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President Obama's foreign policy under fire
Written by Chris Wallace / Published February 01, 2015 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Gen. Jack Keane, Amb. Dennis Ross
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," February 1, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.
Islamic extremists continue their march in the Middle East. Does President Obama have a real plan to beat them?
JACK KEANE, RETIRED FOUR-STAR GENERAL: U.S. policymakers refuse to actively name the movement as radical Islam. We have no comprehensive strategy to stop it or defeat it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the political objective we're out to accomplish? Frankly, I don't know what it is right now.
WALLACE: We'll discuss the situation on the ground and the president's policy with three experts who have first-hand experience. Senator Kelly Ayotte of the Armed Services Committee, retired Four-Star General Jack Keane, and the chief Mideast negotiator for four presidents, Ambassador Dennis Ross.
Then, Common Core education standards exposes split inside the GOP.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, R-LA.: This is becoming a top-down approach, just like ObamaCare.
GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OHIO: It's local schools with local school boards and high standards. I don't know how anybody can disagree with that.
WALLACE: Two key players debate the merits of Common Core. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and former education secretary, Bill Bennett.
Plus, President Obama wants to break those automatic spending caps and spends billions more on new programs. Our Sunday panel weighs in.
And our power player this Super Bowl Sunday, Hall of Famer John Riggins on his larger than life legacy on and off the field.
JOHN RIGGINS, HALL OF FAMER: I came to play. I was there to play the game and to have fun. And I think I accomplished that.
WALLACE: All, right now, on Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
We begin with breaking news. Jordan has renewed its offer to trade an al Qaeda prisoner for a Jordanian pilot being held by ISIS after the Islamic militants released a video which appears to show the murder of a second Japanese hostage. We'll discuss the worsening situation in the region and growing criticism of U.S. policy with some key players on these issues.
But first, FOX News correspondent Conor Powell is live in our Mideast newsroom with the latest -- Conor.
CONOR POWELL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, Kenji Goto's death is just the latest in a long line of challenges facing the United States here in the Middle East, and just about every corner of the region, there is cause for concern from the growing threat from ISIS, to Iran, to the friction between the United States and one of its closest allies.
POWELL (voice-over): Two days ago, there was hope that talks would lead to the release of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh. But Saturday night, ISIS released instead video showing Goto's execution while vowing more violence.
Despite losing the Kurdish city of Kobani, after weeks of U.S. airstrikes, ISIS regrouped and launched a major offensive on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, once again proving the fight against the radical group is far from over.
And tensions flared once again between Israel and the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah. After Israel launched a strike that killed several militants and an Iranian general in Syria, Hezbollah responded, killing two Israeli soldiers, nearly igniting another war.
In Israel, the fallout from Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to speak before Congress despite objections from the White House took center stage. Across Israeli media, shocked even some at FOX News, seen here, which is here as pro-Netanyahu, would criticize the move.
POWELL: There is a sense here in Israel and really across the entire Middle East that the U.S. has lost both the ability and the desire to help shape and stabilize the Middle East, Chris, at a time when it needs it the most.
WALLACE: Conor Powell, reporting from Jerusalem -- Conor, thanks for that.
Now, let's bring in top Middle East experts to discuss the situation on the ground, and President Obama's policies. Former army vice chief of staff, retired four-star general, Jack Keane. Senator Kelly Ayotte, who is on the Armed Services Committee. And Dennis Ross, who served as the Mideast negotiator to four U.S. presidents.
All of you, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, R-N.H., ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Thanks, Chris.
JACK KEANE, RETIRED FOUR-STAR GENERAL: Glad to be here.
WALLACE: General Keane, I'd like to start with that map over your shoulder which you presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week.
What do you think it demonstrates?
KEANE: Well, I think, first of all, the United States is confronting a security challenge at a scale that's not seen since post-World War II, with the rise of the Soviet Union super power and the spread of communism globally. What we see on the map is radical Islam morphing into the global jihad, and also, the Iranian state-sponsored terrorism and state itself seeking domination represented by green on that map, as it begins to control and influence some of the major countries in the Middle East and certainly influence or control those capitals.
WALLACE: Ambassador Ross, I mean, the map is stunning and as you look at that spread of Islamic extremism across the Middle East, now into North Africa, are we winning or losing the war against Islamic extremism?
AMBASSADOR DENNIS ROSS, FOX NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Look, at this point, basically they're fighting each other. Iranians are fighting ISIS. In a sense, we may want both sides to lose, but the fact is, we also have to find a way to ensure that the non-Islamists in the region begin to gain. What you would hope to see over the next couple years is everywhere the radicalists are on the move, they begin to lose, they begin to see reverses and we begin to see the non-Islamists in the region, we begin to see them advance.
WALLACE: But you're not seeing that on the map.
ROSS: No, you're not seeing it right now. We have approach right now as it relates to ISIS that I think at this point still hasn't resolved the fundamental problem. You cannot defeat ISIS in Iraq unless, in fact, you deal with the problem of Syria. If you're only attacking the ISIS targets in Syria and allowing Assad to attack the non-ISIS targets, you're creating a problem for yourself. You're going to have to resolve that contradiction if you're going to have a strategy that's effective.
