Andrea Mitchell: Obama Administration 'Oughta Know Something About Iraq,' 'We Were There for 10 Years'

On her 12 p.m. ET hour MSNBC show on Thursday, host and NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell was unusually critical of the Obama administration's handling of terrorists seizing control of large portions of Iraq: "Where is our intelligence? We were there for ten years. We oughta know something about Iraq. This isn't North Korea." [Listen to the audio]

That comment followed Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine's attempt to defend the White House for being caught flat-footed by the foreign crisis: "Well, this is a late-breaking development. Look, nobody in the administration contemplated that the Iraqi armed forces would just melt away and capitulate as fast as they have." Mitchell shot back: "Shouldn't they have?"

Earlier in the exchange, Mitchell pressed: "Senator, first of all, were we too willing to take no for an answer from [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al] Maliki? With some relief were we eager to get our troops out rather than really pressing him? We had a lot of leverage with him back then."

Kaine argued: "We did have leverage, Andrea. But, no, we weren't to willing to take no. We were not there to be occupiers, that was never the intention in Iraq."

After Mitchell asked if the U.S. would provide Iraq with military support to beat back the insurgency, Kaine replied in part: "...the way we ought to do this here in Washington is that the President should put a plan on the table and make a suggestion to Congress about what we should do....The administration has not provided any plan or suggestion..."

Mitchell observed: "Senator, when you say the President hasn't produced a plan, you sound almost as critical of the national security strategy as some of your Republican colleagues."

Here are portions of the June 12 exchange:

12:16 PM ET

(...)

ANDREA MITCHELL: Senator, first of all, were we too willing to take no for an answer from [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al] Maliki? With some relief were we eager to get our troops out rather than really pressing him? We had a lot of leverage with him back then.

SEN. TIM KAINE [D-VA]: We did have leverage, Andrea. But, no, we weren't to willing to take no. We were not there to be occupiers, that was never the intention in Iraq. And as soon as the elected government said they didn't want us and they weren't willing to work out a security agreement, a status of forces agreement that would provide immunity protections for American service personnel, we don't – we're not – our business is not to be in some other country that doesn't want us there. The Iraqis did not want us, they regret that now and they've been stating that publicly for a number of months.

(...)

MITCHELL: So should we help with air strikes, drones, some other military support, or should we only condition that on Maliki finally opening up and doing what he's refused to do for all these years, which is to include the Sunnis?

KAINE: Andrea, you're right, I just did come out of a classified briefing on this and I don't want to get into that material. But let me just say this, the way we ought to do this here in Washington is that the President should put a plan on the table and make a suggestion to Congress about what we should do. And just as we did last summer on the Foreign Relations Committee, we debated the use of military force in Syria, we had a vote. That's how the process is supposed to work. The administration has not provided any plan or suggestion, although they are deeply and constantly engaged now within the United States and with allies to determine what that should be. They need to come forward with a proposal and bring it to Congress, and then let us debate about what we should do.

(...)

MITCHELL: Senator, when you say the President hasn't produced a plan, you sound almost as critical of the national security strategy as some of your Republican colleagues.

KAINE: Well, this is a late-breaking development. Look, nobody in the administration contemplated that the Iraqi armed forces would just melt away and capitulate as fast as they have.

MITCHELL: Shouldn't they have? Where is our intelligence? We were there for ten years. We oughta know something about Iraq. This isn't North Korea.  

(...)

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.