ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
September 3, 2013
Guests: James Risch, Gerry Connolly, Bassam Haddad, Julia Ioffe, Tommy Vietor, Ben Domenech, Eli Lake
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good evening from Washington, D.C. I`m Chris Hayes.
Tonight on ALL IN:
The contested case for war in Syria as the secretaries of state and defense
face the Foreign Relations Committee. They find a Senate much like the
country divided across unlikely lines. We will debate it all here, coming
Also tonight, President Obama is heading to Russia. And who he is going to
meet with may completely surprise you. Surprised me. We`re going to talk
Plus, we`re not sure where exactly Mitch McConnell stands on the proposed
Syria situation, but we know where he is on women`s issues. He`s for them
-- just as long as you don`t pay attention to his record. The all new
Mitch McConnell, later in the show.
But we begin tonight with a remarkable and dramatic day in the nation`s
capital. Less than one week before Congress officially reconvened, a
Senate hearing on a U.S. military strike against Syria on which Secretary
of State John Kerry offered dire, some might say hyperbolic, warnings of
the consequences of inaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The opportunity for other dictators and/or
terrorists to pursue their own weapons of mass destruction, including
nuclear weapons. I will tell you there are some people hoping that the
United States Congress doesn`t vote for this very limited request the
president has put before you. Iran is hoping you look the other way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was just one small part of a day in which the political
machinery in support of a military strike was on full display. This
morning, President Obama held a private meeting with congressional leaders
and used the opportunity to try to reassure a wary public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Military plan that has been
developed by our joint chiefs and that I believe is appropriate is
proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground.
This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Immediately after that private meeting, House Speaker John Boehner
and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi were quick to announce their support of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The use of these weapons
had to be responded to, and only the United States has the capability and
the capacity to stop Assad and to warn others around the world that this
type of behavior is not going to be tolerated. I`m going to support the
president`s call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this
call for action.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (R-CA), DEMOCRATIC LEADER: President Obama did not draw
the red line. Humanity drew it decades ago, 170-some countries. So it is
really something that from a humanitarian standpoint cannot be ignored or
else we cannot say never again.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reserved judgment and
there`s certainly no consensus yet among either party about the use of
force. And in that Senate Foreign Relations hearing today, a Democrat,
Senator Robert Menendez, asked if a prohibition of ground troops in the
congressional authorization would be something the administration could
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: In the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there
was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al Nusra
or someone else, I don`t want to take off the table an option that might or
might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Later in the same hearing, Secretary Kerry back tracked on whether
such a limiting resolution would be a deal breaker for the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: I don`t want anybody misinterpreting this from earlier. This
authorization does not contemplate and should not have any allowance for
any troop on the ground. I just want to make that absolutely clear. You
know, what I was doing was hypothesizing about a potential it might occur
at some point in time, but not in this authorization in no way, be crystal
clear, there`s no problem in our having the language that has zero capacity
for American troops on the ground within the authorization the president is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s no wonder Secretary Kerry tried to clarify that hypothetical
situation. The public is strongly opposed to U.S. military action even in
the event of a determination of the use of chemical weapons by Syria.
According to the latest poll, this is nearly reverse the findings of a
December poll showing public support.
In other words, as the idea of military action against Syria has become
less abstract, the public seems to be less supportive. It is also notable
that today in a press conference in New York, the U.N. Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon essentially said that a U.S. strike under these circumstances
without U.N. approval would be illegal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: The use of force is lawful only when
an exercise of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the United
Nations charter and/or when the Security Council approves such action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: All of this as President Obama is set to depart within the hour en
route to Stockholm before the G-20 Summit.
Joining me now is Senator Jim Risch, Republican from Idaho, a member of
Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He considers himself extremely
reluctant to authorize a strike on Syria.
And, Senator, did anything you heard today in testimony change your mind?
SEN. JAMES RISCH (D), IDAHO: Well, not really. I want to keep an open
mind on this. I wanted to let the administration make the best case it can
for it. I thought Senator Kerry gave an excellent speech today, but I
still have difficulties with it for reasons I`m sure we`ll talk about here
in a minute.
HAYES: Do you agree with Secretary of State John Kerry and the president
and all we`ve heard from the White House that the president has the
authority, legally, constitutionally to do this even without congressional
RISCH: I do not agree with that, and not only that, I`m not alone up here,
and it`s bipartisan. The Democrats, a lot of them are of the same frame of
mind. If you read the Constitution, it`s absolutely clear that the war-
making power is vested in the first branch of government, not in the
Indeed, James Madison in the Federalist Papers said over and over again
that the branch most likely to make war was the executive branch, and
therefore, the Founding Fathers put that in the hands of people in the
first branch of government.