WALLACE: I want to go back, Senator Ayotte, to the big picture and to that map. And the Obama administration's continued refusal to say that we are in a war with Islamic extremism. Here this week is Secretary of the State John Kerry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Today, we are witnessing nothing more than a form of criminal anarchy, a nihilism, which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Ayotte, why does it matter what we call our enemies in the region?
AYOTTE: It very much matters because you have to define your enemy. And here is the problem, I think they should spend less time on being worried about being politically correct about how we define our enemies and more time on a strategy to defeat them. One of the things we heard consistently this week from the national security experts, including General Keane, was a lack of a strategy. It was very disjointed what's happening and what we see is more outgrowth of these extremist groups in the region.
WALLACE: Well, I want to pick up on that. And in fact, the reason that I wanted to do the panel this week is because you had some of our leading national security thinkers, really sounding the alarm. It almost seemed in a way like a tipping point.
Let's put some of them up on the screen. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, retired head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said this, "You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists."
And General James Mattis, former head of U.S. Central Command, which had responsibility for the Middle East, said, "We need to come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm strategic stance in defense of our values."
Which raises the question, and you addressed it in the little clip we had in our opening, General Keane, do we have a winning strategy at this point against Islamic extremism?
KEANE: Well, anybody looking at that map, our viewers just looking at it, would come to the conclusion, which is obvious -- we do not. Al Qaeda has grown four-fold in five years. ISIS, which began when we pulled out politically and military from Iraq, grew from an organization less than 3,000 to an organization over 30,000 in three years. Radical Islamists spread from Western Africa through the Middle East, all the way to South Asia to sub-Indian continent.
What is the strategy to stop it? We have not stopped it and we certainly don't have a strategy to defeat it. It is absolutely compelling.
What is our strategy? We use drones to kill al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan and also in Yemen. That's a vital tactic we should use it but it's not a strategy. We partner with very selective countries in Africa to help them do some training. That's fragmented at best. There's no overall strategy.
Until we bring the countries that are involved and also those that have interest together and put together an alliance and establish a strategy, we're not going to be able to push effectively against this.
WALLACE: Ambassador Ross, let me pick up with you. You were -- we talk about four presidents, you were a special assistant for the Mideast for this president, President Obama, for his first two years in office. So, it's not like you're a knee-jerk critic of this president.
And it's not just the spread of Islamist militants -- let's put this on the map -- because it's also Iran which we now see its influence is spreading to Baghdad and Damascus and Beirut and Sana'a.
If the threat is radical Islam, does the president have a sound strategy, both militarily and also in terms of messaging to deal with Islamic extremism -- and what do we need to do differently or better?
ROSS: Well, a couple of points. First, I think, Senator, your point not being reluctant to identify who the enemy is, is essential, because we have to say who it is that we're actually fighting.
And you look at that map and you see Iran being on the move, you see radical Islamism as reflected by Iran fighting radical Islamism as reflected, I would say, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood.
We have to decide, radical Islam, whether it's Sunni or Shia, is the enemy. And we have to then begin to work with those who see that as a threat to them.
We shouldn't be reluctant to call it "Islamic radicalism", precisely because there are those in the Middle East who see it as a threat and they're the ones who ultimately have to discredit it. We cannot discredit radical Islam. They're going to have to discredit it.
But I'll give you one simple --
WALLACE: But if we're not even acknowledging that that's what the problem is, it's going to be hard to get the people in the region to discredit it and fight it.
ROSS: We have to be prepared to be forthright on it. They also have to see that we're prepared to fight it. They have to see we're prepared to support those who are prepared to fight it and we then have to be prepared to invest in a way that allows us to succeed with them.
WALLACE: But, Senator Ayotte, I mean, what do we do? I mean, we talk about these coalitions. Yes, we've got Jordanians a couple of sorties and things like that. But what do we do when we see that map, it's like the fire alarm is ringing.
AYOTTE: There is a fire alarm ringing, Chris. And I think what we do is they're expecting American leadership in terms of bringing us together. They have to take the fight there. We help them with the capacity. They have to have the will.
But they right now I think many of those in the Arab nations are looking to us that we could work with and saying, can we count on them? Will they stick with their word? And I think that's one of the problems we face as we look at an overall strategy, yes, we can't do all the fighting and they need to step up against radical Islam, no question.
But as leaders, we need to bring people together. They need to be able to count on us and we have to make sure, Chris --
WALLACE: And you don't think at this point our so-called allies in the region feel they can defend on this president?
AYOTTE: I don't. Unfortunately, I don't. And I think that there'd been many instances -- one of the things we took from the testimony on Armed Services Committee I heard this week was, also, our word has to matter. And I think there's a real concern out there that not only a lack of a strategy but in order to be a leader to bring everyone together to work together, you have to be able to be counted on. I think that's a real worry.
