The Rachel Maddow Show | December 04, 2012
>> thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. it was a strange bomb shell in washington today. a little bit of news that came from an unexpected source. bob woodward got his hands on an audio recording of the top commanding general in afghanistan meeting off the record with a fox news analyst. the meeting took place last spring. it was general david petraeus who was at the time commander of all u.s. forces in the war in afghanistan . and on the tape, fox news analyst says that she was asked by her boss, by the chairman of fox news to pass along some very specific advice for general petraeus .
>> if you're offered chairman, take it. if you're offered anything else, don't take it. resign in six months and run for president. okay? and i know you're not running for president, but at some point when you go to new york next, you may want to just chat with roger. i just say what i have suggested and that we've discussed is next time you go to new york you're going to stop by and see him?
>> yeah. i'd be happy. i haven't seen him in awhile. he's a brilliant guy.
>> he's simply brilliant.
>> he is. tell him if i ever ran, but i won't. but if i ever ran, i'd take him up on his offer. e he said he would quit fox. and bankroll it.
>> . bankroll it. or maybe i'm confusing that with rupert.
>> i know roger he's done okay. but no, i think the one who's bankrolling it is the big boss .
>> okay. the big boss is bankrolling it it. roger's going to run it. and the rest of us are going to be your in-house.
>> never going to happen.
>> my wife would divorce me. and i love my wife.
>> tell her it's a beautiful house .
>> we have a beautiful house .
>> i know. that's the happiest marriage.
>> keep your mitts off my dressing room .
>> my husband and i have had a very long and happy relationship because we have completely separate bathrooms.
>> that's the ticket.
>> that is how the tape ends. that recording was made april 16th of last year. a week and a half later rkts the president announced he was nominating general petraeus to head the cia . right before the president announced him as his choice, the chairman of fox news was urging the general not to take the job, not to take any job short of being the joint chiefs . s saying he should run for president instead. as a republican against president obama in this past electi election. and it's all on tape. this is se lashs almost to the point. we're talking about general petraeus . long-time republican, possible contender, the man who just resigned from running the cia in a sex scandal we still don't understand. here he is on tape talking about how he will have the fox news chairman run his campaign and the owner of fox news will bankroll his campaign and he raises the issue of his wife. there's a certain level of interest in this new tape because of who is on it. beyond that, there's the media factor. here's the fox news channel trying to recruit a presidential candidate for the republican party . the fox news chairman telling bob woodward once he was reporting on this, "i thought the republican field in the primaries needed to be shaken up and petraeus might be a good candidate." he said that on the record. after being caught doing it on tape. which means the fox news channel seriously is not like anything nels news. they officially are just a media arm of the republican party . they are a political operation serving the needs of the republican party . that's okay, but we should stop thinking of them as something other than that. it's okay to be that, but that's how they should be seen. there's nobody else in the news who is like that. and the fact we have this recording in the first place is a fascinating mystery. who leaked to bob woodward the recording of this conversation between the top commander in afghanistan a week before he was named head of the cia and a fox news correspondent. not many people in the room, so how did this recording end up in the hands of "the washington post " and why? is somebody out to get roger ails at fox news? somebody out to dance on the grave of general petraeus 's career? and why did "the washington post " run this in the style section. this is a lot of things. stylish is hard to see as one of them. for all of these reasons, this audio recording is rather salacious news. but buried under that, there's something newsworthy here. not just because the whole thing is juicy and weird and about a sex scandal and in about a weird part of the media and weird part of the republican party . if you listen to the rest of the tape, what you get to it is general petraeus turning down this kind offer from the fox news chairman to run for president and have fox news support him all the way. but in the way he politely turned down roger's advice, general petraeus said something that i think might be very important about how the u.s. government works now. and why a man such as himself might want a particular job in washington at a time like this. listen to this part of the tape. this is where general petraeus makes his argument for why in particular running the cia would be a really good job to get.
>> an awful lot of what we do in the future, believe it or not in libya right now, perhaps, is with that organization can do. we're going to be retrenching militarily. again, you're going to take big budget cuts and that's going to be all about -- it's going to be the post -- sort of the early 1990s kind of stuff.
>> it will be the "peace dividend."
>> the other folks on the other hand will be in a growth industry in our intelligence community . going to have to be.
>> general petraeus telling fox news in this meeting he would be happy not just being named chairman of the joint chiefs , but with the cia director job because they are the same sized jobs or at least they are going to be. arguing that the future of national security in the united states is probably not with the military it's like with the cia . the intelligence community , that's the growth industry. military will be playing a smaller role. cia will be playing a larger role. so you ought to head the cia . that's the new order of things in washington . it's not necessarily the way things are supposed to be. tim weiner, who wrote the history of the cia , gets at that fact in this week writing "before 9/11 the cia 's service never assassinated anybody itself. since then drone air strikes against suspected foreign terrorists have killed some 2,500 people including civilians without public discussion in congress. intelligence is the hardwork of trying to know your enemy . it's not the dirty business of political murder ." what the cia has been through is a big change. it's not one we debated much as a country. this meeting between fox news and the man they were trying to line up to become the republican nominee shows us the dedegree to which this is the common understanding of insiders in washington . while those who are supposed to be daenting what our posture is and how things get done, have been left out of the discussion. all but for the style section leaking this tape as if the most important thing is general petraeus revealing the exist tense of his and her's separate bathrooms. we never had a debate about whether the cia should start acting more like the military. the cia started acting more like the military. if there was a time to have that debate, it might be about to happen within the next couple weeks. hillary clinton is going to soon be stepping down from secretary of state. leon panetta does not plan to stay on for president obama . although there's fuzziness around that. and the nation needs a cia director post- david petraeus . now president obama may announce his pick for defense secretary within the next couple weeks and he may make it in a high-powered package announcement along with his choice for secretary of state. so all these jobs coming up, state, defense, cia , all will need to be confirmed by the senate and will be announced maybe at once and before christmas. maybe this is the time to have the debate about the way our national security is run. the debate we did not necessarily have before we started making big fundamental changes to that system that mostly just still get discussed behind closed doors . joining us now is senator claire mccaskill , chair of the support subcommittee. thank you for being here.
