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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

September 4, 2013

Guests: Ted Yoho, Gerry Connolly, Gregory Meeks, Dominic Terney

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Today, the Senate moved the United States a step
closer to military intervention in Syria.


red line. The world set a red line.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: The president is in Sweden --

UNIDNETIFIED FEMALE: On route to the G-20 Summit.

JANSING: -- laying the groundwork to build an international coalition.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: For military action in Syria.

OBAMA: My credibility is not on the line. The international community`s
credibility is on the line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia has been complaining.

HALL: Recent comments made by Vladimir Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Putin still blocking any kind of U.N. action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he playing a game? Is he serious?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I was able to get a sense of his soul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The memory of Iraq has many of us changed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The memory of Iraq resulted in a narrower
authorization of force.

JANSING: So, where are we now? With the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will vote on a resolution.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I don`t see a clear-cut or compelling
American interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to come down to the House GOP.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An open hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hearing testimony from John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The administration`s policy doesn`t build confidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is beyond Republican. This is beyond Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have yet to hear concrete things of what the world is

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do, however, have serious concerns.

UNIDENTIFIEDMALE: I have many questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are our interests there?

OBAMA: First of all, I didn`t set a red line. The world set a red line.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: He`s not going to do this alone.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Obama today said he retains the
right to use military force.

TODD: Even though he`s left that open as option.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`ll talk resolution and red lines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this critical moment for U.S. foreign policy.


O`DONNELL: The resolution authorizing military action in Syria was
approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today by a vote of 10-7,
with one senator voting present. The resolution would limit any military
strikes to 60 days, with the possibility of a 30-day extension. I would
expressly ban the use of ground troops.

The resolution also includes wording offered by John McCain that would
explicitly make it the policy of the United States to, quote, "change the
momentum on the battlefield in Syria so as to create favorable conditions
for a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a
democratic government in Syria".

John McCain was joined by two other Republicans voting in favor of the
resolution: Tennessee`s Bob Corker and Arizona`s Jeff Flake. Two Democrats
voted against it, Connecticut`s Chris Murphy and New Mexico`s Tom Udall.

The committee`s newest member, Massachusetts Ed Markey voted present, later
explaining he need more time "to review all the classified materials
relating to this matter before I make the decision on something as
important as authorizing the use of military force."

In yesterday`s hearing, Senator Markey wondered why we are not waiting for
the results of the United Nation`s weapon`s inspectors before authorizing
the use of force. And Senator Markey did not get a reassuring answer to
this important question.


SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Are you concerned in any way that a
strike by the United States could increase the amount of military
assistance that Russia sends into the Syrian regime?

I mean, there is some indication that they have assured the regime that if
we destroy something, they can replace it.


O`DONNELL: The two aspiring Republican presidential candidates on the
committee, Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul voted against the resolution.
Here is Rand Paul just before today`s vote.


PAUL: I don`t see a compelling American interest. I see a horrible
tragedy but I don`t see that our involvement will lessen the tragedy. I
think it may well make the tragedy worse.


O`DONNELL: The White House commended the Senate for moving swiftly and for
working across party lines on behalf of our national security. The
administration continued to make the case for action in Syria, this time
before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The risk of not acting is greater than the
risk of acting. If we don`t take a stand here today, I guarantee you we
are more likely to face far greater risks to our security and a far greater
likelihood of conflict that demands our action in the future.


O`DONNELL: And Syria dominated President Obama`s press conference today in
Stockholm, with Sweden`s prime minister.


OBAMA: First of all, I didn`t set a red line. The world set a red line.
The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the
world`s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent, and
passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in

When I said in a press conference that my calculus about what`s happening
in Syria would be altered by the use of chemical weapons, which the
overwhelming consensus of humanity says is wrong, that wasn`t saying I just
kind of made up. I didn`t just pluck that out of thin air.

My credibility is not on the line. The international community`s
credibility is on the line. And America and Congress`s credibility is on
the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these
international norms are important.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Krystal Ball and Steve Kornacki.

I want to listen to what President Obama said in that press conference
today, responding to the very important question of what he will do if
Congress does not approve the resolution.