WALLACE: General Keane, Lieutenant General Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence, compared what we need to do in this region now to the U.S. and allied effort against the Nazis in World War II to, and you mentioned it, the Cold War and the West's effort against the soviets. What -- I mean, give me specific ideas. What do we need to be doing?
KEANE: Well, I think we can be informed by beating the Nazis with brute force and beating the Soviet Union, I think with better ideas. But most importantly, we formed alliances in NATO and Southeast Asia Treaty Organization to contain communism. That's what we need here.
We need to come together and form alliances. This is not about -- our viewers shouldn't think in looking at that map that the United States troops are going to be fighting wars all over the Middle East and on the sub-continent -- Indian subcontinent. That's not true.
This is mostly about the countries doing their own heavy lifting. But here's what we can do -- share intelligence, share technology, share equipment. We have learned a lot how to fight this enemy. Most of these militaries out there are conventional militaries. They have to transition to be able to deal with irregular warfare, just like we have transitioned in the last 13 years. There's much we can do to help.
WALLACE: All right. I want to talk about one last area, and we're beginning to run out of time, and that is -- you talk about alliances, our relationship with our strongest ally in the region, Israel, seems to be at an all-time low after Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, accepted an invitation from the House Speaker John Boehner to speak to Congress about the dangers of the Iranian nuclear threat without anybody telling the White House.
Bret Baier asked Speaker Boehner about that this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SPECIAL REPORT")
BRET BAIER, HOST: Do you think there's some kind of antipathy in this administration towards Netanyahu?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Of course there is. They don't -- they don't even try to hide it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Ambassador Ross, you have worked on this issue -- on the Middle East, Israel, Palestinians, almost your entire career. And yet I want to put up some of the comments that were being made this week. Put them up on the screen.
A senior administration official says of Netanyahu, "He spat in our face publicly." Another top official tells "The New York Times," "Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu's political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States."
How serious is this breach?
ROSS: Well, look, I think it is serious, because, obviously, President Obama is going to be there for another almost two years. Whoever merges in the Israeli election is going to, in a sense dealing with administration as it relates to this prime minister, where there's a profound sense of distrust and there's a sense that the prime minister has made a decision in the sense not to work with the administration but to work with the Congress. And in a sense, beyond that, to make it a partisan issue not an American issue.
Israel and this country has been not a Republican issue, not a Democratic issue, but an American issue. That's profoundly in our interest and in Israel's interest to preserve that.
WALLACE: That seems to be falling apart right now.
ROSS: Right now, that -- I think that's put under more risk than we've seen before.
WALLACE: Thirty seconds. Final thought, Senator Ayotte.
AYOTTE: Final thought, I think there's still bipartisan support in Congress for Israel. And I think the real Israel is concerns that these negotiations, there's already been too much conceded --
WALLACE: You're talking about Iran?
AYOTTE: Absolutely. We just -- the Senate Banking Committee on strong bipartisan voted out additional sanctions this week. The Congress would like to say on this agreement because many on both sides of the aisle are concerned that we have a strong verifiable agreement that really ends in their nuclear program. And that goes back to I think the prime minister's concerns, about too much has been conceded already.
And so, I think you'll find some bipartisan support in Congress for the concerns that the prime minister has about the ongoing negotiations with Iran.
WALLACE: Senator Ayotte, General Keane, Ambassador Ross, thank you all so much. Thank you for coming in today and helping us understand what I think is a really grievous situation. Thank you all.
WALLACE: Up next, our Sunday group joins the conversation: what can the U.S. do to fight the spread of Islamic extremism across the Middle East and Africa?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC SCHULTZ, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group. So, we don't make concessions to terrorist groups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: White House spokesman Eric Shultz trying to distinguish between our trade with the Taliban for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, and Jordan's talks with ISIS to swap a failed suicide bomber for a captured Jordanian pilot.
And it's time now for our Sunday group: syndicated columnist George Will, Julie Pace who covers the White House for The Associated Press, co-host of "The Five", Dana Perino, and Peter Baker of The New York Times.
George, this seemed to me to be the week when all the fine distinctions that the White House tries to make between an armed insurgency and terror and Islamic extremism, when all of that came tumbling down, not only the generals I talked about in the first segment, but also big strategic thinkers like former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, all told Congress that we don't have a plan. We don't have a strategy to defeat Islamic extremism.
GEORGE WILL, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's a fair criticism, but it's also fair to say, try and build a strategy. Begin with this -- the president wants and Congress evidently wants to pass a new authorization for the use of military force. Try and write one. Who are we fighting and where are we fighting them?
Particularly this week, we learned that ISIS, ISIL, we haven't agreed on the term, is now in Libya, a failed state that our policy created.
Second, our big success so far, militarily is beating ISIL away from the border town in Syria of Kobani. To do that, we used 75 percent of all of our airstrikes since September for that one small achievement.
Third, we seem to be agreed politically and for other reasons that they're not going to be any significant U.S. ground troops involved.
Fourth, that throws us back on the regional powers. "The Washington Post" reports this week that some of the training done for the Iraqi army is afflicted with such shortages of ammunition and weapons that they go through their training exercises shouting "bang, bang" instead of firing weapons. That's the mess from which we're supposed to construct a strategy.
