Lawrence O’Donnell: Trump ‘Okay’ With Syria Gassing ‘Women and Children’

On Wednesday's The Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell blasted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump administration for Tuesday's chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his own people, which has killed almost 90 people, according to the count so far by human rights groups. "Men, women, children, and babies got gassed in Syria this week because last week, the Trump administration gave the signal that that was OK with President Trump," O'Donnell said.

Despite the change in tone Wednesday from the administration on the almost-six-year Syrian civil war that has killed almost half a million people, O'Donnell played the partisan card. "That`s the signal that they gave. The Trump administration is populated by the worst amateurs in the history of American government, very much including the most untrained and inept Secretary of State in modern history," O'Donnell chided. "Having the boss of Exxon become Secretary of State was a cartoonish notion of Republican governance until now. And last week Rex Tillerson said the most dangerous and irresponsible thing that he could have said given the state of the world today."

Ironic that O'Donnell slammed the Trump administration, but not the Obama administration when Secretary of State John Kerry last year reversed the then-President's stance that "Assad must go" to hopefully persuading the ruthless leader to both forge a lasting truce and a unity governent with moderate opposition groups. Nonetheless, O'Donnell arrogantly said, "By which Rex Tillerson means the nearly 5 million people who have fled the country to save their lives, does he mean it should be decided by the 6.5 million people who have fled their homes in Syria but are somewhere still in and around Syria? People who presumably would need absentee ballots in the fantasy election, that the horrifyingly dim Rex Tillerson was imagining last week."

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O'Donnell then rebuked the fomer Exxon Mobil executive for pursuing his former employer's interest in his latest job as the nation's top diplomat. "You saw in that comment why Rex Tillerson doesn`t like to speak publicly. Rex Tillerson is as clueless as Donald Trump," O'Donnell snarked. "The difference is that Rex Tillerson knows that. Rex Tillerson is just smart enough to know where his ignorance begins, which is everywhere in the world unless it`s about making a deal to extract oil."

The Last Word host went even as far as to suggest that Tillerson could be labeled as "a war criminal."

"Now let`s just hope -- I really mean this -- let`s just hope that Rex Tillerson is too much of an amateur to have understood that what he said in diplomatic speak was code language for unleash the gas," O'Donnell said. "Because if Rex Tillerson did understand what he was saying, then he would be a war criminal. Everything Donald Trump has ever said about President Assad has been a signal for Assad to go on killing as many people as he felt like killing that day any way he wanted to kill them, with or without gas."

O'Donnell even bashed Trump voters for the latest in Syria. "Big impact? We have no idea what the big impact was. Changed him? We have no idea how it changed him. He is as lost as Rex Tillerson," he said. "Neither one of them have any idea what to do or say about this. Trump voters were told that this kind of thing would magically stop happening in the world on January 20th when Donald Trump took the oath of office. The world has noticed that Donald Trump is president. And in Syria, that means the return of chemical weapons."

He added, "And it means that Donald Trump`s best friend during the campaign, Vladimir Putin continues to do everything he can to preserve Assad`s position in Syria."

O'Donnell credited US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley for her stance on Wednesday in the Security Council, where she blamed Russia for proping Assad: "Time and time again, Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their allies in Damascus,” Haley said. “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?”

Haley added, "In fact, Russia cannot escape responsibility for this. In fact, if Russia had been fulfilling its responsibility, there would not even be any chemical weapons left for the Syrian regime to use."

After showing a highlight of Haley's rebuke, O'Donnell responded: "Now there, there is an ambassador to the United Nations who understood at least today that she does not work for the president of the United States, she works for the United States."

O'Donnell added, "Nikki Haley said more wise and helpful things at the United Nations today than Donald Trump has in his entire life. And clearly more than our Secretary of State ever will."

Following O'Donnell's lambasting, he introduced a panel featuring Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot-- both ardent Trump critics like O'Donnell.

Here is the transcript of the April 5th segment:

Last Word

4/5/17

10:03:18 PM – 10:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The world is a mess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I get nervous any time I hear the president talk about foreign affairs.

TRUMP: That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.

STEVE KORNACKI: Is it just a lot of words?

TRUMP: I don't change. Well, I do change and I am flexible. And I`m proud of that flexibility.

CHRIS MURPHY: I don`t think anybody has any clue what he meant today.

TRUMP: I`m not saying I`m doing anything one way or the other.

NIKKI HALEY: How many more children have to die before Russia cares? If Russia had been fulfilling its responsibility, there would not even be any chemical weapons left for the Syrian regime to use.

CHUCK TODD: The president of the United States accused the former national security adviser to President Obama of committing a crime today and didn`t produce any evidence.

LOUIS CK: He`s just a lying -- I mean, it`s just that simple.

(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now around the world, people are looking at the White House and feeling completely at a loss of how to deal with this, what to make of it.

LOUIS CK: Don`t you want God to show up and say I was just kidding about like everything?

