FOX NEWS SUNDAY

Rep. Jason Chaffetz announces his bid to become House speaker; Experts weigh in on Russian airstrikes in Syria

Did Kevin McCarthy's Benghazi gaffe open the door for other candidates to replace Speaker Boehner?

 

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," October 4, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I'm Chris Wallace.  
   
A big potential shake-up in the race for the speaker of the House.  Congressman Jason Chaffetz says he's seriously considering a run to lead the Republicans.  Today, he'll announce his decision on "Fox News Sunday."
   
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
   
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY R-CALIFORNIA:  Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?  But we put together a Benghazi special committee.  Her numbers are dropping.
   
I did not intend to imply in any way that that work is political.  
   
WALLACE:  Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was the front-runner for the job, but now is facing criticism from the Republicans for his gaffe.  
   
We'll discussion the future for the GOP and an exclusive interview with Jason Chaffetz.  
   
Then, the crisis in Syria deepens as the Russians bomb Assad's enemies and tell the U.S. to get out of the way.      

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZONA:  Into the wreckage of this administration's Middle East policy has now stepped Vladimir Putin.  
   
WALLACE:  What does Putin's move mean for the future of the region?  
   
We'll ask retired four-star General Jack Keen and Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Syria.  
   
Plus, another mass shooting, as a gunman targets Christians at an Oregon community college.  
   
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.  This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.  
   
WALLACE:  Our panel weighs in on the president's comments and what can be done to prevent more massacres.  
   
And our power player of the week.  Sesame street's Maria on inspiring generations of children.
   
All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."
   
(END VIDEOTAPE)
   
WALLACE:  And hello again from Fox News in Washington.  
   
Speaker of the House is a big job.  He or she leads one half of Congress and is second in the line of presidential succession.  When John Boehner announced his resignation last week, it seemed almost certain his number two, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy would succeed him.  But suddenly, that's in doubt.  
   
Joining me now, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee.  He says he's seriously considering a run for speaker.  
   
Congressman, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
   
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ R-UTAH:  Thanks for having me.  
   
WALLACE:  Just five days ago, you said you supported Kevin McCarthy for speaker, and it was widely assumed that as majority leader, the number two position in the GOP caucus, that he would move up when John Boehner moved out.  Why are you even considering the idea of running against McCarthy?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Kevin McCarthy is a good man.  He's a big reason why we have such a solid majority.  
   
But things have changed and there's really a math problem.  You need 218 votes on the floor of the House.  There's 246 Republicans that will vote, but there are nearly 50 people and a growing number that will not and cannot vote for Kevin McCarthy as the speaker on the floor.  He's going to fall short of the 218 votes on the floor of House.  
   
WALLACE:  So, what are you going to do?  Are you going to put your name forward when the House caucus votes on Thursday?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Today, here, I am announcing my intention to run for speaker of the House of Representatives.  We were entrusted by the American people with the largest majority the Republicans have ever had since Babe Ruth was swinging the baseball bat.  
   
But they didn't send us here to perpetuate the status quo.  They want us to tackle the tough issues.  They don't want us to fight.  They want us -- they want us to fight -- they want us to take that fight to the Senate.  They want us to take that fight to the president, and they want us to take that fight to the American people.  
   
WALLACE:  So, before we get into some of the substance, I want to ask about the procedural issue, because it is complicated.  First, there's a vote in the House GOP Caucus on Thursday.  Then, there's going to be the full vote at the end of the month.  
   
Do you pledge to support whoever wins the vote in the House Caucus on Thursday, or even if you lose, will you take your candidacy to the full floor at the end of the month?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Again, I think Mr. McCarthy has the majority of the conference, and we're going to have that vote on Thursday.  But in many ways it doesn't matter because the real vote is when you call that name out in front of everybody on the floor of the House.  So, the vote on Thursday is closed door, secret ballot, I will support the nominee.
   
But I just don't believe that the nominee, if it's Kevin McCarthy can actually get to 218.  That's why I've offer myself as a candidate to try to bridge that divide.  I think those 50-plus people find I'm a fair, even-balanced person, that I can bridge that divide between -- there are more centrist members and some of the more far right-wing members.  That's why I've entered this race.

WALLACE:  So, basically, you're saying you will continue your candidacy until the full vote of the House at the end of the month.  
   
CHAFFETZ:  What I'm saying is, if we walk out of there, and I want to win, I hope I win, but there's no doubt that Kevin McCarthy have the majority of the people in our conference that do support him.  They like him.  They --  
(CROSSTALK)
   
WALLACE:  Are you saying you're going to --  
   
CHAFFETZ:  I will walk out of the there and support the nominee.  I hope it's me.  I'm trying to fight for that.  But if it's Kevin McCarthy, I will support him, but he still has a math problem.  It still can't get to 218.  
   
And I hope we can avoid those problems, bridge the gap, turn the fight -- instead of internally -- turn that fight to the Democrats and fight for the things that we all came to Congress for.  
   
WALLACE:  Why do you think 50-plus and whatever and the more hard-line conservatives won't vote for McCarthy but would vote for you?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  I think the American public wants to see a change.  They want a fresh start.
   
There's a reason why we see this phenomenon across the country, and you don't just give an automatic promotion to the existing leadership team.  That doesn't signal change.  I think they want a fresh face and fresh new person who is actually there at the leadership table in the speaker's role.
   
