Sen. Paul: Administration didn't make a compelling case

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

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": And welcome to "Hannity" tonight. As you just heard, the war drums are beating in Washington, D.C., and over the course of the next hour, we will have the very latest on the showdown with Syria, this developing story. We'll check in tonight with Senator Rand Paul, Ann Coulter and our panel of military experts and much more tonight. But we begin with this weekend's surprise announcement that the White House would delay an attack on Syria to seek a use of force resolution from the U.S. Congress. Take a look.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress. For the last several days, we've heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four Congressional leaders and they've agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.


HANNITY: Now, today, leaders from both parties including Speaker Boehner, Senator Reid and others said that they would vote in support of a strike against the Assad regime. However, not everybody on Capitol Hill was quick to back such a resolution, and that was very apparent when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened a hearing this afternoon, featuring testimony from the secretary's estate and defense. As well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Let's take a look as a number of senators raise very serious reservations about carrying out an attack in Damascus.


SEN. JAMES RISCH, R - ID: I am reluctant. If there was one American. If this was an attack against any American, against any American interest. This would be a no-brainer for me. But I'm reluctant at this point. And part of it stems from where this is going to go. The other thing that is really troubles me about this, is what happens if this thing gets away from us.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R - FL: Goal number one is to hold Assad accountable. Goal number two is to deter this behavior in the future. And goal number three is to degrade Assad's capacity to carry out these attacks in the future. Quite frankly, I'm a bit skeptical, that what the president is asking for, will provide the support needed to achieve these objectives and that these objectives are even realistic at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What planning is being undertaken right now in case this does spin out of control.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R - KY: If we do not say that the Constitution applies, if we do not say explicitly that we will abide by this vote, you're making a joke of us. You're making us into theater. And so we play constitutional theater for the president. If this is real, you will abide by the verdict of Congress. You're probably going to win, just go ahead and say it's real and let's have a real debate in this country and not a meaningless debate that in the end you lose, and you say, oh, well, we have the authority, we're going to go ahead and go to war anyway.


HANNITY: Now, another significant moment at today's hearing came when Secretary Kerry was asked whether or not American boots would ever be sent to Syria, and here is his response.


SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Let me be very clear now. Because I don't want anything coming out of this hearing that leaves any door open to any possibilities. So, let's shut that door now as tight as we can. There will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war.


HANNITY: Regardless of those assurances, there are legal experts who believe that possibility could in fact still exist. Which is probably why, according to a brand new poll, conducted by The Washington Post, ABC News, six in 10 Americans are opposed to taking any military action. Here with reaction tonight is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Senator, good to see you, welcome aboard.

PAUL: Glad to be with you, Sean.

HANNITY: Let me use the words of the White House. This is not open ended. No boots on the ground, this is days not weeks, and by the way, this is not about regime change. So that raises the question, what are we doing this for?

PAUL: Well, sort of like, we've announced in advance, it's going to be just a little war, not a big war. Just a little war, and it won't last too long. And we're not going to have regime change. So, we really have no military objectives, but please support us in this little war that the president needs to have so he can save face because he drew a red line. That's not a compelling reason. I don't think they made compelling arguments today.

HANNITY: OK. We also heard today that Syria is moving a lot of their weapons into areas where there's a high population of civilians. Are we planning on the potential collateral damage or do we have any chance even to get those weapons?

PAUL: I thought Senator McCain made a great point. He and I don't always agree, but he made a wonderful point. He looked at John Kerry and he said, you know, what? It's not very good military strategy to announce in advance, it's going to be limited, and let them know it's coming, so they can move all of the things you're planning on bomb -- they can move to other sites. It is kind of ridiculous when you think about it, that that's the strategy that President Obama has.

HANNITY: Didn't Senator McCain also suggest that saying, Allahu Akbar is similar to saying, thank God.

PAUL: I didn't hear that part. And I don't think that was in our committee that may have been --

HANNITY: It was on "Fox & Friends" this morning.