HAYES: Do you honestly believe that in a counterfactual universe in which
we`re discussing a Republican president, Mitt Romney, that you would have
the same reluctance?
RISCH: Well, if it -- are you talking about his compliance with the
Constitution or are you talking about the actual attack on Syria?
HAYES: I`m talking about both the constitutional position that this --
RISCH: The answer would be --
HAYES: -- has to come through Article 1, the actual substance of the
RISCH: The answer would be yes as to both of those. I would counsel
President Romney that he shouldn`t do it in violation of the Constitution,
and secondly, I would counsel him that he would have to have better answers
than what this administration has as far as making justifications.
And more importantly, to me, where we`re going with this, what does success
look like? What does day two, three and four look like? How are you going
to deal with the fallout assuming Russia reacts adversely, which we know
they will to some degree or another, and depending how they would react if
Hezbollah reacted adversely, which we know they will. They`re already
fighting on behalf of Assad in Syria.
HAYES: Can you imagine a future situation in which some scale of chemical
weapons attack from the Assad regime, if we stipulate for the moment that
they were responsible, as the evidence suggests, can you imagine a scale of
chemical attack over which point you would feel the U.S. is actually
compelled to act?
RISCH: Absolutely. I think if they use chemical against any American,
against any American interest, against any American ally. Let me be clear,
they are a neighbor to Israel. We have treaties with Israel. They require
I would be all in. As far as within the country, everybody knows that this
isn`t the first time that Assad has used gas against his own people.
Indeed, Saddam Hussein used it against his own people, and so I can
envision a point where there was a catastrophic use that would engage us.
You know, the other thing that`s overlooked here, he`s already killed
100,000 people with conventional weapons. You know, that is bad. And,
again, I don`t want to de-minimize what this man`s done. He`s done awful,
awful terrible things.
And so, you know, I don`t want to de-minimize that. On the other hand, I
do not buy on to the theory that this is in -- that this is a national
security matter for the United States. Indeed, and I`m certainly not
advocating this, but indeed, if go in and bomb a few facilities then walk
away, I`m not so sure that we`ve taught anybody a lesson.
HAYES: Senator Jim Risch, Republican from Idaho. Thank you so much for
RISCH: Thank you.
HAYES: I should clarify the 100,000 number is the total estimated death
toll in the civil war on both sides as of now. We do not know how that`s
apportioned by both the Assad regime and the rebels.
Joining me now is Congressman Gerry Connolly, Democrat from Virginia, a
member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He`s drafted the House
Democrats resolution that would put strict limits on a Syria attack.
And, Congressman, I have here the draft text of your joint resolution,
which has just been released. How does it differ from the proposed draft
language that was sent over by the White House?
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Radically. First of all, it puts a
time limit on when this authority can be used. It strictly limits it to a
military targeting in response to this heinous crime, the chemical attack
on citizens in the Damascus suburbs.
It also codifies in the resolution that we preclude boots on the ground.
So that debate you were looking at just a little bit earlier is addressed
in our resolution.
HAYES: Let`s say that the -- this resolution were to pass which I think is
probably very much up in the air, am I right, you do not know whether this
is going to have the votes in the House.
CONNOLLY: The reason we drafted this resolution was to try to find a path
toward acting in the narrow way constructed by the president, himself. The
White House resolution that was submitted to the Congress is overly broad,
in my opinion, cannot pass the House. I personally would not support it.
HAYES: You would not support the White House`s resolution. You are
obviously supporting this since you helped draft it. Let`s say that this
were to pass and the White House were to engage in the kind of strike that
is kind of foreseen in the draft language here. What do you say to people
that say, OK, so then what?
CONNOLLY: Well, the question in front of us is, is the evidence
convincing? I believe it is.
HAYES: Is the evidence -- let`s be very clear on what it is. Is the
evidence clear that the Assad regime actually launched this chemical
weapons, killed 1,400 --
CONNOLLY: To suggest the rebels did that is absurd. They have no such
capability. It was clearly done by the Assad regime. And I believe
intelligence corroborates that.
So, the intelligence is fairly convincing.
What is the remedy? People of good conscience on both sides of the aisle
are wrestling with that. Some prefer to do nothing.
My concern is the legacy of that is very dangerous.
HAYES: Can I give a counterexample? Senator John Kerry invoked the legacy
question. It was a big part of the argument. Saddam Hussein used chemical
weapons in two different uses. Both against the Kurds to put down a
domestic insurgency against the Kurds and also in his war with Iran.
Now, he was never punished with that in the way we`re talking about
punishing Assad. Now, yet no other leader used these kind of weapons until
Assad did which would suggest to me that it`s possible that it`s really
only extreme circumstances that led to their use rather than this
punitively established international norm.
CONNOLLY: By, in large, for the last 90 or 100 years, these weapons have
not been used except in the Iran/Iraq war and by Saddam Hussein at Halabja.