You've got to speak, you've got to be able to articulate the Republican message to the American people and take that fight to the president, but you also have to bridge internally.  And that's where we've got some conflict going on right now.  
   
WALLACE:  How do you explain in what do you mean, that you would bring the internal conflicts better than McCarthy?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  I do.  I think -- well, he's been in existing leadership for years and years.  And the strife and the divide is getting worse.  It's not getting better.  
   
And so, what I'm trying to offer is we need internal process reform and how we select the committees, who the committee are, bringing more votes to the floor.  
   
I don't expect, Chris that every vote we bring to the floor we win.  I want to vote more, not less.  I want these things to be prebaked.  I want the committees to be more empowered, and I think that's what our broke membership wants on the full political spectrum.  
   
WALLACE:  So, what are you saying basically, that you would be more amenable, more friendlier to the hard-line conservatives, the freedom caucus, the Tea Party people than Kevin McCarthy?  That's one question.  And the second one, how could -- would you be any more effective than McCarthy, given the fact that you're still going to have President Obama, you're still going to have enough Democrats in the Senate to lead -- to sustain a filibuster, so how are you going to be any more effective in taking them on?
   
CHAFFETZ:  Well, look, internally, I do think we have to bridge the divide.  And you have to -- I'm being recruited.  I didn't just -- you know, I didn't wake up last week and think I'm going to be speaker.  But I've had enough members who've come and said, please, Jason, do this.  
   
We don't want to fight internally.  But realistically, we can't vote to promote the existing leadership.  
   
So, that internal factor is there, and I think will continue to the floor of the House when that vote actually happens.  And I think a new fresh face who says, look, how are we going to -- how are we going to hold the line for the full political spectrum, what are we going to fight for?  I am not there to promote the status quo.  I am not there to do what Mitch McConnell or the president wants to do.  That's not what we were elected to do.
   
WALLACE:  All right.  Let's do a lightning round.  Quick questions, quick answers on some of the specific issues that you would if you become speaker.  
   
President Obama announced on Friday that he will not sign another short-term spending bill when the continuing resolution runs out in December.  Would you be willing to risk a shutdown to defund Planned Parenthood?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Well, look, we're going to have that discussion internally.  We're -- my job is to help put a bill on the president's desk.  The president's solution is to just borrow more money from China?  That's not a solution.  I want to solve this problem.  
   
So, unless we're actually solving the problem, I have a hard time putting anything over there onto the president's desk that doesn't also solve the problem.  I want to solve the problem.  
   
WALLACE:  Respectfully, because you're maybe the next speaker, would you -- how far are you willing to take the fight to defund Planned Parenthood?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  I have -- the job as speaker is to unite our party in the House and we're going to hold the line, from the whole political spectrum.  That's what I want to do.  And then we're going to go fight and we're going to make that case to the American people.  
   
WALLACE:  What about budget caps under sequestration?  Are you willing to lift the caps so you would have more spending both on defense and some domestic spending?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  I want to cut -- personally, I want to cut spending.  Personally, I just don't believe we can continue to add to the deficit.  So, actually, personally, I like the budget cap.  
   
I do believe we need more money for the military, we need more money for the V.A.  We ought to take care of the people who take care of us.  And I do want to fight cancer that is killing 1,500 people a day.  
   
But that's -- again, it's not my personal agenda.  We're going to move forward.  As the speaker, you got to take the will of our body, appreciate and respect the process and then go fight for that.  
   
WALLACE:  The government will reach its debt limit on November 5th.  Would you -- what would you demand from the president and from the Democrats in order to vote to lift the debt limit?  And are you willing to risk the possibility of default in that negotiation?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Our job in the House -- we have 246 members. Our job in the house is to actually put forward a bill.  I would like it to see actually cut the deficit, not continue to add to the deficit.  I don't want to borrow more money from China.  I actually want to fight for those things that will solve the problem and not just keep punting it down the road.  
   
WALLACE:  But are you --  
   
(CROSSTALK)
   
CHAFFETZ:  When President Obama took office --  
   
WALLACE:  Where would you be on -- would you demand something in return for racing the debt limit?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Well, we've got -- we're just not going to unilaterally raise the debt limit.  I don't think that's a responsible thing for our company.  The debt in this country when President Obama took office was $9 trillion.  We're approaching $20 trillion.  We're spending more than $600 million a day in interest on our national debt.  
   
We've got to solve that problem, not just say, oh, let's just borrow more money from the Chinese.  We're not going to do that.
   
WALLACE:  So, would it be fair to say as speaker, Congressman, you would be more confrontational than Boehner has been and that you believe that McCarthy would be?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Look, I'm going to be myself.  I'm going to get that body behind us, and then I'm going to fight.  I'm going to make that case.  
   
And you want a speaker who speaks.  We need somebody who's out there who is actually going out there and making the case to the American people, talking to the Senate about what we need to do, and going on the national television shows and winning that argument.  We don't seem to win the argument.  And that's a problem.  
   
WALLACE:  Just the suggestion that you would run for speaker has brought out some criticism from conservatives.  They note you ran a hearing on Planned Parenthood this week.  Take a look.  
   
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
   
CHAFFETZ:  Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000.  Is that correct?  
   
CECILE RICHARDS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD PRESIDENT:  I don't have the figures with me.  But I don't want --
   
CHAFFETZ:  It was.  Congratulations.  
   
