Bush was referring to Obama's declaration in August 2012 that Syria's use of chemical weapons would cross "a red line for us," necessitating US military intervention. Obama reneged on that commitment following Syria's apparent actual use of such weapons a year later, claiming "I didn't set a red line; the world set a red line."
"Presidents need to accept responsibility for their language," Bush said. "The problem in America today is that our friends have no clue where we will be, and so they change their behavior." By contrast, he said, "our enemies have a clue where we will be and they change their behaviors as well. And so these voids are created and bad things happen."
RUBIO: Absolutely. I think it's critical that we do that. If you're serious about defeating ISIL, you have to go after where they're headquartered. What is important to understand about their presence in Syria is that they are generating revenue in Syria, with former Assad refineries that they now control and they're generating revenue from. But all of their supplies, their command and control structure, is being operated from there. You cannot defeat ISIL unless you hit them in those parts of Syria that they now control, where the Syrian government is not even present. ISIL is a group that poses an immediate danger to the United States. And if we are serious about defeating them, then we must strike them both in Syria and in Iraq.
RUBIO: Well, if you recall, at that time, what the president characterized basically as a symbolic military action against the Assad government, which I thought would be counterproductive. I thought the best way to topple Assad was to arm, equip, train and capacitate moderate rebel elements within Syria. I thought that was a better approach. This is different. We're talking about targeting ISIL, which is a group that poses an immediate danger to the United States. And if we are serious about defeating them, then we must strike them both in Syria and in Iraq. The previous debate was about what to do with Assad, and I thought the best way to topple Assad was not through airstrikes, but through equipping the moderate rebel elements.
CRUZ (ON TAPE): What we ought to have is a direct concerted overwhelming air campaign to take them out.
Q (END TAPE): In Iraq and Syria?
CRUZ: The focus should be Iraq, but the real focus should be taking out ISIS. Within Syria, it should not be our objective to try to resolve the civil war in Syria.
Q: You said that the U.S. should bomb ISIS back into the Stone Age. Should that take Congressional approval?
CRUZ: It should absolutely take Congressional approval, I think.
Q (voice-over): But not all Republicans agree. On Friday, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida sent a letter to the White House saying the president doesn't need Congress, he should act swiftly on his own. What advice would you give the president?
CRUZ: I think it is an urgent concern to strike while ISIS is vulnerable.
RYAN: I don't think I am hearing enough from the president. What I want to hear from our commander in chief is that he has a strategy to finish ISIS off, to defeat ISIS. Let's not forget that there are reportedly thousands of terrorists with foreign passports. If we don't deal with this threat now, thoroughly and convincingly, it is going to come home to roost. And so, no, I don't think the president has given us the kind of strategy we need. That is number one. Number two, I think we should let the generals determine the strategy, I don't want to be an armchair general and tell you how this needs to be done, but I would reference the fact that General Dempsey did say to do this correctly that Syria is going to have to be a part of this equation.
A: I'm the one who convinced the administration to send an ambassador to Syria. I can't sit here today and say that if we had done what I recommended, that we'd be in a demonstrably different place.
Q: That's the president's argument, that we wouldn't be in a different place.
A: Well, if we were to carefully vet, train, and equip early on a core group of the developing Free Syrian Army, we would, #1, have some better insight on the ground. And #2, we would have been helped in standing up a credible political opposition.
Q: Would we be where we are with ISIS if the US had done more three years ago?
A: The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad---there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle---the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.
FIORINA: Yes, it is fair. Because American leadership matters in the world. American strength matters in the world. And it particularly matters when things are going wrong. I think President Obama has made two crucial errors. First, he confuses ending a war with securing the peace. And unfortunately, the way he ended the wars in Iraq and is attempting to end the war in Afghanistan are making both of those situations very, very troublesome. Secondly, he continues to believe that his words matter. And his words matter less and less because both our friends and our allies as well as our enemies have figured out that words do not signal intention. There is no execution behind them. And that creates a situation in which our allies believe they cannot count on us and our enemies believe they can ignore us.
PERRY: In that part of the world, we have allies there in the form of Israel and Jordan that expect us to stand with them, to help them. When you read his op-ed, he talks about basically, what I consider to be, isolationist policies. America can no longer draw a red line around the shore of America, and think that we're somehow or another not going to be impacted. We must engage and tactically, thoughtfully, use the assets that we have against ISIS to keep these individuals from being able to create an Islamic state.
I disagree with Sen. Paul's representation of what America should be doing, and when you read his op-ed, he talks about basically, what I consider to be, isolationist policies.
RUBIO: ISIS wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in sections of both Syria and Iraq, and other places. Potentially, Jordan is next. This calls for us to continue to empower those moderate rebel forces in Syria who are engaged in conflict against ISIS, not just Assad. And I think we need to provide more assistance for Jordan, both in security and in their border, because I think this poses a risk to Jordan down the road, and one that we should take very seriously. The urgent action is to draw up plans that allow us to begin to degrade their supply lines and their ability to continue to move forward.
Q: With airstrikes?
RUBIO: Yes, that border between Iraq and Syria is quite porous. We have got to figure out a way to isolate ISIS from Syria and Iraq, isolate them from each other. And, then, look, I would leave the rest to military tacticians.
RUBIO: Certainly potentially more dangerous today than al Qaeda. They are an extremely radical group with increasing capabilities, and a very clear design. They want to establish an Islamic caliphate in sections of both Syria and Iraq, and other places. Potentially, Jordan is next. And then they want to launch attacks in the exterior, external operations, including targeting our homeland. This is an extremely serious national security risk for the country if they were to establish that safe haven of operation. The reason why al Qaeda was able to carry out the 9/11 attacks is because they had a safe operating space in Afghanistan that the Taliban had given them. And now history is trying to repeat itself here. ISIS is trying to establish the exact same thing in the Iraq-Syria region. And from this caliphate that they're setting up, they will continue to recruit and train and plot and plan and eventually carry out external operations.
