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Gen. Dempsey reacts to Paris attacks; Sens. Hoeven, Coons talk Keystone showdown
Written by Chris Wallace / Published January 11, 2015 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Gen. Martin Dempsey, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," January 11, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.
The massacre at a Paris newspaper by Islamic jihadists opens a new front on the war on terror. We'll have the latest on the attacks and an exclusive interview with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
WALLACE: How frustrating to you as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs when you're fighting in such an asymmetric way.
What do we know about the suspects, their strategy to hit the West, and whether they were collected by al Qaeda or ISIS?
General Martin Dempsey only on "Fox News Sunday."
Plus, is the Obama administration doing enough to prevent attacks like this?
Our Sunday group weighs in.
Then, a showdown between the White House and Congress over the Keystone pipeline.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can confirm for you if this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn't sign it either.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY., MAJORITY LEADER: And threatening to veto a jobs and new pipeline is anything but productive.
WALLACE: We'll discuss the president's veto threat with two leading senators, Republican John Hoeven and Democrat Chris Coons.
All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Paris remains on high alert after three days of savage attacks by Islamic jihadist. We'll have an exclusive interview with the joint chiefs of staff in a moment.
But we begin with Fox team coverage. Chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge on how the terrorists were radicalized.
But, first, senior foreign affairs correspondent Greg Palkot is in Paris with the latest from there -- Greg.
GREG PALKOT, FOX NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, there is a massive march of unity against terror here today, after a terrible and deadly week. Hundreds of thousands taking to the streets close to 50 world leaders and officials present, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Here also for a summit on terrorism.
There's also a massive security presence here, too, over 5,000 troops and police on patrol amid reports of threats of more attacks as police continue their probe into the terrible incident of this week, which left 17 people dead, including three suspected terrorists.
Now, they have let some of the suspects go, but the hunt is on for the prime suspect in this case, that is Hayat Boumeddiene. She's a partner to Amedy Coulibaly. It's believed that she could have been in the accomplice of a shooting of a policewoman, and the hostage-taking and killing at that kosher supermarket. It is now feared that she has fled to Syria and might have been out of country when all of that happened.
Amid new information just in the last few minutes about Coulibaly himself, police are now confirming to Fox News that he could be tied to yet another shooting on the very same day as the slaughter around the newspaper office which left 12 dead. Involved in that, Said and Cherif Kouachi, they claimed allegiance ISIS. Coulibaly claimed allegiance to ISIS.
Which is leading the French foreign minister here, Manuel Valls, to say this, "It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom and solidarity." That is a message that is resonating here today -- Chris.
WALLACE: Greg Palkot reporting from Paris -- Greg, thanks for that.
In a sense, France was held hostage for 54 hours this week, which only raises new questions about how safe the U.S. homeland is.
Let's bring in chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge -- Catherine.
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS CHIEF INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, this morning, a new video from ISIS shows the suspect who took the hostages at the kosher supermarket pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State. According to a translation, the video includes clips of Amedy Coulibaly discussing the massacre at "Charlie Hebdo".
Separately, Fox News has learned that the FBI is reviewing a different ISIS propaganda tape that calls on his followers to target officers, police and civilians. The credibility of the threat is being assessed by U.S. law enforcement.
Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that's running its own investigation, says the Paris attack is a departure from recent plots in Canada, Australia and the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, R-TEXAS, HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE CHAIR: This is not someone who gel is radicalized over the Internet, which is a serious issue, but now we're seeing someone who -- these foreign fighters that we've been so concerned about, this would appear to be a very concerted sophisticated attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HERRIDGE: In a rare interview with the German newspaper, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn, says the Paris terrorists are a part of a larger network and he believes the men were hand-selected for the attack.
This morning, the White House announced a summit in February on countering violent extremism, also known as CBE, that is the administration's label for radical Islamic terrorism -- Chris.
WALLACE: Catherine, thank you.
HERRIDGE: You're welcome.
WALLACE: Now to our exclusive interview with Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I met with this country's top military officer at the Pentagon on Friday. We talked while the two hostage standoffs in Paris were still going on. We discussed that and the range of other national security challenges he faces.
WALLACE: General Dempsey, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It's good to see you again, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's start with the terrible attack on the newspaper in Paris. How much training did the two brothers get in the Middle East, terror training, and was this attack directed by either al Qaeda or ISIS?
DEMPSEY: These individuals were inspired in some way. They didn't -- they were probably not self-radicalized on the Internet, which is another way that these attacks sometimes occur. There is pretty clear indication that one of them did in fact receive some training in Yemen, and that there's a linkage between them, whether it's schools or family relationships. As far as whether it was directed by al Qaeda, I don't think that linkage has been established.
WALLACE: What can you in the military do to prevent attacks like this here in the U.S.? Do we need to step up our efforts against AQAP or ISIS? And does this contradict President Obama's contention that we have al Qaeda on the run?
