Alex Witt   |  March 30, 2013

North Korea declares ‘state of war’ against South

White House reporter Amie Parnes and Washington Post columnist Emily Heil weigh in on North Korea’s new threats.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> is white house reporter for the hill amie parnes and emily heil, columnist for "the washington post ." amie i want to start with you. this is the big story today, north korea with more new threats against the u.s., and its threats against the south. they haven't seemed to receive. but give us a read on how concerned the administration is about this, especially when we consider the young new leader kim jong -un and the fact that he is not well known in international waters .

>> sure. well, thomas, the white house is basically saying that any further threats by north korea would only lead to further he isolation. they're putting all blame on north korea right now, even though the u.s. and south korea have been practicing exercises over there. they're saying that the escalation is all squarely because of north korea . but i think they are a little bit concerned.

>> it certainly is posturing from a lot of different angles here. emily i want to play for everybody what defense secretary chuck hagel had to say on thursday. take a listen.

>> you only need to be wrong once. and i don't know what president or what chairman or what secretary of defense wants to be wrong once when it comes to nuclear threats.

>> so, emily , what should we be reading into those comments made by defense secretary hagel?

>> well, i think you're hearing a guy who hasn't been on the job all that long and it's already concerned about his legacy and how history will remember him. putting himself in the context of other secretaries of states and presidents, too. but i think what he's saying is pretty much at face value, which is, you know, we don't want to dismiss these threats, as more blustering. you have to take them seriously in some way, and i think that's what he's doing. i think that, you know, it's easy to dismiss them. but like you said, kim jong -un is an unknown quantity. he's unpredictable. and i think that the defense department , i think chuck hagel , and others are taking this very seriously in a way maybe they haven't before.

>> as our andrea mitchell pointed out, it's the fact that he is an untested new leader, and what is his mentality when it comes to proving that he is up to this job that has been handed to him now? and as hagel points out, it's never wise to overestimate or underestimate anyone, emily .

>> i think that's right. i think that he is treading very carefully here. and feeling out this new leader. and we don't know a lot about him. and i think this will prove to be a pretty crucial moment in this developing relationship.

>> amie, i want to move back to what's going on domestically here and the push by the president, the new push, on gun control . columnist dana millbank in today's " washington post " points out obama made an impassioned bid this week to revive prospects for gun control legislation but it's difficult to escape the conclusion that his efforts come too late. as dana says harry reid had to drop the plans for legislation on the assault weapons ban , and large clips because the support wasn't there, would that have happened regardless of the president maybe not having been pushing this agenda as he should have been?

>> well, i think it would have happened regardless of any president. i mean the truth of the matter is that the nation's attention span is -- we -- it's very thin and we've forgotten pretty quickly. so i think that's why you saw the white house and the president this week sort of on this reminder tour, not just on gun control , but on immigration,age other things. you know, he spent so much time focused on sequestration and he was in israel last week he sort of aimed to bring it back this week and say, hey, we haven't forgotten. these are still my priorities. but you know, congress and washington does move pretty -- the only time that it really does act as if it's on something pretty quickly like 9/11 they acted very quickly. so they might have lost their window here, and i think that's of some concern to some people.

>> even as the president pointed out, though, during that speech, that we were still less than 100 days after the newtown tragedy, you know, when we think about that, less than 100 days from, you know, this slaughter of all those innocent kids. and america has moved on? the attention span is that short?

>> i mean, it is pretty short. but you know, he's going to be -- he's going to travel to denver this week. he's going to keep pushing this. the white house is pretty convinced that they can at least get background checks done, so i mean that remains to be seen, thomas. but we'll see.

>> well the president also has this coordination emily with the fact that there is the group that the -- the mayors against gun violence . we know that michael bloomberg , new york city 's mayor, has been out front on this. do you think that effort, that, that ground support in major cities around the country with mayors and the grassroots, that can help get legislation passed, especially when we talk about the fact that there is overwhelming support around the country for simple background checks ? if we can't get that done, what hope is there for anything?

>> well, that ad campaign is interesting. you know, that group, the mayor's group, founded by mayor bloomberg , is going up against the nra which is very powerful, very well organized and very well funded. it's in some ways just a small drop in the bucket against the opposition there. also, i think there's some fear that mayor bloomberg himself can be a very polarizing figure. one thing we've noticed in this debate over gun control is there is so much paranoia. and i think that in some ways mayor bloomberg serves as a pretty good boogie man. he's the guy who wants to take away your big gulp . he's big government . i mean he's a republican, but i think he is a new york city republican.

>> right. he wants to hide the smokes, too. don't forget about that, too. he wants to hide the smokes.

>> right. and so there's -- there's a feeling that maybe he is -- he is, you know, actually in some ways eroding this message and making it harder for, for the very cause that he's spending a lot of money in, in support of.

>> amie parnes, emily heil, thanks so much for joining me.