(END VIDEO CLIP)
   
WALLACE:  Critics say that you focused on the wrong thing, you focused on the Planned Parenthood's finances and not on the videos, and the fact they're trafficking fetal body parts.  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Well, we issued the subpoena.  I issued a subpoena.  We don't have all the videos yet, but I do think it's legitimate for a not-for-profit organization to question how they spend money.  Exorbitant salaries, first class travel, charter airplane, they're sending money overseas.  These are not things that a not-for-profit needs.  
   
$127 million more in revenues than expenses and they want more federal money?  I think we can tackle it both on trafficking in fetal body parts, but also about the finances.  
   
WALLACE:  They also note that in June, you stripped conservative Congressman Mark Meadows of his subcommittee chairmanship because he balked, went against the House leadership in terms of giving fast-track trade authority to President Obama.  You took his subcommittee chairmanship away.  Is that the kind of speaker you would be?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  No, I think I learned from that lesson.  That you're not going to do things by cutting people off at the knees.  I think I was a good leader and that I listened for an hour and 40 minds with my committee and reconsidered that decision.  
   
We've got to win the argument and make case, not just knock people over the head if they don't what we want to do.
   
So, it's a lesson learned.  I think I'm better for it, and I think Mark is better for it, and we're certainly good friends on this day.  
   
WALLACE:  Finally, you're in an ugly situation.  That's one way of putting it, with the Secret Service.  As chairman of the House Oversight Committee, you held a hearing in March about the continued security lapses at the Secret Service.  Here's a clip.  
   
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
   
MCCARTHY:  Don't let anybody get in that gate.  And when they come to the gate and they've got a bomb and they say they have a bomb, believe 'em, take 'em down, take 'em down!
   
(END VIDEO CLIP)
   
WALLACE:  Now, an inspector general's report has revealed that within days of that hearing, some 45 agency employees got ahold of your 2003 application to be a Secret Service agent and someone leaked the fact that your application had been rejected, and Director Joe Clancy is now revising his original account to the inspector general when he said back then that he didn't know people in the agency were looking at your file.  
   
Question -- what action should be taken at the Secret Service and should Director Clancy step down?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Well, the Secret Service is demonstrating why we started to investigate them and their shenanigans.  I think the question is really for the Department of Justice.  You had 45 -- 45 -- Secret Service agents violate federal law according to the inspector general?  What is the attorney general doing?  Why isn't there a special prosecutor over there?  
   
It's kind of scary.  I fear that these people -- if they do this to me, I'm sure it's probably not the first time.  I'm a sitting member of Congress.  Nobody should have that done.  It's a violation of federal law.  
   
WALLACE:  And do you still have confidence in Director Clancy?  
   
CHAFFETZ:  I lose it every day.  Again, this is why almost two years ago we started investigating the Secret Service.  They've had a series of mishaps and they're entrusted with guns near the president.  This is -- and they're the most sensitive classified information.  I -- they've got a serious cultural problem.  
   
WALLACE:  Congressman Chaffetz, thank you.  Thanks for coming in today.
   
CHAFFETZ:  Appreciate it.
   
WALLACE:  And we'll follow the battle for speaker this week.  
   
CHAFFETZ:  Thank you.  
   
WALLACE:  Up next, we'll bring in our Sunday group to discuss the shake up in the House and the latest from the campaign trail.  
   
Plus, what do you think?  Who should Republican choose as their new speaker?  And how should they deal with President Obama and the Democrats?  Let me know on Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday and use the #fns.  
   
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
   
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
   
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, R-CALIFORNIA:  Look, this is not what you're going to see with speaker of the House.  Never mind tension, to imply anything.  And that's -- I want to be very clear with my colleagues, very clear with this country of where we're going.  
   
(END VIDEO CLIP)
   
WALLACE:  House majority leader and candidate for speaker, Kevin McCarthy, trying to walk back his linking the House Benghazi Committee to Hillary Clinton's drop in the polls.  
   
And it's time now for our Sunday group: FOX News senior political analyst Brit Hume, Julie Pace, who covers the White House for "The Associated Press", Ben Domenech, cofounder of the web magazine "The Federalist", and Christi Parsons who reports on the White House for "Tribune" newspapers.  
   
Brit, how damaging was the statement both to his prospects to be speaker and also to the work of the Benghazi committee?  And what do you make of someone like Jason Chaffetz, a member of the House committee, announcing that he's going to oppose McCarthy to the right?
   
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think in the case of Chaffetz, if it hadn't been he, there would have been somebody else.  There is another candidate in the race who is less prominent than Chaffetz.  So, Chaffetz has obviously a better chance.
   
I think the episode was damaging to the committees investigating Benghazi.  It gives the Democrats a talking point, a shillelagh really that they can beat the Republicans on this over the head with, ad infinitum.  I think it was very damaging to McCarthy.
   
McCarthy -- Chaffetz is right.  McCarthy has a majority support in the Republican caucus, but it doesn't have 218.  So, if they go to the floor with him as kind of their nominee and the people on the right who don't want him don't vote for him, he can't win.  Then they go to a series of votes, it could go on for a long time.  
   
