tv The Last Word MSNBC January 7, 2013 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
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works. something to do with the sudden altering of perspective or the today, washington conservatives found out their days of decides who is and who is not in the main stream are really, truly, finally over. >> chuck hagel is the leader that our troops deserve. >> hagel for defense chief. >> the real job for defense secretary coming up. >> this budget battle. >> is going to be budget cutting. >> the defense department will go through a major budget. >> the defense budget is really bloated. >> it needs to be taken down. >> why not have a republican make that argument? >> it could be a tough confirmation battle. >> the fight for chuck hagel now is in full throttle.
>> chuck hagel is out of the main stream. >> out of the main stream. >> republicans are spoiling for a fight. >> we have everybody fanning out their turkey feathers, strutting around the barn yard like they have something to say about it. >> hagel was a thorn when he turned against the iraq war. >> republicans don't consider him a republican. >> chuck hagel has left the republican party. >> he has long cut his ties with the republican party. >> when he endorsed president obama in 2008. >> democrats don't accept him as an alternative choice. >> hagel appears to be a man without a party. >> is chuck hagel the right choice for secretary of defense? it is certainly not the most easy one. >> the new conservative
dominance of policy thinking ended when barack obama was elected president. but today was the day that the obama administration made the single biggest play to define what comes next. today, he nominated chuck hagel, in doing, he nominated the first vietnam veteran. >> he understands that sending young americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that is something we only do when it is absolutely necessary. my frame of reference, he has said, is geared to the guy at the bottom who is doing the fighting and the dying. with chuck, our troops will always know just like sergeant hagel was there for his own
brother, secretary hagel will be there for you. and finally, chuck represents the bipartisan tradition that we need more of in washington. for his independence, and commitment to consensus, he has earned the respect of national security and military leaders, republicans and democrats, including me. >> hagel will be the third republican secretary of defense appointed by the last two democratic presidents. william cohen, and bob gates, re-appointed by president obama in 2009. and chuck hagel is a republican senator from nebraska. the republican committee is not jumping up and down celebrating. today, they released a statement about serious concerns that hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues. republican senator graham got
even more specific. >> chuck hagel, if confirmed to be secretary of defense would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards israel in our nation's history. he said you should negotiate with iran, sanctions won't work, that israel must negotiate with hamas, he has long cut his ties with the republican party. this is an in-your-face nomination by the president, to those of us that support. >> he means they have this to say about the conservative movement, america, the next chapter. chuck hagel writes, so why did we invade iraq? i believe it is the triumph, arrogance and incompetent that took america into this war of choice. chuck hagel, it should be said
did not begin his career as a foreign policy apostate, in 2002, he voted for the iraq war. he wanted to tear up the missile treaty we have with russia to build a missile defense shield, and put boots on the ground in kosovo, which was at the edge of the extreme hawkishness. like many in the country, though relatively few in the congress, hagel was changed about the iraq war, he became a cautious critic and ended as an angry opponent. he ended a changed man or at least a changed foreign policy thinker. it was not just the iraq war he began to question by the end. it was the republican party's entire turn towards the unilateral, the very idea that america had the idea to topple
the multiple dictators. this is what makes hagel so important, he is one of the few who is changed by iraq. he goes on to write "what the republican foreign policy establishment fears is that with hagel as secretary of defense it will become impossible for obama to minimize the dangers of war with iraq." hagel will be what colin powell was in the '90s, the military man who reminds the colleagues at war, once unleashed can't be easily controlled. once you start with war with iran, hagel warned, you better be prepared to find 100,000 troops because it may take that. it may not be limited war fare, i don't think any nation could go into it that way. i don't know if he will be a better secretary of defense, but
in choosing hagel, president obama chose a republican who the neo conservatives drove from the party. in choosing hagel, he chose the most prominent politician for whom the words "never forget" don't just apply to 9/11. the choice of hagel is a clear message that the neo conservatives have lost, the foreign policy consensus of the bush administration, they were able to cow a democratic party who was consistently afraid to be seen as weak on defense, that that consensus is over, and the obama administration plans to entrench a new consensus, one that has a very, very different view of the conditions under which america should go to war. joining me, executive director of the national security
