The Cycle | January 08, 2013
>> all right. so maybe none of them are made men like that but the next guest says president obama 's building when's referred to as his senate mafia. bringing his men to recalls in to the inner circle . just yesterday, he nominated former senator chuck hagel to head the pentagon. hagel is the very man that suggested another president's mentors joe biden for vice president back in 2008 and nominated john kerry for secretary of state. think lincoln's team of rivals with a twist.
>> you'll begin your second term a semi divine stature. imagine the possibilities peace will bring. why tarnish with a battle in the house? it's a rat's nest in there. talented hicks and hack that is rejected the amendment ten months ago will lose.
>> i like our chances now.
>> president's not quite starting the second term with economy divine status and battles ahead so how could the appointments shape white house policy? today is michael hirsh .
>> michael , so it's not exactly team of rivals i guess with chuck hagel defense secretary and obama and hagel never really rivals. hagel is one of the allies from the other side, sort of from the beginning and wanted to ask you about the roots of the relationship. we see reporting to refer back to the 2008 trip in the campaign that they took to the middle east . i know you mentioned it in your piece a bit. can you tell us a little bit about what that trip was about, what sort of happened during it and how it sort of shaped that relationship?
>> well, hagel like kerry and like biden was very much a mentor to obama . who was still, remember, a freshman senator. this is a guy who effectively began running for president after he'd been senator for less than two years. and these -- this team are incredibly well grounded in foreign policy . i think it was a lot of advice on how to handle the middle east from hagel and biden and kerry who are more or less in agreement going back a couple of decades on some of these issues. as you allude to in the beginning on a trip obama made with hagel to afghanistan , he actually -- that is hagel advised obama to pick joe biden as his running mate saying that a biden -- you know, just great on policy and politics and can handle congress. so i think you have the sense that this is a kind of a very close group that obama has relied on for a long time and even though he will have been president for four years, he's going to continue to rely on and, you know, anything that sounds like an obama doctrine in the second term is a hagel , kerry , biden doctrine.
>> michael , continuing the mafia movie theme we have going in this block, i think of "godfather 3," just when i thought i was out i get pulled back in. we're pulled in vietnam . that was the boogieman for decades. they didn't have the vietnam sort of memories hanging over its shoulder and invading the psyche and challenging the thought process and now when we have kerry and hagel , two guys who vietnam is part of the fabric, it seems that vietnam reintroduced back in to is psyche of the democrats. now how does this change the decision making process and just the psyche having the two vietnam guys at the top there?
>> well, it's a fascinating insight, actually, because when i did a piece sometime ago on obama 's fondness for covert war and stepped up drone warfare really phenomenally, one of his close aides said to me, you know, the difference with this president is he was born too late for vietnam , not burdened with that baggage. so strikingly, what does he do? beginning of the second term picks not just one but two guys who are haunted by vietnam , by their own admission. they have talked about how the trauma of vietnam shaped their world view , in particular their restraint on the use of force which i think both men are more or less in alignment on. interestingly obama himself with traditional use of force , that is sending armies abroad, a large scale use of force is conservative and why he went in to libya putting nato first so i think you see both an interesting alignment of views there and also potentially some tension because i think, frankly, kerry and hagel are going to be much more restrained in the advice of use of force than others on the obama team and from obama himself.
>> well, michael , we should keep in mind although obama is likely to wind up with kerry , probably the first choice is susan rice for that position and likely if they're all confirmed he's going to end up with the senate mafia as you put it but how different would the foreign policy and how different would the team looked if it's susan rice in that position instead of john kerry ?
>> i think it could have been different along the lines of what we were talking about. i think susan rice was much more agresive about u.s. intervention. she had her own personal trauma in the past and her failure while she was on the national security council to intervene in rwanda genocide . i think it was one of the thing that is made her the leading voice in pushing the president to intervene in libya and i think the debate of sib yeah is going on and she is an aggressive voice on that, as well. while it's true that obama did not get the first choice in susan rice , on the whole, i think his views about a very scaled down u.s. presence around the world are in alignment with kerry and hagel 's and of course we saw joe biden , you know, in the middle of the debate, as well. he was arguing for a minimal rather than a larger presence in afghanistan .
>> michael , you mentioned syria and with hagel everyone's eyes are on israel and iran and talk about that. going forward, what do you make of this particular team? what can you read in to the tea leaves about how this administration will deal with syria and wondering what you think about how they'll deal with al qaeda elsewhere? yemen is still a problem. al qaeda 's essentially a pop-up country in northern malawi. what can you read about these guys in the next year or two object those issues?
>> right. well, look. what unites i think the world views of kerry and hague sell both of them are warriors. both of them decorated vietnam veterans but they know in a gut level way that you don't get in unless you have to because it's awfully hard to get out. once in, like in afghanistan , for example, you know, they're the ones to want to prosecute the wars and seeing on syria is continued advice against a u.s. military involvement. the president's going to hear that from them if the president decides he wants to arm the rebels or do something more, then you can hear people like kerry and hagel and probably biden , as well, saying, okay, if you do it, do it right. make sure the weaponry is sufficient. so i think it's going to be council of extreme caution but if the president decides he needs to intervene in any area, you know, the sort of warrior instincts kick in.
>> all right. thank you.
>>> up next, learning from the past. author reminds us of the value of tradition. day maggie smith would be proud.
>> the groom never sees the bride the night before the weding.
>> nothing ever alters for you people. evolutions erupt and the groom cannot see the bride before the wedding.
>> you americans never understand the importance of tradition. [ coughs