tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC December 1, 2009 10:00pm-11:00pm EST
teipei in taiwan, today's worst person in the world. and now to review the president's coverage of his sort of surge in afghanistan, ladies and gentlemen, here's rachel maddow. good evening, rachel. >> did you say young harry belafonte? >> i did. did you think he looked like mariano rivera? >> i thought it was more like mariano rivera with hair. >> we'll come back and debate it at 2:00 in the morning. >> with puppets. >> president obama has laid out his plan for afghanistan. we will be joined from afghanistan by richard engle. john noggle literally wrote the book on modern counterinsurgency theory. and we will consider the contrast between president obama's speech at west point to president bush's momentous speech at west point in 2002 shortly after the war began. dick cheney also weighing in today with a prebuttal to
today's speech. and we'll be talking about hillary clinton, announcing a big reversal of a policy undertaken by president clinton. and finally, a return to deatherism by senators john mccain and tom coburn. all of that is ahead at this hour. but we begin tonight with president obama's announcement of the second major escalation of the 8-year-old conflict in afghanistan. speaking at west point to an assembly of west point generals and cadets and their families. president obama ended a 92-day review of the war by explaining his new strategy, including the deployment of 30,000 additional troops. it will be in place in the war zone by the end of august. by then, there will be approximately 100,000 u.s. forces in afghanistan. the escalation will begin early next year. the president then laid out a conditions-based time line for when he expects u.s. troops to begin withdrawing from afghanistan. there's no stated date by which troops will be gone from
afghanistan like there is in iraq, but the president said tonight that the american departure there begin, not next summer but the summer after that. in july 2011. >> as president, i refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests. and i must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces. i don't have the luxury of committing to just one. we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars. but as we end the war in iraq and transition to afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. it pays for our military, it underwrites our diplomacy, it taps the potential of our people and allows investment in new industry. and it i will allow us to compete in the century as successfully as we did in the last. that's why our troop commitment
in afghanistan cannot be open-ended. because the nation that i'm most interested in building is our own. >> nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engle watched the president's speech with american troops at camp eggers in afghanistan. he joins us now from there. thanks very much for being with us. really appreciate it. >> it's my pleasure pip'm here in a dining facility at camp eggers. and the troop reaction has been fairly positive. this is something they wanted. they wanted the re-enforcements. they've been asking for it for quite a long time. and there had been considerable frustration that this announcement hadn't come sooner, but now that it has come, and it's roughly what the commanders on the ground were asking for, maybe 5,000 or more additional nato forces, they seem to be satisfied. >> in terms of the difference this change will make in the lives of the average soldier on the ground in afghanistan what's
seen as more consequential to the troops will. the increase in boots on the ground, or the time line for at least starting to end the war? >> probably the time line, and how the new troops will be operating. there is s a general sense that the days of the tiny remote outposts on a mountain top could be ending, and that u.s. troops and nato troops are going ton consolidating in the population centers. so that's a different way of operating, and this is for the first time we've heard any talk of a time line and far lot of troops, that's been very welcome news. because if you are fighting a long war, an open-ended conflict, that cab real morale killer as people try and plan their lives, plan their futures, plan with their families. >> richard, since you've been there on your latest trips and known the generalities of what's
been expected from the president, are you able to give us any sense of reaction from the afghan people, whether or not this makes any difference to them in the terms of the way they perceive americans? >> the afghans are sitting on the fence at this stage. a lot of people in this country have seen many, many wars. they've seen troop surges come and go by the taliban, by the soviet, and they are not completely convinced that you're going to have a quick military solution to this conflict. they're also very skeptical that u.s. forces will be able to push the taliban out of the villages. they think they can do that, but then hand over those villages to afghan security forces. right now, the afghan security forces aren't up to the jb, aobd when that's happened in the past, the afghan police and army simply haven't done their jobs, haven't represented the government and the areas have just fallen back into chaos. >> one very specific reference the president made tonight was
