This is a rush transcript from "Glenn Beck," December 29, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHARLES PAYNE, GUEST HOST: I want to begin tonight with a quote from Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla in a 1937 article "A Machine to End War":
"My invention requires a large plant, but once it's established, it will be possible to destroy anything, men or machines, approaching within a radius of 200 miles ... it will, so to speak, provide a wall of power offering an insuperable obstacle against any effective aggression."
Tesla was promoting a device he claimed to beam a charge so powerful as to bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy planes from 250 miles. His idea of a machine or device so powerful that it could end war forever was shared by many geniuses throughout time. One of the interesting things, though, is that these inventions were enhanced — that not only enhanced war also had a positive impact on mankind, too.
And I marvel at the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, also establishing the fund for the Nobel Peace Prize. Just as mystifying is how such avid believers in nonviolence could be brains behind the atomic bomb. Yet, Robert Oppenheimer and Alfred Einstein played very vital roles in the project thought to be the device that would also end war forever. So, too, Alfred Nobel thought his invention could achieve that same lofty goal.
Now, here's a difference: The team behind the Manhattan Project and the guys like Nobel or Tesla, while they formed pools of considerable talent that were purely for altruistic goals, while these other guys, they were looking for ways to make money. In fact, Tesla offered his death ray device to the United Kingdom for $3 million but he was turned down. Alfred Nobel formed a company in 1895 and is still going strong today, had merged AKZO, and the combined companies together achieve revenues together of 15.4 billion euros last year.
The fact that very few inventions in history were created without profit as a main motivation is critical to remember today as our society is being reshaped into one, not driven by profits or self-interests but by the collective interests of society, the message from the White House is clear: The sky isn't the limit, but the limit will be established by government. Ironically, the administration still believes that the same amount of effort will be extended towards these individual endeavors even as financial rewards become smaller or in some cases, are simply taken away.
Causes such as defending the safety of one's home or the nation or just the fight for basic human rights — they are critical and they need no monetary incentives. But things that make life easier and more enjoyable to mankind, they do need additional monetary motivation and profit motivation.
Unfortunately, though, in this country, the effort to demonize success and vilify wealth continues to be the centerpiece of White House decisions.
Meantime, Alfred Nobel's name is synonymous with excellence in many areas of intellect and, of course, the famous peace prize. If you talk about how many men, women and children have died throughout history because of his dogged efforts to make money.
For ages, the individual pursuit of a better life is more often than not, not just to improve the lives of inventors but lives of additional people — sometimes, millions of additional people. The birth of America unleashed a power of individualism and the notion of self-made success no matter where one's journey began. It has been so powerful as to propel our nation ahead of the rest of the world.
Now, too many Americans take their place in the world for granted. Too many Americans have reverence for Alfred Nobel but disdain for the greatness of their own nation. This continues to be the greatest threat to America. It is a threat that actually increased in 2009; the threat of self-destruction and any attempt to make things fair, abandoning accountability, abandoning risk-taking, abandoning innovation, abandoning belief in the people and replacing it with the idea that only elite and the government know better.
Limiting monetary gains of individuals and corporations does nothing to improve the life of a person that has limited ability. It can only encourage some people to take the easy way out and discourage others not even to bother.
See, the fabric of our nation is like a chain mail armor, a series of small metal rings linked together to form a mesh. The idea that each link should be as strong as it can be, thereby making the entire fabric impenetrable. Taking out the strongest leaks does nothing for the weakest links except make them more vulnerable.
Now, I realize saying this isn't going to win me a Nobel Prize for anything but I hope it contributes to the efforts to rescue our nation from a certain path of self-destruction.
Now, one area where we arguably do want the government more involved is the protection against terrorist attacks like the attempt we saw on Christmas Day. But two important security agencies, the Transportation Security Administration and the Customs and Borders Protection Agency, do not have permanent leaders.
President Obama had just given a statement acknowledging a catastrophic breach of security and ordered a preliminary report due this Thursday.
Here's Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner and Fox News contributor; Jonah Goldberg, L.A. Times columnist and editor at large for National Review Online — he's also a Fox contributor. And Dan Senor, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of "Startup Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle."
