All-Star Panel: Will president get approval for Syria intervention?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 3, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: In the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al Nusra or someone else, and it was clearly in the interest of our allies and all of us, the British, the French and others to prevent the weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements, I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our country.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Later, he came back to it saying he is closing the door on all boots on the ground.

Let's bring in the panel, Jonah Goldberg, at large editor of National Review online, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, I guess that's the biggest question is people wonder is you go in with some limited strike, all of the uncertainty that surrounds that of other things that can happen.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think that's one of the reasons to the resistance to the plan, because as outlined by the president, it has really no objective of any importance. They say this is a demonstration strike, a shot across the bow. A shot across the bow is a warning that if you don't stop we're going to do something real. Obama is saying openly this is going to be one shot and then we go home.

So I think you've got to ask yourself, yes, but the other guys have a vote on when the war of the opposition between us stops. And what happens if Hezbollah responds by raining rockets on Israel or attacks a U.S. ship? What happens if Syria does, if Iran attacks American assets or attacks Israel?        

And the worry a lot of people have is given the bumbling, the hesitation, the zigzags of Obama's policy up until now, which is entirely incoherent, do you trust him to be the one who will respond adequately, wisely, if and when the response happens. Because once you sign on to this, no matter what's in the resolution, you've signed on to Obama conducting the operation and the follow-on, which could happen. The assumption is we do it, we go home, nothing happens could be true but is unlikely to be true.

BAIER: I guess A.B., the point of Secretary Kerry there is that if let's say the strikes go further than just degrading Assad and they actually lead to the crumbling of the regime and those chemical weapons depots are left unguarded and Al Qaeda is all over that country, who's going to be in there to protect those chemical weapons?


BAIER: There are very few choices on a multiple choice.

STODDARD: Both sides think that this is just not going to work. So whether you don't want to do anything or you want to do more than this, both sides, there is a bipartisan agreement that this is not going to work. 

So if you're in the camp of Senator McCain and some others, you think, well, we don't want him to be hemmed in a war. You don't tell the commander in chief your tailored plan is great. Just go do that, it will be 36 hours, and then get out, because of unintended consequences, the unknowns. And so you really have this consensus between the two sides about the fact that he's waited too long, he's doing something too restrictive, and that it really won't be effective no matter what.

BAIER: As you look at the polls, Jonah, ABC, Washington Post out today, United States missile strikes against Syrian governments, support 36 percent, oppose 59 percent. Then you ask allied missile strikes, if we have allies on board, it goes up a bit, support 46 percent support, oppose 51 percent. Some member said we haven't talked to anybody who supports this.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW" ONLINE: Yes, and I think this is one of the reasons why all of the talk of isolationism is overblown. The guys who don't want to go into Syria, they're not necessarily isolationists. What they are, they are people that first of all, a, war weary, b, tired of getting involved in the Middle East, and, c, utterly distrustful of this current administration.

And you can tell how polling is affecting it. It was fascinating, I listened to most of the hearings today. At one point you had John Kerry say we are not asking the American people to go to war, he said it point blank. And then two seconds later in their opening statements, Chuck Hagel says we recognize the seriousness of America going to war. They couldn't even get their set up talking points right.

Later on, John Kerry says this is not a war in a classic sense, like it is the new Coke of wars, or something, or war mania, the simulation of it, or something. So it is very strange. Then you have this bizarre parsing from the president where he asks Congress for the authority to do something the he says he has the authority to do.

BAIER: Which is an exchange that Rand Paul had with Secretary Kerry, that if we don't give that authority, will the president then not go? And Secretary Kerry did not answer that.

GOLDBERG: The White House has sent a lot of signals, including from President Obama, that they very well may do this anyway. And this cuts to the core of the unbelievable riot at of amateur-ness, amateurity, whatever adjective applies to the word amateur, to this whole situation where you have the president of the United States basically asking Congress to approve something. He asked Congress as a last resort. After he couldn't get the U.N., the Arab League or the British to help him out, he then says maybe I'll go to Congress for political cover. Now what happens? If Congress says no and he does it anyway, he creates an unnecessary constitutional crisis.

BAIER: We should point out our chief Washington correspondent James Rosen reported that first Saturday, that they were actually considering even though going to Congress, acting if Congress votes no.

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