to promise american support if the afghan government wants to talk to, essentially reconcilable taliban who want to have a constructive role in the future of their country and to renounce violence. is that likely to be seen as a controversial assertion in afghanistan, among the afghan people? >> not at all. particularly in southern afghanist afghanistan. there is a big push. people want reconciliation, and that is one of the key things that i think people don't understand. unlike in iraq, where people hated the militant groups that were fighting. here, the taliban is unpopular. only about 6% of the people want the taliban to come back. but they're not seen as occupiers, or they're not seen as outsiders. they're seen as part of the society here that should be brought back into the fold. they're not mostly -- the taliban are not largely by and large attacking civilians in this country. once again, compared to iraq,
you had market bombings, al qaeda militants that were killing civilians by the dozens every single day. here, it's mostly a conflict between the taliban and foreign forces in this country. people are hoping that there can be some sort of reconciliation between the two. >> richard, one last quick logistical question and it's something that's come up a lot today when the president announced this troop increase would be phased in much more quickly than people expected. do you think that's going to pose a logistical problem, just what it takes to move 0,000 troops into afghanistan over the months. >> no, i don't think that's something that will be a major problem. this dining facility is a tent after all. these tents can be put up quickly, people can bunk up extra. the u.s. military is very good at that kind of thing.
i don't think it will be a major problem. >> nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel joining us from camp egger is in afghanistan. he always seems to be joining us at obscene hours from dangerous players, for which we are grateful. thank you for your time. >> pleasure. >> we are just now getting a live picture of air force one. it's actually at andrews air base right now in maryland. the president has not yet left the plane, but he has flown on air force one from the site of tonight's speech at the u.s. military academy at west point which is in new york state, back home. he's arrived at andrews. we're expecting the president to be leaving the plane and returning presumably back to the white house momentarily. joining us now is the pulitzer prize-winning journalist, who is the author most recently of the book "the way of the world." ron, thanks very much for being here tonight to help us make sense of the president's speech. >> nice to be here.
>> did president obama escalate the war tonight? or did he start to end it? or both. >> well, he certainly escalate the it. he's ka lated it in the hopes of having it deliverable. a show of force that allows the united states to say look, there he's some victory, now let's get out. he's trying to get parameters around this thing. we're eight years along. it's essentially been a year by year strategic model, not a real strategy. and the president was trying as the great explainer, he's the great explainer, toe get some shape to this thing. >> we're just seeing the president right now arriving back at andrew's air base, coming down the stairs on air force one, after giving tonight's speech. when you talk about the president's desire to come up with some sort of deliverable, some sort of the metrics, some sort of granular accomplishment where he can say that's military victory, what's the sort of thing he's looking for? >> well, the fact is he's relying on the army, these 30,000 troops, 30,000 plus to have this show of force, that says this is progress, and now we have the opportunity to pull back.
of course, the thing that we've been looking for for year, which would be such a deliverable, is the capture or till kilning of osama bin laden or al zawari. we haven't gotten that. i wonder if the united states is trying to get into a grand bargain with the pakistanis. he mentioned pakistan many times in the speech tonight to say look, we don't want any pakistan fingerprints on it. we understand the pakistani president can't afford to take down bin laden who has twice his approval ratd rating, but we need a deliverable, that would give us opportunities for closure, and getting back to a withdrawal with purpose is to capture bin laden. >> of all the reporting you've done on al qaeda and terrorism, does it make sense to you that we would increase our troop numbers in afghanistan in order to defeat al qaeda and their allies in pakistan? is that strategically copacecop?
