PoliticsNation, Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
September 10, 2014
Guest: John Wertheim, Jim McDermott, Barbara Boxer, Evan Kohlmann, Steve
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you for
tuning in. I`m live from Washington, D.C.
In just three hours, President Obama will deliver a primetime address to
detail his strategy for destroying the terrorist group ISIS. The President
spending the day consulting with his national security council in the
Earlier, cameras caught the President in the Oval Office on the phone with
the king of Saudi Arabia. And sources tell NBC News, the President and
Vice President have been calling members of Congress today urging them to
move quickly on a vote authorizing the training and arming of Syrian
rebels. It is part of a plan expected to also include air strikes in
Syria. But no U.S. boots on the ground.
The President`s speech comes against a tense back drop. One day before the
tenth anniversary of 9/11 and after the gruesome execution of two American
Now, 61 percent say military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is in
the national interest. People are scared. It is a level of fear we
haven`t seen since 9/11. This threat has to be dealt with. Tonight, we`ll
hear the President`s plan of action. We`ll have live reports from the
Pentagon and the White House. And reaction from Congressman Jim McDermott
and "Washington Post`s" E.J. Dionne here in Washington.
We`ll go live to the Pentagon in a moment. but let`s start tonight with
Kristen Welker at the White House. Kristen, what does the White House
think the President needs to do tonight?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rev., I think the White
House thinks the President needs to do a few things. First, not only make
a clear case for his strategy for combating ISIS but convincing the
American people that he has the right strategy. As has been pointed out, a
majority of Americans approve military engagement against ISIS. But the
President`s approval ratings are at an all time low when it comes to
dealing with foreign policy.
So he is going to make a robust case for why his strategy, whether it is
going to be a comprehensive strategy is the right one. He is going to talk
about the need to go on offense. He will talk about why ISIS is so
dangerous. How it poses to threats to U.S. interest abroad. And if the
group isn`t stop, how it could become a larger threat to Americans at home.
So he is going to talk about the need to go on the offense. We know that
U.S. officials have said that the President is prepared to authorize air
strikes. It is not clear that that is going to be a part of the
President`s speech tonight. Not clear that he is going to get into that
level of specificity. But we do know that he told congressional leaders
yesterday that he doesn`t think he needs their approval to launch more air
strikes into Syria to expand the military campaign.
On that point, he`s also going to make a case to Congress to approve his
request to arm and equip the Syrian opposition forces. That`s a big part
of his strategy. And finally, he is going to prepare the American people
for an open ended engagement. But also make the case, this is not going to
be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There aren`t going to be U.S. boots on the
Back to you.
SHARPTON: Well, there`s a lot to do tonight, Kristen. Thank you.
Kristen Welker at the White House. Thank you again for your time.
SHARPTON: Let`s bring in NBC`s chief correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. How
is the Pentagon planning to take action after the speech?
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Well, Reverend Al, it all
depends what direction they get from the President themselves. It is
expected, of course, that the U.S. is going to increase its cooperation
with the Iraqi forces. That means according to officials, we`re talking
to, more forces that will serve in an advise and assist role. In other
words they`ll work directly with Iraqi combat forces, not in a come about a
zone, not fighting, but they`ll work directly with the combat forces, Iraqi
combat forces in a train advise and assist role to help them better work
their way through combat against the ISIS forces.
Also, there will be definitely an increase in those air strikes that we`ve
seen over the past several weeks. So far more than 150 air strikes against
is targets, which have been very effective in at least halting the
progress, and turning back ISIS forces in some case.
And in reference to what Kristen was talking about, air strikes against
targets in Syria, we are told that the President will not likely mention
specifically that he has authorized air strikes against targets in Syria.
But we are told that this speech will leave no doubt in anybody`s mind that
that is where the U.S. is headed.
And of course, without the cooperation, without the political cooperation
from the Iraqi government, this will go nowhere. Because the Sunnis just
don`t trust Baghdad. And if we can`t win over the Sunnis to participate in
this effort, the effort will go nowhere.
And quite frankly, finally, many official are wondering if the President
will level with the American people and tell the Americans exactly what is
happening here. The U.S. is going to war in Iraq -- Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Well, we`ll be watching and listening. Jim Miklaszewski at the
Pentagon. Thank you so much.
