Interviews

Lieberman: You can't defeat enemy unless you call by name

Reaction to Obama's ISIS strategy

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," February 12, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, a vice president who plans to be out of town when Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress, and a president giving Iran time to make a deal so nobody messes it up in Congress.

To Joe Lieberman, who says, you know, I think this is why I became an independent.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: You didn't say that.

JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Did I say that?

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: I don't know.

But it's good to have you, Senator. Thank you very much for coming.

LIEBERMAN: Great -- great to be with you, Neil.

CAVUTO: It is weird right now, right? First, the Netanyahu thing. We're less than three weeks from that visit...

LIEBERMAN: Right. CAVUTO: ... and we have what could be a spectacle here...

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... where a head of state, there will be a strike on going to see him speak to Congress.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, really unfortunate.

So, I would say now, whatever anybody thought about Speaker Boehner's invitation, Prime Minister Netanyahu's acceptance, the prime minister is coming. He is the head, the elected head of Israel, a very close ally of the United States.

So I urge people in Washington, don't focus on President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Speaker Boehner. This is a question of the U.S.-Israel relationship and really even more than that at this moment. What is the right thing to do about Iran's nuclear weapons program?

So, let's get back to the important stuff and forget the nonsense.

CAVUTO: Yes, see, that was kind of my point of view, which means you should probably run...

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... run away from what you just said...

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: ... that I think, yes, we went through protocol or blew protocol and screwed things up in terms of the invite. I will even accept that. But the invite is out there. The acceptance is out there. A head of state is coming here to speak to Congress. The vice president is deliberately going to be out of town. Senator Bernie Sanders and others in the House are saying they won't be there.

LIEBERMAN: Right.

CAVUTO: I think that compounds the sin, doesn't it?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, it does.

I mean, I think it's -- again, people have to come back to -- even if you disagree with Netanyahu's position on Iran...

CAVUTO: Right.

LIEBERMAN: ... and the nuclear weapons, or you felt it was wrong for Speaker Boehner to invite him, that's not what this is about now.

This is about an ally. Also, frankly, you might say it's about freedom of speech. So, come and hear him. And from Netanyahu's point of view, I think he accepted it because he obviously has a real worry about the way in which these negotiations with Iran are going, because, as he has said many times, it could be an existential threat, really a threat to Israel's existence, incidentally a threat to our Arab allies in the Middle East as well.

CAVUTO: Well, you talk -- you have a lot of friends, connections certainly back in Israel. Are they annoyed by this treatment?

LIEBERMAN: It's actually mixed.

CAVUTO: Yes.

LIEBERMAN: I can't say I have done anything random -- I mean, all my information is random. It's not scientific.

But I think some people feel that it's a problem that didn't need to be. Other people are upset about it.

CAVUTO: Yes. LIEBERMAN: And there was a concern that -- the opponents of Netanyahu in the election thought maybe he would lose by this, because he would have irritated the relationship with the United States, which, no matter how strong Israel is, Israel depends on the U.S.

We're their ultimate guarantor. But I think, ultimately, probably more people are upset by the reaction in Washington than they're upset that Bibi is coming.

CAVUTO: Yes. Oh, no, there's no doubt. You're exactly right about that.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

CAVUTO: I had John McCain here, your old friend, and Lindsey Graham, and they were both saying, we need to take a very strong message to ISIS.

Now, in Lindsey Graham's case, he would back what a lot of generals have been saying, including many here. We need boots on the ground, we need 10,000 U.S. troops there, among others. What do you think of that?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I mean, really, this goes to this resolution that the president sent to Congress yesterday, and...

CAVUTO: Did you understand that resolution? Because I didn't.

LIEBERMAN: No, I -- no, you know, I looked at it once, twice, three times, and I said, this looks like an authorization for the use of military force drafted by a committee.

There's a little bit for this...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: With a lot of lawyers.

LIEBERMAN: There's a little bit -- too much -- right.

If you go back, the last real declaration of war was the Second World War, the last time Congress did it. And it's very direct. It recites the whereases and it then simply says, the president of the United States, as commander in chief, is authorized to take all necessary and appropriate steps to defeat the enemy.

CAVUTO: But this president has gone on record as saying, as has his - - all of his foreign policy team, that that period, World War II, is not ISIS now.