OBAMA: I believe Congress will approve it.


O`DONNELL: Krystal, that is it. That is the answer to what he will do.
In other words, he just refused to answer that question. He just glossed
over it with the optimism of "I think they will approve it".

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: Yes, and I think ultimately they will approve
it, too. I mean, part of the noise that is coming from the Republicans,
they have to be skeptical of anything the president does. But it`s going
to be close.

But I think it would be very difficult for the president, although he has
reserved the right and said that he does not think it is constitutionally
necessary for him to go through Congress. I think it would be very
difficult if this authorization is not given to him through Congress, to go
ahead with a strike. I just think it would be incredibly unpopular if
Congress did not go along with him.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, Ed Markey today personified the struggle that
Democrats are having with this, the recent member of the House himself. He
wasn`t ready to vote today. His vote wasn`t going to matter. They clearly
had a big enough margin in the committee where the vote didn`t matter. And
so, he held off.

My suspicion is that he was looking for ways in the hearing, you could
follow his question. He was looking for ways to support the
administration, getting very dissatisfactory answers. So he is waiting for
that floor vote on the Senate. And I think House members are also taking
their time coming to a decision on this.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Yes, no, I think his comments were interesting
in particular, one is that remember that Markey got his Senate seat because
John Kerry left the Senate to become the secretary of state. And John
Kerry and Ed Markey go back decades together serving in the Massachusetts
delegation, you know, pretty close politically. As soon as Ed Markey got
into the race last December, John Kerry endorsed him right away.

One of the reasons Markey had such an easy path to the Senate and the
message that Ed Markey is basically delivering in that vote, in saying I`m
not convinced yet, I`m going to vote present, I`m going to make up my mind
later is, John Kerry hasn`t made the case yet. One of his closest
political allies all these years, he`s basically has not made a strong
enough case at this point.

The other thing I think to keep in mind with Ed Markey, again, he is
probably safe next year in terms of re-election, but he is up for a full
term in 2014. When you talk about the House, and you talk about a third of
the Senate, they`ll be facing the voters next year. And you`re looking at
something that at least right now, the polling seems to be moving more and
more against. So, that`s going to weigh on their minds, too.

O`DONNELL: Well, you know, I also think, in a case like Senator Markey,
what you`re seeing is one of the problems of modern politics where his
predecessor John Kerry got in trouble for his famous line "I voted for it
before I voted against it."

BALL: Right.

O`DONNELL: And many, many senators and House members used to vote for
things in committee that they would against because the situation or the
bill itself changed, but we live in the world where that kind of subtlety
is no longer appreciated by the media or electorate. So, I think what
Markey was thinking is "I may be voting for this, but I cannot vote for
this today. I don`t want to vote no today and then vote yes in the

So, Krystal, he leaves himself in the position where he won`t have to
actually change a vote when he decides to vote on the Senate floor.

BALL: Yes, I think that`s right and I think also, his vote of present
represents how conflicted a lot of Democrats feel in this. On the one hand

O`DONNELL: Krystal, I think a lot of their constituents. He speaks very
much for Democratic voters out there who are supporters of President Obama,
who wanted to support the president, but can`t do it yet or may not be able

BALL: Who want to support the president, who want to support the
president, who want to -- you know, who are inclined to act if there is a
true reason for intervention, but haven`t been sold on that case. I mean,
this president, to his credit really, he hasn`t really launched the sort of
emotional appeal that, say, George W. Bush would have. He laid out what he
thinks is the best case for military action.

And it`s very difficult to get people to go along with a rational case for
military action. But you`re absolutely right. This is a very conflicting
circumstance for Democrats, not just politicians, but Democrats who like
this president, trust this president but are generally wary of getting
involved in entanglements overseas.

KORNACKI: Can I just say that the one thing to keep in mind there, though,
this conflict that Democrats are facing is going to become more and more
important I think as this shifts away from the Senate and into the House.