I happen to be on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff when that
happened. We tried to get the evidence and tried to get the administration
at that time to take that action seriously. We failed on that effort. But
it`s not that it wasn`t noted and it wasn`t that there weren`t voices
urging action at that time.
HAYES: Right. Even in the absence of that action, my point being, as a
historical matter, in the absence of that action, it was not the case that
failure to act in a punitive way after that opened the flood gates on the
use of chemical weapons.
CONNOLLY: Very little attention was brought to it at the time. That`s not
the case here. The whole world is watching now, including bad actors in
the region, and including North Korea and Iran.
HAYES: So the argument is the heightened scrutiny of the international
community on this occasion means the stakes are higher if there is no
action. That`s your argument.
CONNOLLY: I believe that is an argument and a fairly compelling one. I
also believe international law fairly clear in outlawing the use of these
HAYES: Are you going to get a majority of Democrats to vote for this
CONNOLLY: I have no idea. We`re -- Chris Van Hollen and I collaborated on
writing this very excruciatingly, narrowly drafted to try to allow the
president to have the authority he`s seeking and to codify what the
president, himself, said is limited in terms of this action. It isn`t
designed to be an all-comprehensive approach to Syria or the Syrian crisis.
It`s designed to address this tragic event with this remedy on a limited
HAYES: Congressman Gerry Connolly, Democrat from Virginia.
CONNOLLY: Thank you, Chris. Thanks for having me.
HAYES: Joining me is Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East studies
program at George Mason University. He`s a scholar who specializes in
Syria. He opposes U.S. military intervention there.
And, Professor, my first question to you is, the argument being made
largely by John Kerry and the administration is on the grounds of a
humanitarian case. Essentially enforcing this international norm against
the use of weapons that are as ghastly as the ones we see deployed here.
Why do you not think it`s a good idea for the United States to go ahead and
engage in military action to enforce that norm?
BASSAM HADDAD, GEORGE MASON UNIV.: Well, first of all, to push for this
argument on humanitarian level is actually quite ridiculous, considering
what has taken place in the region under our noses and our support and what
continues to take place in the region with the support of the United
States, of various dictatorships and support of settler colonial state of
Israel and various other forms. What needs to be discussed right now is
something a lot more serious than the debate suggests.
HAYES: Can I -- let me interrupt. Because we have very similar views on
American foreign policy. It also seems to be like a little bit of hiding
the ball to talk in those circumstances.
Whatever the sins of the American government and its participation in the
region, which I`m sure you could spend a lot of time listing, many of which
I would agree with you on, that does not necessarily, right, in an
operational, moral or legal sense, take away from the possibility that it
would be actually beneficial to the international world order or to Syrians
for the U.S. to get involved?
HADDAD: OK. I mean, this is what I`m trying to get to, the devil`s
advocate argument. The debate right now centers around the idea that
taking action is less risky than not taking action. This way of framing
the debate is actually extremely problematic and off.
In many ways, first of all, this kind of framing of a binary eliminates the
possibility that there is another option that the U.S. can take, and there
is another option. It actually absolves the U.S. from taking another
action or another choice because the debate is being framed as action
versus inaction. No, there is another course of action, and that is as we
have been listening to many people saying, I`ve been saying several times
on various media, that there is a focal solution to the conflict as much as
we think it is difficult, the United States and Russia can come together
and compel all parties to the conflict, that the United States and Russia
will actually potentially come to a table and create the opportunity or the
circumstances for the transition.
Because let me just say this, because what we are not paying attention to
is that a limited strike, first of all, will not be effective. Second of
all, it will make the conflict more volatile. And third of all, foreclose
any possibility of a solution down the road.
It`s basically eliminating that possibility for the sake of very limited
gains that can spin out of control and bring the entire region into this
HAYES: Bassam Haddad, from George Mason University. Thank you for your
time tonight. I really appreciate it.
Coming up later in the show, a debate over whether we should two to war in
Syria. My panel will include former White House aide who was involved in
the strategy session today to help the president get the votes he needs,
and the president`s trip to Russia which will include what is sure to be an
excruciatingly awkward encounter with one Vladimir Putin. That`s ahead.
HAYES: Senator Mitch McConnell is hoping you`ll forget he voted down the
violence against women act three times. Now that he`s telling voters he
actually co-sponsored it. That story is coming up.
HAYES: In just minutes, President Obama will board Air Force One and
travel first to Sweden, and then to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G-20
Summit. There, he will almost certainly have the most tense encounter yet
with Russia President Vladimir Putin in their long and very tense history.
The summit is expected to be dominated by the potential U.S. military
strike on Syria.
