The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 9/7/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: September 7, 2016
Guest: Paul Rieckhoff, Keith Kellogg, John Douglass, Andrew Bacevich, Leo
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening. The Commander-in-Chief Forum
with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has just wrapped up here.
We are still on board the Intrepid. This is a real live aircraft carrier.
This is not a set.
This aircraft was commissioned in 1943. It survived five kamikaze attacks
in World War II. It saw service in the Cold War and in Vietnam. More than
50,000 American sailors served onboard this ship before it was finally
decommissioned in 1974.
Two hundred and seventy of them were killed in action onboard this ship.
Because of those American lives lost here, this ship, this museum, this New
York landmark, the site of tonight`s Commander-in-Chief Forum, it`s also
hollowed ground. So, it is an incredible honor to be here tonight,
especially with all the service members.
Tonight`s Commander-in-Chief Forum was the first time Hillary Clinton and
Donald Trump have squared off on the same stage as presidential nominees.
As far as we know, it is the only time they`ll do so, aside from the
It`s also the only time in the election that the two of them together will
face an entire audience of U.S. military veterans who expect direct answers
to their direct questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It was a mistake.
Now, my opponent was for the war in Iraq. He says he wasn`t. You can go
back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard Stern he
So, he supported it before it happened, he supported it as it was happening
and he is on record supporting it after it happened.
I have taken responsibility for my decision.
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Let me go to another veteran.
CLINTON: He refuses to take responsibility for his support.
LAUER: Let me go to another question.
CLINTON: That is a judgment –
LAUER: Back in August when you admitted you regret some of the things you
said, you said this, “I can promise you this, I will always tell you the
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It`s true.
LAUER: So let me read some of the things you`ve said. “I know more about
ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” Was that the truth?
TRUMP: Well, the generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not
been successful. ISIS –
LAUER: Do you know more about ISIS than they do?
TRUMP: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton,
the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a
point where it`s embarrassing for our country.
CLINTON: We`re going to work to make sure that they have the support.
They have Special Forces, as you know. They have enablers. They have
surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance help.
They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops
into Iraq ever again, and we`re not putting ground troops into Syria.
We`re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.
So, those are the kinds of decisions we have to make on a case by case
LAUER: So, is the plan you`ve been hiding this whole time asking someone
else for their plan?
TRUMP: No. But when I do come up with a plan that I like and that perhaps
agrees with mine or maybe doesn`t – I may love what the generals come back
with. I will convene –
LAUER: But you have your own plan?
TRUMP: I have a plan. But I want to be – I don`t want to – look. I
have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again.
We`re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of
winning. If I win, I don`t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my
LAUER: But you`re going to –
TRUMP: And let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan and
the generals` plan, or the generals` plan, if I like their plan, Matt, I`m
not going to call you up and say, “Matt, we have a great plan.”
This is what Obama does. “We`re going to leave Iraq on a certain day.”
LAUER: But you`re going to conceive a panel of generals, and you`ve
already said you know more about ISIS than the generals.
TRUMP: Well, they`re probably be different generals, to be honest with
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: That`s just some of what wrapped up moments ago here at the
Commander-in-Chief Forum. We are live now in Memorial Hall on the
Intrepid, along with dozens of veterans who watched the forum. Others are
making their way down from hangar three, where the forum just ended just
I`m Rachel Maddow from MSNBC. This is a special edition for THE RACHEL
For this special edition, I`m hitching myself to tonight`s event host, to
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. This is the part where I give
you a full disclosure that I have been a long-time supporter, including a
financial supporter, of IAVA, back to their founding more than a decade
That said, don`t hold it against them. IAVA is an aggressively non-
partisan organization. They are the leading voice for the 2.8 million
Americans who have served in our nation`s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
while the other 99 percent plus of us did not.
Logistically, Clinton and Trump have left the Intrepid. Some of the
audience of veterans who saw the forum here tonight and asked questions,
they have now moved down here with us.
So, now, here`s what we want to know. Did these veterans here tonight get
their questions answered? Did the candidates distinguish themselves on
these issues? What did they either leave out or screw up, in terms of what
America`s veterans most care about right now.
So, we`re going to spend the rest of this hour hearing from these veterans
directly. Also with us tonight, as resources and assets, we have retired
Colonel Jack Jacobs, who is a military analyst with NBC and MSNBC. He`s a
Medal of Honor recipient.
We`ve also got retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich. He`s a distinguished
military historian. I should also tell you that his son was killed in
action in Iraq.
Leo Shane is here as well. Leo covers veterans affairs for “Military
Courtney Kube is here. She`s one of the best producers at NBC News. She`s
covered the Pentagon and national security for NBC for a decade.