MIKLASZEWSKI: You bet.
SHARPTON: Let me bring in Congressman Jim McDermott, who is also a U.S.
Navy veteran and E.J. Dionne from "The Washington Post." Thank you both
for being here.
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Good to be here.
E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good to be here, Rev.
SHARPTON: Congressman, what do you want to hear from the President
MCDERMOTT: Well, I believe that air strikes alone won`t win this war. So
the President has got to convince us that he has some support from the
Saudis and the Emirates and the Jordanians who are willing to go on the
ground. We have 1,500 people already on the ground and we are not going to
have enough if we don`t have some people from the Muslim and the Arab
community to really come and help.
Training the Syrians -- we trained the Iraqis, didn`t we? And then when it
came time they threw down their guns and ran away and the ISIS picked them
up. So I`m not sure who we are going to be training in Syria. I want to
hear him talk about who he`s got and who he thinks he`s training.
SHARPTON: E.J., what message do Americans need to hear from the President
DIONNE: Well, I think that they want to know that he has a coherent plan
to move forward. And I think that there is a lot has been made of these
polls that show Americans more hawkish and indeed since the brutal
beheading of those two journalists. I think people have got in a more
hawkish mood. But it hasn`t moved as far as people are saying.
Americans are willing to support air strikes. They are very willing to
support air strikes. They are very willing to support aid to Iraqis but
they still do not want American combat forces in there.
And I mean, he has got persuade two groups of people. One, that there are
still people. particularly in his own party who really worry about, you
know, another reengagement in the Middle East. And he has to explain to
them why ISIS is a threat. And then I think on the other side, he has to
persuade folks, as the Congressman said, that we can make this work without
sending American troops and we are going to get support from the Iraqis and
others Sunni Arab countries that we need.
SHARPTON: Congressman, there is a lot of skepticism about going back into
Iraq. I am one of them. But in June, it was 45 percent. Three weeks ago
it was 54 percent. Now it`s 71 percent of people wanting to see something
done. Some kind of action. It shows how closely Americans are following
these events. And it shows a growing interest in doing something about
this, don`t you think?
MCDERMOTT: One of those things you got to watch out, remember who it was
that drove us into this war before. It was Cheney. And Cheney is over at
the American institute today whipping up the troops and make everybody
afraid again. And they`re trying to drive the President into a position
that he has to be very careful that he doesn`t get pushed into.
George Bush was a patsy for Cheney. He never said no to Cheney on
anything. But I think the President has the will to stand up and slowly
make decisions that will be best for Americans.
SHARPTON: Well, I`m not one to agree with Cheney. But you don`t think
there`s a threat here?
MCDERMOTT: I don`t think there is any threat to the United States at this
moment. Surely, you can say of course in the future there might be. But
we could pull back and let the intelligence agencies, keep those people out
of this country if we did nothing more than that. We could protect
The question is why do we want to get in there and try and settle a fight
that we ripped the top off Pandora`s box. We`re now trying to put it all
back in. And where -- it is a very difficult situation we`re in.
SHARPTON: But E.J., when Americans see journalists beheaded, I mean, I was
in New York 9/11 and I know how many of us, all of us that were against the
war as it started later, but many of us felt that terror. That`s real. I
mean, and we haven`t seen since 9/11 the percentage of Americans saying
they feel less safe than before the attacks. I mean, it`s never gone
beyond 40 percent. But this week, a big spike 47 percent of Americans say
they feel less safe than before 9/11. I mean, how should the President
speak to those fears tonight?
DIONNE: Well, I think I was honestly surprised by that number. Because I
don`t think we are less safe at this moment. And the President himself had
a supports taking action against is has gone out of his way to say, that at
the moment, there is no obvious evidence of a threat to us.
DIONNE: Nonetheless, what I think the president is trying to do is to say
this is not the same as the war in Iraq. That he is really -- there were
two wars going on, one was against terrorists. That was the invasion of
Afghanistan and the actions the President has taken since Osama bin Laden,
And the president I think is going to go out of his way tonight to say,
this is not a repeat of the Iraq war. We`re not doing nation building
here. What we are engaging in is a continuation of our counterterrorism
campaign. And I think that`s what the American people support. I do not
think -- and if you look at these polls carefully, they tend to show
support for air strikes, but it doesn`t say that there is anything support
for engagement on the level of Iraq.