Putin has dismissed the chemical attack on Syrian civilians as work of the
rebels, telling reporters on Saturday, quote, "I`m sure that it is a
provocation of those who want to involve other countries in Syrian conflict
who want to get support from powerful participants of international
activities, first of all, the USA."
He continued saying, quote, "As for the position of our American
colleagues, the evidence should be presented. If the evidence is not
presented, there is no evidence."
Yesterday, in a nod to the upcoming congressional vote authorizing U.S.
military strikes in Russia, Putin proposed sending a delegation of Russian
lawmakers to lobby Congress against military intervention in Syria.
President Obama for his part is firing back at Putin. The White House has
now confirmed that Obama will meet with LGBT and human rights activists
during his trip to Russia. A strong message of support for human rights
and dignity, but also surprisingly bold diplomatic provocation coming after
the president already canceled his scheduled one-on-one meeting with Putin,
the first time any such visit has been canceled since 1960.
The meeting will come at the low point in U.S./Russian relations in the
Obama era. Putin fashions himself as the global foil for U.S. military
intervention in Syria, while there is growing international and domestic
outrage at Russia`s embrace of anti-gay propaganda laws and persecution in
the run-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi this winter.
Joining me now is Julia Ioffe, senior editor at "The New Republic" and
former Moscow based correspondent for "Foreign Policy" and "The New
"The New York Times" had a big, long piece by Peter Baker on the front page
today about the nature of this relationship, and the basic part of it was
the relationship with Medvedev was actually fairly good and there was a
kind of thawing. There was a famous attempt at a reset. Since Putin`s
come back, it has gone from bad to worse.
Is it a question of the personalities or the leaders clashing, or is it the
fact the two countries` interests are just determined to be in opposition
to each other?
JULIA IOFFE, THE NEW REPUBLIC: I think it`s the latter and I think it`s
because the times have changed, the world has changed. In the meantime,
you`ve had the Arab spring exploding on to the world stage and dominating
America`s attention as it tries to pivot away to Asia.
You have protests breaking out domestically in Russia against Putin`s
return to power. Really if you go back, Medvedev wasn`t acting alone.
When he talked to -- and you even saw this during the hot mike incident
when he talked to Obama, he would often say, you know, I`ll pass this on
Vladimir, my boss, and there were certain things that --
HAYES: Just so people remember, this is the point at which the hot mike,
Medvedev said I will convey to Vladimir, a point Obama made about having
more latitude after the election.
IOFFE: That`s right. But this happened all the time behind closed doors
from what I heard. You know, Obama would ask Medvedev if he could do
something on X and he would say I`d love to, but I`m on a short leash for
The reset was enabled by Putin having that interest, like he was interested
in having a reset. I think -- I think Peter Baker is one of the best
journalists alive, but where I would disagree with him on, is I would go
back even further. I think things started to sour with Libya, and I think
that`s where Medvedev started to lose his grip on power.
HAYES: You made this point in some of your writing that basically Russia
did something very novel in Libya. It`s very germane to what`s happening
in Syria now. They --
IOFFE: That`s right.
HAYES: Medvedev allowed the U.N. Security Council resolution to go
forward, did not block it, even though Russia has veto on the council.
IOFFE: That`s right.
HAYES: They feel like they got hoodwinked on that.
IOFFE: That`s right. They say they didn`t anticipate the strikes would
going on as long as they did, that they would be intensive. They certainly
didn`t anticipate Gadhafi being killed in the brutal manner that he was.
Putin was said to have been preoccupied by that, would keep obsessing on it
in private meetings. You have to imagine he was kind of seeing all of this
through a personal lens.
And this was all happening while there were protests exploding --
HAYES: And, of course, now, we`re in the situation with Syria. Russia has
quite famously blocked any U.N. Security Council action, even the most
basic condemning of the human rights, you know, violations of the regime.
Very basic stuff.
There`s an anecdote in Baker`s story in which the firm time that Tom
Donilon, the president`s national security adviser, goes to meet with
Putin, the first thing Putin says to him is when are you going to start
Now, this was I think about 18 months ago. So, you can imagine watching
this unfold that from Putin`s perspective, this is playing out precisely
what he thought the U.S. was about.
IOFFE: Right. That was actually -- that was right after, that was right
after Gadhafi was killed. That was right after the NATO bombing campaign
in Libya. This was already on his mind.
There were protests happening in Moscow. Mike McFall who had been one of
Obama`s closest advisers arrived in Moscow as the ambassador to Russia and
his specialty in academia had been color revolutions, which is like, it`s
like garlic to a vampire in Moscow.
HAYES: And so, I mean, color revolution as being the nonviolent uprisings
we`ve seen across the Arab world.
IOFFE: That`s right.
HAYES: The orange revolution in Ukraine and places like that. And so,
this was seen as a provocation. In fact, the Russian press went nuts at
this ambassador showing up.