We`ve also got Malcolm Nance here. He`s a former Navy intelligence
officer. He`s a counterterrorism expert.
These folks are here tonight to help us basically with the nuts and bolts
of policy questions as they come up, if need be.
Because this is politics, we will also hear from a supporter of the Trump
campaign and a supporter of the Clinton campaign, both retired generals.
Mostly we`re doing – they`re both fascinating and interesting people.
Mostly we`re doing that because the campaigns really, really want us to do
that and so, we said yes.
But joining us very soon, in a moment, is going to be – soon? Come on –
is going to be my friend Paul Rieckhoff.
Hey, Paul. Congratulations.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, IAVA CEO AND FOUNDER: Thank you so much, Rachel. Thank
MADDOW: Paul is CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of
Paul, it took a long time to get this to happen.
MADDOW: Just the start of it was getting the candidates to agree.
MADDOW: Did you get out of this what you wanted to get out of this?
RIECKHOFF: I think we did. What we got was a start. This is a really
historic night. The country never stopped to focus exclusively on the
duties and the challenges of being a Commander-in-Chief.
It wasn`t just about this event. The entire national conversation for the
last 24 hours has been about veterans, has been our military, has been our
military families, all the folks sitting here tonight.
So, I think we accomplished that goal. We set a new precedent. I think
the Commander-in-Chief Forum is here to stay and should be a part of every
election from now on.
MADDOW: You want this to be the first annual Commander-in-Chief Forum?
RIECKHOFF: And one of the questions we actually didn`t ask is, will they
commit to come back here, win or lose, after the election? Veterans Day is
a couple days after the election. Here in New York is the largest parade
in America. All of us will be here, like we are every year.
We hope Trump and Clinton, regardless of who wins, will come back, put
their parties aside, unite and take us forward together as Americans.
That`s the opportunity we have after the election, and the example these
MADDOW: And since we have this weird situation, where both candidates are
New Yorkers, they don`t have a geographic excuse.
RIECKHOFF: It worked out, it worked out. That`s the plan all along. We
had a vision to have it here in New York, a week before 9/11, on the
Intrepid. It was a vision of IAVA many years ago. We`re grateful the
candidates agreed to do it.
This is a great moment for the veterans community. It`s a great moment for
America. This is a conversation that`s long overdue and we`re finally
MADDOW: In terms of what the candidates said, how they distinguished
themselves, whether people were satisfied with the answers they heard,
Hallie, let`s talk to folks here – Hallie Jackson.
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Rachel. We`ve got Mark
Alvarez (ph) here. He served in the Marine Corps. He was corporal.
You retired I think a few years back. You are a Republican. So, we pose
the question that Rachel posed, which is were you satisfied with what you
heard from – I`ll start with Donald Trump – over on the other side of the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was satisfied with his outlook to target and help the
veterans and really helping out the veterans and what they need.
Primarily, going after what`s really affecting him.
One thing I wish either candidate would have mentioned was something about
the homelessness of veterans. This country is willing to – we just
shipped a couple billion dollars is that secretly over to Iran. We could
have used the money a little bit wiser here in the United States. There`s
homeless veterans all over the country sleeping in the streets. We`re
willing to take in refugees and give them homes, and give them – put them
in schools and everything.
We have homeless veterans sleeping in the streets. We have a city
decimated like Detroit, areas like that, that can be rebuilt. They talked
about bring the refugees to these cities. Why not bring our veterans there
and help our veterans first. We have to make sure that we take care of
them. You can`t take care of somebody else until you take care of
MADDOW: Yes. You`re not saying that you heard something you homelessness,
you wish you heard something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I heard something.
RIECKHOFF: We didn`t get to homelessness at all. We got to a lot of
issues. We got to V.A. reform, we got to suicide, we got to military
sexual trauma, a lot of stuff that`s been off the radar. And most
importantly, we got to hear from you. We heard from other veterans.
All due respect to Matt Lauer, the veterans are the best part. We hear
from more now. That`s what we hope we hear throughout the election and
long afterwards. That`s the real opportunity here is to hear from the
veterans who haven`t been front and center.
MADDOW: In terms of the specific plans, I mean, obviously, what you`re
saying about homelessness, didn`t get discussed. When they talked about
V.A. reform, though, we see them fighting on that issue. And fighting is -
- you can lament it`s partisan fighting but that`s how we compete in
So, they`re fighting on this issue about whether or not Donald Trump is
proposing something that`s like privatizing the V.A., they`re fighting
about whether Clinton said the V.A. problems are not as bad as they are
made out to be. To hear them competing on these issues, that would not be
happening I think –
RIECKHOFF: That`s a win. That`s a win for us. That issue must be center
stage. There are policy differences between them. Still, not enough
specifics, like let`s drill down.