We're a long way from having this matter settled.  McCarthy I think started the unraveling process by his gaffe on the committee, which gave people kind of an excuse, a reason not to support him.  So, this is -- this is a manifestation, Chris of the divisions within the Republican Party we are seeing reflected in Donald Trump's ascendancy, and the complaints we continually hear about the leaders in both House and Senate, and I don't think there's any way of knowing where this is going to end.  
   
WALLACE:  Julie, we saw the president in this news conference, picking up on this subject, in his news conference on Friday, seeming almost to dare House Republicans to pick a fight with him whether it was on the budget or anything else.
   
Here's the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
   
OBAMA:  I will not sign another short-sighted spending bill like the one Congress sent me this week.  We purchased ourselves ten additional weeks.  We need to use them effectively.  
   
(END VIDEO CLIP)
   
WALLACE:  With the split that we have seen and we saw again this morning, among House Republicans, do the president and White House officials feel that they can beat Republicans, congressional Republicans in any kind of a showdown?  Whether it's on the budget or debt limit or any of these things?  
   
JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Well, later in that news conference, you saw the president acknowledge that the speaker's race is basically going to cause a lot of chaos around the things he's talking about there, the debt limit possibly and the budget fight.  
   
I mean, they think that McConnell and previously Boehner had looked at the landscape and figured out a shutdown, a fight over the debt ceiling is not good for Republicans going into the 2016 election.  They think that McConnell is still in that same place, though the question is whether the new speaker will be in the same place.  
   
The White House has been operating under the assumption that the speaker would be McCarthy.  Now, obviously, with Chaffetz in the race, this gets a little more complicated.  But they do think that the politics for Republicans, as well as Democrats favors a pretty clean straightforward budget process, not a shutdown.  
   
WALLACE:  And do they feel that if there is a shutdown or if there's a default in the debt limit, that the Republicans because of the disarray take the blame, whether that's fair or not?  
   
PACE:  They think they would take more of the blame.  They certainly think that the president and the White House would good some of the blame, but the majority would fall on the Republicans.  
   
WALLACE:  There also were some interesting developments in the presidential race where you saw on both parties, some former allies creating some distance between themselves.  On the Republican side, Jeb Bush took a swipe at his former protege, Marco Rubio.  Here that is.  
   
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
   
JEB BUSH, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I'm a proven leader.  I disrupted the old order in Tallahassee.  I relied on people like Marco Rubio and many others to follow my leadership.  
   
(END VIDEO CLIP)
   
   WALLACE:  Ben, what does that tell you about the current fortunes of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush?
   
BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST:  You know, it's interesting.  In the old ways of approaching politics, you wanted to be a governor.  In order to get to the presidency, you wanted that executive experience path.  
   
I think that Jeb is confronted now by a situation where you actually gain more of the tools for running for president in this day and age by actually being in the Senate, by walking back and forth from your office to the floor, being confronted by all sorts of gotcha questions and things of that nature.  I think in a certain sense, it's an expression of his experience being something that ought to matter to voters currently.  But I also think that Jeb had an interesting moment this week in the sense of being attacked by a lot of journalists for a comment he made in the wake of the Oregon shooting, which was really spun completely out of context and which I think --
   
WALLACE:  This is when he said, stuff happens and you don't have to react immediately.  
   
DOMENECH:  And I think this is actually a moment that he could potentially seize to his advantage, in a sense that he hasn't had so much of the give-and-take with the media recently.  I think it would be an opportunity for him to really show that he is a leader and pick a fight that actually could be to his benefit.  I'm not sure a fight between him and Marco Rubio is one that accrues to that effect.  
   
WALLACE:  But why do you think, though, that he would be going after Rubio as opposed to Trump or Carson or Fiorina who are further of them in the polls?
   
DOMENECH:  I think he recognizes that Rubio is more in his lane, in the sense that he has an appeal that speaks to a lot of other people who share his views on immigration policy, share is views on the kind of change that needs to happen within Washington.  And getting Marco Rubio out of that lane is key I think in order for him to succeed.  
   
WALLACE:  And then there's Hillary Clinton who has over recent days come out against the Keystone Pipeline and this week took issue with the way President Obama is leading our efforts in Syria.  Take a look at this.  
   
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
   
HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air.  
   
OBAMA:  Hillary Clinton is not half baked in terms of her approach to these problems.  She was obviously my secretary of state, but I also think that there's a difference between running for president and being president.  
   
(END VIDEO CLIP)
   
WALLACE:  Christi, how do they feel at the White House from the president on down about Hillary Clinton putting some distance on a variety of issues -- Keystone, Syria, other issues, between herself and the president?  
   
CHRISTI PARSONS, TRIBUNE NEWSPAPERS:  Well, I think they feel like she's staying in the realm of basic campaign rhetoric.  And you saw the president in that news conference on Friday dismissed what she said about Syria.  It's just -- you know, things you say when you're running for president, they don't obligate you and so far, they're not so critical that he felt he had to call them half-baked or call them mumbo-jumbo which is what he called Republicans' critique of his approach in Syria.
   
I don't think they love it, but I think the president is willing to keep it kind of cool until she becomes more strident on her criticism of him.
   
WALLACE:  I was going to say, do you have a sense that there's sort of a line -- that if she stays on this sort of the line, they're going to be OK with it, if she goes to that side of the line, they might push back?  
   
