In this Fox News Sunday Show With Chris Wallace: Denis McDonough makes administration’s case for action in Syria; will Sen. Rand Paul filibuster vote?
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I’m Chris Wallace.
Congress returns from recess and faces a tough vote on Syria.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: There is enough evidence now that we must act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot guarantee that even a surgical strike will prevent the United States from being embroiled in war.
WALLACE: The president and the national security team argued the U.S. must enforce the ban on using chemical weapons.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.
SECRETARTY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: If the United States of America doesn’t do this, Senator, is it more or less likely that Assad does it again? Do you want to answer the question?
SEN. RAND PAUL , R-KY.: I don’t think it’s known.
WALLACE: We’ll hear the administration’s argument for action from White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and we’ll talk with the leader of the opposition, Senator Rand Paul, who may filibuster a vote on military force.
Then, our Sunday panel looks at where we stand one year after the attack in Benghazi that left four dead, including the U.S. ambassador.
Plus, our Power Player of the Week — designing and testing ships of the future in a scale model ocean.
All right now on “Fox News Sunday.”
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
President Obama will try to pull off the almost politically impossible this week — turn around strong opposition in Congress to the use of force in Syria. With the rest of the world now opting out of military action, the president will address the nation Tuesday might and try to accomplish what he has failed to do so far, convince lawmakers U.S. national security is at stake in the Assad’s regime use of chemical weapons.
We’re joined now by the president’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough.
Mr. McDonough, welcome.
DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Chris, thanks for having me. It’s very good to be here.
WALLACE: You have been leading the White House effort to get Congress to support the resolution authorizing the use of military force, and The Washington Post has been doing a vote count. Let’s put it up on the screen.
In the House, they now have 226 members against or leaning no; 182 undecided, and only 25, 25 in favor. Question, as we sit here today, do you have the votes in the Senate? And separately, in the House to pass the resolution?
MCDONOUGH: We have been working this now for several days while members are in their states and in their districts, so I think it’s too early to come to any conclusion, but let me be very clear about what is happening in my conversations with members of Congress. Not a person, to a person, and I’ve talked to dozens, not a person is rebutting or refuting the intelligence. That is to say we know what happened on August 21st. He used chemicals weapons — Assad used chemical weapons against his people.
So the question now is, for Congress to resolve this week is, are there consequences for a dictator who would have used those weapons to gas to death hundreds of children? The answer to that question in interesting in Damascus, will be followed closely in Damascus, but will also be followed closely in Tehran, among Lebanese Hezbollah, and others. So, this is a very important week.
WALLACE: The president’s last best chance to change minds, and it appears from that vote count, he has to change minds in Congress, will be his speech to the nation on Tuesday night. The argument that he’s made, which is similar to the argument that you just made, he’s been making it for weeks, that it is important. We need to set a marker on the use of chemical weapons, and now, Fox has obtained new videos, which we have here, very disturbing videos from a government official that are also being shown to members of Congress, videos allegedly taken right after the chemical weapons attack.
But so far, Mr. McDonough, all of this is not working, isn’t persuading people that, as you say, we have a stake in Syria.
So the question is, what will the president say Tuesday night to change people’s minds? Will there be anything different than what he’s been saying the last couple of weeks?
MCDONOUGH: Chris, I hope that every member of Congress before he or she casts or decides how they’re going to cast their vote, will take a look at that, those videos. It is unbelievably horrendous. And to think about the numbers of children — we believe more than 400 — killed by this heinous attack using this terrible weapon, a weapon which has been prohibited in much of the rest of the world for the last 100 years.
And as a result of that prohibition, our troops have not faced chemical weapons in battle since World War I. That is a very direct result, a very direct consequence for our men and women.
So, what will the president say on Tuesday night? I am not going to front-run him on this. But I also want to be very clear, Chris. Members of Congress and senators have been at home and in their districts, and this week, this debate really crystallizes this week, so this is a good opportunity.
WALLACE: Forgive me, sir, what they are hearing at home by margins of 9 or 10 to 1 from their voters is, and we’re hearing this from Republicans and Democrats, is stay out.
MCDONOUGH: And you know what? That is an absolutely understandable sentiment, given all the sacrifice and investment the United States has made and our armed forces have made for the last 11 and 12 years. So, it’s absolutely understandable sentiment, and that’s why what the president has in mind here, and that we’re consulting with Congress on is a limited, targeted, consequential action.
Let me tell you what this is not. This is not Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not Libya, a sustained air campaign. This is not boots on the ground. This is a targeted effort to reinforce a prohibition that goes back nearly 100 years, a prohibition that has benefited our troops greatly, by the way.
WALLACE: But frankly, voters, and a lot of members, are saying they don’t believe it, and the think you can’t control it. That yes, it’s going to start out as limited, but then you don’t know what Assad is going to do back, what if he fires another chemical weapon, what if he gives it to Hezbollah, what if Israel is attacked by Iran, and they say we just are getting it and we don’t know what the limits will be.
It isn’t, you know, a limited, test-tube case, and it isn’t as neat as you guys are portraying it.