DEMPSEY: Fundamentally, our capabilities are designed so that the country can play an away game against its adversaries. So, what we try to do across, you know, this swath of radical extremism that stretching really from the Fatah and I suppose we may say all the way over to Nigeria. We try to keep pressure on that network with the suite of capability that we have, whether it's intelligence, building partners, in some cases, direct action.
WALLACE: Do we need to do more?
DEMPSEY: Well, I think so. Absolutely. But that's not to imply we're not doing enough, if you understand the distinction there. We're doing a lot.
I do think that this organization called ISIL or Daish in Arabic, they are inspiring groups that already exist to rebrand themselves. But in rebranding themselves, they rebrand into a more radical ideology. And that's what makes it dangerous.
WALLACE: This would seem to me to be the definition of asymmetric warfare. You are the commander the greatest military in the world, and yet you can have a handful of gunmen who can terrorize and lock down a great city like Paris and a country city like France.
How frustrating for you as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs when you're fighting in such asymmetric way?
DEMPSEY: Well, that's the very definition of terrorism, right? It's a group that lacks advantages of those who they are attacking. As you say, we are the most powerful military, the most powerful nation in the world.
And as a result, we tend to be a target for groups. I wouldn't say it's just asymmetric. I mean, this is some combination of using symmetric capabilities, whether it's in the media space, cyber, some our intelligences advantages, or in some cases conventional.
WALLACE: How are re doing in the war against ISIS from pushing back from the territory they took over the last year, and then destroying it?
DEMPSEY: One of the things I said right from the start was that a group that embraces such a radical ideology has to maintain momentum in order to succeed, in order to maintain its credibility with the very people it's trying to influence.
So, tactically, we have destroyed a lot of their equipment, we've reversed some of their territorial gains. We've had an impact on their leadership, their command and control and logistics. What will eventually cause the defeat of ISIL is that it will collapse under its own contradictions frankly when the populations in which it tries to maneuver realize that ideology is not to their future benefit.
But I will tell you, we have nine lines of ever, counter-financing, counter-foreign fighter, counter-messaging, reconstruction, three military lines of effort that tend to get all of the attention. But I will say the other lines of effort may be more important than the military lines of effort.
WALLACE: While President Obama has drawn a pretty firm line -- no U.S. combat boots on the ground in Iraq -- you have refused to take that off the table. The Iraqi army talks about taking back Mosul, second biggest city in the country, over the next few months. Can they possibly do that without U.S. combat troops alongside them?
DEMPSEY: Here's the reality of the campaign in Iraq. It's the government of Iraqi's strategy enabled by us. It's not our strategy. I'm telling you, that's an extraordinarily important distinction.
We think that will be months -- I don't know whether several months or not. I think several if you're implying three or four, might be -- it may take a by longer than that to marshal all these resources.
WALLACE: Are we going to need U.S. troops to help them?
DEMPSEY: I don't know the answer to that yet, and I've said that. If we get to the point where I think, because of the complexity of the objective, that precision fires would only be possible with the presence of a JTAC or forward observer, then, I'll make that recommendation, but we're months away from that.
WALLACE: Let's turn to Syria. You say we can't defeat ISIS just with airstrikes. But with the Syrian moderate rebels suffering such serious losses, especially in recent weeks, is there going to be any moderate Syrian opposition to train to confront ISIS on the ground?
DEMPSEY: Well, that's a fair question and one that we grapple with. The Syrian opposition is under enormous pressure, in particular in the north. And it's the north where I have my greatest concern about the ability to attract and recruit and vet a moderate opposition.
WALLACE: Militarily, at some point, don't you have to confront Assad and his attacks on the moderate rebels or else you're not going to have a force to oppose ISIS?
DEMPSEY: Yes, militarily, my job is to provide the president and our elected leaders the option, should they choose to confront Assad. And that decision has not been taken.
WALLACE: But we could do it if we -- you were given the order?
DEMPSEY: Of course, we could.
WALLACE: We just ended our combat role in Afghanistan. And on Christmas Day, President Obama addressed some troops in Hawaii and he told them this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Afghanistan has a chance to rebuild its own country. We are safer. It's not going to be a source of terrorist attacks again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: General Dempsey, how can the president say that so flatly, that Afghanistan will not be the source of terrorist attacks again?
DEMPSEY: Well, I mean you'd have to ask the president how he can say that. But if you're asking me about --
WALLACE: Would you say that?
DEMPSEY: Would -- if you're asking me about my -- let me give you my impression of where we are in Afghanistan.
We've got a very credible and cooperative partner in the new president and the new chief executive officer. We've got Afghan security forces who have demonstrated their willingness to stand and fight. I personally think there will be pockets inside of Afghanistan that -- that change hands from time to time because that's the history of the country.
But I think that we're in a very good place in Afghanistan in terms of giving them a chance to do exactly what the president said. But we're going to have to keep an eye on it.