SHARPTON: -- in an Iraqi situation.
Congressman Jim McDermott and E.J. Dionne, thank you for your time tonight.
DIONNE: Good to be with you, Rev.
MCDERMOTT: Good to be here.
SHARPTON: Coming up, we`ll go inside the threat from ISIS. An army that
use both twitter and beheadings to spread terror. How can they be stopped?
Plus, Cheney`s attack on President Obama, what he said today about ISIS and
his own record on Iraq.
You`re watching special coverage of the President`s address to the nation
SHARPTON: Our social media community has been talking about President
Obama`s primetime address all day. We are less than three hours away from
hearing the President`s plan on ISIS.
Our question of the day. what do you want to hear from President Obama
Tell us what you think on our Facebook page and we`ll get to your responses
later in the show.
SHARPTON: We`re back with a potentially major development in the Ray Rice
NFL beating story.
A law enforcement official tells Associated Press tonight, he sent the
video of Ray Rice punching his then fiance to an NFL executive five months
ago. According to the report from "AP," the law enforcement source played
a 12-second voicemail from an NFL official, from an NFL office number, on
April 9th, confirming the video arrived.
A female voice expresses thanks and says, quote, you`re right. It`s
If this report turns out to be true, this is in direct contrast to what NFL
commissioner Roger Goodell has been saying. Since this violent video was
released Monday from the TMZ sports show, NFL star Ray Rice punching his
then fiance inside the Atlantic city elevator, the commissioner spoke to
CBS news yesterday and adamantly said, no one in the NFL saw it until this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Yesterday morning I got into the office
and our staff had come to me and said there`s new evidence. There`s video
that you need to see and I watched it then.
NORAH O`DONNELL, CBS NEWS: Did you know that a second tape existed?
GOODELL: Well, we had not seen any videotape of what occurred in the
elevator. We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video, but we
were never granted that opportunity.
O`DONNELL: So did anyone in the NFL see this second videotape before
O`DONNELL: No one in the NFL.
GOODELL: No one in the NFL to my knowledge, and I`ve been asked that same
question and the answer to that is no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But the Associated Press report tonight from a law enforcement
official says the NFL had the video in April. NBC has not confirm this
Joining me now is John Wertheim, executive editor for "Sports Illustrated"
and Diana Russini, NBC Washington sports anchor. Thank you both for your
DIANA RUSSINI, NBC WASHINGTON SPORTS ANCHOR: Thanks for having us on.
JOHN WERTHEIM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (via phone): Thank
SHARPTON: John, if this is true, how damaging is this to Roger Goodell and
WERTHEIM: I think it is potentially fatal to Roger Goodell`s
commissionership. I mean, this already had taken on the whiff of classic
scandal. Who knew what? When did they know it? As you say, this is in
direct contradiction to what he said. This already is immense PR fiasco to
the league. But to outright lie about this.
I think could really seal his fate. I mean, this is, for such a buttoned
up organization as the NFL is, this has been mishandled in the start. And
even in the best case scenario that he was not made available to this. The
fact that this tape appears to have entered the building and that fact that
TMZ has better fact gathering capabilities than the $10 billion, NFL is
really staggering. If this ends up being proven true, I think his
commissionership is in deep, deep trouble.
SHARPTON: Diana, a you`ve been covering this all week. The AP cannot
confirm that anyone in the NFL heard the video or saw the video. But I
mean, what do you think? This is really, really damaging if it proves to
RUSSINI: This story has stunk from the beginning on Monday morning when we
all watched that gruesome second edition of that video. And now it just
seems, it is contradiction after contradiction. This is a PR nightmare for
the NFL. The season just started last weekend. I covered the Washington
redskins here in Washington, D.C. And we`re not doing anything football.
We`re not talking Xs and Os right now.
The entire football season has been overshadowed by this story right now.
And the NFL is doing nothing to help themselves. Somebody is lying here.
And this voice now of this woman, we don`t know who she was at the NFL
office. But the fact that she was able to confirm that that video was in
that building and nobody thought to get that video, watch it, I think we`re
going to be finding out a lot more information.