WALLACE: Julie, how do they respond at the White House to what seems -- let's put that map up. I really think you can't get enough of looking at that map -- the fact that Islamic extremism from al Qaeda to ISIS to Iran is on the march?
JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: They don't necessarily argue that there aren't more groups out there. They argue that the threat that those groups pose to U.S. interests and the homeland in particular is far less than it was when you were talking about core al Qaeda basically in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
You know, to pick (ph) some of George's point, I think what's so interesting about the strategy that the U.S. -- that the White House says they have here is that so much of it is out of their control. Yemen has really been the example that Obama has pointed to where he says we have our counterterrorism campaign. We launched drone strikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and we're coordinating with this government. But that government doesn't exist anymore. And when you're dealing in these countries that have such instability in them, we just don't have control over the pieces that we say need to be in place in order for these strategies to succeed.
WALLACE: But, you know, Dana, I mean, I'm hearing about the problem. We can't let them grow and build. I mean, this feels in certain ways like the 1990s when you had and everybody was aware of, maybe not worried about, al Qaeda building training camps, comments, incendiary comments from bin Laden, and then suddenly 9/11 happened.
I mean, at a certain point, you have to confront it, don't you?
DANA PERINO, CO-HOST, "THE FIVE": So, we are a lot better as a nation of confronting terror and trying to get in front of it and prevent terror attacks than we were on September 10th, 2001. But that complacency, that worry that, OK, we haven't had an attack in a while on the homeland in terms of a catastrophic attack that things are better. Then, the White House is in this rhetorical box. They are trying to make sure that they can say that, well, the president has fundamentally changed foreign policy. He has gotten us out of two wars.
In the meantime, if you look at that map, the other troubling thing is that you have ISIS now in Afghanistan, Taliban joining up with ISIS n the border regions. And so, we hope -- I hope we're not returning to a situation where we were on September 10th. But I think that's why you had so many people come out this week publicly and say, "We are alarmed, Mr. President, we also want to help you." And I think he should take them up on that.
WALLACE: Peter, you had a tough piece "The New York Times" yesterday, in which you reported that Netanyahu -- we talked earlier about the split over Netanyahu accepting Boehner's offer to speak to Congress -- that Netanyahu and Obama have basically given up on each other and suggesting that U.S./Israeli relations could be in the deep freeze -- if Netanyahu gets re-elected in March, could be in the deep freeze for the next two years.
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, it does look like that. Look, they -- this reflects six years of scar tissue at this point, it's being picked at and picked at. It's not about a speech. It's about a very different world view between these two leaders.
President Obama would love to find some way of having rapprochement with Iran. He feels that would make the region, in fact, we've talked about that map, even safer if they could get Iran back into the community of nations on some level. And Prime Minister Netanyahu lives in the region and he looks at that everybody and says, "This is an existential threat to my country." And they're talking past each other at this point.
And so, all the small things like whether you give a speech or not end up, you know, causing a big -- much bigger rift. I think that you're right. I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has basically decided that Republicans in Congress are his way to go at this point. President Obama looks at the March 17th election thinks maybe the chance we get a different government in there, and if not, frankly, they made clear they don't want to work with Prime Minister Netanyahu's ambassador here in Washington.
WALLACE: But, Dana, isn't that dangerous? I mea, to a certain degree, everybody -- I mean, one of the unified issues in which Republicans and Democrats stood was support for the state of Israel. If this now becomes a political issue, Netanyahu, and I'm not saying who is responsible, Netanyahu is basically throwing in with the Republican Congress against the president, isn't that bad for the U.S. and for Israel?
PERINO: I think it takes away from the fact that we all have a similar goal, which is that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon which to have power over the entire region and possibly destroy Israel, their stated claim. I would hope that that rift could actually be smoothed over. I think it takes big leaders to be able to say, all right, I might not like you personally, but I know we've got to work together.
And I don't think that waiting until March 17th for a new government is a good idea. A new government takes a while to get established. Meantime, Iran is playing out the clock. And so, I would hope that they would take the opportunity to figure it out.
I think that Congress will work on this deal. They'll come to some sort of agreement between Menendez and Corker, and get something that the president can use in the negotiation.
PACE: In some ways, the Iran deal is going to force the U.S. and Israel to at least be aware of each other on this playing field in some way. If there is a deal, Israel is going to have to decide whether they accept the terms of the deal or whether they try to move ahead on their own, perhaps with some kind of military action.
The more dangerous situation, I think, is if there is no deal and then basically the U.S. and Israel have to decide what's next. Do we just try to continue with sanctions and restart diplomacy at another point? Or is this a time for military action?
And if the U.S. and Israel are not on the same page on that, it creates a very difficult situation, not just for our two countries but for the region.
WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here, but we'll see you all a little later.
Up next, the growing controversy over Common Core education standards. We'll have a debate over what's become a hot political issue.
Plus, what do you think of Common Core? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtag, #FNS.