>> it's great to be here.
>> you and i have had a lot of interesting conversations over the years about national security . in part, because we have some differences of opinion on it. did i say anything that struck you as a misstatement of the facts?
>> it's important to point out that the enemy of today is a much different enemy than the enemy that our country worried about when we were very young, during my parent's generation and their parent's generation. this is an enemy that's all over the world. they have the ability to strike at us as we saw on 9/11. so the necessity that our government be able to have eyes and ears everywhere, learning where terrorists are. having said that, we have to marry that with our constitutional principles. and make sure that we stay true to our constitutional principles. and therein lies the challenge. how do we deal with an enemy that doesn't necessarily represent a country. it represents a philosophy. how do we deal with a group of people that are spread around the world with the technology of today, with the ability to strike it at any moment in a way that has fundamentally hurt our country. that's the debate that you're referencing, and i think it's healthy for us to have that debate.
>> i feel like the eyes and ears part of it, everybody is on board with. the eyes and ears, the idea of an intelligence agency and why they have the kinds of power they do and where they disavow what they do, because they are supposed to be finding out things in the world. that's why after 9/11, for example, it was the cia who had unarmed drones. the cia was out collecting information about forces in the world that might want to do us harm. i'm all for that. the thing that i felt like just started happening that we didn't debate was the cia being used essentially as a branch of the military. the cia being used for not just looking, but for killing.
>> i really think that why i can't go into some details here, the decisions to use drones to take out our enemies still rests primarily with our military. in fact, in missouri, there's actually one day i was there and they were saying there's some guys going to fly a mission. and it was guys going into these things that look like temporary buildings and they were flying drones in the whole effort to help along with the turkish government and some of the efforts we were making then as it related to the conflicts in the middle east . so there's primarily, i think, and i think there is cooperation, but also keep in mind, some of these drone strikes were effective and did without harm to civilians. sometimes with traditional warfare, it's more dangerous to innocence in the area than highly-sophisticated drone strikes. so while we have to have the debate about drones and who is je using them, we have to stay true to our principle. we also need to know we have bad guys that want to bring harm to our country. they aren't all in uniform and they are not all on a military base somewhere.
>> with the defense authorization bill getting a 98-0 vote. but looking at some of the amendments there, the passage to urge the president to speed up the withdrawal of troops from afghanistan before his end date in 2014 . a vote on a controversial amendment concerning changes to detention. i feel like some of the partisan divisi divisions that we expect and that we remember from the george w. bush era, i feel like some of those partisan divisions are getting blurred and you can't predict a person's divisions based on the party?
>> i think that's true. it's less prominent in this space than some of the other spaces. obviously, the vote we had today on the disability treaty was painful for many of us. that was a right wing versus all of the democrats in the senate. there are a lot of things in the bill. we have talked about this before. i'm very proud of the sweeping contract reforms we got included. i hope your listeners who know the kind of money we have wasted on abusive contracts in the war space that they stay on the members of congress to make sure it stays in the bill. it's not in the house version. it's going to be a conferenceable item. all the reforms, they could really make a difference going forward that we're holding contractors accountable to a standard that americans would feel better about.
>> as we have finished the war in iraq and as the end game in afghanistan is starting to become more clear, do you feel like this is the time when we establish new norms for things like contracting, for things like oversight, and for things like what gets debated and what doesn't? i mean, national security challenges are always going to evolve. we'll have something on the horizon. is there a sort of template of lessons that we ought to have learned from the 12 years of war now moving forward that we should get in place now?
>> we need to be very careful and thoughtful about the cuts to our military. we have to maintain readiness. anybody who says we can't cut anything out of the pentagon has not spent the time i have in the pentagon. there's been a lot of money wasted through very wasteful practices, particularly in the space of contracting. if we don't get this fixed now, we'll be right back repeating the same mistakes the next time that we find ourselves putting men and women's lives at risk on behalf of our nation.
>> you feel like the discussions that are happening right now around the defense bill and some of the things you have worked on, you feel like it's potentially ground to move forward?
>> i do. and the main thing is to not go on to the next shiny object. we need to stay in this space, make sure we debate the issues fully, set policy clearly and then hold them accountable. hold their feet to the fire and make sure we don't go back to bad habits and some of decisions, people understand what the ground rules are.
>> it's times like this you have to be focused on having the best debate.
>> that's exactly right.
>> congratulations on your win.
>> thank you very much.