SUNDAY MORNING FUTURES

Are U.S. troops returning to Iraq?

Senate candidate Scott Brown weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Sunday Morning Futures," September 21, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARIA BARTIROMO, HOST: Good morning, defining America's role in the fight against ISIS.

Hi, everyone, I'm Maria Bartiromo. This is "Sunday Morning Futures."

President Obama again saying, "I will not commit our troops to fighting another ground war in Iraq or in Syria." But with 1,600 military personnel already inside Iraq, has that commitment already been made?

Despite global threats from groups like ISIS, U.S. oil markets are thriving, and that means hundreds of thousands of jobs, billions in savings for U.S. consumers. The CEO of Chevron explains how.

Did you see the SpaceX launch this morning? This is where American immigration meets American innovation. We'll talk to the former partner of SpaceX, CEO Elon Musk. Peter Thiel about why America is still the place where the sky is the limit, as we look ahead to "Sunday Morning Futures."

Thousands of Iraqis said to be supporters of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr protesting over the weekend against U.S. forces returning to their country. While President Obama, in his weekly address, continues to insist that ground troops are not an option.

Retired four-star General Jack Keane is former U.S. Army vice chief of staff, he is now chairman of the Institute for the Study of War, and a Fox News military analyst.

So good to have you back. Thanks for joining us.

GEN. JACK KEANE (RET.), FOX MILITARY ANALYST: Glad to be here.

BARTIROMO: Can we win this war against ISIS without troops on the ground?

KEANE: It's unlikely. And the problem we have, when you just look at Iraq, the air strike campaign that's under way now will be very effective and it truly will make a difference. But you can't drive ISIS out of Iraq and restore the territory that has been lost just with air strikes.

You have to have an effective ground force to do that, supported by close air support when they're conducting air operations. The fact of the matter is the ground force we have in Iraq, Maria, is a weak hand.

I mean, it's the collapsed Iraqi army, it's the Peshmerga, Sunni tribes, et cetera. And they are unproven against this enemy in this new collage of units that are going to be put together.

So what the military has been trying to do is strengthen that hand by putting advisers and air ground controllers at the lowest level, and also recommending JSOC direct action teams to come in to assist in taking down the leaders.

And the White House has been pushing back on that.

BARTIROMO: Yes, I think this is a really important point, because obviously, we already have troops on the ground with our Special Forces, and we want to make sure we have got those Special Forces with everything that they need.

So plenty more to talk about with you, General Keane. Please stand by.

But, first, let's put this scope of U.S. military involvement in the battle against ISIS into some perspective. Fox News senior correspondent Eric Shawn joins us now live with that angle.

Good morning to you, Eric.

ERIC SHAWN, FOX SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Maria.

And good morning, everyone. As we report, the president pledges no ground forces in Iraq. But the vow seems to pit the generals against their commander-in-chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As your commander-in-chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true. But if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States then I, of course, would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAWN: One says no, the other maybe, as the only way to stop ISIS. Well, Investors Business Daily is blunt, "top brass both now serving and retired say that President Obama's strategy is likely to fail against the Islamic State. There's now a growing rift between a commander-in-chief wedded to his peacenik political base, and those he commands because he won't listen to military experts."

Well, previous presidents have defied military guidance before. Of course, President Kennedy chose caution by rebuffing proposals to preemptively attack Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis.

And President Franklin Delano Roosevelt rejected military demands to invade France first, and instead sent American forces into North Africa during World War II.

Others though caution more now may be needed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA DAFTARI, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: You have to have all options on the table because even though we don't want to be dragged in to another Middle East war, it looks like it's coming to us anyway. And we have to have all the possible solutions at our fingertips.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAWN: Former Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blames the president's decision to withdraw forces from Iraq for in part helping ISIS succeed. His other defense secretary, Robert Gates, says simply the president's plan will not work.

The current defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, backs his boss -- Maria.

BARTIROMO: All right. Eric, thank you very much. Eric Shawn with the latest there. More now with General Jack Keane.

And, General, what about that? Why are the generals going against the president's strategy? And why isn't the president listening to his people on the ground?

KEANE: Well, the generals really aren't publicly going against the strategy. I mean, they have provided options on table and they have provided options that the president has chosen to limit.