>> he talked a lot about pakistan and said, as george bush said, here's a country with 65 nuclear weapons. this is the most dangerous region in the world, and essentially the president said the most powerful country in the world, the united states, cannot afford to not be engaged in the most dangerous region in the world. and we're going to continue to be engaged in this part of the world no matter what we do in the summer of 2011. that was part of the message tonight. >> one of the things i wanted to ask you about, with the politics here, rather than just the policy is that we learned last night, it didn't get a ton of attention, we learned last night that the short list of options the president considered in the very end was tway different than the tampa bay common wisdom. common wisdom was he was going to consider a range of troop increases. 30,000 would be the low range.
actually, 0,000 was the highest range he considered. low range was leaving altogether. leaving zero, leaving 10,000, the number we've got there now and the only troop increase option he considered was the one he chose. does that surprise you? >> welsh it's interesting. i think it shows the underlying thinking of the president to say look, we need a kind of burst of productivity here that is measurab measurable, that's visible to the world and then we've got to get out of this particular engagement as quickly as is possible. i think that's in a way what the president is thinking here. he understands, and i think rightly, that it's very difficult to withdraw from wars. you've got that problem of people who fave died in vain. no one wants to have that on their ledger. here's a case where the president is saying, we need to do something that shows progress and then we need to get back to the business of america, which is frankly not in large measure in afghanistan.
>> pulitzer prize winning journal i journalist ron suskind. the president has the easiest layovers of any traveler in america. let's face it. taking air force one at west point in new york to andrews air base, and then boarding the presidential helicopter there from that same tarmac. well, surprise, surprise. self-proclaimed shadow vice president dick cheney has weighed in on president obama's afghan strategy and actually he quite likes it. gave him a big compliment. said we'll all pulling for you. yeah, right. it's dick cheney. stay tuned. and you get to choose any car in the aisle. choose any car? you cannot be serious! okay. seriously, you choose. go national. go like a pro.
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says they'll help with training and policing but they won't send any more troops into combat. angela merkel wants to put off a decision after a conference next month. italy and poland said they'll send more troops but have not said how many. the strongest commitment comes from the uk where gordon brown said he's in for 500 more troops. macedonia will provide a grand total of 80 additional troops. all of which adds up to, a long way from 10,000. but early days yet. more ahead. (announcer) we call it the american renewal.
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as commander-in-chief, i have determined it's in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 u.s. troops to afghanistan. we're in afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. but this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of pakistan. to abandon this area now, and to rely only on efforts against al qaeda from a distance would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al qaeda and create unacceptable risks on our homeland and our allies. >> tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern, this year's nobel peace laureate escalated the war in afghanistan. for just the second time in his first year of the presidency. in march, you will recall his new administration concluded a careful policy review of the options available in afghanistan then and had decided to send 21,000 more troops. to put the first escalation in context, this is what troop
levels were like eight years ago. see that little tiny blip down there in the left? this is how they changed over time through the bush administration and frankly through the election of mr. obama. this is what happened during president obama's first year in office. and this is what he's just announced he's going to do by next summer. and then nine days after that, he flies to oslo to get his nobel peace prize. the president's speech tonight at west point in a way is an awkward bookmark to the previous president's famous west point speech when the afghan war was only eight months old, not eight years old. >> our war on terror has only begun. but in afghanistan, it was begun well. >> turns out that wasn't very true. and eight years later, the next president is stuck explaining his choice among all the frankly pretty bad options available to
fix bush's supposed begun well war. president bush bragging at west point about how awesome he thought nings had gone in afghanistan is not what that speech was remembered for. he bragged a lot about how awesome he thought things were going in afghanistan as osalma bin laden and omar still lived. if he went from quetta, pakistan, that means he moved slightly less than the distance between wichita and topeka. not only was he uniquely wrong about afghanistan, he was wrong a lot about afghanistan. this speech is remembered because it was at west point where he unveiled what may have been the single most radical thing about his presidency. >> do you agree with the bush doctrine? >> in what respect, charlie?
