Elizabeth Warren spars with Meghan McCain over response to Qassem Soleimani killing

"The point is not whether or not Iran is a bad actor; they are."

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a campaign stop at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at a campaign stop Sunday in Davenport, Iowa. –Andrew Harnik / AP

Sen. Elizabeth Warren continued her recent spate of TV show hits this week with an appearance Wednesday on “The View,” but encountered a less sympathetic interviewer than she had in Rachel Maddow or Seth Meyers.

Meghan McCain, the ABC show’s conservative co-host and daughter of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, pressed Warren on her initial response to the U.S. drone strike killing Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

Following the killing of Soleimani last Thursday, the Massachusetts senator tweeted that he was a “murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” but criticized President Donald Trump’s decision, which she said “escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”

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The qualified framing of her response — prefacing that Soleimani was a “murderer” – received mild criticism from some opponents of further American military intervention. And in subsequent tweets and interviews, Warren changed her description of Soleimani to “military official,” though the sentiment of her statement remained the same.

“The job of the president of the United States is to keep America safer, and having killed Soleimani does not make America safer,” she said Wednesday on “The View.”

But given the fact that the Department of Defense says Soleimani and his Quds Force, which the government has designated to be a terrorist group, are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members, McCain pressed Warren on the change in wording.

“I don’t understand the flip-flop,” she said. “I don’t understand why it was so hard to call him a terrorist, and I would just like you to explain the change.”

Warren rejected the premise.

“This isn’t a change; they’re true,” she said. “The question is what is the response that the president of the United States should make and what advances the interests of the United States of America.”

Warren noted that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was also a “bad guy,” but that invading the country was not in the United States’ best interests. She noted that it came at the cost of “thousands of American lives,” domestic resources, and international standing — and further destabilized the Middle East, where nearly a half-million people are estimated to have been killed since 2001.

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“The question for the president of the United States is to understand what’s going on, have an overall strategy, and pick an appropriate response,’ Warren said.

McCain, however, remained dialed in on her language, repeatedly asking if Soleimani was a “terrorist,” as Warren tried to say he was “part of a group that has been designated” as a terrorist group.

“Of course he is,” Warren reiterated. “He’s part of a group that our federal government has designated as a terrorist. The question, though, is, ‘What’s the right response?’ And the response that Donald Trump has picked is the most incendiary and has moved us right to the edge of war — and that is not in our long-term interests.”

Warren went on to say that, as president, she wouldn’t ask the military to “solve problems that can’t be solved militarily.”

“We need to have to the confidence and the strength to use all of our tools – our diplomatic tools, our economic tools,” she said, as McCain looked on skeptically.

“Again, the point is not whether or not Iran is a bad actor; they are,” Warren said, adding that it would be better to “deescalate and get Iran to the negotiating table.”

While the Cambridge Democrat had teamed up with John McCain on banking regulation and overseas trips, her appearance Wednesday wasn’t her first clash with the late Arizona senator’s daughter. During her last appearance on “The View” in May, Warren and McCain debated the senator’s decision to not appear on Fox News.

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“I’ll go all around the country,” Warren said at the time. “I want to talk to people and find as many ways to reach out as I can. I am just not going to help the Fox News executives raise money off my name.”

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