And other people are picking that up and certainly commenting on them, not the least of which is the guy you're talking to right now. But the fact of the matter is, is that with this weak ground force hand, all they've been trying to do is strengthen it.

And secondly, they know the big elephant in the room is the one that you identified in the outset, Maria. If this doesn't work, if the Iraqi army cannot regain its territory that it has lost and we're failing, and ISIS is going to remain there and grow as a terrorist organization to threaten the Middle East and threaten the American people, are we just simply going to let that happen? I doubt it.

And that was behind General Dempsey's comment. Well, if that happens, I want to have a contingency force available to go back in there and take over and regain the initiative and retake that territory. And that would be largely led by U.S. combat brigades, hopefully some coalition as well.

So that was behind his comments and also behind the frustration that exists in the Pentagon and down at Central Command headquarters.

BARTIROMO: So at the end of the day we want to make sure our Special Forces have what they need to actually complete this job in the most effective way. And if we don't have the proper back up, the proper number of troops on the ground to back up what the Special Forces are doing, we're actually hurting them rather than helping in this fight against ISIS?

KEANE: Well, yes. Any military plan of looking at that and seeing the weaknesses of the Iraqi army would clearly want to have a contingency. And that contingency should be a number of U.S. combat brigades.

Actually, Maria, it would be to our advantage to designate those brigades now, let them prepare, equip themselves, train themselves, probably move a couple of them to Kuwait where they could continue their training so they could be responsive in the event they need to be called into Iraq.

It doesn't mean they are going to go to Iraq, but in the event that the Iraqi army does fail, then they should be employed.

BARTIROMO: General, let me ask you -- let me go back to the Status of Forces Agreement which, of course, we did not have a Status of Forces Agreement when we took our troops out of Iraq. What should have been done that we didn't? And is there time now to do a new Status of Forces Agreement to protect our men and women on the ground? Can you explain the Status of Forces Agreement?

KEANE: Well, yes. The Status of Forces Agreement, we didn't get one signed by President Obama. President Bush signed a Strategic Framework Agreement, which was establish an enduring relationship with the Iraqis and the United States.

Status of Forces just is a fancy word for leaving troops in a country, supported by that host country's government. The fact of the matter is General Alston, who was then the commander of our forces in Iraq, had recommended a force of 24,000.

The president's envoy put 10,000 on the table as the U.S.'s recommendations. Maliki's negotiators knew what the original recommendation was, knew this number was not a serious force, and negotiations broke down very quickly and we left none.

By leaving none this is what happened. We were not able to have our JSOC direct action teams pounce on the al Qaeda when they started re-emerge again after we defeated them. And we were not able to continue the training of the Iraqi security forces, as we just witnessed a number of months ago, still needed some more effective training.

Those things were not there. That seriously hurt us as a result of the growth and development of ISIS.

BARTIROMO: That is truly unfortunate. General, thank you very much for joining us today. We appreciate your time.

KEANE: Good talking to you, Maria.

BARTIROMO: General Jack Keane joining us.

The world's financial leaders have been meeting in Australia about what it's going to take to get the global economy moving. The word is they are about to issue a dire warning. We'll talk to former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers next about what that means for the U.S.

I hope you'll follow me on Twitter, @mariabartiromo, @sundayfutures. Let me know what you would like to hear from Secretary Summers, coming up, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: Welcome back.

A new report says the world's top finance chiefs are about to warn of global -- glowing and growing risks to the global economy. Say that three times fast.

This as the U.S. is set to get its own report on the GDP at the end of this week, letting us know how our economy is holding up.

Larry Summers is the former United States Treasury secretary.

He's is president emeritus and professor of economics at Harvard University.

Larry, it's wonderful to see you again.

LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: Good to be back with you, Maria.

BARTIROMO: Thank you so much for joining us.

Let's first get into the G-20. Christine Lagarde said that if the G-20 wants to really move the needle on growth it needs to focus on jobs.

What is it going to take to move the needle on growth in the United States?

And then I want to talk about the globe, as well.

SUMMERS: Look, we've got a real problem of inadequate growth throughout the industrial world. The United States is doing much better than Europe or Japan, but growth performance in the United States is hardly satisfactory. We're 10 percent of GDP, or close to $2 trillion below what you would have thought based on a trend through 2007.

