Exclusive: McConnell says terror will be 'long-term problem'

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," January 7, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: At this moment, French police raiding homes in the suburbs around Paris. While back here at home, there are new questions over President Obama's handling of the war against radical extremism. Here's Charles Krauthammer earlier.


CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: For years he's been giving speeches in which he says the war has corrupted us. We cannot remain on a war of footing. We have to change. We have to end this war.

You can't end the war unilaterally. And what we're getting week after week in Australia, here, in Canada, everywhere, are re-declarations, again and again that the war is ongoing and the west is the target.


KELLY: Just before we came to air in a "Kelly File" exclusive, I spoke to the new Senate Majority Leader Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell in his very first interview since the start of the new Congress.


Mr. Majority leader, it's great to see you. Thank you very much for being here on what has been a busy news day. Let's start with the news of the day. You came out today and suggested that this underscores in your view that suggestions last year that the war on terror is over were erroneous.  Were you referring to President Obama? And do you think that he has a handle on the terror situation?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Well, I certainly was referring -- you remember earlier last year he called ISIL the jayvee team. It's pretty clear they're not a jayvee team. And when you see these random terror attacks around the world like in Paris and in Boston a while back for us, it reminds us all that the terrorists are still out there, they want to kill us and they want to kill us wherever they can find us. Not just over in the Middle East but right here on home turf.

Obviously we're going to do everything we can to help the French, but it certainly underscores that this is going to be a long-term problem. And it doesn't benefit from downplaying the significance of this whole terrorist threat against the western world.

KELLY: You know, the White House came out today initially and called this an act of violence. Then when they were told that the French president was calling it an act of terror they called it an act of terror as well.  However, the president and his remarks refuse to use the term radical Islam, Islam at all, Jihad. Do you think that there's a conscious decision to not link this kind of terrorist action with that type of motivation despite the cries of Allahu Akbar and reports that the terrorists were saying the Prophet Muhammad has been avenged?

MCCONNELL: Yes. I mean, what else can you conclude? You're entirely correct. I mean, they refuse to call these attacks what they are. It may be a completely perverted version of Islam, but certainly it's their version of what this religious inspiration requires them to do. And to call it something else strikes me as being politically correct to a fault.

KELLY: Does it matter?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think what you just said accurately describe what it is. And these are terrorist attacks invariably spawned by some perverted notion of Islam and to not call it what it is strikes me as just not being forthcoming with the American people or the rest of the world about what we think it is.

KELLY: Senator Lindsey Graham came out today, a Republican, said he believes that the president's policies on interrogation, on detention and otherwise have made us less safe in response to what we saw today in Paris. Do you agree with that?

MCCONNELL: Absolutely. Look, the president's policy is basically to kilter as with drones. I'm not necessarily opposed to that, but of course the most important thing you can do is capture a terrorist and interrogate them. And of course the president doesn't want us to do that either. He's in the process of trying to close Guantanamo, which is the perfect place for foreign terrorists who are captured overseas. He wants to mainstream them frequently into a U.S. article three court, which means they're going to get a lawyer and shut up. I mean, what you want the most from a foreign terrorist trying to kill us is what else do they know? And the president's policy is basically twofold, want to kill him which may be entirely appropriate on a lot of instances but you're not going to learn anything after you kill them. Or put them in a U.S. court, these are foreigners not entitled to the protections of the constitution, put them in a U.S. court where they're told to shut up.


KELLY: Part two of our conversation with the Senate majority leader airs tomorrow night.

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