Transcript for 'This Week' Roundtable: Striking Syria
Those interviews moments ago. Conn kinzinger, donna brazile, dan senor, a co-founder of the foreign policy initiative, katrina vanden huevel, and greta van susteren. Welcome to all of you. And let me begin with you, you are a republican congressman supporting the president on But you have a big intraparty battle in both parties. The president doesn't have the votes now. Can he get them? Is he making the right case? It's going to be difficult to get votes. It goes back not just to the issue itself, but you can't start to build a relationship with congress for the first time when you need their support on something like this. A week and a half ago, my office reached out to the white house and said we support the strike, we will help you round up support. I haven't heard back from the white house. I haven't heard back from anyone. I don't know who my white house liaison is who is creating the relationship. Now we have a situation where i think the president has made the decision, correctly, that the cost of using chemical weapons should far exceed the benefit that anybody gains from it, and he's trying to build a relationship with congress, and there's a trust deficit. He's having trouble with his own party. Lots of democrats in the house especially saying we don't to want go along with the president. Can he turn it around? And what must he do to turn it around? The president has to give a forceful speech. The bible says, if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle? The president comes out and gives the american people the evidence he is seeing. If he is consistent in explaining why it's in america's best interest, he may be able to move some of the democrats. But they don't want to hand a defeat like his enemies, his opponents. But they want to make sure they can go back and explain to their constituents this was a vote of conscious and a vote in favor of america's security. Many of the move on democrats are opposed to it. And they're passionate about the opposition. Donna mentions the uncertain trumpet. Greta van susteren, that's part of the problem for the president. Why is anyone surprised that the president's having trouble? THIS HAPPENED AUGUST 21st. He's been seen on the golf course. The house is not called back in session, the senate is not called back in session. And all these leaders want us to take them seriously this is very important. Where are they? It's not leadership. I'm not surprised that the american people are distressed. The example they are setting this is so serious, yet they are showing -- by their actions showing it's not particularly serious enough to come in and work and sell the story to the american people. You have seen a lot of republicans who have supported military action in the past just taking a pass here, saying no way they're going to support the president. Two camps within the republican world right now. Republican universe. One is the rand paul camp, loosely defined, isolationist, doesn't want to be engaged in the world. No matter what, can't be moved. There's another camp, which has been supportive of engagement, but they don't trust obama. They don't have confidence in him. They don't think he's competent. And the problem with that argument is it means they're not going to be able to be for any type of military force anywhere for the next three years. President obama is the commander in chief for the next three year s. If they don't have confidence, what message does that send to tehran? We want to be presenting a credible threat of military no, sir -- force in order to stop the nuclear program. What do you think they're seeing when the congress prevents the president. They are unlikely allies with a lot of progressives. They are. I want to step back. Ultimately any resolution of the human catastrophe in syria, the sectarian civil war is going to demand a political solution. And I think the president in this -- these next days is waging an intensive campaign to launch military strikes. It's a false choice. It's not bombs or nothing. Forceful diplomacy is more important than the threat of force. Don't you need the threat of force behind that? I think you need to deal with the human catastrophe in syria not by bombing, but by alleviating the misery of 2 million refugees, not surgical strikes which may lead to more civilian casualties, and not emboldening a resistance feeling america is on their side. And who knows who the rebels are. The most important thing is after -- america's been at war continuously since 2011. Iraq poisoned the well. Americans are deeply skeptical of military intervention if there's no imminent threat, and the president conceded that in the press conference in russia. That was a big point. Which is a very tricky thing to persuade a nation when gallup is saying support for military action is the lowest than at any time they have polled. How do you take him seriously, members of congress won't come back -- and this is so important -- but they wouldn't come back since august 21st. This is the most important decision they have to make about war. And this is war. If they don't come off the five week vacation -- let's will be clear, the president of the united states said, hey, I'm going to have congress come back on september 9th. I went back this week to have a hearing on this issue. You don't have to wait for him to call you back. Yeah, he went to the g-20. Nothing is going to happen. What about the war-weary americans? We're war-weary, tired, but this is a moment in time where i think in ten, 20, 30 years, the history books are going to say this was a redefining moment in world history. And what was the united states doing? Did we find ourselves war-weary, in a position where iraq was terrible, afghanistan was rough, we're just going to disengage from the world. WE TRIED THAT IN THE 20s AND 30s And we saw what came as a result of that. This is a moment we have to step up. And I think the president is ready to make the case to the american people. He's regime -- ready to put the links out there, the links that have been missing in terms of why this is important