Just 2 days after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, we’ll discuss Trump’s first weekend in office in an exclusive sit down with Reince Priebus. His first Sunday interview as White House Chief of Staff.
Will campaign against ISIS unite a divided Congress?
Written by John Roberts / Published September 14, 2014 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Jack Reed , Denis McDonough, Gen. Michael Hayden
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," September 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm John Roberts in for Chris Wallace.
ISIS extremists release another execution video, this time of a British aid worker.
And President Obama takes his ISIS strategy to the American people, announcing an expanded military operation in Iraq and Syria.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our objective is clear: we will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.
ROBERTS: We'll break down the president's plan with White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough.
But are airstrikes enough to defeat the jihadists?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OH, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: An F-16 is not a strategy. And the president has made clear that he doesn't want U.S. boots on the ground. Well, somebody's boots have to be on the ground.
ROBERTS: We'll ask former CIA and NSA director, General Michael Hayden, who says the president's strategy is lacking.
And we'll get reaction from two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed.
And, the NFL launches an independent investigation into the Roger Goodell's handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case.
We'll discuss the continued fallout with attorney Wendy Murphy and sports caster Jim Gray, who calls the scandal a massive failure in judgment.
Plus, is Hillary Clinton beginning to mobilize her 2016 campaign? Our Sunday panel weighs in.
All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."
ROBERTS: And hello again, from Fox News in Washington.
Islamic State jihadists have released a third video as a proclaimed warning to American allies. It shows the execution of British aid worker David Haines, who was abducted in Syria in 2013 while working for an international aid agency organization helping the Syrian people.
Joining us from London with the very latest on all of this is senior foreign affairs correspondent, Amy Kellogg.
Amy, good morning to you.
AMY KELLOGG, FOX NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Well, the U.K.'s Cobra or emergency government meeting has just broken up with Prime Minister David Cameron vowing now more than ever that the U.K. will continue its fight against ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: David has been murdered in the most callous and brutal way imaginable by an organization which is the embodiment of evil. We will hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice, no matter how long it takes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KELLOGG: David Haines, the 44-year-old British aid worker and father of two, had been delivering humanitarian aid in Syria when he was kidnapped last year. Haines' brother issued a statement that David was most alive and enthusiastic in his humanitarian roles. Now, as soon as the news broke late last night, British Prime Minister David Cameron rushed back to 10 Downing Street. He called Haines' killing a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker.
President Obama issued a statement last night as well, expressing outrage at Haines' killing, adding, "The U.S. stands shoulder to shoulder with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve."
And, John, of course, President Obama reiterated his goal of bringing together a broad, international coalition to fight ISIS, the U.S., though, clearly on the lead on this effort. At this point, Britain is not involved in air strikes and has ruled out, John, at this point boots on the ground -- John.
ROBERTS: We, of course, will be talking at length about that this morning.
Amy Kellogg in London -- Amy, thanks so much. Good to see you.
This latest execution comes just days after President Obama delivered a primetime address to roll out his plan to defeat ISIS. It involves broader air strikes in Iraq and strikes in Syria.
Earlier, I sat down with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to discuss the president's ISIS strategy.
ROBERTS: Denis, good to have you with us this morning. Thanks for coming in.
DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Thanks for having me, John.
ROBERTS: The White House has, for the last few days, been playing the semantic game over whether we are at war or not after the release of this latest video of David Haines being decapitated. Is there any doubt as to whether we're at war?
MCDONOUGH: Well, I don't know what semantic game you're referring to, but we've been very clear from the start that this is serious business. You heard Josh Earnest said that on Friday, and in as much as we've been at war with al Qaeda since the first days we got into this office, we obviously in similar fashion are at war with ISIL. What we've also said is this not going to be like the Iraq war, we're not talking about tens of thousands of troops on the ground, but rather, we're talking about us using our unique capabilities of airpower, of ISR, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and supporting those on the ground who are fighting ISIL, including in Syria, the Syrian opposition that's fighting ISIL right now.
We're very gratified to see the kind of progress we are making on the Hill right now, with Republican and Democrats, thanks for the speaker and others, in passing hopefully this week the president's proposal to train and equip that Syrian opposition that's fighting ISIL right now.
ROBERTS: When I talk about semantics -- I mean, the secretary of state one day comes out and clearly says I wouldn't describe this as a war, it's the wrong terminology, it's the wrong analogy to use. I don't want people to get into a war, (INAUDIBLE) about this. And then the next day, the White House and the Pentagon are both talking about yes, we're at war with ISIS in the same way that we're at war with al Qaeda around the world.
So, there's been a change of messaging here that occurred over the course of about 12 to 24 hours. Why the change in messaging?
MCDONOUGH: Now, I think we've been pretty clear and we'll continue to be clear about exactly what we're going to do and how we're going to do it, and the disciplined fashion on which we're going to carry it out to ensure that we degrade and ultimately destroy this menacing organization called ISIL.