network, and former pentagon official and current foreign policy magazine columnist, rosa brooks. it is good to have you here with us. michelle, who i believe you worked with at the pentagon, tell me why i have it wrong or at least why you worry that hagel wouldn't be the right pick for this position. >> i don't know i would say ezra that hagel is the wrong pick, i just don't think he is the best pick. i think there are others around there who would have many of the upsides that hagel has, without the down sides that hagel has. if mitt romney had won and chosen him, i would have applauded him as real courage. chuck hagel has a lot going for him. he is a brave guy, a principled guy. there is a lot to like about
him. he is also a republican, and the democratic party has worked really, really hard over past decades to erase the deficit, in which voters consistently said they trusted republicans more than democrats on national security. democrats have worked really hard to erase that gap, but picking chuck hagel seems to me to be sending a message i can't figure out president obama wants to send, i can't figure out why. and even a democratic president can't be sure that a democrat is going to do a good job leading our establishment. i don't get that particularly when there is so many terrific democrats with very similar kinds of deep foreign policy experience, principled leadership that chuck hagel offers. >> heather, you have been a bit more positive on the picks, what are your thoughts? >> well, like rosa, i would join her in being a michelle fan club, first, he will be the first enlisted man to lead the pentagon, and that will be a symbol of what is going to be a difficult time of transition,
what is it we're doing with the military, if we're not staging invasions of country, that is clearly very important to this president. and last, he has always just been you know, not in the pocket of the defense industry as frankly some of our intellectuals have in both parties. and all the good things you said in your intro, ezra, he has also spoken up on the diplomacy, for better or worse in our society it is still a lot easier to do that if you're a guy who has a medal of honor pinned to your chest. he will be a strong advocate for that. >> and rosa, you worked in the pentagon, one striking thing, there were two strong candidates, hagel was very much an outsider, not an -- not a high-up man of the pentagon. what do you see, versus somebody from outside who has maybe a
public profile, and a tighter relationship with the president. but maybe is not as aware of the nooks and crannies. >> well, they may be more apt to shake things up, they're not creatures of the bureaucracy. but the flip side, the pentagon is a vast and complex bureaucracy, it takes a long time to figure it out, what works, who holds the invisible stringings. and oftentimes it is people lower in the bureaucracy. and i think it is very hard for somebody coming in from the outside to know the buttons to push, get things through the bureaucracy. certainly, i was at the pentagon for two years, and by the time i left i felt like i was just beginning to understand it, myself. i think somebody like michelle or carter could have brought to this is much deeper experience,
understanding how that big bureaucracy works and doesn't work, and how to actually get things done. because one of the great tragedies of our system of government is that it is not enough to have fantastic ideas, it is not enough to have principles. if you can't make that sluggish bureaucracy work for you, they will have nothing. so the trade-off that the president made, betting on an outsider who may shake things up in a different way, but giving up the potential of having somebody who really knows how to make things work inside. and also giving up on having somebody who knows and cares about institutional health of the department, which is valuable when we get to cabinet picks. that it can make a real difference there when you have
somebody that cares about the institution and the employees, as opposed to caring just about the policies. that can make a difference on how the bureaucracy will pull for that person. >> above the institution, heather, is there a broader strategic direction in the administrative foreign policy that could be? >> yes, that the administration is not going to be bound in by some of the sort of efforts that the bush administration left behind it. that if the first time as they like to say was about cleaning up the messes behind, the second term was really about transformation away from the post-9/11 military, away from the post-9/11 strategic military above all else. opposing the challenges we faced could all be met with military force yet. and hagel, who is not a dove by
any stretch of the imagination, but a skeptic, somebody appropriate for that world and for a world where you know, the administration will maintain the kind of muscular presence we saw. >> thank you very much for being here tonight. thank you. coming up, the big job for the next defense secretary will be bringing in the budget. and why he now supports the hagel nomination. also, john brennan is the father of the drone policy in the u.s. why his nomination could actually be the most important announcement of the day. and later, i'll explain more about why the republican threats to breach the debt ceiling is very scary, it will be about life after default.
