Inspired By Drone Question At Debate Last Night, MSNBC'S Morning Joe Has Real Discussion on Drones
One benefit that has come from the simple asking of any drone question during last night's debate is that, today, people in the media are talking about drones, and in a far more substantial way than the candidates did last night.
One example is MSNBC'S Morning Joe. In the course of the commentator's discussion of last night's debate, Bob Schieffer's drone question came up. It was then that host Joe Scarborough, the former Republican Congressman, revealed himself to be a closet Code Pinker when it comes to drones. Scarborough confessed that he found US drone policy incredibly troubling, and presented a penetrating critique of US drone strikes. Joe Klein, on the other hand, defended Obama's policies, justifying the murder of four year-old Pakistani children with a "them or us" argument. In the end, three commentators, including Scarborough, said that they wished the debate last night had spent more time on the drones question.
Glenn Greenwald published an excellent critique of Klein's remarks over at the Guardian. A video clip of the discussion is below, as well as a transcript.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Bob Schieffer asked a question last night about the administration's drone policy. Governor Romney basically said, "I'm for it." President Obama never had to talk about it. It seems to me it continues to be a huge question about this policy still is—it deserves more scrutiny and more public debate.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh my God yeah!
HEILEMANN: You know, that we use drones the way we use them, that we kill people from the sky the way that we do, that we kill without any kind of due process the way that we do using drones. I'm not taking a position on it, but it's not really been, over the course of the last four years—it's been a key part of the Obama administration's foreign policy, not really ever litigated in public.
SCARBOROUGH: John, let me take a position on it. What we are doing with drones is remarkable. The fact that, over the past eight years over George W. Bush's eight years when a lot of people brought up a bunch of legitimate questions about international law—my God, those lines have been completely eradicated in a drone policy that says that, if you're between 17 and 30, and you're within a half-mile of a suspect, we can blow you up. And that's exactly what's happening.
[Joe Klein tries to interrupt.] Hey Joe, I know. You talk to guys in the CIA. You talk to people who are running this drone program. They are focused on killing the bad guys. But it's indiscriminate as to the other people that are around them who are killed at the same time. And the fact that neither party wants to talk about this I think is something that is going to cause us problems in the coming years.
KLEIN: I have to disagree with you on this.
SCARBOROUGH: Well then, you don't know what's going on. I hate—I rarely say that. You need to talk to people who are running this program.
KLEIN: I actually have talked to the people who are involved in it. And it has been remarkably successful—
SCARBOROUGH: —at killing people, yes.
KLEIN: —at decimating bad people, taking out bad people—
SCARBOROUGH: —and at taking out a lot of innocent people as well.
KLEIN: —and saving American lives in the process, because our troops don't have to go in and do this. Now, when you—let's take this out into the future. When Romney talks about adding $2T to the defense budget, he's not taking into account drone technology. Sooner or later, within a decade, fifteen years, the entire Air Force could be drone-driven. You don't need pilots anymore, because you do it with a joy-stick in California. [Klein looks really pleased about this prospect]
SCARBOROUGH: This is offensive to me, though, because you do it with a joy-stick in California, and it seems so antiseptic, it seems so clean. And yet, you get four year-old girls being blown to bits because we have a policy that now says, "you know what? Instead of trying to go in, take the risk to get the terrorist out of hiding in a Karachi suburb, and putting troops in harm's way, we're just going to blow everybody up around them." And this is what bothers me. The fact that there was such—there was weeping and gnashing of teeth over eight years over our anti-terror policy where we would go in, grab the bad guy, and we would take him out, take him to a black site, we would interrogate them, this one person, we would get information from them, we would build a case, we would figure out where the next terror attack was coming from—that is over. Those days—we don't detain people anymore. We kill them. And we kill everyone around them. And that is hypocrisy if we don't face that, and no one wants to talk about it because they want to be tougher on how many bad guys we can kill.
KLEIN: First of all, we've never gone into Karachi or a big city like that. Never.
SCARBOROUGH: Where was KSM apprehended?
KLEIN: KSM was apprehended in Karachi. But you were talking about drones. We never sent drones—
SCARBOROUGH: Joe, of course you didn't. That was my point. We would send people into Karachi to get KSM, to pull him out. Now we are indiscriminately launching drones. Listen, I hate to sound like a Code Pink guy here. I'm telling you, this is causing this "collateral damage". It seems so clean, with this joy-stick in California. This is going to cause the US problems in the future.
KLEIN: If it is misused, and there is a really major possibility of abuse if you have the wrong people running the government. But the bottom line in the end is: whose four year-old gets killed? What we're doing—
SCARBOROUGH: Does that matter?
KLEIN: —is limiting the possibility that four year-olds here are going to get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.
SCARBOROUGH: Not if you have another way to go in and apprehend these terrorists.
KLEIN: No, no, we're going to do that too. I mean, we—
SCARBOROUGH: No you're not.
KLEIN: Yes we are. Special forces and drones.
GUY ON LEFT: It troubles me to be sort of on Joe Scarborough's side on any debate. But secondly, it sounded to me like you're the one being Yoko Ono's consort right now.
SCARBOROUGH: It is deeply troubling how indiscriminate the killing has been the last four years.
HEILEMANN: I'm agreeing with you.
GUY ON RIGHT: The ultimate dilemma, Joe, is really—it's one of philosophy. So much was raising in terms of people opposed to torture—rightly so. America shouldn't be torturing people. And yet, there's minimal discussion—and it's, by the way, I don't want to be that corrective, but it's in Missouri that they have the joy-sticks, not in California—but there's been minimal discussion about the impact of the drone program. I'm all for it, I'd rather kill them than them kill us, but there is eventual blow-back on it.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: [Points out time has run out.] But it's a fascinating conversation.
SCARBOROUGH: It's an important conversation that we just haven't had as a country.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: No. We should talk about it more because we've barely just begun. Seriously.
HEILEMANN: I wish we had hit it more in the debate last night when it came up.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I agree.