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All In With Chris Hayes, Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014

Guest: Nicolai Petro, Michael McFaul, Chris Murphy, Ed Fitzgerald, Josh
Rogin, Julia Ioffe, Lawrence Wilkerson

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris

Tonight, all eyes are on the situation in Ukraine. A senior Obama
administration official tells NBC News that President Obama has been
meeting with his National Security Council discussing potential options
with Ukraine.

Tensions remain extremely high as Russia steps up its occupation of
Crimea, a semi-autonomous region located on the Black Sea, in the southern
section of the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows no sign of backing down,
despite mounting pressure from the U.S., NATO and the E.U.

This standoff has escalated incredibly quickly with a steady string of
major developments since pro-Kremlin forces moved into Ukraine last week.


stand with the international community in affirming there will be costs in
any military intervention in Ukraine.

HAYES (voice-over): When armed and masked gunmen appeared at the two
main airports in Crimea Friday, the world wondered whether Russia had
really decided to begin an invasion of Ukraine. By Saturday morning, that
question had largely been answered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning, the occupation moved from airports
and military installations into the center of the Crimean capital itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russian boots on the ground in Ukraine. They`re
hiding their identities, their uniforms aren`t marked.

HAYES: Vladimir Putin turned to a compliant Russian parliament
Saturday to make it official.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia`s parliament voted to approve the use of a
Russian force in Ukraine. President Putin asked for it. He got it

HAYES: As the United Nations huddled in emergency meetings over how
to respond, tensions elsewhere in Ukraine close to the Russian border were

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the scene this afternoon in Ukraine`s
eastern city of Kharkiv where tens of thousands of demonstrators were on
the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 100 people were injured Saturday in
clashes between protesters and supporters of the new government in Kiev.

One group of hardcore pro-Russians then stormed the local government
building, raising the Russian flag.

HAYES: President Obama spent a remarkable, intense 90 minutes on the
phone with Putin on Saturday.

By the next day, Ukraine`s new government had this message for the
Russian president.

this is actually the declaration of war to my country.

HAYES: On Sunday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry was on the
talk show circuit warning Putin he had gone too far.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is an act of aggression that is
completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. The president is currently
considering all options. They`re all on the table.

HAYES: Republicans, meanwhile, wasted no time in using the crisis to
take pot shots at the president.

indecisive president. That invites aggression. President Obama needs to
do something.

HAYES: The international community struggled over how to respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NATO alliance has been meeting at its Brussels
headquarters, but with no credible military response available, there were
just warnings.

HAYES: Germany`s Angela Merkel spoke to Putin Sunday and then
reportedly told President Obama she was unsure if the Russian president was
in touch with reality.

Germany, the U.S. and the other G-7 nations issued a scathing
statement that night, stating that Russia was committing a clear violation
of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Meanwhile on the
ground in Crimea, tensions only grew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the gate, the Ukrainian troops are dressed
for combat but look bewildered, and no wonder. Their country has been
invaded, their homeland, Crimea, taken over. The Russians ordered them to
lay down their weapons or there would be trouble. Minutes later, the
Ukrainian armor was gone. The gate manned by men carrying knives, who
looked just as anxious about the enemy facing them.

HAYES: Vladimir Putin stayed silent on Ukraine, even as he oversaw
live military exercises near St. Petersburg, a display that led to
newscasts in Russia.

And in Washington, as John Kerry prepared to travel to Kiev, President
Obama warned Russia it is on the wrong side of history.

taken are a violation of Ukraine`s sovereignty, Ukraine`s territorial
integrity, they`re a violation of international law. I think the strong
support of nations around the world indicates the degree to which Russia is
on the wrong side of history in this.


HAYES: The Ukrainian government today accused Russia of a major
escalation in the conflict as Ukrainian soldiers waited for a potential
attack from Russian forces amassed in the region.

Joining me now on the phone from Odessa, Ukraine, is Nicolai Petro, a
professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island, who`s
currently a Fulbright research fellow in Ukraine.

And, Nicolai, I think there`s a lot of confusion now about how
Ukrainians are reacting to this. And, of course, Ukrainians is a massive
broad category that massed a lot of internal divisions. Ukrainians in the
eastern part of the country that is more predominantly Russian speaking,
how are they reacting to what has happened?

of the same reactions that people throughout this country are reacting. I
would say there have always been those here who feel that the breakup of
the USSR was a mistake, but that was a minority.

A larger group would welcome close relations with Russia, but the
largest group has always wanted association with the E.U. People are not
welcoming Russian military intervention on the one hand, but Crimea`s
initiative does seem to have rallied the groups here that are anti-Midon
(ph) to be more active.