>> what do you interpret it to be? >> his world view. >> his bush doctrine, enunciated in december 2002, before the iraq war 37. >> it was where president bush unveiled the bush doctrine, the proclamation that the united states would no longer preserve the right to wage war against countries that threatened us, but we would wage war to stop the emergence of threats in the future. >> if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. the war on terror will not be won on the offensive. we must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. >> before they emerge. before they emerge. we must confront threats that might happen someday.
and thus was born not only the justification for, in the name of 9/11, attacking a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, but also the bush doctrine concept of america at war globally, indefinitely, against anyone at our own discretion. >> our security will require transforming the military you will lead, a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. we must uncover terrorist cells in 60 or more countries. all nations that side for aggression and terror will pay a price. >> the bush doctrine was probably the single most radical thing about the bush presidency, because it dropped the requirement that the united states actually be threatened before we would start a war with someone. instead saying that if we just thought we might be threatened sometime in the future, that would be justification enough for us now to start a war. it is a really radical concept,
if you think about it. not only about war, but about us, about america. and it may have survived the bush presidency. president obama tonight explaining his second escalation of the war in afghanistan, announcing that the 32,000 americans who were in afghanistan when he took office will become 100,000 by next year. a war reborn in what the president is describing as his own image, his own strategic terms but is justified fundamentally by what sounds like the bush doctrine. the administration admitting that we are not actually threatened now as a nation by afghanistan. >> obviously the good news that americans should feel at least good about in afghanistan is the al qaeda presence is very diminished. the maximum eestimate is less than 100 operating in the country. no bases, no ability to launch
attacks on us our our allies. >> afghanistan poses no threat to us, and yet our war there is being doubled and tripled in size. why? it's because we think there might be a threat from afghanistan in the future. if a safe haven for terrorism there re-emerges in the future. in other words -- >> if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. we must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. >> is the massive escalation of the war in afghanistan announced tonight? president obama's own implementation of the preventive war bush doctrine that sarah palin couldn't understand and that no one has been able to justify. this war is not about threats from the united states to afghanistan. to the extent that it is justified by preventing threats to us from emerging from
pakistan sometime in the future, that's preventive war. that's the bush doctrine. in all its orwellian extremism. to the extent, though, that this war is not about some potential future threat but a real current one like the president described tonight, a current one that -- he didn't say it bluntly, but he meant it -- one that exists in pakistan. to the extent that our 100,000 troops in afghanistan are there simply to backstop and contain the real war against the real threat next door in pakistan, then tell me this -- how are we fighting our war in pakistan? we're fighting it using the cia, which effectively functions as a fifth secret branch of the u.s. military now. they even have their own air force. they're a fifth secret branch of the military now which our civilian leaders as a matter of policy do not answer for. they don't even bother explaining what they're doing. do you remember when secretary of state hillary clinton was questioned about our secret cia drone war when she was recently in pakistan? >> statement, the drone attacks
are still going on. what does madam or america in general plans to do with that because it's creating a lot of frustration among our people. >> well, i will not talk about that specifically, but generally let me say that there's a war going on. >> also requested that these drone attacks be stopped yet they continue. the pakistani people have resented them and associate them with the american foreign policy as a whole. >> i think what's important here is there is a war going on, as several of you have said. i won't comment on that specific matter. >> i won't talk about that specific matter. i won't talk about that specific thing, but there is a war. that war, that secret one. because cia actions, even when there's a war are covert and deniable. if the real war is pakistan and
we're fighting this war not to prevent some threat to us in the future, not as an extension of the bush doctrine, but rather than to respond to a real threat now, why are we fighting it with our secret military that we don't admit to? why are we fighting it with our cia? maybe there will someday be an obama doctrine to replace the bush doctrine? if that's going to happen the bush doctrine needs to be ended. no more wars to prevent future threats that may or may not emerge. but secondly, at some point, this president will need to be able to explain and take the credit or the blame for his real wars that right now are still getting only a no comment. we roll out the blue carpet for drivers of these great gm brands. we can do the small things, the big things, just about everything... right inside your gm dealership. find out more at goodwrench.com.