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confirmed? he will be dealing with this amazing fact about our national defense. since 2001, the base defense budget has nearly doubled. doubled from roughly $290 billion to $530 billion. and that is not including the cost of the wars in iraq and afghanistan. $530 billion without them. add those in and we're spending more than $700 billion on our military and wars. now the defense budget is about to be put on a big diet. the outgoing secretary, leon panetta, has already signed on cutting a trillion from the defense budget. and frankly, a lot of people think we should go even lower. my colleague has put together charts that show just how insane american defense spending has gotten, and what the next defense secretary may want to think very hard about when looking at the budget.
chart number one, and i love this one. the u.s. spends more than any other nation on defense, by far. but in our budget, in 2011, we spent a total of $718 billion on defense and international security, including $159 billion we spent that year on the wars in iraq and afghanistan. together, that is $718 billion, which is more than we spend on medicare. and by the way, the defense budget you see there doesn't even include veteran's benefits. add those in, we're spending more on defense and medicaid and medicare and children's health insurance combined. speaking of combining things, how much does the u.s. spend on defense relative to the rest of the word? this is -- i find this unbelievable. we spend more than the next 13 biggest spending nations combined. here is chart number two, china, russia, the uk, japan, indiana, south korea, australia, and canada together spent less than $700 billion in 2011. and just for the record, most of those countries are our staunch allies. a joint attack on the u.s. is not a likely thing. all told, the u.s. accounts for 5% of the world's population,
and 41% of its military spending. defense spending has spiked before. i mean, that 41% does get us at a high period. but in general, the spike during the periods you would expect. there was a big spike in the early '50s for the korean war, during the reagan years, and after 9/11, it climbed to unprecedented levels. and the wars in iraq and afghanistan were really high up there. so what is worth noting, all the previous defense spikes have been followed by big down-sizing trends, a 33 reduction after vietnam, 36% after the cold war. by comparison, the current reduction in defense spending is lower, 31%, assuming the defense actually takes effect. so the likely cut will be much
smaller than that. during the presidential campaign, mitt romney tried to turn the pentagon defense cuts into a political liability for president obama. but polls suggest bloated defense budgets have worn thin with the american voters. a survey down last spring offered voters three options to reduce the deficit. 27% supported raising revenue. 50% supported reducing domestic spending, and 62% preferred reducing defense spending. that is quite a bit. reducing the defense spending also was popular with voters of all partisan affiliations, 78% of democrats support it, so do 52% of independents and 49% of republicans. >> joining me now is former congressman from massachusetts, barney frank, welcome. you have a really interesting article, in it you say one of the big political changes in your lifetime is happening now.
and it is that politicians on the side of cutting defense spending are actually winning elections. and the american people are deciding the cuts. do you see hagel as part of this trend? >> i was, i was very critical about the remarks he said about the ambassador. now i hope he gets nominated because he is clearly being attacked from the right. from the let's spend more money in defense while we're cutting taxes faction. and i am very pleased the president is sticking with him. i got to pick one -- yeah, it is -- for being suspicious of -- skeptical, i shouldn't say suspicious, being skeptical of this notion that more and more military spending is the answer, look, i think the president got the -- the commitment to do that when for the first time a democratic president debated a republican president on military
spending, and the democratic presidential candidate, the democratic candidate was for less spending and even ridiculed romney with regard to bayonets and horses and then won the election. and even in virginia, with so many thinking that ship buildings so important, he won. so the fact that obama won on this, the fact that the congress -- look, i have co-authored an amendment to reduce the military budget that came from the house appropriations committee. fors first time in all of my years in congress, the main sponsor was mick mulvaney from the tea party in california. people should note in that debate that clint eastwood lost to the chair, one of the few things he said, that got wild applause at the republican convention. and the american people are ready for this sensible reduction. >> and this goes to something