So I`d say the east and the south do not want to secede. What they
seek is a more formal recognition of their rights. So, a popular slogan at
the rally that was mentioned is we are not separatists, we are federalists.

So, in this context being pro-Russian doesn`t mean joining Russia, it
means speaking, worshipping and going to school in your own language in
your own country, which they want to be Ukraine.

HAYES: We`ve seen these -- we`ve seen footage of pro-Russian rallies
in different parts of eastern Ukraine, some of which have turned violent.

And what I`m hearing from you is that the folks showing up at that are
not broadly necessarily representative of the populations in those areas.
There`s a sort of finer nuance to how they feel about Russia, but there is
not an active desire to rejoin Russia in some sense?

PETRO: That`s -- I think that`s right. People here do not want to
switch sides or anything, but they do have a concern that the government in
Kiev is not recognizing their rights as a Russian-speaking minority.

HAYES: There is a lot of question -- right now, the Russians have
made the claim, Vladimir Putin, state television, that there are
essentially vigilante attacks on Russian speakers in the east and south of
Ukraine. Sergey Lavrov, who`s a foreign minister defended Russia`s action
by saying they`re defending the, quote, "fundamental right" to life of the
ethnic Russians in those areas. Is there any evidence that that is the

PETRO: I would not say that the lawlessness that does exist in some
major cities is targeted toward Russians or Russian speakers. It`s very
difficult to distinguish who is Russian and who is not. People generally
here think of themselves as Ukrainians and they can hold multiple
identities, both as Russians and as Ukrainians at the same time. The
relationship is so close.

So, I don`t think it`s targeted in that way. But there is clearly a
spike of disorder and lawlessness that everyone is suffering under.

HAYES: Nicolai Petro from the University of Rhode Island in Odessa,
Ukraine -- thank you so much for joining me.

PETRO: Sure.

HAYES: Joining me now is Michael McFaul, who just stepped down last
week as U.S. ambassador to Russia. He`s professor of political science at
Stanford University.

Ambassador, what is the next step here? It seems that this has
escalated tremendously quickly. What do you see as being the next step
either from the U.S., NATO and the E.U., or from Vladimir Putin?

to the United States and their allies and western community, I think the
step is to make clear to President Putin that there will be costs of
continued occupation of the sovereign country of Ukraine and to make him
think about what those costs might be and to make people around him think
about what those costs might be down the road, and to give him the chance
to rethink where he`s going with his operation in Crimea.

It`s my own view, and I did just step down a few days ago, I was just
working in Moscow last week, that this is not some master plan that Putin
has planned out for years and years. This is a reaction from President
Putin to the fall of his partner, President Yanukovych, in Kiev a few weeks

Where it ultimately goes I don`t think has been decided yet in Moscow
and therefore I think it is right to put that pressure on and think about
where this could really cost Russians, including Russians very close to
President Putin.

HAYES: What do those costs look like?

MCFAUL: Sanctions, freezing assets. Remember, this is not the Soviet
Union that invaded Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968.

This Russia is fully integrated into the world economy. There are
literally billions of dollars owned by Russians in banks all over the West.
Russian investments in the United States, here in the Silicon Valley.

And if you sanction, for instance, the major Russian banks and signal
that it is no longer advisable to do business with those banks, that will
be very costly to many individual Russians as well as major Russian

HAYES: You must have, as the ambassador from the United States to
Russia, have had interactions that go the following way in which you talk
about Russia doing something that violates either international law or
international norms, and they say this is the country that brought us the
Iraq invasion, this is the country that looked the other way while its
clients state of Saudi Arabia invaded the sovereign Bahrain, to put down a
rebellion there. How would you respond to that?

MCFAUL: Two wrongs don`t make a right. President Putin has
championed in many conversations that I`ve been present in, the idea that
sovereignty, territorial integrity, is the most important international
norm in the international system. That is an argument I heard for three
years when we were discussing Syria, for instance.

And, you know, what your perspective on that the United States was
wrong to go into Iraq by the way of view that many Americans, including the
current president of the United States agrees with, does not justify Russia
going into Ukraine.

I don`t even understand the logic, frankly. If you thought it was
wrong then, you should think it`s wrong today.

HAYES: Former Ambassador Michael McFaul, thank you so much for your
time tonight. Really illuminating.

MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: Joining me now, Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat from
Connecticut. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveled
to the Ukraine in December with Senator John McCain.

And, Senator, we were on the phone. We had you on on Friday talking
about the unfolding situation. Former ambassador just talked about costs.

How do you see the possible response here from the U.S.?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think the key is, is that
ultimately this response has to not be unilateral coming from the United
States. Ultimately about two-thirds of the money that exits Russia every
year ends up in European economies and in European banks.