What is your V.A. secretary? What kind of person are you going to put in
place? Will you keep Secretary Bob McDonald as many veterans organizations
have asked for, or are you go to replace him with someone else? What kind
of person will it be? What are you going to do with the V.A. budget? How
specifically are you going to deal with the technology problems and the
backlog, and the failure for women`s care?
A lot of these issues, we need three more hours, right? It was a good
MADDOW: It`s an interesting test of literacy on these issues, right?
Because it`s one thing like –
RIECKHOFF: And cultural competency.
MADDOW: As you go fast, and these candidates, they name what they
recognize to be the problems.
MADDOW: So, being able to say, I recognize that you getting out of the
Defense Department and getting assigned to the Veterans Affairs doesn`t
necessarily mean that your data and records transfer over. It`s a
technological problem. Just naming that problem is a sign of literacy, it
doesn`t show you know how to fix it.
RIECKHOFF: Right, or that you can fix it, right? I mean, is it fixable?
I mean, every president comes in and says, I`m going to clean up the V.A.
and every president has failed.
RIECKHOFF: It`s the ultimate test in some ways of whether or not you can
manage the government. The V.A. when it is outstanding is the G.I. bill.
It`s amazing and can transform the landscape. When it`s terrible, it`s
Phoenix and it`s the scandal from a few summers ago.
RIECKHOFF: So, it really is an ultimate test for the president and it`s
part of Commander-in-Chief. We talked about foreign policy, OK, which we
talk about normally. We still need more veterans policy, which is
different. It`s not the same. And we started –
MADDOW: And being able to say, we`re going to do right by vets, that`s an
aspiration. That`s not a plan.
JACKSON: I`m with Kristin Rouse (ph) here, guys, who served until the
army. You did at least one tour, I believe, in Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIED FEMALE: Three.
JACKSON: Three tours in Afghanistan, I`d be curious about your take as to
what you heard from your candidate. You are a leaning Democrat, is my
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s true. Thank you. Hello, Paul. Hello,
I served in Afghanistan with the Army in 2006, in 2010 and 2012. When I
was there, I realized our fight depended not just on our infantry men and
our front line – traditional front line troops but we also need enablers
who are accomplished at critical thinking, at cultural and language
competencies, who were good at relationship building.
Our fight depended on not just destroying the enemy but also winning over
the local populace and protecting the populace. Those enablers were women
in many cases. They were troops who come from many different religious,
ethnic, national origin and background. Some of the troops were of
We have so many troops in our armed forces who are so diverse, and I`m
concerned that I didn`t hear from Mr. Trump necessarily – I wasn`t assured
that he would put policies in place to ensure that our armed forces are a
level playing field for all troops who can meet the standards and serve our
nation in the roles that we need to them.
MADDOW: Do you feel like you are hearing that – by specifying Trump
there, do you feel you are hearing things that you like more from Clinton
on that, or from neither of them?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In – as Donald Trump spoke tonight, he was speaking
about sexual assault policy, for example, which that is also a signal that
our military is not a level playing field, when we still have an epidemic
of sexual assault among the troops. But when he spoke, he was not
referencing any policy I heard. He was not referencing Senator
Gillibrand`s proposal or other policies proposed by the Pentagon. I didn`t
hear anything that was part of the conversation over the last several
MADDOW: I mean, he did say he wants sexual assault issues adjudicated
within the military. He doesn`t want it taken out and not put into the
civilian justice system. That was specific.
RIECKHOFF: Right. It`s a dividing point, right?
Kristin is referencing the Military Justice Improvement Act, which was
proposed by Senator Gillibrand, which would take it out of the chain of
command. I think the reality is that we need follow up questions. This is
the follow up question we needed to drill down and find out.
There`s also another point, Kristin is an incredible activist. There are
activists all around the room from all over the country that converged in
New York City. It`s become like veterans homecoming. It`s also become a
rally cry. These are the questions we need from everybody in America for
the next 62 days.
MADDOW: We have much more in reaction to the Commander-in-Chief Forum when
our special edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, stuff (INAUDIBLE) to the
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I intend to make it happen. We`re going after Baghdadi, the
leader, because it will help us focus our attention, just like going after
bin Laden helped us focus our attention in the fight against al Qaeda –
LAUER: Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: – in the Afghanistan-Pakistan –
TRUMP: I always said, shouldn`t be there. If we`re going to get out, take
the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn`t have ISIS because
ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil.
LAUER: How are we going to take the oil?
TRUMP: We would leave a certain group behind, and you would take various
sections where they have the oil. They have – people don`t –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We have never before broadcast this show from a decommissioned
aircraft carrier but tonight, we have remedied the oversight. Coming to
you tonight live from the Intrepid at the Commander-in-Chief Forum that
just wrapped up with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We`ve got an
audience of veterans whose those candidates just faced. They have things
to say about what they just saw.
Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUER: What have you done in your life that prepares you to send men and
women of the United States into harm`s way?
TRUMP: Well, I think the main thing is I have great judgment. I have good
judgment. I know what`s going on. I`ve called so many of the shots. And
I happened to hear Hillary Clinton say that I was not against the war in
Iraq. I was totally against the war in Iraq. From a – you can look at
“Esquire Magazine” from `04. You can look at before that.
And I was against the war in Iraq because I said it`s going to totally
destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has absolutely been a
disastrous war, and by the way, perhaps almost as bad was the way Barack
Obama got out. That was a disaster.
LAUER: People talk –
CLINTON: Now, my opponent was for the war in Iraq. He says he wasn`t.
You can go back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard
Stern he supported it.
So, he supported it before it happened, he supported it as it was
happening, and he is on record as supporting it after it happened. I have
taken responsibility for my decision.
LAUER: Let me go to another –
CLINTON: He refuses to take responsibility for his support.
LAUER: Let me –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: From the Commander-in-Chief Forum that wrapped just moments ago.
Joining us here on set at the Intrepid are retired General Keith Kellogg,
among his roles in a long military career was to serve as the chief
operating officer of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the
initial invasion in 2003. He`s endorsed Donald Trump.
We`re also joined by retired Air Force Brigadier General John Douglass, who
has endorsed Hillary Clinton.
Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: General Kellogg, I`ll start with you. I`m asking this in part
because of your role in Iraq. I don`t want to litigate Donald Trump`s
contemporaneous position on the invasion. We`ll let the candidates do
What about this assertion by Donald Trump that if he is commander-in-chief,
there will be new generals. The generals are reduced the rubble. The
generals now are how we lost and they`re an embarrassment to the country.
What – I don`t understand what he meant by that. Do you?
GEN. KEITH KELLOGG (RET), ARMY: Well, first of all, he didn`t say we`re
going to have all new generals.
MADDOW: He did say we would have new general –
KELLOGG: He didn`t say all new generals.
MADDOW: OK, not all new, but new.
KELLOGG: What he is talking about primarily is what he wants the senior
officers to do, he`s going to give mission guidance. He`s going to keep it
simple guidance. He`s going to have them come back with a plan on how to
defeat ISIS. He said within 30 days, come back with a plan.
When I grew up in the military, we were told the best thing we can get are
mission-type orders. Give us the mission and we`ll figure it out. It`s
sort of like George T. Marshall to Dwight Eisenhower before the invasion of
Normandy. His guidance to him was, invade the continent of Europe and
defeat the axis powers. That`s what you need to do.
The generals will figure it out. I think what`s happened is we haven`t had
good guidance come down. Even somebody on another network, very respected
four-star general, who was one of the authors of the surge, said quite
clearly, it is a flawed strategy. That`s a quote. He said ISIS is
So, it`s not just me saying it. It`s not Mr. Trump saying it.
MADDOW: It`s your standing, though, when he says it`s going to be new
generals, are you – is he talking about a purge of the top military
KELLOGG: No. I think what he`s talking about –
MADDOW: This is a new idea he`s stating tonight.
KELLOGG: It`s almost like he goes back to Abraham Lincoln. Abraham
Lincoln at the start of the civil war with George McClellan who commanded
the army in the Potomac didn`t engage Robert E. Lee, didn`t confront
Confederate forces. He turned to George McClellan and he said to them, if
you`re not going to use your army, you mind if I borrow it?
And he went through – Mr. Lincoln went through three generals in the army
of the Potomac. He finally settled on me four days before Gettysburg, who
eventually won that battle. The point is, we`re going to have people who
take mission-type orders and come with solid, hard solutions. I haven`t
got a problem with that.
MADDOW: General Douglas, I`ll ask for your response on this, and then I
have something about what Hillary Clinton said tonight. The idea that the
generals that now have been – in Donald Trump`s words, reduced to rubble,
they`re an embarrassment to the country, what did you make of it?
BRIG. GEN. JOHN W. DOUGLASS (RET), U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, it`s another
example of his appalling lack of knowledge about how the military works and
his disrespect for the military. I mean, some of the young generals that
we have today leading our military are some of the finest we`ve ever had.
We have the finest military in the world today.
These men and women have served their country, some of them, you know, as
long as 30 years. For him to make a remark like that is astounding.
Secondly, what is he planning on doing? Is he planning on taking the
system of the military into the United States military into his personal
hands so you kiss his ring to get a promotion, to be a general or to move
up in the general ranks? This is a very, very dangerous statement that he
He also made another statement about sexual harassment in the military and
the military courts. If I was a military lawyer and I had a person who
wanted to be commander-in-chief get up there and say, there is no military
system to deal with these kind of things within the military, I would be
appalled. I am appalled.