ROBERTS: This latest tape, one thug with a knife and a camera basically is now terrorizing two nations, two American hostages killed, now, a British hostage killed, another one being threatened. With all the resources at the president's disposal, and those at the United Kingdom as well, can you give the American people one reason why this guy is continuing to do this?
MCDONOUGH: Well, we're obviously outraged at the behavior and we've made clear our determination to make sure that we are taking every step possible to protect our people, and then to make sure that the long arm of American justice finds and brings to justice those who perpetrate such action. That's exactly what we're going to do here, John.
ROBERTS: But that's a -- that's kind of a long goal. What can you do in the immediate to get this guy? Is there no way you can go in and stop this guy from doing what he's talking --
MCDONOUGH: I've said on your show before that we do what we say and we say what we do. That's what we're going to do here.
ROBERTS: Now, when you look at what the families are going through, there's another family that has to heard about the tape of a loved one being beheaded. I don't know if you've seen the pictures, but David Haines has a young child. And what these families are going through is just unimaginable.
Yet we hear from the families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, that when they met with the White House, they were told -- don't you dare try to ransom your hostage, because you'll be prosecuted if you do that. And they're very upset about the way that the White House handled this.
Why would the White House say something like that to them?
MCDONOUGH: Well, as a father myself, I can only imagine the very difficult circumstances that the Foley and so the Sotloff families are going there. My heart goes out to them and my prayers are with them, obviously.
In terms of what was communicated to the families in the midst of many, many meetings, over the course of this very difficult circumstance, we obviously made clear that what the law is. Now, we didn't threaten anybody, but we made clear what the law is. That's our responsibility to make sure that we explain the law and uphold the law.
ROBERTS: They interpret it as a threat.
MCDONOUGH: The third thing -- the third thing that's really important here is that we took every effort and will continue to take every effort to secure our people. That included an operation that has now been made public that the president himself said was risky and flawlessly carried out in a very daring fashion by our military. Hundreds of people in a multiunit, multiplatform effort, which is something about which we're all very proud, but still haunted by the fact that we were not able to find our people and to rescue them.
ROBERTS: Is there any way you can go back and try that again? Or --
MCDONOUGH: If there is, we will. If there is, we will. If there is, we will.
ROBERTS: Let's take a look at the overall plan here, because there's some skepticism on Capitol Hill as to whether or not this is going to work. Let's listen to what the speaker of the House said about that earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I'm not sure that we're doing all we can do to defeat this terrorist threat. And if our goal is to eliminate ISIL, there's a lot of doubt whether the plan that was outlined by the president last night is enough to accomplish that mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, let's look at the way that this is going to work, Mr. McDonough. You alluded to this a little bit earlier. You hope to stand up Iraqi forces and work with Syrian rebels. Iraqi forces cut and ran earlier this year in the faces of the ISIS threat, and there are elements within the Free Syrian Army which seem to shift allegiances almost on a weekly basis. So, how exactly is this going to work?
MCDONOUGH: Well, obviously, we're gratified by all the effort that the speaker has undertaken. Just in the course of the last week, he and the president has very good meeting, at the White House Tuesday, with the other leaders.
And we're seeing very good progress in Congress, including in the House under the speaker's leadership, to make sure that we have the authorities to train and equip those Syrian oppositionists on the ground who are fighting ISIL. That's important because the alternative, as you know, John, as you're alluding, everybody believes that there has to be some anvil, some force, some ground force on the ground taking the fight to ISIL.
So, if it's not the Syrian operation, trained and equipped by the United States, authorized by Congress and the president, if Congress takes a step this week, it will have to be U.S. troops. The president has made a decision on that. We're not going to do that.
So, since that's not -- that's not what we're going to do, we ought to make sure that the Syrians are taking this fight, which is their fight, to ISIL. That's exactly what we're going to do. The Iraqis are going to do the same thing.
By the way, you referenced the fact that the Iraqi security forces did not perform as they should have earlier this year. There's no doubt about that.
ROBERTS: That was after years of training and millions upon millions of American dollars being spent to do it.
MCDONOUGH: And that's after, unfortunately, years of leadership from Prime Minister Maliki that was sectarian in nature that pushed out Sunnis when he should have been working with Sunnis. That's why the president was very prudent and very disciplined in how we used our force so that we could move Maliki out and get a multi-ethnic government in Baghdad, so that that multi-ethnic government will underscore and support their multiethnic forces and those multiethnic forces will take the fight on the ground to ISIL.
ROBERTS: Might you run into a situation where the old adage, if you want something done right, do it yourself, where you will have to use American ground troops because the Iraqis and the Free Syrian Army just won't be up to the task. I mean, there are reports of former commanders in the Free Syrian Army now commanding Islamist brigades, there's been word of an nonaggression pact between elements of the Free Syrian Army and ISIS.
Can you be guaranteed that these people on the ground will do what you need them to do?
MCDONOUGH: I just read a report myself on the way over here, John, that this suggestion of a nonaggression pact that you are referring to is not true. That's one.
Two, ultimately, this is a fight within Islam, within Sunni Islam. That's why we know that ultimately to defeat and ultimately destroy ISIL, something that is not only in our interest but in the interest of the countries in the region, they are going to need to take the fight to it.
