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Rep. McCaul, Sen. Manchin talk possible foreign ties in Boston bombing; Amb. Oren on latest in Syria
Written by Chris Wallace / Published April 28, 2013 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren
The following is a rush transcript of the April 28, 2013, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.
Today, preventing another attack on the homeland.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt like my foot was on fire. I knew I couldn't stand up. And I didn't know what to do. I was screaming, "Somebody please help me."
WALLACE: The Boston bombing suspects may have just been getting started. Was Times Square next?
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, I-N.Y.: The surviving attack are revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets.
WALLACE: Did our intelligence agency share information about the older brother's trip to Russia?
REP. MIKE ROGERS, R-MICH.: That information didn't get circulated, at least to the best of our knowledge today, and we have some questions about why that would be.
WALLACE: We'll ask two key lawmakers how we keep America safe.
Senator Joe Manchin and Congressman Mike McCaul, only on "Fox News Sunday."
Then, crossing a red line in Syria. New evidence the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That is going to be a game changer. We have to act prudently. We have to make these assessments deliberately.
WALLACE: We'll discuss how President Obama should respond with the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.
CHALIZE THERON, ACTRESS AND UNAIDS AMBASSADOR: I travel as a messenger and I bear witness, and not just speak out but to actually become proactive.
WALLACE: Our power player of the week, actress and UNAIDS ambassador Charlize Theron.
All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
As the investigation into the Boston bombings unfolds, there are new questions about the Tsarnaev brothers. Did they plan more terror attacks? And did U.S. officials miss warning signs before the bombings?
Joining us to discuss the latest on the case, Congressman Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and Joe Manchin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And, gentlemen, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, D--W.V.: Thank you for having me, Chris.
REP. MIKE MCCAUL, R--TEXAS: Thank you.
WALLACE: Before we get to Boston, let's start with the breaking news. On Saturday, the FBI arrested this man, Everett Dutschke of Mississippi, in connection with the mailing of letters containing the poison ricin, mailing those letters to President Obama, a U.S. senator, and a local judge.
Congressman McCaul, as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, one, what can you tell us about the investigation, and are you concerned this is the second man they've charged, this is the second man they have charged with this crime in less than two weeks?
MCCAUL: Let me say, first, it's very important to say. This is totally unrelated to the Boston bombing case. It appears these two are blood rivals, that the initial person in custody was set up by this individual, which is why the FBI and the U.S. attorney dismissed the first case and now they've found the right guy and have brought him to justice.
I think he should be dealt with harshly, sending ricin to members of Congress and to the president, a very serious offense.
WALLACE: Let's turn to the continuing investigation in Boston. The FBI now says the toy remote-controllers were used, and I think we have a picture of the components of the bomb, toy remote controllers were used to detonate the bombs, more sophisticated than what's in that online Al Qaeda-linked magazine.
Congressman McCaul, you have said all along that you believe that there's a foreign connection to these attacks. What do you have any more information about who and where, and what do you know about the mother's role?
MCCAUL: I think given the level of sophistication of this device, the fact that the pressure cooker is a signature device, goes back to Pakistan or Afghanistan, leads me to believe -- and the way they handled these devices and the trade craft leads me to believe that there was a trainer. And the question is, where is that trainer or trainers? Are they overseas in the Chechen region or are they in the United States?
In my conversations with the FBI, that's the big question. They've cast a wide net, both overseas and in the United States to find out where this person is, but I think the experts all agree that there is someone who did train these two individuals I think is very --
WALLACE: So, there's somebody that was involved in this plot who is not either dead or captured?
MCCAUL: I think that's the concern, is there could be a wider conspiracy? You know, Chris, what I find astounding is that, you know, right out-of-the-box, U.S. officials unanimously are saying there's no foreign connection to this case when in fact the FBI just began its investigation into the case. They just got the computer. They just sent a U.S. team over to Chechen region, and to Dagestan, to interview witnesses.
And yet, the narrative being played by some in the administration is that, no, there's no foreign connection. It's just these two guys --
WALLACE: Why would you they push that narrative?
MCCAUL: I have no idea. I don't know why that is the case, but that early on, there was a rush to judgment. As a federal prosecutor, former, I reserve judgment until the all the evidence comes in. And, again, in fairness to the FBI, it's doing a good job investigating this. They're looking into that question.
And I think we owe it right to the American people, and to the victims, to wait and see until the evidence comes in.
WALLACE: Senator Manchin, I promise I'm going to bring you in in a moment, but just I want to ask one more question. We had a picture earlier of the mother who apparently, according to Russian authorities, had become radicalized, was tied to radical Islam. What role do you understand she played in all of this?
MCCAUL: I think she played a very strong role in his radicalization process. I believe she is a person of interest, if not a subject. I do believe if she comes into the United States, she will be detained for questioning. So, I think there's a connection there.
WALLACE: Senator Manchin, I want to pick up on this point, because federal investigators, right from the start, have kept saying this was a closed terrorist cell, it was just these two guys, they got radicalized themselves. No foreign connection. Why do think they are pushing that narrative and are you satisfied that that's truth?
