During the campaign for the U.S. Senate, Claire McCaskill modeled herself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat who represented a bi-partisan spirit ready to work with Donald Trump. In fact, she heaped praise on Trump in an effort to gain support from rural, red areas of the state. Now that she’s lost, her tune has changed.
The Senator, who was stunned by a lopsided loss to State Attorney General Josh Hawley, granted what she called her “last live interview as a Senator” Wednesday night to Rachel Maddow on the most liberal cable channel in America–MSNBC. There she called President Trump wildly irresponsible and very dangerous in his foreign policy decision.
In the interview McCaskill responded to the newly announced policy that the U.S. would begin pulling troops out of Syria.
With ISIS strongholds accounting for less than five percent of the Syrian countryside now, Trump declared victory less than eight years after President Obama had said ISIS was a junior varsity team and was not a threat to the region. ISIS controlled 80% of Syria and Iraq as late as 2015–just a year before he left office.
Putting the facts aside, McCaskill said leaving the country amounts to an abandonment of the Kurds who fought side by side with Americans in the region but in the past has not offered any support to the Kurds and was silent when President Obama allowed Turkey to bomb Kurdish cities killing hundreds. She called the presence of 2,000 soldiers in Syria the “balance” in limiting aggressive moves in the country by Turkey, Russia, and Iran.
Military experts, however, have said that a force of a mere 2,000 American troops is ineffectual in countering either ISIS or the Russians who have far greater numbers in the country ravaged by civil war since 2011.
She also seemed to tie the Syrian decision to the southern security wall along Mexico’s border saying 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.
Discussion turned towards the 2020 presidential election 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 replied 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 liberal pundits like herself had impacted the outgoing Missouri Senator who calls herself 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 liberal 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 did butt heads over 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 leftist wing of the party. Maddow responded by saying, “You’ll get it (free college) someday if you start talking about it now.”
The reference to 60 votes was in regard to the Senate where Republicans made historic gains in the mid-term election.