That's what we'll do. We'll build, we'll lead, we'll undergird, and we'll strengthen that coalition. But ultimately, they're going to help us beat them on the ground.
ROBERTS: So, this issue of U.S. boots on the ground and no U.S. boots on the ground, there's already about 1,000 U.S. forces in the area. General Michael Hayden had an op-ed the other day in which he said between training Syrian forces up, between running the air war from the ground, you'll probably need about a brigade size force, about 5,000 people there, would you dispute that notion?
MCDONOUGH: Here's what I will say. We as the president announced to the country earlier in the summer, we sent in assessment teams to look at what was happening with the Iraqi security forces, what they needed and how we could be able to strengthen them for this fight against ISIL, a fight as I said that is every bit as much theirs as it is ours, and what those defense --
ROBERTS: But would you dispute the notion that you'll need 5,000 --
MCDONOUGH: What those assessment teams came bake with is a series of options. And we're carrying that out right now. We've added, as you suggested, another about 500 troops that the president announced in the speech on Wednesday night. That brings to about a little north of 14,000 I think -- 1,400 the number of troops that we have on the ground, 1,400 carrying out missions to protect our people where they are in Irbil and in Baghdad and at the Baghdad international airport and carrying out this effort to train and equip and make more effective the Iraqi security forces.
ROBERTS: Would you dispute the notion that you need about 5,000, about a brigade by the time that this is all underway?
MCDONOUGH: You're referencing an op-ed that I guess was written by General Hayden, that I have not seen. I'm telling you exactly what we're doing now and that's how we're going to carry it out, in a disciplined absolutely fashion.
ROBERTS: But there are American troops on the ground in the country. MCDONOUGH: There are American troops on the ground in Iraq. Those groups are not on the ground in a combat role. Both they are on the ground in a training role and a role to protect U.S. diplomats and U.S. personnel on the ground in the Baghdad International Airport in Baghdad itself, and in Irbil in the north of the country. That's the function they're carrying out.
ROBERTS: And will there eventually be U.S. personnel on the ground in Syria.
MCDONOUGH: The president made very clear to the country on Wednesday night that the ground forces in Syria will be Syrian opposition ground forces. That's why it's so important for Congress to enact that effort this week.
ROBERTS: I understand that combat forces will be Syrian? But will there be American advisers, trainers, whatever, Syria, at some point?
MCDONOUGH: The president has been clear that the ground forces on the ground in Syria will be Syrian.
ROBERTS: So, can you say today there will never be an American troop on the ground in Syria?
MCDONOUGH: I can say today, John, exactly what we're doing, what the president's strategy is, and what we've just outlined, which is that we using our unique capability, airpower, ISR, and training and enhancing and equipping of those forces on the ground. We'll do our part, but we're going to lead an international coalition that includes Muslim and Sunni Muslim states taking this fight to ISIL. This fight is every their -- every bit as much theirs as it is ours.
ROBERTS: Denis McDonough, thanks for your time. Thanks very much for being with us today.
MCDONOUGH: Thanks, John.
ROBERTS: Now, let's bring in the former director of the CIA and NSA, General Michael Hayden.
General Hayden, welcome back to "Fox News SUNDAY." Thanks so much for being with us.
You heard what Mr. McDonough had to say there about troops, first of all, let me ask you, do you believe at some point, we will have to have U.S. forces in some capacity on the ground in Syria?
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA AND NSA DIRECTOR: Well, I think we will at some point. It might be through offer action. The president referred to the Syrian opposition just a few months ago as pharmacists, and doctors and so on. We've turned on the dime in terms of our expect aches for them, so if we're going to get them to this force that he said it was fantasy to rely on to the force that's going to be, as Denis said, be the anvil in a combined arms operation, they're going to need an awful lot of help.
ROBERTS: Let's talk about the size of the troop force. Mr. McDonough said that he had not taking the opportunity to read the op-ed that you had in The Washington Times the other day. How many U.S. forces do you think will have to be committed to this fight in the overall?
HAYDEN: Right. Right now, I mean, Denis admitted, we've got about 1,400 personnel in Iraq -- I mean, armed, armored, wearing boots on the ground, and the line is going up. We plus that up by about 500 over the past week.
It's my estimation, John, that by the time all the dust settles, for the roles that these forces have to play -- and I'm not talking about American combat maneuver units here, but in terms of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, logistics, advice, command and control assistance, tactical air control parties, look, I'm betting we're up close to 5,000 by the end of the year.
ROBERTS: You really had the quote of the week, General Hayden, earlier when you were speaking with the publication in which you said of the president's plan, quote, "The reliance on airpower has all of the attraction of casual sex. It seems to offer gratification, but with very little commitment."
Could you expand on your comments?
HAYDEN: Sure. Look, the airpower thing is good. I'm 39 years an American airman. The American air force, American air force, because they'll be naval aviation there as well, is going to perform magnificently and we're to punish the Islamic State. We're going to push the Islamic back with airpower.
