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tv   Hardball Weekend  MSNBC  November 20, 2010 5:00am-5:30am EST

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the president is getting it from all sides. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm michael smerconish. in for chris matthews. leading off tonight, getting it from the left as well as the right. senate democrats are fighting mad at president obama. they blame him for losing the message war and worry he's a liability for the party. here's what they want him to do.
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lose that bipartisan talk. put on the boxing gloves and cast republicans as the party we beholden into the special interests. sherrod brown will be here to offer his advice on how the president can regain the upper hand. plus, it's a cloak and dagger story set in cyberspace. a malicious sophisticated computer worm that infected iran's operating systems was likely an attack to sabotage the country's nuclear program. and all signs point to israel. this just may be the new way to take out iran's nuclear facilities. and let me get this straight. republicans won't extend unemployment benefits for people struggling to find work, but they're pushing for tax cuts for the rich. can democrats call them out? also, when will our troops leave afghanistan? president obama is meeting with nato leaders in portugal to map out the way forward. he previously set july 2011 as the start of the drawdown, but today, vice president biden called 2014 the drop dead date. and let me finish tonight with some thoughts about my week
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filling in for chris. let's start with democrats unhappy with president obama. is it becoming a lightning rod for his own party? senator sherrod brown is a democrat from ohio. thank you for joining us, sir. >> okay, good to be with you. >> i want to show you some of the reportage from politico today about what went on that caucus meeting that you attended last night and florida senator ben nelson's frustration at the president they reported, nelson told colleagues, obama's unpopularity has become a serious liability for democrats in his state. and blame the president for creating a toxic political environment for democrats nationwide, according to two democrats familiar with his remarks. is that an accurate report? can you paint the picture of what went on behind closed doors. >> well, i don't want to talk about the meeting that was held in private that was not open to the public but i will say that of course, president's controversial, but among senate democrats, we want the president to stand strong. we want him to sharpen the differences, as you just said on
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the set of the show, that republicans want to block unemployment, maintaining a lot of unemployment benefits for the millions of unemployed worker that is are going to see those benefits run out. at the same time the republicans want to do $700 billion in tax cuts for the 2% wealthiest people in the country. we want the president to make those distinctions sharply because that clearly will win the message and will help us govern the way that we ought to govern. >> to what extent does that then limit his ability to deal with the right, particularly these new republican house members, if he gives those on the left what they're looking for? can he have it both ways? >> yeah, that's not giving people on the left what they're looking for. >> 80%, 90% of the country would prefer if it's a choice you maintain unemployment benefits, rather than giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the country. who've had a very good ten years anyway.
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you know that the 90% of the country, the broad middle class has seen wages flat or worse in most of the last ten years. while the wealthiest 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% have done very, very well. so why we give a tax break to those who have done so well and have our children pay for it with a bigger deficit. that's a good government, that's a fight for the middle class. >> as another indicator of what's going on with problems in the president's own party, i want to show you james carville at a recent breakfast hosted by the christian science monitor. let's all watch and listen. >> is he being a wimp or sounding the right time being on the right course and is his approach -- >> i don't know. i'm the guy -- gave him one of her balls would both have two. he doesn't know that and i don't know why. >> indicative of what's going on in the democratic apparatus or an old wound left over of what we want on in the primary season
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of the last presidential cycle. >> i don't know. i don't comment on people who comment on us that way but i look at this way. the president of the united states, the majority the republican leader, i'm sorry the republican leader in the senate has said on at least one occasion that his goal for the next two years speaking for his republican colleagues in the senate is to make sure that his number one goal's to make sure barack obama fails. and that he doesn't -- excuse me that he doesn't have -- that he is only a one-term president. this same republican leader we're seeing this same kind of behavior. they wouldn't -- they refuse to meet with the president this week. boehner and mcconnell, the two republican leaders, refused to meet with the president of the united states. someone in the "washington post" wrote that the democrats -- when the democrats move to the senate or the republicans move the center, and that really is what boehner and mcconnell are trying to do. the president needs to stand up -- the president, for instance, in ohio in 2008 the president got 2.9 million votes. all of the republican candidates for congress this election and