We've got huge shortfalls in growth. Some of that is caused by lack of demand. Some of that's caused by the fact that our economy's potential for -- to produce seems to be growing much more slowly than it should be.

Here's something that should worry anybody looking at the future of the American economy.

Over the last four years, we've grown at only about 2 percent. And that's with the tail wind that comes from reducing unemployment from 10 percent to 6 percent.

We're not going to get that kind of tail wind again. And growth was only 2 percent with it.

So our focus has got to be on increasing the rate of growth. And we've got less serious problems of spurring growth than Europe, where deflation is at the door and Japan, where Abenomics is struggling to get real traction with a huge loss of output in the second quarter.

BARTIROMO: Where is the growth right now?

Where are the jobs, from your standpoint?

SUMMERS: This is -- here are some places where they could be. We could invest in infrastructure in a major way in this country. Look, look at Kennedy Airport here.

Does anybody believe that that airport is as it should be?

And fixing it would put millions of -- put -- put large numbers of people to work.

You know, Maria, the construction unemployment rate is in close to double digits. We can borrow money for the long-term in a currency we print ourselves at just about 2.5 percent. Now is not the time to repair our infrastructure. I don't know when that time will come.

But, look, it's not at all only the public sector. It's the private sector.

If we freed up oil exporting, if we started allowing natural gas exporting on a substantial scale, we would increase our strength and power in the world by being able to provide energy supplies to nations like Ukraine, that were dangerously dependent, would ultimately, by contributing to more supply, reduce gasoline prices. And we would create huge investment opportunities that would put large numbers of Americans to work.

Those are two of the things we could do. There's more, like immigration reform, strengthening education, a variety of other regulations that could be looked at.

What we need in the United States is a comprehensive growth strategy to get that rate from a struggling 2 percent to a 3 percent. Over time, that would be transforming of job opportunities for millions of Americans.

BARTIROMO: And I'm glad you mentioned the energy sector, because a lot of people are talking about this ban on the exporting of crude. And they say that it needs to be lifted, particularly as we are seeing the shale revolution in the United States.

SUMMERS: I think, Maria, it's the easiest public policy issue that I know of. Most issues are very complicated. There are arguments on both sides. This one, it's better economic performance. It's ultimately going to contribute to environmental improvement, particularly on the natural gas side. It's going to increase our geopolitical leverage. And there's really no substantial disadvantage.

So I think it's a no-brainer and I hope that either the Congress will legislate to do this, or, if not, the president has the executive authority to act.

BARTIROMO: Let me ask you about Ukraine. You visited Ukraine. You're just back from a trip.

What did you learn about Ukraine and the impact that it could have, by the way, and what's going on there, on the European economy?

SUMMERS: I came back feeling that what we do for Ukraine will be as important as what we do to Russia. We are launching sanctions against Russia of various kinds. They've been in place. That's an important thing to do. What the Russians have done is unacceptable.

But what's really going to be crucial is whether the Ukrainian economy is able to remain viable and strong. If it is, ultimately, Ukraine will prevail. If not, President Putin will prevail.

And so finding the right ways to provide substantial assistance to Ukraine on a larger scale than has been done to date, more aggressively than has been done to date, I believe is very important.

I was very impressed with Ukraine's economic team and their determination. But they need help. Ukraine is a country that was having very substantial economic difficulty before. And being engaged in a war in which a portion of your territory is being rendered completely unstable and no longer under your control just complicates the economic problem.

And, of course, the question of energy supplies becomes a much more urgent one as you approach the winter rather than the current summer.

BARTIROMO: Which is what Mr. Poroshenko said to President Obama last week. We cannot fight a war with blankets. They need help.

SUMMERS: They do need -- they do need help and it's not a matter of a few million dollars. There's going to have to be attention paid to making sure that the IMF program stays on track, that the development banks increase their efforts. A lot of thought is going to have to go into the right way of treating Ukraine's debts.

You know, I worry about money going in and then debts being repaid back to Russia in the current context.

On the other hand, there are a lot of complexes associated with Ukraine's debt.

But I would like to be seeing a lot of energy going into the question of how best to assist Ukraine and over time, I think that the more we can do to diversify the world's energy supplies, and in particular, its natural gas supplies, that will ultimately contribute to increasing Ukraine's leverage and ability to function.