But I don't think anyone believes -- Denis told you he didn't believe that airpower alone will be sufficient to achieve what the president has set out with regard to our objectives.
Now, the president in saying we're going to use airpower also said we're not going to do a whole bunch of other things. That sent a message to the American people, it might have made some Americans comfortable, but it also sent a message to our enemies. I think that made them comfortable and it sent a message to our allies, and I think it made them uncomfortable.
When you just rely on airpower, when you make airpower the centerpiece of what you're going to do, people don't doubt your strength, they doubt your intention, they doubt your will. Are you in this all in or not?
ROBERTS: So, how do you see this plan working then to stand up these Iraqi national guard units. I know it was more a function of leadership that they cut and ran earlier this year, in addition to the Free Syrian Army, elements of which may be with us one week and against us the next week. Do you think this plan can work?
HAYDEN: Well, I certainly hope it can work. I'm much more comfortable with what our country is doing today than I was, say, 96 hours ago. I think we're on the right trajectory, but you ask about ground forces. I think you can tier them, John. The most confident and I think the ones that will be most reliable will be the Kurds, the Peshmerga.
And then I think there's a significant gap down to the regular Iraqi army. I think we'll get some units there that will be able to operate well and independently, but not all.
And the third group and this is most difficult of all is the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian opposition. Here, in talking about real, organized sustained substantial combat power, we're kind of starting from zero to create that kind of force. And that -- that is the result of an American policy not to help that group over the last three years.
ROBERTS: General, if you are a betting man, and I were to ask you to lay a wager, would you bet this plan works or will we eventually have to go to U.S. combat forces on the ground to get the job done?
HAYDEN: I actually think we're going to end up with small American special operations forces active in this broad theater, both Iraq and Syria. I don't think you get American maneuver units on the ground, though I must admit two former commanders at CentCom, Jim Mattis and Tony Zinni, have suggested that may exactly be what we have to end up with. Right now, I'm not there. But, John, I do think we get to about 5,000 by the end of the year.
Let me put another sense of scale on this. This is three to five years. This is three to five years even if we are successful.
ROBERTS: General Hayden, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for taking the time this morning.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Is the president's strategy enough to defeat ISIS? More on that a little later on.
And after a week of scandal and uproar, some are asking commissioner Roger Goodell, does the National Football League have a culture problem? Sports commentator Jim Gray and attorney Wendy Murphy will join us to discuss that, coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL GRANT, ASST DA, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TX: Montgomery County grand jury indicted Adrian Peterson for the charge of injury to a child. The mental state that's reflected in the indictment is that he did so with criminal negligence or recklessly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: A Texas district attorney announcing the indictment of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson on the charge of child abuse. This rounding out the week in which the National Football League has made headlines for all the wrong reasons, sort of highlighting what many view as a culture problem in professional sports.
Joining us now to discuss where the NFL goes from here is sportscaster and FOX News contributor Jim Gray and attorney and victim rights advocate Wendy Murphy, welcome to both of you.
And, Jim, let's start with you. This thing with Adrian Peterson, another big test for Roger Goodell and the NFL.
JIM GRAY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it sure is. You know, it's exactly what he and the league didn't need. Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the National Football League. This indictment and what is contained in it, it's very disturbing, that the little boy reportedly is afraid of his father, is afraid he's going to be hit in the face, says he has a whipping room, and now, Adrian Peterson says this is the way that he was raised, the course of discipline. It's just not a good story, and the bruises and lacerations that have been found on this child, it breaks your heart.
ROBERTS: Yes, Wendy, when you listen to Peterson's attorney, who said what Jim Gray did, that this is the way that Adrian Peterson was brought up. It's another classic case of the abused becomes the abuser, allegedly.
But speak to the bigger problem here that this presents to the NFL.
WENDY MURPHY, ATTORNEY: Yes. You know, there is a culture problem in the NFL with regard to not only violence against women and clearly children, but a culture of cover-up. And that's primarily because, like any institution and certainly like all sports industries, not just the NFL, they want to avoid scandal, because scandal hurts them at the bottom line. It ruins reputations, it affects their branding.
And the cover-up almost always works, and that's the problem. There has not been sufficient accountability or, as the old saying goes, sanctions are for second stringers.
So, if you're a really good player and you get in trouble, it gets broomed. It's that simple. There's very little outside accountability, because the NFL is so good at insulating itself from the sources of accountability that we otherwise would expect should step in -- prosecutors offices, police, Child Protective Services, so forth.
There's a problem in larger society, too, and I want to be clear about this.
ROBERTS: Sure. MURPHY: Goodell should take some heat, but there is a lower rate of domestic violence in the NFL compared to domestic violence in the real world, and we need to talk about larger society as well.
ROBERTS: Jim, let's move on to the Ray Rice case, because it was revealed by ESPN reporter Don Van Natta late last week, that in a meeting that Ray Rice and his agent, attorneys had with the NFL, he told Roger Goodell exactly what had happened in that elevator. There's also an Atlantic County police report, the details that Ray Rice hit Janay with his hand.
