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Is President Obama's ISIS strategy working?
Written by Chris Wallace / Published September 28, 2014 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Tony Blinken, Gen. Jack Keane, Sen. John Barrasso, Sen. Angus King, Dr. Ben Carson
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," September 28, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace.
Barack Obama becomes a war president, as U.S.-led airstrikes keep pounding ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There can be no reasoning, no negotiation with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.
WALLACE: We'll survey the battlefield with FOX News military analyst, General Jack Keane.
Is the president's strategy working? We'll ask White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken.
And will Congress vote to authorize this new war? We'll talk with two leading senators, John Barrasso and Angus King.
Then, after almost six years in office, Attorney General Eric Holder steps down.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In the months ahead, I will leave the Department of Justice, but I will never -- I will never leave the work.
WALLACE: We'll get reaction to Holder's announcement from leading conservative voice and potential 2016 candidate, Dr. Ben Carson. It's a Fox News Sunday exclusive.
Plus, our Sunday group discusses the Holder legacy.
And our power player of the week: Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon looks for new roles --
REESE WITHERSPOON, ACTRESS: I think it's the first time I've ever meet with a director and he said, this story has nothing to do with you.
WALLACE: All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
President Obama has dramatically expanded our war against ISIS, now hitting the terror state inside Syria, alongside our Arab allies.
Today, we'll cover the conflict from all angles -- from strategy with White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken, to the shape of the battlefield with retired four-star General Jack Keane, and the role of Congress with Senators John Barrasso and Angus King.
But we begin with chief Washington correspondent James Rosen with the latest developments -- James.
JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, there is new evidence that U.S. air strikes in Syria killed the leader of the Khorasan group, the al Qaeda-affiliated cell that Washington claims was close to carrying out an attack on a western target. SITE, the independent outfit that monitors jihadists groups online says a Twitter account posted a condolence message on Saturday for Muhsin al- Fadhli, the Kuwaiti-born al Qaeda operative reported to be killed on Saturday.
Also this weekend, U.S. fighter jets struck an ISIS installation inside Syria, near the Turkish border following two days of attacks by the terror group on the village of Kobani, a Kurdish official said two tanks were destroyed in the strikes.
And British Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered the U.K.'s first air mission, in the coalition fight against ISIS, two royal air force tornado jets stationed at a British air base in Cyprus conducted reconnaissance and collected intelligence in a seven-hour flight over Iraq, but did not fire on any targets. Senior British officials say the U.K. may soon approve RAF air strikes inside Syria.
In all, the Pentagon says the U.S. and three coalition partners, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have conducted seven strikes in Syria over the last 48 hours with another three strikes targeting ISIS inside Iraq -- Chris.
WALLACE: James, thank you.
Now, let's bring in White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken to discuss the president's plan to defeat ISIS.
Welcome to "Fox News Sunday."
TONY BLINKEN, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: Let me pick up on James' report. Can you confirm that, in fact, in that first day of airstrikes, we killed the leader of the Khorasan group, Muhsin al-Fadhli? And in any case, whether you can confirm it or not, what would his death mean to the effectiveness of that group?
BLINKEN: Chris, we can't confirm it. We're obviously trying to dig into this, get confirmation. We want to make sure that he's not trying to, in effect, fake his death and go underground. But there are serious indicators he was removed. It would be significant leader of the ISIL effort. In terms of taking away some of their command and control, the leadership, the direction that they have, it would be significant.
WALLACE: All right. We're counting on moderate Syrian rebels to be our ground force in taking on ISIS inside that country, but on Friday, and let's put some pictures up on the screen, there were a series of demonstrations in cities across Syria. Thousands of Syrians protesting the U.S. airstrikes, saying we're killing civilians and that we're also aiding the regime of Bashar al Assad.
In fact, Mr. Blinken, aren't we alienating the very people that we're counting on to help defeat ISIS?
BLINKEN: Actually, Chris, we've seen strong expressions of support from the Syrian opposition for the effort that we're making against ISIL.
WALLACE: How do you explain that?
BLINKEN: The moderate opposition is the common denominator to both being able to be a counterweight on the ground to ISIL, and then over time also being a counterweight to Assad. Building them up enables us to have forces on the ground that can deal with ISIL, as we use our airpower and other unique assets.
At the same time, if you're going to change the dynamics in Syria, if you're going to get to a political transition that moves Assad out, you have to have a strong moderate opposition. We are doing both.
WALLACE: Fine. Those protesters -- and you seem to be ignoring the fact of their protests, thousands of them, they were chanting that "Assad, Obama and the coalition are the enemies of God". The Assad regime says we're in the same trenches, fighting with them, on behalf of Bashar al Assad.
Question: Will the president impose a no-fly zone which would, one, show the demonstrators that we are not helping the Assad regime? And also would protect those civilians from attacks from the air from Assad?
