MSNBC’s Joy Reid On Whether Putin or Assad’s Is Evil
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HH: So pleased to welcome back Joy Reid to the program. She is now the host of The Reid Report on MSNBC every weekday at 2pm. Joy Reid, congratulations, always good to see a Harvard gal do well.
JR: Thank you very much. I appreciate that, Hugh. Thanks a lot.
HH: And it’s finally something I can watch on MSNBC that doesn’t have Joe Scarborough on it. So I’m very happy for you. But now let’s get right to it, Joy. Did you know five years ago when Hillary gave the reset button to Sergei Lavrov that it actually was an open sesame button for the Crimea?
JR: You know what? I am always happy to see the Crimea back in the news. I think that it has been off the world stage for far too long. And you know what’s happening in Ukraine is actually really fascinating. It’s sort of like we’re replaying the old break-up of the Soviet Union, and they’re just now the last little vestiges that Russia hung onto are all trying to break off. It’s fascinating stuff.
HH: But do you think that President Obama is doing anything effective to stop the Putin takeover of a free society and the crushing of liberty there?
JR: You know, that’s interesting, so we’ve had a bunch of foreign policy experts on the show to talk about this and sort of sort through it. The interesting thing is this is so clearly a Russian sphere of influence, obviously. And there’s a limit to what the West can do other than economically. I mean, look, we are not going to go in there and put troops in there. The Russians are using the fact that there is a substantial Russian population inside Ukraine as kind of their leverage to say this is where our personal interests lie. So there’s a limit to what can be done in terms of direct action. Now what you can do is you can use the economic levers, and that’s really what’s getting in place now. But then here’s the problem with that. The EU are the main economic trading partners with Ukraine, with Russia. They’ve got the primary interest. This is one of those situations where Europe has to step up. They can’t wait for big papa U.S. to come in and save them. The European Union has to get tough. They’ve got to take the chance. They’ve got to risk Russia pulling another deal with their oil as they’ve done before. And if we do sanctions, they’ve got to do them. It’s got to be a joint effort. It can’t just be Papa U.S. doing it.
HH: Now Joy, this is another Obama foreign policy failure, isn’t it?
JR: How did I know that was going to be your next…listen, the bottom line is, and I know that on the right, everything that goes wrong in the world is President Obama’s fault. But this is Vladimir Putin being Vladimir Putin. We do not control his actions. What we can do is respond. And our response has to be calibrated with Europe. I know it’s hard for a lot of Americans who are used to sort of the bluster version of foreign policy and just it feeling good for us to go around the world pretending that we’re telling everyone what to do. But in this case, Europe has to act, too. This is not President Obama creating a problem in Ukraine. This is Vladimir Putin doing so. And the U.S. and Europe have to respond, period.
HH: Now I’m looking at the picture, though. Five years ago this week, Secretary of State Clinton giving Foreign Minister Sergei Lavarov the reset button, that didn’t work, did it?
JR: I mean, that is not why the Russians are in Ukraine doing what they’re doing. What they’re responding to is the people within the Ukraine deciding they wanted to pull closer to Europe, and the Russians saying no, and the Russians attempting first to threaten the Ukrainian government not to pull away, and then when you saw literally people go into the streets and say no, we want to pull closer, at least the parts of Ukraine that are more Western, then the Russians responded. Believe it or not, not everything in the world is President Obama or Hillary Clinton’s fault, Hugh, and I think you know that. You’re an older guy. You know better.
HH: Now but do you agree that what Russia is doing is evil?
JR: I think what Russia is doing is troubling and a problem in the world. I don’t really need to use characterizations like evil. I think Russia’s a bad actor, absolutely. I think it’s pretty clear who the bad actor here is. It’s Russia. Oh, by the way, a lot of the right, I think Giuliani thinks that Putin’s a star. I think he said today he’s a great leader, or something like that. So you have a lot of people on the right who have been quite keen on Vladimir Putin up to now. I think people have to now decide do they still want to make him their hero because they hate Barack Obama so much when this is the way he’s acting. He’s old Kremlin, Cold War Vlad. He’s doing what Vladimir Putin does, and now the rest of the world has to realize that this is not Vladimir Putin 2.0. This is Vladimir Putin 1.0.
HH: But Joy Reid, simple question. Is he evil?
JR: You know what? I’m not inside anybody’s mind. I don’t need to characterize anybody as evil. I don’t know Vladimir Putin from a hole in the wall. I know what he’s doing is risky to his own country’s, I mean, it’s risky, obviously, to what the Ukrainians need in terms of security. I think he’s a bad actor. I don’t need to call him evil. He’s a bad actor.
HH: Well, they’ve got a deadline in a couple of hours. They’re going to open fire on these Ukrainian bases with women and children in it. Would that be an evil act that he’s authorizing?
JR: Right, you have intel that I don’t know if the U.S. government has. I think if Russia were to escalate militarily in Ukraine, it would be a crisis. It would definitely be a crisis. And it would be a world crisis. And it’s not, I think one of the problems that we have is that we have this binary system, right, where people on the right, it feels good to say this person is evil, let’s bomb them. That is not foreign policy. That is bluster that may make Americans feel good. But A) there’s no military solution there. Americans are not sending our troops in there to deal with this. We are not doing that.
HH: I didn’t suggest that. I just wanted to call him evil, because I…
JR: Now with George W. Bush, we did a couple of times. I don’t think that’s necessary. We need to deal with it. And we have to still deal with Russia.
HH: Do you call anybody evil?