It`s tough to read right now exactly where the Republicans in the House
side are going to fall in the vote. The giveaway to me today was Rand Paul
basically saying, hey, I`m giving up on the Senate. None of this talk of
filibuster in the Senate anymore. If we`re going to stop this, it`s going
to be the Republicans in the House stopping this.

That suggests this pattern that`s defined the current Congress could
reemerge on this, which is that, you know, you can find much more
bipartisanship in the Senate, when it moved to the House, Republicans are a
lot more reflexively opposed to anything that has Democratic or Obama
fingerprints on it. And the burden will be to get that through if that
pattern prevails again.

O`DONNELL: Well, Krystal, it`s very interesting to see Rand Paul throw in
the towel on the filibuster, which he had threatened over this, because
according to the vote we saw today in the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, this is a filibusterable thing on the Senate floor, meaning that
was not better than a 60-40 vote in the committee in terms of what would
represent in the floor.

And Rand Paul, if he wanted to, it seems, could easily lead a much more
than 40-vote opposition to this on the Senate floor, and tie it up and not
let it get through the Senate. But he has clearly decided he is not going
to do that, like Steve says. And he is trying to throw all the burden on
the House of Representatives to get what he wants.

BALL: Right. And because he sees he could potentially slow down the
process, but ultimately that authorization is likely to pass through the
Senate. And I think the House -- it is going to be interesting to watch
how this goes. Obviously, the Republican members have to be seen as being
very critical of the president out front.

There was an interesting "Washington Post" op-ed today by two Republican
representatives who are supporting a strike in Syria, and basically they
started laying out the argument saying here is how tough we were on Obama,
here is the case of action, which has nothing to do with Obama and, by the
way, we reserve the right to be critical of Obama afterwards.

So, are there going to be Republicans who adopt that way of being, or are
they just going to find that their constituents are two overwhelmingly
opposed, to skeptical of any action by this president. And as Steve said,
just reflexively vote down anything that this president would want to do in

O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball, and Steve Kornacki, thank you both for joining me

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, three members of the House committee who question
the secretary of state and secretary of defense today.

And later, why is using chemical weapons crossing the line? Why do we
think that it is worse to die from chemical weapons than it is to die from
bullets or from bombs that rip bodies apart?

And in the rewrite tonight, a remarkable, truly remarkable must-see video -
- a politician bravely and eloquently facing down the opposition to his
support of same-sex marriage. The prime minister of Australia shows
politicians everywhere how to handle the tough question. That`s coming up.


O`DONNELL: As many as 7 million men, women, and children have been
displaced by fighting since the civil war in Syria began. Two million of
them have actually left the country. UNICEF is assisting those refugees
wherever they can. UNICEF sent 100 tons of supplies to the region of Iraq
where 200,000 Syrians are living, 20 thousand of them are children. If you
would like to contribute to the UNICEF children`s fund, you can find the
link on our Facebook page,

Up next, everybody agrees that the House of Representatives will cast the
vote on the Syrian intervention. Three members of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee will join me next.


O`DONNELL: The team of Kerry, Dempsey and Hagel made their case for the
intervention into Syria again today, this time to the House Foreign Affairs


KERRY: Some have tried to suggest that the debate we`re having today about
this president`s red line, that this is about President Obama`s red line.

Let me make it as clear as I can to all of you -- that is just not true.
This is about the world`s red line. It is about humanity`s red line, a
line that anyone with a conscience should draw. This debate, I might
remind you, is about Congress`s red line. You agreed to the chemical
weapons convention.


O`DONNELL: Opponents to the intervention in Syria believe that it is up to
the House of Representatives to defeat the resolution authorizing that


PAUL: I think they will win the vote in the Senate. The only chance of
stopping what I consider to be bad policy will be in the House.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now is New York Democrat Gregory Meeks, Virginia
Democrat Gerry Connolly and Florida Republican Ted Yoho, who are all
members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman Meeks, how are you going to vote on this resolution in the

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Well, as of today, I can`t tell you. I
am undecided. I am somewhat like Mr. Markey in that I have a lot more
information to get in. I have to sit down at some more classified hearings
and hear some more information.