So it`s important that whatever we do here, we do along with our
European allies. And, frankly, a lot of us are disappointed in what we`ve
heard from Europe so far. I mean, I would frankly argue that five years
ago, it was ridiculous to think that Russia was going to invade Ukraine,
and so, it`s not so ridiculous to think that five years from now, other
countries that may be part of the E.U. might be in danger now.

I kind of disagree with the former ambassador. I do think this is
part of a larger plan on behalf of Putin to try to re-establish the empire
that the USSR once had.

Whatever we do from a sanctions standpoint has to do done with the
Europeans or it really won`t have much of an effect on the decisions made
on the ground in Moscow.

HAYES: Isn`t part of the issue here, though, that if you believe
Vladimir Putin is acting with some sort of plan and acting in an
irrational, even if not amoral sense, it maybe a case that he is willing to
bear whatever the cost imposed is because he`s made the calculation that
this kind of territorial assertion and basically scaring the Ukrainian
government into not trying to cross him, the new one, that this is worth
bearing the cost?

MURPHY: Yes, I think ultimately, this is really bad policy for
Russia. His plan may be just to simply assert Russian power in the region.
But he`s got to understand the cost that comes to them. They are making
themselves a pariah nation.

The Russian economy is cratering as we speak. Ultimately, it is true
that with full integration right now, the Russian economy in Europe, some
bold and courageous decisions by countries there could send that economy
into an absolute freefall and they`re not in a really strong position to
begin with.

The strength of their economy has been always dependent on Russian
oil. Europe is starting to diversify. They`re only forecasting about 1
percent growth next year. They are not really in a position to withstand a
big economic hit.

And my hope is that our European allies will stand with us because we
can deliver it to them and we can do it pretty quickly.

HAYES: Isn`t part of a peaceful resolution to this crisis that
results in the territorial integrity of the Ukraine being maintained giving
some kind of face-saving climb-down opportunity for Vladimir Putin who does
not strike me as the sort of leader who will basically say hey, my bad,
made a mistake on this one, can I take a mulligan.

MURPHY: Yes, and I think we`re delivering that to them. I mean, the
pretext for this whole invasion is that Russians are in danger. Well, to
the extent that Russians are in danger in Crimea, it`s only because their
own country has invaded, downgrading the security of their neighborhoods.

But there are other ways to guarantee that security whether it`s a
U.N. force, or an OSCE force. There are a lot of other ways that we can
essentially guarantee the safety of their security.

I think one important thing to note here is that you can`t equate
people who speak Russian with people who sympathize with Russia. There are
a lot of Russian speakers in Crimea, but there are also a lot of Russian
speakers in Kiev. There are a lot of Russian speakers in Brighton Beach.
That doesn`t mean during a political turmoil you get the ability to invade.

Ultimately, I think there`s a way to address the concerns,
illegitimate as they are, that some of his folks are in danger with a multi
lateral effort.

HAYES: Well, and also the precedent that`s being here asserted by the
Putin government and Sergey Lavrov, which is basically the prerogative to
invade a country if they feel that Russian speakers or ethnic Russians are
under threat is a terrifying one, I would imagine, for many of Russia`s
neighbors who obviously have large populations of Russian speakers.

MURPHY: Yes, and again, that`s why I think it is important especially
for the nations in the E.U. on the eastern edges of the continent to speak
up here. Countries like Poland, the Baltics and Hungary. Whether or not
it`s part of a grand vision, clearly, this is part of a trend, and if he
continues to get away with it, then who knows what`s next. It`s important
for Europe to stand together in the coming days.

HAYES: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thank you so much.

MURPHY: Thanks.

HAYES: If there`s an international crisis heating up then as surely
as night follows day, you`ll be hearing this.


GRAHAM: Every time the president goes on national television and
threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody`s eyes roll, including

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: Putin decides what he wants to do
and he does it in half a day. He makes a decision and he executes it,
quickly. Then everybody reacts. That`s what you call a leader.

President Obama, he`s got to think about it, he`s got to go over it
again, he`s got to talk to more people about it.


HAYES: The Republicans attack on President Obama when a very weird
case of Putin envy, ahead.


HAYES: We`ve been talking about what`s happening in Ukraine, but here
at home, democracy also has its consequences, especially if you want to
vote in a battleground state. I will explain, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the only plan in the state for voting
hours that we could get consensus from Democrats and Republicans on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It calls for early voting Monday through Friday,
8:00 to 5:00 for the four weeks in October, as well as the last Saturday in
October, and the first Saturday in November, 8:00 to 4:00. But critics,
including Peg Rosenfield of the League of Women Voters, say there should be
evening hours as well as some Sundays.