PAUL: I think if you want to be Commander-in-Chief the bar you have to cross is will you defend the country--will you provide adequate security--and that's why Benghazi is not a political question for me. To me it's not the talking points--that's never been the most important part of Benghazi--it's the six months leading up to Benghazi where there were multiple requests for more security--and it never came. This was under Hillary Clinton's watch. She will have to overcome that--and we will make her answer for Benghazi.
PAUL: She will have to explain how she can be commander and chief when she was not responsive to multiple requests for more security in the six months leading up. She wouldn't approve a 16-person personnel team and she would not approve an airplane to help them get around the country. In the last 24 hours, a plane was very important and it was not available. These are really serious questions beyond talking points that occurred under her watch.
Q: Benghazi is disqualifying for her?
PAUL: I think so. The American people want a commander-in-chief that will send reinforcements, that will defend the country, and that will provide the adequate security. And I think in the moment of need--a long moment, a six-month moment--she wasn't there.
PAUL: I see mostly confusion and chaos, and I think some of the chaos is created from getting involved in the Syrian civil war. You have to realize that some of the Islamic rebels that we have been supporting are actually allies of the group that is now in Iraq causing all of this trouble.
Q: ISIS, as a terrorist organization, has been billed by many as a clear and present danger. Do you see that?
PAUL: I look at it on a personal basis. I ask, "Do I want to send one of my sons, or your son, to fight to regain Mosul?" And I think, "Well ya, these are nasty terrorists, we should want to kill them." But I think, "Who should want to stop them more? Maybe the people who live there." Should not the Shiites, the Maliki government, should they not stand up? Yes, we should prevent them from exporting terror; but, I'm not so sure where the clear-cut, American interest is.
"Like many other young people around the world, some of President Obama's aides in the White House were swept up in the drama and idealism of the moment as they watched the pictures from Tahrir Square on television. I shared the feeling. It was a thrilling moment. But along with Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, I was concerned that we not be seen as pushing a longtime partner out the door, leaving Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the region to an uncertain, dangerous future. (Pages 339-340)
"As more parts of Syria slipped free from the regime's control, we would also help local opposition groups provide essential services, such as reopening schools and rebuilding homes. But all these steps were Band-Aids. The conflict would rage on. (Page 464)
REP. PETER KING: That is a very real concern. There's no doubt that ISIS looks upon itself as an Iraq/Syria power and it definitely has talked with the United States going back to 2011 when it was just Al Qaeda and Iraq before the Syrian component had even kicked in. We captured a number of their officers in the United States, attempting to carry out an attack on Fort Knox. So clearly, if they can get good sanctuary in their Northeastern Syria, in Iraq, this makes it, in effect, a privileged sanctuary to attack the United States apart from the destabilization they can do throughout the Middle East, especially the countries such as Jordan and to Israel. And that also of course increases the power of Iran as far as being an influence in that region.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, what we're fighting for is to preserve freedom in the region and to prevent the region from becoming a hotbed from which there could be attacks launched against us. But what has happened in Iraq and with ISIS is a good deal predictable by virtue of the president's failure to act appropriately and at the extraordinary time that was presented a couple of years ago in Syria. And also his failure to achieve a Status of Forces Agreement so that we could have an ongoing presence in Iraq. Bad things happen as a result of inaction. Consequences have obviously been very severe.
Q: So what would you do specifically?
ROMNEY: There's a propitious time to do things to prevent bad things from happening. to tell you precisely what's going to happen right now and what things we ought to do militarily o stop this ISIS movement from creating a terrorist state--that would require me to get the kind of intelligence briefings I no longer get.
CLINTON: Well, that's going to be up to the people running the hearing.
Q: If they ask you, you'll go?
CLINTON: Well, we'll see what they decide to do, how they conduct themselves, whether or not this is one more travesty about the loss of four Americans or whether this is in the best tradition of the Congress, an effort to try to figure out what we can do better.
"The President called me to express his unhappiness about the 'mixed messages' we were sending," she writes. "That's a diplomatic way of saying he took me to the woodshed."
There are some other instances throughout the book in which Clinton was in a different place than Obama, but this is the one of the only times in which she describes the president as genuinely unhappy with something that the State Department did.
The risks of both action and inaction were high. Both choices would bring unintended consequences. The Presidents' inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels. No one likes to lose a debate, including me. But this was the President's call and I respected his deliberations and decision. From the beginning of our partnership, he had promised me that would always get a fair hearing. And I always did. In this case, my position didn't prevail.
On the President's actions during the Benghazi attack: Obama "gave the order to do whatever was necessary to support our people in Libya. It was imperative that all possible resources be mobilized immediately. When Americans are under fire, that is not an order the Commander in Chief has to give twice. Our military does everything humanly possible to save American lives--and would do more if they could. That anyone has ever suggested otherwise is something I will never understand."
On the claim that the investigation of the attack was rigged since Clinton appointed some of the Board members and she was not interviewed, she writes that they "had unfettered access to anyone and anything they thought relevant to their investigation, including me if they had chosen to do so."
The talking points have been a focus of Republican critics, who insist they stemmed from the White House [as spin on] a terrorist attack on the eve of Obama's reelection. "Susan stated what the intelligence community believed, rightly or wrongly, at the time," Clinton writes. "That was the best she or anyone could do. Every step of the way, whenever something new was learned, it was quickly shared with Congress and the American people. There is a difference between getting something wrong, and committing wrong. A big difference that some have blurred to the point of casting those who made a mistake as intentionally deceitful."
"In yet another example of the terrible politicization of this tragedy, many have conveniently chosen to interpret" that phrase "to mean that I was somehow minimizing the tragedy of Benghazi. Of course that's not what I said," she writes. "Nothing could be further from the truth. And many of those trying to make hay of it know that, but don't care."
She adds, "My point was simple: If someone breaks into your home and takes your family hostage, how much time are you going to spend focused on how the intruder spent his day as opposed to how best to rescue your loved ones and then prevent it from happening again?"