I`m, though, tremendously concerned because I don`t believe we need to
strike in a unilateral basis. It`s the international violations of
chemical weapons was broke, it should be an international response. And as
of, right now I don`t see an international response.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Connolly, how are going to vote on this?

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Well, Lawrence, it really depends on
what it is. The resolution drafted by White House, Lawrence, is overly
broad and I could not support that resolution.

O`DONNELL: Have you seen the wording that has been changed by the Senate
and is that more appealing to you?

CONNOLLY: Actually, I have introduced my own resolution with Chris Van
Hollen, that more narrowly constricts the ability of the president to
respond to this chemical weapons attack and, obviously, I support my own

O`DONNELL: And, Congressman Yoho, how will you vote on this?

REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: Lawrence, I`m going to vote a definite no.
You talk about attacking a sovereign country that didn`t attack the United
States of America, I can`t support that.

O`DONNELL: And what is your reaction to Rand Paul who does have the power
to filibuster this in the Senate. And probably would have the votes based
on what we just saw in the Foreign Relations Committee, it looks about 40
percent of the Senate or so is probably going to vote against us anyway.
But Rand Paul wants to leave it all to you in the House of Representatives
to try to stop this thing he wants to stop. What is your reaction to that,
Congressman Yoho?

YOHO: You know, I don`t know how to take that. I think Rand has got a
plan on why he`s doing that and I`m sure that he has a plan, but in the
House. You know, again, I can talk for myself, I can`t speak for anybody
else, but I`m a definite no on this.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Yoho, I just want to stay with you on this. What
do you think is the most persuasive -- I know you are voting no. But I
want you to consider the other side of the case for a moment, and in the
testimony you heard today, what do you think is the most persuasive thing
that the administration said today that probably could get them some votes
in that room? And I know your vote is not up for grabs.

YOHO: Right, to me, I did not hear anything that swayed me. I went to a
briefing yesterday. That did not sway me. I think there are too many ifs
in this, and too many unverified facts for me to come out and change me.
And I think other people will feel the same way. If you look at the CWC
Agreement signed by 189 nations, I want to know what the other 188 nations
are. And as the Congressman Meeks said, where are they coming to the

I have not seen that. And we have a long way to go to convince me

O`DONNELL: Congressman Meeks, to you, undecided, what were the things that
you heard in the hearing today that you found most compelling in one
direction or the other?

MEEKS: Well, I think that what is compelling is the fact that it seems --
and I have not seen any evidence to repute it, that clearly in this
instance, that chemical weapons were utilized. And that it was utilized by
the Assad regime.

There is no issue, there is no question about that. I have not heard
anything that violates that finding. And the secretary said that is beyond
a reasonable doubt.

But on the other side of that, when asked specifically who will -- also not
just stand and watch the strike or stand and just say that they`re against
what was done, who will stand with us and be able to put militarily, who
will be with us? And if we`re not by ourselves, that was not answered.

And so, those are the two issues that I have right now. So, who is with
us? Because I think if not knowing who that is, and if the international
community is not with us, I think that the international credibility is at
stake. Not the United States, because it means that the North Koreans of
the world will say that somebody could utilize a weapon of mass destruction
or chemical weapon and the international community will stay on the
sideline. It needs to be a multi-lateral effort against this international

O`DONNELL: Congressman Connolly, can you make the case here to Congressman
Meeks for why you would like his support on the version of the resolution
that you are working on?

CONNOLLY: Yes, I think the overhang of Iraq is profound. We were given
shoddy and misused intelligence in some cases, a fabricated intelligence to
justify the move into another country. And I think everybody feels burned
by that experience.

That`s not the case here. We do not have a case of a president wanting to
invade another country. We do not have shoddy intelligence, as Greg said.
I think that is not in question.

And I also think the standard we set, I don`t think it is the only time the
United States gets militarily involved in a situation, including limited
strikes with Tomahawk missiles, not troops on the ground, is when our
direct security is threatened. That`s the 1930 standards for the United

For good or ill, we are the surviving super power. We have a
responsibility to uphold international law. If we do not act in a limited
fashion, only with respect to chemical weapons, I guarantee you, Bashar al-
Assad will use them again.