MADDOW: Let me ask you something that Secretary Clinton said tonight that
struck me as frankly wrong when she said it, she said there would not be
U.S. ground troops back in Iraq. We will not send U.S. ground troops back
There are plenty of ground troops in Iraq. It`s not the combat mission it
was before December 2011, but there is a lot of American troops there,
5,000 troops there now. What does she mean?
DOUGLASS: What I took that to mean was that she was making a response to
Mr. Trump`s comment that he was going to go in and crush ISIS. And in
order to do that, he has implied in several speeches around the country is
one of the things he`d do is do it with massive force. And, you know, she
clearly believe that is the ground function in that area should be done by
our allies over there, using air power, U.S. intelligence and special
MADDOW: General Kellogg, is there a difference between the use of ground
forces against ISIS?
KELLOGG: To start with, there are people here, infantrymen out there in
some of the front row, we have got 5,000 troops on the ground, they`re in
combat. I mean, anybody who says those groups are not on the ground in
combat, it`s a foolish comment. And those of us who have been shot at
before know that.
He`s also open – when he talks about having a plan to defeat ISIS and he
wants the plan brought to him within 30 days after the inauguration, he`s
laying out to the generals, the chairman of the joint chiefs, secretary of
defense, you come in with a plan and let me see how that plan work. He
didn`t say we`re going to go in with massive ground troops. He said now,
we`re going to bomb them to oblivion –
MADDOW: What is the distinction between his plan and the plan he`s asking
KELLOGG: What`s the difference to the plan he`s asking for?
MADDOW: He said before that he has a plan that he won`t tell us.
KELLOGG: That is a wonderful point. It`s a great point.
And after 14 years, I can actually say this. He wants to bring in a plan
that will eventually win the fight. We have been fighting for 14 years,
thousands of deaths.
MADDOW: Does he have a plan?
KELLOGG: Let me finish, if I may.
KELLOGG: Four hundred thousand dead in Syria, 3 million refugees out
there, a failed state in Libya. He wants them to say, hey, look, we`re
going to win this fight and I want you to tell me how to win it.
So, does he have a plan? He`s never going to tell you what his plan is up
front. He shouldn`t. I wouldn`t. Would you? You never give away your
DOUGLASS: I spent four years as director of defense programs in Ronald
Reagan`s White House. I know what a national security decision directive
is. I know what putting together a complex plan that involves our military
forces, the State Department, the CIA and other agencies of the United
States. It`s a very complex thing.
And for him to say he has a plan, and he knows more than the generals, and
he`s going to keep this secret from the American people is ludicrous.
RIECKHOFF: I think they were both dragged into deep waters. And while
we`re sitting up here right now, both press teams are probably making
corrections. They`re probably both walking back or clarifying what they
said out there.
RIECKHOFF: Frankly, I think most of America is tired of hearing – with
all respect to you – they`re tired of hearing generals debating. I think
we want to hear from the enlisted folks.
Every political campaign is going to get a group of generals on both sides
and it becomes a proxy war.
RIECKHOFF: A political proxy war.
MADDOW: I`ve got 88 and you`ve got 95.
RIECKHOFF: What we really need to is expand the conversation and talk to
especially in the enlisted folks, because in the modern military, they are
the ones that are fighting on the front lines.
With all due respect to you guys, you know, there weren`t any generals
kicking in doors when I was in Iraq. And most of the folks here who are
kicking in doors were well below flag rate. So, I think it`s time to
expand that conversation and understand that a sergeant with three tours
might know a heck of a lot more about ISIS and general, with all due
MADDOW: Which is why we are going to thank and good night to both of you,
gentlemen. I`m sorry.
So that we can go away a second and come back and talk with exactly the
folks you`re talking about.
General Douglass and General Kellogg, I really appreciate you both being
here. Thank you both for being here.
MADDOW: We have more ahead on tonight`s special edition of THE RACHEL
MADDOW SHOW here in Memorial Hall from the Intrepid. We will hear from
some of the veterans who asked questions, as well as the folks Paul was
just talking about.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Twenty to 22 people a day are killing themselves. A lot of it is
they`re killing themselves over the fact that they can`t – they`re under
tremendous pain and they can`t see a doctor. We`re going to speed up the
process. We`re gong to create a great mental health division.
They need help. They need tremendous help. We`re doing nothing for them.
The V.A. is really almost you could say a corrupt enterprise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Clinton, last October you said that surveys
of veterans showed they`re overall satisfied with treatment and the
problems with the V.A. aren`t as widespread as they`re made out to be.
