OTR Interviews

Even some Democrats are baffled by Pres. Obama's refusal to say 'radical Islam'

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard finds the White House's avoidance of 'radical Islam' label 'frustrating' and 'disturbing'


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 27, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now to something I just don't get. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, they won't say it, "Islamic radicalism." What's up with that? Republicans and even some Democrats are outraged.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What this White House is very clear about is that the world is not at war with Islam.

ANDREA TANTAROS, FOX NEWS HOST: Why can't they say the words "Islamic extremism"?

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not certain I've got a good explanation for it.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Obviously, the biggest error we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This is an ideology founded in a radical version of Islam. It's fundamentally opposed to our way of life.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We simply do not believe, Chuck, that they should somehow be seen as representatives of Islam.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: This would be as if Ronald Reagan wouldn't have used the word "Communism."


VAN SUSTEREN: And Iraq war veteran and Democratic representative from the great state of Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, joins us.

Nice to see you.



So why won't the president say "Islamic extremism"?

GABBARD: The first thing we have to understand, it's not just about words, it's not about semantics, it's really about having a real true understanding of who our enemy is and how important that is, that we have to understand what their motivation is and what their ideology is, this radical Islamic ideology that's fueling them.

Just a couple of days ago, Secretary Kerry said in a speech that ISIS and al Qaeda are engaging in, quote, "criminal conduct rooted in alienation, poverty, thrill seeking and other factors." Now if we really look at what he's saying and if that's really the cause, then the solution would be to give them a trophy, give them a hug, give them a good paying job, $10,000, and a skateboard so they can go and get their thrills and say, OK, great, they're going to be happy and they won't be fighting anymore. That's not the case. Unfortunately, we have people who are living in poverty all around the world, people who have this same feeling of alienation from their government, but they're not terrorists. So we've got to look at what their ideology is and how that's fueling these tragic attacks that keep occurring.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that your strong view on this is because you actually went to Iraq and you've actually seen it? I mean, the rest of us, including President Obama, Secretary Kerry, we're sort of on the sidelines looking at it. You were actually there.

GABBARD: Yes, it does. And it comes from experiencing not only the culture myself, personally, but also seeing the incredibly high cost of wars. Seeing friends of mine who did not make it home, people who I served with in Iraq, and unfortunately, the countless other lives who sacrificed and paid that ultimate price.

VAN SUSTEREN: So when the president won't say "Islamic extremism," that he doesn't know who the enemy is? Is that it? I don't get this one.

GABBARD: I think, in my opinion it really is not recognizing that Islamic extremism is the enemy. We can see that through their actions, through the decisions that this administration has made. And Libya is a perfect example, where if you don't know who your enemy is, you end up going to war with people who are not your enemy. In Libya, we had a situation where Gadhafi was taken out. We attacked Libya, and we look now rather than eliminating our enemy, these Islamic extremists, they're stronger there now than they were before. And there are other examples. We look at the proposed attacks on Syria that occurred just over a year ago. Again, we're dealing with a situation where this is not our enemy, this is not the people who are threatening the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it really -- so this isn't just a spat between a lot of Republicans. And, of course, you share the view, the word game. This is a real problem, a real failure to confront who the enemy is.

GABBARD: It's a real problem because of a very simple reason actually. That is something I learned as military 101, but something that's easy for everyone to understand, and that is, if you are at war, which we are, you have to know who your enemy is in order to defeat them. You've got to recognize what's fueling them, what's motivating them, what are their strategies and tactics that they're using in order to be able to defeat them and prevent them from attacking the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congresswoman, nice to see you. Thank you for your service. Like I said, you were there, the rest of us weren't. Thank you.

GABBARD: Thank you, Greta. Aloha.