Is the administration getting more aggressive with foreign policy?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 27, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R, SOUTH CAROLINA: Are we going to fight with people who want to take Assad down, or are we going to provide them military help?

ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Our train and equip program.

GRAHAM:The answer is no. The answer is no.

CARTER:-- is supportive of people.

GRAHAM: So let me just --


BRET BAIER, ‘SPECIAL REPORT’ HOST: Well, there is a lot of questions like that about interaction in Syria. But one sentence that the defense secretary said in that testimony today on Capitol Hill caught people's ears raised some eyebrows.


CARTER: We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or by direct action on the ground.


BAIER: Direct action on the ground in Iraq, in Syria. Are they getting more aggressive? We're back with the panel. Charles, front page story about this.We saw the raid in Iraq. Is this an administration that has decided to change its policy?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: No. It's not changed anything. The policy is play out the string, do nothing between now and the end of the presidency. No involvement in the ground. Yes, a commando raid here and there, but that's been happening all the time. And this idea of increasing the air strikes. Why haven't we increased them up to now?
There is no strategy in Syria. There is none in Iraq. The idea is to stay out of trouble and to get it to the next president.

Look, this administration is so weak that in the same hearing the secretary is asked about a deliberate step we took in the South China Sea to send a destroyer within 12 miles of an illegal Chinese island, and the secretary refuses to officially say if happened.

BAIER: Yes, let's listen to that real quick. We have that sound bite about China.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R, ARIZONA: The news reports all day are about a U.S. destroyer, naming the destroyer, going inside the 12-mile zone around these islands. Why would you not confirm or deny that that happened?

CARTER: Well, I'm going to not be coy with you. I don't like in general the idea of talking about our military operations, but what you read in the newspaper is accurate, and -- but I don't want to say more than that and I don't want to say when, whether, and how we operate anywhere in the world.


KRAUTHAMMER: Sorry to step on your punch line there. But look, the point of doing this is to announce to the world that we don't recognize Chinese sovereignty here. You don't then deny or refuse to acknowledge that it happened. This is not high Kissingerian diplomacy. This is elementary stuff and they can't do it. It's simply incomprehensible.

MARA LIASSON: I think he acknowledged it. He said what you read in the newspaper is correct. That's acknowledging it happened. He didn't want to go further because that's the rule --

KRAUTHAMMER: Why shouldn't he go further?

LIASSON: The Chinese know exactly what we did.

KRAUTHAMMER: We are telling the world -- of course the Chinese know.
But we are saying we are going to not recognize and we are going to defy the Chinese claims, and they need reassurance. It's all about psychological reassurance. If the secretary won't give it, what are other countries in the region to think about that?

LIASSON: Well, I think the fact that we did it sends a message. And the countries that want to get that message know what's going on there.

BAIER: George?

GEORGE WILL: This is a reminder of why events 5,000 miles apart in the Middle East and in the South China Sea indicates there is a consensus in this town of discord that we need a bigger Navy. Half the world's sea borne tonnage passes through the South China Sea and related straits. And I know that a number of our officers, Admiral Harry Harris is the head of the Pacific Command has been itching to do this because this is what -- our global Navy is the only force in the world that can guarantee freedom of the seas.

Someone on FOX News today suggested that perhaps it's not clear that the president approved this. This is a presidential level decision. And we ought to give him some credit because this is not a weakness. This is a real challenge.

BAIER: But I guess what I was trying to get at with the original question, is this administration getting more aggressive when it comes to foreign policy actions? Is this about President Obama's thinking about his legacy? Is it about an adviser that somehow has gotten through to the White House?

LIASSON: I don't know exactly what motivated it, but I can tell that you if you look at all these examples it adds up to more aggressive action.
Maybe not as aggressive as his critics wanted, but if Ash Carter is saying straight out we are going to do more on the ground, we're going to do more directly in Iraq against ISIL or Syria or in the South China Sea, I mean, it sounds like President Obama wanted to be the president who left Iraq but he doesn't want to be the president who left Iraq in a mess.

KRAUTHAMMER: The big news today is that we are now going to invite Iran into the negotiations on the future of Syria. We have effectively handed it over to Russia and to Iran and we are out of the game. That's our real strategy.

BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned to see something one late night show found out about one presidential candidate.

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