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tv   Face the Nation  CBS  September 8, 2013 8:30am-9:01am PDT

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>> today on face the nation, breaking news, charlie rose has just interviewed syrian president, bashar al-assad. we'll have a report, and get reaction from white house chief of staff, dennis macdonald, only on face the nation. captioning sponsored by cbs from cbs news in washington, "face the nation" with bob schieffer. >> bob: and good morning, charlie rose has interviewed bashar al-assad in syria. he is in beirut this morning now. charlie get right to it, what did he tell you? >> well, he denied that he had anything to do with the attack. he deny thad he knew, in fact, that there was a chemical attack, notwithstanding what
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has been said, and notwithstanding the videotape. he said there's not evidence to make a conclusive judgment. he would not say, even though i read him the lead paragraph of the new york times today, and the store betheir chemical weapons supply. he said i can't confirm or deny we have chemical weapons. he did say, if we do in fact have them, and i'm not saying yes or no. they're in centralized control, so no one else has access to them. he suggested as he has before that perhaps the rebels had something to do with it. he made references to aleppo. the most important thing as he says is that there's no evidence that i used chemical weapons against my own people. and if, in fact the evidence
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has evidence, then they should show that evidence and make their case. i then obviously repeated the fact that secretary ker sein the process of making the case and that, in fact, that information is being shown to members of congress, as they begin to come back to washington and consider an authorization from the president to make a military strike. he said that he did not necessarily know whether or not there was going to be a strike. obviously that they were prepared as they could be for a strike. he said -- suggested there would be, among people that are in line with him, some kind of retaliation if a strike was made, that that would be what would be -- but he would notine talk about any kind of the nature of the response. he had a message to the american people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the middle east in wars and conflict in the middle east,
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that the result had not been good, and that they should not get involved, and that they should communicate through their congress and through their leadership in washington not to authorize a strike. >> bob: charlie, did he seem resigned to the fact that the united states is probably going to attack, or did he predict that congress wouldn't approve this? did you get any kind of sense of what he thinks is going to happen next? >> bob, the question i asked is do you expect an attack. he said, i don't know. prepared the best we can. he did not say he would assume there would be an attack in syria because of the chemical weapons. i also pursued the question of whether there was anything he was prepareed to do to stop the attack, for example, to give up chemical weapons, if that would stop the attack, and i raised the question, did he fear that if there was an
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attack it would degrade his own military and therefore make it more likely that it might tip the balance. he's very, very concern body that as an issue. he talk body his father, and the lessons he learned from his father, that war was ruthless, and that his father went all out to destroy, at that time, the muslim brotherhood. so he was calm. he knew the situation he was in. in fact, damascus seemed relatively calm where i was today. there's a clear sense they are closely watching what is happening in washington. i think the reason they did the interview today is because they're watching what happens in washington. >> bob: the interview will air in its entirety monday night on the charlie rose show on pbs. excerpts of the interview will air for the first time on cbs
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this morning tomorrow. with more on cbs news broadcast. back in washington, woe turn to the white house chief of staff. what is your reaction to what you just heard? >> well, i think that the most important thing is what charlie said at the end. he said that assad is clearly watching -- closely watching what is happening in washington. bob, i spent the last couple of weeks talking to dozens of members of congress to a person, they do not reput or deny or negate the intelligence. that tells us that we all believe that on august 21st, he used chemical weapons against his own people in what is the largest chemical attack in three decades, and the question on the table is should there be consequences for somebody who is using terrible weapons to gas and to kill more than a thousand people, including hundreds of children, and what should those consequences be?
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the answer to those questions should be closely followed, as charlie said, in damascus and also in tehran and among hezbollah and others. so it's important that congress be a full effort and pass the resolution to send a clear and very convincing message to someone who clearly is not understanding his requirements to the international community. >> bob: what you're saying is that he's a liar? >> i'm saying that he's clearly misleading. he appears to be to be a lie. every indication we is is that h have is that he carried out it attack, and we need to indicate what's expected of him. what's expected is to live up to the prohibition now, almost a hundred years old against using these dastardly weapons to gas women and children. >> bob: he said if united states has the evidence, show
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the evidence. well, you've seen these terrible videos, bob, and others have seen the terrible videos. and i hope every member of congress -- >> bob: you're saying that's evidence? >> i'm saying i hope every member of congress looks at those videos before they make up his or her mind how to vote on the resolution tomp hold him to account, we need congress to vote for the resolution. >> bob: the president is going to talk to the american people on tuesday night. what can he say that he hasn't already said? >> well, i think ootsd most it' important people hear directly from him. we want to make sure the whole country hears him. undertaking an action using force, even targeted limited force, no boots on the effort, even use of force of that nature is consequential, and so the president wants to make sure the whole country hears him. what he'll tell the country is this is targeted, limited
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consequential force. this is not iraq. this is not afghanistan. this isant an extended air campaign like in libya. it's targeted and reasonable and bdable to the american people after the last 11, 12 years we've been through to be asking tough questions, and we intend to answer them. >> bob: you say the people who see the evidence, no one rebuts the evidence, if you've shown them. yet, there are a lot of people in both parties who are very much opposed to this. why do you think that is? is it politics? they don't think it's effective? because i have to tell you they think you're losing support with every passing day. there's indication every day that somebody else comes oit against giving the president support. >> it's too early to jump to conclusions about who's where. frankly, members have been in their states and districts and have not had a chance to see all that we are ready to brief