WALLACE: And you certainly wouldn't say the threat to terrorism from Afghanistan is gone?
DEMPSEY: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as the senior military leader of the nation, tends to be rather cautious and careful and he also tends to be a little paranoid. And, you know, terrorism can ebb and flow. I mean, it may not be there now and it could be there tomorrow.
So that's when I said earlier, we've got to keep an eye on this, we've got to keep an eye on this and we've got to recognize that terrorism flows where instability lurks.
WALLACE: The Military Times asked active duty service members last month how they thought the commander-in-chief was doing his job. Fifty-five percent say they did not approve of President Obama's performance as commander-in-chief. Only 15 percent said yes -- which was the lowest number of his presidency.
Why do, in your opinion, so many service members have doubts about this president?
DEMPSEY: What I tell the troops when I travel around is the commander-in-chief supports their efforts and that I can tell them with great confidence that he takes -- you know, this is this issue of whether or not I'm -- I'm being micromanaged, right?
WALLACE: It's not just the troops on the ground, you had the --
WALLACE: -- two last secretaries of Defense, Panetta and Gates, both wrote virulent thoughts in which they criticized the White House for micromanaging, jumping the chain of command and for sometimes emphasizing politics over policy.
Are they right?
DEMPSEY: Do you mean am I being micromanaged? Is that the question?
WALLACE: That's one of the questions.
DEMPSEY: Yes. If you're asking me if I'm being micromanaged, I don't know. I'd better go check with the White House before I answer the question.
Look, here's -- it's the wrong metric in terms of defining the relationship between the military and our elected leaders. What I can tell you is the metric that we should be focused on is access and whether my advice is -- influences decisions.
I have frequent access to the commander-in-chief. I feel no constraints in providing my advice to him and that my advice, over the past three-and-a-half years, has influenced his decisions.
You know, whether someone wants to characterize the desire, the almost insatiable appetite for information about complex issues as micromanaging, they can have at it.
But for me, the metric is access and advice.
WALLACE: The last secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, was upset with what he said was White House pressure to release more prisoners from Guantanamo.
Now, you have to sign off, or at least give a recommendation --
WALLACE: -- on every prisoner who is released.
Given that some of the prisoners that are left now are the worst of the worst, the most dangerous, and given that according to various estimates, the recidivism rate, the number of detainees who were released and returned to the battlefield, is up around 30 percent -- do you worry that this White House is in too much of a hurry to close Gitmo?
DEMPSEY: I've been in the group that believes that it's in our national interests to quote -- to close Guantanamo. It does create a psychological scar on our national values. Whether it should or not, it does.
What I've also said quite clearly is there are some of these detainees, in particular, this kind of conflict over a protracted period, that simply should not be released.
We're going to come to a point, though, where we've got dozens of these individuals who just have to be detained. And we've got to figure that out.
WALLACE: But you would not release them?
DEMPSEY: No, of course not.
WALLACE: And if you can't release them and the U.S. Congress says you can't bring them to this country --
DEMPSEY: Isn't that a fair question for our elected leaders?
WALLACE: Well, doesn't that mean you have to keep Gitmo open?
DEMPSEY: Well, that's a -- that's a policy decision. But there's going to be dozens of these individuals that have to be detained. Our elected officials need to find a way to detain them.
WALLACE: Iran -- you say that a diplomatic solution is preferable. But if the talks were to fall apart, can we contain a nuclear Iran or would we have to launch a military strike? And if so, could we take out the nuclear program in Iran militarily?
DEMPSEY: If the diplomacy fails and they move ahead to acquire a nuclear weapons program, we've been pretty clear that that will be an unacceptable risk to both our own country, but, also to the region. And we have military capabilities in place and we continue to keep them in readiness to, if asked, to eliminate -- delay is actually the right phrase -- Iran's nuclear program.
WALLACE: What have you learned about cyber threats from the North Korea hacking of Sony Pictures? How vulnerable are we to a cyber Pearl Harbor?
DEMPSEY: Cyber can be incredibly destructive. It can be disruptive. It can disrupt. And it can destroy.
And it can destroy hardware. It can -- it can -- it can disable critical infrastructure, which could lead to loss of life. And I think those capabilities are out there.
And, you know, we have, in every domain, Chris, we generally enjoy a significant military advantage. But we have peer competitors in cyber.
WALLACE: In other words, we don't have an advantage over that?
DEMPSEY: We -- we don't have an advantage. It's a level playing field. And that makes this chairman very uncomfortable.
WALLACE: What do you think of Vladimir Putin?
DEMPSEY: I actually try not to, you know, to render my opinion about heads of state. I'm only -- can I speak to you about Russia?
I think Russia is on a very provocative and dangerous path. I called my counterpart in Russia and I said to him, his name is Valery Gerasimov. And I said, you know, Valery, we began our careers 40 years ago facing off across the inter -- intra-German border, East Germany, West Germany.