WALLACE: Chances are you've heard of common core, education standards for grades K through 12 that 46 states adopted just three years ago. But now the program has become so controversial among conservatives several states have dropped out. Joining us to debate common core, Texas Governor Greg Abbott who says the program is banned in his state. And here in D.C., former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, author of the new book "Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana is Harming America."
Mr. Bennett, let me start with you. A number of Republicans considering Iran for president in 2016, have made opposition to common core a key issue. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, R-FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Why is the federal government getting involved in an issue where there is no mention whatsoever in the Constitution education.
RICK SANTORUM, R-FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: We need less common core and more common sense.
SCOTT WALKER, R-WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: No school district in the state is required to use common core standards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Mr. Bennett, are they all wrong?
BILL BENNETT, FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Yes, they're all wrong. Because -- but it's understandable why they're wrong. Common core has been vilified because there's been tremendous amount of misinformation about common core that it requires teaching of Islamic radicalism, you have to read all of Barack Obama's speeches. It's a code of political correctness. A whole mythology is built up around common core.
Common core are state standards for math and reading by grade. That's all they are. Anybody who questions what they should read what the standards say. and they say such tendentious things as kids should focus on arithmetic in the early grades, learn how to count, multiply, divide and subtract. And in reading they should emphasize phonics, the meaning of words and good, clear expression.
WALLACE: Governor Abbott, I mean there's another myth about this, contrary to wide-spread public belief this program wasn't started in Washington, in fact, it was started by the nation's governors and by the nation's state education chiefs. So, why this thought that this is a federal takeover of education?
GOV. GREG ABBOTT, R-TEXAS: Well, two things, Chris. One is we have seen buyer's remorse by the governors and states that bought into it to begin with. And they bought into it at a time before its implementation began. What we have seen after its implementation is now the federal government is tying billions of dollars to whether or not states comply with what is becoming a national standard. And so what we're dealing with is a one-size-fit-all national standard being pushed down from the top, from the Obama administration and that is why suddenly we've seen so many parents, so many states, so many school districts reject it so harshly.
WALLACE: All right. Well, let me pick up on that, because while the feds didn't start common core, Mr. Bennett.
WALLACE: The fact is that they have used grants under the Race to the Top program to try to encourage states to adopt common core and you, even as a big conservative supporter, say that was a mistake.
BENNETT: Absolutely mistake. And the governor's got a point, there are three quarters of a point there. The government put its big foot on this and said if you want government money, federal money, race to the top money as it was called then, this would be a very good, there are smart thing for you to do, common core. From there it went to the notion that the federal government was dictating it. Now, one can understand --
WALLACE: Let me ask, is the federal government dictating it?
BENNETT: No, it isn't. And by the way, there's legislation that's been passed and more legislation coming that will prohibit the federal government from being involved in the common core. However let it be said, as a conservative, one is rightly suspicious of this administration getting into matters that is none of its business. Internal vigilance is the price of liberty. Nevertheless, these standards were developed locally. They are administered locally. In terms of governor's buyer's remorse, talk to Governor Branstad in Iowa, talk to Governor Kasich in Ohio, talk to Governor McCrory in North Carolina, they're very happy with these standards.
There's a reason we had to do this, Chris. When states were reporting their own numbers in math and English, I saw this when I was secretary, we had this like woe be gone effect. 85 percent of the students, you know, were proficient in math and English. Then when you took the national assessment of educational progress test, students in that state turned out 40 percent were proficient. You have to have some kind of independent assessment, some kind of benchmark standards in order to see how our kids are doing.
WALLACE: Governor Abbott in Texas, the use of common core has been banned by the state legislature and you as the attorney general before you became governor said it is banned in the state. But, there are reports that two thirds of the math program that Texas set up your own standards, in fact, overlap with common core. And I want to put up this report which speaks to Mr. Bennett's last point. In education weeks, state report card, your state of Texas got an overall grade of C minus and ranked 39th among the 50 states in the country. Meanwhile, the top nine states in terms of their performance, governor, all have adopted common core.
ABBOTT: Well, let's clarify a couple of things. First of all, what I believe is the correct approach for education is to return genuine local control, which is what I have charted the pathway for as governor. And we will improve our schools from the bottom up by allowing teachers to excel, by increasing parental involvement, by engaging students. And the best way to do that is not with these one size fits all mandates from Washington, D.C. Or even from Austin, Texas. But instead giving flexibility at the local level ...
WALLACE: But let me...
ABBOTT: Starting with building a strong foundation.
WALLACE: We want to have a debate.
BENNETT: Local control is what we have. And local control is what we should have. Curriculum is set locally.
ABBOTT: I've got to disagree.
BENNETT: Curriculum is set -- but you just set you want a local control. You've got local control. You decided that common core wouldn't be in Texas, so it's not in Texas. And Texas can teach math any way it wants. But what Texas can't do is change the nature of mathematics and what mathematical reasoning and mathematical sequence becomes. Excuse me.
