MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Jack Reed
Date: Dec. 20, 2012
Location: Unknown

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MATTHEWS: Well, "The New Yorker" magazine`s Ryan Lizza tweeted this week,
quote, "The coming attacks on Chuck Hagel will make the Susan Rice episode
seem quaint."
Those attacks have already started. One senior Republican aide told "The
Weekly Standard," that`s the neocon magazine which I happen to read every
week, quote, "Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he`s
an anti-Semite."
Wow. Well, the anti-Semitism charge stems from comments Hagel made back in
2008 in an interview with an author about the power of AIPAC, a major pro-
Israel lobbying group. Hagel said he was a strong supporter of Israel but
also said, quote, "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,
meaning Congress. I`m a United States senator. I`m not an Israeli
senator."
Well, many people have defended Senator Hagel`s potential nomination. He`s
a Vietnam vet, Purple Heart recipient. His views on foreign policy are far
from being outside the mainstream.
So, what is really motivating his critics?
Jack Reed is a Democratic senator from Rhode Island and Dana Milbank is a
columnist for "The Washington Post."
Senator Reed, you know, one of our producers who is pretty sharp said that
Chuck Hagel is Barack Obama with a war record, they think very much alike,
except one guy has got a couple of Purple Hearts to prove he knows what
battle and war is all about.
Your thoughts, how would you size him up as a former colleague
ideologically, in terms of peace and war issues?

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, first of all, Chris, as you
pointed out, this is someone who has been in combat, who received two
Purple Hearts, instantaneously. The men and women in the armed forces will
know that at the top of the Pentagon is someone who has literally walked in
their boots, that experiences what -- has experienced what they experienced
and that I think is a huge asset he brings.
As far as his foreign policy credentials go, he has been very thoughtful
and very constant observer of shifting foreign policies all across the
globe, not just in one area. But I think the most compelling comments
reference in Israel, nine former ambassadors, including some who are, our
ambassador to Israel, say their dealings with him show he`s a strong
supporter of Israel, as we should be. They are our most important ally in
that region.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the neocons who intend to go to battle with, because
I think they always liked the Iraq war, I always hated it. I wonder about
this insistence, why we have to be so militarized as a country, so
insistent on using our battlefield strength as our first diplomatic move.
Hagel is not like that belief. He`s one of these guys like Anwar Sadat,
like Yitzhak Rabin, who`ve been to war, knows what it looks like and would
prefer an alternative.

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MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, Jack Reed, Senator, what do you think
about this? Do you think there`s any chance the president would consider
this fella and would pull him back because of the level of criticism that`s
come so far? Is this enough to make the president change his mind about
someone he believes in and shares views of?

REED: Well, the president will ultimately make judgment, but I think he`ll
be on strong ground if he`s set up Chuck`s name. Chuck is quite prepared
to set all of these questions. They`re all questions that could and should
be asked.
But, again, as Dana said, this is someone who has a very sound, realistic
view of foreign policy, of military policy, based upon his one experience
as a soldier himself, two, his experience in the Senate dealing with these
issues.
So, I think he brings great credibility, great integrity to the office.
And, by the way, the foreign policy of the United States is not set by the
secretary of defense.
MATTHEWS: Yes.

REED: He will be carrying out the foreign policy of the president of the
United States. And he`ll be giving them the military options. But he`ll
be giving them those options with, I think, the hardest and closest
scrutiny because he understands ultimately young Americans have to carry
the battle. Not a lot of people who are commentating on his credibility
today.

MATTHEWS: Sure, the armchair generals. But I definitely -- I don`t like
chicken hawks either, the guys who are the hawkish in the people in the
world, most hawkish in the world, but never think to put uniform on.
But here`s the question about this. What I was so stirred by when I read
his comment, when he was being medivaced in Vietnam and he`s lying there
wounded, ready to be picked up, I guess put on a helicopter, he remembers
thinking at the time, I`ve got to do everything I can when I get back to
the States to make sure that war is a last resort, not a first resort.
Having been -- you have been in the military. Does that sound like
something that would drive a man into his public life afterwards? That
that experience of being wounded in battle and seeing the suffering in
battle. It`s just worse than your own suffering, would drive your
political and public career thereafter?

REED: Well, I was not in combat. I served 12 years in the United States
Army, a paratrooper, a ranger, but Chuck Hagel has been in combat. I`m
sure he`s left a distinct and precious honor.
As Dana pointed out, he did support the efforts in Iraq. But he didn`t do
it unquestionably. He didn`t do it without raising questions, continually
asking for better policy. More answers.
That`s what I think you want in someone who might be the secretary of
defense. And this is perhaps coincidental, but another great warrior,
Senator Daniel Inouye who were laying to rest today, and a Medal of Honor
winner was also a critic of Iraq, because I think he, not just in this one
vote, but through his entire career, understood that suffering and
sacrifice that young Americans make on behalf in this country, and must
make.

MATTHEWS: And by the way, the context of "New York Times (ph)", in that
same article where he said the Israeli lobby over and over again. So, he
got it right. And we have to get it right.
Anyway, thank you, Dana Milbank, a great columnist.
And thank you, Senator Jack Reed, for joining us tonight.

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