BLINKEN: Chris, we're proceeding very deliberately and taking this one step at a time. First, in Iraq, we have now in place an inclusive Iraqi government, to be the partner on the ground in Iraq, and we're going to be reforming the Iraqi security forces to work with them.
In Syria, thanks to the strong expression of support from Congress, bipartisan support, majorities in both parties, we now have authority to go ahead and train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition. We have Saudi Arabia, as a partner, working with us. We have other countries who are going to take part in that. This is a process.
WALLACE: What about --
BLINKEN: These are all things that we're looking at overtime, if they prove useful, necessary and effective, we'll take them on. But right now, the main emphasis is starting to move ISIL back, get them on their heels, off their toes. We're already seeing an impact in Iraq where we've taken strikes, and in coordination with Iraqis and the Kurdish forces, we've been moving them back. Same thing in Syria, you see the first days of strikes. But again, the president has been very clear. This is going to be a long- term effort. It's going to be sustained and it's going to be more effective because we're going to be working with partners on the ground, not sending in hundreds of thousands of Americans.
WALLACE: All right. I want to talk about the situation, the security situation here in United States. In Oklahoma this week, Alton Nolen, a fellow who worked at a food processing plant, was fired by the plant and then they beheaded a female co-worker and police found radical material on his Facebook page.
Question, was that an act of terror?
BLINKEN: Chris, we don't know. The FBI has an active investigation. I'm not going to get ahead of it. Let's see what they find.
WALLACE: But as we all now with Nidal Hasan, when he shot up and kill the number of American soldiers, the administration labeled it workplace violence. Are you willing to call this an act of terror if, in fact, that's what it is?
BLINKEN: Chris, I don't want to get -- of course if that's what it is, absolutely. But I don't want to get ahead of the facts. Let's let the FBI investigate.
WALLACE: All right. This week -- you talked about the Congress -- this week, the president told Congress that he has the power to carry out these strikes in part because of the Congress's 2002 authorization for the use of force in Iraq, but I have a letter here that Susan Rice sent to the Congress back in July of this year, just two months ago, in which she writes this, "With American combat troops having completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18th, 2011, the Iraq authorization for the use of military force" -- excuse me -- "is no longer used for any U.S. government activities, and the administration fully supports its repeal."
How can you go to war based on an authorization that you say is no longer the basis for any U.S. government activities, and this authorization, you wanted it repealed?
BLINKEN: Chris, there are two authorizations in question. The first one is the 2001 authorization to use force. That was the one that was voted by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It said this, we can use all necessary means to go after those --
WALLACE: But you also said the Iraq authorization.
BLINKEN: Yes, let me just finish.
Two things, you're right, but there are two things. 2001 authorization to use force. It said we can go after anyone who was associated with the forces that attacked us on 9/11. Zarqawi, the founder of al Qaeda in Iraq was a colleague of Osama bin Laden before 8/11, very close to him. After 9/11, he formed al Qaeda in Iraq. They associated themselves with al Qaeda --
WALLACE: I understand that, sir. I'm asking about the 2002 Iraq authorization. Is it the basis or is it not the basis?
BLINKEN: It is a basis with 2001, but the 2002 authorization was focused Saddam Hussein. But it also said, that if there are terrorist forces in Iraq that the Iraqi government is unable or unwilling to deal with, that gives us authorization to act as well.
WALLACE: It's kind of embarrassing that two months ago, you wanted to repeal it?
BLINKEN: We still would like to repeal it. We think it would be very helpful is that, one, Congress work to give us a targeted, focused authorization. But while we welcome that, we don't need it. We have the 2001 authorization, and we have a basis in 2001 authorization.
WALLACE: Finally, President Obama spoke to the U.N. this week, but I want to ask you about his speech to the U.N., saying -- general assembly last year, in which he said we are ending a decade of war. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Today, all of our troops have left Iraq. Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: How could the president have been so wrong?
BLINKEN: The president was exactly right. What we're re doing is totally different than the last decade. We're not sending hundreds of thousands of American troops back into Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else. We're not going to be spending trillions of American dollars.
What we're doing is supporting local forces with some of our unique assets, air power, training and equipping them, assisting them, intelligence, they will be doing the fighting on the ground. We can't want it more than they do --
WALLACE: But, Mr. Blinken --
BLINKEN: And also --
WALLACE: Mr. Blinken -- and I know we're going over time here -- he said all our troops have left Iraq. In fact, he has just sent at least 1,600 troops back into Iraq. He said we've dismantled the core of al Qaeda. The Khorasan group which you struck in the first day is an offshoot of the core al Qaeda, and, in fact, follows the direct orders of the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri.