HAYES: You may have just felt an odd sensation of chilling deja vu
after seeing that very recent footage about voting hours in the still
hugely decisive perennial battleground state of Ohio. Because just like in
those "Terminator" movies when the seemingly defeated cyborg rises up to
keep on terminating, the cold, calculating attempt to restrict voting has
risen once again in the state of Ohio.

In the hands of Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, we are in for a
very serious sequel. You see, Mr. Husted, under the guise of uniformity,
has set early voting hours that are standard for all the counties in Ohio.

Here is the problem. The more populous counties really do need
weeknights and extra weekend days to offer everyone a chance to vote
without disastrously long lines. Here`s Peg Rosenfield of the League of
Women Voters.


counties, who are the ones who need the extra hours, and we have 80 rural
counties who don`t need it. So, I`m sure the rural counties are perfectly
happy with these hours and the urban counties have been outvoted.


HAYES: And that gets to the heart of the problem. It is an
unfortunate fact that in these pitched battles over voting rights, only one
party has a clear political incentive to restrict how many people vote.
It`s the Republican Party. Because more or less higher turnout always
favors Democrats and so Republican state majorities around the country have
every interest to restrict the availability of the vote. That is precisely
what they have set about doing.

And in Ohio, get this, two years ago, Republicans tried to do just
that and it was Secretary of State John Husted who limited early voting on
the weekend before the election to military personnel only.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Husted has to feel like a twisted pretzel
right now. The election is five weeks from today and he`s been hammered
with disagreements over the hours of early in-person voting and voting the
weekend before the November 6th election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Husted bristles at the suggestion he`s tried to
suppress voter rights.

JOHN HUSTED (R), OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: So it`s a lot easier to
vote in Ohio than it is in most states and, frankly, people should pipe
down the rhetoric.


HAYES: The state Democratic Party and the Obama campaign armed with
lawyers fought back and filed a lawsuit and a federal judge intervened,
ordering the state to give all voters the right to cast their ballots in
person on the final three days before the election day, including that
Sunday. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Republicans.

That was the precedent. Normal politics at the state level are no
protection for the interest of voters who tend to be excluded by these
voting restrictions. Those rights, as we`ve learned, in case after case,
not the least of which in Ohio two years ago, those rights must be
protected by the courts.

And that`s why my next guest is taking his case to court for a rematch
with Secretary of State Husted.

Joining me now, Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate, of Cuyahoga
County executive, Ed Fitzgerald.

Ed, Husted says, look, we`ve got a ton of early voting and Republicans
in the state are saying it`s very expensive to keep this open. They`re
also saying this is bipartisan consensus, we solicited opinions. What`s
your beef here?

dealing with this problem in a vacuum. We know what happens when we don`t
have extensive early voting in Ohio because, you know, the videotape -- the
world has a videotape of what it looked like in 2004 in Ohio when we didn`t
have evening voting, when we didn`t have voting on the Sunday before

And this is predictable what`s going to happen. And so, there has
clearly been a consensus among the voters themselves that they want to have
these expanded hours because they have been using them in overwhelming
numbers and, Chris, it`s been working. We`ve had several elections in a
row where we haven`t had long lines at the polls, where people have been
able to exercise their franchise. The problem from the Republican point of
view is any haven`t always gotten the results that they want and so they`re
changing the rules again.

HAYES: I want to play the Ohio GOP chairman who appeared earlier to
make the argument that it was too costly. Take a listen.


MATT BORGER, OHIO GOP CHAIRMAN: Having government offices open on
weekends is an unusual thing. Try to go to the post office on a weekend or
try to go visit your congressman`s office on a weekend, on a Sunday,
they`re almost never open. Having to pay these folks overtime, all of this
burden falls on the local elections officials.

They`re the ones who came to us. They`re the ones who came to the
secretary of state and to the legislature and asked for some relief.


HAYES: Your response to that?

FITZGERALD: It is just absolutely absurd. First of all, how do you
put a price tag on democracy? We know what happens when we don`t fund
these things appropriately.

The state has a $60 billion plus budget. They can`t find a way to
help fund this?

I mean, the ironic thing is, Chris, that those counties that said they
would pick up the cost like my county, one of the things that this
legislation does is it actually prevents us from spending our own money
that we budgeted for these exact same purposes.

HAYES: Wait, repeat that again.

FITZGERALD: Sure. So, one of the things that the legislation that
was just passed by the legislature and it was just signed into law by the
Governor Kasich, it prohibits local boards of elections from funding, for
instance, some of these things on their own, including the mailing of
absentee ballot applications.

HAYES: So, just so we`re clear, the GOP is making the argument that
this is about costs, right?