MCDONOUGH: Look, unfortunately, I wish the situation in Syria were neat, Chris. But you know what? Each of the risks that you have just talked about is as real today as it is the moment after the United States takes targeted and limited action to reinforce this prohibition. That risk, the risk of Assad using chemical weapons against our friends, against Syrian opposition again, is as real today.
So, let’s be very clear. The risks of inaction, Chris, outweigh the risks of action. This is a person who has gone from using overwhelming conventional force to using napalm on children, to now using chemical weapons to the tune — with the scale and scope we have not seen in nearly three decades.
And the question for Congress this week is simply that, they do not dispute the intelligence when we speak with them. The question then becomes should there be consequence for this? The Iranians are going to watch that answer. The Syrians are going to watch that answer. Hezbollah is going to watch that answer. Many others are going to watch that answer.
WALLACE: One of the big questions, and it’s been asked repeatedly, is whether or not the president will attack Syria even if Congress votes down the resolution authorizing the use of force. I want to play how Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken answered that this week, and then what President Obama said in Russia.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLINKEN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president, of course, has the authority to act, but it’s neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.
OBAMA: I did not put this before Congress just as a political ploy or as symbolism. I think it is important for us to have a serious debate in the United States about these issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: It sure sounds like the president is going to abide by what Congress decides. Why not just say that and make it clear what the stakes are here? Congress, it’s in your hands, whether we act or not. Why not put it on Congress?
MCDONOUGH: As the president said, this is not an empty exercise. We are expending a great amount of energy and investment in trying to —
WALLACE: But why not —
MCDONOUGH: — make sure that Congress understands —
WALLACE: If you — if you say no, I’ll live with it?
MCDONOUGH: And what we — what the president has said throughout the course of this is that if Congress wants to make sure that there is a consequence for a dictator using this dastardly weapon against his own people, including children, then they’re going to have to vote yes for this resolution.
WALLACE: The president acknowledged on Friday that the White House has done extensive polling on Syria, and you on Tuesday met, and we have it on the screen, with some of the top political advisers — David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Stephanie Cutter, Anita Dunn.
And the next day, the president said he didn’t set the red line, the world set the red line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America and Congress’ credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: If Congress rejects the use of force, will the president blame them for any future atrocity?
MCDONOUGH: Chris, let’s not pile hypothetical on top of hypothetical. Here is what’s important to consider.
WALLACE: This isn’t just a hypothetical. At this point, you’re down 10 to 1 in the House.
MCDONOUGH: Inasmuch as your question, sir, with an if and followed by two other if —
WALLACE: No, there was only one if. If they reject the use of force, will the president blame Congress?
MCDONOUGH: Strikes me as a definition of a hypothetical.
But let me just be clear about what it is that we’re talking about here. Irrespective or what we and many in the international community have been clear is a red line, going back now nearly 100 years, with very real consequences for us, Chris. Irrespective of what is a very clear prohibition and a red line, we would be having this debate today in the United States with — as a result of what we saw happen on August 21st. As I’ve indicated to you, nobody is doubting the intelligence. I am consulting with — I have consulted with dozens of members of Congress this last week.
So the question before us now is what do we do about it? Now, we don’t intend to have a loss in this vote. So any kind of hypothetical that extends from that position is one that I am not going to engage in.
WALLACE: Let me go at it a different way. Are you willing to acknowledge the Democrats are as opposed to this idea as Republicans are, and that this is not a partisan issue?
MCDONOUGH: I am willing to acknowledge, Chris, that Congress is addressing this in the same kind of serious and robust way that the American people should expect them to do so. That’s what happens when we exercise what is one of the most solemn responsibilities we have.
WALLACE: But do you agree that Democrats are opposing this as well as Republicans?
MCDONOUGH: I agree that the questions that we are being asked from Republicans and Democrats are absolutely legitimate and are absolutely the right ones. But the question for Congress this week is, should there be consequences for someone who uses these weapons against his people? And the answer to that question is going to be followed very closely, not only in Damascus, but also in Tehran and —
WALLACE: So I am trying to get an answer to the question. This is not a partisan issue?
MCDONOUGH: I have not indicated to you that it is a partisan issue. Nobody has indicated it’s a partisan issue. It is absolutely a national security issue for the United States of America to resolve.
WALLACE: And for Congress.
MCDONOUGH: And one that will be addressed and have ramifications for sometime.
WALLACE: I’m going to ask you another if question. If the president goes to Congress and says that this is in our national security, and Congress rejects it, if at the end of this process, the president loses, doesn’t he become a lame duck the next day?
MCDONOUGH: No, Chris, again, the question before us right now is how do we make sure that there’s consequences and how do we make sure that the Syrian government is held to account for what is the worst chemical attack in nearly three decades. Whatever the political ramifications of this debate are, are something that maybe somebody else here or you guys will debate, or somebody else will resolve. We are approaching this question simply for the national security implications that it entails.
And as the president said in the Rose Garden —
WALLACE: But you don’t think this would have an impact on the president’s ability over the next three years to push his agenda as he faces a fight over the budget, as he faces a fight over the debt limit? Don’t you think a defeat here is going to really endanger his presidency?