We were able to confirm with the NBC affiliate down in charlotte that Roger
Goodell did have a speaking engagement tonight. He was supposed to award
the Jaguars` owner with an award. He has canceled that. So I think right
now Roger Goodell is probably sitting in meetings trying to figure out
where do they go next?
Meanwhile, I think the entire country right now is trying to figure out
whether or not Roger Goodell needs to go or not.
SHARPTON: Well, you know, John, you know the NFL did respond. Goodell
canceled tonight but they responded saying quote "we have no knowledge of
this. We`re not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the
video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it."
But if this ends up being so, clearly this is a direct contradiction to
what he has said. And if anyone in his inner circle saw it, this is
devastating for the commissioner.
WERTHEIM: It is devastating either way, really. I mean, again, the fact
that they have had a scandal of this magnitude and didn`t have the
wherewithal or the resources to get this video, that TMZ did. And that`s a
best case scenario. That`s pretty damage.
I mean, one thing I would caution is that this is not a publicly traded
company. There is not a board of directors, there`s no shareholders and
pressure. Roger Goodell`s employers are 30 billionaires and he has made
them very wealthy. Yesterday lost amidst all this news, the buffalo bills,
arguably the poorest franchise just sole for $1.4 billion. So it is a
different dynamic than a CEO of a company going through an embarrassment.
But again, this is a just scandal like I`ve never seen in the NFL. I mean,
this is really, we came in a few weeks ago we were talking about head
trauma and this Ray Rice was unfortunate and ugly. But to see it
mushroomed to a scandal of this dimension is really starting.
SHARPTON: Well Diana, where does this story go next? Where does the story
RUSSINI: I think Roger Goodell needs to come forward and admit what he has
seen and what he has not. I have a feeling he is going to continue to deny
this. How can he backtrack at this point? What was he going to say? I
lied yesterday to CBS News? I lied in all these statements? He needs to
either come forward with the truth and say he made a mistake and step down
or continue denying it if that`s the truth if he didn`t see it.
SHARPTON: Well, at this point, the AP is not saying that he saw it.
They`re saying someone saw it. We`ll see where it goes. Clearly, this is
a situation that gets stranger and stranger. This is an ugly thing for
John Wertheim and Diana Russini, thank you both for your time tonight.
We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: In less than three hours, President Obama is expected to
announce a drama escalation of the campaign against ISIS. Already there
have been 154 air strikes against the terrorist group in Iraq. Continuing
a pattern of using air power against militant groups across the globe.
By one count, President Obama has authorized 328 drone strikes against Al
Qaeda targets in Pakistan. Another 97 drone strikes in Yemen. And we know
from a letter written by Osama bin Laden himself that these strikes had
effect. In 2010, a letter seized from the compound where he was killed.
And translated by the U.S. military, bin Laden wrote that Al Qaeda fighters
were, quote, "frankly exhausted from the enemy`s air bombardments." But
most believe that defeating ISIS will require boots on the ground. So, if
those aren`t American boots, who in the region is willing to take up the
fight? We`ll talk about it with NBC`s Richard Engel reporting from
northern Iraq, next.
SHARPTON: We`re back with breaking news. The White House just released
excerpts from President Obama`s speech to the nation on ISIS tonight. The
President will say, quote, "Tonight with a new Iraqi government in place,
and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can
announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this
terrorist threat. Our objective is clear. We will degrade and ultimately
destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism
The President will also say, quote, "But I want the American people to
understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on
foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a
steady relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air
power and support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of
taking out terrorists who threaten U.S. while supporting partners on the
front lines is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia
Joining me now is California Senator Barbara Boxer who sits on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. Thank you for being here, Senator.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Of course.
SHARPTON: What`s your reaction to that preview of the President`s speech?
BOXER: Well, just in line with what I think he has been working on now. A
lot of people were losing patience but this is a president who is
deliberative, thank God, because we don`t want to make the mistakes of the
Bush/Cheney years and walk into the middle of a civil war again. He has
put together a coalition, I`m sure he`ll detail it as of yesterday. It was
nine nations and we also had NATO and he plans to go to the United Nations,
the Arab League is supportive. And what is very important is, we`re going
to have combat boots on the ground that are not American combat boots.