MANCHIN: Well, the public safety waiver that they could have used to keep this person contained a little bit more before reading the Miranda rights, I think they pulled the trigger too soon. That's just my observation of it. And I think there's more to be had there.
I agree with Mike as he evaluates the mother's -- we know the mother's role, but they play with all sons especially, and I think she was very influential for him. I think there's so much more to be had. Can we get it now as we could have obtained it before, that will be something we'll see at the end.
But I would have liked to that process of him of being interrogated to go further than reading Miranda rights as quick as they did. And I would have thought that DOJ could have intervened and stopped that from happening.
WALLACE: So, a couple of points there. One, you're not satisfied by this argument that there's no foreign connection here?
MANCHIN: No, I'm not. I mean, and I think anybody looks at. As Mike has said, this pretty sophistication -- the sophisticated bomb they made and how they detonated it and things of this sort and I know, I saw the Web site also. I think they were a little bit more advanced than what the Web site would have allowed a person to be.
And also his six months overseas, coming back, and in the Russians intervening, and Russians warning us. Did they tell us all they knew? Why did they withhold information?
There needs to be a tremendous follow-up on this thing, and better coordination.
WALLACE: Let's talk about the interrogation, because the thing that apparently triggered the judge, the magistrate coming in to the hospital on Monday and reading the Miranda rights and therefore cutting off 16 hours of investigation or interrogation, and then Dzhokhar stopped talking, was the fact that the Justice Department had filed charges. So, the judge had to act. That was the law.
Did the Justice Department make a mistake in filing criminal charges which then triggered all these events?
MANCHIN: I don't know what the rush to file the charges were. I have not been advised on that, or been informed on that. But I would have liked to have seen that process, of him being interrogated, go much further before the justices dropped the gauntlet, if you will, because that does automatically invokes some rights for the gentlemen and I understand that.
As an American citizen, you want those rights to protect you, but, on the other hand, this man is -- it's a terrorist act. It's been identified as a terrorist act, and he's a terrorist. So with that, we should extract all the information we can before we give him rights that American citizens are entitled to.
WALLACE: I want to pick with this picture, Congressman McCaul. This is the younger brother Dzhokhar. He apparently made two trips to Times Square. It came out this week that he told interrogators before he was lawyered up, that they had made a spontaneous decision to go to Times Square.
Was that just talk aspirational or do you have any evidence that that was a serious idea attacking Times Square?
MCCAUL: I think it was a very serious idea. I think -- look, when they executed the search warrant, they found up to 10 explosive devices. That indicates to me -- and they stayed in the Boston area, but they indicated a second wave of attacks. The individual whose car was hijacked basically told the FBI that they were talking about Manhattan. They're talking in Russian, but they mentioned Manhattan, which is where the lead came to possibly him going to Times Square.
I feel very certain that they were on their way to Times Square to detonate 10 more explosive devices in New York.
WALLACE: One more question on this before we move on, Congressman McCaul. Two weeks almost, 13 days after the bombing, what is your single, biggest concern about lapses by federal agencies in tracking the brothers before the attack?
MCCAUL: We said I'm going to -- I'm going to hold hearings to find out what happened, what may have gone wrong, and what can we do to fix things to make sure this never happens again? That's the obligation I have to the American people, but also to the victims and their families.
Look, I give great, you know, I commend the FBI, and Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Boston Police, but the fact is, you know, when they got that Russian intelligence lead, they opened up an investigation, and months later closed that investigation. CIA gets this information, the CIA's got it, FBI's got it, then DHS has it. The FBI puts up a flag so does DHS, the FBI flag does not go up when he travels to Russia, so they don't know that he went to Russia.
MCCAUL: The Department of Homeland Security's flag does go up.
So, what happened in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is where it's supposed to all come together? Did the CBP agent talked to the FBI agent?
I want to know the answer to that question because if the FBI didn't know about the travel, that just may have reopened that lead, because when he comes back from Russia, he's clearly radicalized when you look at his YouTube Web site, all the witnesses we're seeing coming out. And ten nine months later, conducts the greatest terrorist attack since 9/11.
WALLACE: I want to talk about Syria. We're going to talk about this in the next segment at length with the Israeli Ambassador Oren, but I want to ask you guys about it as well. After stating the use of chemical weapons was a red line this week, President Obama seemed to back off that. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is not an on or off switch. This is an ongoing challenge that all of us have to be concerned about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Manchin, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are you, first of all, persuaded that the Assad regime did use chemical weapons? And what do you make of the fact that the president seemed to set this marker, Assad stepped over it, and now, he's backing away?
MANCHIN: From what I've been told, what I've seen in the briefings I've had, it shows that they have used it and do have the capabilities. There's some question after, as we know, Iraq, and how that had gone. So, there are some questions in senators' minds, I believe.