HAYES: This is unaffordable. You, as the person that represents the
actual county that`s implementing this is saying you can pay for it and the
state law signed by Republicans prohibits you from making that decision to
pay for this because you assess it`s a need?

FITZGERALD: That`s exactly right. The litigation that you
referenced, Chris, back in 2012, my county was a party to that because we
didn`t want the Republicans to be able to make that false argument from the
court. So we actually joined in that lawsuit to tell the federal court,
hey, listen, this argument that they`re making is complete baloney. We are
willing to fund these things.

We`ve already budgeted it. We want to be able to do this because our
constituents, Democrats and Republicans, are asking us to do this.

So, it`s a completely disingenuous argument on their part and they
know it.

HAYES: What is the argument you`re making in the lawsuit here? What
is the constitutional or statutory claim you`re making before the court?

FITZGERALD: Sure. I mean, I think it`s very similar to what you saw
in 2012. It`s basically pretty simple, that the voting franchise is
sacred, it`s special. We know what happens when we don`t make full
accommodations for voters like we did back in 2004, especially in urban
areas where you have multiple precincts that are combined in one location,
where you`ve had people waiting until 2:00 in the morning to have to vote.

Their franchise, Chris, is effectively denied by these long lines at
the polls. This is a disease that we know what the cure is for. And we
have a chance to do it. We should bow allowed to do so.

HAYES: Cuyahoga County executive Ed Fitzgerald, also a gubernatorial
candidate in that state -- thank you so much.

FITZGERALD: Thank you.

HAYES: OK. Coming up --


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: What I think it is with the DNC,
with others both in the state and across the country is they desperately
want something negative to happen in Wisconsin. The reality is we`re going
to stay focused on the things we were elected to do.


HAYES: Staying focused on the things we were elected to do like --
oh, I don`t know, mocking welfare recipients when you`re running for
governor and then running the welfare program into the ground while you
were governor? I`ll explain, next.


HAYES: We have been reporting on the massive amount of documents that
have come out from the inner circle of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the
inheritor of GOP establishment front-runner mantle in the wake of New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s demise.

The problem, as we have noted, is that Walker`s got his own baggage.
Now, we have been going through these e-mails, and there have been some
that suggest that Walker knew more than he let on about the mixing of
official governing and campaigning that some of his staff were convicted
for, because, well, that is illegal in Wisconsin.

But, to my mind, the most damning documents are these ridiculous
right-wing e-mail forwards that were sent amongst his staff, particularly
this one.

"This morning, I went to sign my dogs up for welfare. At first, the
lady said dogs are not able to draw welfare, so I explained to her my dogs
are mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can`t speak English, and have no
frigging clue who their daddies are. Expect me to feed them," the e-mail
continues, "provide them with housing, medical care and feel guilty because
they are dogs. So she looked in her policy book to see what it takes to
qualify. My dogs get their first checks on Friday. Damn, this is a great

Well, Joan Walsh had a great piece today in Salon that shows precisely
why this kind of thing matters. You may be thinking, OK, yes, it`s
offensive, but it`s a private e-mail from a deputy chief of staff. Here`s
why it`s important.

At the same time that Walker`s staff were sending those hate-filled e-
mail, Walker`s staff were campaigning to govern the entire state of
Wisconsin, which spends more than a billion dollars on its state food stamp
program alone, and that helps feed nearly a million people a month.

States play a crucial role in the management of public assistance
programs, determining eligibility, delivering services, responding to
complaints. And, as it turns out, Scott Walker was governing a place that
did just that, only on a smaller scale.

Welcome to Milwaukee County, where, in 2010, Walker`s last full year
as county executive, the poverty rate was 21.5 percent. That`s nearly
seven points higher than the national average at the time. Well, how would
you predict a government that has its top staffers sending around an e-mail
like this, how would you predict they perform when it comes to actually
delivering necessary services like food, health care and child care

Well, if you guessed poorly, you are correct. The ugly truth, it was
disastrous, in fact, so bad. the Walker administration was sued for their
performance. Here`s some numbers from Walker`s eight years as Milwaukee
County executive. According to a state memo, only 5 percent out of
hundreds of thousands of calls to the public assistance office were
answered every month, a direct result of Walker understaffing those

Only 30 percent of benefit applications were processed within the
required seven-day time frame, making some families wait weeks or even
months for aid they urgently needed. Nearly two-thirds of people who were
denied food or health care benefits were approved upon appeal. And nearly
one in five eligible applicants were cut off from the program entirely.

In fact, those numbers were so bad, it led the state of Wisconsin to
take drastic, unprecedented measures. The state took over administering
public assistance for all of Milwaukee County while Walker was running
Milwaukee county.