MCDONOUGH: Chris, what endangers our national security today is one of the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, one that unless that government is, makes — is made to understand that the use of that dastardly weapon is beyond the pale, and unless that government makes sure that it remains secure and therefore not proliferated and threatening our troops or our friends, that’s the issue here.
Politics is somebody else’s concern. The president is not interested in the politics of this. The president is interested in making sure that our national security is protected. That’s the question, first and foremost, for us.
WALLACE: Finally, Wednesday marks one year since the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The day after in the Rose Garden, the president promised to bring the killers to justice. But while our government has charged Abd Ahmed Abu Khattala as one of the people involved in this, there’s been no arrest, while at the same time Khattala has given interviews to CNN, to A.P. and to The New York Times.
Why is it that reporters seem to be able to find this guy, who the government is charging for involvement in Benghazi, but our law enforcement can’t find him?
MCDONOUGH: Look, we’ve been very clear that we will hold those people who carried out this dastardly, heinous attack against our people to account.
WALLACE: It’s been a year, sir.
MCDONOUGH: It has been a year. And you know what the United States does, Chris? Is we track every lead until we find and can accomplish what we say we will do? This president —
WALLACE: Why can’t we find Khattala when The A.P. can?
MCDONOUGH: This president has demonstrated that. And we will do that.
WALLACE: Again, finally, not to belabor it, but why can A.P. find him? Why can the New York Times find him, and not our government?
MCDONOUGH: The United States government does what it says. And we will do what we say in this instance. As we do in every other instance, Chris. I have no doubt about that.
WALLACE: Mr. McDonough, we want to thank you so much for coming today. It should be an interesting week.
MCDONOUGH: Thanks for having me, Chris.
WALLACE: And tomorrow, we’ll continue the discussion about Syria when I sit down with President Obama at the White House. You can see the interview on “SPECIAL REPORT”, Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, on FOX News Channel.
Up next, a very different view of what the U.S. should do when we talk with Senator Rand Paul, a leader of the opposition to the president’s plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Paul.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman?
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, D-N.J.: Aye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten ayes, 7 nays, one present.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week passing a resolution to authorize U.S. military action in Syria.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been a leading critic of the president’s plan, and he joins us now from Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Senator, welcome back.
PAUL: Good morning.
WALLACE: You just heard the White House chief of staff. Let me ask what’s your vote count? Will the resolution authorizing the use of force pass the Senate? Will it pass the House?
PAUL: You know, the most difficult obstacle they have to overcome is, is that if we go in on the side of the rebels, we’ll be going in on the side of Al Qaeda. And most of us think we have been fighting Al Qaeda for 10, 12 years now. So, it’s a hard obstacle or a big obstacle to overcome. They may overcome it in the Senate if it becomes a partisan vote.
Everybody is trying to say this isn’t Iraq. But it also isn’t a good situation when we are going in allied to Al Qaeda. I don’t know if it will pass in the house. I have my doubts about whether it passes in the House.
WALLACE: You saw disturbing videos that the administration is now showing to members of Congress that allegedly show the terrible reaction immediately after this attack. Could the president say anything Tuesday night, Senator, that would change your mind?
PAUL: Well, the interesting thing is when I see the horror of the attacks my impulse is whoever would order that deserves death. I mean, someone who is a war criminal who would execute citizens and kill innocent people with any kind of weapon deserves death. But the question is the attack, as I have seen the plan, as I have heard about the plan from the administration is not to target Assad, not to target regime change and to really be so surgical and so specific that it doesn’t affect the outcome of war.
And so, really — all the horror of these attacks would mean you would want to do something about them. I don’t think we’re going to do anything to Assad for doing these attacks. I think it’s more likely that the chemical weapons could become freed and go about between the rebels or into Al Qaeda’s hands if we destabilize Assad.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about a new development just today. Secretary of State Kerry says the U.S. will, the administration will consider the French suggestion to go back to the U.N. Security Council and wait for the weapons inspection report there. Would that change your mind?
PAUL: Well, I think it’s a better route. The thing is, is that the Security Council, we butt heads with Russia and China all the time, we have to figure out how to get them on our side.
Russia has said repeatedly they are against chemical weapons use. They have signed the treaty, the ban. So, I think really, if we can convince them this was perpetrated by Assad and if the Russians and the Chinese and Security Council are on our side it could change the outcome here.
WALLACE: But as you know, Russia has a tremendous, real interest, real politic interest in Assad staying in power. He’s a close ally of theirs. Let me ask you a different question. Earlier this week you suggested that you might take to the Senate floor and engage in a standing filibuster as you did on the drone attack. Here’s what you said, “Whether there is a standing filibuster, I’ve got to check my shoes and check my ability to hold my water and we will see.”
Then, sir, you seemed to back off that. If attacking Syria is such a bad idea, why not take to the floor for 10, 12 hours and engage in another standing filibuster?
