On MSNBC Live Thursday, host Ali Velshi refused to listen to his guest, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) after he started to give the liberal host an answer he didn’t like. Hosts Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle first asked the member of the Armed Services Committee about Trump’s handling of North Korea’s threat against the U.S. territory of Guam. As soon as Franks tried to explain that the situation would be harder to handle now than in years past, because of past mistakes presidents like Clinton and Obama made handling North Korea, Velshi cut him off, saying “I really don’t want to talk about Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.” He then self-righteously scolded the GOP rep, saying “This is not a political game, Sir!”
Before all that, the interview started off straightforward with Ruhle asking Franks what his assessment was on how the U.S. should be handling North Korea. Towards the end of his answer, Frank admitted, “We shouldn’t be where we are,” placing blame on the past failed negotiations Clinton and Obama made with North Korea and Iran that didn’t require any accountability of our enemies.
STEPHANIE RUHLE: What's your assessment of how we should be handling North Korea?
REP. TRENT FRANKS: Well I think that, first of all, this threat to launch intermediate missiles at Guam has to be considered carefully. Because we only have a short period of time to ascertain the trajectory and whether or not those missiles are actually on track to hit Guam. It's something that we cannot just ignore that reality because indeed if we think that trajectory is on track, we would have to engage our own missile defense capability. And my overall assessment is that we shouldn't be where we are, but Bill Clinton had had an opportunity to negotiate with the North Koreans. He made a deal. He paid the ransom but didn't secure the hostage. Barack Obama did the the same thing and turned around and did the same thing with Iran. We're now starting into an area where we could find some of the most dangerous enemies to America in the world that would be armed with nuclear weapons. That's not good news for our children or our future generations.
Bringing it back to Trump, Ruhle asked Franks if Trump was “correct” in “inciting” Kim Jong-un:
RUHLE: Alright well maybe we have been dealt a difficult hand, but thus far, is the president playing that hand correctly in firing off ‘fire and fury,’ inciting, for a lack of a better term that irrational foreign leader in Kim Jong-un?
FRANKS: Well, the reality is that we only have two ways to defend this nation against intercontinental ballistic missiles that bare nuclear warheads. That's either to interdict them in flight, kinetically or otherwise or to be able to prevent them from being launched. And the main predicate for decades now against very dangerous enemies with nuclear arms has been deterrent. They have to believe that there's no gain in attacking United States. I think the president is making it clear to North Korea that should they attack the United States with nuclear weapons that there will be absolutely no gain to them and great harm to them if that occurs.
Velshi got his first question in then and it was hostile from the start. He mocked the GOP rep. for saying that Obama’s Iran Deal was a failure. “They had no missiles by the way, so the comparison’s not very good,” he snarked. Velshi also claimed that the Obama Admin had “absolute solid intelligence as to where the nuclear capability is,” (despite the fact that the deal relied solely on self-reporting from Iran itself, because it wouldn’t allow outside agencies like the IAEA to robustly inspect the country’s military facilities.) But Velshi was so confident in his statement that Franks asked Velshi to clarify:
FRANKS: I’m sorry can you repeat that again? Are you saying Iran has no nuclear missiles?
VELSHI: Iran has no nuclear capable missiles. That's a fact.
FRANKS: Well, Let me just suggest to you--if North Korea has those---
VELSHI: Congressman Congressman [repeatedly] -- let's talk about the present please. This is an important topic. I'm asking you a question. Let's talk about the present. How do we establish deny of capability with North Korea? We don't have nearly the information that we had on Iran.
After that rude interruption, Frank pushed back again, saying that the U.S. had “a great deal of information for decades” on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but that past presidents had severely limited our current options with their deal-making failures. But as soon as Franks name-dropped Obama and Clinton, Velshi angrily interrupted again:
FRANKS: The fact is we have a great deal of information on North Korea. We had a great deal of information for decades and we had an opportunity to deny them the capability and two components to any threat. That's the capability and intent. And President Obama and President Clinton---
VELSHI: Congressman I really want to move forward. I really want to have a discussion about how we stop a war with North Korea. I really don’t want to talk about Bill Clinton or Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Jimmy Carter or Nixon. Because this all started---
FRANKS [being talked over by Velshi]: I can understand you wouldn't, but the bottom line is if we continue to make the mistakes of the past.
“This is not a political game, Sir! This is about war! Can we get answers?” Velshi scolded.
VELSHI: Do we really know where the missiles are in North Korea? Because Intelligence sources tell me that we do not have the degree of information we did in a place like Iran where our spy capabilities are really good, our aerial capabilities were really good. I'm asking a military question. I’m not asking about---
[talking over each other]
FRANKS: If you give me a chance to answer, maybe that would help us both. It is true that North Korea has the ability to disperse their capability, such as it is, in ways that are harder for us to deal with because there's not as much information in North Korea. That part is true.
VELSHI: That's what I'm trying to get to.
FRANKS: So what?
VELSHI: So the fact is when we talk about denial of capability, which goes back to the question I asked 2.5 minutes ago, when Lindsey Graham says there's denial of capability --
FRANKS: That ship has sailed. What we have to do now is to try to deter their intent. That's what I'm trying to suggest to you. The ship of capability has sailed under Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton. And now what we have to do is we have a president now that has far limited options and some of those options are much more grave than the options that we had before so consequently he has to make it clear to North Korea that should they intend or should they proceed to attack the United States, that it means devastation to them. That's dealing with intent. I hope the president succeeds because the implications, as you say, are profoundly ominous.
What Trent Franks was trying to explain to the head-in-the-sand MSNBC host was that we’ve been here before, so we should learn from our past mistakes. But all the media seems to care about is Trump’s “scary rhetoric.” Instead, they should be taking a look at how they covered past presidents’ reactions to nuclear threats.
The media hailed both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s “historic” deals with North Korea and Iran, respectively, which turned out to be failures. The 1994 deal reached with Korea by Clinton required little from the country, and even those requirements they eventually violated. The deal was meant to prevent Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, which clearly didn’t work. But at the time, the media praised Clinton for “ending the Cold War,” not giving any scrutiny to the lax measures placed on Korea in the agreement.