tv Hardball Weekend MSNBC September 7, 2013 2:00am-2:31am PDT
surrounded. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in new york. let me open tonight with this. you know what it look like when a team is on its own 1 yard line, just a yard from being tackled in its own end zone. it would be generous to say that's where president obama now stands in his fight to win congressional approval of an attack on syria. the latest polling tells a grimmer story. 223 members of the 435 member house of representatives are now listed as either no or leaning no on the resolution. that is not a good field position for the president.
to win the fight next week, the president needs to not only convince the undecideds, but also many of those who right now are heading toward a vote against him. either that or have already committed to voting against him. we'll see whether a presidential address next tuesday will change members' positions. we will see whether nancy pelosi can pull together the almost 170 votes she needs on the democratic side to get the yes vote up to the necessary 217 house majority. i don't expect either the president or pelosi can expect much help from the republican rank and file. the problem is that this country is divided right now between the usual hawks, many of whom unfortunately hate obama, and the doves who usually hate war that leaves the dangerously lonely middle and an enormous amount of yardage in both directions, left as well as right. former white house senior adviser david axelrod is a msnbc analyst. and howard fineman of "the huffington post." howard recently interviewed secretary of state john kerry.
let me go through this. are you surprised at this number came out overnight coming out of the congress which is based upon apparently individual polling and public statements has more than a majority against this proposition of bombing iran -- bombing syria? >> well, first of all, i think we should note, and you did i think 100 or so say they're leaning that way, which means they haven't made a final decision. but look, chris, this is a tough, tough issue. this is a country that is weary of war. i helped barack obama in 2008 become president. and one of the reasons he was elected was because he had the foresight in 2002 to object to the war in iraq. and his observations were prescient about that war. and now we're living with the aftermath of that. so i'm not surprised. and obviously there is work to be done to make the case. but this isn't iraq.
it is a very different kind of situation, and the cost of not acting now is just so high. and i believe that at the end of the day, members of congress, enough members of congress may be persuaded that that's the case. that the situation is different. that it is discrete, and that there are grave consequences if they don't act. >> that's all true. howard, it seems to me the problem presents itself in the way i described it. a good half of this country is hawkish, but they don't like obama. in fact, many of them hate obama. the other half of the country, just to be crude about it is dovish, but they don't like war. so where are these people who are for obama and want this act of war to be committed? because that seems to be a narrow middle. and that seems to be the president's problem, if there is a middle. >> well, it's interesting to see the dynamics in congress, chris. during those hearings the other day, the chairpersons in the middle, like the center of the dais was sympathetic to the president in large. but the farther you got out to the wings of both parties, as you went down the rows there, the more skeptical people became. and that's true in the country as a whole. and i did interview secretary of state kerry yesterday for "the huffington post." and he is at ground zero right
now while the president is away at the summit. john kerry, former senator, is having to deal with the fears and the angst of a lot of democratic members who are coming to him and saying assure me that we're not going to get into a quagmire here. my constituents don't want another quagmire. and kerry's whole message is this is about chemical weapons. it's not about a civil war. but it's very hard to get that message through to skeptical democratic members. senators, house members who back in their district or in their states are being told by 50-1 their own constituents don't want it. >> well, the problem is it isn't that clean of vote because you have this whole mccain sidecar thrown on this resolution, howard. and i think that's the problem. >> right. >> because mccain drove a very hard bargain. he said not only do we have to attack them in a punitive raid because of using chemical, we now have to basically side with real strong support for the rebels. we have to find good rebels to support. if you're asking members of
congress to say not only get even or revenge or attack or punishment for using chemical. >> right. >> we have to take sides in a civil war. and howard, that's not an easy sale. i'm not sure progressives are for that. >> no, that's exactly right. and i know i've talked to senators and house members on the democratic side who cite that now, what senator kerry says in anticipation i'm sure of what the president is going to say next week, secretary kerry says, well, look, the congress has already on record as saying that it would like to see regime change in syria. and we'd like to support the rebels with various kinds of materiel in noncombat kinds of ways. that's true. but the problem is if you take that language and stick it into a resolution that involves an act of war which is to attack syria, that's what gets the democratic grassroots upset, as i'm sure david nose. >> i want to go back to david on that that very question. it seems to me, remember how henry kissinger was a genius at going around, maybe he wasn't being totally frank, to put it lightly.