ABBOTT: Chris, I have got to strenuously disagree with that. And this is going to be easy, frankly. I hope all your viewers will go to Google and plug in nine plus six common core. And when you do that, if you just plug in nine plus six common core, you will find a video that shows the way that math is taught under common core. And remember this ...
WALLACE: But wait, put me out of my misery because I would think nine plus six is 15. So, what's the deal?
ABBOTT: You would think so. And when you plug in nine plus six common core you'll find it's going to take you more than a minute to see how a teacher teaches a student to learn how to add nine plus six.
WALLACE: Is that true?
ABBOTT: These are the -- Chris, these are the common core standards that are now being pushed down from the top that we must get away from.
WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. Excuse me, you made your point. Go ahead.
BENNETT: It's an easy way to resolve this. I haven't seen this but I'm going to tell you if it's crazy, it probably isn't common core. It's probably one of these myths that's developed. We understand why it's developed. Here is what the audience can do. Here is what you can really do. Download the standards themselves. The common core standards. That's what they did in Idaho, that's what they did in Utah and they said to the citizens, do you have any objection to any of this? Not what someone said the standards were. Not what Google reported. Not what some citizens group decided was common core, but the actual standards themselves. They are public. And anybody can examine those standards. You tell me what's wrong with saying, kids should learn how to parse and diagram sentencing, memorize, read the declaration of independence. That's what I want to know what's wrong with it.
WALLACE: Governor, you know, everyone from teachers' unions to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is in favor of this and at a time when by international standards you see us falling -- us as a country, falling behind, what is the idea about having some standards so that you can measure how students in Texas are learning as compared to students in Ohio and how students in Texas are learning as compared to students in England?
ABBOTT: And let's clarify some of the misinformation that you had in your statement. You said that unions are in favor of this. Remember this, go back to 1993, you saw Massachusetts create one of the premier education programs in America. Now it has turned out that Massachusetts is going down the pathway of common core. The president of the teachers union in Massachusetts has come out against using common core in Massachusetts. What we're seeing here, Chris, is every time we peel another layer off of exposing what common core really is, everyone, whether it be parents, or teachers, or local school districts or states or governors, they're running from it like a house on fire and there's a reason for it. That's because common core violates the four core principles and the four core pillars of education, which is parental involvement, excellent teachers, student engagement and adaptability for the uniqueness of each particular student.
WALLACE: Mr. Bennett?
BENNETT: I've been for those principles since before Governor Abbott was born. I would say, I think I have a pretty good record as a conservative on education. Once again, we can resolve this dispute by looking at the standards. Governor Haslam of Tennessee, a Republican said, before we had these common standards, these agreed upon standards agreed upon by governors, said, we were dishonest in reporting the proficiency of our students to their parents. And that's what parents want to know, are our kids learning? So, why not a voluntary basis of agreement for assessment? By the way, there's an intellectual problem. If you decide to go it on your own in math and English? How do you validate those standards? What's your benchmark? How do you say this is what kids in Texas learn compared to kids in other states? By the way, the common core standards are the first standards to be developed that approach in math and reading, the standards that we see internationally. That's why the states that are using them I think are going to continue to rise to the top.
WALLACE: 30 seconds left, Governor Abbott, you get the final word.
ABBOTT: Sure. Using Secretary Bennett's words, there is an intellectual deficiency here and it was shown by the professor at Stanford who was the only person on the common core committee looking at mathematics and that professor said that the mathematics portion of common core will set students back in the United States of America as opposed to advancing them forward.
Again, the more we learn about common core, the more problematic it is.
WALLACE: Listen, I never thought that we were going to solve this, but I hope that we have provided some light and not just some heat to I think a very important issue. We are going to stay on top of this. Governor Abbott, Mr. Bennett, thank you both, thanks for coming in.
BENNETT: Wish I could be with you at Chris Kyle Day tomorrow, Governor Abbott.
WALLACE: Oh, yes, I do want to say -- yes, yes, you are exactly right. I want to point that out. Governor Abbott, you're having Chris Kyle Day after the whole fuss about "American Sniper" to honor a true American hero. We thank you for coming up with that idea. That's a great program.
ABBOTT: Thank you.
WALLACE: When we come back, President Obama rolls out his budget tomorrow and he's calling for an end to those automatic spending caps. What do you think of the Obama plan to spend and tax more? Just go to Facebook or Twitter @foxnewssunday and we may use your question on the air.
Plus, now that Mitt Romney has decided not to run, where does that leave the Republican presidential field for 2016?
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Be part of the discussion and weigh in on the action every "Fox News Sunday."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let's make sure that we end this across the board sequester that doesn't differentiate between smart government spending and dumb government spending. Let's take a scalpel and not a meat cleaver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama seeking support from House Democrats this week for his new budget, which would break automatic spending caps and spend billions more on government programs. And we're back now with the panel. So, here briefly is the president's plan for his new budget, which will be out tomorrow. The president wants to go seven percent over the automatic spending cap sequestration with $38 billion more for defense and $37 billion more for domestic programs. He would pay for this with $320 billion over ten years in new taxes and fees.