>> there are those who oppose identifying a time frame to our transition to afghan responsibili responsibility. indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war evident, one that would commit us to a nation building project of up to a decade. it sets goals beyond b what can be achieved at a reasonable cost. and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. >> president obama tonight speaking at west point in the second major afghanistan speech of his presidency, which also announced the second major new commitment of u.s. troops to that war. he served in the first gulf war
and in operation iraqi free doom where he fought during the very difficult year of 2004. in his spare time he earned a do doctorate at oxford and helped write the counterinsurgency field manual and become a household name among we many earnest civilians who have tried to understand this whole counterinsurgency concept that the smartest mill minds itary m the country tells us justifies really, really, really, really, really long wars. joining us now is noggle. is tonight's announcement a continuation in strategy, or has there been a real turn in the road here? >> no, i think this is very much
a continuation of the policy the president announced in march in the white house. what's happened since then, there's been a deterioration on the ground. the taliban is growing stronger. there's great concern the karzai government has not stepped up to the plate to date, and so the president had a decision to make and supported that decision pretty strongly tonight. >> why didn't the addition of 20,000 more troops in march make the situation better in afghanistan. >> those 21,000 troops allowed to happen was create a bigger public of security, in particular in helman province in the south of afghanistan. but it was not enough troops to secure all of the population centers, nor to build the afghan security forces that are ultimately going to allow the united states to withdraw from afghanistan, leaving behind a secure and a stable state. so what the president has done
tonight has sent another 30,000 troops, which are going to be used to secure kandahar, the very important city in the south where the taliban originated, and also provide more troops to further increase the size of the afghan army and the afghan police force pop eiffel i understand the argument that there aren't enough american troops to provide enough security in afghanistan, but i still don't understand why the increase in troops, really significant increase in troops we saw earlier this year coin sided with, as you described it, the taliban regaining momentum and the taliban sort of regaining, i don't know if i can say the upper hand, but a pretty strong hand in this fight. >> the taliban was gaining strength regardless of whether additional american troops were sent or not. and what we're seeing is the fruit of years of neglect in afghanistan. the chart you showed is enormously instructive. civilian reconstruction, economic development, as well as troops on the ground.
and that has allowed the taliban to get stronger and stronger. that wave has been growing. the troops the president sent in march did was blunt that growth, minimize that growth growth, but we haven't had enough resources on the ground, civilian or military, to really push it back. and that's what the president announced tonight. that's what he tends to do over the next 18 months. >> it seems like the other major headline tonight, in addition to the troop numbers, is this -- it's not exactly a time line, but it is at least an announcement of when we'll start to draw down troops. and it made me want to ask you, if counterinsurgency by its nature is open-ended, does that statement we're going to start to withdraw troops in 2011 mean that we're no longer doing counterinsurgency in some ways? >> what that announcement of july 2011, summer 2011 realry transition date, so by that point, about 18 months from now, in the most secure places in
afghanistan, where the afghan security forces ask most capable, we hope to start handing responsibility off to the afghan forces to take the lead there. that will start to allow some drawdown of american forces. but i think that a lot of things have to happen for that time line to work out. it's possible that that's going to happen, but i don't think we can bank on it. and it is also, i think, not a sign that there's going to be a precipitous drawdown of american forces. i see this being a very gradual glide path. >> john, as a veteran yourself and as somebody who has articulated essentially what you just demonstrate there had with your hand. the idea that there's going to be a very soft glide down, if there is a drawdown of troops. somebody who's thought a lot about what it means to commit a lot of americans for a lot of time, i have to ask whether or not the promise, or at least the hope e pressed by the eck tear of defense this january, that dwell time could be increased. that american troops would get