BARTIROMO: Really great analysis. Larry, always wonderful to have you on the program.

SUMMERS: Thank you very much.

BARTIROMO: Thank you so much. Good to see you, Larry Summers.

A new report finding more U.S. businesses are closing down than starting up. How to turn that around? One of the start-up experts of the 21st century will join us next, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: Welcome back. A troubling new report from the Census Bureau finding that, for the first time in 30 years, more U.S. businesses are shutting down than starting up. So what can we do to reverse that trend? Our next guest is the co-founder of one of the most successful start ups of the dot-com era. That's PayPal. He's also the author of a new book "Zero to One: Notes on Start-ups, or How to Build the Future" and he's the founder and CEO of Clarion Capital Management. And he is Peter Thiel.

And, Peter, it's wonderful to have you on the program.

THIEL: Maria, thanks for having me.

BARTIROMO: Thank you so much for joining us. So congratulations. Your book is continuing to plow through the bestseller list on Amazon.com. That's good for you, and I guess it's the number two most wished-for book. So congrats on that.

Off to a great start, yes.

BARTIROMO: What about this idea that more businesses are shutting down than starting up?

What kind of support do businesses need, small businesses, to actually flourish?

THIEL: They really just need the government to get out of the way. I don't think we should be subsidizing businesses. I don't think -- when you start a business, you're largely on your own getting it started, but I think, if there was less red tape, fewer rules, all sorts of complicated, you know, employment rules, workplace safety rules -- and they've just -- you know, certification rules. It's hard to open a barber shop unless you're certified as a hairdresser, et cetera, et cetera.

So I think this -- I think this is what's really hurting small business in the U.S. It doesn't affect the subset of businesses in Silicon Valley as badly because these companies, when they work, work incredibly well, and so you can raise outside capital and you can deal with all these -- all these burdens. But I think it is quite -- most small businesses aren't massively profitable. You know, they work, but not by huge margin. And so the regulatory load makes a big difference for those.

BARTIROMO: The regulatory load has been increasing, by the way, and so that may very well be one of the factors that's behind this.

THIEL: Yeah, we're often -- I always think we're too focused on macro economic policies; we're too focused on is the Fed printing money or not printing money. And we don't pay nearly enough attention to all these micro details where it's just been getting steadily more sclerotic and bureaucratic for decades.

BARTIROMO: That's such great analysis.

All right. The SpaceX launch today, which was so exciting and interesting, to the space station. Is this viable, to actually take people to space as a commercial vacation spot? That's what Elon Musk wants to do.

(LAUGHTER)

THIEL: Well, space is a big place, so I think -- you know, I think that, you know, Virgin Galactic is going to be launching up to 100 kilometers. I think that getting into orbital flight is a lot harder than just going up and coming back down. But SpaceX certainly is the leading new space company. They, sort of, figured out ways to build the rockets for significantly cheaper than had been done before, and I think that's always the key is can you get the costs down. They are working on rocket re- usability.

You know, if, every time you flew an airplane, you had to throw away the airplane, flight would be very expensive. And so if we can get rockets to be reusable, that's probably one of the key things for -- for really opening up space way more in the 21st Century.

BARTIROMO: When you see SpaceX taking off today, you realize that innovation is in America and it is alive and well. And yet, with the innovation and technology has also come the lack of privacy and the loss of privacy. What should ordinary Americans understand about the NSA and the fact that all of our information is no longer private?

THIEL: Well, it's -- we do need -- there's always this difficult issue where we have a terrorism problem; we have a national security problem, and so I do think that it's very important for us to be doing things about this. My criticism of the NSA is not that they are collecting all this data but that they really don't seem to know what they are doing with it.

And so it's more like "The Keystone Cops" than like Big Brother where, you know, they couldn't figure out that someone in the I.T. department was downloading all these files, and Mr. Snowden -- it didn't even raise any red flags, whereas, you know, the first thing an intelligence agency should do is counterintelligence. So I do think that we're collecting enormous amounts of data. There's a serious loss of privacy. If we were doing some useful things with that data, I would be willing to have that tradeoff, but I worry that it's been really incompetent.

BARTIROMO: In an age where everything is documentable and everything is found at some point, I've got to ask you about this whole IRS investigation. Could it be possible that these emails from, now, several people are gone forever, the way that the IRS says, without someone actually intentionally destroying those documents?