BLINKEN: Chris, they fled. Because we were so successful and effective in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they fled, because we decimated the core of al Qaeda. They removed themselves. They went to Syria. But they use --
WALLACE: But they're still --
BLINKEN: Sure. And we said from day one, that there would be groups that would emerge in other parts of the world. We'd been relentless in going after them. What we're not going to do is fallen to the al Qaeda trap of sending hundreds of thousands of Americans back. That's exactly what they want. They want to bog us down, tie us down, to bleed us. We're going to be smarter about this.
WALLACE: Mr. Blinken, thank you. Thanks for coming in today and answering our questions, sir.
BLINKEN: Thanks, Chris. I appreciate it.
WALLACE: Now that we've heard the Obama strategy, let's break down how the plan is actually working on the battlefield.
Joining us at the map, Fox News military analyst and retired Army four-star General Jack Keane.
General Keane, we have a week of air strikes. You're up there at the map. You can see where some of the strikes have been.
How much damage have those airstrikes done to ISIS?
GEN. JACK KEANE (RET), FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you're right. We've been at it a week in here in Syria. Syria represents the center of gravity, frankly, for ISIS. Why is that? Well, frankly, that command and control, main command post is here in Raqqa, and their entire support infrastructure for operations in Iraq are in Syria. This is in fact a bona fide sanctuary.
So, what we've done in a week is we've attacked these oil refineries, $2 million a day is what comes out of these oil refineries for ISIS on the black market. Right here, the station bases that we've been attacking that led to operations inside Iraq. So, these are station bases for equipment and troops as command and control there as well.
Raqqa itself represents the main command and control facility. We've attacked them, they have moved into villages and towns with the people, hiding there, decentralized, trying to conduct operations now using couriers with thumb drives as opposed to communicating on telephones and radios and certainly satellites.
Up here by Kobani, we've been attacking in the last few days to assist the Syrian Kurds in the operation here against ISIS. And over here, as you mentioned, Chris, Khorasan is where we attacked and also a recent attack here against ISIS in the eastern side of Aleppo. So, in a week we've attacked this sanctuary rather significantly in terms of the breadth that it represents, but it is just the beginning. The way we can tell if we are successful is, we have to deny ISIS freedom of movement and take the initiative away from them to attack at will. When that stops happening, then we'll know this air campaign is successful.
WALLACE: What about these moderate Syrians that I was talking about with Mr. Blinken and these protests, thousands of Syrian who are very upset that say we're taking the side of Assad. Isn't that alienating exactly that people we're going to need to fight ISIS on the ground?
KEANE: Well, the Free Syrian Army clearly, we are putting our money on them to be able to deal with ISIS. It is a short-term gain for the Assad regime, the fact that we are using a Free Syrian Army and we're attacking ISIS, and that there's no doubt about it.
Here's the problem the Free Syrian Army has. They really want to topple the regime in Damascus, and this is where most of the fight takes place, between Aleppo and Damascus for the Free Syrian Army. We need them to help us with ISIS out here. That is going to be a different proposition for a force of about 50,000. They are going to need some help. And you mentioned it and that's the no-fly zone.
If Assad continues to conduct strikes against the Free Syrian Army at will, it would be very difficult for them to have any success against ISIS.
WALLACE: General Keane, thank you. Always good to talk with you, sir.
What role if any does Congress have in America's new war against ISIS?
Joining us from Maine, independent Senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats and sits on the Intelligence Committee.
And here in Washington, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, chair of the Republican Policy Committee.
You both are on record saying that Congress should vote, should be in session right now debating whether or not to give the president the authorization to use force in the fight against ISIS.
So, Senator Barrasso, simple question -- why aren't you?
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, I think the president has an obligation to call us back tomorrow to start this debate. We have been adjourned now until after the elections. This is the earliest Congress has adjourned in over 50 years. I don't think Harry Reid wants this debate or the vote. I think we have an obligation, the prime minister of Britain called the parliament back. No member of Congress should be left off of hook.
The Constitution is clear, Article I, Section 8, power vetted in Congress to declare war. If you go back to the founding documents of this nation, the decision of going to war was to be made by people closest to the ground, the elected officials, to make those decisions. I think that the public deserves it. They should be demanding it. The president is putting together an international coalition. It's time to put the coalition together at home as well.
WALLACE: Senator King, leaders of both parties, it's not just Harry Reid, there's no interest particularly with John Boehner and the House apparently want to duck this vote, so that members can go home, campaign and not have to defend a vote to their voters. Isn't this a profile in political cowardice?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, if you were looking for fireworks between me and John Barrasso today, you're not going to get it because I agree with his position. I think we ought to be there, we ought to be debating it.
The only caution I would take, Chris, is the last time we had a vote on whether or not to authorize force right before an election was in the midterms in 2002 when Congress voted for the invasion of Iraq. I don't think that was Congress's finest moment.