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this wave election got only a total of 2 million i believe, 11,000 vote. obama got 900,000 votes. 20 to 30 million votes nationally more than the republicans got this year. so there's no mandate to do tax cuts for the rich. and deregulation and more of these outsourcing free trade agreements. that's not what the country needs to do. >> how much of the problem within the democratic party is his problem, the president's problem, as compared to -- driven by senate democratic leaders? in other words i'm wondering how much of the angst that was exhibited in that meeting last night was self-directed? was there introspection on the part of you and your colleagues? >> introspection all the time, of course. and there's always some difficult times after a losing election. i mean the republicans went through it in '06. republicans went through it in '08. they decided immediately in january 2009, even though you could argue president obama had a mandate, they said, no, no, no. they gave him a good day on january 20th, 2009, the republicans cooperated. by the next day, they were
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saying no and had been saying no for two years. i'm not saying no to the republicans but i'm also not -- i'm also saying we're not going to do more tax cuts for the rich. more deregulation of wall street. more job killing outsourcing free trade agreements. those things don't work for the american public. they don't work in cleveland or toledo or mansfield or dayton and they don't work for the whole country. >> senator brown, i've given you two indications of the president's problems within his own party. one, of course, being what went on in the caucus as reported by politico and then james carville. sam stein reported in "the huffington post" that george soros told the progressives just the following. does he face any kind of realistic threat within his own party in terms of the 2012 nomination? do you expect there will be a battle? >> no, i expect none. whenever you lose an election there's second-guessing, there's
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disappointment, there's anger, there's anxiety. there's how will we face the next few months? the president will lead, the president's strong, the president needs to step up and make the distinction better. >> sherrod brown, many think thanks for your time. with me now is "time" magazine's michael crowley. how much room does the president have with republicans? >> i think there's basically no ability to make deals with republicans right now. so what i think senator brown probably hit on is the most profitable theme to the white house right now is this issue, tax cuts. now actually say -- it's interesting because you hear this grousing among senate democrat but they've handled the tax cut issue terribly. i mean they had a chance to really press this before the midterm elections. to force republicans to defend, cutting taxes for the wealthiest, which is really an unpopular position, republicans
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sort of defend because it's built into the infrastructure of their ideology right now. and senate democrats couldn't -- and the house as well, couldn't get it to a vote. couldn't get consensus on it. i do think this is a place where obama can really start to hammer it, and he's not done so, thus far. but it's not like senate democrats have been a model of brilliant political strategy on this particular question. >> but politically speaking, weren't senate democrats equally culpable? i mean i think of health care by way of example. no one running it who was seeking re-election. it seems like everyone just hid on the issue. wouldn't they had been better served if they had said, yeah, that's exactly what we did and here's why and try to sell it to the american people. >> you mean on the obama agenda broadly. >> yeah, in other words i'm saying why is all of the culpability, politically speaking, why is all of the culpability at his end at pennsylvania avenue? >> right, no, i see what you're saying, and again i think that the tax cut fight is a good example where they didn't force the issue in the right way. there were some house candidates who in particular, who tried to ride -- tried to own his agenda.
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tried to run proudly on it. tom perriello in virginia is an example. perriello outperformed what would have been the baseline expectations in his district. it wasn't enough for him to win. i think that russ feingold tried to do the same thing. i'm not sure that i see the evidence that the handful of people who really worked out that strategy were able to win. but look, michael, at the end of the day, unemployment in this country is close to 10% so to some degree i think that talk about messaging is overstated. so much that the democrats can do running into the gail force headwinds of an economy like this and hope and pray that it gets before before the next election. >> michael crowley, many thanks for your time. i appreciate it. who is behind the computer worm. experts now say that the computer program was designed to speed up and destroy the centrifuges which iran is using to enrich uranium. we'll go inside of this cloak and dagger mystery next. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc. he lightg, girlfriend. mnh-mnh. oh gosh!