IOFFE: And not just the Russian press. You had pro-Kremlin youth groups
showing up and staging weird flash mobs, like zombies lying on the ground
playing dead, saying they didn`t want to be victims of American aggression
like the Libyans.
It was crazy. They were following Mike McFaul around Moscow. They were
showing up at his meetings and harassing him. It went all the way up to
the highest levels.
HAYES: Julia Ioffe, senior editor at "The New Republic." Thank you so
much for your time.
We will be right back with #click3.
HAYES: Apparently, Senator Mitch McConnell`s hoping no one has noticed his
dismal record on women`s rights because suddenly he`s totally for them
despite years of being otherwise. And, we`ll debate whether we should go
to war with Syria. All that is ahead.
First, I want to share the three awesomest things on the internet today.
Beginning with what may be the trick basketball shot of the summer. The
group "How Ridiculous" is an Australian trick shot basketball team with a
social conscience. According to the group`s website, their goal is to
inspire people to live selflessly, give generously and join us in the fight
against child poverty.
They do this by uploading their wicked trick shots to Youtube. Their
latest effort, brings the group to the Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where
"How Ridiculous" scale the Euromast tower 96 meters in the air, and boom
goes the dyna bang. Some 300 feet in the air, the equivalent of over three
full-court shots away, counted.
Now, to be absolutely transparent, even though there are multiple angles of
the shot that all look legit, #Click3 has yet to determine the absolute
authenticity of this video. That means until the authenticate the
voracity of the video for trick shots of the summer remains the 11 man
banana hammock backyard jam. Stay tune for updates.
The second awesomest thing on the internet today takes us back to the
senate hearings on the situation in Syria. The most serious matter
requiring careful consideration from the world`s greatest deliberative
body. The hearings, however, were kind of long testing the concentration
skills of even the most veteran members. Behold the proof. That`s the
steady hand of John McCain playing poker on his phone. The senate`s
resident republican hawk was caught by intrepid "Washington Post"
McCain defending his actions in a tweet, of course, "Scandal, caught
playing iPhone game at three-plus hour senate hearing. Worst of all I
lost." But, really why should we care if he lost, he`s on the verge of
finally getting that war in the Middle East he has wanted for the last five
Third awesomest thing on the internet today is a return to mother Russia
for back to school Twofer. BuzzFeed, Miriam Elder links to what can only
be described as fully bizarre video of what appears to be the Russian
military performing a drill shooting blanks at the opening of a Moscow
If you listen closely, you can hear Rammstein Du Hast playing in the
background during the display. Truly dark and disturbing showing. Outdone
only by President -- Russian President Vladimir Putin`s own bizarre display
at a Russian middle school classroom to commemorate back to school week.
We`ll let the folks at "Russia Today" describe what the Russian president
is drawing on the smart board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Putin wasn`t just doing that. He was also busy
giving an artist lesson on the day as well on how to draw a cat from
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How to draw a cat from behind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How to draw --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is giving --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Am I hearing you right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yes, given a tour of Russian middle school, Putin used the
opportunity to show the young teens how to draw the back end of a kitty.
This is the actual finished product. Putin apparently asked the class if
anyone could identify his drawing.
And, when no one responded he told them they were all going to jail -- No,
he told them it was a cat`s backside before exiting the stage left. I have
to say, it is not terrible. But, if Putin wants to work on the front ends
of household pets, I know a guy in Texas who can hook him up. You can find
all the links for tonight`s #Click3 on our website, allinwithchris.com.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALE REPORTER: Senator Mitch McConnell dodged questions on foreign affairs
and Syria, and instead focused this campaign event on a new strategy. Team
Mitch for women.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Mitch McConnell.
MALE REPORTER: A sign GOP leaders are targeting women more than a year
before voters have their chance to choose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell facing his toughest election
battle in memory is determined to win the support of female voters. But,
in order to do that, he`ll have to get creative with his record and hope
that no one notices the difference.
McConnell up for re-election next year is facing threats from both the
right and left. If you successfully fights off a Tea Party primary
challenge, not at all assured, he will face democratic opponent Allison
Lundergan-Grimes. Grumes Camp Season opening hitting the senate top
republican for his embrace of anti-woman policies.
And, that`s where team Mitch for women comes in. As the Louisville
"Courier Journal" reports, "Dozens of women came out to support McConnell
in a small rally in an office complex." As one McConnell aide previously
told "The New York Times," "We`re going to be very aggressive in making
sure people don`t mischaracterize what his record is, especially when it
comes to women and women`s issues. Not only are we not afraid of it, we`re
very proud of it."
So, proud that team Mitch distributed a press packet at the event,
featuring the series of testimonials from Kentucky women. One such
testimonial grabbed the attention of Louisville -based reporter, Joe Saka
who tweeted, "This quote in McConnell press packet on co-sponsorship of
violence against women act is interesting."