THIEL: I suspect they still exist somewhere. It's certainly possible that they're somewhere in this vast data file where it's almost impossible to find them. But I suspect -- I suspect they still exist. But, yes, we live - - you know, we live in this world where, if you say something bad or you've done something bad, there will be -- there's a permanent trail.

BARTIROMO: Real quick on Alibaba, a company valued at more than $200 billion on day one when they went public on Friday, should investors be concerned by the fact that the Chinese government is -- part ownership through different funds in Alibaba, a company, obviously, headquartered in the Cayman Islands? What do you think about the whole Chinese government and the Communist part of this story?

THIEL: Well, it's -- China thinks of information technology very differently from the U.S. It thinks it is less important economically but much more important politically, and that's why all these Chinese Internet companies are fundamentally political enemies. They are protected behind the great firewall of China. You know, China skews the playing field against foreign companies. And so, you know, Alibaba will do well as long as Jack Ma stays in the good graces of the Chinese Communist Party. And it's basically a political call. I suspect it's a good investment, but it's not the sort of thing I would do.

BARTIROMO: Peter, good to have you on the program.

THIEL: Thanks for having me.

BARTIROMO: Loved having you. Congratulations on the book "Zero to One." Peter Thiel joining us.

U.S. oil markets thriving despite global threats from groups like ISIS. The CEO of Chevron is with me next, and what that means for the bottom line, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: The Obama administration is struggling to cut off the millions of dollars in oil revenue that has made ISIS one of the wealthiest terrorist groups in history.

So how do we stop ISIS from selling oil on the black market and enriching themselves?

Joining me right now in an exclusive is Chevron chairman and CEO John Watson.

John, it's good to see you again.

JOHN WATSON, CHEVRON CHAIRMAN & CEO: Maria, thanks for having me on the show.

BARTIROMO: Thank you so much for joining us. I recognize that Chevron as a company doesn't have much exposure to some of these hot spots in the world that we're talking about, but what's your take in terms of all of this oil being sold on the black market, enriching this terrorist group and really empowering them?

WATSON: Well, ISIS has captured a great deal of territory, and there's oil production in that territory. And what you see is that, whether it's ISIS or other groups, they can be very resourceful in getting that oil to market. They will do it by truck; they'll do it by rail; they'll do it by whatever means they have at their disposal. So it's very difficult.

BARTIROMO: Let me ask you about the oil market, global oil market. Because I know that, you know, this is not just a U.S. story; this is the global market. You have got operations in Australia, where you made big investments, obviously big investments in the Permian Basin. And the entire LNG shale story is the story of growth for Chevron. Give us your sense of where the growth comes from at Chevron and really where the opportunities are in terms of shale.

WATSON: Well, we have a growth story, Maria, that is second to none. We'll grow our oil and gas production 20 percent between now and 2017. And you're right; there are big projects that we have in Australia, the Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects. We have three deepwater developments here in the United States that will be coming online over the next year or so.

And then we have got the shale revolution that's taking place. We have a very large position in the Permian basin. We have a couple million acres there. Overall, in North America, we have got close to 4 million acres of shale or related resource. So there's a tremendous opportunity for us, and we're going to continue to spend money here. It's in the consumers' interest.

Two things that the consumer may not know in this country. The reduction of natural gas prices brought on by the shale revolution since 2008 has put $80 billion into consumers' pockets. And the oil production coming from shale is making up for some of these hot spots around the world, so the lost production in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa have been offset to a large degree by shale production here in the United States. That's why we've seen oil prices drift down a little bit, and that's held gasoline prices down as well.

BARTIROMO: You're absolutely right, and not to mention the job creation that comes along with it. I mean, that's where you're seeing CAPX and that's where you're seeing jobs. And these jobs are high-paying jobs.

WATSON: They are high-paying jobs. And in fact, estimates have been that we can create upwards of a million additional jobs over the next decade by responsible investment in oil and gas in this country. We need be sure that we're leasing acreage, for example, offshore in federal waters, onshore in areas that are controlled by our government. We need to be sure that we're permitting pipelines so that we can safely move oil and gas to consumers. And we need to be sure that we have the right environmental regulations in place that are striking the right cost-benefit between the choices that we have.