When you watch the whole thing unfold in Syria right now, we look at Syria from the standpoint, do we send troops in? There's people advocating that. Do we have give all the support to our allies there, who are the neighbors of Syria, that have the most to lose? The refugee problem that's a tremendous concern to all of us.
With all that being said, I do not -- I would not support boots on the ground. I do support, total support, any way else as far as humanitarian aid to Jordan, to make sure that they're able, our allies, are able to handle the refugees --
WALLACE: You intervene militarily, if not boots on the ground, no--fly zone, arming the rebels?
MANCHIN: I think what we need to do is coordinate that with NATO and also be able to coordinate that with our neighbors and allies we have over there to their best interest. I really believe that.
WALLACE: All right. Finally, Senator Manchin, you and Republican -- fellow Republican Senator Pat Toomey, were the coauthors of this expanded background check that was voted down a few days ago in the Senate. You're talking now -- you're talking about revising the bill, bringing it back to the Senate floor.
It came out today that your cosponsor, Pat Toomey says, no, I'm done with it. Do you really think that the expansion of background checks can be revised and can be passed by the U.S. Senate?
MANCHIN: I certainly do. The only thing that we've asked for is that people would just read the bill. It's a criminal and mental background check strictly at gun shows and online sales.
The way the law is today, if you go to a gun store, you have a background check done. If you go to a gun show and you go to a licensed dealer, they still do a background check. But you can go to the next table over and have no check at all.
You can online. If you buy a gun out of state online --
WALLACE: But, Senator, respectfully, we knew all that beforehand and your colleagues didn't vote for it?
MANCHIN: Well, I think -- Chris, I think there were some confusion. The first bill that came out basically was dropped, the Chuck Schumer bill, which was all inclusive. Chuck, we talked to Chuck and he backed off that, and we worked on what we thought was a much better bill, especially coming from a gun culture that I come from in West Virginia.
I've gone down and worked the bill into the coal fields, into the gun--friendly West Virginians that I hunt with, and sport shoot with. And all of them to a "T," when they saw the bill, this basically not only protects your Second Amendment rights, it expands your Second Amendment rights.
WALLACE: But, and we're running out of time, Pat Toomey, cosponsor of Manchin/Toomey, says he's done with it?
MANCHIN: I don't think he's done. I really don't know. I was with Pat last night and Pat's totally committed to this bill and I believe that with all of my heart and we're going to work this bill -- when people read the bill, just take time to read the bill. I've said this, if you're a law--abiding gun owner, you'll love this bill. If you're a criminal, if you've been mentally adjudicated through a court, you probably won't like it.
But all we're doing, we don't infringe on anybody's rights, individual rights, transfers of families --
WALLACE: I want to make it clear: you're going to bring this bill back --
WALLACE: -- to the Senate floor. And you think it's going to be different?
MANCHIN: I truly believe if we have time to sell the bill, and people will read the bill, and I'm willing to go anywhere in this country, I'm going to debate anybody on this issue, read the bill and you tell me what you don't like. We stop registration completely from the standpoint of the felony, with 15 years of imprisonment.
WALLACE: And is part of the idea here that you are going to have it stripped away and separate it from --
MANCHIN: The bill needs to be clean, I believe. That's my belief, that if the bill runs clean and people can vote on this bill up or down based on the merits of this bill, how it protects a gun, a Second Amendment gun person, a law-abiding gun owner, it's perfect for that person.
If you're going to a gun show, you're going to expect to have a background check. If you're buying online, whether it's an out-of-state gun or in-state, a background check. No intervening at all with family transfers or any individual rights whatsoever.
WALLACE: Well, we'll be covering it. Senator Manchin and Congressman McCaul, thank you both for coming in today, talking with us. And we'll stay on top of all these issues. Thank you.
MANCHIN: Thank you.
MCCAUL: Thank you.
WALLACE: Up next, a growing consensus Syria has crossed the line and used chemicals against its own people. What will President Obama do about it?
WALLACE: Video of patients aired last month on Syrian state TV. Both sides in the civil war there accused the other of using chemical weapons. Now, U.S. intelligence has joined other countries, saying it believes the Assad regime used sarin gas against its opponents.
We've invited Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, to discuss what's going on, and what it means for the U.S. and our allies.
Ambassador, welcome back.
AMB. MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Always good to be with you, Chris. Good morning.
WALLACE: Simple question, has the Assad regime in Syria used chemical weapons against his own people? Has it crossed the red line?
OREN: Well, our military has made an assessment and an assessment looks like there's a high probability of usage. That's a very similar assessment made by Britain, by France, and, yes, by the United States.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, because this week, Israeli's top military analysts said this and let's put it up on the screen, "According to our professional assessment, the regime has used deadly chemical weapons against armed rebels on a number of occasions in the past few months." He pointed to a March 19th attack in which, quote, "Victims suffered from sunken pupils, foaming from the mouth, and other symptoms which indicate the use of deadly chemical weapons."
The White House, Ambassador, says there's not enough evidence.
OREN: It's an intelligence assessment, Chris. That's what intelligence agencies do. They make assessments, not, you know, definitive proof, of course.