Now, here`s a cardinal rule in American politics, one that we ignore
all the time. Do not elect people to run a government who demonstrate a
fundamental contempt for what that government does. Do not put people in
charge of the mechanisms of the state, of the administration of its social
services who hate it to begin with in the first place and who bear contempt
for its beneficiaries.

I do not know how many times we have to learn this lesson. But there
it is in black and white. The people of Milwaukee County learned that
lesson before the entire state of Wisconsin had.


HAYES: Lawmakers in Florida are set to expand stand your ground.
Yes, you heard me right.

Tomorrow is the first day of the new legislative session in Florida,
and on the agenda, a law that would expand the state`s stand your ground
law. Earlier today, in anticipation of lawmakers` return to Tallahassee,
hundreds took to the state capitol, for the first time ever, a Moral Monday
in Florida.

A movement that started in North Carolina to push back against that
state`s right-wing overreach has now spread to Florida. And, in Florida,
protesters today spoke out against Republican lawmakers` refusal to expand
Medicaid, efforts to curb voting rights and Florida`s stand your ground
law, following the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.

But, this session, Florida lawmakers are poised not to repeal stand
your ground but expand it, or, as they say, clarify. And they`re going
about it in an interesting way. If you ask lawmakers why they`re looking
to expand the state`s very controversial stand your ground law to include a
so-called warning shot exemption, they say it has something to do with this
woman, Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for
firing what she says was a warning shot at her abusive husband.

Late last year, a judge ordered a retrial for Alexander, saying the
jury received the wrong instructions, and, this summer, she will get that
trial. The state`s attorney has says she could face 60 years in prison.
We`re going to bring you that story and a special look at the intricacies
of Florida tomorrow.


HAYES: There`s a debate right now amongst commentators and foreign
policy types about exactly what kind of action should be taken in response
to the situation in Ukraine, largely because it`s a difficult one and it`s
changing practically by the minute.

We`re dealing with the specter of war and the risk of a country being
torn apart. But what there does seem to be a consensus on is, this
situation is the fruit of Barack Obama`s weakness, as if it were the case
that, if only Barack Obama, like Vladimir Putin, rode around on a horse
with his shirt off like this, maybe this kind of thing wouldn`t have
happened, or, as "The New York Times" Peter Baker asked in his piece
yesterday, is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former KGB colonel in
the Kremlin?


indecisive president. That invites aggression. President Obama needs to
do something.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS: I think everybody is shocked by the
weakness of Obama`s statement. It is -- I find it rather staggering. What
he`s saying is, we`re not really going to do anything and we`re telling the

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin is playing chess, and I think we`re playing
marbles. And I don`t think it`s even close. They have been running
circles around us.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is the ultimate result of a
feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America`s strength


DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Do you believe with some
of your colleagues who say it`s the weakness of President Obama and the
United States right now that has emboldened President Putin of Russia?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I think our policy towards
Russia under this administration deserves a heavy amount of criticism.

But what we have got in Putin is a man with a strategic vision and an
autocratic mentality. In Obama, we have got a weak, feckless, inattentive
president who doesn`t -- not only doesn`t know what America`s interests
are, I don`t think particularly cares about American national security.


HAYES: Doesn`t care about national security of America.

And the editorial board at "The Washington Post," well, they cobbled
together several hundred words insisting that Obama do something about
Ukraine, writing: "As Mr. Putin ponders whether to advance further into
Eastern Ukraine, say, he will measure the seriousness of the U.S. and
allied actions, not their statements."

But they failed to give us at least one concrete policy suggestion,
the premise here being, it`s all about projection and theatrics and how the
president performs in his role as international tough guy, because there`s
no way Putin would do what he did if we had a tough guy in the White House.

But, of course, the last time Putin did something like this was when
he invaded the country of Georgia in 2008, when this guy was in the White
House. Now, would anyone say of their critiques of George W. Bush that he
was inefficiency enamored with projecting American force, that he didn`t
project toughness or resolve or a willingness to use violence and force?

Well, of course not, because what guided Putin then appears to be the
same thing that guides him now, a man monomaniacally focused on maintaining
Russia`s sphere of influence around its former vassal state.

Joining me now, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff at
the State Department during General Colin Powell`s term, currently a
distinguished professor of government and public policy at the College of
William and Mary.

Colonel, I just -- I see this all the time. Any time something flares
up in an international crisis, this chorus about the performance of
toughness, the performance of the theatrics of toughness or weakness, and I
just remain unconvinced that that cashes out in any real way.

STAFF: Chris, this has got a long history to it. Of course, it goes all
the way back to what you were referring to, the USSR, Russia and the czars
before that.