two years at home before deployments is now out the window. i'm worried about the troops we spend for two, three, four, maybe five em ploilts. and the dwell time promises are gone. >> i thought it was very appropriate that the president spoke at west point to an audience of young people who joined up in a time of war, who commitmented themselves to serve their country, knowing that they're likely to serve under fire. a lot of whom are going to be serving in afghanistan a year from now. so the military is under stress. we're going to have to watch very carefully that stress, and we may have to increase the size of the army in order to make this happen. the good nuz is that's a quick way to reduce unemployment in this country. >> you're an influential guy. because of your own accomplishments in this field in so many different ways. will you argue for holding on to the two-year hope for dwell time for the sake of the troops and
their amendment faems? >> absolutely. i think that's the minimum we owe our all-volunteer force. that's a great deal they've don for us. i don't see a reason to limit the military. as we draw down iraq over the course of 2010 that that's going to help relieve some of the strain. that's something we're going to have to increase slowly. it's still something we have to think about as we continue to fight this long war against the taliban, al qaeda and al qaeda in iraq. >> john noggle, president for the center of new american security. it's a real pleasure to have you on the show. thank you for your time tonight. so dr. john noggle helped divide the counterinsurgency. officially now, dick cheney is denying that he's the one who got us here. it's beautiful. tom coloradoing up. nth for my a, and spending two hours in the chair.
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but first, in a new interview with politico, dick cheney went after president obama on afghanistan by bringing up. the fact that president obama bowed when he recently met with japan's emperor. >> okay now, here's how this goes. in an interview when a former vice president says that, you say, mr. vice president, excuse me, but do you mean that it was also a sign of weakness when president nixon bowed to the japanese emperor? was it also a sign of weakness when president eisenhower bowed to charles de gaulle of all people? was it a sign of weakness when george h.w. bush bowed before the casket of a japanese emperor. when you were that president's defense secretary, did you caution the president that
bowing like that was a sign of weakness that would be viewed as such by other governments? when it's an interview, not a verbally delivered op-ed, that's how that works. politico did ask dick cheney if he believed the bush administration was responsible for diverting from afghanistan to iraq his response, quote, i basically don't. that's it. that's all he said. we'll just leave it at that. no need to elaborate, follow up. very busy. here's my reaction upon reading this earlier today. a senate report came out that said the administration let bin bin bin escape after 9/11 allow ing al qaeda to retroop. then bush and cheney passed along the whole thing to the next administration.
but by all means, please continue to shower us with your innermostest feeling, wants and desi desires. without you, mr. cheney, i would never be able to get on television and go pow, as if my whole head was exploding. next up, today is world aids day. and for that, hillary clinton has announced a ground-breaking obama administration policy which awkwardly enough reverses a policy implemented during the reagan administration that was codified into law during the clinton administration. it's a law that banned hiv positive people from traveling to the united states. ott bama administration has finally dropped that been a and one immediate con kwens of that is that the world's largest aids conference can once again be held in the united states. for the first time since 1990. when you might recall paula abdul's "opposites attract" was the number one hit. >> today, i'm pleased to
announce with the repeal of the ban, the international aids society will hold the 2012 international aids conference in washington, d.c. >> secretary clinton also using world aids day to make a legacy-defining statement that the united states would not tolerate homophobia on the international stage. we have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the lgbt community worldwide. it's an unacceptable step backward backwards. on behalf of human rights. >> and if that sounded like a bleak reference to the kill the gays bill in uganda we covered last night on this show, yes, it sounded like that to me, too. we're learning mbt at uganda and the connection to american extremi
extremists. jeff charlotte laid out for us the author of the bill, calling for the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality in ugan uganda, connections between him and pastor rick warren. and denizens of "c" street, the family. and members of the ex-gay movement who spoke in uganda, riling up anti-gay fervor in this country. the direct result of that conference, according to in depth coverage in "the guardian" newspaper was this bill before the ewe gan dan parliament. who were the americans who went? and are now distancing themselves from the harsh consequences of their rhetoric? we'll have more on that on tomorrow's show. announcer: today, guys with erectile dysfunction can be ready with another dosing option from cialis. cialis for daily