BARTIROMO: I think you're --you're hitting on some things that, really, our viewers are very passionate about. Let me ask you about regulation. Because we just got new regulations from the EPA. How onerous are these in terms of companies wanting to invest, wanting to create jobs but unable to because of the cost and new barriers that have been put in place?

WATSON: Well, Maria, we all want clean air and water, and in fact, the regulations that we've seen over the last several decades have improved the quality of air and water demonstrably in this country. The air is much cleaner than it was when I was a kid, for example. We have to be sure we don't get to diminishing returns.

And I'll give you an example of that. The EPA is looking at regulations for ozone. And right now they are looking at again reducing ozone. But the regulation they are contemplating would reduce the ozone requirement to background levels. We would have national parks in non-attainment. And so it will become potentially one of the most expensive regulations ever put in place in this country.

And if we talk about the dividend that could come from additional manufacturing businesses because of low natural gas prices, how are you going to get permits for manufacturing plants if you have these onerous regulations in place?

So we have to be sure we strike the right balance between the clean air and water that we want and the cost of those regulations to the American people.

BARTIROMO: And then, of course, there's an export ban on the sale of crude, which is also being debated right now.

WATSON: Well, exporting crude is a very straightforward argument for the American consumer. First, we believe in free trade around the world, so the United States should not be seen as hoarding resource. But on the other hand, in the consumers' interest, right now we can export gasoline, and so whoever buys that crude oil is going to get the highest price for it, whether it's in the U.S. or otherwise.

So consumers won't be impacted by exporting crude oil. It's an economic efficiency argument because our refineries are better suited to import heavier grades of oil and let light oil be refined in -- elsewhere, where refineries are better suited for it.

So it's a very straightforward argument, and it doesn't need a lot of analysis. We just need to get on with it.

BARTIROMO: Really unbelievable insights from you. John, good to have you on the program. Thanks so much.

WATSON: Thank you, Maria.

BARTIROMO: John Watson is chairman and CEO at Chevron.

And now with a look at what's coming up on "Mediabuzz." Let's check in with Howard Kurtz.

Howie, what have you got in 20 minutes?

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "MEDIABUZZ": Hi. Hi, Maria. We're going to look at the backlash against all the coverage of the NFL's problems and this criticism coming even though there's now a focus on more players who have been convicted or accused of abuse, even though Commissioner Roger Goodell had a very testy and defensive news conference on Friday.

I argued -- I would be interested in your thoughts on this -- that this has long ago ceased to be just a news story. It's a cultural moment where everybody in America seems to be talking about this question of sports, violence and domestic abuse.

BARTIROMO: Yeah, this is absolutely the story of the moment, Howie. And, of course, I don't think people necessarily blame Roger Goodell, but it is -- there's a thing called leadership, and somebody has to make it known that this will not be tolerated, some of these actions.

Howie, I'll be there in 20 minutes to watch your interviews. Thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

BARTIROMO: Howie Kurtz, coming up at the top of the hour.

Well, if it seems like Congress just got back to work again before the midterm campaigns, well, they did. What are the hot topics sending you into the voting booth come November? Our panel will tackle that as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: Welcome back. Congress taking another six weeks off after working a grand total of eight full days after coming back from summer break. Americans have a lot to think about going to the polls, that's for sure.

The ISIS threat has dominated the news cycle, but jobs and the economy and health care and immigration are still hot button issues on the campaign trail. Which one of these will have the biggest impact on the midterms? Let's bring in our panel.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner. Judith Miller is adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. She's a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, and a Fox News contributor. And Lanhee Chen is former policy director for Mitt Romney. He's a board member at the Partnership for the Future of Medicare, and he's a fellow at the Hoover Institute.

Good to see everybody. Thank you so much for being here.

Byron, what do you think is the most important? I mean, these guys are obviously taking off for Rosh Hashanah. I mean, six weeks -- I mean, another six weeks because they want to campaign going into the midterms.

BYRON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Absolutely. All they really had to do when coming back to Washington was to pass a bill to keep the government funded, and to do something about the president's ISIS request.

So they did it. There is evidence that some Democrats, especially, who are facing a very difficult election are a little worried about the president talking about Iraq and Syria so much. These are not good topics for them. The public does not view them as strong on these issues.