he would go from the arab side to the israeli side, whisper different things in their ears. in the old days before he had tape recordings and television, you could get away with that. now we find charles kraut hammer who is smart as a whip. i don't agree with him normally. but he said i want the president to say out loud what he promised mccain and lindsey graham that we're going to back these rentals. he may even lose the senate if he gets too hawkish here. >> actually, i don't know that that's the case. i think howard's point is right, though. it's the connection of the two, the notion that there would be military action on behalf of the rebels that involved american hardware and american personnel. that's the thing that concerns people. you guys have identified the exact -- >> are you for this, david? are you for this sidecar thing of not just making sure we've kept the record straight on the principle of opposing the use of chemical, but this idea that we should get heavily involved in picking out the good guys on the rebel side and arming them. are you for that? >> well, the sidecar in the resolution says less than that.
it says it changed the momentum on the battlefield. >> it says -- i read it all, david. it says all forms of aid to those groups. >> right. >> all forms of aid. it wasn't just a tilting there. it was helping them. >> the reality is that if we knock out some of these capacities of assad, then it will help the rebels. so in a sense i think you -- it answers its own question. >> but it doesn't just say that. it says degrade the military power of assad and upgrade -- it says that in the resolution -- upgrade that of the rebels. this goes much further than i think you want to go. >> but what howard said is true. the congress is already on the record as saying they want -- they want to upgrade the capacity of the rebels. the real -- look, there are no good answers here, chris. let's be clear. this is a very, very unhappy only 25 members out of 435 are now in favor of the strikes. that's 25 members up front right now. it's the same story argument a similar story taken by the abc news organization, which says
again, a majority of house of representatives are against the resolution. that's enough to beat it. if you look at the polls, it's hardly surprise the house is crooning toward a no vote. the polls taken in the last week show public opposition to air strikes in syria. a pew poll released a few days ago has opposition at 48% which is far greater than the percentage that support the option. it and that's eight points higher than those who support it. it's 60% against strikes in the most recent washington post/abc poll. again, david, does this president have the potency to go on television next tuesday. i would recommend going to the chamber for a joint session, because he looks better there and carries more weight, and higher risk. but it would be more powerful. can he turn around this kind of polling? >> well, i don't know that he can turn the polling around completely. can he make a case that enough members of congress will receive about what their shared
responsibilities are in the face of this kind of blatant act that we've seen in syria? i think that's possible. i don't think it's just his speech, although i've been a strong advocate for this speech. i think it's absolutely necessary. >> should he go to the chamber? >> well, he has obviously made the decision not to. i think you make a very good point. >> stronger, much stronger when you're in the chamber. >> but he plainly -- it sounds like he is going to speak from the white house. i think that's where he is going to speak from. but i also think he has to mobilize other voices. it's not just his voice. >> i know. >> his voice is the most important, but he has to mobilize other voices. and they really need to focus on the consequences of inaction here. i think those are very profound. >> howard, just to make my point, help me out here if you agree. is it more power for him to go into the lion's den and stand there as head of the country, commander in chief, speak to those people surrounding him. when you sit behind that desk, i'm not sure he or many presidents look that strong. i think reagan did. but it's very hard to be overwhelming strong from sitting behind that desk.