ROMNEY: No, we haven't entered that level of, if you will, cold conflict. But we certainly recognize that Russia has very different interests than ours. That Russia is going to push against us in every possible way. They have been doing it. Look, they blocked for many years the toughest sanctions against Iran. They stand with Assad and Syria. They stand with Kim Jong-un in North Korea. They link with some of the world's worst actors. They've sent a battleship into the Caribbean and to Cuba. They harbor Edward Snowden. All these things are designed to say, "hey look, we're pushing against the US." They are our geo-political adversary. And this is a playing field where we're going to determine whether the world is going to see freedom and economic opportunity or whether the world is going to see authoritarianism and Russia and Putin wants to be an authoritarian and that's not something that the world needs or wants.
We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.
American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria's chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve--a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.
RUBIO: I'd be open-minded to providing assistance to the Iraqi government in terms of training and equipment to allow them to deal with the challenges. I would not underestimate the impact that these rebels al Qaeda-linked forces in in Syria are now having cross border in Iraq. I think's going to be a growing factor. Some have asked me this week if I would support another invasion of Iraq, of course not. I don't think that's a solution at this point. But I think we're going to be dealing with this for some time. But ultimately, the only way to solve this problem is for the Iraqi government to be able to solve it. They need the military and security resources in the short-term. But in the long-term, they need a stable political process, otherwise this is going to be an ongoing problem forever.
One of the most troubling aspects of the Benghazi attack is the complete disregard that State Department leadership gave to the repeated requests for enhanced security. Should funding have been an issue, the State Department always has the option available to come to Congress for approval to transfer funds within accounts. No requests for reprogramming were made by the State Department.
In addition to increasing diplomatic security accounts in this budget, I have supported legislation to provide the State Department transfer authority to prioritize diplomatic security at our embassies around the world. However, it is worth noting that this money will only be effective if it is responsibly managed by officials at the State Department.
Benghazi will be the go-to bludgeon for Republicans if and when Clinton tries using her experience at State to run for president. Republicans are liable to use Benghazi as a wedge to pry back her stately exterior, goading her into an outburst, once again revealing the polarizing figure who saw vast right-wing conspiracies.
This denial of reality by the Administration must stop. To continue to receive American aid, Egypt must, at a minimum, adhere to its peace agreement with Israel and address the ongoing security situation in the Sinai.
Few disagreed with Obama's red line back then. Indeed, during the V.P. debate, Paul Ryan said that the GOP ticket agreed with Obama's red line on Syria's use of chemical weapons. Here's the exchange:
Q: What happens if Assad does not fall?
A: Then Iran keeps their greatest ally in the region. He's a sponsor of terrorism. He'll probably continue slaughtering his people. We and the world community will lose our credibility on this.
Q: So what would Romney-Ryan do about that credibility?
A: We agree with the same red line they do on chemical weapons, but not putting American troops in, other than to secure those chemical weapons. But what we should have done earlier is work with those freedom fighters, those dissidents in Syria."
On Aug. 24, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that the US could send troops into Syria to secure lose chemical weapons: "I think we have to also be ready to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that we do not have any kind of weapon of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists and whether that requires troops, or whether that requires other actions by our friends and allies."
When asked about the threat that Syria's chemical weapons posed, Romney added: "There's a wide array of potential threats, but clearly the concern would be that some terrorist group would receive the capacity to carry out a mass destruction event."
Cuomo's comments come as Pres. Obama seeks authorization from Congress to strike Syria. Cuomo appeared to endorse Obama's approach of seeking congressional approval, even as Obama himself asserted that he retains the right to order strikes against Syria even without such authorization.
"This is a truly serious, phenomenally serious, topic," Cuomo said. "You're talking about a loss of life. You're talking about possibly putting Americans' lives in harm's way. So the process and the fact that government works and works well is critical here."
PAUL: No. And I think it's a mistake to get involved in the Syrian civil war. I would ask, "Do you think that it's less likely or more likely that chemical weapons will be used again if we bomb Assad?" Is it more likely or less likely that we'll have more refugees in Jordan or that Israel might suffer attack? I think all of the bad things that you could imagine are all more likely if we get involved in the Syrian civil war.
Q: Secretary Kerry says for you and others not to authorize force is really hurtful to US credibility.
PAUL: The one thing I'm proud of the president for is that he's coming to Congress in a constitutional manner & asking for our authorization. That's what he ran on: his policy was that no president should unilaterally go to war without congressional authority. And I'm proud that he's sticking by it.
PAUL: The line in the sand should be that America gets involved when American interests are threatened. I don't see American interests involved on either side of this Syrian war. I see Assad, who has protected Christians for a number of decades, and then I see the Islamic rebels on the other side who have been attacking Christians. I see Al Qaeda on the side we would go into support. And I don't see a clear-cut American interest. I don't see [the rebels, if] victorious, being an American ally.
Q: How would the US look if the president decided to take military action and Congress does not give that authority?
PAUL: I think it would show that he made a grave mistake when he drew a red line. When you set a red line that was not a good idea to beginning with, and now you're going to adhere to it to show your machismo, then you're really adding bad policy to bad policy
"We know that the Syrian regime are the only ones who have the weapons--have used chemical weapons multiple times in the past, have the means of delivering those weapons, have been determined to wipe out exactly the places that were attacked by chemical weapons," he continued. "And instead of allowing U.N. inspectors immediate access, the government has repeatedly shelled the sites of the attack and blocked the investigation for five days."
Clinton answered that while she thinks "we have been very actively involved," there needed to be a "credible opposition coalition," saying, "You cannot even attempt a political solution if you don't have a recognized force to counter the Assad regime."
"I think I've done what was possible to do over the last two years in trying to create or help stand up an opposition that was credible and could be an interlocutor in any kind of political negotiation," Clinton said.
In February it was revealed that the president rebuffed a plan last summer by Clinton, the CIA Director & Defense Secretary to arm the Syrian rebels.
Over two years ago, Rubio said, he urged the U.S. to "identify non-jihadist groups in Syria and help train and equip them so that they could not only topple Assad, but also be the best organized, trained and armed group on the ground in a post-Assad Syria." But failure to act means that "we are now left with no good options."
