Andrea Mitchell Tees Up John Kerry to Blast Trump Administration

In a softball interview with former Secretary of State John Kerry about his new memoir, on Monday and Tuesday, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell repeatedly teed up the Obama administration official to slam the Trump White House on various foreign policy issues as well as Bob Woodward’s tell-all book. She only managed one challenging question about Kerry’s tenure at the State Department.

During a live discussion with Kerry at the end of her Monday 12:00 p.m. ET hour show, Mitchell feared: “What have we lost, do you think, because of the way President Trump is conducting foreign policy?” She helpfully listed what she thought were foreign policy missteps: “NATO, today closing the PLO, the Palestinian office here, cutting off refugee aid to Palestinians. Cutting off aid to a hospital in east Jerusalem.”

 

 

Responding to Mitchell’s leading question, Kerry ranted: “The president has hugely damaged American credibility on a global basis. He has upset alliances which are critical to America’s long-term security....And I think it puts our interests at risk. It will cost us both money and, frankly, some of the decisions he’s made will cost us lives.”

Mitchell didn’t bat an eye at the incendiary rhetoric as she followed up: “And when we look at the way other people, other leaders are looking at us, what is the message to Vladimir Putin and our adversaries?” Kerry argued: “Well, the message, obviously, to President Putin is, ‘Go ahead and do what you're doing because I don’t agree with my intelligence community and I’m the President.’”

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board explained why the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington D.C. was an “overdue reality check in U.S. foreign policy”:

The PLO began as a terrorist organization but was allowed to open an office in Washington in 1994 after the Oslo accords produced hope for a new era of reconciliation between the PLO and Israel....That hope has never been fulfilled, notably since the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat began the second intifada after walking away from the historic and generous Israeli peace offer brokered by Bill Clinton in 2000. Long-term indulgence of the PLO’s recalcitrance has had the effect of allowing a toxic and reflexive anti-Israel sentiment to build in international institutions, not least among academics and students on U.S. campuses.

Continuing the interview with Kerry after the show ended, Mitchell aired part two of the friendly exchange on Tuesday. She continued her line of anti-Trump questioning: “How badly does it hurt the U.S., from your perspective, for the Iran deal to have been abrogated unilaterally by the United States and not by the rest of the world?”

Kerry seemed to adopt anti-American Iranian talking points:

I think it’s an incredibly dangerous and counterproductive step that the President has taken. By just pulling out what the president has done is make it really difficult, if not impossible, for any leader in Iran to sit down with him and negotiate. Because we've proven, the Great Satan, the United States, which is what the Iranians call us obviously, that the hardliners in Iran were more correct. They said, “Don’t negotiate with America, you can’t trust them.  Somebody’s gonna, you know, come along and they’ll not keep the agreement. Which is how America behaves.” And guess what, Donald Trump came along, didn’t keep the agreement, and he sent a message to the hardliners in Iran.

In her one challenging question to the former Secretary of State, she pressed him on President Obama’s failure to take action in Syria:

We, at the same time, if you look throughout the whole region, Syria. We have the Russians very much in charge....And Assad’s still in power. We look back at 2013 at a critical moment after the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, and you write in your book, Every Day is Extra, that, “We reconvene the next day with the President,” this is August, you remember this so well. And you write that, “the conversation focused on how, not whether, we should strike”....Do you think that weakened you around the world?

Mitchell wrapped up the interview by urging Kerry to weigh in on the latest D.C. gossip: “When you read, in Woodward’s book, the kinds of things that Mattis and other top official national security officials have said about this president, what do you think about the way this White House operates?” Kerry predictably piled on: “Well, I don’t think the White House operates effectively at all....you have the picture of an administration that is chaotic, out of control, not qualified, and a president who is clearly not qualified to do this job.”

In reply, Mitchell suggested a 2020 presidential run: “You’re not ruling out a run though, down the road?” Kerry told her: “Andrea, I am not thinking about a run.”

Speaking of Kerry running for president, in his memoir, Every Day is Extra, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee admitted that it was a mistake to pick now-disgraced former Senator John Edwards as his vice presidential running mate. Mitchell didn’t bother to ask about that.   

During an interview on September 4, the hosts of CBS This Morning similarly failed to ask about that revelation as they promoted Kerry’s autobiography. Instead, they asked him if Congress should to vote to remove Trump from office.

Here is a transcript of Mitchell’s questions to Kerry on the September 10 and 11 editions of MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports:

09/10/18
12:56 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: And now, John Kerry, the former Secretary of State, and the author of Every Day is Extra joining us to talk about this and other issues. And this is part one of a two-part interview that we’re going to be concluding tomorrow. Let’s talk about North Korea first. The President praising Kim Jong-un. We are reporting today they are building more weapons, they are increasing the pace of their nuclear construction. Just as the President is saying, “We have denuclearized.” What is the impact of that?