Julie, do White House officials really think that they can get Republicans who clearly want more defense spending to go along with this? Or is this really about the White House trying to get a good political issue?
PACE: It's a wish list. It's what the White House wants in the perfect scenario. I think on the sequester, when it comes to defense cuts in particular, they're hoping to find some alignment with Republicans. Everyone agrees that the sequester has been a bad idea. No one wanted it to go in place in the first place. There's a huge gap, though, between the way the White House is proposing to get rid of the sequester cuts and what Republicans want to do. I think mainly the White House's purpose here is to say, I've at least put out a plan. The president put out a plan. It's your turn, Republicans, if you want to get rid of these spending cuts. If you want to put forward a budget, now you go.
WALLACE: We asked you for questions for the panel and we got this from Mike Johnson on Facebook who writes -- "There is no reason to end caps. The spending caps. What reasoning is there to spend trillions more when the debt is so high already? Dana, how do you answer that pretty good question from Mike? And is there a danger for Republicans to oppose if they oppose the president's budget, not only free community college and expanded child care, but also his plan to increase defense spending?
PERINO: Well, I think two things. Remember, the administration said that sequester was going to ruin the economy. Now that they say the economy is doing better, we no longer need the sequester. So I'm not sure that they can actually square that circle. I think the best thing Republicans can do is say, thank you for your budget request, Mr. President. And then try to find Democrats that will go issue by issue for them. Because there are very few moderate fiscal Democrats left in the Congress.
So I think that not taking it as a whole pie, we are taking it piece by piece is going to be a smarter strategy for that.
WALLACE: George, your thoughts about the president's budget and this way -- you know, the Republican way would be, well, if you want increases in spending in some areas, then cut spending in other areas. Obviously the White House has a different view, which is hundreds of billions of dollars more in new taxes.
WILL: Well, the sequester is the worst form of government except for the way we used to do it, which is to have no sense of restraint whatsoever. The real problem is that at a moment when the foreign policy skies are darkening, the effect of the sequester is disportionately (ph) to disarm the country. Because it takes one half of all the cuts come from the central business of government which is national security and defense.
WALLACE: Let's turn to another big story this week and that is after a three-week flirtation, Mitt Romney decided on Friday that he is not going to run for president. Here is how he explained it to his supporters on a conference call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY: After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it's best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Peter, what does Romney's decision tell you about where the Republican Party is in 2015 and what the messages he was getting from that party and where do you think it leaves the field for 2016?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, it's a great question. I don't think this tells us, you know, that the party is more this or that ideologically. I think it's about Mitt Romney. He ran twice before. Once as a nominee and the party wants to look for somebody they think can win. And a lot of people who supported him, and fairly strongly about Mitt Romney thought this is not a time for him to come back. Mitt Romney himself put it this way about -- look, I understand everybody is sitting there telling me to run, or telling me that because I'm not in the race. And once I were to get in the race it would look different. Well, he ended up testing that thesis, turned out to be true. As for 2016, obviously, it leaves more room for Jeb Bush, maybe for Chris Christie to get in, for the establishment part of the party clarifies that a little bit. We have got a very open-ended race here. 15, 20 candidates at this point potentially. And it's a very open field.
WALLACE: George, did Mitt Romney make the right decision not to run and how do you think this shapes the field or what we think is going to be the field for the next two years?
WILL: Mitt Romney became wealthy because he knows how to read markets. He read the political market. Its response to this (INAUDIBLE) offer a third Romney run was almost uniformly negative. This is a mixed blessing for Jeb Bush. It opens up the donor class to him more, but he wants to delay as long as possible. The time before the bull's eye on his back says the definite article, the establishment candidate, so he has to avoid that trap.
WALLACE: Julie, I'm sure because they're all political animals that they talk about all of this in the White House, how do they handicap the field, what do they make of Mitt Romney getting in, what do they make of him getting out and who do you sense -- I mean they're not going to be running against whoever the candidate is, it will be Hillary Clinton, probably, but who do they think is the most formidable Republican opponent?
PACE: Well, I think on the ladder, I mean they look at someone like Jeb Bush and see that he is someone who was a governor, he has a record that he can run on, he clearly has a donor base, he's making some smart moves early. So I think that they think that he would be viable.
There's always some interest in the White House about people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, simply because they deal with them so much on the hill. In terms of Romney, I mean I don't think there were any people who wanted Romney to run more than the Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill. They thought like they had a great argument that they could make against him. Picking up on the same argument they made in 2012. If you look at comments the president made the night before Romney said he wasn't going to run, president had this pretty sharp jab against Mitt Romney talking about how the former presidential candidate was suddenly now talking about poverty and inequality. Obama welcomes that kind of debate. So I think that there may be a little disappointment in the White House that Romney is not running this time around.
WALLACE: What do they think about Jeb Bush and the degree, to which the Bush name is tainted?