I said, you know, don't tell me we're going to do this again.
WALLACE: The Pentagon budget, under sequestration, you are set to face more spending cuts. The active army is down from a high of 570,000 --
WALLACE: -- now to 510,000, and you'll be down to 490,000 --
WALLACE: -- by September.
General, is there some point at which your resources would be cut so much that you would have to say, we can no longer defend this country from the threats we face?
DEMPSEY: Yes, absolutely. And I think it's called sequestration.
And the analysis we've done would drive it to 420,000 and it could actually go lower under certain circumstances.
The Budget Control Act and the sequestration mechanism is imposed on us in 2016 -- yes, we will have to change our strategy, become far less able to do the things that we think the country needs us to do.
WALLACE: Finally, when you survey the horizon, whether it's the threat from ISIS and al Qaeda and other affiliated groups, Russia on the march, Iran, China, North Korea, how dangerous is this world and how much do you worry about your ability, the military's ability, to defend our country?
DEMPSEY: So, you've kind of laid out the, the house of horrors, right, and -- and it -- and as -- in so doing, you've laid out the fact that there are state actors that could coerce us or constrain us and there are non-state actors.
What we've had to do is adapt our military to address both of those challenges.
And you ask, you know, am I concerned about it? Of course, I'm concerned about it.
But we -- I also want to remind everyone, we are still the most powerful nation in the world, by any measure, likely to remain so, unless we -- unless we talk ourselves out of it and legislate ourselves out of it with things like the Budget Control Act.
And that we've been through difficult periods in our history before. What will get us through this is investing in our human capital, because we're going to have to think our way through the future, not bludgeon our way through it.
WALLACE: General Dempsey, first of all, thank you so much for talking with us.
DEMPSEY: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: And through you, to all of the members of the military, thank you all for your service.
DEMPSEY: Thank you, sir. Good to see you.
WALLACE: You can see more of the interview on our home page, FoxNewsSunday.com. He discusses the investigation of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Up next, our Sunday group joins the new front on the war on terror.
Plus, what would you like to ask the panel? Just go to Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday. And we may use your question on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): France is not finished with being a target of threats. Therefore, I want to urge you to be vigilant, to be united and to be mobilized.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: French President Hollande rallying his country after a week of terror.
And it's time now for our Sunday group: syndicated columnist George Will, Julie Pace who covers the White House for The Associated Press, GOP strategist Karl Rove, and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
George, sit back for a moment. What strikes you about this week, about these trained terror cells in the heart of American -- I was going to say, western capitals and their ability to paralyze a great city like Paris?
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What happened at the magazine was terrible and terrifying. It wasn't terrorism as we normally understood it. Terrorism as normally understood is random violence. This was not random.
This was an assassination operation. They knew where they were going, they knew who would be there, they knew they'd be there on that particular --
WALLACE: Let me just interrupt for a moment. There is a picture -- a live picture from Paris. You can see all the world leaders who are on the streets in Paris, now part of this mass demonstration, more than a million people ranging from President Hollande, to German Chancellor Merkel, you can see Muslim leaders there, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, all participating, all bearing witness to the events of this week.
George, excuse me.
WILL: You were saying, how could disrupt an entire city? A modern city, modern sewed depends on flow, cooperation and trust. We've all seen how a two-car accident can close a four-lane superhighway, delaying 10,000 vehicles. That's the nature of modern society.
And that's where random violence comes in, because it destroys the sinews of trust that things move in our society. And that's why when you're talking with General Dempsey about cyber terrorism and he said, that's the level plays field, because they're just as capable as we are. We saw what a few clicks of a rogue trader's computer did to Barings Bank. It took a century's bank and destroyed it.
We now know what flights of bombers achieved in the Second World War, can be achieved by cyberattacks.
WALLACE: Julie, President Obama, I think it's fair to say, has always been a bit ambivalent about the war on terror. On the one hand, he's launched more drone strikes than George W. Bush did. He took down Osama bin Laden, on other hand, he resists calling it a war on terror. He resists call out Islamic jihadists.
I have to go back to May of 2013 when he made a big talked about taking this country off what he called a perpetual wartime footing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The Afghan war is coming to an end. Al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to comes, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Julie, is there any sense at the White House that the president was premature in either saying this was over, or at least winding down?
JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, I think there certainly with us a political incentive to emphasize things like core al Qaeda being decimated, the death of Osama bin Laden. Where never the president would say things like that behind the scenes advisers would say, well, we are concerned about AQAP, or some of these other groups.
It's striking, though, to hear that clip from May of 2013. We are in such a different climate than we were at that point. That was at a time when most Americans had not heard of the Islamic State group, or maybe we heard about AQAP, but it just wasn't at the forefront of people's mind.
