Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 7, 2016 Guest: Paul Rieckhoff, Keith Kellogg, John Douglass, Andrew Bacevich, Leo Shane
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 official debates.
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 supported it.
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 truth."
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 basis.
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 plan is.
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 you.
(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 moments ago.
I`m Rachel Maddow from MSNBC. This is a special edition for THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
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 ago.
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 Times".
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 you.
MADDOW: Paul is CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
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 veterans set.
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 having it.
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 hangar?
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 yourself.
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 politics.
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 start.
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 understanding.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s true. Thank you. Hello, Paul. Hello, Rachel.
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 transgender identification.
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 years.
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 IAVA.
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 that.
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 growing.
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 leadership?
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 made.
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 in Iraq.
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 operations forces.
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 for?
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 plan beforehand.
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 respect.
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 Arabic translator.
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 either way?
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 quote.
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 real.
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 goal.
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 and beyond."
TRUMP: Well, he does have an 82 percent approval rating according to the different pollsters.
(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 character.
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 deserve citizenship.
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 Republican?
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 question.
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 balanced.
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 enough.
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 men get.
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 all about.
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 themselves.
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 opportunity.
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 retweeting them.
That`s really digging down hearing from the people about what they want to hear.
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 Intrepid.
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END