LIEBERMAN: Well, no.

CAVUTO: And so equating them and responding to ISIS on the same level is wrong. What do you make of that?

LIEBERMAN: Yes. Well, it's not the World War that was going on against Nazism and fascism.

CAVUTO: Well, I think he's saying worse, though, Senator.

LIEBERMAN: Right.

CAVUTO: I think he is saying ISIS is isn't that big a deal. It's a media creation.

LIEBERMAN: Oh, oh, no, no. ISIS is part of what is a global conflict with extremist Islamist terrorism.

CAVUTO: He is not saying that.

LIEBERMAN: I know he's not. And I don't get it.

CAVUTO: Does that bother you?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, it does, because -- again, you have heard it, but I will say it again. You can't defeat your enemy unless you call it by name.

It's not violent extremism. There are other forms of violent extremism. There's white supremacist extremism. But that's not the group that attacked us on 9/11. That's not what ISIS is.

CAVUTO: Why do you think he is afraid to say that?

LIEBERMAN: I presume that it's because he thinks it's offensive to Muslims in the world.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, we would be getting something out of that, then, right? If that true and he is trying...

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... to keep them happy, then we would presumably be getting something for holding back with that term.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

You know, in my conversations, again, not scientific, with Muslim friends, the people I meet around the world, I think they want to be distinguished from the extremists, from the violent jihadists. That's not them. That's not most Muslims in the world. So...

CAVUTO: So, what did you think when the president used the example, many things and horrible things have been done in the name of Jesus Christ and Christianity? He was not as quick to say Islam.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I thought that was totally unnecessary. And I couldn't understand why he was saying that.

Look, every religion has had extremists at different times that have done things that were not consistent with the heart of the religion. But why would you bring that -- that's a -- that's a thousand...

CAVUTO: Well, he's also saying that...

LIEBERMAN: That's a thousand years ago.

CAVUTO: ... in the Paris attack, Senator, that the attack on that kosher deli was essentially random.

LIEBERMAN: Well, that -- one might say that the particular people that that terrorist killed were random, but there's no question -- he said it himself when he was talking from the kosher supermarket -- they went into in the kosher supermarket to kill Jews because they were Jews, just like they killed a policewoman because she was a policewoman, just like they killed the cartoonists because they were cartoonists.

It was -- to say it was Anti-Semitic doesn't say enough.

CAVUTO: Yes.

LIEBERMAN: It was a violently anti-Semitic act. So, I...

CAVUTO: I hear you.

Back to your party, your old party, the Democratic Party, a big fight going on between the hard left and maybe the Hillary Clinton types, who hard left says, well, you're not quite our cup of tea, Elizabeth Warren maybe, but they're are seeking an alternative to her. Where is this going?

LIEBERMAN: Well, hard to say.

I stopped predicting where Democrats are going in the 2006 primary that I lost in Connecticut. But I think if -- Elizabeth Warren actually has a lot of support out there in the party. And the party in a way is restlessly -- the left part of it is restlessly looking for somebody other than Hillary Clinton, which is surprising.

CAVUTO: Do you think an independent, a third-party candidate -- you had great success in Connecticut.

LIEBERMAN: It's very hard.

CAVUTO: Could that be done on a national level?

LIEBERMAN: Very hard to be done.

It would take a situation in which the two major parties nominated candidates that had no particular appeal to that broad middle independent in American politics. And then it would take somebody to get in and either have a lot of money or be able to raise a lot of money.

But I'll tell you -- I don't have to tell you -- there's a high and growing level of frustration and anger with the two major parties. And if they don't together and get things done, solve problems in Washington, they're going to be more and more independents elected to Congress, and some time in the not-so-distant future, there will be an independent elected president of the United States.

CAVUTO: So, you were a trailblazer.

(LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: Well...

CAVUTO: Joe Lieberman, trailblazer.

LIEBERMAN: Right. I will say involuntarily.

(LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: Remember, they -- they kicked me out of the...

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: I remember that. But you came flying back with a vengeance. That's for sure.

LIEBERMAN: God bless -- God bless the people of Connecticut.

CAVUTO: They loved you.

Joe Lieberman, thank you very, very much.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Neil. Great to be with you.

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