Friday Lightning Round: US options in Syria

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 9, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - AZ: I think we would agree that Syria out of the hands of Assad and a chance to be free and democratic would be one of the greatest blows to Iran, as far as Lebanon is concerned, Hezbollah, Iran's closest ally.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For us to take military action unilaterally, as some have suggested, or to think that somehow there is some simple solution I think is a mistake.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Before the break, we asked our question of the day -- should the U.S. lead a military intervention in Syria? 18 percent of you said yes, 82 percent of you said no in our nonscientific online poll.

Every week also we ask viewers to vote in our choice online, our Friday Lightning Round poll. This week, "Peyton Manning leaves the Colts" won with 46 percent of the votes. But first we want to talk about Syria.

Back to the panel. Charles, what about the administration's and the president's answer this week on this and the calls for people like John McCain and others who say it's time?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think Obama is right on this and McCain is wrong. I think this is not Libya. Libya is an oil well with a long beach and a primitive army. Syria has a serious air force, a serious army, and this would be a serious war. I think what we should adopt here is the Reagan doctrine, the way he combated the expansion of Soviet influence in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Angola. You support the insurgency. You don't put Americans on the ground, you don't put Americans in the air. And why we aren't arming and training and helping the insurgents in Turkey, you know, the ones who defected into Turkey out of Syria, I do not understand.

BAIER: It does seem like there is a disconnect in what is said about that, supporting the people on the ground and what is happening, at least what we know is happening.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, when Senator McCain talks about what a boost it would be for stability in the region and what it would do to Iran to wipe out the Assad regime, of course he's right. But it is difficult, as Charles points out, to take this on unilaterally. It would be helpful. I imagine the administration is doing things to bolster the Arab effort with Turkey to do things from the side. But directly taking this on, people are too tempted to compare this to Libya. It is not a model for conflict in Syria. Qaddafi was much more isolated. And as long as the Iranians and the Russians continue to provide fuel and oil and cover, weapons and cover for them, trying to amass a coalition that can actually take Assad out is really hard to come by.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Look, nobody is advocating it's a simple solution, certainly not John McCain. I happen to agree with McCain, particularly in this. And when the president criticizes the idea of using military force unilaterally, what he is saying is I'm not going to lead. And he is not leading.

What McCain has proposed is some bombing to produce a zone where the -- protected by the American airplanes or NATO airplanes where the Syrians can't go. Right now the rebels don't have an organized army. You could do one, you can only do so much in Turkey. But in a part of Syria, you could build an army, you could organize it. Civilians could go there. And a lot of the slaughtering that is done by the Assad regime would stop. But it would take an American president acting unilaterally or with a few other people. The U.N. is not going to back it. The Arab League is probably not going to back it, but it would save thousands and thousands of lives.

BAIER: Next topic, James Rosen did a piece looking back four years ago to the Democratic primary between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton back then. A lot of Republicans saying that this elongated primary process is hurting the Republican field. What about the look back and comparison?

BARNES: It is hurting the Republican field. They sort of modeled the way the primaries have been done, you know, with no primaries where you win it all or lose delegates in the early part, and so on. And I never thought that Democrats couldn't come together after that long primary. It wasn't, there weren't as many negative ads. It really wasn't as nasty as this one has been for the Republicans.


STODDARD: I actually thought that it was bitter and it was really ugly and the camps really hated each other. And that was apparent. Hillary loyalists could not stand this arrogant upstart who didn't have any experience coming in and trying to take on the Clintons and thinking that he knew everybody and getting the endorsement of Ted Kennedy. The Obama people resented the Clintons trying to chokehold the party. But they were historic candidacies and the Democratic Party knew in the end, even if you picked a side, that the candidate they ended up with, a woman or an African-American, would galvanize the party and attract independents. And I don't see this happening on the Republican side.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think that is exactly the point. Each of those two candidates was historic, the first woman, the first African-American. They were incredibly energized. The question is would that energy lead to ultimate antagonism that you could not reconciled? The answer was it was reconciled and in the end there was synergy between them.

BAIER: Peyton Manning, long-time quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts leaving that team. Don't know where he is ending up. What about that story? Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: He's going to end up in Tampa, number two on the Republican ticket.



STODDARD: I noticed this is becoming a long new tradition at the Friday night Lightning Round, when I'm on the audience wants to talk about sports picks. Which I think is kind of amusing.

BAIER: But you study up which is good.

STODDARD: I usually do my hostage note cards. But I was just going to say he is a really nice southern guy and I hate to see people like that cry. But I did meet up with a source who informs me that he is not going to come to Washington and join the Redskins, though the Redskins would desperately need him. He does not want to play in his brother's division. So there's a little bit of an issue about that. There are plenty of teams that want him. He has a vacation home in Miami, he could end up there. But everyone wants this old horse to stay in the game. He is 36 and injured.

BAIER: A.B., very well done.

BARNES: That was well done. But I agree with Charles. I think Peyton Manning has a future in politics. He is a Republican. Look at him, you see him on the field, I've never seen a quarterback more in command of his team than Peyton Manning. He is sort of the Georgia Washington of quarterbacks. And look where he can run. He can run in Indiana. They love him there. He's from Louisiana, I'm sure they love him there. This is not for vice president. And he could run in Tennessee where he played college quarterback.

KRAUTHAMMER: He could call audibles in Romney debates.

BAIER: There you go. That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for a follow-up on our interview with the majority leader Eric Cantor.

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