And I think there is some concern that the president may have been too forward-leaning. Again, some of this driven by politics to get the United States out of the Middle East, get us out of Afghanistan, and largely put the war on terror to rest. Obviously, he hasn't been able to do that. I think you're going to see the White House having to contend with this for the next two years of his presidency.
WALLACE: Karl, this happened in Paris. It didn't happen here.
Why are critics of the president, like you, going after the way that he is conducting the war on terror?
KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: Well, you heard General Dempsey talk about what his strategy has been for the last 15 years, which is to fight them over there, so they have less opportunity to fight us here.
WALLACE: The away games.
ROVE: The away games, exactly. The president's early withdrawal from Iraq, leaving behind no residual significant force allowed ISIL, ISIS to spread dramatically in northern and western parts of the nation. We may face the same situation in Afghanistan.
We're keeping behind a residual force. The new Afghan government desperately wants us to, did you we're diminishing that presence to one air base, Bagram. So, we're not able to project our power throughout the entire country of Afghanistan on a rapid notice. We had used to have three major facilities and a number of ancillary facilities, but we'll be down to one. One of the greatest recruiting tools that ISIS had was the rapid spread because of the vacuum that the United States contributed to in Iraq.
We need to recognize that you're presence there is necessary in order to keep fighting them there. Diminish their ability to hit us here.
WALLACE: You know, it's interesting, because when I talk to Dempsey, he said the military aspects of this -- he talked about nine lines of effort. The military aspects, but so are the nonmilitary aspects, and one of them was messaging and social media. Egyptian President Al-Sisi gave a remarkable speech this week, I think under cover where he called on Muslim clerics to lead a religious revolution against extremism.
We ask you for questions for the panel. And we got this on Facebook, from Walt Christensen, who writes, "How do we combat Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, how do you combat a belief system without replacing that belief system and without Islamic clerics -- Islamic clerics leading the way? Juan, how do you answer that?
WILLIAMS: I think Walt is right, and I think al Sisi needs to be celebrated worldwide. I think that his message needs to be amplified by the American government, by all Western governments for fighting terrorists.
WALLACE: It can't just be the West against Islam, it has to be Islam.
WILLIAMS: It's got to have leaders in the Muslim world and you're talking here about the leaders of states, who have been very reluctant to get involved in this fight, but also I think the clerics at the very basic level speaking to young people. Look at the young people who did the Boston bombing, loot at the young people here, the brothers in both cases. I think there are number of young Muslims who feel besieged, who feel that what Charlie Hebdo did was bullying, that they were simply pushing an anti-Muslim fervor that exists in France, exists in Germany, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim, and as a result what you get is the clerics, whining that there is -- they can't even control what's coming across. You are talking with the general about the Internet, the kind of recruiting efforts to make these young people, these alienated young people feel somehow now they are empowered by the use of violence. And this bullies, and I think they are bullies, these young people, these are thugs, they use the religion to justify these acts of violence. That has got to be stopped and it's got to be stopped by other Muslims, moderate Muslims who say that something like Molly Norris, this cartoonist in Seattle that has been in hiding because of a threat against her life for drawing a caricature of Muhammad that that is not allowed by the clerics, not supported and not the actions of a good Muslim.
WALLACE: George, final thoughts.
WILL: Well, as head of the Egyptian state, Al Sisi occupies an office once occupied by Anwar Sadat who was murdered by Islamic extremists for his opening to Israel. This was an act of tremendous bravery by al Sisi, and if the Nobel Peace Prize committee is looking for someone who plausibly deserves it, they could start there.
WALLACE: It will be interesting to see whether the rest of the world embraces this idea of calling out Islam and saying if anybody is going to stand up to these jihadists, it's got to be you guys.
Panel, we have to take a break here, but we'll see you little later in the program.
Up next, the showdown over Keystone as Republicans push a bill through Congress approving the pipeline, the president sticks to his veto threat. We'll ask two top senators what happens now.
WALLACE: President Obama is under new pressure to finally decide the fate of the Keystone pipeline. The Senate is set to take up a bill tomorrow approving the project that passed the House with bipartisan support. And perhaps Mr. Obama's biggest reason to delay a decision just disappeared, but the president is sticking to his veto threat. We brought in two key Senators to discuss Keystone from North Dakota, Republican John Hoeven, one of the leading sponsors of the pipeline approval. And from Delaware, Democrat Chris Coons who opposes the project. Senators, welcome to Fox News Sunday .
Last month the president said there was one big issue delaying a decision on Keystone. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You've got a Nebraska judge that's still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate. Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, on Friday the Nebraska Supreme Court threw out that challenge to the pipeline, but Senator Coons, the White House still says that the president is going to veto a bill once it gets through Congress as it's expected to, that he's going to send it back to the State Department for more months of review. This process has been going on for six years, sir.
SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-Del.: Well, the process has taken a while. And it was put on hold while Nebraska citizens were asserting their rights in Nebraska court, but two things happened on Friday. First the Nebraska court came to a final decision, but second the House took up and passed the Keystone pipeline bill that would take consideration out of the hands of the administration. And I think we should notice that there were enough votes voting against that in the House, that it's clear there will not be a veto override. So, my hope as this comes to the Senate, we will take it up. We will not override the president's coming veto, and then we will move past this issue and towards a real debate about what Americans want. An energy policy that includes growing good jobs, American innovation and infrastructure, energy independence, and that doesn't hurt our environment. We can and should be able to get to that discussion.
WALLACE: All right, Senator Hoeven, why do you think the president keeps dragging this out, as I say, six years and now more review at the State Department? And to get directly to the point that Senator Coons brought up, will you have -- whether you're going to pass it, you're going to send it to the president. Are you going to have the 67 votes in the Senate to override the president's veto?
SEN. JOHN HOEVEN, R-N.D., ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES CMTE: Well, first as to what is the president doing, actions speak louder than words. He's delayed this project for more than six years. Americans won World War II in less than six years. So, clearly, he's trying to defeat the project with endless delays, which is why it's important that Congress acts. And as far as getting it past and overriding a veto, we go back to the merits, it's about energy, it's about jobs, it's economic growth, increases GDP $3.4 billion, and it's about national security by achieving energy security.
Look, you have got an overwhelming majority of the public that wants this done. The latest Fox poll on this issue, 68 percent of Americans want the Keystone pipeline built. Every state on the route, seven states have approved it. The only thing holding it up is President Obama.
WALLACE: Let me ask a direct question, though, because we have got -- we've got a lot to cover here, do you at this moment have the 67 votes to override the veto?
HOEVEN: Right now we have got about 63, but we're going to the floor with an open amendment process trying to foster more bipartisanship, getting the Senate to work the way it's supposed to work, so that we can pass this measure and other measures and either override the veto or attach the builder, other legislation that will get 67 votes.
WALLACE: Senator Coons, in 2013, you voted for an amendment approving the pipeline. Now obviously you're against it. Has this become more about politics than it has the merits of the project?
COONS: To be clear, on an up or down vote taking approval of the pipeline out of the current administration process, I voted no. You're referring to a budget process that actually wasn't directly on approving the Keystone pipeline, but the larger point is ...
WALLACE: But let me ...
COONS: I will vote against the Keystone pipeline when it comes in ...
WALLACE: Let me just ask that question, because it was actually the Hoeven amendment. Was that approving the pipeline?
HOEVEN: Right. That was to move forward and approve the pipeline. And again we have got a bipartisan majority in the Congress, so I'm hopeful that we can have an open amendment process and convince people to look to the merits, get these things done after more than six years.
WALLACE: All right. The issues on Keystone have been debated for years, and just after the midterm elections, President Obama did a pretty good job of laying out the issues. Here they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Is this going to be good for the American people? Is it going to be good for their pocketbook? Is it going to actually create jobs? Is it actually going to reduce gas prices that have been coming down? And is it going to be on net something that doesn't increase climate change that we're going to have to grapple with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Coons, he laid it out pretty well. What does Keystone mean in terms of energy, in terms of the environment, in terms of the jobs?
COONS: Keystone means unlocking the Canadian tar sands, some of the dirtiest sources of energy on the planet and allowing those tar sands to go across our American Midwest and then reach the international economy and our environment.
WALLACE: All right. I'm going to stop you there. We'll get to each thing sequentially. Your quick response to that?
HOEVEN: Yeah, we import oil from Venezuela that has as high or higher greenhouse gas emissions. We produce oil in California that has higher greenhouse gas emissions. And so, here we are. Why do you think gas is lower at the pump? It's because we're producing more energy, and we are getting more energy from Canada, not because OPEC gave us a Christmas present. Americans want to produce energy here at home ...
WALLACE: Senator Coons, let me ask you another question about it. Canadian crude is already being shipped in this country by rail or by truck. Doesn't that have even a larger carbon footprint than the pipeline will?
COONS: And folks in my state and across our country are concerned about the safety implications of so many railcars and of building new pipelines, and they should be concerned about the public safety and the emissions implications, but frankly Senator Hoeven keeps talking about what 70 percent of Americans want. 70 percent of Americans in a recent national poll also said they want a carbon tax or they want the EPA to be able to regulate carbon dioxide. What a majority of Americans want is clean energy jobs, improving our environment and growing good construction jobs and a modern energy ...
WALLACE: Let me interrupt you there.
COONS: We should be able to get there.
WALLACE: Let me interrupt you there, because that's been one of the big issues, is the jobs. There is talk that it's going to create 42,000 jobs and there's talk about that's only temporary jobs, and a lot of those are the coffee shop that the person who's working on the pipeline goes to to get his coffee. How many jobs would this really create?