I'd start with you, Dan. It's something of a mea culpa a few minutes ago from the president. But this is how this whole thing started out. It started out as typical, we did everything right, the system works sort of thing, and now, it's becoming a fiasco.
DAN SENOR, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Yes, I think — it looks like today, based on the statement the president made, that he was or his administration is a little spooked. Clearly, something between last weekend and today, in terms of information made its way to the president, and signaled this systemic — the systemic nature of the problem or the crisis, if you will.
I am struck, though, by all the debate and all the speculation. There is one — there are few items that we know. There's lots of sort of guessing and hypothetical speculation.
SENOR: There are a few things we know. What we know is that the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has claimed responsibility, which is consistent with Abdulmutallab's own confessions, if you will, during the interrogation, at least according to the reports.
We know that Al Qaeda has had a resurgence in Yemen.
We know that many of the senior positions held in Al Qaeda are by former Guantanamo Bay detainees.
If there is one thing the president could make clear right away is that a moratorium on any of his plans to close Guantanamo Bay, released inmates from Guantanamo Bay and specifically releasing them to Yemen. That is one — we can talk about TSA reviews, we can talk about all these re-tinkering this and re-tinkering that. That is one statement the president can make clear here and now immediately.
PAYNE: Well, Byron, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. In fact, it looks like this has been a public relations fiasco right out of the gate.
BYRON YORK, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it actually has been. And the president has had on two occasions now, to completely backtrack from the statements of his top officials. First there was the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, who said the system had worked. Obviously, they had to backtrack on that.
And now, less than an hour ago, the president backtracked on the idea of whether Abdulmutallab should have been put on a no-fly list. His own officials have been talking about there being — having been no reason to actually bump Abdulmutallab up to the no-fly list. Now, the president said he should have been on it because of the particular — the potentially catastrophic effects.
The president downplayed this whole episode at the very beginning. His top officials were explaining to sympathetic reporters a few days ago why it was a smart and tough policy for the president to go play golf on the day of the attack. And now, he is backtracking tremendously. So, this has turned out to be something of a fiasco for the White House, in P.R. terms at least.
PAYNE: And, Jonah, at the top of the list with respect to this fiasco, has to be Janet Napolitano. I'm still not sure exactly what she was trying to say, but maybe she's not either.
JONAH GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, this is someplace where actually I think might disagree with my friend Dan a little bit about this. I don't know, and I kind of suspect that it's not the case that the president has gotten some new piece of inside information that has caused him to backtrack.
I think this backtracking is almost purely a function of just the withering assault the administration has gotten in the press, not just from conservative media like National Review, but from The Washington Post and others that have directly contradicted almost everything Janet Napolitano has said, almost in real-time as she's been saying it.
And I think these guys wanted to do what they do with the Fort Hood shooter and downplay this, minimize it, not feed into the War on Terror narrative, not feed into the Bush narrative about our threats in the world. And it's just not jiving with reality. And now, they're playing catch-up.
PAYNE: Right. Now, Jonah, speaking of that, though, this criticism -
- you think that she should be fired from her position?
GOLDBERG: Yes. I mean, I think it's the only tenable position to take since I don't think she should have been hired in the first place. You know, Janet Reno wanted to call the 9/11 attacks simply man-caused disasters. She think that the Department of Homeland Security is essentially a first responder agency that only has a role after something terrible happens — which is why she can talk about how the system works because the bureaucracy was humming along after this guy ignited a bomb — and thank God it didn't go off.
Janet Napolitano has talked about how it is not a crime to illegally enter the country. She didn't know where the 9/11 terrorists came from. She claimed they all came from Canada.
On almost every — on almost every front, she has a record of not really being well-suited to this job. And this is just the latest example of how this is not the job for her. Maybe she should go to health and human services or something, but this is not someone who seems primarily concerned with protecting the homeland of the United States of America.
PAYNE: Go ahead, Dan.
SENOR: No. I mean, I can't believe I'm doing this: I'm actually giving the president the benefit of the doubt here. I rarely do. But, you know, what I'm hoping for, I think...