But Goodell said in that interview earlier this week, hey, there was some ambiguity in that meeting, which is why I took the more lenient action that I took at the beginning. Does Goodell really have a credibility problem here? And could that affect his job?
GRAY: It won't affect his job. There's zero appetite from the NFL owners. I've spoken to several of them personally. There have been a number of statements that have come out -- zero appetite, John, to fire Goodell unless they found that's not being truthful. He will not reassign, absolutely he will not resign.
A credibility problem? Yes, he's going to have to restore thinks credibility. But he also said in a letter to the players association, which they have yet to respond to, they have yet to say whether they'll file a grievance, the story that he was told was substantial different than what Ray Rice had come forward to tell him during that meeting.
So, while it's being reported otherwise elsewhere, the commissioner has said there's ambiguity on CBS, and he also said in this letter that it was a different story.
ROBERTS: Wendy, if there's no appetite among the owners for Roger Goodell to go, despite the fact that the National Organization for Women and others are calling for him to step down, what then can the NFL do in the short term and the long term to make this right?
MURPHY: Boy, the NFL can do so much. You know, it's one thing to say you're doing training programs and there's a zero-tolerance policy, which both the team owners and leadership has said for decades, after O.J. Simpson everybody claimed they understood now what domestic violence was and they saw the problem in the NFL and they were going to put policies in place to deal with it, and they really haven't done enough.
One of the problems I think is that it has always been about money, how do you change the culture? How do you make an industry that really benefits from these violent men continuing to be able to play? How do you turn that around and say some things are more important than money and we care about our fan base?
And our fan base is increasingly women and women are going to start stepping up saying, we won't buy tickets. We won't buy the shirts and the paraphernalia. We will hurt new your bottom line unless you take actions. I think we're starting to hear that battle cry now. And I do not agree with the National Organization for Women, let me be clear, that they have the moral authority to demand Roger Goodell step down, because they have not yet called for the prosecutor to step down. And the prosecutor is the number one voice.
If the prosecutor treats this kind of severe violence against women as a shoplifting charge, which is really what happened here, then everyone in society takes in the message, including Roger Goodell, including the team owners, including the guys, that this isn't that bad.
ROBERTS: Jim, a quick last question to you. If there's no appetite for Goodell to go and this has a problem for an awfully long time, what are the owners saying to you about finally getting it, getting a handle on it, and making sure they're more proactive about it?
GRAY: Well, they do have to get a handle on it, and they have tried, but you have to understand that they are dealing with people who -- these players and these guys who make these incursions, and have this wrongdoing is a very, very small minority. It's really wrong to paint the entire national football league and its players and its employees as people who are lawless. It's just not right.
Yes, maybe the numbers are higher than the rest of society, and yes, they do have a problem and yes, they need to continue to have vigilance and be much better at it. But to say that this is, you know, a universally widespread ongoing existence, a structural failure at the highest level of all of these people committing these crimes, that's just not true. And there's nothing to support that.
ROBERTS: All right. We've got to leave it there.
Jim, Wendy, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate seeing you this Sunday morning.
ROBERTS: Up next --
MURPHY: You bet.
ROBERTS: Up next, the president finally has a plan to take out ISIS, but some remain skeptical that it's a wining strategy. We'll talk with two leading senators from the Armed Services Committee, coming up next.
ROBERTS: We heard earlier from the White House, for what does Congress think about the president's plan to defeat ISIS and what role will they play in the weeks and months ahead. Joining us now from South Carolina's Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and here in the studio with me Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat. Senator Graham, let's start with you. Do you have any faith that the president's plan is going to work?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-SC, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Not much. There's probably a pony in that interview you did with Denis McDonough, but at the end of the day ISIL has to be encouraged about what was just said. When the White House tells the world we say what we mean and we do what we say, nobody believes that anymore. This is a turning point in the war in terror. We're fighting a terrorist army, not an organization. It's going to take an army to beat an army. And this idea we'll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy. And all this has come home to roost over the last three years of incompetent decisions, so to destroy ISIL, what I was told or what I heard in your interview won't even come close to destroy ISIL. It's delusional in the way they approach this.
ROBERTS: Senator Reed, some tough words there. What do you say?
SEN. JACK REED, D-RI, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Now, the president has proposed a comprehensive plan that recognizes this has to be ultimately the efforts of the local regional powers, particularly the Sunni government, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Republic. Also, the United Arab Emirates, rather. And Iraq particularly. And he is willing to use American airpower and American training efforts to empower these countries, but it's their fight. As Dennis pointed out, this is a battle within the Sunni community about where they're going.
ROBERTS: We know the plan, we know the plan, but will it work?
REED: I think the plan has great potential to work. First of all, there is the U.S. forces, airpower. Second with the cooperation of the Saudis, we're going to be training, and it's going to be done by the Department of Defense, military personnel, Syrians, to go back into Syria. Lindsey and I both support that effort. Then we're going to be hopefully backing up the Iraqis as they start re-claiming their territory, putting pressure on ISIL to either move forces back to Iraq to defend the territory that they have captured, or to pull back and let us take more Iraqi territory back.