HOEVEN: Well, the environmental impact statement prepared by the Obama administration says 42,000 jobs are supported by this project. $3.4 billion in GDP increase, $8 billion project, and tell the families that would be getting those paychecks that those aren't good jobs. Construction jobs are good jobs.
COONS: Construction jobs are good jobs. And I do want to see us move forward in infrastructure and in energy innovation, but we can do it with a clean energy future. Look, there's 50,000 people whose jobs right now in construction and manufacturing in the wind industry are hanging on whether Congress in a bipartisan way can extend the wind tax credit. There's 400,000 jobs in biofuels. We can make many more good construction and manufacturing jobs with an all of the above energy strategy.
HOEVEN: Chris, I have got to get this in. To have the kind of energy plan, energy security for this country that we want, we need the infrastructure to go with it, and the environmental impact statement done by the Obama administration says no significant environmental impact. I've got to get that in this there
COONS: They reached that conclusion assuming $100 a barrel oil. Oil has now dropped back to its average of the last 20 years. $50 a barrel, different context, different outcome.
WALLACE: Very quickly, in about 30 seconds, what about that, the fact that oil prices are dropping? Does that mean we don't need the pipeline?
HOEVEN: It means that if we want to grow our energy industry in this country and continue to work with Canada, rather than get energy from OPEC, we've got to be competitive. We need the infrastructure. We've got to build that business climate that creates the investment to produce more energy here at home.
WALLACE: All right.
HOEVEN: More important than ever.
WALLACE: All right.
COONS: About the business climate, but I have to worry about the environmental climate as well.
COONS: ... in coastal states.
WALLACE: In the few seconds we have left, Senator Coons, excuse me, you were sworn in for a term and congratulations, this week, and you can see there in this video went viral of Joe Biden whispering in your daughter Maggie's ear and then giving her a kiss. A lot of people thought she looked very uncomfortable. What was he saying to her? And I have to ask, because a lot of people been speculating about it, does she think the vice president is creepy?
COONS: No, Chris, she doesn't think the vice president is creepy. He's known my kids their whole lives. Joe was just being thoughtful. He was leaning forward -- I could hear him, he was leaning forward and whispering some encouragement to her about how when he was worn in and his own daughter Ashley was 13, she felt awkward and uncomfortable and he was encouraging her about how to get through day with lots of cameras and lots of folks watching. He was being Joe, he was being thoughtful and he was being sweet.
WALLACE: How did she feel about being such a media star?
COONS: I think she's pleasantly surprised that more people have heard of her than have heard of me.
WALLACE: Well, there you go.
HOEVEN: Chris, let me give a quick shoutout to the North Dakota State University football team, four-time national champions, go Bisons (ph).
WALLACE: There you go.
HOEVEN: Thank you.
WALLACE: All right. And football is a very big part of this weekend. Senator Coons, Senator Hoeven, thank you both. Thanks for coming in today. We were happy to talk about sports, and videos, and especially to talk about the pipeline. We'll stay on top of that.
Up next, a bumpy week for bipartisanship as the new Congress gets to work. And will the third time be the charm for Mitt Romney? We'll ask our Sunday group.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, HOUSE SPEAKER: The president, you know, at a minimum, he could have waited a few hours, maybe he could have waited a few days. We were taking our oaths of office when they were issuing veto threats. C'mon!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: House Speaker Boehner complaining this week after a volley of veto threats from the White House to Republican initiatives and we are back now with the panel. Julie, the White House issued three veto threats in this first week of the new Congress, on Keystone, on an effort to redefine the 40-hour, a full workweek, and ObamaCare, and also to delay some financial regulations. Any concern at the White House that the Republicans -- and assume they are trying to do that, will be able to portray the president as the obstructionist in Washington?
PACE: Well, you saw the White House in conjunction with the veto that also send the president around the country last week talking about things like free community college, talking about dropping a mortgage premium rate. They were trying to offset the vetoes with some more proactive policy proposals from the president. You know, for all the talk, though that we've had in Washington about potential areas of cooperation on trade and tax reform I think the dynamic that we saw last week is going to be basically how this is going to play out. You're going to have the Republicans putting forth legislation, you're going to have the White House threatening to veto. I think the question will be whether this will be, the opening salvo and then we get negotiations, or whether both sides will basically stick to their positions.
WALLACE: George, what do you make of this first week of the new balance of power in Washington? How did Congress do and the Republicans leading it and how did the president do?
WILL: Well, the Republicans were quite right to emphasize Keystone, because it reveals four things. First, it reveals that the president's mask of being a disinterested scientific evidence (INAUDIBLE) man is just that, a mask, that this is an ideological position he's had all along. Second. The president says I just want to spend on infrastructure. This is infrastructure, the Keystone pipeline, and he's opposed to it. The president says it won't create permanent jobs.
