Show: Larry King Live
Larry King: We’re back discussion terrorism and the return of the president from vacation. In Clute, Texas is Congressman Ron Paul, Republican of Texas. He’s a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was a candidate for his party’s presidential nomination in 2008. Here in LA is Tanya Acker, political analyst and contributor to HuffingtonPost.com. In DC is Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily Beast, professor in City University of New York and author of “he Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again” And in New York is Andrea Tantaros, conservative columnist and Republican strategist.
Congressman Paul, how’s the president dealt with this terror thing, do you think?
Ron Paul: Well, I think in about the way I would expect, nothing too special, nothing bad, nothing real good. Because I don’t think we’re getting to the bottom of it. Because everybody’s talking about a war on terrorism and a lot of us have come to the conclusion that terrorism is a tactic and you can’t declare war on a tactic and just what are we doing. And too often what I hear Obama saying is that we have to expand the war. You know, we’re in a lot of countries over there and we’re using these drones to drop them on people, and to me that’s an act of war. And we’ve done that in Yemen, and we’ve done that in Pakistan, we’ve done that this week. And I think that’s the real issue: how far do we expand this when the declaration of war against terrorism and radical Islam, I mean, it’s endless. It has to be more narrowed down and we have to have a target and understand what’s going on. We have to try to understand why there are people who are incentivized to come here and try to do us harm. And I don’t think we’re doing that. I don’t think they did it in the Bush administration, I don’t think they’re doing it in this administration either.
Larry King: Tanya, the president has talked about accountability at all levels. How is he doing?
Tanya Acker: Well look, I think that Congressman Paul actually just raised a number of very, very good points. Because when we’re talking about this war on terror, we do have to be more precise about what it is we are doing. Yemen is a very different place from Iraq, which is a very different place from Afghanistan. And until we start to get our handle on some of these internal problems and why these situations are so combustible, then we’re simply going to simply be declaring war on a tactic without any resolution. So I think in terms of what you’re seeing in the president’s approach in Yemen is we can’t simply drop bombs. We can’t simply launch missile strikes. We do have to look at some of the situation on the ground. It’s a civil war. We have to give the president of Yemen some cover.
Larry King: Andrea, do we do enough here of cause and effect.
Andrea Tantaros: I just want to go back to what Ron Paul and Tanya said. To say that we need to take time to get a better understanding that this is a civil war; that is completely the rhetoric that we can’t hear right now. And I’ll tell you why, Larry. A man almost blew up 300 people on an airplane. Now they seem to know that they’re at war with us by declaring Jihad. We don’t seem to be acknowledging that at least in our administration now, and we have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that the Bush administration made. Look, Obama bungled the initial response. We know that. Especially you think he would have learned from George Bush’s visual on the Gulf course, but he didn’t. And the biggest mistake was – but he can fix it – the biggest mistake was not trying this guy as an enemy combatant. That was a missed opportunity, now we’re in negotiations with him, as Brandon said, and he has an opportunity to not send these 40 Yemeni men back to Yemen. That would be the best thing he could do to immediately stop the threat. Because we cannot perpetually be on duty. We have to strike them; it’s vital that we strike them before they can even craft these attacks.
Larry King: Before I get a break I got to take Peter, what are your thoughts?
Peter Beinart: What does it mean by “to strike them”? You know, we kill a couple of terrorists and we kill hundreds or thousands innocent people who’ve then become sympathetic to terrorism. That’s why I think ultimately war, at least in the way your other guest is suggesting, doesn’t really make any sense. This is not primarily a military conflict. It’s primarily an ideological and economic conflict. And the military should be used sparingly.
Larry King: And we’re going to take a break and come right back. Dick Cheney has been on the attack over president Obama’s handling of terrorism. The White House strikes back; in 60 seconds.
Former Vice President, Dick Cheney, has been harshly critical of president Obama’s handling of national security issues for months. In the aftermath of the thwarted Christmas day bombing attack, he accused the president of trying to pretend the United States is not at war with terrorists. Deputy national security advisor, John Brennan, countered Cheney’s comments during a series of Sunday talk shows. Watch.
John Brannan: Either the vice president is willfully mischaracterizing this president’s position, both in terms of language he uses and the actions he’s taken. Or he’s ignorant of the facts. In either case it doesn’t speak well of what the vice president is doing. The clear evidence is that this president has been very, very strong. In his inaugural address he said we’re at war with this international network of terrorists.
Larry King: Congressman Paul, what about you? He’s in your party. What about Dick Cheney’s complaints?