I'm not sure the timing is critical. I do think we ought to be doing it now, but the real issue is, does Congress assert their authority at all?
This goes back to Harry Truman in 1938. There was no declaration of war in Korea, thousands of people died. Presidents have gradually been gaining much more authority and Congress has been letting them get away with it.
And I think it's time for Congress to stand up, put itself on record and make some decisions here.
WALLACE: Senator Barrasso, you've been calling for the president to arm the Syrian rebels almost since the civil war started several years ago, and yet when the president asked for $500 million to arm and train the Syrian rebels to take on this fight against ISIS, you voted no.
BARRASSO: I voted -- well, it was a complete continuing resolution to fund the government for the next year at levels I didn't agree with. This is the problem when they jam a big piece of legislation onto the floor of the Senate and then put something in they want to get through.
WALLACE: So, did you support it?
BARRASSO: Absolutely. I've been calling for the support of the Syrian rebels for years. I met with a number of them in Germany a couple of years ago. I don't know how many of these are still alive. So, I absolutely want to do that.
We need to do it all. I believe that the president is right when he calls to degrade and destroy ISIS, the bombing will only go so far to degrade, but will not destroy. So, yes, arm the Kurds, help the Iraqi army, help with training the Syrians.
But, you have to face reality here. Over the next year, the best they can do with vetting, and training, equipping, is to get you to about 5,000 members of the Free Syrian Army against a bloodthirsty group of over 30,000, 2,000 with European passports, another 100 with American passports.
I think the president needs to work more closely with his generals. They got to get rid of this distrust that is between the two of them.
WALLACE: So, let's take a big picture here, Senator King, where are we now? We're bombing in Iraq with European allies. We're bombing in Syria with Arab allies. We're counting on local forces, whether it's the Iraqi army, the Peshmerga, the Free Syrian rebels to fight on the ground -- is that a winning strategy, Senator King?
BARRASSO: Well, it's not going to be a short strategy, but I think -- you used an important phrase, and it's sort of came without a comment, that's Arab allies. That's a big deal.
Having Saudi Arabia, (a), welcome the training of these Syrian rebels on their property with U.S. army troops there, having them fly missions this past weekend, having Jordan, United Arab Emirates actually flying missions, firing munitions. That's a big deal.
The big question mark right now, Chris, is Turkey. They're with us Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They're not with us Tuesday and Thursday. They take the weekends off.
I mean, I'm being a little facetious, but they're the highway. That's the jihadi highway, where a lot of these foreign fighters are getting there. Turkey's got to fish or cut bait. They've got to join us, I think, and they have reservations about the Kurds and those things, but this is a direct threat to them as well.
So, if we can get Turkey involved, we've got now something like 50 countries that are really stepping up, I think that's a big part of the project.
The other thing you mentioned or I think maybe Tony Blinken mentioned, the crucial part is the government in Baghdad, the Iraqi government. They've got to win over the Sunni majority up in northern Iraq. Otherwise, this whole thing is a fool's errand, and we're not going to be able to dislodge ISIS, as long as the Sunnis up there feel that ISIS is a better bet than Baghdad.
WALLACE: Finally, we got about two minutes left, and I want to share it equally and I want to switch subjects on you. Attorney General Holder announced this week that he is stepping down.
Let me ask you, first, Senator Barrasso. As a member of the Senate Republican leaders, what is Holder's legacy, and do you oppose a vote on his successor by a lame-duck session of the Senate? Does this need to wait until the new Senate comes in, in January? BARRASSO: It does need to wait. I do oppose on any successor during the lame-duck session. If it happens, it would be the first time since the civil war when we've had a vote on an attorney general in a lame duck when parties switch. But this shows the desperation in how the Democrats feel threatened that they're going to lose control of the Senate.
And if this happens, this would be Harry Reid's ease final act in a tragic play that has been his legacy in Harry Reid's lead as leadership. Specifically with Holder -- I mean, to me he has been a political protector, a partisan protector of the president.
We need an attorney general for the people, not a presidential protector and a puppet of the administration. And if they try to do this in the lame duck session, this will clearly poison the well, and will define what we're going to see for the next two years, the final two years of the presidency of Barack Obama.
WALLACE: Senator King, your thoughts about Holder, about a vote in the lame-duck session, and do you have a potential successor in mind for him?
KING: I haven't heard any serious names at this point. I think Eric Holder is a good man. I think he's followed his conscience in many cases.
My disappointment was his failure to go after Wall Street after the crisis and, you know the not a single prosecution. That bothers me.
As far as the lame-duck session, the last time I looked, we're still at work and being paid until next January. We're still the Congress of the United States.
Let's see what the president does. He may not even put someone forward or he may put someone forward that everyone, Republicans included, say is a good solid candidate. I remember last spring, people saying they'll never get a DHS -- DHHS commissioner through, Sylvia Burwell was proposed, everybody thought she was terrific and she was confirmed.