PAUL: Well, the filibuster can delay temporarily a vote, but it cannot put a vote off forever. It can be used to get something you want. And so, filibustering to try to get an amendment to a bill is sometimes worthwhile. Filibustering to try to get information from the administration is worthwhile. But I can’t ultimately defeat the resolution.
I will insist that there is full debate on this, and I will insist that I get an amendment, and my amendment will say that the vote is binding, that the president cannot, if we vote him down, decide to go to war anyway. That’s the way I interpret the Constitution, and I will insist on at least one vote where we try to say, hey, guys, this is not political show. This is not constitutional theater. This is a binding vote.
WALLACE: Well, let me pick up on that, because you say that if Congress were to reject the resolution authorizing the use of force, the president went ahead with the attack, you’ve made it very clear: you believe that would be unconstitutional. If that’s the way it plays out —
WALLACE: Congress votes no, the president acts, would you support impeaching this president?
PAUL: You know, I think there are different ways to look at constitutionality of things because we debate them, often with good people on both sides. Sometimes, things go through the courts. But he’s already been proven to go above the law in many instances, trying to appoint people in recess. There are several instances, trying to amend laws after the fact where I think he’s taken extra- constitutional powers.
Whether you impeach someone is a different question and it’s obviously a big one. I wouldn’t make a judgment on that. But I would say that the Constitution was intended to let Congress initiate war and the president execute war.
I don’t think any of that’s changed. In fact, the War Powers Act reinforces that. It’s Congress’s role to initiate war and the president’s role to execute it.
WALLACE: Let’s discuss some of the deeper policy issues involved here. During the Senate Foreign Relations Commission hearings this week, you had quite a back and forth with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Here is one exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: If the United States of America doesn’t do this, Senator, is it more or less likely that Assad does it again? Do you want to answer that question?
PAUL: I don’t think it’s known.
KERRY: Senator, it’s not unknown. If the United States of America doesn’t hold him accountable on this, with our allies and friends, it is a guarantee Assad will do it again. A guarantee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, the White House says that’s the basic question. If Congress votes no, won’t Assad, won’t Iran, won’t North Korea, won’t the rest of our enemies in the world see it as a signal that they can defy the international norms and go ahead and develop weapons of mass destruction?
PAUL: No, I think it is unknown. I think there is a chance he’s more emboldened if we do attack him. For example, what’s the worst case scenario? The worst case scenario is that the stockpiles of Sarin gas begin to move about the country, and maybe they go to Hezbollah and they go into Lebanon and become more of a threat to Israel. I think that’s more likely to happen if we attack Assad than if we don’t attack Assad.
With regard to North Korea, I think the North Koreans know and should know absolutely if gas or conventional weapons were used on our troops ever, that there would be an overwhelming response against them. They are completely separate situations.
Here’s the thing is — this administration won’t even react when Americans are killed in Benghazi. They have done absolutely nothing. And so, here is a situation in Syria that doesn’t involve Americans and they want to get involved. To me, they’ve got it backwards.
WALLACE: You wrote an article, looking at another aspect of this, you wrote an article in Time magazine this week in which you said the following: “War should only occur when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened.”
The question I have, sir, is there no place for humanitarian issues in the Rand Paul doctrine? What about Rwanda, what about Kosovo, what about in World War II, the Nazis exterminating the Jews? Is there no case where President Paul would say, we need to get involved militarily to stop that?
PAUL: You know, I consider myself to be a realist when it comes to foreign policy. We look at every individual situation and you have to access the facts. And then there is the process. How does war begin? It’s initiated by Congress.
So, really, Congress, the people’s representatives, we look at every individual situation. And I wouldn’t say there’s absolutely no case to get involved. But I would say that typically, America has to be involved or American interests have to be involved. We have a lot of allies in the Middle East — Turkey, Israel, Jordan. A lot of those come into play when we decide whether or not to get involved.
But the thing is, is I think if we get involved in Syria, it’s more likely to be unstable or create instability. One of the big things is the administration has admitted that they would use ground troops if the chemical weapons are threatened to be moved. They also have admitted it would take 75,000 American troops to secure these chemical weapons.
So, my question to the administration is, if you bomb Assad, is it more likely or less likely that the chemical weapons will become unsecured and they could go into rogue elements such as Al Qaeda, which is fighting with the rebels against the Assad government.
WALLACE: Senator, I want to get into one issue with you. There is clearly a split inside the Republican Party now between the so- called interventionists like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and then, on the other side, people like you who they call isolationists.
Where is the future of the party?
PAUL: You know, I think name-calling isn’t the future. And I’m not an isolationist. I do believe in intervening when American interests or national security is threatened.
What I would say when you talk about who’s winning this battle, talk to any American. I was in the airport yesterday and I talked to the father of a son who is on an aircraft carrier over there now and whose nephew was burned severely in the Iraq war. And his words were to me: stand up and fight them on Syria. We should only go to war when we have to.
That’s what our young people think, too. If you talk to our young soldiers, men and women who are fighting, who have volunteered, they’re willing to fight for America, but they want it to be a clear cut American purpose and that we are going to win. They don’t want to fight for a stalemate.
President Obama wants stalemate. He doesn’t want victory.