"Military action, taken simply to save face, is not a wise use of force," Rubio said. "My advice is to either lay out a comprehensive plan using all of the tools at our disposal that stands a reasonable chance of allowing the moderate opposition to remove Assad and replace him with a stable secular government. Or, at this point, simply focus our resources on helping our allies in the region protect themselves from the threat they and we will increasingly face from an unstable Syria."
Santorum said he has no "doubt" chemical weapons were used, but he is not sure which side used them, differing from the administration and most voices weighing in on the issue. "It wouldn't be a surprise to me that both sides were using them or that the radical Islamists are using them," Santorum said. "While I agree it is very clear that chemical weapons were used--the idea that we need to be punishing Assad and doing things to tip the balance in favor of al Qaeda who are running the rebel forces to me is a very questionable tactic of itself.
Bolton said the Syrian opposition contains factions that are deeply hostile to the U.S., and there's no indication that propping them up would be any better for American interests. The U.S. would be better off focusing on threats emanating from Iran, he said. "If you use massive military force against Assad, then that will tip the balance, which I think would be a mistake," Bolton said, acknowledging that the situation is complicated. "If you use minimal force, you won't make the point about deterrence."
But Bolton said his view is the only one that works for the long term. "If the Muslim Brotherhood wins, say good-bye to the peace treaty with Israel and stability in Sinai," Bolton said. "Egypt has not yet succumbed to civil war, as Syria has, but it's getting close."
Bolton wrote: "The Muslim Brotherhood is not a normal political party as Westerners understand that term. It is an armed ideology--a militia that fires on its opponents and burns down churches. The Brotherhood, therefore, shares full blame for the continuing carnage. Should it ever regain power, whether through free elections or otherwise, it will never let go."
RUBIO: In foreign policy, timing matters. These were options for us a year and a half ago, before this became this chaotic. It behooved us to identify whether there were any elements there within Syria fighting against Assad that we could work with, reasonable people that wouldn't carry out human rights violations, and could be part of building a new Syria. We failed to do that. So now our options are quite limited. Now the strongest groups fighting against Assad, unfortunately, are al Qaeda-linked elements.
Q: So here, now, what would President Rubio do? Would you commit US forces to a no-fly zone?
RUBIO: If I was in charge of this issue, we never would have gotten to this point. That being said, I think we need to continue to search for elements on the ground that we can work with, so that if & when Assad falls, they will manage a future, hopefully democratic Syria, and peaceful Syria.
"Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing....let Allah sort it out!" she told the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The statement shows how far Palin has drifted from former running mate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is the chief Senate proponent of U.S. military action to help the Syrian rebels.
This week, the White House announced it had concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against the rebels, thereby crossing a "red line." Obama has now decided to arm select elements of the Syrian rebellion.
"Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing....let Allah sort it out!" she told the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The statement shows how far Palin has drifted from former running mate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is the chief Senate proponent of U.S. military action to help the Syrian rebels.
This week, the White House announced it had concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against the rebels, thereby crossing a "red line." Obama has now decided to arm select elements of the Syrian rebellion.
A: I disagree with the basic premise. When we came into office, there were two wars raging: one without any sense of how to end it and the other without any sense of how to manage it; Al Qaeda was on the ascendancy; all of that has changed. But with regard to Syria: we don't want to blow it like the last administration did in Iraq, saying "weapons of mass destruction." We know that there have been traces found of what are probably chemical weapons. The president is likely to use a proportional response in terms of meaningful action [inclusive internationally and within Syria]. The one lesson we learned from Iraq and the last administration is, in managing the affairs in Iraq, they destroyed every institution.
KING: I have real concerns. The reason I say that is that so much time has gone by, and unfortunately, to a large extent, al Qaeda elements have a lot of control within the rebel movements. My concern is that, by arming the rebels, we could be strengthening al Qaeda. So, whatever arming we do--and obviously, Assad is evil, and everyone is interested that he go--but if we are going to arm the rebels, we have to make sure that those arms are not going to end up in the possession of al Qaeda supporters nor at the end game is al Qaeda going to be in a position to take over this movement.
Q: That's a pretty high bar, right? I mean, we put weapons into countries a lot and don't know where they're going to end up.
KING: Until we have a better understanding of where the weapons will be going, I'm very concerned that we're just replacing one terrible dictator with a terrible ideological movement, which is aimed at our destruction.
On the news of the day--apparent differences between Obama and the Israeli military on whether chemical weapons had been deployed by the Syrian military--O'Malley deferred to the president's judgment. "It's certainly one of the great challenges," he allowed.
Asked whether the American people, weary from a decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, would be ready to engage in another military operation to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, O'Malley avoided specifics. "I believe that the president will make that call," he said, "and the president will have the primary responsibility of making that case to the American people and also to Congress."
How about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? "All of us hope for peace in the Middle East."
A reporter pointed out that on his way into Bethlehem, he would see the controversial separation barrier Israel has erected in the West Bank. O'Malley said he had seen something similar in Northern Ireland. "They call it the peace wall," he noted.
All these pressures put enormous pressure on the State of Israel. We understand that. And we especially understand that if we make a mistake, it's not a threat to our existence. But if Israel makes a mistake, it could be a threat to its very existence. And that's why, from the moment the President took office, he has acted swiftly and decisively to make clear to the whole world and to Israel that even as circumstances have changed, one thing has not: our deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel. That has not changed. That will not change as long as I and he are President and Vice President. It's in our naked self-interest, beyond the moral imperative.
That's why our focus is on supporting a legitimate opposition not only committed to a peaceful Syria but to a peaceful region. We're carefully vetting those to whom we provide assistance. That's why, while putting relentless pressure on Assad and sanctioning the pro-regime, Iranian-backed militia, we've also designated al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization.
And because we recognize the great danger Assad's chemical and biological arsenals pose to Israel and the US, to the whole world, we've set a clear red line against the use of the transfer of the those weapons. And we will work together to prevent this conflict and these horrific weapons from threatening Israel's security.
We can all agree on the increasingly desperate plight of the Syrian people and the responsibility of the international community to address that plight. Just this week the international community came together to pledge $1.5 billion for humanitarian support for the Syrian people and refugees fleeing the violence. As part of that effort, President Obama announced that we would be contributing $155 million.