So, I'm going to wait and see. I don't think there's any particular reason do it -- to not do it during the lame duck. We're still officially at work. Let's go to work.
WALLACE: We're on that hopeful bipartisan note, and I would emphasize the word "hopeful", Senator Barrasso, Senator King, thank you both. Thanks for coming in today.
BARRASSO: Thanks for having me.
WALLACE: So, what do you think? Does President Obama need authorizations for Congress to conduct the war against ISIS? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter, @FoxNewsSunday, and use the #FNS.
Up next, President Obama ratchets up his actions and his rhetoric in the fight against ISIS. Our Sunday panel joins the conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So, the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama at the U.N. this week channeling the war rhetoric of George W. Bush.
And it's time now for our Sunday group.
Brit Hume, FOX News senior political analyst. Former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center. Syndicated columnist George Will. And Chuck Lane, Charles Lane from "The Washington Post."
So, Brit, what do you make of the new Barack Obama? Do you buy his rhetoric? And what do you think of his plan?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the rhetoric is strikingly similar, as you pointed out to that, which we heard from his predecessor, in the aftermath of 9/11 and beyond. So, it's something new.
The plan, it seems to me, is different in the sense it is -- envisions a relatively small participation of the U.S., no ground forces, although it is manifestly true you have to have ground forces to dislodge people from territory. And the ground forces available in Iraq might be sufficient to roll back ISIS there. Unmistakably, the ground forces now available in Syria are not. They would be trained, according to this plan, but it seems to me at a glacial pace compared to what has been the meteoric growth of ISIS.
So, I think it remains very doubtful whether this plan can succeed.
WALLACE: I want to -- I want to pick up on that with you, Congresswoman Harman, specifically the question of the moderate rebels, because in his news conference this week, the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, said it's going to take a force of between 12,000 and 15,000 moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS on the ground in Syria. But we're training 5,000 at most a year. So, that's -- 12,000 to 15,000, that's triple the force we would have accumulated in a year.
Is this a policy for defeating ISIS or a policy for containing ISIS?
JANE HARMAN, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN (D-CA): Well, the degrade piece is happening now by air. The defeat piece has two parts. Part of it is on the ground and part of it is winning the argument with a bunch of folks who will then turn to our side, not our U.S. side, the coalition side. And I think we're seeing that happen.
There are Kurds now who fled across the border to Turkey who want to come back and fight. They're Syrian Kurds. And Turkey may get in on the ground.
A lot has to happen before we train up these 5,000 folks, in order for us to have the ground piece to hold Syria, and I'm betting that with new efforts to use social media, this is a first, not just by our state department, but by others, we're going to have a chance finally to do the soft power piece that's been missing for years.
WALLACE: The other question is the question of -- and as I got into with the senators, a congressional authorization and also something I didn't get into with them which is international law.
George, the British and French are going to be with us bombing in Iraq, but they say they do not have the right to bomb in another country, that housed ISIS (ph), in Syria. We say we do have the right to bomb in Syria, and that Obama is relying, as Tony Blinken said, on two authorizations, one from 2001, one from 2002, two months ago, the second one that the administration wanted to repeal. Is that any way to go to war?
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And events repealed the first one, because Iraq is no longer the threat it was supposed to be then. No, of course, this isn't. There's another reason, Chris, why I think the Belgians and the British say Iraq yes/Syria no.
What we're doing in the Syrian bombing is the application to foreign policy of the progressive mentality we see in domestic policy. And domestic policy, progressives say government is the surgical instrument, we can fine-tune all kinds of things from urban renewal to the composition of our student bodies.
In Syria, we're going to bomb this group, but not that. It's not a clean sectarian war like the Spanish war with just two sides. This has six or seven sides as far as I can tell. We're going to do this without helping the regime. It's the belief you can apply military force with a surgical precision and understand the consequences intended and unintended.
And it strikes me as this is a recipe for another protracted failure.
WALLACE: Final question for you, Chuck, and it also picks up of what I was talking about with Tony Blinken, and that is -- what do you make of this president who just a year ago goes to the U.N. General Assembly and talks about, we are ending a decade of war, we're getting all our troops out of Iraq, we have dismantled core al Qaeda, now launching a newer war in Iraq and against an offshoot of al Qaeda?
CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's almost like the stuff of some sort of Shakespeare play or something. That this guy, in spite of himself, you know, is, finds himself carried by events to do the exact opposite of what he came to the presidency to do, and I was struck by that language, where he said there's certainly people in this world who only understand the language of force. Boy, he has never said anything like that before. There are certainly people I won't negotiate with? That's a first for him. And the real surprise in it to me is that public opinion pushed him that way. The whole theory of the administration was we have a war-weary public, but the polls showed they wanted him to hit ISIS and he was in part responding to that.
WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here. We'll see you all a little later.
When we come back controversial Attorney General Eric Holder steps down. Dr. Ben Carson gives us his reaction.
WALLACE: After almost six years in office, Eric Holder announced he is stepping down from his post as America's top law enforcement officer. Holder is the nation's first black attorney general. And he was a champion of voting rights and gay rights, but some on the right say his legacy is marred by a number of scandals during his time in office. Joining us now rising conservative leader Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson, I want to play for you how Holder defines his mission as attorney general. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have loved the Department of Justice ever since as a young boy. I watched Robert Kennedy prove during the civil rights movement how the Department can and must always be a force for that which is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: How well do you think Holder lived up to that during his six years as attorney general as a force for right?
DR. BEN CARSON, FORMER PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGEON: Well, you know, I've had the opportunity to become acquainted with him even many years before he became an attorney general. He's very intelligent and winning personality. However, the position of attorney general is supposed to be a blind position. That's why liberty symbol has a blindfold on. And he happens to be in my opinion very, very partisan with an agenda. So his legacy will be that of an attorney general who brings an agenda to what is supposed to be an office where people are blinded.
WALLACE: The reverend Al Sharpton says that he's reaching out to the White House to give them advice on who Holder's successor should be, and in fact Sharpton was also the point person for the White House during the Ferguson riots. Do you think that President Obama should be listening to Al Sharpton? CARSON: I think he probably should listen to a wide variety of people. He shouldn't have a select group. And you need to hear opinions from everyone, but recognize that the position of attorney general is supposed to be a nonpartisan position and it's supposed to be the highest authority with reference to what is legal and not legal in our nation, and is supposed to enforce things in an objective way. So that means you need to have everyone's input, and not just a particular ideological group.
WALLACE: In his U.N. speech this week, President Obama made a comparison that some people have questioned. I want to play it for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri, where a young man was killed and a community was divided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Dr. Carson, what do you make of the president in some sense growing a parallel between the ISIS actions, the beheading of innocents, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in his effort to say that we're all not perfect, then also linking to that in some way what happened in Ferguson, Missouri. What do you make of that?
CARSON: Well, I think everybody knows that we're not perfect. And I don't think that that was an appropriate use of such a tragic event. I would much prefer him use what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, to talk about the underlying social problems that are creating so many Michael Browns who are destined to run into the law or run into other people in their community who may kill them. We need to be addressing those. Because we need all of those people. We need their talent. We can't be throwing them away.
WALLACE: When you say the underlying social problems, briefly what are you talking about?
CARSON: I'm talking about raising children in an environment where frequently there is no father figure or authority figure, to teach them how to relate to authority, to teach them the whole concept of personal responsibility. We're talking about environment where we've removed a lot of the morals and values that used to dictate how people live, and we're allowing them to gain their moral compass from the streets. That's not a place that's likely to lead to elevation.
WALLACE: You are thinking about running for president in 2016. And I want to talk to you about that in a moment, but it has brought attention back to some of your comments as it does to any candidate potentially running for president. You said recently that you thought that there might not actually be elections in 2016 because of widespread anarchy. Do you really believe that?
CARSON: Well, I hope that that's not going to be the case, but certainly there is the potential. Because you have to recognize that we have a rapidly increasing national debt. A very unstable financial foundation. And you have all these things going on like the ISIS crisis that could very rapidly change things that are going on in our nation. And unless we begin to deal with these things in a comprehensive way, and in a logical way, there is no telling what could happen in just a matter of a couple of years. And particularly in a situation where we have a Senate and a Senate leader who has over 300 bills sitting on his desk will not bring them to the floor for a vote, thereby thwarting the will of the people. And this country was supposed to be a country where the government conformed to the will of the people, not the people conform to the will of the government.
WALLACE: Let me pick up on that. Because -- and talk specifically about a candidacy. You say, and this is your quote, "The likelihood is strong" that you will run for president in 2016. Do you really want to spend the next two years begging people for money, shaking hands, eating a lot of bad meals, when I think you would agree at best you are a distinct long shot?
CARSON: Well, let me put it this way. It would be much more pleasant to put my feet up, to relax. You know, I've made plenty of money, I can live a very comfortable life, and that would be my preference. However, given the state of our nation, looking at what's going on, and understanding that sometimes we're called to do things that we don't want to do because we have to do them, and we look at the future of our children, our grandchildren, all the people who come behind us, if we all run for the hills, if we all run for the most comfortable place and just allow whatever to happen happen, then we get what we deserve.