And if you’re not going to fight for victory, we should never be involved in a war.
WALLACE: Senator Paul, we want to thank you — thank you for talking with us. It’s always good to talk with you, sir.
PAUL: Thank you.
WALLACE: So, how did we get to this point where the president has to make a last ditch appeal to Congress and the country? Next up, we’ll ask our Sunday panel.
But, first get FOX News daily politics newsletters straight to your inbox. Fox News First gives you the scoop first thing in the morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again, that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us.
SEN. TOM UDALL, D-N.M., FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: We should not enter into a conflict until we have exhausted every diplomatic and international option. We have not done that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama this weekend continuing to make the case striking Syria is in our national security. Against opposition not only from Republicans, but also Democrats like Senator Tom Udall. And it’s time now for our Sunday group. Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst. Howard Kurtz, Fox News media analyst and host of the new show “Media Buzz,” which debuts today on Fox News channel. GOP mastermind Karl Rove — I love saying that. And Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
So, Brit, how did we get here? Where the president has been turned down by the rest of the world, is in an enormous hole, ten to one against him, in at least in the House on Capitol Hill. And he’s counting on one speech to turn everything around?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Well, the sad thing for him, Chris, is that these presidential speeches are a depreciating asset from the moment the president takes office. They are a powerful instrument, so he can come in to the enormous audience, get the networks to carry it and so on. But over time, we’ve seen that the president after president, like remember, going back to Lyndon Johnson on Vietnam, over time their effectiveness diminishes. And the question for him right now is not whether he has the votes or can get — the question is whether he’s halted the stampede which is what happened. After he announced it, my initial thought was he’s likely to get this. Presidents usually do on the great big votes. But what happened to some extent in the Senate, and do a much great extent in the House, was just an absolute rush for the exits. Nobody seems to want this. The constituent phone calls as you suggested earlier, piling up against it in overwhelming numbers (ph). And this is — this is a really heavy lift. It’s not at all clear at this point that it can be done.
WALLACE: You know, Howie, it was interesting because Denis McDonough said look, people believe the intelligence, the question is whether we should go to war over this attack. And the answer, and we — and the president’s been (inaudible) the case why it’s in our interest to go to war, the answer so far from voters and from the folks up on Capitol Hill is no. I mean they seem to know the stakes. And no, I guess I wonder what can the president possibly say because he’s been making the argument for two weeks that will change that equation?
HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS MEDIA ANALYST: Well, clearly the turning point will be when you sit down with President Obama tomorrow at the White House and maybe the five other network anchors as well. This is a full court press, obviously, the big speech. But I agree with Brit in that big speeches rarely move public opinion on something as profound as this. There is just deep resistance in this country to another Mideast military entanglement, and that’s reflected by the fact by Republican lawmakers who don’t much like Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers who don’t much like war. And I don’t see how a single speech changes that. The president’s in a box of his own making. Because he asked for congressional approval. And also, the shadow of Iraq, the long, dark shadow of Iraq hangs over this, especially for Democratic politicians who voted for the intervention under your administration, George W. Bush administration, and felt burned by what happened.
WALLACE: I want to pick up on that with you, Karl. Because you have been involved in helping a White House orchestrate the run-up to two wars. And I know some of the folks watching today are going to say, hey, look, remember what happened in Iraq where the Bush administration took us to war based on information intelligence that was widely believed, but it turned out to be false. I had a couple of questions. First of all, how much do you think the Iraq experience has soured this country against any military involvement?
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, take a look at what happened in Libya. Before President Obama acted in Libya in 2011, the American people were opposed to military action by 35 to 60. After he took action they were in support of it for 54 to 43. So, the American people do have an animus against any kind of action, but if you take action you’re successfully applauded for what President Obama did in Iraq. I think there’s something more fundamental here. The president has two sets of the issues with members of Congress. And I have spent the last ten days talking to a lot of members — Republican members, and particularly in the House. One basket of issues are particular issues, is there a national security interest to the United States at stake? Will we be — will we get something worse afterwards? Will we be, you know, in essence, cooperating with Al Qaeda as Rand Paul says? And third, what kind of implications will there be for broader U.S. interests in the region after it’s over. But you can talk through all the three of those issues with members of Congress and come to a place where they could be supportive of the president.
But there is another more deeper problem, which is they fundamentally don’t trust the president. I have been taken aback by how much they simply do not trust him. Now, this is a bipartisan problem, because — for the president. Because it’s not just Republicans who distrust him. It’s Democrats who’re unwilling to be led by him. And not just the, you know, sort of the fringe players like Alan Grayson of Florida. We are talking about, you know, Udall of Colorado. He is sensible, reasonably moderate, you know, very popular back home. He could withstand this vote, but he’s not going to go with the president. And it’s a sign of the bad relationship the president has with Republicans and Democrats in Congress that he has not been able to rally more support.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the ghosts of Vietnam and what happened in Iraq still haunt this administration. But I think it’s very clear that what the president has to say is, look, there have been three times in history that we have seen chemical weapons used. And it’s, you know, Hitler, you know, you move forward Hitler to Saddam Hussein and then you come to Bashar al-Assad. And you’ve got to say there is the potential here for international anarchy if the U.S. doesn’t act. And that constitutes a vital U.S. interest going forward. We do not want this. We do not want to send this signal to North Korea. We don’t want to send this signal to the folks in Iran. And we definitely do not want to have Assad …
WALLACE: But people …
WILLIAMS: … that he can shoot in Israel.