So I think the plan is the best possible one, because it recognizes it's not just a full military struggle, it's also a political struggle.
ROBERTS: It is clearly a political struggle, in addition to a military struggle because you have to have an inclusive Iraqi government.
ROBERTS: That doesn't operate the way the Maliki government did, but Senator Graham, when it comes to Iraqi forces, Free Syrian Army rebels there, do you have any faith that they'll be up to the task in doing what needs to be done to defeat ISIS, ISIL? Whatever you want to call it?
GRAHAM: The first thing I want to tell the American people from my point of view, it is our fight. It is not just their fight. This is a radical Islamic army, that's pushing the theory of a master religion, not a master race like the Nazis. This is not about bringing a few people to justice who behead the innocent in a brutal fashion. It's about protecting millions of people throughout the world from a radical Islamic army, they're intending to come here. So, I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety. There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria, to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component. And to destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing and destroy their capability to regenerate. This is a war we're fighting, it is not a counterterrorism operation, this is not Somalia, this is not Yemen, this is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.
ROBERTS: All right. So, Senator Reed, Senator Graham is clearly saying there has to be an American combat contingent here to fight this. Will there have to be U.S. combat forces, special operators, something, maybe not large divisions, maneuvering divisions, but some component of American fighting forces to get this done?
REED: We have to mobilize the local forces on the ground, because we've found, I think, for the last ten years that the most effective fighting force on the ground ultimately is those indigenous troops, those local troops who are fighting for their own country, for their own future. If we make this an American fight, the Iraqis, the Saudis would be gladly step back and let us do as much as we can. That's what they did after the invasion of Iraq. We have to empower them, but they have to carry the fight to the enemy. This is a fight within the Sunni community, it's a fight that they have to win for their own self-interests, and we have to make it clear that that's the case. So our effort, and we can do this very effectively is to leverage our power, which is airpower, intelligence collectors, training. We'll be training with some of these units? Perhaps, trainers? Perhaps, but the idea of putting American combat brigades on the ground to fight the fight that is ultimately about the future of these countries and their success, I don't think that's the right approach.
And the other fact we have to recognize is there are multiple threats coming out of this area. There's the old al Qaeda, who is still trying to send individuals into the United States. There are thousands of lone wolves who could come back here, so the idea that ISIL itself is the only sort of thing we have to fear on attacks on the homeland is not accurate.
ROBERTS: Senator Graham, what do you say to the idea, which is exactly the flip side of your argument that if you do make this an American fight, you'll only attract more people to join ISIS, that the best way to handle this is for the indigenous forces to take back their own territory and kick these thugs out?
GRAHAM: Apparently nobody has been listening to what Senator McCain and I have been saying for the last three years. We said train the Free Syrian Army so they can take this fight on. Instead of training the Free Syrian Army, the president overruled his entire national security team and abandoned the Free Syrian Army. We're talking about an army now, not a real (ph) organization. 31,000 is the best guess, holding territory in Iraq and Syria the size of Indiana. And for anybody to suggest that we can do this with airpower alone or this is like imminent Somali is disingenuous and delusional. I want a regional coalition, I want the Free Syrian Army in the fight, I want Arab countries in the fight, but here's what I'm tired of hearing from this administration and my friends on the other side and within my party, that this is somehow easy and really not our fight. Name one Arab army you could put together anytime soon to deal with a terrorist army of over 30,000 without a substantial American commitment. Not the 82nd Airborne, but intelligence, Special Forces, to go in there and dig these guys out. I am tired of hearing from this administration how easy this is going to be, when it's going to be hard and the consequences of losing my friend, is if they survive our best shot, this is the last best chance, to knock him out, then they will open the gates of hell to spill out on the world. This is not a Sunni versus Sunni problem, this is ISIL versus mankind.
ROBERTS: Senator Graham unfortunately is not fired up this morning. Senator Reed, we have to leave it there.
REED: Well, let me just say -- that no one is suggesting this is going to be easy. But we are suggesting the best ways to do it is have the most people who are in the region with our help, airpower, training, et cetera. And one of the dichotomies here is, everyone is talking about, well, we don't need no boots on the ground, but we're going to have to put a lot of Americans on the ground. We have to be very clear.
ROBERTS: Senator Reed -- Senator Reed, Senator Graham, thank you so much for joining us this morning. I really appreciate it.
Coming up next, our Sunday group weighs in on the president's ISIS plan.