In Libya, NATO acted quickly, effectively and decisively. And now we are working together to support Libya in building effective institutions of governance. We've joined forces in response to the unprecedented promise & unresolved turmoil of the Arab Spring--from Tunis to Tripoli to Sana'a--and it's going to be required to continue.
A: I think that post the Arab revolutions that took place in Egypt and Libya and Tunisia, and elsewhere in the region, there was always going to be a period of adjustment. What we have to work for, along with the international community, is not to see these revolutions hijacked by extremists, not to see the return of dictatorial rule. It's hard going from decades under one party or one man rule, as somebody said, "waking up from a political coma and understanding democracy."
Q: Is President Morsi with us or not? He's said that the Holocaust didn't exist.
A: You have to look at the fact that the people now in power in these countries have never been in government, never had a chance to really learn how to run agencies or to make decisions. We don't condone what a lot of these leaders are doing, or failing to do. But we also know how important it is that we try to avoid even more extreme elements taking control of territory, even threatening a regime.
A: The accountability review board made a set of recommendations. We are embracing and implementing all of them. Now, it's not all a question of money. You have to have the right people making the right decisions. But money is a factor. And ever since the Bush administration, our requests for security monies from Congress have not been met. So you've had to make priority decisions. I am determined to leave the State Department safer and stronger.
Q: Do we go back to Benghazi?
A: This was the heart of the Libyan revolution. We knew that there were dangerous people in and around Benghazi. So there were very important reasons why we were there, not just the State Department, but other government agencies. Whether or when we go back will depend upon the security situation. But I hasten to add that I have dangerous posts all over the world. We have people in incredibly high-threat environments.
Let's also remember that administrations of both parties, in partnership with Congress, have made concerted and good faith efforts to learn from the tragedies that have occurred, to implement recommendations from the Review Boards, to seek necessary resources, and to better protect our people from constantly evolving threats. And it's what we are doing again now. I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, & more secure
The very next morning, I told the American people that heavily armed militants assaulted our compound. I vowed to bring them to justice, and I stood with President Obama in the Rose Garden as he spoke of an act of terror.
It's also important to recall that in that same period, we were seeing violent attacks in our embassies, as well as large protests outside many other posts where our thousands of our diplomats serve. So, I immediately ordered a review of our security posture around the world with particularly scrutiny for high threat posts.
CLINTON: I had no knowledge of specific security requests. With regard to the situation in Libya, there were a number of meetings about this transition to elections.
RUBIO: At the Oct. 2011 & March 2012 meetings, did this issue come up with regards to the inability of the Libyan government to protect our diplomatic institutions?
CLINTON: We talked a great deal about th deteriorating threat environment in Libya.
RUBIO: Was there a specific conversation with regards to the inability of Libya to meet their obligations to provide security?
CLINTON: Oh, absolutely--a constant conversation. And what I found with the Libyans was willingness, but not capacity.
RUBIO: Before the attack, what had we done to help them build their security capacity?
CLINTON: Well, there's a long list, filled with training, with equipment, with planning that they had not done before.
Bush indicated the administration's mixed messaging makes America look weak. "When the world sees us as uncertain and not surefooted, they act," he said. "Our friends act by pulling away and nervously kind of not being assured that the United States is there to support them. And our enemies are emboldened. "So the tragedy of this is that four people lost their lives; great public servants. And then, because of the politics of this, the Obama administration sent such a confusing signal out that they did themselves no good. And they've put the United States in a more perilous position," he added.
ROMNEY: With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation. But instead we've seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events.
OBAMA: With respect to Libya, [I said that] we would go after those who killed Americans, and we would bring them to justice. But I think it's important to step back and think about what happened in Libya. Now, keep in mind that I and Americans took leadership in organizing an international coalition that made sure that we were able to--without putting troops on the ground, at the cost of less than what we spent in two weeks in Iraq--liberate a country that had been under the yoke of dictatorship for 40 years, got rid of a despot who had killed Americans. And as a consequence, you had tens of thousands of Libyans after the events in Benghazi marching and saying, "America's our friend. We stand with them." Now that represents the opportunity we have to take advantage of.
OBAMA: No, I don't because I think that America has to stand with democracy. But now that you have a democratically elected government in Egypt, they have to make sure that they take responsibility for protecting religious minorities--and we have put significant pressure on them to make sure they're doing that--to recognize the rights of women, which is critical throughout the region. These countries can't develop if young women are not given the kind of education that they need. They have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us.
Q: [to Romney]: Would you have stuck with Mubarak?
ROMNEY: No, I supported the president's action there. I wish we'd have had a better vision of the future.
ROMNEY: This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world and to America in particular, which is to see a complete change in the structure and the environment in the Middle East. With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women and public life and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead we've seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events. Of course, we see in Syria 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in Libya an attack apparently by terrorists. Northern Mali has been taken over by al-Qaida-type individuals. We have in Egypt a Muslim Brotherhood president. So what we're seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region.
OBAMA: What we've done is organize the international community, saying Assad has to go. We've mobilized sanctions against that government. We have made sure that they are isolated. We have provided humanitarian assistance, and we are helping the opposition organize. But ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future. Everything we're doing, we're doing in consultation with our partners, including Israel and Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this. Now, what we're seeing taking place in Syria is heartbreaking, and that's why we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are helping the opposition. I am confident that Assad's days are numbered, but we also have to recognize that for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step.
ROMNEY: Syria is a humanitarian disaster.
OBAMA: When I went to Israel as a candidate, I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable. And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children's bedrooms, and I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids, which is why, as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles. So that's how I've used my travels when I travel to Israel and when I travel to the region.
ROMNEY: First of all, 30,000 people being killed by their government is a humanitarian disaster. Secondly, Syria's an opportunity for us because Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea. It's the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens our ally Israel. And so seeing Syria remove Assad is a very high priority for us. A replacement government is critical for us [but] we don't want to get drawn into a military conflict. And so the right course for us is to identify responsible parties within Syria, bring them together in a form of council that can take the lead in Syria, and then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves.