So, do you think the problems with the V.A. have been made to seem worse
than they really are?
CLINTON: Look, I was outraged by the stories that came out about the V.A.,
and I have been very clear about the necessity for doing whatever is
required to move the V.A. into the 21st century, to provide the kind of
treatment options that our veterans today desperately need and deserve.
That`s what I will do as president.
But I will not let the V.A. be privatized. I do think there is an agenda
out there, supported by my opponent to do just that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was moments ago this evening here at the Intrepid, at the
Commander-in-Chief Forum. Whenever they have the town halls where the
candidates are asked questions by the real person in the audience, I want
to know, what did the person in the audience think about the answer?
We can do that.
RIECKHOFF: We`ll find out.
MADDOW: We can do that.
JACKSON: You might recognize him. Stand up with me.
He asked the question you saw to Secretary Clinton. Just a reminder,
sergeant in the Marine Corps. You did three tours in Iraq. You were an
So, I have to ask you, you were one of our undecided voters. You consider
yourself an independent. Did anything you hear from Secretary Clinton in
the answer move the needle for you? Did it help you come to a decision
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I still think I`m undecided. In fact, the quote
from her, that the V.A. problems aren`t as widespread as they`re made out
to be was on your show, last October.
RIECKHOFF: It was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember hearing that. And I don`t know if she
really answered that question for me. If she thinks – I guess my question
is, does she think the problems in the V.A. have been exaggerated and that
it`s really not so bad?
I think it`s an interesting question. I would say the V.A. here in
Manhattan really isn`t that bad. I`ve had good experiences with it. But I
can`t speak for the whole country. And I`ve heard bad stories. I`ve heard
good stories. I didn`t quite get out of her answer.
RIECKHOFF: She didn`t answer it. She didn`t answer the question.
MADDOW: Well –
RIECKHOFF: She really didn`t answer.
MADDOW: She answered the same to you as she did to me when she gave the
RIECKHOFF: A very political way. She didn`t answer the question. Is it
overblown or not, that was the question.
MADDOW: She`s bouncing off the prospect of privatization, right? This is
what she meant, right?
RIECKHOFF: No, because there were some who think that the scandal was made
up. Some think the scandal was exaggerated by the press or it was a
manufacturing of some vast conspiracy. You know, the V.A. problems were
RIECKHOFF: And it became a chew toy for both parties. Republicans said
you did it and Democrats said, no, it wasn`t our vault, right? And
veterans were stuck in the middle. That`s the real issue, and she didn`t
address it. She hasn`t said, are they overblown or not?
JACKSON: I wonder –
MADDOW: I think where it`s going is where she went both times, when she
talked about it with me and to you tonight, is she`s saying a twist on what
you`re saying here.
MADDOW: Which is if the V.A. is made out to be inherently flawed, if it is
functionally wrong, if it was designed poorly from the beginning and
shouldn`t exist, it should be a private system instead. We don`t want to
let problems in the V.A. turn around to people who want to get rid – turn
into an agenda for people who want to get rid of the V.A.
RIECKHOFF: It`s complicated. It`s almost as complicated as ISIS
sometimes, right? You have to deconstruct the different parts.
And the reality is quality of care is consistently good. Access to care
has been consistently bad. And there`s an old saying, if you`ve seen one
V.A., you`ve seen one V.A. is a saying. What you experience in Manhattan
is different than Omaha. That`s a complicated answer.
You need data. You need perspective. That`s what we haven`t really seen
from the candidates. Talk about which V.A. is doing well and how you want
to replicate that, and which V.A. was doing poorly and how you`re going to
change it. That`s the kind of policy specifics we need.
MADDOW: Leo Shane, just an expert, and reporter`s perspective on this,
somebody who`s covered this in detail for military times, do you feel like
either candidates or both candidates were talking about this in a way that
reflected a substantive understanding of the problem?
LEO SHANE, MILITARY TIMES: They fell back into the same corners they fall
back on (INAUDIBLE)
Trump saying we`re not privatizing everything but really talking about a
massive expansion, a dramatic change in what V.A. would be. And Hillary
Clinton saying, they`re talking about privatizing everything, even know the
idea of choice and expanding the outside care options really are something
that most veterans favor.
So, I don`t know we learned more, but I think the country might have
learned more about this fight. There is a fundamental difference between
their two plans for how to move ahead with the V.A.
MADDOW: We`re going to take one more quick break here. We`re going to
come back with another veteran who got to ask a direct question of these
candidates tonight to find out whether she got her question answered.