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saying something quite similar? yeah, they won't get mad this time because it was a republican. tom coburn speak on the floor of the united states senate on day two of the debate over the senate version of health reform. if you're a senior and you're on medicare, you better be afraid of this bill. >> an unnamed senior democratic aide responded to that with this thoughtful analysis, senator coburn's insights are about as helpful as his marital advice to senator ensign. but senator coburn isn't the only one whose primary political strategists returned in the final arguments towards spooking old people. presidential runner-up john mccain rolled out his version of the health reform will kill medicare talking point yesterday. >> i will eagerly look forward to hearing from the authors of
this legislation as to how they can possibly achieve $500 billion in cuts without impact existing medicare programs negatively and eventually lead to rationing of relt care healt this country. >> he introduced an amendment that would make insurance companies very happy by shipping the bill back to committee and stripping away all the provisions designed to slow the growth of medicare spending. it's a position that makes it really easy for senator mccain to scare old people, but it's also really hard for him to defend about himself, since just last okctober during his presidential campaign, it was john mccain that proposed a $1.3 trillion cut to medicare and medicaid. a flip-flop so naked that the usually mild mannered senate majority leader called him out on it. >> this man talks about earmarks. this is one big earmark to the insurance industry. and in addition to that, the sponsor of the amendment during
his presidential campaign talked about cutting these monies. this is a huge big belly flop flip-flop. k? >> joining us now is "the washington post's" ezra klein. thanks for coming on the show. you're a policy guy. can you put the save medicare line we're hearing from moneys now in the con b text of recent republican history on medicare in. >> sure, it's a best of an odd move. they opposed medicare when it's begun. ronald reagan famously campaigned against it, but in 1997, republicans voted for the balanced budget amendment which cut medicare by about 12%, if i'm remembering my graphs right. this is much smaller, a much softer change to the program and has a lot more to do with private insurers in the medicare advantage program. you're seeing something a little bit deeper, which has begun to get a little bit strange, though. republicans don't believe medicare is sound. they believe you should be able to reform it. but because they've sort of run
out of things to say about health care. they can't say it will raise the deficit, it won't change people's insurance, government won't take over health care, now they've gone to a tactic of going after old people. >> one concern is this will cost too much. the cbo releases its report on the senate bill, which says it will decrease insurance premiums for the vast majority of americans. do you think that will make a significant difference in the debate? >> i think what you're seeing with that is if it had come out the other way, that would have made a significant difference. as it is, we're in the end game here, and as you would have always predicted the four or five people who credibly say if you don't have my vote or you won't pass this bill is going to have a pound of flesh. ken salazar is secretary of the interior and he was a one-term senator. you think well, why is he here? as secretary of the interior, he controls a lot of parks money,
infrastructure money. my hunch is by the end of this, nebraska is going to have an absolute beautiful state park system. so there's a ways here to go. there's a lot of compromises that are going to have to be made still. >> on the public option, one of the things you've written about today, in fact, was about the many, many, compromises the public option has been subjected to. do you think any kind of recognizable public option is going to survive the senate. >> something we're going to call the public option might be recognizable. you've had it taken down from a real sort of price advantage. they made it a public option that could have saved people 20% to 30% on premiums is now going to cost a little bit more nan private insurance. it's getting very complicated. how many public option compromises can fit on the head of a pin. we're pretty much there. we're arguing over a very narrow piece of ground now. >> thanks so much for joining us tonight. appreciate it.
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president obama tonight announced his plan to escalate in afghanistan and then at least to start to leave. will the war being fought in pakistan will count theed as a real war? don't know. but this show will stay dedicated to finding out. much more analysis coming up with chris matthews and ed shultz. see you back tomorrow night at our regular time 9:00 eastern. a special edition of "hardball" starts right now. cold war. let's play "hardball."