JR: Yeah, but does that make it easier for us to deal with Iran and Russia? We still have to deal with them on Syria. This is somebody that is there. We’re not going to depose Vladimir Putin. We’ve got to deal with him.
HH: Joy, is Assad evil?
JR: Bashar Assad?
JR: Oh, well, you know, like I said, I’m not characterizing people. Bashar Assad is an even worse actor and an awful human being. That is a noxious, despicable regime. We’d be better off if it weren’t there. The people of Syria are trying their best to do something about it. Again, there’s no American military solution to be imposed there, either, and I doubt your listeners want us to go in there and try to impose that.
HH: But is he evil?
JR: Would I like to see Bashar al-Assad gone? Absolutely.
HH: Well yeah, but I just want to know if you think he’s evil.
JR: I don’t see a point of characterizing people like that. I think he’s a bad actor. I think he’s a despicable leader, a despicable human being.
HH: All right, now let me ask you since you are, you’re like the expert on Hillary, what did she get done as Secretary of State? What were her achievements?
JR: Hillary Clinton? Listen, Hillary Clinton, I think, she was an able secretary of State. I think she did a good job. I think that she happened to be secretary of State during a time when we were dealing with the Arab Spring. I think that we dealt with it as well as can be expected. When you had those revolutions rippling across North Africa, rippling across the Middle East, I think she managed the American response very well. I think she managed State very well. And I think a lot of her, they’re sort of smaller achievements, the less tangible things, the issues that she put forward on freedom for women and girls, I think, was wonderful, was very important. And I think she was a good secretary of State.
HH: But what did she get done, though?
JR: Thank God she didn’t do what Kissinger and others got done. We’ve had some secretaries of State who have really messed things up in the world. I don’t think she did that.
HH: But what did she, I mean, on a resume when you introduce her at the fundraiser that’s coming up when she runs for president, what are you going to say she did?
JR: Well, first of all, I don’t introduce her at fundraisers. I work for a news organization, so you don’t have to worry about seeing me introducing Hillary Clinton at a fundraiser. So that was lovely, but no, I’m not going to be doing that.
HH: Okay, but what is anyone going to say about her? She was an abject failure.
JR: And based on?
HH: She didn’t do anything. She got nothing done.
JR: Who was her predecessor? Who was Hillary Clinton’s predecessor as secretary of State?
HH: You mean you’re going back to Bush?
HH: Why would that matter to Hillary?
JR: Because I want you to tell me what they got done.
HH: Oh, well, they freed 50 million Iraqis, they freed 20 million Afghanis.
JR: Oh, in a war of choice that we didn’t have to fight in Iraq that even the secretary of State we’re talking about, Colin Powell, now believes was a mistake?
HH: It was Condi Rice, but it’s not Colin Powell. It’s Condi Rice, but…
JR: Do you think that the Iraq War was a success?
HH: Yeah, I do, but…
JR: You do?
HH: I’m going forward. Condi Rice isn’t running for president, and Colin Powell isn’t.
JR: It doesn’t matter.
HH: Hillary is.
JR: What I’m saying to you is secretaries of State, what their job is, Hugh, and you know this as well as I do, is to carry out the foreign policy of the president of the United States. So I am very glad that Hillary Clinton didn’t get done what either Colin Powell or Condi Rice did, which was engage us in a war of choice.
HH: That’s a negative. I understand…
JR: …that resulted in mass deaths on both sides.
HH: I understand that, but what did…
JR: So thank God Hillary Clinton wasn’t that ambitious.
HH: But what did she do? I mean, what’s her accomplishment?
JR: Again, managed, she did what secretaries of State are charged with doing, which is manage the foreign policy priorities of the president she’s working for, which in the case of Hillary Clinton’s tenure, was the Arab Spring, keeping the United States…
HH: Did she do a good job in Egypt?
JR: Really? I think in Egypt, absolutely. We saw a change of regime in Egypt. Egypt has, is obviously a troubled country when you have a dictatorship for forty-something years. You’re not going to have a smooth transition. But I think the United States actually managed that pretty well. We managed to keep our troops out of there, we didn’t get involved on the ground in Libya or in Egypt, but that transition in terms of managed…
HH: But Joy, is Libya better off today than when Hillary took over?
JR: Hugh, we’re still, excuse me?
HH: Is Libya better off today than when Hillary took over? And is Egypt better off today? I mean, which Egypt do you like? The one with Muslim Brotherhood or the one with General al-Sisi?
JR: Excuse me, if you don’t think Libya is better off without Muammar Qaddafi in power, then maybe you want to revisit your views on Iraq.
HH: No, I’m just asking you, do you think Libya today is better off than when Hillary took over?
JR: I think Libya today is absolutely better off.
HH: How about Egypt?
JR: Absolutely. Been having a dictator in for forty-something years under the guys that you prefer? Yeah.
HH: And are you glad the Muslim Brotherhood was thrown out?
JR: That is the people of Egypt’s decision who they want their government to be. I think it’s better right now that the people of Egypt feel like they have the government they want. It’s their country. We don’t own the world. We don’t decide who their governments are. If the people of Egypt decided that the Muslim Brotherhood-led government was not what they wanted, was not what they thought they were getting in a democratic election, then God bless them that they decided to make a change. That’s their country.
HH: So Hillary was a five star secretary of State?
HH: Hillary was a five star secretary of State?
JR: I think Hillary was an excellent secretary of State. You know what? I think the administration we have now has done a darned better job than the one that you prefer.
HH: I love you, Joy Reid. Come back often, and good luck to you in your MSNBC slot, 2pm every day, America.
End of interview.