WALLACE: The American people, according to the polls and the Congress, according to the vote count, I mean, the president’s made that very clear. They don’t buy that.
WILLIAMS: No, I think that he has not made it sufficiently clear. I mean the previous time the president spoke on this issue was over the Labor Day weekend. I think he has the opportunity now to sit down and say, look, we are not the world’s policeman. This will not be Afghanistan, it’s not going to be Iraq. But this is a crisis. And now we have to act as a fireman because the world is on fire. And if we don’t act now there will be terrible consequences for us down the line.
WALLACE: Brit, I want to bring you in — in your answer, also address this thing. I thought quite interesting. Kerry now today suggested that the U.S. may consider going back to the Security Council because that’s what the Europeans are saying. Let’s go back and find out what the Security Council weapons inspectors —
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Some countries are saying that they don’t want to do anything they might or might not support, in order to do anything, until this U.N. report from the weapons inspectors is done. The problem with that, of course, is the weapons inspectors are merely to ascertain whether, in fact, chemical weapons were used and will make no determination about who used them. And while Denis McDonough may argue and others agree with him that there is no doubting the intelligence on this, in fact there is a lot of people in this country who do. And I suspect there is a lot of people in other countries, conspiracy-minded people, and there are lots of them who wonder who actually — who used them. So, I don’t — it’s not clear to me that waiting for the U.N. is going to do any good. But I think John Kerry is trying to do everything he can to try to get people on board. The French looked like our most steadfast ally in this. Helps, of course, that Kerry speaks good French, I guess.
WALLACE: He probably has good accent. I listened to him yesterday.
HUME: Very good indeed. So, you know, I would say that he’s doing what he can. But I’m not sure this U.N. report is going to help and that it would move any members of the Security Council (inaudible) with China and Russia.
WALLACE: Karl, I want to go back to you in a little bit of time we have left. Because you were talking about, you know, they were opposed to Libya, then the president acted and they supported it. The president make what could be a tremendous mistake taking us up to the edge of war and then backing down?
ROVE: Absolutely. Absolutely, yeah. Look, I support the president’s action. Earlier on, I made it clear whether it helped him or hurt him that I thought he was doing the right thing. And I thought that he needed to take it to Congress. But in retrospect, that was a mistake. Because he got right up to the edge and then on Friday has the 45-minute walk and pulls back and heads of to the G-20. He heads off to Sweden and the G-20. And the energy behind it dissipated. The president probably should have been better, to take an action. We now have the Syrians with god knows how many days or weeks if the United States does take action to disperse all of these units, to, you know, protect themselves as much as possible. Build human shields. This is an unmitigated disaster, it’s an amateur hour at the White House. And, you know, we mentioned earlier the secretary of state. We also had the problem of the political advisers around the president signaling that they are trying to — they are trying to jam Congress. David Axelrod tweets out, Congress is now the dog that caught the car.
We have an unnamed White House official saying we don’t want the Congress to be able to have its cake and eat it, too. This — this is poisoning the relationship the president has with Congress, and he needs to have a good one to get this resolution through.
WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here. But when we come back, one year later, what have the president and his team done about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ships that ultimately get designed and built are safe and survivable.
WALLACE: So, it is essential to work out all the problems before they are built.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The effective war fighting platforms for the United States Navy.
WALLACE: Stay tuned. Our panel will be right back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We will not waiver in our commitment to see the justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama on the day after the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. This week marks one year since the attack, which took the lives of four Americans including the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stephens. And we’re back now with our panel.
Well, one year after Benghazi, no one has been arrested for the act, the justice that the president promised a year ago. And the four State Department officials who were found accountable and put on administrative leave, have all been reinstated. Brit, where are we?
HUME: Well, in terms of the administration, we are nowhere. The administration hasn’t, as you suggested, caught anybody, done anything really. We are not sure how intense the investigation is. The investigations go forward on the Hill, but at a glacial pace. Benghazi remains a kind of piece of unexploded ordnance. It may remain buried and never go off. But it may blow up. We don’t know, but it remains out there. There is still a lot (inaudible) about what happened that night and why and about the response to it.
WALLACE: As I discussed with Denis McDonough, the Justice Department has charged one person over there, Ahmed Abu Khattalah, but they haven’t arrested him. At the same time, that three U.S. media outlets, CNN, AP, and The New York Times, have all interviewed him.
Howie, as our media maven — how is it when Western media said they have no problem getting this guy and talking to the guy, that he’s living openly and the Justice Department can’t track him down and arrest him.