for america's interest. If they are in the hands of wrong people, hezbollah, others, this could impact the u.S. And our allies. Let me just -- look, we talk the opposition, we talk about this rebel movement that's fighting. They're going to see one of two things happen, either going to see u.S. Missiles taking out syrian military facilities or not. And assad's regime will continue to use chemical weapons. The things they're going to see -- hold on. Hold on, so the question is not whether or not we can have this highly parsed, highly nuanced overly interpreted debate. It's a buy their outcome. Either u.S. Engagement or not. That's the threshold question. I want to step back. I'm not an isolationist, and i think there's an opening here for the president who was right to call back congress and seek authorization. He should heed the decision of congress having made that decision. Has to, right? It's an opening. There's the wisdom his credibility will be tarnished. If he loses the vote. But on the other hand you could argue it won't be because he came to become president by extricating the country from two wars -- a political solution. 100,000 people are dead, millions of refugees. The path to a political solution -- how does more military might contribute to the outcome -- it degrades assad -- donna then greta. All right. To dan's point, he has to make the case. After we deter and degrade, assad will be in power. The atrocities -- the war will continue. But weaker. The atrocities will continue. The president has to tell a war-weary america, but over a trillion dollars, what have we gotten but more hatred toward america? We just saw again yesterday, the pictures being presented to the senate and house intelligence committee right now. We have the evidence that people were gassed. There's no question. Questions about command and control, whether assad ordered it. And doesn't the united states have to draw a line against the use of chemical weapons? I think the united states has to do something, but we have to be smart. We have a short-term strategy, no long-term strategy. If we take out the military installations, he's got the gas, supplies, still in power. If we take him out, which is not the president's goal at this point, regime change, we have a problem, 26 rebel groups -- they're not one good group where we want to work, all these groups. This is a mess. This is the problem, we waited a long time. The lodge -- longer we wait, the bigger the problem. And it's a horrible mess. And the problem is we haven't had leadership. Not just picking on the president, on everybody, every member of congress. Sorry, congressman. It's all right. This is something that's been going on for some time, and we have not have a seriousness of purpose about this. 100,000 people are dead and we know it. Congress is not the commander in chief. There's one. Not 535. The point everybody is under the impression this is the first time a red line has been put out on chemical weapons. We haven't faced that since world war I for a reason. In desert storm, george h.W. Bush sent a letter to saddam hussein basically saying if you use chemical weapons, we're going to use anything at our disposal, including nuclear weapons. We created a northern and southern no-fly zone over iraq for 12 years because of the absolute disdain for the use of chemical weapons. If we don't enforce the red line today, how to enforce it in the future? What's the answer? This is a monstrous act, the use of chemical weapons. I think we need more evidence. By the way, there are people -- I talk to people in congress who seek evidence. Thecht -- they want the u.N. Inspectors -- what if you got the evidence? I would still argue that you draw a red line by bringing together the international community, not just the u.S. Unilateral punitive action and refer it to the international criminal court, call saddam -- call bashar al assad a war criminal. The military strikes, because the strategic centers in syria are very much clustered around civilian areas, our humanitarian could deepen -- and I would say -- and by the way, we should be cautious in condemning. Because we have been come police -- complicit in the use of chemical weapons as well. Ensure abiding by the chemical weapons convention. Senator manchin, interestingly, in the senate, has a piece of legislation which calls for bashar al assad to join the chemical weapons convention. The president to assemble an international coalition to destroy assad's chemical weapons and to stop proliferation. The criminal court. You say you want a political solution. The administration will say, take assad to the international criminal court -- we're not a member. Do you think he's going to voluntarily leave power? I'm going to leave power and go to the court. The one thing we have not tried, is to use military pressure on assad. I think we can force the norms non-militarily. Quick question for everybody. Yes or no, two yes or no questions. Number one, does this pass the congress? Does the president act if it doesn't? Passes the senate. I don't feel confident about the house. And I encourage the president to act regardless. I don't think he will. It may pass the senate. Will not pass the house. And I think as I said earlier, that the president was right in bringing the decision to congress and heed the decision, and his legacy will be stronger. Greta. I agree, pass the senate, not the house. The president said in 2007 to the boston globe that it was -- that he should go to congress when he was a candidate, and i agree he did the right thing. I don't think he can act. It's not imminent in light of what he has said. I don't think it passes the house. I would encourage all my colleagues on either side of the aisle to put politics aside. This is about team america. This is about moving together as one and doing the right thing. I agree with the congressman, but I don't believe it pass the house. I'm a creature of that institution, and they're not going to go with it. There's hope that it passes, but the president can't act if it doesn't. Thank you very much.
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