And we will be condemning thousands of lives to a terrible death because we
did not act to uphold international law, and to uphold our own values and
standards. That`s what got me, Lawrence.

I don`t want to get involved in another international conflict, we`re
trying to extricate ourselves from two -- one of which we never should have
been involved in. But we can`t stand by and allow this humanitarian crisis
to go by without accepting the consequences of doing nothing. And that
will be profound, with respect to Iran and other bad actors in the region
who are watching very carefully what we do or don`t do in the House of

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to this exchange with Congressman Marino and
Secretary Hagel.


REP. TOM MARINO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Regardless of how of the minimization
of intervention, American military personnel will die. And this, I cannot
accept, soldiers coming home deformed and limbless and even in a body bag
is not acceptable to me. And therefore, I cannot and will not vote for
this intervention in Syria. Thank you.

KERRY: This specifically notes no boots on the ground, this resolution
that is being drafted. I might remind the congressman.

MARINO: I have heard that before.


O`DONNELL: Congressman Yoho, explain your colleague`s refusal to believe
the wording of the resolution as limiting. It says specifically that there
will be no boots on the ground. And yet, that`s not -- Marino is not the
only member who seems to think that that wording is meaningless, for some

YOHO: Well, I think like Jerry pointed out, there is a lot of vagueness in
the resolution e way it is written. And also, Secretary Kerry yesterday
said that he could not guarantee there would not be boots on the ground, if
in fact we did go in. The military strike alone will not get these

And if they fall out of the hands, I don`t know if you can call anybody the
good guy in there. But if they fall out of the hands of the control of the
Assad regime, who is going to get them? And he said if we lost control of
those, he could not guarantee troops would not be on the ground.

He came back and recanted that today. But I think we have a long way to
go. But as far as the international community, or the fact of this, I
don`t think there was a question that sarin gas was used. That is going to
come out by the U.N.

The question is who used that. One of the briefings I was at, they were
piecemealing together a plausible explanation. And I asked the guy, I said
this reminds me of 2002 when we`re doing the same thing, and Colin Powell
was selling it to the American people, and he was nodding his head in the
affirmative, says, I agree.

So, I think there is too much uncertainty to go in there, under this. And
like you brought up earlier, you know, is it more severe to kill people
with chemical weapons? Which I think it is horrendous, I think is a
terrible thing to do. But what about the other 108,000 people that have
been killed, I think that`s horrendous, too.

And I think this needs to be brought to a close and it needs to be done
diplomatically. And America should lead that and change the foreign policy
over the last 30 years that`s been eschewed.

CONNOLLY: Lawrence?

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, quickly, before we go.

CONNOLLY: Yes, that all sounds like it is all the same. It isn`t. We
have something called the convention banning the use of these weapons.

The international community for 100 years says this is different. This,
you cannot do. And that is what makes those steps different. And that`s
what makes the international legal situation different, and the United
States cannot ignore that. We should not ignore it.

MEEKS: That`s why we need the international community to --

O`DONNELL: OK, we`re going to have more on that point later in the show.

Congressman Ted Yoho, Congressman Gerry Connolly, and Congressman Gregory
Meeks -- thank you all very much for joining me on this important night.
Thank you.

MEEKS: Thank you, Lawrence.

CONNOLLY: Thank you for having us, Lawrence.

YOHO: Appreciate it. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, what does make a death caused by chemical weapons so
much worse than the death caused by a bomb or a bullet?

And, Donald Rumsfeld who palled around with Saddam Hussein when Saddam was
using chemical weapons, suddenly, he has a lot to say about Syria.


O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, the Iraq war still hangs over the
debate over intervention in Syria.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Looming over this debate, time and time
again has been the specter of Iraq, most recently the UK parliament, many
members cited the failure of intelligence leading up to Iraq as the reason
that they won`t take action now in Syria. Because they don`t trust the
U.S. intelligence, do you personally take any responsibility for that or
feel any responsibility for that?

intelligence community turned out to be wrong, and the presentation made by
secretary of state Colin Powell proved out to be wrong. On the other hand,
you had a brutal dictator in Iraq who had used chemical weapons against his
own people, used them against his neighbors, rebuffed 17 resolutions, and
President Bush got to the Congress and got their support, and got the
support of the U.N., and fashioned a very large coalition. So it seems to
me that all the appropriate steps were taken. And the Congress, a
Democratic Congress voted for regime change in Iraq.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now is MSNBC contributor Patrick Murphy, a former
congressman from Pennsylvania who was the first Iraq war veteran to serve
in congress.