PACE: Well, if you remember, Obama had this comment a few months ago where he talked about Americans wanting a new car smell when they look at their presidential candidates. And in some ways, that may have been a vailed reference not only to Bush, but to Hillary Clinton. I think that they -- looking at their own experience feel like candidates who are fresh, who are new, can bring new ideas and new energy to presidential campaign, that that's their preferred model. They're not going to say that Bush shouldn't run. I think there is some sense that maybe some younger people, a new generation should have a chance.
WALLACE: Do you think -- I mean I got to pick up on this. Do you think that there are people in the White House who think Elizabeth Warren would be a better candidate for the Democrats than Hillary Clinton?
PACE: I haven't had anyone say that to me personally, I think that they try to downplay this idea of a rift between Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren that they are -- they are pretty far apart, but I think that sure, for some of these people in the White House who've worked for the president before who really relish a great primary fight, a great political debate, that they would like to see her in there?
WALLACE: Dana, just less than a minute left. I mean how do you see this shaping up? Is it going to be an establishment candidate and a Midwestern governor candidate and a -- furthered right-wing Tea Party? I mean we are going to have like semifinals and then they are all going to go off together in the finals? How is this going to work?
PERINO: I think possibly if you look at the number of GOP voters that are undecided right now, it's pretty much all of them.
PERINO: So, they're going to take these -- all these candidates out for a test drive and see what they like. And right now, if you look at the Iowa polls today, Scott Walker is up on top.
WALLACE: To be continued and very interesting. Good for Sunday talk shows. Thank you, panel. See you all next Sunday.
Up next, our power player of the week. A Super Bowl legend on today's big game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: You may have heard they're playing a football game tonight. It's been a long time since my Washington Redskins' were in the Super Bowl, but the memories of one game and one player have lasted for decades. Here is our power player of the week.
JOHN RIGGINS, SUPER BOWL XVII MVP: Super Bowl is here. Championship ring here. This is second place actually.
WALLACE: What does that mean to you, the Super Bowl ring?
RIGGINS: I don't think it's the ring so much as it is the memory really is what I have.
WALLACE (voice over): And what a memory Riggins has of Super Bowl XVII.
WALLACE: His Washington Redskins trailing 17-13 with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter. Facing fourth and one at the Miami Dolphins' 43 yard line.
RIGGINS: Then the play started and all I remember is getting a piece of Don McNeal or he getting a piece of me and then it was 40-some yards to the end zone.
I can't believe it, I'm in the end zone. How about that?
WALLACE: The Redskins won the game and Riggins was named most valuable player. But then he was always larger than life. For instance, the Super Bowl party earlier that week.
RIGGINS: I wanted just to have fun, so I rented the top hat and tails. And of course, everybody just loved it. And that was the kind of week I was having.
WALLACE: Riggins made the pro-football hall of fame with his bruising runs, especially the Riggo drill where the Redskins would run out the clock at the end of games giving him the ball over and over.
RIGGINS: I came to play. That would -- I came to play. I was there to play the game and to have fun.
WALLACE: Which brings us to his antics off the field.
RIGGINS: 90 percent of these are rumors, Chris. 90 percent. 10 are true.
WALLACE (on camera): Well, I was there for ten percent because I was at the next table.
RIGGNIS: You mean the night that Sandra Day O'Connor and I got engaged?
WALLACE (voice over): It was a black tie dinner in 1985.
RIGGINS: I knew that Justice O'Connor is going to be sitting at our table, so I started -- you know, I had a double scotch when I got there. Then I had another one.
WALLACE: As the night wore on, Riggins said these famous words ...
RIGGINS: Loosen up, Sandy baby. I believe this, but then again, you're asking me? I wouldn't make a very good witness on this one.
WALLACE: After football, Riggins went into acting. And now has a cable show called -- "Riggo on the Range."
RIGGINS: We're in tedious fight camp, guys. (INAUDIBLE). Look a little bright ...
WALLACE (on camera): What do you think of pro football today?
RIGGINS: Chris, I think probably the word -- there's two words that come to mind, Show Biz. It's all about basically deceiving you or making you think I'm going to do something else. Back when Vince Lombardi was coaching, it was kind of look you straight in the eyes and say, can you stop me? Here we come.
WALLACE (voice over): As for Deflate-gate, riggins thinks it's been wildly overcovered. but says this about the Patriots' coach --
RIGGINS: If I was ever to rob a bank, I would take Bill Belichick along because I know when we get caught and we will get caught just because it's Bill, he ain't telling nobody anything.
WALLACE (on camera): nbsp; Will you watch the game?
RIGGINS: Chris, it gets down to this. If I get a better offer. Right now the Super Bowl is the best offer I got, but, you know, you call me up and say, hey, I got some single malt over here, come on over, who knows.
WALLACE: Oh, Riggo. As for the Super Bowl tonight, Riggins is picking Seattle to beat New England in a close contest. His reasoning, a better running game.
And now, a personal note. My wife Lorraine has a new cook book out called "Mr. and Mrs. Sunday Suppers." If you go to our website, foxnewssunday.com, you'll find her recipe for pork chops with glaze sweet onions. I promise, you don't want to miss it. That's it for today. Have a great week and 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.