KURTZ: That is curious when journalists have access to potential suspects, I guess, this one guy denies involvement, at a time when FBI or other investigators can’t seem to do that. So, there are legitimate unanswered questions that remain. But, the investigations on the Hill have largely petered out. And I have to say this, there is a drum beat among conservatives, including some at Fox News to turn it into a full-fledged scandal as opposed to a horribly tragic episode that killed four Americans and that was clearly mishandled at the time and afterwards. When 241 Marines were killed in a terrorist bombing in Lebanon in 1983, Ronald Reagan wasn’t accused of being involved in a scandal. Misjudgment, miscalculation perhaps. And I do think that some Republicans, I’m not saying all, and obviously, we would like to know more about this including CIA involvement ….
KURTZ: … are trying to use this as a weapon against Hillary …
HUME: Remember what was said in the aftermath. The whole thing was blamed on a video that’s turned out to have nothing to do with it. And there are elements of mendacity in what the administration did and said after the attack. Because that’s what’s given rise to the cause — scandal.
KURTZ: That was a completely — that’s why I said the aftermath — that was a completely botched response to what was behind it, but you seem to find very impure motives in that, as opposed to, perhaps, incompetence.
ROVE: Well — impure motives — and it can be both. Well, this is not going away. I disagree with both of you on this. This fall, there will be a — there’s a nomination of the State Department spokeswoman at the time who participated in the 100 emails.
HUME: Victoria Nuland.
ROVE: Victoria Nuland has been nominating by the president to a Senate confirmable post. This will be a chance for people to say on 9:54 on the Friday night, you said neither you nor your building were comfortable with the answer on Benghazi and that your building was talking to the NSS, the National Security Staff. So, she’s going to be able to be asked, were you — did you — were you part of the authorship of the let’s blame it on the video? You know, who is — who at the State Department was talking to who at the White House? This is going to be a chance for Senate Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee during the nomination process to get to the heart of the matter, which is who concocted this lie to the American people, who participated knowing that it was not the video, that it was a terrorist attack and trying to sell it. Who briefs the U.N. ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to go out on the Sunday morning and talk some — and talk about this and I don’t think this is going to go away as easily as people might think.
WALLACE: Howie, are you persuaded by Brother Rove?
KURTZ: I certainly don’t say it’s going to go away. But, I think the more useful thing would be not only to try to find out what happened including — it was a report from CNN that dozens of CIA operatives were on the ground that night, and perhaps the administration trying not to have that fact disclosed, but looking forward, how do we prevent another Benghazi? Are we overreacting, the United States overreacting, by closing all those embassies during those threats? I think that — that should not be lost in the debate. Not just what happened a year ago, but something like this should not happen again. ROVE: Howie raised an interesting question. Who is in charge of security? You know, who — the question of why was there no military response? Why were assets not immediately, 5:00 in the afternoon Washington time. Why weren’t aircraft not put into the air? Why was there no effort to get assistance on the ground? Who was really responsible for the security at the consulate? There are lots of questions left unanswered here. And I think we may have one more chance for them to be answered during the hearings on Victoria Nuland.
We’ll see if the Republicans on the Senate do something about it. But my understanding is members are thinking through these questions and they are asking these questions during the process.
WALLACE: Juan, and there is no question about the fact that the president went around the country for several weeks this summer talking about phony scandals. And you don’t have to scratch very far in the White House to find people who say this is just — that this is a partisan effort by Republicans to exploit a tragedy. Do you agree with that?
WILLIAMS: Yeah. I think there is look — there is not one shred of evidence that the White House knew about this beforehand, they covered up anything.
ROVE: Knew about what?
WILLIAMS: Knew about this attack. There are all sorts of allegations up on the Hill coming from Republicans.
ROVE: I don’t hear that.
WILLIAMS: You know, what — what really drives me …
ROVE: What are you talking about?
WILLIAMS: What really drives me is you have had an accountability review board coming, make 29 recommendations. State Department has accepted just about every one of them.
WALLACE: Spoke to the secretary of state.
WILLIAMS: Look, based — look, the secretary of state at the time, Hillary Clinton, has testified on Capitol Hill.
WALLACE: And dismissed the whole issue.
WILLIAMS: Another — we just make one other point. The big argument coming from Republicans for most of this time was, there was a stand down order given from Washington or from the military command that we could have gone in and saved those people, but the stand-down order was given. Well, now we have Lieutenant Colonel Gibson, who was in charge of Special Forces in Libya saying, no, no stand down order was ever given.
HUME: They just told them not to go. They didn’t call it a stand down order. WILLIAMS: OK, so in other words, then, we don’t have anything. A year later, we do have an indictment, and Eric Holder, the attorney general, has said more is coming shortly. But to make a scandal out of this, it really — that’s why you say this is not going away. Let me tell you, this has gone away.
ROVE: No, it hasn’t. The American people were lied to. Somebody concocted a deliberate lie that this was all — it was not a terrorist attack, this was a spontaneous reaction to a video that no one saw. The American people had a legitimate question, why were efforts not undertaken to save our people?
WILLIAMS: But the efforts were made.
ROVE: No, they weren’t.
ROVE: With all due respect, no assets were put in motion.