Outside of government, which is all he knows, there no such thing as a permanent job. Ask the people who worked for Blockbuster Video until Netflix came along, or Borders before Amazon came along. First, climate. Senator Coons, like the president, believes that if we don't build the pipeline, the Canadians will just shrug and say, oh, let's leave the oil in the ground. It's going to be turned -- taken out of these tar sands, turned into oil, enter the world market somehow some way, and fuel cars around the world, period.
WALLACE: Juan, I want to get back to Julie's point, which is for all the talk before Congress and the president went back to work this week, all the talk about bipartisanship, big compromises, there sure was no sense this last week that anything big was going to get done.
WILLIAMS: No, I don't think there's any reason to think anything big is going to get done, for all the cumbaya talk. And there's historical basis that thing, that when you have one party in control at Capitol Hill and another party at the White House, that historically there has been an increase in legislative productivity, but at the moment we live in an age of such stark polarization, Chris, I don't think that you have seen the basic elements change with the Republicans taking control of the Hill. And this week, this whole controversy we're discussing here, with XL Pipelines, the prime example, I think you have the GOP base now sensing we have control of the Congress, we want to see them act in a greater defiance of this president that we don't like.
So, they not only on XL pipeline, but on immigration we are going to see that confrontation come down a little -- in February, and on ObamaCare, they want this Congress, even if there's a veto that's going to wipe it out, to simply do symbolic actions that demonstrate their continued angry (ph) President Obama.
WALLACE: Karl, I know you want to weigh in there, but I've got to switch subjects on you. Because there was also some very interesting political news this week with Mitt Romney on Friday talking to donors, and making clear, and asking them to spread the word that he is seriously considering another run for president. A couple of questions: Did Jeb Bush's aggressive moves forming PACs, and putting out all his e-mails and now he's going to release a decade of tax returns, did that force Romney's hand? And if this ends up as a battle for the endorsement of the establishment -- to the Republican Party, and let's say it's between Romney and Jeb Bush and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who wins?
ROVE: Well, I'm not certain one event prompted this. There've been a lot of events. I mean you've had Jeb, but you also have Marco Rubio saying that doesn't matter if Jeb runs or not, I'm going to make an independent decision. You had Chris Christie making moves, Rand Paul making moves, talk about Scott Walker, lots of conversation going on. And I think it may have been all of that combined that have caused Governor Romney to say I'm interested again.
It's a little bit mystifying in this respect. If he believes that Friday, then we'd better see in the next couple of weeks, some significant steps towards making a run. Otherwise people are going to say he wasn't really serious about it. So ...
WALLACE: And what would that be?
ROVE: Well, filing some kind of a committee that allows him to move around the country. You know, look, there are dozen different ways to do it. Jeb Bush did it in essence by saying I'm going to let you read 250,000 e-mails. That's signified an interest. So there we are going to have to be some steps, taken by Governor Romney and these people that would say this was a serious comment, not merely a conversation with 30 people in New York City.
WALLACE: Well, but you know, you talk about all these other candidates, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. But -- and maybe I'm wrong, and correct me if I am on that, a lot of people, I think the conventional wisdom is that Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney would be going for the same part of the Republican Party in terms of money, in terms of organization. One, is that true? And if so, who has the advantage?
ROVE: Well, they would broadly be the sort of these, you know, conservative -- moderate conservative center right voters, but look, a different money basis, one from New England, one from Florida, you know, they would share a lot of people, but then everybody -- most people who run for president share a lot of people when they run.
WILLIAMS: C'mon, Karl.
ROVE: I would say that.
WILLIAMS: C'mon, Karl. After you, they want your -- you're saying -- Chris asked you a real question. Because split the establishment ...
WALLACE: As opposed to most of my questions.
WILLIAMS: They're going to split the establishment money among Republicans and that opens the door to Ted Cruz.
ROVE: You know. Look, first of all, these guys are both capable of raising a lot of money, regardless of whether the other one is in the race. And then the second thing that I'd say is this, this is going to be a really unusual race from this perspective. Nothing is for -- ordained. There is no front-runner. The front-runner in the CNN poll was Jeb Bush with 23 percent, this was when Romney was not considered a candidate. Let's wait the next time there's a poll, there's going to be Mitt Romney in all likelihood at 24 percent.
WALLACE: All right, quickly, George Will, your thoughts about Mitt versus Jeb. I love it. We are using first names.
WILL: Well, if the country is suffering dynasty fatigue, this will certainly test that. Because Romney son of a governor, Jeb Bush son of everybody as far as I can tell. It seems to me the country hankers for some, to use the president's phrase, new car smell, and I don't see it in these two.
WALLACE: And you think Midwestern governors, right?
WILL: I'm all for the Midwest.
WILL: I'm from.
WALLACE: We are out of time. Thank you, panel. But keep that thought. See you next week.
And we'll be back with a final note.
WALLACE: Thousands of people gathering in Paris for a national unity march after three days of terror there. For more on the developing situation in France, please stay tuned to this Fox station as well as Fox News channel. And that's it for today. Have a great week. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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