And they also believe, and I think they are right, that jobs and the economy remain the fundamental issues that are going to decide the election in almost all of the states.

BARTIROMO: For sure. I mean, those are the issues that matter to us as people.

Judy, what do you think? What's the most important here?

JUDITH MILLER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: I think the most important thing to the Senate is actually going out and raising money. Every time we talk about campaigning we should remember what this House and Senate have become, and that is just an endless request for money, money, money.

So that's what they are doing. And they are leaving the nation's business undone. They had a complete agenda of things that were supposed to happen, that haven't happened. They don't want to vote on war and whether or not we should go to war.

The president says he doesn't need their authorization. Many people on the left and the right says, oh, yes, the president does. But they are not doing any of that because all they are focused on is their own futures.

BARTIROMO: Lanhee?

LANHEE CHEN, FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTE: Yes, I think there's a lot that's baked in the cake here already, Maria, in terms of what people are going to do as they go the polls and the issues they are thinking about, whether it's Obamacare, whether it's the stagnant recovery that we find ourselves in, or foreign policy, for that matter.

I think they have formed their opinion of President Obama, they have formed their opinion of these Democratic candidates, and they are going to vote based on those opinions which have been formed for quite some time.

I will say Judy is right, I think the money issue is going to be very critical, particularly in states like Iowa and North Carolina and Colorado where Republicans have been outspent since August 1st by the groups on the left and may continue to be.

So those are going to be some of the things I think you look for.

YORK: You made a great point, though, about authorization for use of military force in Iraq and Syria. The president says he doesn't need it because the authorization after September 11th still applies. But Congress only authorized this through December 11th.

This debate is going to happen. There are people on both sides who want to have an actual debate about this. And the president, all he was asking for was authorization to train and equip some of the rebels in Syria. Well, he got that.

That seems like a very difficult task. But he only got that through December 11th. So after the election there really will be a war debate in Washington.

BARTIROMO: Mm-hmm. And we haven't really talked about the cost of this. I mean, for the longest time we're talking about cutting military spending and here we are at a point that things are more dangerous than ever.

MILLER: Absolutely, with fewer troops than ever before. I mean, this is where we begin to get a demand to revisit tissue of how many troops we're going to have, never mind where we're going to have them, but whether or not we want a standing army of 450,000 by the end of the decade.

I think given the threats we face, that's irresponsible at this point.

CHEN: It's interesting because a lot of the budget fights really hinged on how we were going to use this so-called Overseas Contingency Operation Fund. And now it seems like we've actually got to use it for overseas contingencies, believe it or not. We can't use it for all these other things that folks had wanted to use it for.

So we're going to see some interesting battles in the lame duck when they come back after the election.

BARTIROMO: Yes. And at a time that the economy is really bumping along the bottom as well. And this is what at the end of the day matters to people because they are looking for jobs.

CHEN: Yes. And the problem is the economy continues to create part-time jobs.

BARTIROMO: Right.

CHEN: You've got labor force participation rates that are still near record lows. For young people they're at record lows. And I think that those issues still are big ones even though the president wants us to think that they are not.

(CROSSTALK)

YORK: One of the most depressing numbers that came out in the past few weeks is median household income still going down. And that -- and I think most strategists believe that is still the fundamental issue, not just for these midterms, but of the 2016 elections as well.

BARTIROMO: Absolutely. No doubt about it.

All right. Ukraine President Poroshenko speaking before both houses of Congress this past week. Will the U.S. step up its support of his country? Our panel tackles that next as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: And we're back with our panel, Byron York, Judy Miller, Lanhee Chen.

You know, I thought it was interesting that Mr. Poroshenko from Ukraine said we cannot win this war with Russia with blankets, we need your help, the U.S. Exactly what Larry Summers just said.

YORK: It is. But that's kind of all he's going to get from the Obama administration right now. I don't see any movement on the part of the administration to change its policy of non-lethal aid only. And there are hawks in Congress in both parties who are really screaming at him to change this. But I don't see any change.

BARTIROMO: You were just in Ukraine.

MILLER: I was. I was there with Larry Summers and the two of us were listening to these pleas for help from the Ukrainians. They don't want American boots on the ground. They don't need them. What they do need is the lethal aid that Byron was just talking about.

They want weapons to fight the Russians with. They'll do the fighting. But instead, they got offered $46 million on top of the $70 million in nonlethal aid that the president is offering.