Plus, what would you like to ask the panel? Just go to Facebook or Twitter at Fox News Sunday, and we may use your question on the air. Stay tuned for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Everybody believes that there has to be some anvil, some force, some ground force on the ground taking the fight to ISIL. So, if it's not the Syrian opposition trained and equipped by the United States, authorized by Congress and the president, if Congress takes the steps, it will have to be U.S. troops. The president has made a decision on that. We're not going to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: White House chief of staff Denis McDonough reiterating that U.S. troops will not have a combat role in the operation against ISIS, even though they may be on the ground there in some form or another. Time now for our Sunday group Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst, "USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers, GOP strategist Karl Rove, and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
Let's talk about the language and the messaging coming out of the White House. Laura sends us a question on Twitter -- she says why are we at war today when we weren't at war yesterday? Let me throw up a jump ball there.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we are at war. And the administration hates the idea, because this is the president who said he was here to end wars. So they want to call it something else, but it hardly matters. So I mean I think this whole thing has been kind of a -- it's a problematic exercise, in the sense that when people around the world are making the decision about whether to sign up, to participate in this undertaking, and the United States is trying to minimize it, and the minimize the American role, it's not the kind of thing that encourages you to say, well, these guys are obviously all in, they're the strongest, I'm going to get on -- they're going to be the winning team, I want to join it. So, I think it's regrettable from that point of view.
ROBERTS: Kirsten, is the White House minimizing the role here?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: I don't think at this point they are. And I agree, I don't think it matters that much what we call this. The White House has finally come around, it took a little while, but they have finally come around with the president's speech, I think, to say this is a very serious threat that they are, you know, taking various steps to address, and let's -- I also think if you look at -- there has been some success already if you look at Iraq, and the president -- airstrikes that the president ordered did actually roll back ISIS to a certain extent. So I think when I hear people suggesting that the president hasn't taken it seriously or isn't doing anything to combat this is just an incorrect statement.
ROBERTS: Yeah, Karl, the president is relying on the authorizations for use of military force that President Bush had signed in 2001 and 2002 to do this. And he's not going to Congress to ask for authorization. Would it be politically impalatable eight weeks before midterm election to ask Congress for authorization even more?
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, we faced this trouble in 2002, we didn't want to have a vote on the authorization to take place in a political environment. We were forced by Daschle to do so. President Bush wanted to have a congressional buy-in, even though there were arguments to be made that the 2001 authority gave us the authority to go into Iraq. So, I can argue this one around -- I can argue it flat -- I think the president would be better getting congressional buy-in and it would be better if it came after the election. I do want to say one thing. You do not expect the world to ride to an uncertain trumpet. And this is an uncertain trumpet. And I'm glad the president did what he did on Wednesday night. I support the outlines of this policy, though I have severe doubts about whether or not it's going to work, but a minor drama is revealing in my mind. John Kerry, Secretary of State John Kerry goes out and says this week, refuses to say that it's a war. And the White House decides very quickly, we've got to clean that up, but what was interesting to me was rather than saying let's call the secretary of state and get him to go and clean out his own mess, the White House undermines their own secretary of state by sending out the press secretary to correct the secretary of state.
Now, I don't know whether that was deliberate, in which case it is let's undermine our secretary of state, who is supposedly tried to get the world pull together. Or it's just incompetence that they didn't understand they were undermining them. And that's what worries me, is in the roll-out of this thing, there's a tension, we heard it earlier, between the goals, airpower, Syria, arm and train, and the reluctance to have U.S. personnel involved in making those effective. A larger number than 1400 people are going to be necessary to make those effective. And they're not going to be in the Green Zone in Baghdad. They're going to be in the front lines and they are going to be on the cutting edge of this conflict.
ROBERTS: How much appetite is there in the Democratic Party, Juan, to have American forces if not in an active combat role, at least close to the frontlines as Karl suggests they have to be to get this done?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Almost no appetite whatsoever. I mean there's clearly on the party of the American people, we have seen this in the polling, John, over the last week or so, a sharp increase in people saying we need to be involved, we need to take ISIS seriously. These beheadings, have really, I think, outraged people, they have seen it as beyond terrorism, they see it as somehow prime evil. It's just all... ROBERTS: Medieval.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, but let me just quickly say here, that, you know, all this talk about are we at war, are we not at war? I think that the person who e-mailed it in has it exactly right. You know -- yesterday we are, today we are not. I think Republicans focus on this rhetoric, on this sort of semantic conversation, because the fact is they don't have any real ideas for doing anything very much differently than what the president is doing. The president in fact, I remember people saying, Prime Minister Cameron of Britain, he is so much more a strong leader type of person than President Obama. I noticed this week the British are not helping us. They are not getting in the fight. They're willing to hold our coat, but not willing to get in the fight.
ROBERTS: Cameron may have changed his mind in the last 12 hours.
WILLIAMS: Let's hope he does. And with the Congress, the president said he would welcome a vote in Congress, but you know what, I think it's Republicans as well as Democrats, on the Congress' part, who don't want any part of having someone say you authorized this war, it's your responsibility.
ROBERTS: We've got to take a break here. When we come back, after finishing third in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton returns to the Hawkeye State today as the heavy favorite to win the 2016 nomination. That is if she runs.
ROBERTS: The path to the White House goes straight through Iowa. That's precisely where presumptive Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is today. So is she gearing up for a 2016 run? Our panel is back with us.
When you look at Hillary Clinton, she has got vast foreign policy experience, probably more so than any potential Democratic candidate out there, but the Democrats are facing a lot of problems when it comes to the president's foreign policy.
