The Last Word | May 01, 2012
>> the breaking news at this hour is that president obama is on his way back to the united states after his address to the nation from bagram airfield in afghanistan on the one-year anniversary of s.e.a.l. team six's successful mission to get osama bin laden . tonight the commandener chief hailed the united states military 's accomplishments in afghanistan .
>> we broke the taliban 's momentum. we built strong afghan security forces . we devastated al qaeda 's leadership taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. and one year ago, from a base here in afghanistan , our troops launched the operation that killed osama bin laden . the bold goel that i set to defeat al qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild is now within our reach.
>> the president then described the path forward for the united states after its combat troops withdraw from afghanistan by the end of 2014 .
>> emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home. it's time to renew america . an america where our children live free from fear and have the skills to claim their dreams. a united america . of grit and resilience. whe sun light glistens off towers from manhattan and we rebuild as as one people, one nation. the war began here in afghanistan and this is where it will end.
>> president obama 's remarks follow a surprise flight to afghanistan under the cover of darkness to meet with u.s. troops and sign the strategic partnership agreement between the united states and afghanistan . that agreement outlines the role the u.s. will play in afghanistan and the decade after 2014 when the draw down of u.s. forces is complete. mitt romney has said that u.s. should bring home troops from afghanistan , quote, as soon as our generals think it's okay. end quote. he has also criticized president obama for publicly announcing the administration's withdraw, a plan saying that would innocent advise the taliban it wait out the withdraw. as of today the war in afghanistan left 1,948 u.s. troops dead and 15,786 wounded. joining me now democratic strategist and msnbc crystal ball and aol editorial director and msnbc political analyst howard fineman . thank you both for joining me. crystal, our assessment of the president's speech.
>> i think he did a very good job. he does what he does best which is balancing the pragmatic and laying down five very concrete steps as to how we will end this conflict and tie it into american values and make it idealistic adds well. what came to mind for me with some of his rhetoric was ronald reagan and and he said here in the predawn darkness of afghanistan we can see a light of the new day on horizon. it is exactly that hopeful rhetoric that made us fall in love with this president in the first place.
>> howard fineman , is hopeful rhetoric and an outline of where we go in the withdraw whab america was ready to here tonight?
>> oh, i think americans want it hear how we will get out of there, how we will stop risking american and losing american lives and pressure there, while not allowing al qaeda to reestablish itself. i thought the president was very shrewd in laying out a game plan now so he doesn't have to argue about it later in the midst of the presidential campaign . i think this was both a diplomatic speech and political speech. designed to sort of take this off the table, lay out exactly what his plan is, hence forth throughout the campaign and indeed in the years ahead. politically, this was a -- this was a campaign speech. but interestingly mitt romney didn't complain. just a few minutes ago lawrence, mitt romney 's campaign put out a very carefully worded statement, congratulate egg and thanking the president for going to afghanistan to talk to the troops to meet with the troops. even though this has been soared sf osama bin laden week politically for the obama white house , mitt romney didn't complain today, which is a sign of how much the -- of the upper hand the president has as commander-in-chief right now politically.
>> it also seemed like a smart reaction under the circumstances.
>> let this president have the night and fight another day.
>> if you look at the polling the president has 17 point advantage over romney in terms of who americans trust to handle our foreign is policy. i think it is touf go tough to go against an incumbent. he has been there, traveled america and faced abroad. but having been a governor and not senator his foreign tolecy experience is managing the olympics and having swiss bank accounts . it is a tough battle for him to win. one thing we have been talking about is this election will be fought on the terrain of the economy. that will be the big issue this year. but i don't think we should underestimate how important the foreign policy narrative is as well. the president won't be able to win this election based on foreign policy success. but he sure as heck could lose it if he did not have a success successful foreign policy because you know that's an area the republicans would love to go after him for. and he has just been so unasailable that he is completely undermined their argument.
>> now, the president knows that mitt romney said that timetables should be whatever the generals say the timetables should be which is an echo of john mccain over the years on these things. let's listen to how the president anticipated that in his speech tonight and see how he chose this withdraw timetable.
>> as we move forward, some people will ask, why we need a firm time line . the answer is clear. our goal is not to build a country in america 's image or to eradicate every vestige of the taliban . these objectives would require many more years. many more dollars. most importantly, many more american lives. others will ask, why don't we leave immediately. that answer is also clear. we must give afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. otherwise our gains could be lost. and al qaeda could establish itself once more. and as commander-in-chief, i refuse to let that happen.
>> howard, as far ases stab lishing a country as he put it in america 's image, i think the american people know that's impossible in afghanistan .
>> i thut this was in terms of diplomacy again, i thought this was very well and carefully calibra calibrated. he set up the too hot and too cold porage. i think most of the american people who study this will agree. he got positive words from john mccain as well as mitt romney and i think most democrats who want the united states out of there mill tearily are going to look to the military timetable satisfaction and i think the president played it just right. he is just jamming it down the republican's throat. tomorrow night there will be an hour-long documentary on nbc and talk about how he ran "the situation room." it is from bill clinton last weekend, through the ads, through the speeches. the president is putting this part of the portfolio away and will return to the economy after this.
>> let's listen to how he brought this story in afghanistan back to domestic politics talking about the troops and bringing the troops home.
>> in an age when so many institutions have come up short, these americans stood tall. we must give our veterans and military families the support they deserve and opportunities they have earned. and we must redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.
>> turn the page of that afghanistan story into a domestic politics.
>> and the two are connected. i mean, we have been limited of what we do at home because of money and focus we spent abroad. it is not a stretch at all it make that connection. i think it is an argument that resonates with the american people too. people say we have a lot of nation build weg need to do at home and the president is really affirming that. two thirds of americans are ready for us to be done with this conflict in afghanistan . so again, mitt romney and the republicans, it would be very hard for them to find a way it attack the president on this front. and that's his -- that's unique for democrats to have the upper hand in foreign policy in this way. really in the last, you know, 25 years at least, republicans have been the strong ones. they have been the ones that the populous trusted on foreign policy and national security . it is quite remarkable that this president's policy has been so good and so nuanced an so successful that he has unasailably taken the upper hand on this.
>> howard fineman and krystal ball, thank you for joining me to knit.
>> thank you lawrence.
>>> coming up, it's not just one year since killing osama bin laden , one year ago mission accompliced. and republicans are now repretending they never used the politics of war against democrats.
>>> in to knit's rewrite, historian newt gingrich tries to rewrite the gingrich for president campaign. we have the real history of that campaign on video.
>>> and the king of " 30 rock " is here tonight. eemy golden globe winner, alec baldwin is here to talk about who he thinks will be the win are of the 2012 presidential campaign and anything else mr. baldwin wants to talk about. because i am not about to try to tell alec baldwin what to say. it is alec baldwin 's world, we are just lucky to live in it. i don't know when he will be on show. he could arrive early or late. he could be the next guest or the last guest. co-sit there where krystal is sitting or here. it is alec baldwin we are talking about. i have no idea. this is not the night, this is not the night to change channels. do not surf tonight. alec baldwin is officially in the building. i just got the word. he could be the next face you see on the screen. it could be in one of the commercials he does or he could be just taking over the show tp. stay with us. . stay with us.