Weekends with Alex Witt | February 24, 2013
>>> in today's strategy talk, five days till the sequester, and washington's still playing the blame game.
>> it appears that speaker boehner doesn't have any kind of bill that he can even put on the floor of the house that could pass within his caucus. and i think there is a little bit of a civil war that's broken out among the republican ranks.
>> well, the crisis is made up, it's been created. i didn't support the sequester because that's a stupid way to cut spending.
>> joining me now, retired admiral and former democratic congressman joe sestak and former republican congressman tom davis . thanks for joining me. it would appear to the casual observer no attempt has been made to come up with a reasonable compromise on the sequester. we've got both sides who would rather argue about who's at fault and point fingers. do beth democrats and republicans have incentive to not get a deal done?
>> well, they may think they have as far as their party is concerned, but it's the american people that are going to be suffering, alex. i mean, 700,000 jobs will be lost. around i do think we have to do spending reductions, but this is such an unwise way to do it. i think these individuals at both end of pennsylvania avenue , the leaders of the two parties, actually have to assume responsibility for getting us into this mess. they should be in washington, d.c. they should actually be doing some sort of constructive engagement to try to get us through this mess.
>> unless it's going to be a " rocky iv " days trying to get it done before friday. congress mapp davis, let's talk about the gop's incentive. if and when the sequester happens it will be a gradual process. any chance republicans want it to happen to temper people's fear of budget cuts? they'll see it's not so painful and then join the party line . is that potentially their ideology?
>> well, i think you have to remember they agreed to these budget cuts as a condition of lifting the debt ceiling. so they count this as already in the bank. this is not the best way to do it. i think everybody will tell you that. but i think their base wants to see real cuts. some of these other cuts have been seen illusory. and i think the nary stif that they do not think this will be as bad, at least at the onset, as everybody is saying with gloom and doom. but this is going to have to play out. as you can see, both parties are taking their time blaming the other par fi for where we are instead of trying to negotiate a better way to make these cuts stick.
>> but republicans said in the leadtown the fiscal cliff they refused to raise taxes. in the end, taxes went up. now they're refusing to raise them again. does this play out the same way? do they relent in the end? do taxes get raised?
>> well, the agreement here was that these weren't going to be increases in taxes. these were going to be cuts. that was the agreement when this came in. they couldn't specify what the cuts would be, which is why they put together the super committee, but i think from a republican perspective, as you look at the history of this, these were going to be cuts. they just couldn't agree with what specific cuts there would be. this would kick in if they couldn't agree to anything else. but really tax increases were not under consideration when this came up.
>> okay. i'd like to switch topics here and get to drones beginning with you, admiral -- admirable, as well. former white house press secretary robert gibbs was on with chris hayes earlier today. take a listen.
>> when i went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was you're not even to acknowledge the drone program. you're not even to discuss that it exists.
>> does it concern you that one of gibbs' first missives from the administration was deny something that everyone knew exist pd.
>> i honestly do believe that setting aside classified information where you cannot, that transparency in government cannot do anything but serve the public well. the drone program is another type of weapon, one that can loiter for 24 hours over country and then in a moment take out an adversary that wants to do us harm. if this has to be classified about the specific operational mission at the moment, that's fine. but for the public not to know how we go about our business in the aftermath i think is absolutely wrong. look, i can tell you the value of a drone. i once placed, when i had command of my carrier battle group in the indian ocean , a ship off yemen. and it had, a $1 billion warship drill holes in the ocean waiting to shoot a tomahawk missile once we knew where the adversary was. of course we couldn't get it that quickly, but then a drone was flown over and just a little while over he was able to, as we say, pick hole a weapon off. immense benefit to the government, but we have to be transparent about how we go about warfare.
>> but how much transparency do you think? where is that line?
>> well, i think that if you actually are going to be able to target eve an u.s. citizen that is meant to do us harm, which this administration has said i think rightly we have the right to do, then there should be in camera, right to congress, that has oversight for our military. they tear ones who declare war . they're the ones that raise moneys for our military and provide for rules and regulations of our millionth by the constitution, should be able to then see post facto and watch to make sure that we have not gone too far. that's happened before as you know. and so therefore that's when you can review the processes if it has to remain classified.
>> representative davis, and not implying here this is a major scandal at all, but the saying does go that the cover-up is always worse than the crime.
>> is there any sense that's what's going on here?
>> well, i don't think anybody foresaw the wide application of drone usage that the administration's undertaken. and i think you're going to have to have some transparency in terms of when are they going to be used, what are the protocols, some transparency on that, and of course after the fact. but i agree with joe. you know, when it's being utilized at the time, there's national security in not letting those kind of things happen. but it would be helpful to have some wide protocols and procedures that are transtransparent that everybody understands. these are widely used today.
>> and if i could, just for a moment, alex, you know, we do this now in our ability to listen in, that it goes to the court and we make sure we oversee this, to make sure we don't have -- what can happen in government is it then bends the rules too much. this is what we need, is the post facto look at this.
>> see, there aren't any rules now, and that's the problem.
>> that's i guess what we're getting to, what the rules will be.