OBAMA: We are playing the leadership role. We organized the "Friends of Syria." We are mobilizing humanitarian support and support for the opposition.
Q: Would you go beyond what the administration would do? Like, for example, would you put in no-fly zones over Syria?
ROMNEY: I don't want to have our military involved in Syria. I don't think there's a necessity to put our military in Syria at this stage. I don't anticipate that in the future. As I indicated, our objectives are to replace Assad and to have in place a new government which is friendly to us--a responsible government, if possible. And I want to make sure the get armed and they have the arms necessary to defend themselves but also to remove Assad. But I do not want to see a military involvement on the part of our troops.
RYAN: Oh, gosh, yes. What we should not be apologizing for are standing up for our values. What we should not be doing is saying to the Egyptian people, while Mubarak is cracking down on them, that he's a good guy and then the next week say he ought to go.
RYAN: It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn't we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi?
BIDEN: With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey. The congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for.
Q: What were you first told about the attack? Why were people talking about protests?
BIDEN: Because that's exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. You know, usually when there's a crisis, we pull together as a nation. But even before we knew what happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference. That's not presidential leadership.
BIDEN: It's a different country. It's a different country. It is five times as large geographically. It has 1/5 the population that is Libya. It's in a part of the world where you're not going to see whatever would come from that war. If it blows up and the wrong people gain control, it's going to have impact on the entire region, causing potentially regional wars. And all this loose talk of [Ryan and] Romney, about how we could do so much more there, what more would they do other than put American boots on the ground? The last thing America needs is to get into another ground war in the Middle East.
RYAN: Nobody is proposing to send American troops to Syria. But we would not be going through the UN.
RYAN: Nobody is proposing to send American troops to Syria. How would we do things differently? We wouldn't refer to Bashar Assad as a reformer when he's killing his own civilians. We wouldn't be outsourcing our foreign policy to the UN. After international pressure mounted, then President Obama said Bashar Assad should go. It's been over a year. The man has slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people and more foreign fighters are spilling into this country. So the longer this has gone on, the more groups like al-Qaida are going in.
BIDEN: What would you do differently?
RYAN: We would not be going through the UN. Things like embargoes and sanctions and overflights--those are things that don't put American troops on the ground.
RYAN: We mourn the loss of these four Americans who were murdered. [Initially, Obama] sent the U.N. ambassador out to say that this was because of a protest and a YouTube video. It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. Look, if we are hit by terrorists, we're going to call it for what it is, a terrorist attack. Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn't we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi, a place where we knew that there was an al-Qaida cell with arms? This Benghazi issue would be a tragedy in and of itself. But unfortunately it's indicative of a broader problem, that we are watching the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy, which is making the world more chaotic and us less safe.
In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East--that is, both governments and individuals who share our values.
This means restoring our credibility with Iran. When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability--and the regional instability that comes with it--is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us. And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.
All these issues are ones that the region is going to wrestle with. The one thing we can't do is withdraw from the region, because the US continues to be the one indispensable nation. And even countries where the US is criticized, they still want our leadership. And so we're going to continue to work in these regions.
A: Well, we're still doing an investigation. The natural protests that arose were used as an excuse by extremists to harm US interests. We have to remain vigilant. Look, when I came into office I said I would end the war in Iraq--and I did. I said that we would begin transitioning in Afghanistan. But what I also said was we're going to have to focus narrowly and forcefully on groups like al Qaeda. Those forces have not gone away. We've decimated al Qaeda's top leadership in the border regions around Pakistan, but in Yemen, in Libya--increasingly in places like Syria-- what you see is these elements that don't have the same capacity that a bin Laden or core al Qaeda had, but can still cause a lot of damage, and we've got to make sure that we remain vigilant and are focused on preventing them from doing us any harm.
A: We mourn the loss of the Americans who were killed in Benghazi. But that's not representative of the attitudes of the Libyan people towards America, because they understand because of the incredible work that our diplomats did as well as our men and women in uniform, we liberated that country from a dictator who had terrorized them for 40 years. We've seen this in the past, where there is an offensive video or cartoon directed at the prophet Muhammad. And this is used as an excuse to carry out inexcusable violent acts. We told the [Libyan & other] leaders, that although we had nothing to do with the video, we find it offensive, it's not representative of America's views, but we will not tolerate violence, and we will bring those who carried out these events to justice.
Due to a near criminal degree of corruption, abuse, and waste on the part of many recipients--not to mention the fact that we can't afford it--I had long been in favor of eliminating foreign aid altogether. But since the aid existed, I thought it gave Congress the perfect tool to help the detained Americans.
I attempted to freeze aid to Egypt. We had sent Mubarak's regime over $60 billion and now a member of that same regime was responsible for arresting and holding American citizens against their will--19 US nationals. I proposed an amendment to end ALL foreign aid to Egypt--economic aid, military aid, all aid--in 30 days unless the American citizens were released. We give over $1.5 billion to Egypt annually.
Indeed, that is the question of the hour. Where does America stand? You see when the friends or foes alike don't know the answer to that question, unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place. Since world war II, the US has had an answer to that question. We stand for free peoples and free markets. We will defend and support them.
"I think we have to also be ready to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that we do not have any kind of weapon of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists and whether that requires troops, or whether that requires other actions by our friends and allies," Romney said in an interview, specifically noting that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been involved in the region.
"That's an issue that doesn't just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel," Obama said. "We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people."
The president said: "We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region, that that's a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons." Obama reiterated his call for Assad to step down.
She singled out Tunisia and Egypt, but the country to which Clinton devoted the most attention in her speech was China. Later, Google publicly threatened to pull out of China because of cyberattacks on its email system and the targeting of Chinese dissidents and human rights activists. Clinton's response was swift and pointed: She called on the Chinese government to investigate the attacks on Google. Countries that engage in such attacks "should face consequences and international condemnation," she said.
And Rubio made clear that military action should be on the table in Iran. "We should also be preparing our allies, and the world, for the reality that unfortunately, if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may, tragically, require a military solution," he said.