ROVE: U.S. military on the ground in Tripoli were told, don’t go to Benghazi.
WILLIAMS: No, no. There was no stand-down order. What we had is, don’t go in after the fact when we don’t know what you are getting into, and it could result in more American deaths.
ROVE: Yes, don’t go. Don’t go. That’s the important thing. Do not go.
WILLIAMS: There is a difference, Karl, there is a huge difference.
ROVE: Remember what that Marine said, remember what he said. He said it was the first time in the history that he could remember that a member of the U.S. foreign service had more cojones than somebody in the military.
WILLIAMS: Karl, you’re all in the weeds here.
ROVE: It’s not in the weeds, with all due respect, Juan. It’s not in the weeds.
WILLIAMS: What’s in the weeds is the fact that you continue to prosecute (ph)–
ROVE: — a deliberate lie to the American people.
WILLIAMS: Stop living in the past and trying to get after Susan Rice or whoever. This has nothing to do with the death of Ambassador Stephens.
ROVE: You’re right. Susan Rice or whoever. We don’t know who is responsible for lying to the American people.
WILLIAMS: Nothing to do with the death of our ambassador.
ROVE: You may be comfortable, you may be comfortable with the American people being told a deliberate lie by the administration, but I’m not, and I think that we need to get to the bottom of this.
WILLIAMS: Karl, you can continue to raise your voice and —
ROVE: Why was no effort made to save those Americans?
WILLIAMS: — but it does not speak to the heart of the issue.
KURTZ: — it’s not over as evidenced by the emotions at this table one year later.
HUME: And one more thing. Think of the list, I mean, going around the table here, the list of questions that remain unanswered to this day are what make this still a legitimate topic for conversation. And meanwhile, I’m sorry to say, this is simply not over.
WILLIAMS: It’s gone, baby. It’s in your head. That’s about the only place.
WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next week.
And remember, our discussion continues. That was really quite a terrific conversation.
Continues every Sunday on panel plus. You can find it on our website, FoxnewsSunday.com. We’ll continue this discussion — I don’t know, actually, Brit is going to be in charge of (inaudible) to discuss. Make sure to follow us on twitter, @foxnewssunday. Up next, our Power Player of the Week. We take you to where the U.S. Navy fleet begins. You won’t want to miss it.
WALLACE: I have lived in Washington more than 30 years. But until a few weeks ago, I never knew what went on behind the walls of a Navy base just outside the city. Here is our Power Player of the Week.
DR. TIM ARCANO: We start with modeling and simulation and do model testing. And then that actually translates into a ship design. So we’re actually — the fleet literally begins right here.
WALLACE: Dr. Tim Arcano is talking about the Naval Surface Warfare Center outside Washington. A remarkable installation where scientists design, build and test ship prototypes.
How important is this facility in designing the Navy of the 21st century?
ARCANO: You don’t want to just go out and build a new ship. You want to be able to develop it in a smart way. So you reduce the risk, reduce the costs by using models.
WALLACE: It starts on the computer. They test the shape of the hull, materials to be used. How they can make it harder for an enemy to detect and more fuel efficient. Then they make a scale model, usually 1/20th the size of the actual ship, and take it to the David Taylor Model Basin. The basin is 3,200 feet long. They can create two-foot waves and tow a model up to 60 miles per hour.
ARCANO: We can make sure that we — that the ships that ultimately get designed and built are safe and survivable and effective war fighting platforms for the United States Navy.
WALLACE: That demands precision. They can record 400 types of data on how the model is going through the water. And the rails that run the 3,000 feet along the sides of the basin are shaped to curve with the earth’s surface.
ARCANO: They are actually designed within 2/1000th of an inch or one-tenth of the average thickness of a fingernail.
WALLACE: But they’re not done. Next, the model goes to the MAST, the maneuvering and sea keeping facility, 240 feet wide, 360 feet long. It’s five acres under one roof.
ARCANO: We are able to run radio-controlled free-running models up to 30 feet in length in open ocean conditions creating the seas as if they actually being generated up to the highest sea state that you would see in the ocean.
WALLACE: All that testing works. Arcano showed us a scale model of the Arley Burke (ph) class destroyer, to which they added a small flap in the stern to redistribute the flow around the hull.
ARCANO: It actually increases the efficiency tremendously of a ship moving through the water. So from that, we are able to achieve great fuel savings, and it actually increases the range and the speed of the destroyer.
WALLACE: Just this flap here?
ARCANO: Yes, sir.
WALLACE: Navy ships are typically operational for more than 30 years. So it is essential to work out all the problems before they are built. As they say, this is where the fleet begins. ARCANO: The walls of this facility are adorned with the history of the past in terms of all the models that have been tested here. Developing advanced, cutting edge technologies that are going to benefit the sailor and marine who are on the tip of the spear of our nation’s defense. What more could you ask for?
WALLACE: What a fascinating place. Once again, this program note. Tomorrow I will sit down with President Obama at the White House to discuss Syria. You can watch the interview on “Special Report” Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox News Channel. And that’s it for today. Have a great week. And we’ll see you next Fox News Sunday.
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