WALLACE: I have about a minute left. I'm going to be transparent here. You and I are friends, I have great regard for you, and we've had this question I'm about to ask you we've talked about in private, but after looking at Barack Obama, and what's happened with his lack of political experience over this last six years, wouldn't putting Ben Carson in the Oval Office be akin to putting a politician in an operating room and having him perform one of your brain surgeries?
CARSON: I don't think so. I think what is required for leadership is wisdom and the ability to assemble an appropriate team, ability to listen and an ability to make wise decisions. And we also have to recognize what I said a little bit earlier. Our system was designed by our founders, with the people in mind, and with the will of the people in mind. Not with the will of the government. If you want the will of the government, yes, you need people who spend their whole lives in politics, and they are people who are much more likely to be able to impose the will of the government, but I don't think that that's what we need. And Jefferson said when things got so bad the people would actually make a correction. I think it's time to make that correction now.
WALLACE: Ben Carson, thank you. Thanks for coming in today. It's always a pleasure to talk with you.
CARSON: Thank you, Chris. WALLACE: Up next our Sunday group is back with their take on Eric Holder's resignation. 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.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: In good times, and in bad, in things personal and in things professional, you have been there for me. I'm proud to call you my friend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Attorney General Holder in his resignation announcement describing his close relationship with President Obama. And we're back now with the panel. We asked you for questions for this august (ph) group, and we got this about Eric Holder on Facebook from Shelly Devous. She writes -- you can't close the chapter on his legacy until multiple investigations are concluded. Fast & Furious, IRS, others, those outcomes will impact his legacy." George, Holder's Justice Department is where investigations of the Obama administration went to die. So, how do you answer Shelly?
WILL: Well, there's good and bad here. The good is that he has raised important issues about the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, excessive penalties. There still remains to be addressed prison rape and the abuse of solitary confinement, but he opened the conversation. Second, his lawyers, to their great credit, did not go along with the administration argument that bombing Libya was not hostilities, and therefore didn't empower (ph) the war power's resolution. The bad is, first, his monomania about race. The idea that we're a nation of cowards, because we won't talk about it. We talked about a little else, as far as I can tell. Second, he was an enabler of the president's vast executive overreach that has been repeatedly repudiated and struck down by the Supreme Court. And finally, and this goes to the question, he really is the firewall of stonewalling against bringing to justice the IRS miscreants.
WALLACE: I want you, Jane, if you will, to pick up on that aspect of it. Didn't this president both on policy and on scandals protect his boss?
HARMAN: I don't know if he protected him, but he didn't close those investigations, and his successor will have to do that. A couple of comments about what George just said. I do think the pluses you listed are right, the president paid a fitting tribute to Attorney General Holder last night at the Congressional Black Caucus dinner. Let's add to your list of good things that he focused on sexual orientation, or country has moved light years ahead and the Justice Department was properly there. If he's faulted for anything, in my view, it's for being politically tone-deaf. And some of the things he did I think backfired. Not dropping Fast & Furious, which started in the Bush administration, was a mistake. Not notifying people about the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial in New York before he announced it, was a mistake. And that -- and the timing of the indictments of the Chinese was a mistake. But on balance is, I think his tone and his professionalism and his focus on race were pluses.
HUME: I don't think an attorney general needs to be blinded as Ben Carson suggested, but I do think an attorney general should be neutral in application of the law, so that people trust the attorney general in much of the way you would trust -- you would want to trust a judge. I don't think a lot of people feel that way about Eric Holder, and I think they have a right not to. For the comments that George mentioned about, you know, the United States, being a nation of cowards on race, to an array of other instances, in which he seemed to be on one side of it, and he is totally, for example on one side of the issue that has to do with voter identification, which is a legitimate concern. Ballot security is a valid concern. You wouldn't know that from hearing from Eric Holder. To him, it's all voter suppression. And these are the kinds of things that I think have led to widespread distrust of him, and deservedly so.
LANE: Well, when you talk about how he was partisan, I think you have to take note of the fact -- I don't know of any attorney general in recent history has had to operate in a more partisan environment than Eric Holder has, so it would be hard for him to be viewed neutral. I have a slightly different take, which is I think he may be remembered as our first post-crime attorney general. He had the Justice Department during a period where American crime rates and concerns about crime had dramatically moderated. And he responded to that, some of the ways George indicated. And he had the freedom to do that, and he had support actually from some Republicans in terms of reducing sentencing disparities, and so forth. And I think when you look back on the big picture after all these scandals have gone by, that may be what people focus on.
WALLACE: Very briefly, he also got criticism from the left, particularly from civil libertarians, who said that he maintained the architecture that allow the government to spy on its citizens.
LANE: And the other big left wing critique of him is that he was allegedly too soft on the bankers. I happen to think that this too big to jail thing is a bit of a canard. He stuck to the law, as he was advised to do, in not punishing those things criminally, and moved on the civil side.