PARSONS:  Yes, I think that might be the case and I think you saw that line stake out in her memoir.  She made it very clear, there are a few places where she's broken with the president on policy while secretary of state.  She has clearly laid those other things that she wants to claim she wants to be able to show some daylight and also distinguish herself a little bit.  She is more hawkish than he is.  That came out in the 2008 primary and it came out while she was serving as secretary of state.
   
WALLACE:  All right.  I got a minute left, I want to share it between my two White House watchers.  
   
What's the latest on the Biden watch, in or out?  
   
PAGE:  I don't think anyone really knows.  It's day to day it seems to flip back and forth.  When you heard him speak at the Human Rights Campaign dinner last night, it was almost a campaign speech, he was drawing distinctions with the president, he's very forward-leaning, but then he has other moments that you don't get the sense he's quite ready yet.  
   
PARSONS:  Yes, I think that's right.  I think the vice president did an interview with a Catholic magazine this week where he sounded very much like an interview with Colbert a few days.  
   
WALLACE:  Where he's emotionally not there?  
   
PARSONS:  Where he's emotionally not there.  He's not ready to say, "I'm in."  I also think it's clear he's not ready to say, "I'm out."
   
WALLACE:  Is he in -- 10 seconds, will he be in the Democratic debate mid-month or not?  
   
PARSONS:  I don't think so.  
   
PACE:  I don't think so.
   
WALLACE:  All right.  There we go, and I know I'm not going to ask Brit, because he hates predictions.
   
(LAUGHTER)
   
WALLACE:  Which makes him the smartest person on the planet.  
   
All right.  We have to take a break here, we'll see you all little later.
   
Up next, a dramatic escalation of Russia's involvement in Syria, but President Obama says the U.S. won't engage in a proxy war.  We'll talk with a top American general and diplomat about a conflict that suddenly got even more dangerous.
   
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
   
WALLACE:  Coming up, Russia gets much more deeply involved in the Syrian conflict, dropping bombs on President Assad's enemies while claiming to target ISIS.  And Moscow is telling the U.S. to get out.  
   
We'll sit down with retired four-star General Jack Keane and Ryan Crocker, one of America's top ambassadors to the Middle East.
   
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
   
WALLACE:  The crisis in Syria escalated dramatically this week, with Russia launching an air campaign to support President Assad.  President Obama came under new criticism for letting Vladimir Putin fill a power vacuum in the Middle East.  And the White House is rethinking its strategy to take on ISIS.  We've brought in two experts to explain what's going on.  Joining us at the map to break down the military situation is retired four-star Army General Jack Keane, and from College Station, Texas, Ryan Crocker, who served presidents from Bush 41 to Obama as a U.S. ambassador, including to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.  General Keane, let me begin with you at the map.  Give us a chalk talk, show us where and who the Russians are hitting.  

GEN. JACK KEANE, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  This is a blowup of the Syrian map, which doesn't represent all of Syria, but for the purposes of the air strikes, the orange represents the regime control area, and the yellow and the green represents the rebels.  The green is actually ISIS.  

What's happening in Syria in the last year, the rebels have made some significant gains in Palmyra, an air field near here, and up here in the north, this is Idlib Province, and this encroaches on the Alawite coastal enclave that is right here, and this is where the Russian base is, the naval base.

(CROSSTALK)

KEANE:  That's correct.  

And this is his political support.  So the regime is in a precarious situation.  The reason for the air strikes are to stop this advance by the rebels, particularly in this area here and here, and that's -- these starbursts indicate the air strikes have been taking place over the last three or four days.  There have been a couple out here to the east near ISIS's headquarters in Raqqa.  But that's window dressing, because this is the focus right here.  And what we're going to see, the second purpose of the air strikes is not just to stop the advance, but to set the conditions for a ground counteroffensive, to push back the rebels out of that area.  

WALLACE:  Let me get to that, because the U.S. officials are reporting that 300 to 600 Iranian forces are being deployed into Iraq, Iran, rather to Syria, and that's in addition to the 1,500 that are already there.  Your sense of where they're going to be deployed and what this Russian/Iranian alliance in Syria is going to mean.  

KEANE:  First of all, the Russian/Iranian alliance strategically is a game changer for the Middle East.  It is going to impact every country in the Middle East and likely diminish U.S. influence.  

In terms of what's taking place in Syria, this regime would have fallen three years ago without Russia and Iran.  Iranians are bringing in about 3,000 more to add to what they already have here, which is 7,000 on the ground.  They will provide advisers to the regime military, they will organize the local militias, which are 100,000 strong, with leaders and advisers.  This ground offensive could not success without Iran's influence and without Russia's airpower.  

WALLACE:  General, come join me at the desk.  And while you do, let me turn to Ambassador Crocker, because this is a big deal.  This is the first time that Russia has struck militarily outside of the old Soviet Union since the fall of the -- the end of the Cold War.  And it's also really the first time that Russia is involved in an aggressive fashion in the Middle East since, what, the 1970s?  So how big a deal is this for Putin?    

RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA:  Chris, it is a big deal for Vladimir Putin and for us.  What we are seeing is nature abhorring a vacuum.  In the case of Iraq and Syria, the vacuum that we left when we disengaged is now being filled by people we really don't like.  So I see a continuum here.  Islamic State, Iran, Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq, and now Russia.  So when we step out, others are stepping in.  I see this Russian intervention kind of the latest move in a pretty negative process that's been going on for several years now.  