The chemical weapons situation in Syria is highly complex. We're dealing with the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the Middle East, one of the largest in the world. It's diverse. It's stored in different ways.
And access to Syria is very, very limited, as you know. They won't let U.N. inspectors in as well.
OREN: We're not making any call --
WALLACE: Perhaps more definitive about this.
OREN: We -- our assessments are very, very similar to those with the United States, Britain and France. We're looking at the same intelligence material. We have a close intimate intelligence dialog. We share our intelligence. And I think you've seen the result of that.
We're not making any calls to the United States here.
WALLACE: Well, I understand that. But I do want to -- I know you're -- you've made at great length the idea you're not pressuring the administration to do anything. But for months, President Obama said if Assad used chemical weapons. it would be a game changer. Now, he seems to be steering away from any talk of precipitous action.
Let's see that -- then and now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: That's a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons.
This is going to be a long-term proposition. This is not going to be something that is solved easily overnight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: I understand you're not calling for any action. But is your government troubled at all that red lines, and enormous consequences have now become a, quote, "long-term proposition"?
OREN: We have a different red line entirely. Our red line, Chris, is that if the Syrian regime tries to transfer chemical weapons, or what we call game changing weapons, could be anti-aircraft systems, to terrorists in Lebanon, particularly to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel will react. And we're very serious about that red line. We're sticking by that red line. And I think the people in Syria know that.
The chemical weapons situation again is very, very complex. This is an American call. The United States and Israel are sovereign countries. We've got to make our own decisions, whether about Syria or about the Iranian nuclear program.
WALLACE: But here's the issue: it's not just Syria that's watching. It's Iran that's watching. President Obama has said that he would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear capability, which is an intelligence matter. I don't have to tell you is a much more difficult thing to assess than whether or not there's been a use of chemical weapons.
If the president backs off as if he appears to be from his red line, enormous consequences in Syria, what do you think is the lesson that is being seen by the mullahs in Tehran?
OREN: First of all, the Syrian chemical threat is very serious. It threatens the security of Israel, other Middle Eastern countries. But it's typically different magnitude of the Iranian nuclear threat, which threatens the existence of the state of Israel, and threatens world stability. The Iranian mullahs, if they're looking at the Syrian situation -- I don't know what they're seeing -- but what definitely they have seen in little over a month is a visit by the U.S. secretary of defense, the U.S. secretary of state, and the president of the United States to Israel. And they've all brought the same messages: the message is that the United States stands foursquare behind Israel's security. The United States supports Israel's right to defend itself by itself against a threat --
WALLACE: A top defense official in Jerusalem just this week said Tehran, the Iranian leaders are watching what's going on in Syria.
OREN: I can't speak of any anonymous defense official. I know what the Iranians have seen in Israel over the last month alone. And every American official from the secretary of defense, secretary of state, and the president of the United States, President Obama, has come to Israel and in Israel said that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
WALLACE: He also said that there would be red lines if Syria use chemical weapons. Do you see no downside at all, no possible risk for the president backing off the red line in Syria in terms of Iran?
OREN: I think that this is an American decision. I think when you're not recommending any policy other than one exception, and that is if the United States decides to arm Syrian rebels with lethal weaponry, not just defensive weaponry. It's weaponry equipment (ph), that those weapons and rebels be very carefully vetted. We had a very bad experience with Libya where shoulder--fired missiles went disappearing very quickly and showed up in our backyard. We don't want that to happen again in Syria.
WALLACE: All right. Let's talk about the military component, and let's talk about what Syria has. Intelligence estimates are that 1,000 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin nerve agent, mustard gas, and VX, are in the Assad arsenal. And sarin, which was allegedly used last month, is nasty stuff, 500 more times toxic than cyanide.
Question, what can either the U.S. or Israel do militarily?
OREN: We can't get into tactical details on national television. All I can tell you is that it is a complex operation, that even under international law, if you strike a chemical weapons base and there are collateral damage to civilians, collateral damage to civilians, it's as if you the attacker used. It's very, very complex.
And, hence, we're having this very close and high-level dialog with the United States, and the United States is having the same dialogue with other Middle Eastern governments that are equally concerned about the future possible use of these chemical agents.
WALLACE: Let's talk about that. As you point out, if you bomb the stockpiles, you could end up dispersing them, and then, as you say, then you become complicit in the use of chemical weapons. If you try to secure them, then you've got boots on the ground in the middle of a civil war, a violent civil war in that country.
And as you had just pointed out, if you arm the rebels opposing Assad, there's a good chance they fall into the hands of the more radical forces linked to al Qaeda.
OREN: And precisely my point, which is Israel is not making, pressuring, urging the United States to take any action in Syria, because we understand the complexity of it, and we share the concerns of the United States and of many of our neighbors.
WALLACE: Are there ways to deal with this problem militarily, given all of these problems that I discussed?
OREN: Again, we are discussing this at the highest possible level. It's an ongoing discussion. It's intimate between our military planners as well as our civilian leaderships. And while we can't discuss details, we are working out ways in which we can possibly address this threat.
