Show: Larry King Live
Larry King: Okay, we meet Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, she’s a member of the Homeland Security committee, and she chairs the panel sub-committee on transportation security and infrastructure protection. Representative Ron Paul is a Republican of Texas, member of the International Relations Committee. He was a flight surgeon in the air force, and an OB/GYN in civilian life. And Ben Stein, the economist attorney, former presidential speech writer, columnist with Fortune Magazine.
Representative Lee, were you satisfied with the president’s statement today and do you think we’re now getting on top of things?
Sheila Jackson Lee: Absolutely, Larry. I believe the president has always been on top of this issue of securing the homeland. It is not a partisan issue, it is not a Democratic issue or Republican issue. And he stood today and indicated that we now are moving forward on some of the items that we’ve already done, improving our security and our screening, looking to ensure that we are going after the terrorists who want to come after us, finding Al-Qaida wherever it is, and yes, doing an inventory and investigation on what happened and why. But I believe that there are several issues that we have to address. And one of them is the serious stovepiping of intelligence. Communicating information that could have prevented this individual from boarding this plane; flight 253.
Larry King: Congressman Paul, is politics outside the door here?
Ron Paul: Well, I don’t know, that depends on your definition of politics. If you disagree, I guess it’s political. If you agree then it isn’t. But no, the answer to your first question, you know, this statement wasn’t all that satisfactory to me, sort of putting the pressure on the people, if we were just more vigilant. It seems to me that the people had the responsibility in that embassy and should have been more vigilant. You know, we’re right now spending 75 billion dollars for intelligence gathering, and look at what we have. We had FBI agents telling us about the pilots that were flying but not landing an airplane before 9/11, and here we have this incident. So I would say we come up way short and I think there’s a fundamental flaw in the system, and that is government’s incapable of doing it. Everything else in this country, all the businesses and factories and hotels and everything, they’re protected by the owners and by private security. But all of a sudden if you own an airplane, you have to depend on the bureaucracy. And 75 billion dollars worth of intelligence gathering, and all of a sudden we’re all going to be safe as long as we’re alert and tell everybody what’s going on.
Larry King: Governments are responsible to do that Ben, aren’t they? We can’t have private industry run our security.
Ben Stein: Governments are totally responsible. I was stunned at what President Obama said today. I mean, it was as if somebody said after Pearl Harbor: “Okay, we all got to be vigilant against the Japanese and the Germans”. It’s the government’s job to protect us, we’re paying a fortune in tax and debt to have them do it. They’re not taken it seriously, they’re being like bureaucrats and really just doing 9 to 5 work and not getting the job done. Look, this is a war, we’ve said it over and over again. It’s not a war against Islam, but it is a war against terrorists. We know a lot about them, it’s not getting shared. I am not a stock holder in IBM, but I think you could give this job to IBM, in about a month they can come up with a system where there will be little dots going off on a million different people’s desks in the bureaucracy if somebody like this Nigerian guy was trying to get on an airplane. Let’s get the work out like we mean it.
Larry King: Congresswoman Lee, you want to respond to that?
Sheila Jackson Lee: I do, I do frankly. We are getting to work, we have been getting to work, but there are problems. And frankly this needs to be addressed by Congress and by the administration. The stovepiping that I was suggesting was very obvious for this individual who had family members who notified our embassy in Nigeria, and that information was not transmitted anywhere else until Homeland Security. It’s obvious that Homeland Security should be the focal point and the key in terms of acting on any threat to the homeland. That means that the information that we received, that was a viable behavioral assessment that you could have made on this individual. He went to Yemen, he has become radicalized. His family has called, and therefore there was a basis of acting. We don’t need to talk about 75 billion, and by the way, my friends on the other side of the aisle have voted against aviation security funding and also explosives funding. But what the president can do at it, Larry, what I would suggest that he do is to make a recess appointment to the individual that is being held up as the TSA administrator by a Republican senator. Leadership is important is in this aspect, so I believe the government is responsible, I take responsibility and we have a way to solve the problem.
Larry King: I got to take a break, hold on. Ben, hold it. I got to take a break and we’ll have Ben and Ron respond right after this.
Ron Paul, you want to respond first to the Congresswoman?
Ron Paul: Yes, I do. One thing that is missing here is never asking the question what is the motive. With Abdulmutallab he said why he did it. He said it was because we bombed Yemen 2 weeks ago; that was his motive. Osama Bin Laden said that he has a plan for America. First, he wants to bog us down in the Middle East in a no-win war, he wants to bankrupt this country, demoralize us, as well as have us do things that motivate people to join his radical movement. It seems like we have fallen into his trap. You know, why is it off base? Today when the gentleman indicated that he did it because of the bombing, you know what the administration said? They just dismissed it; it can’t possibly be so. If you dismiss motivations for why they hate us, we can never resolve this. There is hate on both sides, but you have to ask the question, “Why do they hate?” and they usually come up with the reason and we’re foolish not to take that into consideration.
Larry King: Ben?
Ben Stein: Well, I never heard anything quite like that in my whole life. What he’s saying basically is we are doing something wrong by defending ourselves. Look at these terrorists trying to kill the government in Yemen. We got to help defend them, they’re our friends. We can’t just let Al-Qaida run wild…
Ron Paul: Why, why?
Ben Stein: Why should we stop them? Because they’re terrorists and murderers and they’re very anti-American.
Congressman: Why are they terrorists?
Ben Stein: They’re terrorist and murderers because they’re psychos.
Ron Paul: They’re terrorists because we’re occupiers.
Ben Stein: No, we’re not occupiers. That’s the same anti-semitic argument we’ve heard over and over, no.
Ron Paul: Now that is a vicious attack.
Larry King: One at time guys.
Ben Stein: That is not a vicious attack.
Larry King: Alright, let’s go back to Sheila.
Sheila Jackson Lee: I think I can referee between the congressman and Ben.
Larry King: Two Republicans going at it with a Democratic liberal in the middle. This is fascinating.
Sheila Jackson Lee: I can referee between the two of them. Let me referee, please.
Larry King: Alright, Sheila say something.
Sheila Jackson Lee: Yes, let me referee, please. That is interesting.
Larry King: Both have good points, right?
Sheila Jackson Lee: Well, they have good points, but let me clarify and try to say that Congressman Paul has a point on our positions that we took in Iraq, which obviously created a very terrible atmosphere and we all asked the question what were the results. And, of course, Afghanistan is still a question, but we must be reminded that the terrorists acted under President Bush’s clock, and so this can’t be an issue of the president’s inactivity, per se, and lack of commitment to the homeland. But we have to do better. And I believe we need to have behavioral assessment. There was no reason for this individual to have a visa that still was in place until 2010, for them to be able to travel. There was no reason for him not to be detected because of his behavior. Behavioral assessment; we need to make the homeland security of the nation focus. Secretary of Homeland Security should be the point person, and that person should establish a roadmap that then allows us to fund and to put resources accordingly. And finally, the president should put in place the TSA administrator by a way of recess appointment letter.
Larry King: Debt, taxes, and these three are going to be back tomorrow.