But it`s got a relatively long history with us too. It goes back to
George H.W. Bush and Jim Baker telling at the end of the Cold War Eduard
Shevardnadze and Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would go not one inch further
to the east, and then a series of presidents coming in who not only took
NATO further to the east, pushed by Lockheed Martin and others who wanted
to sell weapons to Eastern and Central European countries, but hinted at
Georgia and Ukraine.

Anyone who knows Russian history, anyone who knows the history of
empire, anyone who knows about the raw politics of raw power could have
guessed that President Putin would move into Ukraine once we had formed a
group there led by the NED and its affiliates that effectively pulled off a

What is -- put ourselves in Putin`s shoes. What is Putin to think
when all of a sudden a country that`s been talking about bringing Ukraine
and even Georgia into NATO and into the E.U. suddenly affects the removal
of his oligarchic leader in Kiev? If I were Putin, I would have done
exactly what Putin did.

And anyone who says they couldn`t predict this was either a fool or

HAYES: Well, that gets at this deep question, I think, that one of
the things that I have seen in the analysis here is that this assumption
that Putin is winning this, because he`s grabbing this and the world is
going to stand by and there`s -- you know, there are limited -- there are
certainly, I think, no military options in response to this.

There are limited options in terms of how you impose a cost we
discussed with Senator Murphy earlier -- this idea that, because Putin is
strong, he`s winning, and because Barack Obama is weak, he is not. But it
also seems to me that this could be very likely disastrous for Vladimir
Putin himself.

WILKERSON: Oh, I think so.

I think it could be the unwinding of his presidency. He saw this as a
regime change essential because of such things as Ukraine having so much of
the Russian food product, and if it became affiliated with the E.U., for
example, the commodity prices in the Ukraine would probably balance out
with the E.U. and become unaffordable for Russia.

He saw it as a way to deflect attention from what is a crumbling
economy in the Soviet -- or in Russia right now. So this is a move that,
as I said, could have been predicted, but it`s a move that I think is going
backfire. So what`s necessary here is the kind of action, non-military
action that other of your guests have suggested, economic measures and so
forth, pressure from Europeans in particular, and, for example, maybe a
rapprochement with Iran, so we can start pumping Iranian gas into Europe
and take some of the leverage away from Putin.

But, in the long run, this is going backfire on Putin, and it will
take political and moral courage to let it do so, but that`s what we should

HAYES: You know, there`s a lot of talk about how Putin had some
statement about the fall of the Soviet empire being the worst thing that
had happened in recent history, about the idea that he wants to recapture
that kind of arrangement that Russia had with the former Soviet republics.

It seems to me there`s also a pent-up desire among a certain part of
the American foreign policy apparatus and political spectrum for another
Cold War, that they are champing at the bit to have a Russian enemy like
Vladimir Putin with whom they can wage another round of Cold War.

WILKERSON: No question about it.

I served in an administration where the vice president of the United
States was trying to bring about a Cold War again with China. He failed
because my boss, Colin Powell, took over that account, arguably the most
strategic account the U.S. has, and managed it quite well for four years.
So he was unable to do that.

But there is a group out there called the neoconservatives, call them
anything you like -- Lindsey Graham, John McCain and others from my party
seem to be the spokespersons for this group -- who want another Cold War.
They`re comfortable in this kind of tension, this kind of standoff between
great powers.

HAYES: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, always a pleasure. Thank you so

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: All right.

Did Vladimir Putin invade Crimea because he could, as one of my next
guests suggests? And just how much do these vaporous qualities of
perceived resolve and strength matter to the man at the center of this
crisis? That`s ahead.


HAYES: We`re back.

And joining me now just back from Russia is Julia Ioffe, senior editor
at "The New Republic," and Josh Rogin, senior correspondent for national
security and politics at The Daily Beast. They have both been covering

All right, Julia, you wrote this piece where you said: "Why is Putin
doing this? Because he can. That`s it. That`s all you need to know."

Michael Cohen writing in "The Guardian" said -- responding to that
said: "It`s as if things like regional interest, spheres of influence,
geopolitics, coercive diplomacy and the potential loss of a key ally in
Kiev are alien concepts for Russian leaders."

How much of this do you view as rational, and how much do you view as

that he`s irrational.

I think Vladimir Putin operates within his own framework of logic.
And all of this stuff matters, but it has always mattered. What happened
was, there was a moment of political instability in Kiev. He was a little
bit rattled by people toppling an elected president. He tends to see these
things through a very personal lens.

He was, for example, hugely obsessed with the way Moammar Gadhafi was
killed in Libya. And he took advantage of a moment of weakness, pressed on
it, and it all came undone.