Patrick, I want to put up on the screen a picture of Rumsfeld in an earlier
version of his job. There he is, shaking hands with Saddam Hussein at the
very time that Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons. And then there
is Rumsfeld today, on "the Today Show," complaining about Saddam Hussein
using chemical weapons. That is one of the reasons we had to take him out.
Rumsfeld, of course, knew at the time that Saddam was using chemical
weapons and they hung in there with him then. It is just an amazing thing
to watch Rumsfeld to decide this is the moment to come out here and be one
of our guides into the discussion of Syria.

PATRICK MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Lawrence, you would think he would
have the decency to keep his mouth shut, frankly. I mean, here is a guy
who when he worked for president Reagan, when Saddam used chemical weapons
against the Iranians in the `80s, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons
against his people in the early `90s. And then, he has edacity now to say
well, look, Obama out to do something. If he does anything, he should go
big. Basically implying we should have boots on the ground, so more of our
sons and daughters will lose their lives over there.

Lawrence, you know, I lost 19 men of my unit Baghdad in 2003 and 2004. You
know, America, at its core, is the reluctant warrior. And in this case, we
should not Americanize the Syrian civil war that is going on right now. We
should not be picking sides in this thing.

O`DONNELL: I want to play something that Senator Durbin said today about
the Iraq having on this debate.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I have listened to this debate and I can`t
tell you how many times I have harkened back to 12 years ago over the
debate on the war in Iraq. Maybe that is one of the curses of being in
Congress for a while. But some of these ghosts still rattle around the
halls of the United States Congress. There is a clear difference between
what we are considering today and what happened 12 years ago. But our
decision is being made in the shadow of the war of Iraq. And with the
specter of a war in Iran looming.


O`DONNELL: Patrick, that is from a senator who voted to support the
president`s resolution to go in some form into Syria. But there he is,
saying that Iraq is giving everyone pause in this debate.

MURPHY: Right, and it is giving the American people pause.

Listen, the Bush administration, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld administration,
they hoodwinked the American people. Let`s be very clear. There was no
weapons of mass destruction, there was no connection to 9/11. It was
false, we all know that. And that is why people the American people are
apprehensive, just as the Congress should be apprehensive. And
unfortunately, just like the U.N. and our international partners are
apprehensive on this intelligence.

Now, again, I think it is very clear this (INAUDIBLE), chemical weapons
were used in Syria. That is obscene. When you see those pictures of women
and children being killed, it breaks your heart. But where is the
international community?

I thought the Congressman Gerry Connolly (ph) in your earlier segment was
right on the money, you know. And the Republican from Florida, you know,
where are the other 188 countries? Why aren`t they speaking up? We need a
true coalition. The America cannot be the only policemen in the world. It
is wrong, it is not at our core who we are as a people.

O`DONNELL: The debate moved to the House of Representatives today in that
hearing in the house. And sadly, it may just be because there are more
people in the House of Representatives, but that seems to mean there is
much more rank stupidity in the House of Representatives. Let`s listen to
Congressman Joe Wilson.


REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: With the president`s red line, why
was there no call for military response in April? Was it delayed to divert
attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals, the failure of Obama
care enforcement, the tragedy of the White House drafted sequestration, or
the upcoming debt limit vote. Again, why was there no call for military
response four months ago when the president`s red line was crossed?


O`DONNELL: Now, nothing even close to that stupid was said in the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. And you see Joe Wilson there,
having to actually hold in his hands the paper and read word for word what
his staff has written for him to say there. This is the time when -- I
would think when you were sitting there in the house that you had to be
embarrassed for the whole body at moments like this?