(CHEERS)

STEPHEN COLBERT: Yes --

LOUIS CK: I just wish that he would.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Men, women, children and babies got gassed in Syria this week because last week the Trump administration gave the signal that, that was OK with President Trump. That`s the signal that they gave. The Trump administration is populated by the worst amateurs in the history of American government, very much including the most untrained and inept Secretary of State in modern history. Having the boss of Exxon become Secretary of State was a cartoonish notion of Republican governance until now. And last week Rex Tillerson said the most dangerous and irresponsible thing that he could have said given the state of the world today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About President Assad, should he stay or should he go?

REX TILLERSON: I think the status and the longer term, longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "Decided by the Syrian people." That is a dramatic turn from the Obama administration position that Assad must go. Decided by the Syrian people. By which Rex Tillerson means the nearly 5 million people who have fled the country to save their lives, does he mean it should be decided by the 6.5 million people who have fled their homes in Syria but are somewhere still in and around Syria? People who presumably would need absentee ballots in the fantasy election, that the horrifyingly dim Rex Tillerson was imagining last week. You saw in that comment why Rex Tillerson doesn`t like to speak publicly. Rex Tillerson is as clueless as Donald Trump.

The difference is that Rex Tillerson knows that. Rex Tillerson is just smart enough to know where his ignorance begins, which is everywhere in the world unless it`s about making a deal to extract oil.

The news media has been far too patient with the silence of Rex Tillerson. And apparently far too busy to have spent much time on the objectively immoral idiocy that did come out of his mouth last week -- "decided by the Syrian people." Last week, that statement included all of the people who were gassed this week and killed. But now it doesn`t. President Assad doesn`t have to worry about how those people would vote in Rex Tillerson`s imaginary Syrian election that would be decided by the Syrian people.

What is so profoundly immoral about what Rex Tillerson had to say last week is that he has been so lazy in his approach to his new job. So lazy that he might not have understood that President Assad would take that statement as America`s official OK that he can now do whatever he wants because the United States is perfectly OK with this murderous madman remaining as the president of Syria.

Now let`s just hope -- I really mean this -- let`s just hope that Rex Tillerson is too much of an amateur to have understood that what he said in diplomatic speak was code language for unleash the gas. Because if Rex Tillerson did understand what he was saying, then he would be a war criminal. Everything Donald Trump has ever said about President Assad has been a signal for Assad to go on killing as many people as he felt like killing that day any way he wanted to kill them, with or without gas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`ve been looking at the different players, and I`ve been watching Assad, and I`ve been pretty good at this stuff over the years because deals are people.

And I`m looking at Assad and saying maybe he is better than the kind of people that we`re supposed to be backing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He was looking at the different players, players who were trying to kill each other. And he decided that he would come down on the side of President Assad and cheer him on in his killing spree.

Someone in the Trump administration has found a way to explain at least some of this to Donald Trump. Which is why he said things like this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal that people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many lines, beyond the red line. Many lines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Of course, no questioner could get Donald Trump to say what he would do about those crossed lines. Instead, he just talked about his flexibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I like to think of myself as a very flexible person. I don`t have to have one specific way, and if the world changes, I go the same way, I don`t change.

Well, I do change and I am flexible and I`m proud of that flexibility. And I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact. That was a horrible thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Big impact? We have no idea what the big impact was. Changed him? We have no idea how it changed him. He is as lost as Rex Tillerson. Neither one of them have any idea what to do or say about this. Trump voters were told that this kind of thing would magically stop happening in the world on January 20th when Donald Trump took the oath of office. The world has noticed that Donald Trump is president. And in Syria, that means the return of chemical weapons. And it means that Donald Trump`s best friend during the campaign, Vladimir Putin continues to do everything he can to preserve Assad`s position in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY: Look at those pictures. We cannot close our eyes to those pictures. We know that yesterday`s attack bears all the hallmarks of the Assad regime`s use of chemical weapons. Russia cannot escape responsibility for this. In fact, if Russia had been fulfilling its responsibility, there would not even be any chemical weapons left for the Syrian regime to use.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now there, there is an ambassador to the United Nations who understood at least today that she does not work for the president of the United States, she works for the United States. Nikki Haley said more wise and helpful things at the United Nations today than Donald Trump has in his entire life. And clearly more than our Secretary of State ever will. 

If you`ve been watching presidential administrations for a while, you might be ready to bet as am I, that Rex Tillerson is going to be the first person out the door in the Trump cabinet. It`s not that he`s not as smart as Rick Perry, who will be able to outlast him at the Energy Department. It's that Rex Tillerson`s in the job where you cannot escape crisis. And Rex Tillerson is lost in that job that is surrounded by crisis every day. He actually issued a statement about the crisis with North Korea, saying "the United States has spoken enough about North Korea, we have no further comment."

And that statement now goes straight to the top of the stack of stupidest things ever said by a Secretary of State. And most secretaries of state don`t have any entries in these stupidest things ever said. As long as Rex Tillerson is Secretary of State and is advising the president, we will be watching the morally blind leading the morally blind.

NB Daily Syria Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission Conspiracy Theories Covert Liberal Activists Double Standards Labeling Name That Party Sudden Respect The Last Word Journalistic Issues Government & Press Rex Tillerson Bashar al-Assad Lawrence O'Donnell Nikki Haley
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