They`re going to be the people who know the territory and who actually have
more at stake. We certainly cannot sit by and see a terror group like
this, which has grown into the tens of thousands, very well financed. They
behead people. They say if you don`t become our strain of extreme Islam,
we`re going to say you either flee or you`ll be killed. If you don`t
convert. That`s what they`re about. And the whole world is threatened.
And the President and many of us have learned that the way to do this is
the right way. And I think tonight we`re going to see a strong leader who
is leaving the world. And I think it`s going to be accepted by the
American people and I just pray that we won`t see a partisan divide. We
should back this president because he is leading us in the right way.
SHARPTON: You mentioned Bush and Cheney, well, today Vice President Dick
Cheney criticized the President even before hearing the speech. Listen to
what Mr. Cheney had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY (R), UNITED STATES: There is a connection
between these problems, between a disengaged president and some very
volatile situations abroad. After five and a half years of an
administration sending regular messages of retreat, withdrawal, and
indifference, we have lost credibility in the trusted allies that we need
to win this war.
SHARPTON: What is your response to that?
BOXER: This man, Dick Cheney, led us into the worst foreign policy
disaster in my memory. He didn`t know what he was doing. He said we were
going to go into Iraq. We would be out of there in six months. We would
have the oil, we would make money, and I could go on chapter and verse but
honestly, I don`t want to go back to those days. But he needs to go away.
And if he does come out, he needs to support our president. To say this
president is disengaged because he is taking his time to put together a
winning strategy here, and learn from the past mistakes of putting
Americans in the middle of a civil war? Please.
And I think when history is written, they will say that it is because of
the Iraq war that was waged on false pretense, that ISIS caught an opening
here. That`s what happened. And he needs to either be supportive of this
president or go away. Because he is not helping us in this fight against
these vicious terrorists. With those kinds of comments.
SHARPTON: What the fear of many after watching the beheadings and the
concern of many were clearly though most are saying they do not want to see
American troops on the ground. Is it not irresponsible for some of your
colleagues across the aisle, and Mr. Cheney and others to sort of go in a
way that is not deliberate as the President has shown? And is not cautious
that we don`t make the mistakes that was made obviously, at least obvious
to some of us in Iraq?
BOXER: Listen, all they want to do is move back into the same direction.
If you listen to Cheney, he is complaining that we don`t have more combat
boots on the ground, you know, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, he gave a speech to
the republicans in the United States Senate. I was not in that room but I
can tell you that the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee
certainly has a bill that he has introduced with no holds barred. Doesn`t
even mention an international coalition. Says everything is on the table.
A declaration of war. It`s the same old same old. And for them to
criticize President Obama and say he is disengaged when he has been working
so hard to get this right.
Listen, we have suffered so much because of the war in Iraq. We have
suffered. Four thousand dead Americans, tens of thousands of wounded, not
to mention the Iraqis.
BOXER: We`ve walk into the middle of a civil war. It was a nightmare, it
was a mistake based on false pretense. And thank goodness we have
President Obama who is laying out tonight a real strategy here where we
lead the world. We work with the world. And we give the world what it
needs right now. That strong leadership. But everybody is going to play a
role in this. And that`s critical.
SHARPTON: All right. Well, we thank you. Great to have you on the show.
BOXER: Of course.
SHARPTON: Senator Barbara Boxer, thank you for your time tonight.
BOXER: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Now let`s to go NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel
who is reporting tonight from the Northern Iraqi City of Erbil where the
Pentagon just announced another air strike against ISIS terrorists.
Richard, you`ve been on the ground with Kurdish fighters. What does the
U.S. campaign against ISIS look like from there?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: What we`ve been
seeing is the U.S. flying surveillance mission, we`ve heard the jets in the
sky, we`ve seen the results of air strikes. Then after the air strikes
take place, and the U.S. bombs ISIS militants, the Kurdish fighters move
in, set up check points, set up territory, dig trenches and take the
terrain. And this is how the fight against ISIS, the war against ISIS,
which looks like it is going to expand quite soon, is supposed to be taking
The problem is, the United States doesn`t have allies like it does in the
Kurds in other parts of this region. The Iraqi army which is supposed to
be doing the same thing, has effectively collapsed. In Syria, there are no
U.S. allies on the ground who can move in and take terrain after the U.S.
bombs. So the model we are seeing here is going to be very difficult to
replicate in other places. And I think that is one of the fundamental
weakness that we`re going to see emerging as this campaign of ISIS
SHARPTON: Well, how will the air campaign against ISIS be similar to the
air campaign against al Qaeda in places like Pakistan and Yemen? I mean,
and how it will be different for that matter?