MURPHY: Absolutely. You know the saying, you work on Capitol Hill, for
the first six weeks you say, I can`t believe I`m here. And then the next
six months, you are saying how the heck did these people get here?

O`DONNELL: Exactly.

MURPHY: You know, Lawrence, one of the most somber and serious
responsibilities of a member of Congress is to potentially put the men and
women in harm`s way. To see tea party knuckle heads, like congressman
Wilson, politicize this, politicize this incredible responsibility when he
knows that Benghazi and the IRS has nothing to do with Syria, has nothing
to do with the national defense. It is just disgraceful.

O`DONNELL: Former congressman and Iraq war veteran, Patrick Murphy. Thank
you very much for joining us tonight, Patrick.

MURPHY: Thanks, Lawrence, I appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, why does the world think that chemical weapons are
worse than conventional weapons? And in the rewrite, the Australian prime
minister`s brilliant defense of his new position on marriage equality you
have to see this video.


O`DONNELL: It is the sworn duty of Georgia`s Republican insurance
commissioner to implement president Obama`s affordable care act and he has
a plan.


doing. Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.


O`DONNELL: Nice. Georgia has the fifth highest percentage of uninsured
citizens in the nation. Twenty percent of Georgia`s 10 million residents
have no health insurance.

The rewrite is next with an amazing video that will really make you want to
stand up and cheer for a politician who you will never be able to vote for.


O`DONNELL: Earlier this year, Kevin Rudd rewrote his position on marriage
equality. In a lengthy essay that he published on his blog and in an
Australian newspaper, he wrote, "I have come to the conclusion that church
and state can have different positions and practices on the question of
same-sex marriage. I believe the secular Australian state should be able
to recognize same-sex marriage."

A month later, Kevin Rudd became Australia`s prime minister. In a
television appearance this week, prime minister Rudd was politely
challenged by a pastor in the audience on his newly changed position on
marriage equality. And prime minister Rudd politely and brilliantly
answered that challenge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, prime minister. I`m a pastor (INAUDIBLE) church
and work for national Christian radio network. Most of the listeners and
callers we have had on our radio station have been saying that they won`t
be voting for you, because they are disillusioned because you keep changing
your beliefs just to get a popular vote with regards to things what
mattered. Why should we vote for you?

KEVIN RUDD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, on the question of marriage
equality, you`re right. I took a position about, I think, three or four
five months ago, well before coming back to the prime ministership, because
I concluded in my conscience through an informed conscience, and my
Christian conscience, it was the right thing to do.

And let me tell you why. Number one, I do not believe that people when
they`re born do not choose their sexuality. They are born gay, you don`t
decide in some later stage in life to be one thing or the other. It is how
people are built. And therefore, the idea that this is somehow an abnormal
condition is just wrong. I don`t get that. I think that is just a
completely ill-founded view.

Secondly, if you accept that it is natural and normal for someone to be
gay, because that is the way they are, then it follows from that that I
don`t think it is right to say that if two folk here, who are in love with
each other and of the same gender should be denied the opportunity for
legal recognition for the duration of their relationship by having marriage
equality. If you accept that the starting point is that homosexuality is
abnormal, I don`t know if that is your view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I -- we`ll get back to our question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just need to know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just need to know what it is you believe that
Christians, in particular, are upset about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the thing is that -- you know, every pastor,
the marriage is between husbands and wives. And you know, Jesus said a man
shall leave his father and mother and be married and that is the biblical
definition. I just believe in what the bible says and I`m just curious for
you, Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don`t you believe the
words of Jesus in the bible.

RUDD: Well, first, on that view, the bible also says that slavery is a
natural condition. Because some polls area of the new testament slaves, be
obedient to you masters. And therefore, we should all fought for the
confederacy in the U.S. civil war.

I mean, for goodness sake, these human conditions and social change. What
is the fundamental principles of the new testament? It is one of the
universal loves, loving your fellow man. And if we get obsessed with a
particular definition that through a form of sexuality, then I think we are
missing the centrality of what the gospel, whether you call it a social
gospel, a personal gospel or a spiritual gospel is all about.

