Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill granted what she called her “last live interview as a Senator” Wednesday night on MSNBC, where she called President Trump wildly irresponsible and very dangerous on his latest move in Syria.
The two-term Senator who lost her re-election bid in November to Republican Josh Hawley was quizzed for roughly 11 minutes by political talk show host Rachel Maddow.
The five minutes of the interview were consumed by McCaskill’s reaction to Wednesday’s surprise announcement by President Trump that all US troops would be leaving Syria.
The President said, “We have won against ISIS”, but the sudden policy shift took many lawmakers and administration officials by surprise and drew sharp criticism from senators on both sides of the aisle.
McCaskill said leaving the country amounts to an abandonment of the Kurds who fought side by side with Americans in the region. She called the presence of 2,000 soldiers in Syria the “balance” in limiting aggressive moves in the country by Turkey, Russia, and Iran.
The former Missouri State Auditor said Trump is ignoring the complexities of the Syrian conflict in order to change a news cycle focused on investigations into him. “That’s what’s most disturbing, that he is making these irresponsible and impulsive decisions in the context of our military involvement around the world,” said McCaskill.
She also suggested Trump was aiming to shore up his base voters who might be frustrated that a wall on the southern border is not yet built and to help fulfill a campaign promise to bring troops from far off places home. McCaskill noted that Trump’s move to pull troops out of Syria is in direct conflict with statements from national security advisor John Bolton, who has said the U.S. would not leave the country if it would strengthen the hand of Iran.
When Maddow asked her if it was wise for Democrats to have a large number of Senators vying to run for President as the party now has, McCaskill said the public has a distrust of politicians from Washington. She suggested an outsider who is inspirational and trustworthy in the age of Trump would have a better shot at winning the Presidency.
McCaskill also said she became disenchanted with the thought of running for the highest office herself after witnessing first hand what she called the “flawed process” as a surrogate for former President Obama. She reiterated a sentiment she’s expressed several times since being defeated in November that she’s not interested in running for elected office again. In previous exchanges, the former state representative said she’s tired of asking for money.
Maddow asked how criticism from progressive leaning pundits like herself had impacted the outgoing Missouri Senator who is a moderate. McCaskill said it’s been a distraction from her priority of getting things done. “Screaming pure progressive politics on one side of the room does not get people to the middle and actually accomplish things,” said McCaskill. “We only accomplish things, the tough stuff only gets fixed if we take tough votes and we compromise.”
McCaskill noted she was hounded within Missouri about not being vocal enough on progressive issues in the last election cycle, which she said was counterproductive to her campaign. “There are some issues, like those macaroni and cheese issues, like the dignity of a job and real wage increases and real affordable health care issues that are important to working people in urban areas and in rural areas,” said McCaskill. “Those are the issues I needed to focus on. I wanted that to be the center because that’s where I knew most people agreed.”
McCaskill and Maddow seemed the acknowledge their progressive and moderate differences within the Democratic Party toward the end of the interview. McCaskill said, “You’re never going to get 60 votes in the Senate for free college,” a common priority trumpeted by the progressive wing of the party. Maddow responded by saying, “You’ll get it (free college) someday if you start talking about it now.”
Lawrence O’Donnell, another left-leaning talk show host who follows Maddow on MSNBC, praised McCaskill for wanting to know “the best way to do her job.” O’Donnell is a former Democratic operative in the U.S. Senate who spoke with McCaskill in the early stages of her 2006 run for office.