All-Star Panel: Media exaggerating threat of terrorism?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 9, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MATTHEW YGLESIAS, VOX: Do you think the media sometimes overstates the sort of level of alarm people should have about terrorism?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Absolutely. What is the famous saying about local newscasts? Right?  If it bleeds it leads. Right? It is all about ratings. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you've got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. And it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with them, the same way that a big city mayors got to cut the crime rate down if he wants that city to thrive.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - AZ: For him to down play this threat of ISIS to our security I think is both delusional and incredibly unfair to the American people.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama in a interview saying the terror threat, the media is overhyping it. And climate change, he said, actually may be more dangerous. We are back with the panel. Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, all the Jews in France who are making plans to leave do not think that the deli was randomly targeted. It was targeted because it was a Jewish deli. And the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo might have been targeted because of something they did. But the people in that grocery store were targeted because of who they were.

And I understand why the president does not want to say is a war on Islam or say anything that might be interpreted to suggest that. But I think that he is going to the other extreme, which doesn't help the understanding of terrorism, to suggest that this was a completely random act. It wasn't.

BAIER: To that point, the former head of the defense intelligence agency on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend talking about this lack of an overall strategy.


RET. LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY DIRECTOR: I feel like when we say ready, break, all the players that are on the team, they are going off into different stadiums playing different sports. I mean, we really don't have an effective strategy that is coherent that actually addresses the wider problem.

I think what the American public is looking for is they are looking for moral and intellectual courage and clarity and not a sense of, and I just say it as passivity or confusion.


BAIER: That's the head of the DIA until recently, Steve.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, and he was making that argument while he was in government.

Look, it's not just Mike Flynn. The series of people who know our position know the most about this threat have said things that directly contradict the president. Last year Dianne Feinstein when she was chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee, this is, remember, when President Obama was calling ISIS J.V., said that she had to take on the popular misconception that the threat has diminished. It has not. The presence of terrorist groups, including those formerly affiliated with Al Qaeda and others, has spread over the past year. In fact, terrorism is an all-time high worldwide. James Clapper said he had never seen greater threats in 50 years of intelligence work. It is delusional for the president to pretend that this is a problem caused by the news media. And it's not only delusional, it's dangerous. It makes him look like a fool.

BAIER: The current chairman, Senator Burr, on "Special Report" last week said in all his times on that committee he has not seen a terror threat matrix like this right now. So, why does the president say this?  Why does he say the media is overhyping this and that that's the issue?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Because he believes it, and that's what the scariest of all. If he was just being cynical as a way to dismiss this because of the failure of his own policies, that would be one thing. I think he believes this. At the end of his presidency he is now liberated to actually say what he believes.

We complain he doesn't have a strategy in the war on radical Islam.  The reason he doesn't have a strategy is because he thinks there is no need for a strategy because it is random violence. People shoot up delis. People go around in other places and do stuff. They attach an ideology afterwards as a way to make it look legitimate. He thinks, and he says it openly, this is like the fighting of crime in a city. There is no unifying ideology in the criminals of a city. You go after one after another, use a drone on one, you arrest another, you shoot a third. But you don't have to have a strategy. You don't have to understand who they are because one thing after another.

And that has been the reason Obama has no strategy. He thinks I kill a few people here with a drone, I tamp it down, it will go away. Or people will ignore it, especially if the press would not hype it. This is what is so terrifying about the man who is commander and chief of a country, essentially a civilization under attack.

BAIER: Is there a sense at the White House, Mara, that they are under attack on this terrorist issue and that there is a vulnerability here, or is there a change agent that coming to how they deal with national -- I mean, we just saw this report by Susan Rice last week that didn't seem to have the same --

LIASSON: Well, they clearly understood the need to present a strategy.  They tried to do that. And I do think that they have decided the most important thing, as I said, not to seem like they are targeting a group of people or a religion or going to war against a religion. But they have got to come up with a way to explain this to the American people. There is a connection to radical Islam, maybe not to mainstream Islam, and they do have to recruit Sunni Muslims to help them. Thank goodness Jordan is now kind of getting more involved in this. But I think at some point you lose the measure people if you can't describe the problem accurately.

HAYES: Yes. I think it's a huge problem. If you look at the national security strategy you would think that the two greatest threats are climate change and the prospect of U.S. overreach or the kinds of aggressive counterterrorism policies that took place during the Bush administration. Again, I think it's delusional and we now have the clip that will be played back by these news organizations that the president is criticizing when we are hit again, not if but when we are hit again.

BAIER: Quickly, he also talked today about this visit by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying that "We have this policy two weeks before their elections. As much as I love the German chancellor, if she was two weeks away, she probably would not receive an invitation to the White House. I suspect she wouldn't have asked for one, talking about Netanyahu and the invite to Congress.

KRAUTHAMMER: For the last six years, Obama has acted as if the biggest threat to American security in that part of the world is the Israeli government and the Likud party and not Iran, which is on the rampage all the way to the Mediterranean and even into Yemen and which is on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon. For a president to believe that and to implement policies and to repeat it in his statements that today I think is rather shocking. But that's who we have and whom we elected twice to the presidency.

BAIER: Prime minister said he is coming. That is it for the panel. But stay tuned to see a promo for a hit show you may have missed.

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