interesting. speaker boehner said something interesting that surprised me in his interview at "the wall street journal." the automatic spending card, that trims all defense, and domestic spending, mr. boehner says the significant support, the sequester to do its work. up until now, boehner and the republicans are very, very against the spending. do you think there is something real there? or do you think that boehner is trying to carve out a negotiating position, saying we're not afraid of the sequester trying to get a stronger hand going into the negotiations? >> well, it is definitely a switch. originally the position was they would do away with the defense after the sequester, but cutting more deeply into nondefense and programs here at home. yeah, they're clearly getting the message that the american
people are -- let me just say, i want to summarize it this way. we did not before 1940 as a country have a big military budget. for 50 years, first with hitler, then with communism, the american people were really ready to deal with the people that were a threat to the society. although i think it decreased more than we realized towards the end. what then happened, both george h. bush and bill clinton, and after the others, cheney and the others, were ready to give the threat -- these are very bad people, these terrorists. but they don't have the power or threat to destroy us, they can damage individuals and do some hurt. and i think it took the american people a little while to realize this. but they now understand there is no threat of that sort. that doesn't mean we should be weak but it means like we could
get by with a lot less. i said that nuclear subs don't defeat terrorists, i wish they did, because we have a lot. and that would be over. i believe that both the republicans and democrats understand. >> a point you made in your article that while the president was ready to say we should have less defense spending than we were scheduled to have in defense budgets, he is not willing to cut enough. and out-going leon panetta said that unfortunately the cloud of sequestration remains. this administration is doing its part to help the country address the deficit problem by working to implement $487 billion in spending reductions. is that enough, or under secretary hagel should the obama administration be looking to go deeper? >> much deeper, he is a great person to serve with, but he just should go differently on
this one. he said you know, we hall lowed out the military budget, after world war ii, and 2, and korean war, we hallowed out the budget after the war. he was bill clinton's budget director in 1993 after the cold war ended. so we stopped saying that. we have had a very strong military. there is room to cut further. we continue to have three ways to destroy the soviet union in a nuclear war. and there is no soviet union, a weaker place called russia. not the equivalent, but we could reduce a danger to america. we continue to have tens of thousands of troops in western europe, so the western people can have of what we spend on the percentage of gdp on their budgets. we should be pulling out of afghanistan more quickly. one thing we have to understand is this. we have a wonderful military, better equipped than anybody in the history.
they do better than any other military can do, which is to stop bad things happening. but the military can't make good things happen in a foreign society. and if we recognize this limitation, yeah, i am a great admirer of the president, but when he said we're an indispensable nation, i disagree. >> barney frank, thank you for joining us, we really appreciate it. coming up, as republicans talk about holding the debt ceiling hostage, i will show you what happens if the country defaults on its obligations, even the best case scenario is very ugly. and later, the man president >> barney frank, thank you for joining us, we really appreciate it. coming up, as republicans talk about holding the debt ceiling hostage, i will show you
what happens if the country defaults on its obligations, even the best case scenario is very ugly. and later, the man president obama picked to be the next top spy should be much more controversial than chuck hagel, can you say drone master? we're taking downy to the streets. which shirt feels more expensive? that one's softer. it's the same t-shirt. really? this one was washed in downy. why spend a lot of money when you can just use downy?