Ron Paul: Well, I think he had his 8 years and he’s caused a lot of trouble for our country, and he perpetuated a war in Iraq that was unnecessary and wrongheaded. So I would say that it would be best he not be so critical right now. But I’m still not uncritical of that policy; I think the policy remains the same and we’ve heard it on the show tonight already, that they are going to attack us and they declared war against us. And it’s always they and them. But who are they? You know, after 9/11, 14 or 15 of the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. I mean, we didn’t attack Saudi Arabia, we attacked Iraq. So it doesn’t make sense. And those individuals who are trained or at least planned in Germany and Spain, some of them even got trained here in the United States. So you don’t declare war against these countries and say that we have to go in and start bombing Pakistan and bombing Afghanistan and bombing Yemen. They happen to be there; that’s true. But they’re there because we stimulate them. We drive them into the hands of Osama Bin Laden by us going there and causing people to get so angry, it helps his recruiting efforts. He has written about this, he has said this. He says, “I want the Americans to come over here and get bogged down, bankrupt their country, and besides, it will help my recruiting efforts”. And we’re doing exactly what he had planned.
Larry King: We’ll be right back. By the way, tomorrow night Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security will be with us. Will the renewed focus on terror shift attention away from healthcare reform and other issues? We’ll talk about that after the break.
Larry King: Tanya Acker, is all this terror talk causing us to shift away from other things?
Tanya Acker: Well, to some extent it is. Because we’re actually not talking a lot about how to fight terrorism. We’re seeing folks like Dick Cheney level these extremely partisan criticisms, which I think that people on both sides suggest maybe inappropriate; we should really be thinking about new tactics. But the interesting thing is when you hear folks like Cheney and those partisans, part of the problem with that critique is that it suggests somehow that that administration was infallible, that they got the terror fight right, when a lot of people know that they didn’t. They cut terror funding for New York City, they opposed overseas screening of cargo shipments even after they said “let this Dubai company run 6 U.S. ports.” So the notion that they’re infallible is what I think is really rubbing some people the wrong way right now.
Larry King: Andrea, if this is a war on terrorism, is it wrong to criticize the commander in chief?
Andrea Tantaros: No, absolutely not. And Democrats didn’t seem to have a problem with it when George Bush was in office. So I guess if it’s good for the donkey, it’s also good for the elephant. We absolutely need to be looking at strategies going forward, and I hope the administration starts to look at this as priority number one. But Larry, given the fact that over the last year a majority of the American people believe that the economy should be issue number one, yet Democrats continue to focus on healthcare, tells me that they’re still going to pursue other issues like climate change, immigration, […], when they should be focusing on this as their number one priority when they go back to Washington.
Larry King: Peter, hold up. Peter, isn’t the economy and healthcare intertwined, in a sense?
Peter Beinart: Well, I think they are. The economy and the healthcare happen to be massive issues for tens of millions of Americans who don’t have jobs and who don’t have healthcare. And climate change also happens to be a massive peril threatening the world. Of course, terrorism is a significant issue. But you tend to find with Dick Cheney and other Republicans is they make terrorism seem like it is the only threat that America faces. Let’s put this in perspective. This was a much smaller attack than the one that was attempted on 9/11, and it failed. And I think everybody after 9/11 thought that Al-Qaida would have much bigger attacks, that were 9/11+++. It turns out they can’t even execute 8 years later a 9/11 minus. Yes, terrorism is a threat. But we don’t need to be hysterical about it.
Larry King: Andrea, were you laughing?
Andrea Tantaros: Unbelievable. That we shouldn’t be hysterical about it.
Peter Beinart: Yes, we shouldn’t be hysterical about it.
Andrea Tantaros: Yeah, until one of your family members is on a plane.
Peter Beinart: I have close friends who died from terrorism. I don’t need a lecture about it from you, thank you very much.
Andrea Tantaros: As do I. But when the foreign minister of Yemen comes out and says that there are hundreds of more men plotting attacks in Yemen on U.S. soil, and we’ve decided to lawyer this guy up that we’ve captured and not try and get as much information from him about saving lives of Americans and preventing future attacks… well, that’s just plain stupid.
Peter Beinart: No, that’s called having a Constitution and believing in due process, which is what makes us different from them.
Andrea Tantaros: You can still get information with due process.
Tanya Acker: The interesting thing is what Andrew is doing right now is what you see happen on the right more generally. They’re really suggesting that we’ve got to make this false choice between our Constitution and our values, and being safe. And that’s just not true. We have tried terrorists on United States soil before. We tried and convicted Ramzi Yousef here. We tried and convicted Timothy McVeigh, we tried and convicted Richard Reid. So now you’re hearing these folks suggest, “Oh well, you know, if you believe in the Constitution you don’t believe in safety”. But that’s just false. That’s a false choice.