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them on. those who have seen it are very compelled, as i've said to you, the question becomes then, why is it that there's opposition? it's understandable, bob. we've been through 11 or 12 years of tremendous sacrifice. we are learning our lessons from that, and the president has learned our lessons from that, that's why we're talking about targeted, limited operations with a very narrow objectives. we're not talking about overturning a government or occupation. this is not iraq or afghanistan. we're talking about consequential action to reinforce a prohibition against these weapons. it's important, bob. >> bob: could i interrupt you. isn't that what we always hear. vietnam was going to be a limited situation. iraq was going to be a limited situation. you say it's not iraq, and i don't disagree wu. but isn't it -- >> i think that's --
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>> bob: isn't it difficult once you start down the roads that we need a little bit more and a little bit more? >> it's important to recognize that we need to be disciplined to not allow the mission to create -- allow us to be pulled into it. keeping congress engaged will help ensure we >> i want to be clear, bob. the president opposed iraq. he knew it was a mission with unplanned for consequences, unbudgeted for costs, and we saw the result of that. and that's why the president undertook the effort that he did with our military leadership to end that war. so we've learned our lessons from that. so we have a targeted narrow mission, and we're asking congress to be a full partner in that to be sure of that. >> bob: what happens if you don't get approval? >> i'm not going to engage in
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hypotheticals. >> bob: what would the impact of that be? >> i believe if congress wants to hold the assad regime to account, and if congress wants to make sure that the iranians, hezbollah and others understand that you cannot have greater operating space to pursue weapons of mass destruction like the nuclear program in iran, then they have to vote yes for this resolution. basketball what if the president has drawn a red line? the united states credibility has been put on the line when he does that. what if congress doesn't give him the authority to go ahead? how will that play around the world to our friends and allies? >> i think that we are going to make every effort to make sure that congress -- this is not an emptied exercise, bob. we've briefed more than a hundred members to make sure they have all the information that they need and that they can make this decision. if i want to hold assad to
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account for carrying out this attack using point gases, chemical weapons to kill upwards of 400 children, they have to vote yes. >> bob: do you think you will get this? >> i have every confidence we'll get th, because i know that congress will want -- having seen those videos, having seen the intelligence which no one rebuts, i believe congress will want to support the resolution. >> bob: thank you for being with us. >> thanks for having me. box*b we taped that just a minute ago. and joining me now is mike rogers. he's a >> reporter:. mr. mcdonagh says he thinks congress will give him, give the president the approval. do you think so? >> well, i think it's an uphill slog from here. part of the problem was they started today or last week. they needed to start two weeks ago on this process, and
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haven't done it. they don't have strong relationships in congress today. that's a huge problem. and candidly have done an awful job explaining to the american people what is in our national security. what is in the national united states interest in any level of engagement in a place like syria. >> bob: i would just say at this point, that i don't know anybody who ks if the vote were held today that they would get this, that the congress m would go along? >> i can't disagree, and the only thing more cob fusing is their strategy to try and get by representatives in congress and the american people. it's a confusing mess to this point, and that has been their biggest challenge on what is an incredibly important issue. this cannot be about barack obama. it has to be what is in the best interest of the united states of america. we have to have that debate and that discussion. >> bob: you want congress to
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give him the approval. what exactly do you want them to approve? >> first of all, i believe the adage of peace through strength. we have lost that; and that means we will suffer the consequences of that in the future. we have to get back to that. i don't think we should even debate a limited -- the first part is not a debate about which missile and which ship hits what target. that's a serious mistake. this is bigger than that. when you look at all of our national security interests, the first bit being how do we make sure chemical weapons used -- and by the way, this is a pattern of use over time. no intervention caused a greater scale of use, and they're using it to their advantage including killing civilians. they believe that helps them. that's how we got here. why don't we empower the president so that we have the credibility for a negotiate the settlement. we should stop talking about
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limited actions and how this work. nobody, by the way, is causing for massive military intervention. a, it wouldn't work, and b, it's bad for national security interests. but right now the united states of america doesn't have the credibility to go to the opposition and say stop shooting, we're going to negotiate with assad for two weeks to get this to a conclusion and getting him out of power. that's one great way we have to protect the chemical and conventional weapons. what we altto do is members of congress is haveér a thorough debate about all the levels of national security interests. first, chemical and conventional weapons. if that spreads and gets into europe, we're going to pay a heavy price. the next level up, iran. they have been a bad actor here. they're using it as a proxy. this is beyond a syrian civil war. hezbollah troops fighting on behalf of assad, and the russians providing military assistance, and i argue
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military hardware and military goods. all of that stirring the pot that says, if we don't find a solution here that means having credibility to have the solution, and which may mean military strikes this thing is going to descend even further out of control. >> bob: do you think the president hurlt his case by saying he wants to go to the congress? >> well, i think the way it happened, was mystifying to me. so the president announces it on a saturday, doesn't call congress back. if you were going to do that, call them back for a serious national security debate. i think that had to happen, review the evidence we had and have a quick order of efbts. instead, he announced it, and then left the country for a week. so members were back in their districts without access to the classified information they needed, i think, to come to a good conclusion. >> bob: so you think he's actually lost support in the last week? >> i think it's very clear he's lost support in the last
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week. it's difficult to make a decision when you don't have access to the classified information. not everybody could get back in time for the stipulated briefings. and again, my frustration is i think that this is an important piece of america's national security moving forward. it does mean our nationship rel with russia. do we get a nuclear iran or not. can we contain north korea. they have chemical and biological stock pile that is make us very nervous. the decisions here will impact those decisions that those countries make on the use of these kinds of weapons. that's why this is important to the world national security. >> bob: let me ask you this question. a lot of the members, both democrats and republicans are saying the reaction from constituents is overwhelmingly against any kind of action here. are you geting that kind of reaction?