HARMAN: And Congress ratified surveillance. WALLACE: We are going to cut this off, because I have less than two minutes left, and we have to talk about something really important. Because I can't let this week pass without marking of the retirement of Derek Jeter. I was not a Yankee fan, but you had to be a Derek Jeter fan. Who better than George Will. What stands out for you about Jeter on the field and off the field?
WILL: The fact that there's no difference. The fact that there's no off the field Jeter distinguished from the superb professional on the field. Never once in his 20 seasons was he the best player in baseball, but he always exemplified something that the American people hunger for, which is confidence and professionalism. 20 years ago right now, Chris, the World Series had been canceled. Baseball was in a mess. When they came back after that labor dispute, they had the good fortune to have Cal Ripken and his streak to reconnect with the country. This year there's a rivalry obviously between Major League Baseball and the NFL. The emblem of the NFL is a grainy elevator tape from an Atlantic City casino. The face of baseball is Derek Jeter. Major League Baseball can live with that.
WALLACE: 30 seconds left. How good a baseball player was he?
WILL: First ballot hall of famer. He's what, six or seven time on the all times hits list. Not a great shortstop, not a power hitter, but he exemplified the consistency and professionalism of the sport of a long season, 162 games.
WALLACE: And he played I think 150-something games just in the playoffs alone. Pretty amazing.
Thank you, panel. See you all next Sunday.
Up next our power player of the week, Hollywood's Reese Witherspoon tells the good lie.
WALLACE: It was 15 years ago when she hit Hollywood like a tornado, sweeping up good roles and an Oscar. But since then she's grown a little older and wiser. And now she's more interested in making movies with real meaning. Here is our power player of the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REESE WITHERSPOON, "THE GOOD LIE": I think about the experiences that these children had and what they've had to overcome.
WALLACE: Reese Witherspoon is talking about "The Good Lie," a stirring new movie about the lost boys, some 3600 orphans of the civil war in Sudan who walked across Africa to refugee camps, and eventually made it to America.
(on camera): The director was pretty blunt with you about your role in this movie. What did he say?
WITHERSPOON: I think it was the first time I ever met with a director and he said, this story has nothing to do with you. OK?
WITHERSPOON: That actually put me at ease. Because I had no interest in being in a movie where it was about a white woman helping African boys.
WALLACE: How much of this is your story?
GER DUANY, "THE GOOD LIE": So much. If I measured all the miles that I walked, probably I walked between Earth and Moon, when they put them all together.
WALLACE (voice over): Ger Duany is one of the lost boys who stars in the movie. Caught up in the civil war, he fled to Ethiopia when he was 14, and came to the U.S two years later. He says it was tough getting through the movie script.
DUANY: I keep closing it, even to the point my tears was in the script.
WITHERSPOON: Did your luggage come down the chute? Great. OK, let's go.
WALLACE: Reese plays Carrie Davis, who works for an employment agency, and is none too pleased about having to find jobs for the boys.
WITHERSPOON: She's very isolated, she lives alone, she's a bit of a slob, she's a bit of a mess.
WALLACE: But during the course of the movie she and the boys teach each other.
DUANY: I have faith yardi (ph).
WITHERSPOON: What does it mean?
DUANY: It means great white cow.
WITHERSPOON: Well, it's better than a lot of things I've been called.
It's less of her sort of helping them -- They help her become part of their family, and heal a lot of her own wounds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see, I believe in the voters. They understand that elections are not just popularity contest.
WALLACE: Reese Witherspoon burst on the movie scene in 1999 as Tracy Fleck in "Election."
WALLACE (on camera): You started out your career so strong with "Election" and "Legally Blonde" and the Oscar for "Walk the Line". How did it feel to be Hollywood's golden girl?
WITHERSPOON: Being an actress isn't always great. There's been definitely sallow periods with my career, and parts where I felt less inspired.
WALLACE (voice over): Four years ago she decided to start her own production company, to take more control of her career.
WITHERSPOON: It's a lot more work, it's definitely hard, but it's so worthwhile to know that I have a 15-year-old daughter who can go to the movies and see an interest dynamic woman on screen.
WALLACE (on camera): You were 25 when "Legally Blonde" came out. Now you're 38. Has Elle Woods grown up?
WITHERSPOON: Certainly. Women are not just girlfriends and wives, you know, in movies to big leading men. I feel like women are much more complex, and I'm excited to be able to help them get their stories to the screen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: "The Good Lie" opens this Friday, October 3. And the film's creators have set up a fund to raise money for Sudanese refugees who are still in camps in Africa.
Speaking of this Friday, that's when the Washington Nationals -- I was looking at this here begin their quest for the World Series. We'll be rooting for the Nats, along with our lucky Jason Werth, garden gnome. And that's it for today, have a great week. We'll see you next "Fox News Sunday"
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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.