JOHN KERRY: Well, I mean, obviously, there’s a huge confusion in what was or wasn’t agreed to. I understand people in the administration don’t even know what was agreed to specifically.

(...)

MITCHELL: Now, you’ve mentioned that we don’t know, even people in the administration do not know what really happened in Singapore. We certainly don't know what happened during –  

KERRY: And Helsinki.

MITCHELL: During a meeting in Helsinki. It is not even clear that the President’s intelligence advisers know what happened in Helsinki. But we’re sure that Vladimir Putin’s –

KERRY: Well, we do know one thing that happened in Helsinki was the President of the United States didn’t defend the United States.

(...)

MITCHELL: Now, Every Day is Extra explores a whole career of yours, not just as secretary of state, Foreign Relations Committee. What have we lost, do you think, because of the way President Trump is conducting foreign policy? NATO, today closing the PLO, the Palestinian office here, cutting off refugee aid to Palestinians. Cutting off aid to a hospital in east Jerusalem.

KERRY: The president has hugely damaged American credibility on a global basis. He has upset alliances which are critical to America’s long-term security. He's left leaders around the world worried and wondering what the next shoe to fall may be. It is no way to conduct the critical affairs of our nation. And I think it puts our interests at risk. It will cost us both money and, frankly, some of the decisions he’s made will cost us lives.

MITCHELL: And when we look at the way other people, other leaders are looking at us, what is the message to Vladimir Putin and our adversaries?

KERRY: Well, the message, obviously, to President Putin is, “Go ahead and do what you're doing because I don’t agree with my intelligence community and I’m the President.”

(...)

MITCHELL: Well, we’re going to have much more with John Kerry coming up on our interview online and tomorrow.

 

09/11/18
12:49 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: The chaos of the Trump White House has attracted its share of critics. Top among them, former Secretary of State John Kerry, author of the new book, Everyday is Extra. He joined me to discuss the impact of the President’s volatility and our standing in the world. I asked him about the President’s Middle East peace plan and whether it had any chances of success after Palestinians were cut out of the negotiations.

Now we’ve got the Palestinian office in Washington closed, all refugee relief to Palestinians through the U.N., from the U.S., shut down. And it seems to me they think that they can negotiate with Israel without the Palestinians? How does that work?

JOHN KERRY: It doesn’t work. I mean, obviously, that doesn’t bring you real peace.

(...)

MITCHELL: We, at the same time, if you look throughout the whole region, Syria. We have the Russians very much in charge, in charge of what’s going on, on the ground and in the air. And Assad’s still in power. We look back at 2013 at a critical moment after the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, and you write in your book, Every Day is Extra, that, “We reconvene the next day with the President,” this is August, you remember this so well. And you write that, “the conversation focused on how, not whether, we should strike.” And I remember so clearly, we were live, I was anchoring on MSNBC. You came into the Treaty Room, you gave a speech that was broadcast live to the nation.

JOHN KERRY [APRIL 30, 2013]: So the primary question is really no longer, what do we know? The question is, what do we – collectively – what are we in the world gonna do about it?

(...)

MITCHELL: Do you think that weakened you around the world?

(...)

MITCHELL: How badly does it hurt the U.S., from your perspective, for the Iran deal to have been abrogated unilaterally by the United States and not by the rest of the world?

KERRY: I think it’s an incredibly dangerous and counterproductive step that the President has taken. By just pulling out what the president has done is make it really difficult, if not impossible, for any leader in Iran to sit down with him and negotiate. Because we've proven, the Great Satan, the United States, which is what the Iranians call us obviously, that the hardliners in Iran were more correct. They said, “Don’t negotiate with America, you can’t trust them.  Somebody’s gonna, you know, come along and they’ll not keep the agreement. Which is how America behaves.” And guess what, Donald Trump came along, didn’t keep the agreement, and he sent a message to the hardliners in Iran.

MITCHELL: When you read, in Woodward’s book, the kinds of things that Mattis and other top official national security officials have said about this president, what do you think about the way this White House operates?

KERRY: Well, I don’t think the White House operates effectively at all....you have the picture of an administration that is chaotic, out of control, not qualified, and a president who is clearly not qualified to do this job.

MITCHELL: You’re not ruling out a run though, down the road?

KERRY: Andrea, I am not thinking about a run.

(...)

MITCHELL: He says first thing’s first, the 19 – excuse me, the 2018 midterm elections.


Please support NewsBusters today! [a 501(c)(3) non-profit production of the Media Research Center]

DONATE

Or, book travel through MRC’s Travel Discounts Program! MRC receives a rebate for each booking when you use our special codes.

BOOK NOW

NBDaily Foreign Policy Middle East Israel/Palestine Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports Video Andrea Mitchell John Kerry Donald Trump