WALLACE: And, again, to press a point that you made earlier, even if the White House decides not to act in terms of its own red line, Israel is prepared to act in terms of its own red line if any of these chemical weapons fall into the hands of people that you consider a threat to the state of Israel?
WALLACE: And you would do that?
WALLACE: Finally --
OREN: Is that a short enough answer for you?
WALLACE: Yes. I wish some of the others had been as definitive.
But in any case --
WALLACE: -- finally, let's talk about Boston, because Israel perhaps the best -- certainly one of the best intelligence services in the world. Do you have any information about the so--called Chechen connection, and any information about whether or not the Tsarnaev brothers were linked to foreign elements?
OREN: Not that I know of.
WALLACE: What about the Chechen element and its link to radical Islamic?
OREN: We just know that radical Islam has many branches throughout the entire world. We see, you know, international jihadists fighting in Syria. It's one of our concerns about arming the rebels there, because there's such a large jihadist presence there.
We've seen how international jihadist elements have moved from the Sinai Peninsula into Syria. And they come from different nationalities. We've had terrorist attacks across our border to the south in Sinai where the participants haven't been Palestinians. They haven't been Egyptians.
They've been Saudis. They've been Yemenis. These are people coming from international jihadist organization and they can move.
WALLACE: Do you have any suspicions at all about foreign links to the bombing in Boston?
OREN: I don't know.
WALLACE: You don't know or can't say?
OREN: I don't know.
WALLACE: We're going to leave it there. Ambassador, thank you so much. Always a pleasure to talk with you, sir. Thanks for coming in today.
OREN: My pleasure, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next, we'll continue this conversation with our Sunday group. What should the U.S. do about chemical weapons in Syria? And what does it mean for Iran and the rest of the Middle East?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I hope that this new revelation of chemical weapons will move the president to do what he should have done two years ago. From the statement that's coming out of the White House, I'm not sure they will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator John McCain, who's been pushing President Obama to intervene in Syria for two years, renewing his call this week after findings the Assad regime has used chemical weapons. And it's time now for our Sunday grill. Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Bill Kristol from The Weekly Standard, and Charles Lane of the Washington Post. Well, I think it's fair to say that President Obama has put himself in a bit of a box here on Syria. He kept talking for months about red lines, and on these consequences, game changers, but he's clearly mindful of the bad intelligence that led in to the invasion of Iraq, and it's also clear, Brit, he's never wanted to get involved militarily in Syria. Is there a graceful way out for him?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what he'll do and what he's trying to do now is to insist on ironclad proof. Now you wonder if he doesn't want an affidavit signed by Bashar Assad himself. Saying, yes, indeed, we did use sarin gas on those people. Short of that, I'm not sure he is going to do anything. Look, you can understand -- it's not an advertising prospect to figure out what to do about that situation. It's so well advanced now. It might have been different if we've moved in there earlier. But a president who didn't want to intervene to stop the deaths of what is now 70,000 people, I don't think is going to go on at least arguably incomplete evidence that there's been these chemical weapons used. So my sense is, he didn't want to do anything. And for now at least he isn't going to do anything.
WALLACE: And do you think that there's a downside in terms of his credibility in the Middle East?
HUME: No, it's not the kind of thing that I think is going to bother people going about their daily lives in America, but around the world this kind of apparent indecisiveness of weakness has a price, it emboldens enemies, it discourages allies, and it is a problem. And I -- you know, I think it's regrettable.
WALLACE: Amy, there are also serious political factors here. If you believe the polls, the American people do not want to get involved in another land war, or any kind of military involvement in another Mid East country. On the other hand, as I was discussing with Brit, if you say there's a red line, and somebody crosses it, is there a price to not doing anything?
AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Right. And I think that Brit is exactly right. It's the question of where's the cost? Politically, he's in a very different position, certainly, than where Democrats were before Iraq, for example. Right? This is -- he has the public behind him. And it's not just the concern about Syria, but the cloud of Iraq and Afghanistan still lingering there. The approval rating about whether the war in Afghanistan was even worth fighting is now 39 percent. So, there's definitely a very strong distaste on the part of Americans to do anything there. The other piece of this two, is, you have a public, again, unlike 2003 -- I say this because we're spending so much time talking about the George W. Bush administration after the ...
WALLACE: ... opening.
WALTER: Opening, sorry, I was thinking about the library, but the fact is the economy itself, the fact that, you know, we're talking much more now about Syria, we're talking about guns, we're talking about some of these other issues, we haven't talked about the fact that the GDP has also been hit, and the fact that we're still looking for economic growth that's not there yet. So, I think for this president, he is in a position right now where the American public wants to see more than anything, a discussion about the thing that they thought that the election was about in 2012, that they thought the election was about in 2010, 2008, which was the economy. This isn't a very -- this is obviously not getting him into that position.