The quote comes from a woman named Angela Lee, who says "Mitch was the co-
sponsor of the original violence against women act and continues to
advocate for stronger policies to protect women. I am proud to call him my
The truth is, McConnell did co-sponsor a version on the violence against
women act 20 years ago. However, the rest of the story is this, that
legislation died in committee and never got a vote. By the time the
measure came up again in 1993, for real this time, McConnell was no longer
a co-sponsor and, in fact, voted against final passage of the bill.
Of course, McConnell has had two decades to redeem himself on that no vote.
And, yet earlier this very year, he voted against the legislation`s
reauthorization even though he knew it would pass by a wide bipartisan
margin. Aides say McConnell voted for a, quote, "Stronger alternative to
the bill. One that excluded protections for lesbians and gays, native
Americans and undocumented workers.
Of course, the violence against women act is just one example of
McConnell`s hypocrisy. Declaration for McConnell`s inner circle illustrate
the disconnect between Mitch the man and Mitch the Policy Maker. One
McConnell`s aide spoke of the senator after her son was diagnosed with
McConnell reportedly told her, quote, "Stay home. Focus on what`s
important. Come back when you`re ready. I have got your back." Yes, that
is the same McConnell voted against the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993,
which requires businesses to allow employees unpaid leave to deal with
medical issues of their own family members.
And, there`s this testimonial from McConnell`s own wife, Former Labor
Secretary Elaine Chao, who spoke about how her husband, quote, has "fought
for funding for breast cancer research and as well as funding for expanded
cancer screenings for underprivileged and underserved communities."
Yet, McConnell, of course, is in favor of repealing Obama Care and he has
given his blessing to the sequester, which has caused the state of Kentucky
to cut off cancer screenings to hundreds of low-income women.
While Mitch the man and Mitch the policymaker stand in stark contrast,
Mitch the candidate`s best strategy is to basically just hope no one
notices or cares about what he truly stands for. Maybe he`ll figure out
the best way to win the support of women is to stand for policies that
actually help him. Though, I don`t think anyone should hold their breath.
Congress much like the country is divided on what to do about Syria. We`ll
break down the issues with a panel including a former Obama aide, who was
brought back to the white house to help the president make his case. Next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American
people`s representatives in congress. Over the last several days, we`ve
heard from members of congress who want their voices to be heard. I
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The president said on Saturday he would go to congress to decide
whether to execute a punitive strike against Syria. He immediately stepped
into uncharted territory. A space where liberals and conservative
lawmakers will line up on the same side in the normally divided house of
representatives. It`s already apparent that a congressional vote on
whether to strike Syria will scramble traditional alliances in the house.
One of the first hints of this came last week when 186 lawmakers including
50 democrats signed letters calling for the president to seek authorization
for any military action. What we`re seeing this week is a sharper
bifurcation within both political parties.
House Speaker John Boehner said today he would back the president on a
congressional vote to authorize a strike against Syria. So, did
Congressman Eliot Engel, the top democrat on the house foreign affairs
committee, who said that if we didn`t respond in kind, it would send a
message to every despot, every thug that you could commit war crimes and
nothing is going happen. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made a similar
pro-interventionist argument, herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: From the humanitarian standpoint, it
cannot be ignored or else we cannot say never again. Secondly, from a
national security standpoint, we have to send a very clear message to those
who have weapons of mass destruction, of any variety, that should forget
about using them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: On the anti-interventionist side, many members of congressional
progressive caucus including the very liberal congressman from Florida,
Alan Grayson, who has launched a position against attacking Syria and
opposes any military strike there. Lining up alongside Grayson is the
junior republican senator from the state of Kentucky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: I think it`s a mistake to get involved in
the Syrian civil war, and what I would ask John Kerry is, you know, he`s
famous for saying, you know, how can you ask a man to be a last one to die
for a mistake? I would ask John Kerry, how can you ask a man to be the
first one to die for a mistake?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Paul`s own views on this don`t come as much of a surprise. But,
what we will also see in this vote is the ongoing brawl inside the
republican coalition over that party`s foreign policy direction.
And, when watching the news today, each new position for or against the
resolution from both democrats and republicans often came as a genuine
surprise. Citizens looking to their political leaders for direction are
likely to find themselves profoundly contorted.
Joining me now is Tommy Vietor, former National Security Counsel Spokesman
in the Obama Administration, co-founder of Fenway strategies. He was back
in the White House today to help the president win support for intervention
in Syria. Ben Domenech, a research fellow at Think Tank The Heartland
Institute. He co-founded "Red State" a conservative blog. And, Eli Lake,
senior national security reporter from "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast."