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>> absolutely. people -- >> bob: and you're willing to go ahead and support this even though constituents are against it? >> these are national security issues. as a representative democracy, we need to come here and have this debate. i completely understand why people are skeptical of this. you have a reluctant commander in chief coming to the american people sayingime going to do something, but not a lot. they're not exactly sure what we're trying to do. that's what american people are hearing, and hearing that, i'm skeptical as well, and i'm frustrated with this president on syria and other foreign policy issues that got us to the place that we are today. the problem is here, if we just make it us against -- or the american people against the frustrations of the president uwe miss the big picture what is in the best interest of u.s. national security interests. small and effective now. big and ugly later. we're either going to pay the price now or a bigger price
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later. the president hasn't made the case. again, it's confounding. they're going to send us this week -- think about this, this tells you the relationship with congress. it's not great. they're sending susan rice to brief congress on the year anniversary of bengahzi, and trying to win votes. the credibility gap there is huge. they need to regroup here, think about where they want to go and make this about america's national security, not just how many targets they're going to strike >> bob: mr. chairman, thank you for being wution. we'll be back and talk to two of our correspondents who have
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>> bob: we're back with more from syria. correspondent elizabeth palmer is the only more than reporter allowed to report from damascus lately, and kallisa
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ward is near the turkey, syria border and spent time with rebels inside syria earlier this week. we'll start with elizabeth. what are you hearing? >> you know, bob, wob oone of t saddest things is the war is it's silenced the capitol. two years ago when the demonstrations were opeople thought they would have a choice between the dictatorship, bashar al-assad and something brlt. that's no longer the case. we have assassinations and bombings on the dorstep of damascus. people now think they have a choice between bashar al-assad and something worse. and that's what the syrian state media hammered away at them. al-queda fighters on the outskirt of the city waiting to rush in and kill you all in your beds. people are afraid, especially the christians and minoritys here. they think that more than
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military strikes might be the green light for a rebel offensive that would turn the city into a blood bath. they're really hoping and feeling fearful and hoping that president obama will find an alternative to military strikes as a way to responding to those chemical attacks. >> bob: elizabeth, thank you very much ka calista you were with some of the rebels this week. what are you hearing? >> good morning, bob. the rebels we traveled said they want the strikes to happen and happen soon. their concern is that the longer the delay, the more time president assad has to move things around. they also told us that they're concerned that if the strikes are want severe enough, they may even have a counter productive effect. in other words, it may do little to diminish assad's capacity to kill, but anger him enough that he would
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retaliate against the syrian people. we asked in what ways they were planning to capitolize on the strike fist they do happen. they told us they're planning all sorts of military operations, but the reality is that these rebel forces are still very fragmented and still very disorganized. and there's really no coordination going on between the u.s. military and the rebel groups. so it's unlikely that they're able to plan any major operations, but certainly if the strikes do happen, they will try to go in and take control of any strategic targets that the u.s. hits such as air fields or military bases. of course, if the assad air force is up in the sky the next day dropping bombs, it's unlikely they'll be able to hold those targets. >> bob: thank you, ask be careful. we'll be back in a moment with personal thoughts.
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>> bob: put aside how we got from here to there, and put aside it may be poorly handled. here we are. the president of the united states drew a line in the sand, a red line. at this point, that may be the only good reason left for congress to give him the authority he now asked for to respond to syria's use of chemical weapons. when the president of the united states says something, the rest of the world, our friends and our enemies pay attention. if we do not follow through, what impact will that have on north korea or iran the next time we warn them of dire consequences if they press on with their nuclear weapons program? more important, how will it be viewed by our strong allies like japan? we have treaty that is promise we will retaliate if they are attacked by nuclear powers. will they now question our resolve? i don't like anything about
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where we are, but in a dangerous world when the united states takes a stand, and then goes back on its word, we're left in an even more dangerous place.
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>> bob: some of our stationss are leaving us now. but for most of you, we'll see you right back. ,,,,,,,,
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