PAYNE: But you didn't think, though — you didn't think, though, the way they handled it was appropriate? I mean, I was just dumbfounded.
SENOR: No. I'm simply saying — I'm simply saying that there's a lot of stuff that can be done in the next few days.
PAYNE: OK. But you mentioned — you mentioned Gitmo.
PAYNE: Is it realistic, Dan, that this administration is going to say all of a sudden they're not going to close Gitmo?
SENOR: I think most of the things the president is considering will have, you know, nominal impact on the short term.
PAYNE: What are those things that he's considering?
SENOR: These TSA review processes.
SENOR: You know, reviewing the processes ...
PAYNE: It's normal security stuff.
SENOR: ... normal security procedures, even firing — you know, this debate about whether Jim DeMint should be putting a hold on the head of the TSA appointment or whether he shouldn't be. You know, Jonah, I think it's a compelling case, but the idea that firing Napolitano in the next few days is going to have an impact is limited.
I'm simply saying the opportunity now for the president, whether he just got the information or he's reacting, as Jonah argues, the opportunity for the president is to really rethink his entire approach and strategy for counterterrorism. Clearly — I mean, just look at Guantanamo Bay.
SENOR: I mean, his whole approach to Guantanamo Bay is blowing up in his face. Pardon the, you know, pun here. And I think that's what I'm hoping for right now. It's not just a personnel change here, for symbolic effect, but actually, a serious rethinking of his entire counterterrorism ...
PAYNE: But to do that, he would have to bring in new advisers though to make the change you're talking about.
PAYNE: Byron, you know, I want to talk to you here about this — the way this whole thing was handled, vis-a-vis Fort Hood, where Fort Hood, A, let's wait, let's not jump to conclusions. It seemed like they tried to throw the terrorist label on this sooner, but still, it seems like the president, you know, the speech right after Fort Hood with the shout-outs sort of apologizing to the Indians for taking up some of their time, the miscue on this. It seems like he's having a real tough time when it comes to terrorist issues and how to react.
YORK: Well, there's a reason for this. And, certainly, on Fort Hood, he took some criticism for saying shortly after that you shouldn't jump to conclusions about why the killer may have struck or that we could never really know the motives. But the reason he's had trouble in Fort Hood and in this case is, think back to the campaign. Democrats were very, very adamant in saying that the Bush administration overreacted to terrorism. They had tried to play on America's fears for political reasons. And, Democrats, if elected, would not do any such thing.
So, we have two terrorist incidents, one of which results in the death of 13 people; the other results in a potential catastrophe for an entire airliner — and the president really can't bring himself to take a quick and swift and decisive public stand on those things. That is because, I think, that is the way the Democrats have decided that they should react to this.
Now, I think, Jonah is right — the public reaction has been terrible when we're seeing the president out making two statements in two days on this. I wouldn't be surprise if we see another one tomorrow.
PAYNE: You know, also, Jonah, though, another thing is, it seems to me — you know, bringing up the campaign — that the president was running for president of the world, not just the United States, and he really puts a lot of emphasis on being popular around the world. And that seems that perhaps that's harming our efforts on terrorism or could.
GOLDBERG: I think that's right. And I think Byron is right in his political analysis of it. But I'd like to take it to an ideological level as well. The rap against the Bush administration was that they had this rigid neo-con ideological position about the terror threat. And whether that's true or not, that's what the Obama people believed and that's what, you know, the people in the White House now believe.
I would argue that the people in the White House now, starting with Barack Obama, have a rigid ideological view about the terror threat and their ideological view is that there isn't that much of one. And the problem is, is that reality keeps biting them in places that we can't talk about on family-oriented television by proving that the Bush administration was actually more real realistic than the Obama administration is.
The Obama administration is — you know, all that talk about it was psychological, instantaneously after the Christmas bomber, there were leaks saying how this is — you know, we're working on the theory that this was a lone extremist and all the rest. That is the ideological prism that these guys bring to this and the problem is that reality is not cooperating.
PAYNE: All right.