HAYES: But does that moment of weakness -- my question here, right,
is that moment of weakness is a structural feature of the geopolitical
landscape or the fact that Barack Obama didn`t say, like, tougher-sounding

IOFFE: Look, I have been hearing this all day that, had Barack Obama
been stronger on Syria or if he had smacked Bashar al-Assad around, none of
this would have happened.

There`s some truth to it, but I don`t totally buy it. First of all,
Putin operates within a logic that, you know, the strongest guy in the
room, that`s the guy you go after. And once you beat him up, then you`re
the strongest guy in the room. That`s number one.

Number two, look at the strong and decisive president we had when he
invaded another neighbor, the country of Georgia.

HAYES: Exactly.

IOFFE: And you couldn`t have asked for a more decisive president,
arguably, and he blustered and he threatened, and ultimately nobody wants
to go to war with Russia, which is right, because that doesn`t end well,
but it didn`t do anything.

HAYES: That`s what I mean, Josh.

You talked to Saakashvili today, who of course was the president of
Georgia at the time in 2008 of that war between the two. And that to me is
the fundamental constraint on this whole thing, is that no one is going to
war with a nuclear Russia in a former Soviet republic. Not going to

JOSH ROGIN, "NEWSWEEK"/DAILY BEAST: Right. But that cuts both ways.

What Saakashvili told me today is that, following the Russian invasion
in 2008, no one in the West could credibly claim that we didn`t believe
Putin was capable of this type of thing and that we should have seen it
coming and that there were warnings, including warnings made by him. And
there`s some truth to that.

As to your point about what`s Putin`s calculation here, I think it`s
the nature of most autocratic regimes, including this one, to be internally
repressive and externally aggressive, right? The more Putin feels
insecure, the more he lashes out.

And there are some legitimate criticisms of the Obama administration`s
handling of this crisis. They failed to see the invasion coming. They
underestimated Putin`s resolve to hold on to Ukraine. They overestimated
Putin`s attachment to his international reputation. And so speaking to the


HAYES: But take that step back. Right? Let`s say they had seen it
coming, and they hadn`t made the miscalculations you`re accusing them of
making. What would they have done? What does that cash out in as actual
intervention that stopped this from happening?

ROGIN: Right.

So we can go as far back as you want to go. If you want to go back to
the beginning of the Ukrainian revolution a couple of months ago, you would
have seen, especially through the phone call that was released by the
Russians of Victoria Nuland, that we were working this problem without
consultation with the Russians. Right?

HAYES: Right.

ROGIN: We were working with the Europeans, sometimes without the
Europeans, and we didn`t want the Russians to know what`s going on.

Was it realistic to think that we could solve the Ukrainian crisis
between the opposition and the Yanukovych government and get it past Russia
and that they wouldn`t have a say of it? How did that work out?


IOFFE: But that`s not what caused this. That`s not what caused this.

ROGIN: No, of course. This was...


IOFFE: And I don`t -- I still don`t -- you know, I think you`re
right; there are legitimate criticisms to be made of the Obama
administration`s handling of this, but, still, I really don`t think there`s
anything they could have done to prevent this.

I think we greatly overestimate American ability to influence events
in this part of the world. And Putin knows that, and that`s why he`s
acting the way he is.

HAYES: Well, and I...

ROGIN: Well, I totally agree with Julia here that this is not about
us. This was Putin`s decision.

HAYES: Right.

ROGIN: This is -- the Ukrainians are the main actors here. And we
play a limited role, and that`s totally valid.

At the same time, the broader criticisms of the Obama administration`s
foreign policy, when you take out the ad hominem attacks and when you take
out sort of the breathy rhetoric, they boil down to this. The Obama
administration has lost credibility around the world.

Their reactions to a host of revolutions, especially during the Arab
spring, have been seen as ad hoc and very hard to understand. They have
ruined relationships with allies with the lack of consultations. And there
is a perception of a lack of leadership. And Obama, if you read his
Bloomberg interview today, doesn`t acknowledge that perception.

HAYES: Right.

I do. I think the ad hocness is something that I have heard a lot of.
And I guess what I feel coming out of this is that, if the choice is
between some sort of rigid, dogmatic theoretical framework to understand
all of this or ad hoc in relation to a bunch of revolutions that had been
remarkably ad hoc in the way that they sort of pinged around the world, you
know, that -- I feel like I choose the latter...


HAYES: ... if I am forced between them.

But I also think -- and this is key -- it`s very hard for me to -- I
think what Julia said before is key. Right? We have to, as a first
condition, recognize what our limitations are for influence in how these
events unfold.

Julia Ioffe from "The New Republic," Josh Rogin from The Daily Beast,
thank you both.

ROGIN: Thank you.

HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.


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