And therefore, I go back to my question, if you think homosexuality is not
a natural condition, then frankly I can`t agree with you based on any
element of the sides. And therefore, if a person`s sexuality is as they`re
made, then you got to ask the second question, should therefore, their
loving relationship be legally recognized? And the conclusion I reached is
that they should.

And on the question of chopping and changing, I wrote a two or 3,000 word
essays, stuck it on line, months and months and months ago before returning
to the prime ministership, so everyone would know why I changed my
position, the reasons for it, and it was the product of some many, many
months and years of reflection, in good Christian conscience.


RUDD: Thank you. OK.



O`DONNELL: So why is killing with sarin gas worse than killing with
bullets and bombs and drones and all the other methods of death through
war? What is the big difference? I`m something of a pacifist myself, and
so I don`t really get, I really don`t get what the big difference is
between these different methods of death. We`re going to talk to an expert
about this next.



OBAMA: I didn`t set a red line. The world set a red line when governments
representing 98 percent of the world`s population said the use of chemical
weapons are terrible and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when
countries are engaged in war.


O`DONNELL: But why did the world set that red line? Forbidding that
specific weapon, chemical weapon?


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The 10000 people that died in Syria, and now
another thousand have died. They`re all tragic deaths. But I`m not sure
they are different because one came from gas and one came from a bullet.


O`DONNELL: And so tonight`s question, why is death from gas different than
from bullets or death from bombs.

Joining us now, Dominic Terney, professor of political science and
international politics Swarthmore College, wrote a piece for the Atlantic
on chemical weapons Syrians civilians, better hope they die the right way.

Dominic, I have been wondering about this for a while. And since I kind of
standout of war decision making, I am basically a pacifist, I am fascinated
that people who want to engage in war think there needs to be very specific
rules on how people die.

great question. The entire case for war in Syria really hinges on this
idea that chemical weapons are uniquely evil. But the distinction between
chemical weapons and conventional weapons is fairly arbitrary. It is not
clear that conventional weapons like bombs or high explosives, or guns are
any less brutal. After all, they have killed a 100,000 Syrians, while
chemical weapons have killed a thousand. And so, I think that we are too
focused really on the means by which Assad is killing, the tools he is
using and we are not focus enough on the total number of casualties and the
overall strategic situation.

O`DONNELL: Secretary Kelly said to Congress that the weapons ban has only
been broken by Hitler and by Saddam Hussein. Of course, when Saddam
Hussein used chemical weapons the United States of America approved.

TERNEY: Well, that is quite right. So back in the 1980s, Saddam used
chemical weapons both against the Iranians and against his own people.
Now, of course, these were absolutely brutal attacks. There is no
question. But they were among many different brutal acts that Saddam
carried out. And as you say, the United States tacitly went along with it.
So it is not clear that this anti-chemical weapon rule is some sort of
unbreakable vow of international politics. In fact, the last time chemical
weapons were used, the U.S. essentially approved.

O`DONNELL: There is also this notion that the chemical weapons are kind of
uniquely harmful to civilian populations. But there is no method of war
that does not also kill civilian populations. Bombs do it. Drones do it.
We have seen soldiers firing their individual weapons firing them at the
wrong people and killed children and killed all sorts of innocence,
unintentionally, sometimes even intentionally, in the case of lieutenant
Kelly in Vietnam, other misbehaviors in war. And so even that concept of
the gas is uniquely vicious to innocents ignores the fact that every method
of war is vicious to innocents.

TERNEY: Right, I couldn`t agree more. I mean, if you ask a woman in
Aleppo who has just seen her family blown up by artillery fire, and if you
ask her if she takes any soulless in the fact that they didn`t die in the
gas attack, I`m sure she would have, of course, find that that absurd.

And we can end up in a truly ridiculous situation here where if Assad stops
using chemical weapons, but then goes back to killing his people
conventionally, are we really going to called out a victory?

O`DONNELL: Well, I guess that is what we are going to call a victory.

Dominic Terney, Swarthmore professor of political science. Thank you very
much for joining me tonight.

TERNEY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.


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