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forward to push towards some real serious compromise. i think it drove bill clinton in a very different direction, a very bipartisan direction, in fact, we passed welfare reform. these are good things, we also balanced the budget for the first time in 40 years in 1997, 8 and 9. and when i left we had over a $230 billion surplus, this was with a democratic president. >> so you think it is a good idea? >> yes, i think it is about time. >> no, not a good idea, republican congressman of arizona, not a good idea at all. look, this is not '95. we're not talking about a government shutdown. we're talking about the united states of america going into default. the most powerful economy in the world saying our political system, our system is too disfunctional for us to reliably pay our bills. that would be anything but good
for this country. if congressman salmon had been with me this morning, he would understand it. this morning i attended a briefing by the bipartisan policy on the debt ceiling. they did amazing work on this issue and really got into the weeds on it more than anyone i have seen before. they looked at how many checks the government sends out a month. how the payment software works, and i want to tell you, and maybe congressman salmon five of the things they had. because after you hear this you wouldn't want to bust for the debt ceiling, they project right now that the debt ceiling doomsday, really the final day for it would happen sometime between february 15th, and march one. either congress figures out the debt ceiling before then or things get very bad, real quick. first it means the federal
government will have to default on 40% of our obligations, 40% of what we do will be gone. let's say they make decisions on medicaid, medicare, defense, food stamps, kind of just the bare services there. doing all that will mean defaulting on everything, and really i mean everything else. the fbi will shut down, people responsible for tracking down loose nuclear weapons, the court system closes its doors. the faa off line, parks closed, food safety inspections, they stop, nobody gets tax refunds or fixes your roads. it is bad, second, meanwhile, too, the financial markets will go into complete chaos, u.s. government debt is after all the safest investment in the world, so it is used as the benchmark for all other types of debt. what that means, when you buy a mortgage the government looks at what it pays to borrow and
begins your estimate there. if we spike the treasury rate because nobody trusts our government anymore that spikes credit card rates and mortgage rates. not to mention all manner of trillions and trillions of dollars of weird financial derivatives that are also bench marked to treasuries. the damage to the economy on that would be unbelievable. and it would occur at every level from individuals looking for a loan to get a house to hedge funders trying to play the markets. so it would be like 2008 all over again, and if we breach the ceiling for long, maybe even worse. all of what i have mentioned, amazingly is a best case scenario. it is what happens if we reach the debt ceiling in an orderly way. but what if it is not orderly? that gets to the third point, the government's payroll system
could go haywire. the federal government needs to make more than 100 million individual payments between february 15th and march 15th, 100 million, that is not done with a clerk in an office somewhere whose hand doesn't get tired. that is a computer system, built to stop making half of them. there is a real question if the government can re-program the software, to choose which bills to pay and ignore. if there is a glitch, it could assure the bond holders that we would never miss a payment. it throws them into a panic because they can no longer trust our work. as far as the consequences, they won't go away. we will have done something we told the markets and world we would never do under any circumstances. the u.s. would have proven itself a more risky borrower with a more broken system than anybody thought. the last debt fight, cost us
$119 billion in borrowing over the next decade. if we breach it this time the cost will of course be much higher, and the damage much longer lasting. the fifth, the fifth and final point is for those who want to use it as leverage, busting through the debt ceiling would almost certainly make the debt ceiling so much worse, the damage to the economy would be so much worse, when the economy flags we just saw this during the recession. and the higher borrowing costs later because nobody trusts america anymore. that would also increase the debt ceiling. so no, congressman salmon, it is not about time that we have a debt ceiling shut down. it is about time we do something to make sure that never happens. john brennan is the man president obama nominated to run the cia. he is also the man who helped create america's policy of drone war fare. that is next. enbrel can help relieve pain, stiffness, and stop joint damage. because enbrel, etanercept, suppresses your immune system,
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in john brennan, the men and women will have the leadership of one of the most respected professionals. not to mention the unique combination of smarts and strength he claims comes from growing up in new jersey. >> a lot was made today about the president's nomination of chuck hagel for defense secretary. and a lot was made of that nomination because chuck hagel is controversial among republicans. but you probably haven't heard a whole lot about the other guy
standing nearby the president today, john brennan, picked to head the cia. and you need to know about john brennan, because brennan should be a whole lot more controversial than hagel is, since 2009, brennan has served as assistant to the president for counterterrorism. and a huge part of his strategy has been the use of drones, lots and lots of drones to the point that the rise of drones will probably be the obama administration's single biggest legacy in how the u.s. conducts war. the multiple reports put the number of drone strikes in this white house under at 500, they killed at least 25 people. and john brennan has not only defended america's repeated use of attacks he argued it is the most ethical way to mount the attacks, this from a speech he gave at the woodrow wilson
center last december. >> a small number of terrorists with ordinance that can be adapted to avoid harming others in the immediate vicinity. it is hard to imagine what would benefit the citizens than the remotely powered aircraft. similarly, they conform to the principles of humanity, which requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering. for all of these reasons, i suggest that these targeted strikes against al-qaeda terrorists are indeed ethical and just. >> brennan has also argued there has not been a single collateral death from these, which others debate. he also directs the very creepily named matrix, which includes options for capturing them, or killing them. that means calling in the drones. spencer, you once called brennan the most deadly man in the u.s.
