ago. and it's called the head shrine. it's supposed to make you smarter. that amulet is supposed to make you smarter. i figure i need all the help i can get.
>> maybe i'll be walking out and back in a few times.
>> i did walk a few times back and forth there. tomorrow at this time, nick tells me about the inspirational group of israeli rabbis protecting palestinian farm lands. we'll talk about one experience he will never forget.
>> $850 for one and 203 u.s. dollars for the other.
>> you are not going to believe what those receipts bought him. that's tomorrow at 12:30 eastern.