WALLACE:  Let me pick up on that.  Because, Ambassador, at the U.N. this week, it seemed that President Obama was inviting Russia and Iran into the Syrian conflict.  Take a look.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  Ambassador, you said this -- Russia has played a horrible hand brilliantly, we folded what could have been a pretty good hand.  Explain what you mean by that?  

CROCKER:  The Russians are moving in because of the weakness of the Assad regime.  It's defensive in nature.  They're trying to prop him up, as the tide of the battle turns against him, as Jack Keane said.  It's Iran and it's Russia that are keeping him in the game.  

For us to think for a moment that Russia and Iran are aligned with our interests in the region, that is lunacy.  The pattern of air strikes points it out.  They are attacking the forces we're supporting.  They don't care about Islamic State.  So our interests and theirs are completely misaligned.  Yet they are moving forward and we're not moving at all.  

There are things we could do.  That's what I mean about a potentially pretty good hand.  We could employ -- impose a no-fly zone.  We could make a dramatic step on refugees.  We could engage diplomatically and politically.  That's the big absence right now.  Send John Kerry to Baghdad and have him sit there working the political problems that underlie the weaknesses of the Iraqi military.  Those are political problems, we can make a difference, but we have to engage to do it.  

WALLACE:  General Keane, let me bring you in, because both you and the ambassador made a big point about the fact that in the northeast part of the country, that's where ISIS is, and that's where we are striking.  In the northwest part of Syria, that's where the relatively moderate Syrian rebels are that we're supporting, and those are the ones that Russia is hitting.  But Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said this week that there's no difference between the rebels they're hitting and the ones we are hitting.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER:  If it looks a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it's a terrorist, right?  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  General, how do you answer Foreign Minister Lavrov?

KEANE:  He's essentially right.  From the Russian perspective and to prop up the regime, they're just focusing on the rebels that are putting pressure on that regime.  Frankly ISIS does not put much pressure on the regime.  ISIS is more concerned about its own caliphate and expanding outside of Iraq and Syria from the headquarters in Iraq, and they've done that in seven other countries.  So the focus for Russia will be on whatever rebels are encroaching on that regime and that kind of pressure.  

WALLACE:  Ambassador Crocker, you, as you mentioned here, you said earlier that the president should impose a no-fly zone over that section of northwest Syria, where civilians are, where the moderate -- relatively moderate Syrian rebels are.  He said no way we're going to get into a proxy war with Russia in Syria.  He also said that they're going to end up in a quagmire there.  He suggested another Vietnam or another Afghanistan.  Is this such a sure loser for Putin?  Should the president be so confident this is going to end up badly for Putin?  

CROCKER:  That would be basing a policy on hope.  And that has never made sense, it doesn't make sense now.  We need to change the dynamics of the game.  I think we could do it with a no-fly zone.  Jack Keane would know this better.  This would be a no-fly zone to stop Assad's hideous barrel bombing of his own people.  

WALLACE:  But if I may interrupt, Ambassador, if I may interrupt you, if you set up a no-fly zone in precisely the area that the Russians are attacking now with air strikes, aren't you creating the real danger of a super power confrontation over the skies of northwest Syria?

CROCKER:  I wish we had established that no-fly zone before the Russians came in.  That might have dissuaded them from doing it.  I still think we should step up to this.  A no-fly zone, as I understand it, can be forced not with manned aircraft necessarily, but with offshore missiles, and I think we should just tell the Russians we're going to do it, and then do it.  That is not an end in and of itself, but it could change the political dynamics to make the Russians, the Iranians, and their client, Bashar al-Assad, realize that they are going to have to negotiate a settlement that is going to involve him leaving Syria.  

WALLACE:  All right, gentlemen, I'm sorry to interrupt, but we're running out of time, and I want to ask you both about the big news of this weekend, and that of course are the tragic events in Afghanistan, where apparently a U.S. air strike and the effort by the U.S. to help the Afghans take back the city of Kunduz, from the Taliban, an American air strike reportedly hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing at least 19.  General Keane, how can something like that happen?  

KEANE:  They're usually human mistakes.  We have got tremendous pilots and we've got great technology.  And it's a targeting problem, I would imagine, as opposed to an errant missile.  It's one of those two things, either a wrong target or an errant missile.  And these things do happen, as sad as that is.  I mean, people out here are sacrificing their lives in a combat zone, and they're killed by a United States pilot.  An unbelievably tragic event, to be sure.  We'll learn from it.  Sadly, though, these things do happen in war.  The good news is they rarely happen with U.S. weapons.  That's the good news.  

WALLACE:  Ambassador Crocker, finally, as the former ambassador to that country, how badly does this hurt our standing with the Afghans?  

CROCKER:  It is a very tragic event, as Jack said, but the Afghans count on us.  They will know it was a mistake.  No country, no military does more than the United States to avoid this kind of thing.  Tragically, it happened.  I don't think that is going to fundamentally change how the Afghans look at us.  Right now, they need us badly.  They are desperate to see us stay there, stay engaged, support their military.  That is going to be the dominant reaction.  

WALLACE:  Ambassador Crocker, General Keane, thank you both, and of course we'll stay on top of this situation in Syria.  Thank you, gentlemen.  

Up next we'll bring back our Sunday group to discuss that awful massacre in Oregon, and President Obama's declared intention to politicize the issue.  

