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OTR Interviews

Obama in denial over a failed ISIS strategy?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 16, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

DANA PERINO, 'ON THE RECORD' GUEST HOST: President Obama coming under heavy fire just hours before the horrific Paris attacks. The president insisted the brutal terror group is contained geographically.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don't think they are gaining strength. What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them.

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PERINO: And to date, speaking at the G-20 Summit in Turkey, the president labelled the slaughter as a set back.

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OBAMA: There will be set backs and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were obviously a terrible and sickening set back.

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PERINO: Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger goes ON THE RECORD from Capitol Hill. Thanks for joining us, sir.

ADAM KINZINGER, ILLINOIS CONGRESSMAN: Hey, Dana.

PERINO: I wonder what your reaction was because I know you have followed this closely and that you've introduced legislation. You tried, I think, to be a helping hand to the White House to say if you want to do more, I will help you try to do that. What was your reaction to his remarks today?

KINZINGER: No, it's a joke. I mean, he said there will be setbacks and there will be successes. My question is, what's been a success? Tell me one of the successes.

You know, yesterday, the French bombed the number of targets in Raqqah. And that was celebrated as a huge success. The problem is why weren't there existing targets still existing in Raqqah. Why weren't they bombed by the United States anyway?

And then the president at one point says, you know, people have a right to question my strategy. They have a right to go popping off at the mouth. And it was almost like a very -- an immature way to say, hey, you have a right to disagree.

So, look, the president, I would have thought, in seven years, he would have a lot thicker skin than he does, but only seems to be getting thinner when he realizes his strategy is failing and people call him out on it.

PERINO: One of the things that experts in the field and Department of Defense in particular has been calling upon the president to allow them to change the rules of engagement over in the area.

Can you explain what that means and what kind of change do they need?

KINZINGER: Yes, look, they need a rule of engagement that basically says if you are pretty significantly confident you have a target, you can take action on it.

Right now, I believe that the president is so averse to any civilian casualties and we ought to do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties. Don't get me wrong. But he is so averse to it that in many cases we don't strike what we almost know are certain targets because we are afraid there may be a civilian casualty.

You know, look, the Russians and their track record in Syria already, they bombed a number of medical facilities and civilian targets and we don't carry them out. The president needs to loosen the rule of engagements for our pilots. But we need better intelligence on the ground. Frankly, that intelligence apparatus was unravelled when we left Iraq.

We had great signals intelligence that was just gone. In order to be able to find the head of the snake, kill them, capture and continue to unravel this organization. Unfortunately, we just don't have that in placed.

PERINO: One of the things that (INAUDIBLE) what he is not going to do, that he is not going to put 50,000 troops on the ground. But in your research and your information, the people that come and talk to you, is anybody suggesting putting 50,000 troops on the ground?

KINZINGER: I have never heard a single person, whether it was even them talking to me or whether it was anywhere on any television show anywhere in history, recently, that has said we need 100 troops in Iraq. Again, we need to reoccupy the Middle East. Nobody suggesting that, but you heard it in the press conference today and you hear it from the president all the time that evidently there is this contention of folks that are arguing that.

He's not -- obviously, that doesn't exist. We are calling for a reasonable strategy, but we need a strategy that destroys ISIS. The red line needs to be the existence of ISIS, not the existence of ground troops. If we say no ground troops, we are basically saying ISIS is bad unless it takes ground troops in which cases those are worse.

PERINO: And do you think that ISIS actually has a safe haven from which to operate, because the president said that they won't be allowed to have one, but at this point, do you think they do.

KINZINGER: Oh, sure, they do. I mean, look, they have a caliphate right now the size of the United Kingdom. We're doing a handful of airstrikes a day. I think the vast majority of members of ISIS do not feel threatened by air strikes. They are surprised when one actually hits. They have freedom of movement. This is where I think a small contention of ground troops can stop freedom of movement for ISIS. Cut off supply roots and everything else.

So I do think they have a safe haven right now. And by the way, it's a deeper issue than to talk about here, but part of that way to get rid of ISIS, you have to get rid of the government of Bashar al-Assad. He's the incubator of ISIS. It is not a choice between Assad or ISIS.

PERINO: Well, we'll see about that because you know that that's what they are probably talking about right now. Thank you so much, congressman, for joining us.

KINZINGER: You bet. Take care.