i think. what do you think? >> well, chris, i think if the president is going to get this done, he doesn't have weeks or months to build public support in the country. he's got to cut right to the chase and go right to the members of congress. and i think basically shame them, attempt to shame them morally into action here. that's his strongest argument. >> does he show up? >> that's what i'm saying. so according to that, if that's what he's got to do to go to the chamber and look them in the eye, show them the pictures from -- show them the pictures from syria, and look them in the eye and say look, the world has said this shall not happen. we've got to take action. we can't rely on others to do it. we are the united states. we've got to do it. and we can't let these types of weapons potentially loose in the region. i wouldn't stress that, because as soon as you do that, questions arise. and i know this from speaking to
secretary kerry. questions arise about how you control those weapons if you attack the systems, about who the rebels are, about who the opposition is, all that other stuff. >> yeah, great. >> skip all that and just focus on the moral equation about using chemical weapons. that's his strongest argument. and for that he should make it directly. >> very forceful, howard fineman. thank you, david axelrod. you did a great job. we'll see how this develops by tuesday. coming up, if you really want to know what the people think, go to a town hall meeting, if you dare, like john mccain dared to do. >> this is what i think of congress. they are a bunch of marshmallows. that's what they are. that's what they have become. why are you not listening to the people and staying out of syria? it's not our fight. >> well, that's the first time i've ever heard anybody call john mccain a marshmallow right to his face. congress members are taking this. they're hearing it loud and clear in town meetings on the debate on whether we should get involved in syria. it's out there in the land right now. we'll be joined by republican
members of congress who oppose the military strike and a democrat who is for it. also, boot in mouth disease? designer kenneth cole learned again why it's a bad idea to make jokes about war, including syria. and let me finish tonight with a member of the greatest generation who lived for his family. and that is "hardball," the place for politics. is in. [ female announcer ] only aveeno daily moisturizing lotion has an active naturals oat formula that creates a moisture reserve so skin can replenish itself. aveeno® naturally beautiful results. hearty cheeseburger. creamy thai style chicken with rice. mexican-style chicken tortilla. if you think campbell's 26 new soups sound good,
raise your hand if you're opposed to military strikes. >> welcome back to "hardball" that was congressman justin amash, a republican from michigan speaking a few days ago at a town hall in his home state. the lack of support for intervention in syria, you saw there, is hardly an isolated case among constituents in the country. yesterday senator john mccain,
the senate's most prominent hawk saw a flood of wrath from angry voters from a town hall who want nothing to do with syria. >> this is what i think of congress. they're a bunch of marshmallows. that's what they are. that's what they have become. why are you not listening to the people and staying out of syria? it's not our fight. >> you can do it by negotiation, by diplomacy. and negotiation. not bombs, senator mccain. you need to also to the listen of the majority of the american people who do not want you to go there. this is -- this is not an issue that we can fix so lightly, senator mccain. >> i would much rather use our taxpayers' money to take care of our vets that are coming home from the two conflicts we've already been in. >> i don't think i need to be lectured to about veterans, okay. all right. so anyway. >> even that didn't go over well.
congressman rick crawford, by the way, a republican from kansas says 99% of the calls to his office are against action in syria. u.s. congressman mike fitzpatrick from bucks county, pennsylvania said he received 126 calls opposing military engagement, and only one call in favor. i believe that from bucks county. it's not just republicans either. senator bernie sanders of vermont saying almost unanimous people saying do not get involved and brad sherman from congress says i don't know a member of congress whose e-mails and phone calls are in favor of this. we're joined by elijah cummings from maryland. he has expressed serious doubts but hasn't ruled of voting in favor of the syria regulation. and juan vargas of california has come out in favor of strike. i want to start with mr. vargas. i haven't met you before, sir. where are you on this, and more importantly, where are your constituents to start with? >> well, my constituents generally are not in favor of it. i think it's like the rest of the country. but i certainly am.
i've in favor of this. you've used these type of weapons. these weapons should never be used. and the amount of children that killed with this, the grownups, everybody else, we have to do something. and if the rest of the world does not want to come along, we have to do it ourselves. we can't allow this to stand. >> what about the other part of the resolution, that mccain jammed in there that talks about aiding the rebels? are you confident taking sides in this fight? >> not really. i don't like that aspect as much because we don't know who the good guys and who the bad guys are. we say some are better than the rest. they all look pretty bad to me. the issue of the chemical weapons and gassing all these children. i mean, how high does the pile of children have to be before we're outrage and say we're going to do something about it? i mean they killed hundreds of kids. we ought to do something about it. >> mr. cummings, your view in this. most importantly, what are you hearing from your people in maryland? >> first of all, my constituents, i would say 95% of the people i've heard from are against it. and, chris, they have the backdrop of iraq.