government. and the obama administration's angel of death. >> well, also because when john brennan decides it is time for you to die you're probably going to die. the disposition matrix you mention is basically a master list on the terror suspects who will get killed by the drones. >> explain to me a bit what brennan's use in the role of increasing use of drone war fare is. it was around before them, but is he the main force in the obama administration arguing for it? >> that is right, you could basically call him the architect for it. he talks to obama pretty much everyday in the white house, about how to conduct strikes, something out of the public eye and doesn't attract a lot of political opposition and doesn't implicate americans that they
have really something at stake here. so it has been a cost-free way of waging war. >> so what does it mean about the cia's priorities and methods going forward? >> if you thought he was powerful before, now he has an entire agency at his command. chances are if you look at brennan at the cia, you see the priorities take shape. draw down the big intensive wars and play off the shadow campaigns that can in theory use a sort of limited amount of force against the necessary targets. >> and he was blocked in the first term from becoming cia director? >> yes, before there was sort of a preemptive campaign against brennan, because they feared he was pro-torture, that got him in the position at the white house, where he never had any oversight against him, that is about to change. >> thank you very much.
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earlier tonight, i tried to convince you the debt ceiling is deadly serious stuff, that it is no joke. a threat to the entire economy we hold dear. the irony of it is that it could potentially be solved through one of the most silly mechanisms ever put together in american politics. the story begins with a group of frustrated coin collectors. now '95 is the year that represented the republican from delaware, takes over the house finances service subcommittee, on the development of policy. kind of a boring sounded committee, right? i mean, monetary policy, domestic and international. one of the odd things it has control over is coinage, so this
turns out to be the subcommittee where they go to complain, one thing they complained about, they wanted to be able to collect more platinum coins. but the law as it was written at the time, the treasury was only putting out platinum coins worth hundreds. that is pretty steep. they don't have hundreds to complete their coin collection. so mike castle, not himself a coin collector or a person who particularly cares about coin collecting but a friend of big coin decided to help them out. when the next bill came out, castle attached a provision, saying not withstanding the other professions of the law, the treasury may admit such variety that they determine to be appropriate. the logic was, people couldn't afford the $600 investment, so they wanted the flexibility to put in smaller coinage so people
could collect them. that is it, that is all the law was supposed to do, help the treasury make the cheap coins for collectors. but the way the law was drafted, it didn't say that. it said you could mint a coin for any amount, even a trillion dollars. that is a big loophole, that is a trillion, so big that you could possibly drive a debt ceiling through it. you just mint the trillion dollar coin, use it to pay off the debt and then let congress decide when to raise official debt ceiling, when you melt down your coin. this is actually gaining steam among some democrats. castle said "that was never the intent of anything that i drafted or that anyone who worked with me drafted. it seems to me that whatever is being proposed here is a stretch beyond anything we were trying to do." and some folks don't think we
can should do it at all. i asked barney frank about it earlier? >> things that seem really cute and clever almost never work. there is a reality to things. i think this is an important political fight to have, and i think we will win it. i think we say to them, okay, let's take it to the country, do you really want to say we wouldn't pay the debt that we incurred. >> but the platinum coin has also attracted powerful backers. a nobel prize winner wrote "should president obama be willing to print a trillion dollar platinum coin if republicans try to force americans into default" yes, we will, being faced with two alternatives, one, the coin, the other, both vile and a disaster. the president, he said should offer to sign a bill revoking his authority to issue platinum coins so long as that bill also
does away with the debt ceiling. that seems fair, you get rid of one dumb thing and get rid of another. so i should probably now give you my strong, stirring, totally difinitive conclusion, but i'm kind of torn. if obama proposes to mint the coin, then the issue will immediately cease to be the republican's dangerous and irresponsible and really historically unprecedented threats to breach the debt ceiling. and it will instead become obama's threat to mint a trillion dollar coin which will strike many as not a republican-like way out of our problems. there is a big part of me that agrees with barney frank, saying that one way another, finish it forever. the platinum coin just muddies it up. on the other hand, busting through the debt ceiling would be time. it is time to admit that america is a bit of a ludicrous banana