Andrea Tantaros: Tanya, I think a majority of the Americans don’t give a fig about the rights of a radical Islamic extremist.
Peter Beinart: Well, then they’re wrong.
Tanya Acker: I think they care about the Constitution.
Andrea Tantaros: I think they care about their lives more than anything.
Larry King: Ron, you want to get in on this?
Ron Paul: Well, how is everybody able to convict. I mean, in this country it used to be that you were suspects and you had trial. But now she’s advocating torture. Can you imagine how much harm those torture pictures did to us? I am absolutely positive that there was a great deal of harm done in the Muslim world to radicalize thousands because that was the image of America. For the little bit of information they might have gotten by waterboarding and undermining the goodness of America, that we are now the torturers of the world. Now both parties accept the Bush Doctrine that you have preventative war and you go out and you start wars and march around and attack countries and torture people. This is not what America is all about. This is what we have to change. We were supposed to have some change, but unfortunately we’re maintaining the status quo and we have to address the subject of the Bush doctrine of preventative war. Because if we continue to do that, we will bankrupt our country. This costs a lot of money and it is related to healthcare. When you put a trillion dollars overseas, there is a trillion dollars less here to help people at home.
Larry King: Let me get a break, we’ll talk more about the president’s return right after this.
Let’s get in a call for our panel. St. Petersburg, Florida, hello.
Caller: Yes, thank you. I have two questions, basically. The one is first: has there been an official declaration by Mr. Obama in the case of Afghanistan? And then second of all, what are we going to do when we start trying all these terrorist after 2 years, 3 years. The numbers get up to 1000, 2000. How many are we going to put in to the criminal justice system then?
Larry King: Peter, we haven’t declared any war in Afghanistan, have we?
Peter Beinart: Well, in fact Obama has said we’re at war several time.
Larry King: We haven’t declared war though Congress.
Peter Beinart: No, but some people still refer to the December 14, 2001 declaration of war after 9-11 and soon after that we went to war in Afghanistan. So I think it is pretty clear we are at war in Afghanistan.
Ron Paul: Larry, may I interject.
Larry King: Go ahead.
Ron Paul: No, there was no declaration after Iraq. There was an authority given. Matter of fact, I thought it was important, I thought that would restrain us from getting into these unnecessary, unwinnable wars. Because in the committee I brought up the amendment that said this amendment is to declare war. If you want to go to war, vote for it. Nobody voted for it, including myself. But the point was that if you’re serious, declare a war, get the people and the Congress behind it, and then you’re really into it. But they don’t want that. They don’t want the responsibility of that. The Congress doesn’t even want to do it; they want to give it to the administration and if it doesn’t go well then they can criticize the administration. I think that’s one of our biggest flaws; we don’t declare war and we’re in war all the time.
Larry King: Andrea, you think the president should have come back sooner?
Andrea Tantaros: Yes, I do. I think he should have. And as I said before, Larry, George Bush faced so much criticism when he was on the golf course that day. We all remember those images. You’d think Obama would have learned from that lesson. But he did not. And I think from a PR perspective, an optics perspective, it just looked really bad. And I think now he needs to come back and take this issue extremely seriously. I think one of the mistakes he also made was almost running a campaign, a PR campaign and messaging through press releases and sending out the surrogates on his behalf. When he did come out, we know that he bungled his statement by saying this was one isolated extremist. And he looked ignorant. But it’s my take that because Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs said that the system works, that this was a collective message strategy on behalf of the White House that they absolutely got wrong.
Larry King: Tanya?
Tanya Acker: Yeah, what’s interesting is that Michael Chertoff said on Sunday along with the last head of the CIA when they talked about the response that Janet Napolitano made. And you know, one of the things is that most folks know – and she’s recanted it – but I find so interesting this kind of need to seize on that to sort of suggest that the administration does not care about the war on terror when most people know that there have been a number of foiled attacks this year. I think that this attack certainly shouldn’t happened. There were lapses, it shouldn’t have happened, there should have been better screening mechanisms. But by the same token, by and large, our system has worked in terms of foiling some of these other attacks. So I think that we have got to be very careful about trying to use this in order to … I disagree with Andrea. I don’t think we should be getting hysterical.
Andrea Tantaros: Tanya, Janet Napolitano is the one who said we should call this an overseas contingency operation.
Tanya Acker: We need to have an important, coordinated, concerted strategy. But certainly that doesn’t mean we got to react disproportionately.
Larry King: Alright guys, we have certainly not heard the last of this. The view from inside: U.S. security experts. We’ll meet Secretary William Cohen, Frank Townsend and Jack Rice next.