All-Star Panel: 'Russian proposal' in America's best interest?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 9, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Now, if the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control, as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay for obstruction. And Russia has to support the international community's efforts sincerely or be held to account.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaking out for the first time since leaving office about Syria. That event at the White House actually was about wildlife trafficking, believe it or not. We're back with the panel, Brit, Mara, Tucker, and Charles. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: "Sincere Russian diplomacy," that's an odd turn of phrase. But she was absolutely right in emphasizing the word "immediately." Kerry said we would demand that this be done by the end of the week – or the pledge be done the end of the week. And all of a sudden in the Obama interview with Chris, he's talking about a debate for a week or a day and a second day or a month. So Obama obviously has sort of changed the terms to make them open-ended.

And secondly, if this was an American idea, as Obama implies, which I don't believe for a second, but if it was, then why isn't it the American proposal? Once you call it the Russian, then we're passive, then we have to wait for the Russians in their good time to produce a proposal that we will have a counterproposal -- it will go on ad infinitum.

The Russian objective here is either dismantle the weapons, which I think the likelihood of that is probably one in 100. With Libya, when it agreed to give up its weapons after it was shocked by the Iraq war, the plan -- it took eight years. And when the civil war broke out in 2011, the inspections stopped entirely. So the idea of this being done is rather small.

But the Russian objective is to either do it over a long period of time or tie us up and the momentum for any strike, any American involvement will dwindle to absolute zero. Obama knows this and I think he sees it as a way out of a bluff he made that he cannot carry out.

BAIER: Mara, the president did five other interviews. One of them with PBS in which he was asked specifically about this idea and whether he had had conversations about this with Vladimir Putin. And he said, quote, "I did have those conversations. And this," meaning this proposal, "is a continuation of conversations I've had with President Putin for quite some time."

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: We haven't heard about them. We haven't heard about this proposal at all.

BAIER: Why isn't it the U.S. idea if this is a continuation of the --

LIASSON: I cannot answer that question. As in many things about this whole Syrian policy, it's mysterious. However, the policy of the U.S., not the purpose of the military strike, but the policy of the U.S. is to get Assad to the negotiating table. Why shouldn't that be a requirement of this new proposal? Give up your chemical weapons, come to the negotiating table, and --

KRAUTHAMMER: Because we have conceded that who runs Damascus is not at issue here.


KRAUTHAMMER: Obama said so. The only issue here is the weapons, which is exactly what the Russians and Assad, and the Iranians, and Hezbollah have demanded.

BAIER: Although that's not what the McCain amendment and the resolution on the Senate side says. It says change the momentum on the ground.


KRAUTHAMMER: But McCain lost the election in '08. He's not the president.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was Kerry this morning reacting to reaction to the McCain-Graham amendment that was added to the Senate resolution who was saying this is going to be unbelievably small, this attack.

BAIER: Unbelievably small.

HUME: That's for the purpose of stopping the hemorrhage of Democrats that was on the verge of occurring because they thought the Senate resolution provided for a much wider war, which is exactly what Democrats don't want.

To give you an idea, Bret, just of the political appeal of this, let me just mention something I witnessed today. In the Senate dining room today, at one point there were two senators present. One of them was Ted Cruz and one of them was Dianne Feinstein. As you know, they have some history – not agreeable history. In fact they have barely spoken since that day that they got into it in a Senate hearing.

Dianne Feinstein had a guest. He turned out to be the Russian ambassador. And he came over and spoke to Cruz. The two of them spoke in a very friendly way. The Russian ambassador was obviously very pleased with the proposal. Dianne Feinstein was positively excited about it. She had copies of the stories that she printed out, that she was handing out to people. Ted Cruz, who stands on the other side of many issues from her and perhaps this one as well, he said how interesting he thought it was. This thing is a political lifeline not just to the president but to all these members of Congress who don't want to vote on it.

BAIER: Maybe a political lifeline. But as you point out -- what does it send a message to the world about?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: There will be a winner and loser in this. It looks like the winner will be Russia and the loser will be the United States. And that is -- I know, Brit is absolutely right. This will spare, if there's no vote, a lot of agony on Capitol Hill, but it is not in our interest at all.

LIASSON: There's a saying, a drowning man will grasp even at a razor. And the cost of this, if it is exactly as described today, the Russian proposal will be extremely high. The U.S. could be smart and creative and add all sorts of conditions to it and make it into a U.S. proposal that really would make a difference. I don't know if that will happen.

BAIER: But to your point, Mara, experts are saying even in a peaceful environment, this is a tough job.

LIASSON: It would be almost impossible.

BAIER: And just remember Iraq and the U.N. inspectors going from building and building and things going out the backdoor apparently, and all of the discussion about who is where and when, this could be a long process.

HUME: No doubt. And it may not be feasible. But what's happened here is that we're all back from the brink now. That's what this has done.  The vote is off in the Senate for now. This is going to slow everything down, and the matter may now recede as we get into this endless round of negotiation and discussion and proposals about how to feasibly do this. My sense is that the president's speech tomorrow night is now kind of meaningless.

LIASSON: And does he continue to arm the vetted moderate opposition?


BAIER: We'll have one more round with the panel here. Even though Brit says it's meaningless, tune in to Fox News Channel at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow night. More from the panel after a quick break.

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