'This Week' Transcript: Two Powerhouse Roundtables

On the other hand, I agree very much with what Keith said. We do need to be on the ground with humanitarian aid. We need to have political intelligence. We can provide a lot of communications and logistics, that kind of stuff that keeps us in the game, but arming people who may be the very ones that take the chemical weapons and misuse them, that would have been a disaster for us, too, so I think the president's been, frankly, appropriately cautious.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Stephanie, how would you respond, though, to people who say that this was interesting timing, that the president chose to say no to his entire national security team right in the middle of a campaign, just didn't want that trouble in the middle of the campaign.

CUTTER: Well, look, George, I think that there are decisions made with the national security team all the time. Sometimes the president agrees with the national security adviser; sometimes he doesn't. That's why the president has built the team that he has.

And, you know, I only know about this from what I read. I'm not inside the White House anymore. And my understanding is that Panetta and others didn't push for it because of the risks involved that the congressman just laid out, that because these arms could end up in the hands of Al Qaida or they could be used against Israel.

So this is -- this is why administrations are set up. This is why national security teams have been built. This is why the president wanted such strong personalities and expertise on his national security team. He doesn't always agree with them, but he gets their best advice and then he makes the decision. He's the commander-in-chief.

WALLACE: Just two quick political points. I think if you look at where President Obama's foreign policy is likely to crack wide open among partisan lines, this is it. This is -- you will see Senators McCain, I think, and Graham and others start to string together instances of America leading from behind and of this president's comfort in doing so in places like Libya and now in Syria. And I think this will become the most political part of the president's foreign policy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We see scrambling of party lines over here, right?

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: But I think this is where he's opening himself up to criticism of what was a historically strong America, a strong role for America in the world is being deteriorated by decisions like this. And I think that -- like I said, the counterterror policies are pretty much in line with what Bush and Cheney advocated. It's his foreign policy in this very complicated, very fragile region...

ELLISON: I was going to say that.

WALLACE: ... where I think -- and, again, you know, you're going to see people parting with their own party, but I think Senators McCain and Graham and Chambliss and others are going to open up a line of attack.

ELLISON: In a region that is changing rapidly, the United States needs to be seen to be on the side of people who are fighting for -- for liberation, for democracy. And, by the way, is the world really going to miss Bashar al-Assad? I mean, it'd be great if he was gone. And...

CUTTER: And he will go.

RADDATZ: Something has to happen this year. I mean, that's the sense I got over there. Something has to happen. Either he is -- he is gone or it's fragmented completely. People are so nervous over there in that region.

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