Explain this to me. I found the moment in the hearing today that was most
interesting was several senators saying, if you think you have the
authority to do this without coming to congress, why are you coming to
congress? And, if the vote doesn`t go your way, isn`t this a preposterous
bit of theater?
TOMMY VIETOR, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNSEL SPOKESMAN: I think the vote
is going to go their way. I think that the president believes that this
action will be stronger if it is a U.S. action that is supported by
congress, supported by more of the American people and not just Barack
Obama stepping out and taking a limited strike.
HAYES: Let`s be clear about supported by the American people. Supported
by congress does not equalize the supported of American people. I mean,
you know --
HAYES: -- the T.A.R.P. Bailout vote a very famous example. This vote if
and when it comes about, I think probably -- I mean I don`t see the polling
on this turning around fast enough for the White House to get the votes.
VIETOR: The American people don`t support congress, either, we should
stipulate, but --
HAYES: At all.
VIETOR: No. You -- there is a --
HAYES: No one supports anyone, Tommy. That`s the point. That`s why it`s
impossible to wage wars under these conditions --
VIETOR: I support the --
HAYES: -- because no one has any credibility. There`s a complete and
total blanket crisis of authority. No one trusts anything after years of
failure and misery and destruction. I`m sorry if I`m expounding here, but
it`s true. And, so, people look at this entire thing and think, are you
out of your mind?
VIETOR: There is healthy skepticism after Iraq about taking someone`s word
for it before we go to war. This is very different. This is a short,
limited operation. We`re talks a couple hundred cruise missiles hitting
chemical weapon sites in Syria. Yes, there is the potential to get pulled
into something longer. But, the White House has been very clear about what
they want to scope this --
HAYES: What do you say?
BEN DOMENECH, RESEARCH AT THE HEARTLAND INSTITUTE: I say -- Look, love it
or hate it, ousting Assad at least has the virtue of being an idea. This
is not an idea. Lobbing a few missiles over there toward the kind of, you
know, compact operation that you are talking about. One that the White
House is already saying only will degrade the ability of Assad to use
weapons against his people, not eliminate it.
Even in that sort of space, I think this represents something that is a
much bigger ship you talked about in your book and in the other context,
which is a level of distress among the American people for the elites.
And, I think that that`s really what we`re seeing played out here. And,
it`s being targeted now at the president, which is why he wants to spread
the blame around a little bit and get the republicans and congress to go
HAYES: Well, he wants to spread the blame. He also wants -- He is also
right to go to congress, right? I mean we should -- whatever cynical
reading you want to give him Ben, right?
DOMENECH: You know, I don`t think that he necessarily needs to.
HAYES: Wait, you think he needs to?
DOMENECH: I don`t think that he necessarily needs to. It depends on the
HAYES: Wait a second. Everyone is quoting Madison to me today. You
forget your federal newspapers, which of course are not a part of the
constitution is documented -
DOMENECH: No. You could actually do it if you had been attacked
beforehand, you didn`t need to go to congress to get approval. But, in
this context, I think you do need to go to congress because this is well
beyond what I think Reagan did in Libya and things like that.
HAYES: Do you agree with Ben that this is not even an idea?
ELI LAKE, NEWSWEEK "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, there`s a reason why regime
change is not on the table right now. Martin Dempsey in a letter in July
to senator Levin, the chairman of the senate armed services committee, said
very clearly, if the regime collapses and there`s no viable opposition,
those chemical weapons could get into the hands of Al Qaeda and that`s
So, the satisfying option in the case of Syria is probably a very dangerous
option. But, at the same time, I think Obama`s got a real problem right
now. And, that is the rhetoric and the crime, the gassing of his own
people; the moral obscenity and how we hear this administration, including
the president describe what happened, does not meet the military action
that he`s talking about.
It is a redux of cruise missile diplomacy. The kind of thing that Clinton
did in the 1990s when Saddam without weapons inspectors. So, I`m saying
that there is disconnect between the severity of what has just happened and
the moral obscenity that is just to happen and what is actually being
VIETOR: So, I think there is a couple parts to this. This was the worst
chemical attack in the 21st century. And, there`s a set of laws preventing
the use, production of these horrific weapons.
Now, President Obama drew a red line and the international community, drew
a line in the sand with the chemical weapons convention a long time ago.
Congress ratified that. So, yes, this is standing up for an idea. The
nonproliferation regime that has been critical to Barack Obama.
HAYES: But, you -- Hold that thought, hold that thought, and hold that
thought. We`ll be right back.