PAUL: But I would say, that they didn't make a compelling case for American interest. And I asked a couple of questions, I said, is it more likely that Israel will be attacked if we bomb Syria or less likely? I think it's more likely. Is it more likely that Turkey will be attacked or that Iran or Russia will be drawn into this? I think all of those bad scenarios are more likely to occur if the U.S. bombs Syria. So, I really think that there's not a good outcome, and there's also not a clear entity that I think will be an American friend in a Syrian civil war.

HANNITY: Senator, not is it not only more likely, it's probably probable at this point. Both Syria and Iran have said, they will retaliate against Israel. Did anybody ask Senator Kerry, or Chuck Hagel, or President Obama if in fact Israel is the victim of retaliation for any strikes he makes, what effort he will put into defending Israel?

PAUL: His comment was Israel told him they could take care of themselves. But I want to make it less. I think Israel can. I think Israel has a strong national defense and I think they can do well in any battle. But I don't want to involve Israel in a battle because they have so many enemies around them that I'm fearful that it can spin out of control. So my first choice would be to not involve Israel in a battle if we don't have to.

HANNITY: All right. Let's talk about -- the president didn't feel, even when he spoke on Saturday, that he necessarily needs to go to Congress, although I believe the Constitution is clear that in fact he does. And I think you agree with me on that. But there have been many examples, I'll put them up on the screen. And I want you to respond to this, of how the president has bypassed Congress since he took over. More recently with the mandate and ObamaCare delay. The feds in the case of the mandatory minimum sentences and with the Justice Department. Recess appointments, when you guys are in recess, the mini-DREAM Act. ObamaCare waivers, funding Egypt, which I think was a bad mistake when they wouldn't say a coup is a coup. They've done it on gun control, funding Palestine. The Defense of Marriage Act. No child left behind waivers, NSA surveillance, offshore drilling. Now, it goes on and on here. And we'll put it up on the screen. But the point I'm making. Why now? Is he trying to push the blame if this goes wrong on to you guys in the House and Senate?

PAUL: Well, I asked a very pointed question to John Kerry about this. I said, look, I want to be proud of the president, there haven't been that many times, but I wanted to be proud that he was asking for Congressional authority. And I was for about a minute until I heard him also say, oh, but it's just a fake vote. If you vote against me, I'll still bomb Syria, because I have all the authority I need. That troubles me, because Madison wrote a lot about war. And Madison said that the Constitution supposes what history demonstrates that the executive branch is most prone to war. Therefore, the Constitution gave that power to the legislature. And I don't think the president fully gets that.

HANNITY: What could we possibly accomplish in something that's not open ended? Something that is going to be days not weeks? What could possibly accomplished here? Is one of those things, perhaps assisting the Islamic radical Islamists that are the likely successor to Assad?

PAUL: You know, I'm a big stickler that Congress initiates war, but I think one of the problems of this resolution is -- and this is where I agree with John McCain -- this resolution is going to restrict the power of the president to execute the war. So, while I think the president is limited on initiating the war, I think the president does have most, if not all, of the power on how to execute the war. So, I think the resolution and narrowing the focus and saying, hey, it's just going to be a baby, little small war, we're really not going to do too much. We're not going to have regime change. I think that's Congress actually getting too involved on how we would execute war. The big decision should be whether or not we initiate war.

HANNITY: Well, we initiate it and the consequences could be -- if I'm asking this, right, we could help the Al Qaeda radical Islamic opposition, true or false?

PAUL: Yeah, Al Qaeda is on the same side as the Islamic rebels.

HANNITY: Right. But wait a minute.

PAUL: I'm concerned that we could have a victor -- go ahead.

HANNITY: But we could also cause retaliation against Israel that could be rather severe, right?

PAUL: Absolutely. And I think we could also have a problem where Russia and Iran become more involved than they are already.

HANNITY: OK. And we could have a broader conflict and for what? Because the president drew a red line in the sand. Not a good situation. Senator, I think you're on the right side of this, thank you.

PAUL: Thank you.

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