WALLACE: Yes, but Mr. Kristol is now going to say but you got to do two things at the same time. Let's talk specifically about Iran, which I think everybody agrees in the Middle East is the real key factor here. As I discussed with the ambassador, discerning as an intelligence matter, assessing whether or not Syria has used chemical weapons, is a much easier technical matter than assessing whether or not Iran has a nuclear capability, which is all behind closed doors. Much harder, and certainly, in terms of, you know, this kind of error tight case and prove, much harder to access. If he fails to act now, what do you think is the message to the mullahs in Tehran?
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think the message is that he -- as Amy and Brit said it, this is not a president who wants to start another war, that's the way he sees it. I think it's totally irresponsible for the American president to have that. Nobody wants to start wars, but you've got to do what you've got to do. And it doesn't really matter if the public is at 39 percent, at 60 percent. I mean really? This is -- what is happening in Syria is a very serious matter. I mean what's going to -- it's the spillover effect, setting aside 75,000 people killed, which incidentally one point in time, liberals and Democrats cared about. You know, there once was a liberal internationalist wing of the Democratic Party, Chuck Lane is the last representative of it, probably. I mean that actually thought, maybe U.S. should use its power to prevent this kind of slaughter from happening. But the actual effects in Jordan and in Iraq, where we spent a lot of treasury to achieve the reasonable outcome, the president then didn't secure any troops there now, and now there's a huge danger of this spilling over into Iraq, and throughout the Middle East, and then the effect in Iran I think is very serious. I think it emboldens the mullahs. And I think it was very significant this week that Amos Yadlin who is the former head of military intelligence in Israel, who was closed to Netanyahu, said we only have a few months now to deal with Iran. I think Israel now probably feels they have to deal with Iran on their own and can't wait for the president.
CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, there's another aspect that involves Iran, and that's the fact that Iran is a very close ally of the Assad regime, and according to reports now, is pouring its support into propping him up militarily, and mobilizing Hezbollah out of Lebanon, to send their fighters into Syria, raising the prospect that at the end of all, this Assad could actually win this thing and impose his will on that country.
WALLACE: So you're saying that that's another reason why we should intervene?
LANE: It's another reason that I think pushes in that direction, because it -- what we have here is a situation where Iran could see itself, if Assad succeeds in surviving at least, as having intimidated or frightened the United States into staying out of the area.
WALLACE: Now, let me just pick up one last thing, we're run out of time, Bill, and I want to ask you, as the person who's urging action, there are no good choices, as I discussed with the ambassador. If you bomb, as he said, you could be complicit in a war crime of dispersing the chemical weapons. If you try to secure them, you're putting boots on the ground in the middle of a civil war. If you arm the rebels, there are growing stories that a growing percentage of the rebels are tied to Al Qaeda. So, what do you do?
KRISTOL: It would have been easier two years ago, but you do what you think is best, bases as -- you're commander in chief, you've got an awful lot of options, covert and overt. And I think you've got to -- it's understandable to err on the side of caution, but now we're paying much more of a price for inaction than action.
HUME: There is -- something to be said for doing something, that if they cross a line you've got to do something. Now, whatever it is, it may not directly affect the chemical weapons use, but if it directly affects and harms the regime's prospects in the war, that would at least be a consequence. It would at least keep his red line pledge from being hollow. So, a no-fly zone would do that. And no-- fly zones are expensive and to some extent dangerous.
WALLACE: And you've also got Syrian anti-aircraft, which is a lot ...
HUME: That is true, but it's not -- this isn't mission impossible. It's just a costly military enterprise of the kind that this president now seems to loath to undertake.
WALLACE: All right, we're going to take a break here, but when we come back, five presidents set aside political differences and gather for the dedication of George W. Bush's presidential library.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: It's a great pleasure to be here. In honor of our son, our oldest son.
OBAMA: When all the living former presidents are together, it's also a special day for our democracy.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: My mother told me not to talk too long today. And Barbara, I will not let you down.
WALLACE: Here's after he left office, his policies take on a new perspective. Next we'll ask our Sunday panel about the legacy of George W. Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERON: I couldn't be the activist I'm today if I didn't have this spotlight.
WALLACE: In 2007 she started the Africa Outreach Program.
THERON: The fight for something like stopping AIDS and HIV, or a violence against women.
WALLACE: Stay tuned. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: It's an honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave and as noble as the United States. Whatever challenges come before us I will always believe our nation's best days lie ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President George W. Bush getting emotional this week at the dedication of his presidential library in Texas. And we're back now with the panel.
Well, Bush 43 left office with the low approval ratings, on general criticism from presidential historians. If you believe the polls, Brit, and we've got one of them that we're going to put up on the screen, his standing has dramatically improved in the last four-plus years. Your view. Forget the polls. How do you think the Bush presidency looks from this vantage point?