Plus, what would you like to ask the panel?  Just go to Facebook or Twitter #FoxnewsSunday.  We may use your question on the air.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Somebody somewhere will comment and say Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  President Obama responding with obvious emotion to the latest mass shooting at an Oregon community college and declaring he will push again on the issue of gun control.  We're back now with the panel.  Brit, what do you think of the president's comments, both in the immediate aftermath and then again at his Friday news conference, and his intention, he says, to keep talking about the need for tougher gun control?

HUME:  I don't have any problem with him saying this issue ought to be politicized.  Gun control is a political issue.  And if the president has an idea that he believes ought to be advanced to try to stop these recurring mass killings, there's not at all wrong with his doing so.  The problem I think is that this is not an issue that's served the Democratic Party very well, as repeated defeats on gun control issues have proven through the years.  And furthermore what he's talking about is he speaks vaguely of common-sense measures.  

Well, what common-sense measures does he mean?  It looks to me as if the kind of gun control he likes is the kind they tried in Australia, for example, where they confiscated guns.  You couldn't pass that through either House of the Congress with full Democratic control of both Houses.  So I think it's a quixotic mission, but I don't have any problem with his talking about it.  

WALLACE:  Julie, from the little that we actually know, facts about this terrible case, all 14 of the guns that the shooter had gotten, he had bought legally.  He apparently had no criminal record, no mental health record.  Does it give the White House any pause that any realistic law that they could pass probably wouldn't have made any difference in this case?

PACE:  They try to talk about it in a broader way, not looking at specifically this law would have stopped this incident.  They say and the president has said this repeatedly, he thinks the problem is just the broad availability of guns, whether they are purchased legally or not legally.  

To Brit's point here, the president is really lacking in specifics about what he wants to do moving forward, other than simply talking about it.  I think that really underscores the political position he finds himself in.  I don't think we're going to see him launch a big push for legislation on Capitol Hill.  I don't think we're really going to see him pushing state legislators or governors to do anything.  I think he simply is going to be talking about this, because he knows that the political dynamics haven't changed since he last launched this effort.

WALLACE:  I want to put up a remarkable figure on the screen.  The shooting that took place in Oregon was on the 274th day of 2015.  And according to a website called Mass Shooting Tracker, it was the 294th mass shooting in those 274 days, and they define mass shooting as one in which four or more people, including the shooter, were hit.  Which raises the question, then, can we do anything about it?  

DOMENECH:  It was interesting to listen to the president saying what he said the other day.  Because from my perspective, if you actually think through this process, if you take logically the steps that he's saying and assume for the sake of argument that he's correct, that his policies are popular, they're common sense, they're constitutional, and that the only thing that's preventing them from going through is the intransigence of the Republicans or the gun lobby or some other effect -- there's actually a problem with that.  Because this president, when he came to office, he had the House, he had the Senate, he had his own party there, he could have had any gun legislation that he wanted at that point that he was willing to push there.  

And so I think when it comes time to sort of actually assess what kind of gun policy we have in the country, the president needs to look in the mirror.  He's making this about him, but I think it really is about him.  He chose instead to go the health care path, to pass Obamacare, to use his political capital in different ways.  So now when he complains about this, I actually -- the fact is, it was a Democratic Senate after Newtown that killed his approach to gun legislation.  I don't think that this is something that really stands up along the logic of what he's saying when you really think about it.  

WALLACE:  Christi, how would they respond to that at the White House?

PARSONS:  I think they would say that the president had a limited amount of political capital and only a two-year period where he had the kind of latitude that you're describing.  And when it comes to trying to pass something through the Senate, it's a difficult issue.  Not all Democrats are supportive of these gun safety measures that the president was pushing.  

WALLACE:  We asked you for questions for the panel, and we got this on Facebook from Eric Florack.  He writes -- "the shootings in Oregon and the amount of dead ends up being an average weekend in Chicago, but you never hear the president talk about that."  Christi, how do you answer Eric? And this complaint that you hear from a lot of people that the president's outrage on this issue is selective.  

PARSONS:  That's an interesting question.  I don't think it's true that he doesn't talk about gun violence in Chicago.  I think he has talked about it quite a bit.  In fact, you remember not long ago, a young, a 15-year-old girl, Hediya Pendleton (ph), was killed in Chicago, an innocent bystander to gun violence in a gang conflict.  I think what the president--

WALLACE:  He certainly, I think it's fair to say, though, that he does seem to focus more on these big mass shootings, and not the steady drumbeat of gang violence in a city like Chicago.  

PARSONS:  I think when he talks about the urban violence, he -- there are other factors that he tries to attack, like his My Brother's Keeper initiative and some of the rhetoric, and his personal mission about that I think will continue long after he's in office.  But I do think he sees these mass shootings as a separate thing with a different dynamic pushing them, and it's a dynamic on -- in the case of gang violence, he feels like he has got policy prescriptions that he can push, or at least talk about.  When it comes to mass shootings, I think he's increasingly reaching the point like many people, including people -- this was embedded in your question -- who just feel like there's not -- there's not an obvious solution to attacking this.  

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE:  In the time we have left then, Ben, is there a solution?  

DOMENECH:  I don't think there is.  Evil people will always exist.  They will do evil things.  It's much more difficult to come up with a policy solution for dealing with a maniac, a lunatic, like this fellow, who attacked people for their faith, was clearly embarked on a murderous rage, than there is I think dealing with the problem of crime in the inner cities.  