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we comeback, welcome back to "hardball." a state-of-the-art computer worm known as stuck's net that infected operating systems and equipment in iran earlier this year, was likely a state-sponsored cyberattack aimed at destroying the country's nuclear program, the worm was designed to rapid lie speed up the rotation of centrifuges used to enrich uranium causing them to blow apart. the coding of the virus points to israel. terrorism analyst roger cressey who is a former national security council staffer and bob baer a former cia case officer who's now the intelligence columnist for bob, is this a substitute for an aerial attack? >> oh, i think absolutely. if we look at archaeology of
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this, four years ago israel was pressing the united states to attack the nuclear facilities in iran. the bush administration refused. it was too dangerous. and i think what's happened is israel's turned to these indirect attacks, if you like. we have the case of a nuclear scientist killed in tehran and now we have the case of this virus, this trojan horse, which is very sophisticated so we see the israelis reverting to indirect attacks. >> is your hunch that it's state-sponsored. i ask that question. on the brain about mike zuckerberg. could it be some cyber geeks who are based in israel and took this into their own hand? >> no, no it was very directive. it was a very complicated trojan horse. they knew exactly what they were doing. i understand they're very expensive to make. and in this case like an intelligence operation you have to see who benefits. and it's the state of israel who does. >> roger cressey, how does it actually work? hopefully you can explain it to me in lay terms that i'll follow. >> well, think of it this way,
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it was targeting industrial control systems, michael. and it was going after what's called the plc, the programmable logic controller. so you think of a control system that's used in gas pipelines, power plants, it is also a critical infrastructure. what happened here was somebody was able to get this into the -- into the infrastructure, probably on a programmable thumb drive, a usb drive and then it started exploiting vulnerabilities, fore of which never exploited before and it compromised and compromised to a point where the gut to its target and then began as you described start to spin these electric converters in a way that took the centrifuges well beyond the speed of what they were supposed to do, so that type of sophisticated approach, this is what i would call a cyber precision-guided mission. >> something more than touching the send key. i'm constantly bombarded we mails that i know that i shouldn't open.
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something more consistent than that. >> as bob said this is not a group of 16-year-olds in someone's basement with time on their hands. over 4,000 programmable functions in stuck. multiple layers to it. it was very, very complexed and one of the most impressive malware. that's why i think that it was state sponsored and one of the reasons so effective. >> on that subject of state sponsorship, today's new york times" reports that in receipt weeks officials from israel have broken into wide smiles when asked whether israel was behind the attack or knew who was. bob baer, to you, i ask, what about the u.s. role? do you think that the united states was involved in this? >> the israelis could do this on their own. i'm sure that this administration was supportive of this attack. i mean it's better than going to war with iran. you know, and the israelis aren't admitting it. they need plausible deniability. for the iranians they want to remain a mysterious force and i think that it was actually a brilliant operation. absolutely brilliant. >> roger, i hope that i'm not catching you cold to this but to the extent that we were playing
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a role would it be legal? >> whatever role that we played would be legal because there would be done under covert authorities. the issue always is whenever you launch an attack in cyberspace, their traditional covert authorities, the traditional way that we do covert action doesn't pertain because i said this was a cyber precision-guided mission that is true but still collateral damage associated with it. you can't control things when they are launched in cyberspace. i guarantee if the u.s. government did have a role and i wouldn't be surprised if it did, that this was very much covered under existing authorities. >> on one hand, to the extent that this is the way that it played out, and if it were successful and spared either the united states or israel from launching an aerial attack then i applaud it. on the other hand, it raises questions as to our vulnerability, roger, what's your thought on that? i know that both you and richard clark have published extensively on that subject. >> that's right and as dick said