One certainly sees this pattern being repeated in American society today, and if we continue to follow the course of other pinnacle nations prior to us in history, we will suffer the same fate. The question is, "Can we learn from the experience of those nations that preceded us and take corrective action, or must we inexorably follow the same self-destructive course?"
Growing up, I heard many complaints from those around me about poverty, but visiting such places as India, Egypt, and Africa has provided me with perspective on what poverty really is. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in the world live on less than $2 a day. Many of those living in poverty in this country, in fact, would be considered quite wealthy by poor people in other countries. Also, here in the US, there is no caste system to determine one's social status, so there are many opportunities for people to escape poverty without resorting to a life of crime. You are much more likely to be judged in this nation by your knowledge and the way you express yourself than you are by your pedigree. I'm not sure we realize how good we have it on this point.
SANTORUM: Well, I wouldn't right now, but we need someone who has a strong vision for the region and we have not had that with this president. He has been making mistakes at every turn in Iran, in Egypt, I would argue, Libya, Syria, Israel. All of these places, he has made mistakes on the ground that have shown the people in that region that we are the weak horse. That is something that cannot happen because it will cause events like you're seeing in the Straits of Hormuz. There will be push. America is soft and so they can be pushed around. That's what this administration has done. They did it by withdrawing from Iraq, and [the same] if we get out of Afghanistan. Let's just wait and see how things turn out when the United States isn't there and see how consequential our efforts were for the stability of that region.
HUNTSMAN: So how long do you want to wait?
SANTORUM: Until the security of our country is ensured.
Biden said the "number one objective" was to get the Syrian regime to stop killing civilians and for Assad to quit power. "The US position on Syria is clear. The Syrian regime must end its brutality against its own people and President Assad must step down so a peaceful transition that respects the will of the people can take place," Biden said.
Biden called for a peaceful transition in Syria and broader global sanctions over the crackdown. "Syria's stability is important. That is exactly why we are insisting on change -- it is the current situation that is unstable," Biden said in response to emailed questions from a Turkish newspaper.
I would give Libya as an example. It was clear that Moammar Gadhafi was really not a good guy at all. But what did the president do? We spent several billion dollars, but we didn`t lose one American life. We didn`t put one boot on the ground. And we had a shared responsibility with the rest of the world, including Arab nations as well as NATO to deal with that issue.
And now, there`s a shared responsibility to the world to help them establish a democracy. That`s very different than going it alone. I hope we`ve learned the lesson that, unless our immediate vital national interest is at stake, going it alone should be the last option.
Imagine the amount of oil we could have secured for America. Our policy should be: no oil, no military support.
In other places, our friends--particularly the monarchs of the region--still have a chance to reform now before it's too late. The United States can coax these monarchies to adopt constitutions and reforms that give greater voice to their people. The changes will strengthen moderate voices across the region. And to our enemies, the Syrian and Iranian regimes, we should say, "Your time has come. Whatever follows you is unlikely to be worse, for your people and for the world, than who you have been."
BACHMANN: I believe that it was wrong for the president to go into Libya. There was no American vital interest in Libya. We didn't know who the rebel forces were in Libya.
SANTORUM: I'm hearing from at least a couple of people on this panel a very isolationist view. Ronald Reagan was committed to America being a force for good around the world. We could have been a force for good from the very get-go in Libya, but this president was indecisive and confused from the very beginning. He only went along with the Libyan mission because the UN told him to. This is a very important issue for our party. Are we going to stand in the Reagan tradition, or are we going to go the isolationist view that some in this party are advocating?
A: I do. In all three cases, I don't see a military threat. I initially thought the intervention in Afghanistan was warranted--we were attacked and we attacked back--but we've wiped out Al Qaeda and here we are; we're still there.
Q: Isn't there evidence that we merely drove Al Qaeda from Afghanistan into Pakistan?
A: Let me suggest this is a good example of a "gotcha" question. Two weeks earlier, I said we should go in covertly, use Egyptian and other allies not use American forces.
Q: But Mr. Speaker, you said these two things.
A: That's right. I said [the first] after the president announced gloriously that Gadhafi has to go. And I said if the president is seriou about Gadhafi going, this is what we should do. The [second] came after the same president said, well, I really meant maybe we should have a humanitarian intervention. I was commenting about a president who changes his opinion every other day.
Santorum: We need to focus our military on OUR national security not UN or humanitarian efforts, the first being to defend our borders.
Bachmann: No. There is no vital US interest in Libya. Worse, we might be aiding terrorist groups by supporting the Libyan opposition.
Santorum: I would not go anywhere unless our national security was at stake. It seems clear that was not the case.
Cain: I've said many times before that US intervention in Libya is inappropriate and wrong. The US does not belong in this war.
Gingrich: Not with conventional forces.
Cain: Pres. Obama did not make it clear what our mission was in Libya, what the American interests were or what victory looks like. We cannot risk our treasury or national treasures (brave men & women in uniform) without knowing those answers.
Johnson: Absolutely not.
McCotter: The Administration shouldn't have commenced its ill-defined Libya mission; however once committed, we can't abruptly withdraw & further harm our diminishing credibility in the world. Now, in solely a support role to prevent further involvement--no US boots on ground.
Johnson: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya--Get out now!
A: I went on record immediately saying, "Let's not do this." There was no congressional authorization, no military threat. Where in the constitution does it say that because we don't like a foreign country's leader we should go in and topple the dictator?
GINGRICH: Sure. The price tag is always a factor, because that's part of the decision.
GINGRICH: Sure. The price tag is always a factor, because that's part of the decision. But ten years after 9/11, our intelligence is so inadequate that we have no idea what percent of the Libyan rebels are, in fact, al Qaeda. Libya was the second largest producer of people who wanted to kill Americans in Iraq. I think that we need to think fundamentally about reassessing our entire strategy in the region. I think that we should say to the generals we would like to figure out to get out as rapid as possible with the safety of the troops involved. And we had better find new and very different strategies because this is too big a problem for us to deal with the American ground forces in direct combat. We have got to have a totally new strategy for the region, because we don't today have the kind of intelligence we need to know even what we're doing.