HUME: Well, I think in many ways it looks better than it did. The financial crisis is largely over. A recovery of sorts is underway. People may now judge the steps he took, which was so hugely controversial at the time were necessary and proper. We now know in light of what happened in Boston that, you know, the lack of a terrorist attack on us is not automatic. They recognize, perhaps, people that he succeeded in preventing a further terrorist attack -- successful terrorist attack on the homeland. And finally there's the contrast between his, I think, quite seemly behavior since he's been out of office, his dignified silence in the face of constant efforts to blame him for everything that's gone wrong, I think that's helped. And there's a national mellowing of public sentiment toward a president who's been out of the public eye over time. But I think his results are looking better in people's eyes.
WALLACE: Amy, President Obama at the event spoke very graciously about his predecessor, but the fact is that for much of his time in office President Obama has attacked and blamed President Bush for the economy, for his, quote, mismanagement of two wars. Does Bush 43 continue to be a good pinata for Democrats in the way that Jimmy Carter has been for so long for Republicans?
WALTER: The irony, of course, is he continues to be a pinata for Republicans. Remember it was the Bush presidency in many ways that brought the rise of the Tea Party. There were many Republicans, right, who came in and said, look, we've lost our way, we lost our way on fiscal issues, and we are not going to be part of that establishment anymore, and the Bush name equals establishment now.
Barack Obama is president today not because of the campaign that McCain ran, but because he ran against George W. Bush. That was pretty clear. But I think the interesting thing about that dedication, and it goes back to the points that we were all making around the table earlier, is the fact that the term Afghanistan and Iraq were never uttered throughout -- not by George W. Bush, not by anybody, who spoke there. So his legacy still defined by Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet even at that dedication it's not something that is talked about. That's going to take much longer time in terms of history. In terms of the day to day, I think that, you know, it is now President Obama's economy. It is now President Obama's presidency. Those attacks don't hold as much weight.
WALLACE: You know, Bill, the dedication of the library, of course, comes just after, as Brit pointed out, the biggest terrorist attack on the homeland since 9/11. Does that change people's view of President Bush, the fact that on his watch, after 9/11, he kept the country safe?
KRISTOL: Yeah, I think it could. And I do think that's -- I didn't know that Iraq hadn't been mentioned at all. It should have been mentioned. And one thing above all, should have been mentioned, the surge. That was a courageous act by the American president in the national interest against his -- against public opinion, against what would probably be perceived as his own and his party's political interest, bitterly attacked, savaged, by the Democrats in Congress, he sustained it when people thought he couldn't, it was the right thing to do, it worked. It unequivocally worked. When he left office in the end of 2008, Iraq was stable and safe. And if he hadn't -- if he had followed the Democrats' opinions, Iraq in 2007 would have been what Syria is today, but it's worse even, actually, and the consequences would have been catastrophic. So, I -- everyone else can avoid talking about -- and Afghanistan, exactly, was that a controversial war? Did I miss the Democrats' efforts from 2001 to 2008 to get us out of Afghanistan? I mean, we can rewrite history now and pretend oh, we can't talk about Afghanistan and Iraq, they were so controversial. In both cases, he did the right thing. And the surge was a genuinely courageous and admirable thing to do.
WALLACE: Writ large, do you agree on Iraq?
LANE: Well, I think the surge was a brave call in both political and an operational sense. For many of the reasons Bill said, but it's undeniable that was a move he made to salvage a war that wasn't working, and that had not worked out the way he and his advisers foresaw that it would. There's just no -- there's no getting around that. But, again, it's true -- you can always -- it's easier politically sometimes to cut and run. So I give him some credit for the surge as Bill does. You know, that whole number, the 47 and 50, we saw, that could just reflect the polarization of the country. You know, the 50/50 America. You tell Americans ...
HUME: He's on 40 -- I mean it's a 40 percent increase of the approval rating he enjoyed when he left office.
WALLACE: Not to do with the 33 points when he left office. Now, he's down three points. Anyway, your thoughts. I want to get your sense. The strengths, the weaknesses of the Bush presidency.
LANE: Well, you know, we haven't talked much about the economy. Except to the extent that I think Bill is right on TARP, that was something that he sort of had to do, again like the emergency, and it worked, it worked much better than a lot of people thought.
WALLACE: I think President Obama continued it.
LANE: Yes, but I think ...
HUME: And takes credit for it.
LANE: What I was going to say is that the tax cuts, particularly the second round, you look at them in hindsight, we might have been able to do without them, particularly the way that the deficit developed later on. I think there's been some exaggeration in terms of Bush's fault on the deficit. But I don't think those big cuts to capital gains look so great.
WALLACE: I want to talk about one other thing, because there's been a lot of talk about Jeb Bush, the president's brother, 41's son, former Florida governor, running for president in 2016. There was some opposition to that surrounding the ceremony from an unlikely source. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIRST LADY BARBARA BUSH: He's by far the best qualified man, but no, I really don't. I think this is a great country. There are a lot of great families. And it's not just for families or whatever. There are just -- there are other people out there that are very qualified. And we've had enough Bushes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Brit, you know the Bushes well, particularly that generation, 41 and Barbara Bush.
WALLACE: I did not say that, but you covered them. Anyway, what do you make of her comment?