Stay with us here on the Intrepid in New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counterterrorism
LAUER: And when referring to a comment that Putin made about you, I think
he called you a brilliant leader, you said, “It`s always a great honor to
be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his country
TRUMP: Well, he does have an 82 percent approval rating according to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There are also some dictators who get reelected for the 117
percent of the vote but we don`t usually consider that to be a sign of good
There was one great moment tonight at the Commander-in-Chief Forum. It was
a surprise I think to everybody in the room when one of the veterans who
was called upon to ask a question herself got a round of applause from the
room. That was Sue Fulton, a member of the first West Point class to
graduate women. Sue is here with Hallie Jackson.
JACKSON: One more round of applause.
SUE FULTON, ARMY CAPTAIN: I didn`t do it by myself.
JACKSON: Former Army captain here. You asked that question about what
Donald Trump would do about an undocumented person who wants to serve in
the military. Do they deserve to stay in the country legally? Mr. Trump
answered your question.
So, I will pose to you this question, were you satisfied with his answer?
FULTON: It sounded like he basically said that I feel great about veterans
and so I would think about that and that makes a lot of sense. We`d have
to look at that.
I think his, we have to look at that, to me, isn`t a real answer. I was
also a little surprised because I expected him to go into the whole, we`re
a nation of laws and we can`t have people who are undocumented. It was
really kind of mushy.
RIECKHOFF: He left the door open there. He opened a door that there he`s
probably correcting or the campaign is clarifying right now. I think it
was a new answer that we`ve never heard him on the record of.
FULTON: I was surprised.
MADDOW: Can I go to NBC producer Courtney Kube on this, just for a moment,
national security producer. Courtney, just a reality check on this, Donald
Trump described the – this issue as a very special circumstance, saying
this is a very, very special circumstance. As if this is a small number of
people we`re talking about, people who are undocumented and want to serve
in the military.
Do we have any idea what the number is?
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC PRODUCER: About 20,000 members of the military right
now not U.S. citizens. Now, they have to have a green card in order to
enlist, to get in, but the military helps them. They fast track them with
their citizenship process.
Since 9/11, there have been 110,000 non-citizens, non-U.S. citizens who
served in the military. Many have gotten their citizenship during their
time in the military or afterwards with the help of the military.
MADDOW: Can we go briefly to Jack Jacobs?
Jack, is this an issue within the military around which the existing system
is seen as falling short or controversial substantially?
JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: It`s not controversial. Among the
people I know, the view is this. If you are going to enlist in the
military and you show up at the end of it with an honorable discharge, you
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
JACOBS: That`s the beginning of the end of it. No controversy at all.
RIECKHOFF: True. Across the military. I mean, everybody respects it.
It`s always been a path to citizenship on some levels and upward mobility.
It`s been a part of the fabric of the modern military.
JACOBS: I had a conversation with someone on the air once, arguing that if
somebody serves in the military, he should get citizenship. His response,
what are you going to do about all the people who want to get into the
military? I said, your problem is what?
RIECKHOFF: It also extends to their parents, what about their parents?
What if your parents are deported? That`s where we`ve got to go beyond
that and ask a follow-up question.
MADDOW: Let me ask just in the room here, Hallie, if you`d follow with a
microphone for a second. Were there big questions on which you feel there
are big differences between the candidates that didn`t get talked about
tonight? If you made up your minds about who you are voting for or feeling
strongly about these candidates for a reason, you wish you heard more about
it because it is a point of distinction.
JACKSON: We talked a little about this. Come out into the aisle with me
if you can. I`ll have to do this on the fly.
Tell me your name. Come on out here.
So, what was the question for you? First of all, do you lean Democrat or
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, both candidates did discuss one thing, female
veterans and their health care. They talked about everything else, but not
the veterans females, their health care. I notice a lot of females, when
they come – when we do their paperwork, the V.A. tends not to answer their
What they`ll do, they`ll give them a pill and send them to another area.
By the time, they come back, they have issues.
MADDOW: Yes, with the V.A. health service, we have a system designed for
an almost entirely male force.
MADDOW: For a force that is becoming – fast becoming much more gender
RIECKHOFF: The V.A. was caught flat footed in the beginning of the Iraq
war. Women`s bathrooms, okay? There has been progress but not nearly
And women consistently rate their quality and access to care lower than
men. I think it is an issue where both candidates have worked it into the
rhetoric. They start to about it and understand. For our membership, it`s
almost 20 percent female. They`ve been on the front lines. They are in
combat, they are being wounded and dying. They deserve the same care that
But it`s still not an issue that`s been pushed forward enough. The
candidates are starting to understand, they have to work it into their
talking points, which is a credit to a lot of folks in the room, men and
women, who in the last couple years, they`ve ferociously advocated for a
higher level of understanding.
