03/16/2014 09:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Corn/Matalin Clash Over CIA Torture and 'Who Lost Crimea?'


By: Mark Green


The Senate-CIA fight is jaw-dropping but Mary Matalin and David Corn disagree if it's about oversight and/or Bush-Cheney "torture." Then: Is Obama a "weak joke" (MM)? Were Ike, LBJ after Soviets invaded Hungry, Czechoslovakia (DC)? Was W while looking into Putin's soulful eyes (MG)?

On Feinstein vs. Brennan. "I've been writing about the CIA for several decades and have never seen anything" like the Senate-CIA public feud, says David. He concludes that the struggle is initially over the Senate's oversight function but also about the CIA's continuing cover-up of the Bush-Cheney torture policy. Then there's the irony of Feinstein, who was blasé about U.S. drone policy and NSA domestic spying, now going ballistic over alleged CIA spying of HER staff.

Mary is infuriated that David or anyone would continue to call interrogation of suspects "torture" since it wasn't and produced information "that saved thousands of lives and thwarted a myriad of attacks." She adds that the Senate was caught leaking and the CIA is super-sensitive since Obama "threatened retroactive prosecution for enhanced interrogation."

(Host: POTUS announced in his first year that he wouldn't move to prosecute people for such actions so that his administration could "look forward, not backward.")

David is as passionate in rebuttal. Once the Senate Committee's 6300-page report is declassified by Obama, he argues, it'll again document what other countries, John McCain, Gen. McCrystal, the FBI, the Asa Hutchinson Independent Panel have all confirmed, i.e. water-boarding is torture under the laws of war and produced bad intelligence that W relied on in prosecuting his wars. If so, asks the Host, should Cheney be worried that a President he's constantly insulting is now in a position to hurt him reputationally if not legally? "Yes" says David. "No," says Mary. "All Dick Cheney cares about is the truth. Do you think we tortured people because we're sadists?"

Host: Is 'enhanced interrogation' to torture as "wardrobe malfunction" is to Janet Jackson's nipple? Didn't the US convict Japanese generals of war crimes in the late '40s for water-boarding Americans?

On Russia-Ukraine. Are we at risk of another 1914, where a misstep along the tense Russian-Ukrainian border could trigger a new cold war or hot one?

Corn: "it's amazing that on the centennial of the First World War, we're again involved in a European conflict." There's consensus that Americans are war-weary but no concurrence over who's to blame. Mary doesn't fault any Obama steps so far but, like Cheney and Fox, says that the President's general "weakness" has emboldened Putin. "Obama's a joke around the world... because can't be trusted, even by our allies."

David asks whether Ike, LBJ and W were jokes when, respectively, Russia invaded Hungry, Czechoslovakia, and Georgia? Was Obama for not siding in Syria's civil war or not bombing Iran?

The two also fight over which party violates bipartisanship during foreign policy crises. Matalin says that Bush's critics called him a murderer and liar over Iraq; Corn (author of the best-selling The Lies of George W. Bush) notes that basically Democrats did not belittle him "as a feckless joke" right after 9/11 or as we invaded Iraq... although of course over the years there was robust opposition to his false statements and military policies. But now, according to Republican DOD Secretary Bob Gates, Republicans are ignoring the tradition of uniting behind presidents during a conflict beyond "the water's edge." Corn: "Instead we have these never-ending attacks on Obama's belief in America and American power... and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi."

The program is taped Friday, before messers Kerry and Lavrov failed to make any progress on Saturday, before the UN vote 14-1 in the Security Council against Russia (the 1 being Russia), before the rigged Sunday vote over secession of Crimea, before Monday's likely US/EU agreement on how severe sanctions should be... and as Russian troops are massing along Ukraine's eastern border.

As for the Giuliani/Cheney/Krauthammers contrasting a strong Putin with a weak Obama, imagine if liberals seemed to side with a Russian autocrat on the brink of a new Cold War?

The reality is that, if Putin wants to grab a Crimea long in Russia's orbit and boost himself within Mother Russia, he can and has. And he's not foolish to worry about security on his borders. "But he's not insane," says David hopefully. The assumption is that a) he won't want to isolate Russia economically and diplomatically (see the plunge in his country's stock market; Merkel's strong statement over the weekend; a GDP very oil/gas dependent and about the size of Italy's) and b) won't want to invade the rest of the Ukraine to turn it into a new Afghanistan sinkhole. So once the Crimean vote occurs and sanctions are imposed, ideally there's the basis of a negotiation where the West agrees the Ukraine will not be in NATO... in order to maintain the country as anindependent state with relations with both US/EU and Russia.

Question: Can Putin and Obama hold off each country's hard-liners pining for a new Cold War even at risk of a hot one?

On Fla 13 and CPAC. Mary and David agree that the GOP holding Florida's 13th congressional seat was "instructive but not dispositive" (MM) since the turnout in off-year special elections is so different than Fall elections. Corn points out that polling now over Obamacare is largely split although it energizes the Republican base more than the Democratic one. "It'll be interesting to see if Democrats can come up with a strategy to counter all the outside money" this Fall since the D outspent the R 3-1 in the 13th but outside money erased that advantage.

What about Harry Reid calling the Koch brothers' spending "un-American" and linking that to fights over a higher minimum wage and other pocket-book issues? Each doubts that "campaign finance" arguments will have traction. The Host, however, tries to distinguish between self-made billionaires spending on themselves (Perot, Bloomberg) and special interest outside money trying to buy seats for other candidates. "Obamacare" vs. "Stop the Billionaires from buying our Democracy and Give America a Raise."

What do they think of Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson being the top vote-getters at the CPAC event in Washington? Do any of those three have more than a zero chance of beating Hillary Clinton in 2016? Mary argues that a) no one who's won such a straw vote has gone onto a nomination, b) Scott Walker and Jeb Bush probably "won" by staying away "since no one wants a target on his back this early" and c) Hillary won't run, in her view.

On Obama Between Two Ferns. Bill O'Really? Chided Obama for going on the FunnyorDie program because "Putin thinks he's a lightweight and this comedy video won't convince him otherwise"... Putin being a Nielson family glued to satirical shows. Basically David and Mary think the program was pretty funny and may help convince some young people to check out the ACA. Ok, but are there limits, like Obama not going on "Life with the Kardashians"? Groans are heard -- as both solemnly agree there are some limits.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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