in other words, they know that we went to war on inaccurate information. they know we spent hundreds of billions of dollars. they know most importantly that we've lost so many of our young people, many of them from my district and from maryland. and they -- they feel -- they don't feel -- they don't sound as angry as they did at that mccain meeting. but i can tell you i did a walk throughout my district yesterday with some nbc reporters. and to a person, and they were very thoughtful. every single person we approached was well informed on this issue and every one of them said we don't want it. but the other interesting thing, chris, i asked them. remember, we voted 80% for the president in my district. they said we love the president. we respect the president. but we just don't want to see us going back in this area, going into syria. and i got to tell you, i was listening to fineman in your
last segment. >> yes. >> i think it was fineman. and he was saying that the president has to address us congressmen and senators. he doesn't have to only do that. the reason i've been pushing for him to address us is because i want him to address my constituents so that they can -- >> how does he do that between now and next week? >> no, he is going to do it on tuesday. i think it's going to be one of the most significant speeches of his career. and i think he has to lay out the moral argument. that i do agree with fineman. >> you know how television works. it's always much more dramatic. it's a big picture when the president walks -- reagan, i just read a book about it. reagan said when he walked into the chamber, it's unbelievable feeling there is such drama when you walk into the chamber of the united states house of representatives on national television. isn't that more dramatic than sitting in his office? >> i would love to see him in the chamber. i think that would be an ideal place. >> mr. vargas, would that help make your case in the president
thought had the same passion you've talked about the evils of chemical weapons used? would that be more dramatic if he showed up? >> absolutely. oh, he should show up. it would be the right thing to do. i've known barack for a long time. we went to law school together. he is a great orator. having a group like that around, i think he could make his argument not only to us, but to the whole world why we have to do this. i agree with you. standing behind -- or sitting behind the desk, that's not going to do it. go to the chamber. talk to the people directly. and then hang around and let us talk to him too. i think he could convince a lot of people. he shouldn't be afraid to do it. >> i like even more that you're thank you. i like this kind of conversation. it's really what our country is about. up next, what has bill clinton so excited about his lunch with former president george bush? i think he is like a son in many ways. this is interesting. "hardball," the place for politics. exact
back to "hardball." it's time for the sideshow. amid clashes in syria and edward snowden, the awkward personal relationship between president obama and vladimir putin was put to the test yesterday in st. petersburg where both leaders participated in the g-20 summit. but putin, who was famous for promoting his tough guy image with ridiculous photographs like this actually tried to avoid contact actually with obama this time around. according to "the guardian" newspaper, the kremlin actually rearranged the seating to separate the two leaders one from the other at a dinner the imperial palace last night. but "the tonight show's" jay leno imagined what could have happened last night. >> you know, putin is still -- you know, he's got this whole macho thing going. did you see them when they met today? it was so dramatic. show putin. here is the president arriving. look at this. this he is.
now watch. now here comes putin. look, there is no -- what is that? next, designer kenneth cole's getting a lot of attention as new york's fashion week kicks off, but he may be proving not all press is good press. in a quote referring to a debate over war in syria, saying boots on the ground or not, let's not forget about sandals, pumps, and loafers, #footwear. saying he just wanted to provoke a dialogue. it's not the first time cole has tried to capitalize on conflict in the middle east. back in 2011, he claimed that the arab spring uprisings in cairo were a reaction to his new spring collection. and speaking of famous footwear, former president bush's socks are making news again because bill clinton wants a pair for himself. after breaking bread yesterday, clinton tweeted enjoyed my annual lunch with president and mrs. bush in maine, envious of his cactus-themed socks. #sockswag.
one for military action, one against. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics. coming up next, your business with j.j. ramberg. e than 50 tim? so brighten your smile a healthy way with listerine® whitening plus restoring rinse. it's the only rinse that makes your teeth two shades whiter and two times stronger. ♪ listerine® whitening... power to your mouth.
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