MADDOW: I`ll say as a civilian and as somebody who covers veterans issues
and military issues, one of the things I think is a credit to the veterans
community is that when people bring up issues of women in the military and
women veterans, it is as often men who bring it up as women, because men
and women in the military both have recognized it. This is not a women`s
issue. It`s a credit to the military.
RIECKHOFF: The military is an extended family.
RIECKHOFF: We are united. We stick together long after the election.
We`re all going to come here and march together on Veterans Day. It
doesn`t matter what your party is.
In many way, the people in this room are what`s great about America and
they`re role models. People in a political campaign when we`re so divided.
Look at the veterans community, we stick together. That`s what America is
MADDOW: We`ll take a quick break and be back with more veterans response
to the Commander-in-Chief Forum here tonight on the Intrepid.
MADDOW: Twenty to 22.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: – your plan will be to stop them from killing
TRUMP: And actually, it`s 22. It`s almost impossible to conceive that
this is happening in our country. Twenty to 22 people a day are killing
themselves. A lot of it is they`re killing themselves over the fact that
they can`t – they`re under tremendous pain and they can`t see a doctor.
We`re going to speed up the process. We`re going to create a great mental
health division. They need help. They need help. They need tremendous
help. And we`re doing nothing for them.
The V.A. is almost really you could say a corrupt enterprise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. Amazing and very subtle moment there. This veteran asks
Donald Trump about veteran suicide. She says 20 a day. And he says,
actually, it`s 22 a day. And she goes, mm-mm. And then he comes back and
restates it and says it`s 20 to 22 per day.
So, we saw candidate education right there in that moment with that veteran
who I would love to hear how you felt about that exchange and whether you
got that answer.
JACKSON: We`re joined by Rachel Frederick (ph). So tell us, because there
was a couple of interesting moments there. So we`ll start with that
particular one. You were an undecided voter. You are an undecided voter.
What struck you about Donald Trump`s answer to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seemed to me like he wants to blame it on access
and mental health care and he kept saying they need help. They need help.
I think everyone in America needs some type of help. But yet again, we`re
going to stigmatize the veterans who are suffering with mental health
diseases or with PTSD, they need help?
So I think that to blame it on an access issue or to blame it on the lack
of mental health care and especially to blame it on living with chronic
pain I don`t think really answered the question at hand of what he will do
to stop it. I know many veterans, especially in my organization, the
Disabled American Veterans, who live with chronic pain every day.
RIECKHOFF: Yes. That`s right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I don`t think that`s the cause of the veteran
suicide. I don`t know what we`re going to do to stop it.
MADDOW: I want to turn for a moment to Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Bacevich.
One of the things you have written about is the toll of America`s very,
very long wars and the distance between civilian experience and
understanding and what the military is having, what Rachel is talking about
is this you, they, them, this distance between these two worlds and how
unbreachable it is. How did you hear about that tonight?
LT. COL. ANDREW BACEVICH, U.S. ARMY (RET): I think the point is a good
one. But if I may –
BACEVICH: – make a broader comment about the forum, although it`s been
dynamite in terms of focusing attention on veterans` issues, as a
discussion of national security issues and the sort of things we want to
hear from a prospective commander-in-chief, it`s really been a missed
I mean, the questions they should have been asked on that score they simply
were not asked. A couple of occasions the question was posed they evaded
it. I mean, before we wrap things up tonight, it seems to me it would be
useful to surface the things that ought to be discussed when we`re trying
to understand the qualifications of somebody to be commander-in-chief. We
didn`t hear that.
MADDOW: Being asked for a specific plan on ISIS, for example.
BACEVICH: If I may. To be asked what have you learned? From our
unsuccessful wars of the past couple of decades and how would you apply
those lessons? How do you feel about the Obama administration`s plan to
spend a trillion dollars modernizing our nuclear weapons?
BACEVICH: How do you measure military power in a cyber age? Tell me what
your understanding is of the complexities of the Syrian civil war.
Those are items that ought to be on a commander-in-chief`s agenda, and they
weren`t even asked.
RIECKHOFF: But also questions like why didn`t you serve. Answer that.
And would you – why haven`t your kids served? Would you send your kids?
Those are the kinds of questions we feel at a very visceral level. There`s
been a great conversation going on on Twitter if you use the #iavaforum.
We`ve been retweeting questions all week long. We`re going to keep
That`s really digging down hearing from the people about what they want to
MADDOW: Much more ahead tonight from the Intrepid. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Our coverage of tonight`s Commander-in-Chief Forum continues now.
My colleague Lawrence O`Donnell`s up on the flight deck here at the
I want to thank and congratulate Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
My friend Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO here. I want to thank and
congratulate all of our veterans who came out tonight to be part of this.
Thank you for being part of this.
I turn it over to Lawrence O`Donnell for “THE LAST WORD” right now.
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