Now, to Iran, where Sunday's violent anti-government protest led to the death of at least eight people. No violence reported today but Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said the protests were the work of the minority and blamed the West for siding with the protestors. And that protestors like and protest we saw in the summer, it seems like there's some real change going on in Iran.
What do you think, Dan?
SENOR: Oh, I think there's unbelievably real change ever since ...
PAYNE: Are we hoping for this or is this something that really is?
SENOR: No, no. This is real. This cannot be contrived. This is real. It's authentic. Talk to any Iranian dissident that spend in the West, any dissidents that have been here, that are here now and they will speak to this. The images, you can't — you can't manufacture those.
I think the administration is arguing after the, quote-unquote, "June 12th election" in Iran was that the government would be in a weak position and — because of this protest movement — and because the government was in a weak position, it would actually move to more accommodating position with the West as it relates to its nuclear program, and we would actually be able to see moderating forces take over and the irony ...
PAYNE: It seems like it's actually sped up their nuclear efforts.
SENOR: Well, if you — if you look at the regime's behavior since the June 12th election, quote-unquote, "election," it actually moved in the absolute opposite direction. Every position that has been filled by Ahmadinejad has been with people who are much more hard line than existed in those positions before.
Those that were more moderating factors in the government have been either, you know, demoted or fired. Look at the nuclear program: Every opportunity they have been given by this administration to demonstrate their commitment to a civilian nuclear program, they've actually whacked that opportunity in the face and moved in the opposite direction.
So, the regime has been moving away from any kind of moderating position and it is clear now that they're not committed to any kind of civilian nuclear program — if anyone had any doubts.
SENOR: And I think 2010 is the year; 2010 is the year where there is going to be some action against Iran, whether it's the U.S. taking action against Iran, whether it's Israel taking action.
PAYNE: Military action.
SENOR: Or Iran will have a nuclear bomb.
PAYNE: Byron, you know, I wanted to ask you about this, because the president sort of finally mentioned this when he talked earlier this week about the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack. He was a little mute on this as well. A lot of people felt like, if nothing else, he could have stoked the flames over there and maybe even this effort that Dan is talking about, maybe even helped energize it a little bit.
YORK: It was a — it was a very weak statement, and certainly, the lesson for the regime after the elections in June was that repression can work, but it can only work for a little while, because it keeps getting worse.
I should say the president — he's having a difficult time giving up his commitment to this policy of engagement. You have to remember during the campaign, again, he promised that he would meet with the leader like Ahmadinejad, without pre-conditions. And now, we're seeing where that's ending up.
One more thing: Congress is actually moving toward action ahead of the president. On December 15th, the House passed by a vote of 412 to 12, that is huge bipartisan approval, something called the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which would get tough on companies that give gas and diesel fuel and other things that the Iranian regime needs to stay in power. It's going to get passed in the Senate, perhaps in January, perhaps in February, with a big bipartisan majority. But they're out ahead of the president on the sanctions act.
PAYNE: Yes. But, Jonah, the bottom line though, it doesn't seem like any of this stuff really is going to work. I mean, at some point, to Dan's point, we're going to have to take some sort of military action or some — Israel is going to have to do that.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I agree with Dan. And there's a lot more about this than I do, that something has to give and it seems like it will happen in 2010. I actually think, though, that Obama's statement was better than — you know, his statements are getting better. The problem is the lag time again between the reality, and the Obama administration's reactions is just too slow.
Again, I think — I think Byron is right: Obama is still committed to this ideological view about how to further the cause of peace and whatnot with Iran and reality, in this case, Iran is not cooperating in the slightest. His statement yesterday about — or the day before — on Iran, where he says, you know, Iran really needs to uphold and live up to its international commitments.
I mean, what world are we living in? Iran laughs when we talk about it has to uphold its international commitments. It has been scoffing at its international commitments for years.
PAYNE: Yes. Quick, Dan.
SENOR: Yes. I would just add — it's not just this year that we had the experiment engagement. If you look at the entire U.S. presidential campaign leading up to January 2009, it was clear to the world that the president was serious — as Jonah and Byron said — about these unconditional engagements.
PAYNE: .... there's no doubt about it. I want to thank my guests on this.
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