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in his most recent book "cyber war." offense and defense is often the click of a keystroke. now seeing is the department of homeland security and others in the united states are looking at the performance of this worm. and saying, with our critical infrastructure, are there vulnerabilities that could be exploited the same way? the real concern, michael, you'll see some people out there who will take the code associated with stucks net, maybe work it on the edges and launch it in a different way. so once something is shot into cyberspace you can never bring it back and that's why you have that problem. >> on that question, i also read that it's extended beyond iran, india by way of example. so how do we prevent stucks net from entering the united states? >> well, the biggest issue though is what it's going after. it's going after these electro converters in the centrifuges. you could have a computer that's infected with stucks net but it is not going to impact its performance unless the computer is associated with those types of functions. there's been over 100,000 known infections worldwide, but in terms of what it is hurting it
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is only those things that it originally targeted. these programmable logic controllers. >> bob, it reminds me of well of the taking out of that hamas leader january of this year in dubai. something else widely attributed to the israelis and to the mossad. they seem to relish in the reputation that they're enhancing that they can carry out such attacks. >> oh they want to intimidate. there's no question about it, and now in dubai i don't think that they wanted to get caught as they did, but in this case, the israelis sometimes they're very good and sometimes their operations don't work. >> roger is this a short-term fix in iran? in other words, to the extent we've been successful and the centrifuges are now running haywire, for how long will that be the case? is it a permanent fix? >> no, it's not a permanent fix, michael. this was a really cool operation whoever did it and what it does is it buys us, the israelis and
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the u.s. in the west time. time to continue to work this is not of a nonmilitary means. it was extremely successful and demonstrates there will be other attempts to setback iran's nuclear program through cyberspace and nonmilitary means. secretary gates said last week he does not think the military option is viable so you're going to see us and the israelis look at other options like cyberspace to set the program back. >> i appreciate your time very much. roger cressey and bob baer, thank you for being here. >> you bet. up next, vice president joe biden gave a very diplomatic response after listening to sarah palin say, she could beat president obama. stick around for the "sideshow." you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc.
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welcome back to "hardball." i'm michael smerconish. it's time now for the "sideshow." first up, the tsa body scan. nobody, it seems, escapes a pat-down. >> jay, what's up, what's with all of this extra security tonight? >> we have president bush on the program tonight so everybody gets patted down.
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>> even you? i mean this is your show. >> it makes no sense at all. >> tell me about it. listen, go easy grope master. >> well, my problem is, after one of those, and by god i'm all for it because if there's a guy walking around with a bomb i want to know about that, so i don't mind the excessive groping and the probing. my problem is when it's done i don't know how much to tip the guy. you want to -- i never know. >> and today the tsa announced one group of people who will not have to go through the body scanners or the pat-downs, pilots. now, to vice president joe biden, who found himself in an unfamiliar situation today. momentarily speechless. here he is on "morning joe" along with the sarah palin clip he's reacting to. let's listen. >> if you ran for president, could you beat barack obama? >> i believe so. >> well -- [ laughter ]
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well, look, i -- i, i, i -- you'll get me in trouble. >> okay, okay. >> i don't think she could beat president obama but you know she's always underestimated so you know i think -- i think i shouldn't say anymore. >> speaking of 2012, the des moines register gives a blunt assessment of newt gingrich's chances. the paper's political columnist writes, quote, he may be intellectually gifted but gingrich's no rock star. he's 67 and looks his age. he's working on the paunch with a personal trainer but he can't match palin or mississippi governor barbour when it comes to charisma. ouch. and tonight's big number. how much will it cost to run for president? republican leaders estimate that the minimum amount of money a gop candidate will need to run for president in 2012, $35 million. that's tonight's "big number." 35 million.
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that's "hardball" for now. coming up next, "your business" with jj ramberg. knows how to make things
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