HUME: It will be interesting to see what she says about the president's plan for dealing with ISIS. It will be interesting to see what continuing effect things going so badly in so many places after her being secretary of state for four years, has on her political standing, not just among Democrats where she remains wildly popular, especially in Iowa, where she's, what, 59 percent. Nobody else has 15 or more than 15. Those are things to watch.
I think it is, as most people do, highly likely that she'll run, but it's not guaranteed. And I think it's likely if she ran, she might win, but that's not guaranteed either. We all thought that back in 2007, that she was a shoe-in, and look what happened. So, you know, straight-line projections in politics are dangerous, and I think they're dangerous in her case.
ROBERTS: What's the effect on her, do you believe, Kirsten?
POWERS: We don't really know, because we don't know what's going to be happening in the world if and when she runs. So if things are stable, then it probably will look good to her. If things are not stable, then I think it won't look as good, because she's going to be held accountable for whatever President Obama leaves. And right now, look, if the election was held today, I think it would be a real problem for her.
ROVE: It has already been a problem. Take a look at her approval ratings. They have declined precipitously since she's left the secretary of state office. What was interesting, we've had a spat of polls this last week, in the Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of Americans say the world is a less safe place; only 26 percent say more. And 52 percent of women say it's a less safe place.
And Republicans in the Gallup poll have a 55-32 lead over the Democrats on which is the better party to confront terrorism. So she's already suffering. And my sense is look, who thinks the world will be a much safer, placid, peaceful place in two years? The president is suffering because of the policies of his administration, squandered the peace, and have led to the circumstances we find ourselves in today, and she was the secretary of state during the first four years of his time in office.
ROBERTS: Juan, this is the first time she's been back to Iowa in the last six years since she came third in the caucuses there. Does she have an Iowa problem?
WILLIAMS: Well, she finished third, as you just said, remember, behind not only Barack Obama but John Edwards, and if you think back even before that, Tom Harkin, who's having the steak fry that they're going to attend in Indianola today, you know, Bill Clinton didn't run against him, because Tom Harkin was the favorite son of the state. So the Clintons don't have a strong history in Iowa, which is a surprising fact, given the prominence of that caucus in terms of the Democratic primary caucus.
I would say that she's got to do retail politics. She's got to get on the ground in Iowa. She's got to get familiar and friendly to people in a way that I don't think she has done in the past in her campaigns. She's totally capable of it. I know there are people who actually are charmed by Hillary Clinton. I know the political class is a little standoffish, but when you see her do retail politics, actually she's pretty good at it.
ROBERTS: Charming as you are, Kirsten has been sitting over here going --
POWERS: I hate to disagree with Juan, I really do. I think this is overstated. It was -- she lost Iowa third, but it was 29.7 to 29.5. I mean, she really came in second in Iowa. What happened there was --
ROVE: Tell that to John Edwards.
POWERS: They both were outgunned by Barack Obama. Barack Obama ran a new kind of campaign. He got -- went after Democrats and independents who had never caucused before. I think they were just sort of blindsided by that. She did actually run a pretty strong campaign, it was just a little bit outdated campaign.
HUME: She is at 59 percent in the polls in Iowa now, and so it's hard to say at the moment she has an Iowa problem. Kirsten, your scenario of things being calm, remember, this conflict with ISIL is supposed to take years, so we will be, presumably, in the middle of this war to defeat ISIS in 2016, and it will either be going well or going badly. I think a lot of people reasonably fear it won't be going fairly well, at least the Syrian piece of it looks like it's going to be a big problem. And it's hard for me to believe that people will look at the world and say, well, she really left us in great shape now. She might by then have been so able skillfully to distance herself from the president on all these matters that people will not hold her accountable, but that's not going to be easy to do.
POWERS: One thing we can count on is we can count on foreign policy experts making predictions not being right. So it's a we'll see what the world is going to be like.
ROVE: I have a bigger question. Why go to Iowa now? Why issue the book this year so she has the controversy in the middle of an election year? Why go to Iowa and raise the expectations about the presidential campaign, and more importantly raise the expectations about what she's going to do to help Democrats in this fall's election? Does anybody think she's going to be out on the campaign trail in the next 51 days and make an appreciable difference on behalf of Democrats? Why is she involved in all of this? Why isn't she waiting on the sideline until 2015 --
WILLIAMS: There's a danger of overexposure. But don't forget, Tom Harkin is retiring.
ROVE: Fine, go to Iowa.
WILLIAMS: A quick point, there's a possibility --
ROBERTS: Very quick.
WILLIAMS: -- here that Americans will rally around the flag. That could help Democrats.
ROBERTS: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, great to be with you this week. Thanks so much.
Chris will be back here again next Sunday. Have yourself a great week. And we'll see you again next "Fox News Sunday." Thanks for joining us.
Content and Programming Copyright 2014 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2014 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.
Sunday—we’ll get the latest on the battle over Trump’s cabinet picks and a preview the first orders of business for the 115th Congress from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s a Fox News Sunday exclusive.