Michele Bachmann's position on Libya distinctly contrasts with Obama's position. Bachmann is against American involvement in the civil war in Libya. Her view is that no one really knows who the rebels in Libya are, nor how they intend to change Libya. She further explains that there are terrorist groups assisting the rebels. Obama's position is that the US must be involved in Libya for "humanitarian" reasons. As the Libya situation drags on, people will realize that if NATO and the U.S. had never intervened in Libya, the civil war would have been over in a few weeks. The rebels would have been driven out long ago, and thousands of deaths would have been prevented. Americans will demand that Obama answer "Why Libya?" just like they demanded that Bush answer "Why Iraq?"
What followed was equally disturbing after he was captured. He was questioned for only 50 minutes. We have a choice in how to do this. The choice was only question him for 50 minutes and then read his Miranda rights. The administration says then there are no downsides or upsides to treating terrorists like civilian criminal defendants. But a lot of us would beg to differ. For example, there are questions we would have liked this foreign terrorist to answer before he lawyered up and invoked our U.S. constitutional right to remain silent.
A: I will not hypothesize on that. I think Israel has a right to defend itself. But I will not speculate on the difficult judgment that they would have to make in a whole host of possible scenarios.
Q: This is not a speculative question then. Was it appropriate, in your view, for Israel to take out that suspected Syrian nuclear site last year?
A: Yes. I think that there was sufficient evidence that they were developing a site using a nuclear or using a blueprint that was similar to the North Korean model. There was some concern as to what the rationale for that site would be. And, again, ultimately, I think these are decisions that the Israelis have to make. But, you know, the Israelis live in a very tough neighborhood where a lot of folks, publicly proclaim Israel as an enemy and then act on those proclamations.
A: If we are doing this right, if we have a phased redeployment where we’re as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, then there’ not reason why we shouldn’t be able to prevent the wholesale slaughter some people have suggested might occur. And part of that means we are engaging in the diplomatic efforts that are required within Iraq, among friends, like Egypt, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but also enemies like Iran and Syria. They have to have buy-in into that process. We have to have humanitarian aid now. We also have two-and-a-half million displaced people inside of Iraq and several million more outside of Iraq. We should be ramping up assistance to them right now. But I always reserve the right, in conjunction with a broader international effort, to prevent genocide or any wholesale slaughter than might happen inside of Iraq or anyplace else.
Although we cannot export democracy as if it were Coca-Cola or KFC, we can nurture moderate forces in places where al Qaeda is seeking to replace modern evil with medieval evil. Such moderation may not look or function like our system--it may be a benevolent oligarchy or more tribal than individualistic--but both for us and for the peoples of those countries, it will be better than the dictatorships they have now or the theocracy they would have under radical Islamists.
Obama has given all the Rezko money currently in his larder to charity, and he has called the land deal [he made with Rezko for Obama’s personal home] “boneheaded,” putting it down to anxieties about purchasing a first home (though his family had previously lived in a Hyde Park condo). No one has alleged that Obama did anything illegal, but his slip-sliding response to questions about Rezko suggests that, should he succeed, he will not drive every pig from the trough.
OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this: the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them--which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration--is ridiculous. Ronald Reagan constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when he called them an evil empire. He understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward. And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.
CLINTON: I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don’t want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy.
OBAMA: I would. The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them is ridiculous. I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.
CLINTON: I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort but not a high level meeting before you know what the intentions are. I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration. I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we’re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro & Hugo Chavez & the president of North Korea, Iran & Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
A: It is a huge problem. But imagine if millions and millions more go to these countries, whose infrastructure simply can’t absorb them. Then you have a destabilized region. One of the things that the US must do is to more strongly insist to the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Turks, the Kuwaitis that their involvement militarily, their involvement financially, their involvement even theologically with the more radical wings of the Islamic faith are critical for us to solve this issue.
DODD: The idea we don’t talk to the Syrians & Iranians in a moment like this, I think, is terribly naive and dangerous for the country, in my view.
GINGRICH: I’m perfectly happy to talk to Syrians and the Iranians. We’ve had a number of secretaries of state who’ve gone to Damascus, several of whom have been snubbed. Our secretary of state was snubbed the other day by the Iranians. I just want us to understand who we’re talking about. Reagan had no doubt that the Soviet Union was an evil empire. He had a clear vision of the Cold War. He said, “We win, they lose.” And he did what you’re calling for. They unraveled the Soviet empire, largely without firing a shot.
KEYES: That’s the fallacy, because you did make an argument just then from the wisdom of hindsight, based on conclusions reached now which were not in Bush’s hands several months ago when he had to make this decision.
I despise terrorism and the nihilism it represents, and I was incredulous when the NY Republican Party and Lazio campaign insinuated that I was somehow involved with the terrorists who blew up the Cole. They made this charge in a TV ad and an automatic telephone message directed to NY voters 12 days before the election. The story they concocted was that I had received a donation from somebody who belonged to a group that they said supported terrorists--“the same kind of terrorism that killed our sailors on the USS Cole.” The phone script told people to call me and tell me to “stop supporting terrorism.” This last-minute desperation tactic blew up, however, thanks to a vigorous response by my campaign and with help from former NYC mayor Ed Koch, who cut a TV commercial scolding Lazio.
A: We do not believe that Syria can be against al Qaeda, but in favor of other terrorist groups. But we have had some discussions with Syria. President Bush invites countries to stop the practice of harboring terrorism.
Q: So if Syria does not cooperate against people who are from Jihad or Hamas, they should be targeted also?
A: We have ruled out at this point issues that draw distinctions between types of terrorism. We just don’t think that’s the right thing to do. You can’t say there are good terrorists and there are bad terrorists. But the means that we use with different countries to get them to stop harboring terrorists may be very broad. And there are many means at our disposal.
There are not a lot of discussions with Syria, but we have had discussions with Syria that suggest: get out of the business of sponsoring terrorism. We’re asking that of every state of the world. You cannot be neutral in this fight; you either are for terrorism or against it.