By the way, the MREs and the other flack jackets and nonlethal aid, most of that hasn't even arrived yet, and no one can quite tell me why that is. So in terms of being a fair weather friend, that's the United States.

Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, was very polite, said he was satisfied with his visit. But I think anyone who went to the Ukraine who knows the situation there knows that he can't be satisfied.

BARTIROMO: Wow.

Lanhee, how do you see it?

CHEN: It's a tenuous cease-fire. Tenuous at best. The highest-ranking military official from NATO said as much recently. You know, and so I think we have to continue to be engaged. And what I worry about is that this is more talk from the Obama administration.

We've just heard so much talk, whether it's with Ukraine or with the situation with ISIS, there has been a lot of talks, but not a lot of activity. Syria, and what we're doing to engage ISIS in Syria, when is the administration going to actually act? And that's my concern. And until we see it, it's going to be very difficult for us to judge how effective U.S. policy is.

BARTIROMO: Well, it's pretty extraordinary that the generals are actually going against the president basically saying, no, we need boots on the ground. We can't have 1,600 Special Forces there with no back-up.

MILLER: But, Maria, even though I may agree with the generals, if President Obama were really tough-minded, he would fire all of them, because once the president has spoken, and I think he's wrong on this, but once he says no boots on the ground, they can't start talking about the need for them and work for this commander-in-chief.

YORK: The president went down to Tampa and basically said, didn't you hear me? I said no boots on the ground.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: Yes, exactly.

YORK: And he has, I think, a position that the public so far agrees with because we don't know who we're helping over there. And his entire position rests on the formation of a stable, unified government in Iraq. And I don't know how many people are going to bet on that happening.

BARTIROMO: Yes, no, I understand. But, you know, he doesn't want to put our troops in harm's way, he doesn't want to get back into an entanglement with Iraq. But we're there.

MILLER: But we're there.

CHEN: Yes. And we've seen this movie before, frankly, with Iraq specifically, when a lot of U.S. military officials were telling the president in 2009 and 2010 that he had to leave a residual force behind. We had to get a Status of Forces Agreement. He didn't do it then.

And it's like we're seeing the same movie play out all over again. Our generals are making recommendations to the president he doesn't appear to be taking.

BARTIROMO: Well, the failure of the Status of Forces Agreement is just really significant. I'm glad you brought that up. We talked about that with Jack Keane earlier.

Stay right here. Still to come, the one thing to watch for in the week ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures." Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARTIROMO: And we're back with our panel. The one big thing to watch for the upcoming week, Judy Miller, what's on your mind?

MILLER: My mind is on Turkey, because they said they couldn't join the coalition of the willing against ISIS because they have all of these hostages. Well, now all of them have been released. Are they going to step up to the plate or find some other excuse not to join us?

BARTIROMO: Great point there.

Byron, what about you?

YORK: Looking for the midterms, I'm looking at the Senate rate in Kansas, of all places, just a place that has had two Republican senators since the 1930s. Pat Roberts, the 78-year-old incumbent, is in trouble now because Democrats have managed to take the Democrat off the ticket. There's an independent who is probably a Democrat, who is much more popular there.

If Republicans are having to spend money and defend their seat in Kansas, that's not a good sign.

BARTIROMO: Lanhee, what are you looking at?

CHEN: I'm keeping my eye on the role of foreign policy in the midterms. You already see the use of foreign policy in campaign ads from Mitch McConnell and others. Is that going to continue? Is that going to be a big issue as voters go to the polls in November?

BARTIROMO: And I think from my standpoint, big deal in terms of the economic data, GDP out next Friday. That's certainly going to be important given we had a big move upwards in the last one. This is the final revision for the quarter.

That will do it for "Sunday Morning Futures," thank you so much, everybody, for joining us today. I'm Maria Bartiromo. I'll see you tomorrow morning on the "Opening Bell" at 9 a.m. Eastern on the Fox Business Network.

Take a look at where to find the FOX Business Network on your cable network. You see it there on all of the different providers, satellite included. Or click on "Channel Finder" at foxbusiness.com.

Stay with Fox News, "MediaBuzz" with Howard Kurtz is up next. Have a wonderful rest of your Sunday. Thanks, everybody.

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