HUME: This is absolutely what I would have expected from Barbara Bush. She suffered terribly when the slings and arrows were being aimed first at her husband, then at her son, and then to whatever extent it was to her other son who was -- and I think she's fed up and had long had enough of her men being on the firing line. But I think in terms of the public's estimation, that cycles are accelerated these days, and the country may now indeed be ready for another Bush. And if you think about Jeb Bush, he doesn't particularly look like either of his -- either his father or his brother. He's a different breed of cat outwardly at least. He has some of the same qualities, traditional views and gentlemanliness and so on. I think if he decides that he wants to run, he will be a formidable candidate.
WALLACE: OK. Let me just ask you, Amy, as our source from The Cook Political Report, one, do you think that the Bush last name, which was seen as, you know, an impossible barrier for Jeb Bush, for instance, in 2012, do you think that that has diminished? Do you think that he would be able, not only to win a nomination, but also a general election, and do you think he'll run?
WALTER: I think his last name isn't as problematic as the fact that it's his last name, plus the last name of his likely opponent, which is Clinton. It's not just that it's a Bush running, it would be a Bush versus a Clinton. That we get into the, oh, my gosh, are we really going back there? Do I think he's going to run? At the end of the day, I don't know that he's going to actually do this, but I think if you put his name on paper, all of his attributes, didn't put a last name to it, both sides would say that's the perfect candidate for a Republican nominee.
WALLACE: All right. Thank you, panel. See you next week. And don't forget to check out Panel Plus where our group picks right up with the discussion on our website FoxnewsSunday.com and make sure to follow us on Twitter @ Foxnewssunday.
One more thing, they held the White House Correspondents Dinner last night, Washington reporters get a chance to hobnob with Hollywood stars, but as usual the highlight was the president's speech. There was one big difference this year. No hail to the chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. How do you like my new entrance music?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Rush Limbaugh, I warned you about this. Second term, baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: A good time was had by all. Up next, our power player of the week.
WALLACE: It's called celeb advocacy, famous people coming to Washington to push for their cause. We sat down the other day with a special person, who has been trying to save lives, millions of lives, for years. She's our power player of the week.
THERON: Very hard to ignore that kind of pain and suffering, unnecessary pain and suffering, when it comes to a virus that's completely preventable.
WALLACE: Charlize Theron is talking about HIV/AIDS, the progress that's been made and the work that still needs to be done.
THERON: You all get to decide what you want to do to make something in your world better.
WALLACE: Worldwide 7,000 people are infected, and 4500 still die every day. And yet, she says, there's been so much progress.
THERON: The access to antiretroviral drugs in South Africa has leaped to 75 percent. I mean, that's huge. And that's just in two years.
We're looking at our first AIDS-free generation by 2015. We're so close to really looking at the beginning of the end of AIDS.
WALLACE: Theron was in Washington as part of UNAIDS, which is leading the fight against the disease. Michel Sidibe is an executive director.
MICHEL SIDIBE, UNAIDS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: President Bush took back decision to bring a sense of urgency by saying that we cannot accept that in the north people will have access to medication, in the south people will die because they don't have access to those medicines. It changed completely the course of this epidemic.
WALLACE: Which brings us to money. The U.S. contributes $5 billion of the $16 billion spent each year fighting AIDS. Theron is lobbying for a bigger contribution.
THERON: I think a lot of Americans think that foreign aid is a huge percentage of the budget of America, but it really is less than one percent.
WALLACE (on camera): You're not a Washington insider, but I'm sure you know, we got budget problems.
THERON: I understand that very clearly that people look at me and think that maybe very naively I don't understand this stuff, but when I realize that it's less than one percent, there's something about the effectiveness of that that I don't want to lose.
WALLACE (voice over): Born and raised in South Africa, Theron has been fighting this battle for more than 20 years. At age 15, she saw her mother shoot and kill her alcoholic father who threatened the family. She started speaking out about rape and AIDS.
THERON: There are so many people who care about you. Isn't it a great feeling to know that you're not alone?
WALLACE: In 2007, she started the Africa Outreach Program, sending mobile health clinics to villages to teach young people about AIDS prevention and treatment.
(on camera): How much of your focus on violence against women and children comes from your own personal history?
THERON: Well, look, in my business, the film-making business, there's always a saying, you know, you can't tell a story effectively if you don't emotionally tap into it. I do have a personal connection to that.
WALLACE (voice over): She's gratified to see teenagers who used to ignore prevention now leading the fight against AIDS, and she's determined to use her celebrity to do some good.
THERON: I feel like a mother in the sense that I've watched them grow up. I couldn't be the activist I am today if I didn't have this spotlight, which, you know, sometimes is about my haircut. And I'm trying to maybe other times make it about the fight for something like stopping AIDS and HIV, or a violence against women.
WALLACE: While Theron is asking the U.S. for more money to fight AIDS, she knows other countries are starting to pick up their share of the burden, including a $2 billion commitment from South Africa. And that's it for today. Have a great week. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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