WALLACE:  Julie, I know that after Newtown and after some of these, the president has talked not only about the gun control aspect of it, but also the mental health aspect of it.  And I must confess ignorance on this.  Has anything happened there so that you have more mental health intervention, more of a connection between gun purchases and mental health records?  

PACE:  You've seen some tweaks around the edges, you've seen the president signing some executives orders, trying to move the ball forward, but nothing in a really major way, and certainly when you do look at a lot of these mass shootings, that's one thing that really stands out.  And I think that's -- it's also one area where you actually have some common ground between Democrats, Republicans, gun control advocates, and those who don't want to see more legislation, mental health does seem to be something where you could potentially see progress made.  

WALLACE:  So Brit, going back to something that Ben said in the previous panel segment, you had Jeb Bush get hammered this week by a bunch of people for saying stuff happens, and sometimes you just can't find a solution for it, and perhaps "stuff happens" wasn't the most eloquent way to put it, but what do we do?  Is there anything we can do? Or do we just have to accept that this is going to happen, and there are limits to what government can do?  

HUME:  Well, it's a law enforcement issue.  It's also, as you and Julie were talking about, a mental health issue.  I don't think the president or anyone on his side of the equation or really any of the Republicans is being very bold or creative about articulating possible ways to address these things.  The mental health issue is obviously a problem.  This guy probably should not have been on the streets.  He was evidently in pretty bad shape.  It's a tricky thing to do, but it's not I think mission impossible.  What we need from the president is some kind of a balanced approach to the issue.  And that would be true of Hillary Clinton or anyone else running for president.  We're not hearing that.  It's not an easy problem.  But I think it's -- it would be helped by at least some thoughtful new ideas on the subject.  

WALLACE:  But -- and just very quickly, you know, you say he shouldn't have been on the street.  He hadn't been incarcerated, he hadn't committed a crime, so --

HUME:  So the question is, what is a thoughtful way to get at that?  I don't have the answer, but I think there probably is an answer.  

WALLACE:  All right.  Thank you, panel.  This will obviously be a subject we'll continue to discuss and see you next Sunday.  

Up next, our power player of the week.  After 44 years, Maria leaves Sesame Street, and opens up about her own troubled childhood.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE:  Generations of children knew her as Maria on "Sesame Street."  But now she's stepping out of character to talk about her own challenges as a kid and the impact her role had on so many young viewers.  Here is our power player of the week.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SONIA MANZANO, "SESAME STREET'S" MARIA:  Somebody handed me the torch and I ran with it.  

WALLACE:  Sonia Manzano has been a television trailblazer for almost half a century.  As Maria on "Sesame Street" she taught us about letters, life ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Smile, smile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Giggle, giggle.

WALLACE:  And love.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, Maria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  See, she's there.  

WALLACE:  And as one of the first Hispanics on TV, she filled a big void.  

(on camera):  How does it feel to be an icon?

MANZANO:  My husband wakes up every morning and says, hello, icon.  

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE:  Is he really?

MANZANO:  Yes.

WALLACE:  Are you serious?

MANZANO:  Yeah, he thinks it's funny.  

WALLACE (voice over):  To understand why she is an icon, just look at Sonia's life.  Growing up as a Puerto Rican immigrant in the South Bronx back in the '50s.

MANZANO:  My father was a violent drunk.  There was domestic violence.  

WALLACE (on camera):  What role in that life did television play for you?

MANZANO:  Television was my sanctuary.  I loved "Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best."

WALLACE (voice over):  But there was that void.  

MANZANO:  I never saw anybody who looked like me or lived in the same kind of environment I lived in.  And I wondered where I fit into this society that didn't see me.

What's the name of that song?

WALLACE:  Fast forward to the early '70s when Sonia got the role of Maria on "Sesame Street".  

MANZANO:  I was a teenager when I started.

MANZANO:  Who are the people in your neighborhood?

When I fell in love and got married, so did Maria.  

I do.  

Maria had a baby on "Sesame Street" shortly after I had a baby on "Sesame Street."  So she's really me in a -- as a better person.  I'm kinder, I'm more patient.  

WALLACE (on camera):  Why are you retiring?

MANZANO:  44 years is long enough to wait for Oscar the Grouch to propose.  

It's the me myself that is coming out.  

WALLACE (voice over):  Sonia won 15 Emmys writing for "Sesame Street."  Now she's written her memoir "Becoming Maria:  Love and Chaos in the South Bronx."

(on camera):  Do you think that you provided the same safe haven to young kids, Hispanic or not, that you found watching TV as a kid?

MANZANO:  I know I did.  They have said to me that they thought I was their friend, their mother, their girlfriend.  

WALLACE:  And what does that mean to you?

MANZANO:  It's just wonderful.  

WALLACE (voice over):  Sonia says when she started on "Sesame Street" she wanted to end racism and close the education gap.  And while that may have been a little ambitious, she said she had a lot of fun and made a contribution.

MANZANO:  Made people laugh, full around with the muppets.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Geronimo!

MANZANO:  Learning how to do a take to the camera.  I had a producer who always used to say so it's our drop in the bucket for an equal society.  And I think that that means something.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  Sonia isn't finished giving.  She's donating some of the profits from her book to help build a children's museum in the area where she grew up, in the Bronx.  

And that's it for today.  Have a great week.  And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday"

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