HAYES: As the footage from just moments ago as the president boarded Air
Force One to embark to Sweden then on to Russia. The G-20 Summit, we just
mentioned, a little while later and what is sure to be some very, very
tense conversations with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Still with me, Tommy Vietor, former National Security Counsel Spokesman of
the Obama Administration; Ben Domenech From The Heartland Institute, Eli
Lake from "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." OK, this idea that you`ve
drawn International Red Line, that there`s this prohibition on the use of
HAYES: Respond to the argument, I made an argument earlier in the show. I
still haven`t heard anyone convince me. Saddam Hussein used these weapons
HAYES: Notably against the Kurdish and Iran/Iraq war. There were no
punitive missile strikes. It was an absolute moral obscenity of the worst
variety, ghastly, disgusting, horrible, evil action. There were no
international sanctions essentially for it. In fact the U.S. government
knew that we had the weapons and basically looked the other way and then no
one used it for the next 30 years until Assad --
LAKE: Saddam Hussein did feel you could argue those consequences. That
was Christopher Hidgens` argument at the time that there was this sort of
wrath sheet that was built up and they used the run-up to war saying he`s
used these sorts of things.
HAYES: Right, but what is it? No one other than --
DOMENECH: Right, he didn`t get it at the time.
LAKE: You are right. You are right.
HAYES: -- But, the idea that we`re hearing from John Kerry today in the
senate foreign relations committee is that you will open the flood gates on
use of these kinds of weapons and lord knows who else if Assad is not
punished here. And, what do you say to that historical precedence?
VIETOR: I think in this instance there was a smaller use that eventually
the International community came out and said, "Yes, he did do that." And,
he ratcheted up diplomacy. And, then he did that again, because this was a
hardened neighborhood that he could not unshake. And, they used rockets --
HAYES: You`re talking about Assad.
VIETOR: Yes, about Assad.
HAYES: But, there`s been an escalation in his own deployment.
VIETOR: Yes. And, I think the sense is, u they drew this red line for
Assad in this instance. Iran is watching. If they don`t act now --
DOMENECH: But, the word that you used there is punish. And, this is the
problem I have with this scenario. This is why it fails the just war test.
You have to have just cause, just authority, just result. And, I think in
this case, it fails at least two of those and probably all three in the
sense that you don`t have -- you don`t have the result being a protection
for the people. I mean, the way I sort of view this --
HAYES: Wait a second. You do if the theory of the case here were to play
out as they were saying.
HAYES: And, the theory of the case is that he`s doing this because he`s
getting away with it. If we basically say, no, you can`t do this. We
degrade his actual operational capacity to do it and we also send this
international message. That will protect --
COMENECH: I still think you`re setting -- I still think your setting
yourself up to fail. Do or do not, there is no try in this scenario.
VIETOR: Do in your scenario is a buffer zone or humanitarian court order,
which is a ground invasion.
DOMENECH: But, I think that you actually have to go in on the ground even
if your aim is only to secure the secure the chemical weapon.
VIETOR: But --
HAYES: Let`s be clear, no one is saying we`re going to.
VIETOR: The aim is to degrade the means of distribution. So, destroy the
HAYES: How confident are we that we can do that? How confident are we?
DOMENECH: Secure the chemical weapons?
HAYES: No. No. Degrade -- No, not secure them, degrade the capacity to
VIETOR: The U.S. Military has a very real capacity, the ability to deliver
these weapons. Not wipe out their existence.
LAKE: No. No. No, they`re not going to secure the chemical weapons,
themselves. The rockets to deliver them, a lot of them are probably going
to be degraded, yes.
HAYES: So, here`s --
LAKE: Or blown up to use plain English.
HAYES: Yes. Great. Very quickly to you, Eli. Do you think this is a
turning point in the internal politics of foreign policy in the Republican
Party? Because I think the majority of republicans are going to go vote
And, it seems to me that the Rand Pauls, this will be the moment in which
the Rand Pauls of the party finally sort of can declare victory for their
foreign policy vision being the dominant one.
LAKE: And, they will have a great moment until there`s another republican
president and then it will go back to an expansive executive --
HAYES: Ding, ding, ding, ding. Isn`t that true?
VIETOR: I think that Eli is right, unfortunately.
HAYES: Right. Yes. I think that there`s obviously there`s a tremendous
amount of --
DOMENECH: You have to feel bad in some ways for Obama. I mean, like,
here`s a guy who killed Gadhafi and Osama Bin Laden and people are saying
he`s a wimp. I mean --
DOMENECH: -- Who else do I have to kill.
HAYES: Although -- Let me say this as a definitive statement, taking the
host`s prerogative to editorialize. There`s no more stupider more bankrupt
reason to go to war than fear that people think you`re weak or wimp. Tommy
Vietor, former National Security Counsel Spokesman, Ben Domenech from The
Heartland Institute, and Eli Lake from "Newsweek" the and the "Daily
Beast." Thank you all very much.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. That was a stupendous
debate. That was awesome.
HAYES: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Well done.
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