ENGEL: In some ways, it will be similar. It will look similar. Take
Somalia as an example. Somalia or Yemen or any of these places that don`t
have a complete government. Al Qaeda operates in these areas, or al Qaeda
like groups most of the time, they are in hiding. The U.S. watches. They
have informants on the ground, they have drones in the air. And when they
find a militant, they strike and try to keep the militants from carrying
out attacks locally or internationally. In Syria and Iraq, we have a much
These militants operate like a state. They control an area the size of
Maryland. They have eight million people under their control. So it is
not the case of finding terrorists who are hiding and striking them before
they can carry out some sort of atrocity. You have to topple a terrorist
regime. And when you do that as the U.S. experience in Iraq has shown,
when you topple a regime, you have to think very long and very hard about
what goes into replace it.
SHARPTON: Richard, well, we`ll to have to leave it there. Thank you to
Richard Engel reporting from northern Iraq tonight. Thank you very much.
Still ahead, how do you stop a terrorist group that uses beheadings?
Crucifixions and twitter? We`ll go inside the ISIS threat next. You`re
watching our special coverage of the President`s speech to the nation on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We are going to systematically
degrade their capabilities, we`ll going to shrink the territory that they
control and ultimately we`ll going to defeat them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In just two hours, a little over two hours from now, the
President will lay out his strategy for degrading and defeating the
terrorist group ISIS. It`s a group that Americans are still just learning
about. Some of what we know comes from its own propaganda efforts.
Including a new video ISIS released this week. A warning, some of it is
disturbing. The original video was produced by ISIS so we only see what
they want us to see. It shows ISIS taking over a key Syrian air base with
footage of captured Syrian fighter jets and heavy weaponry. It also shows
members of the Syrian army being marched to their deaths. After the
chilling beheading videos of two journalists, this is what we`ve come to
expect from a vicious group known for their public executions, beheadings,
crucifixions and mass killings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEC. CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: ISIL is a sophisticated and
well funded group as any group that we have seen. They`re beyond just a
terrorist group. They are an imminent threat to every interest we have,
whether it is in Iraq or anywhere else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The group`s methods are medieval. But ISIS has coupled the
brutality with the 21st Century technology. State-of-the-art video
equipment, drones, shooting images from above. They regularly pull
speeches and multilingual twitter messages online.
Joining me now is Evan Kohlmann, NBC terrorism analyst and Steve Clemons,
Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic. Thank you both for being
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Evan, what makes ISIS so lethal and different from other groups?
KOHLMANN: Well, look. Certainly the social media plays part in that. And
what we`ve seen is that ISIS has been relying on commercial social media
platforms that are widely available to a western audience. And that means
that they can communicate their message of terror directly to the American
public and it also means that they can recruit a large number of
westerners. People that don`t speak Arabic, who don`t have access to a
proprietary al Qaeda web forum.
And what that means is that the actual threat posed by these folks, not
Syria or Iraq but here to the United States and European countries, is
significantly greater because of the fact that they have access to far more
people with U.S. citizenship, with European citizenship, with passport and
travel documents. The idea that they have access to a large number of
individuals that can get past western security checks is something that we
did not see from al Qaeda. That we didn`t see in Yemen or Pakistan or
Iraq. And now we`re seeing it in Iraq and Syria from ISIS.
SHARPTON: You know, Steve, The New York Time reports ISIS is using lots of
different media in their campaign. They say, quote, ISIS is online Jihad
3.0. Their videos resemble, quote, "combat video games and cable
television dramas. And they use services like just pace to publish battle
summaries, sound cloud to release audio reports, Instagram to share images
and WhatsApp to spread graphics and videos." I mean, this is
unprecedented, isn`t it?
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it`s unprecedented unless you take a
look at some of the things that we`ve deployed. This is not to say that
we`re in any way morally similar but this is their shock and awe campaign.
All shock and awe. And as you said, it`s sort of Genghis Khan placed in
the 21st century with 21st century tools. And I think that what has
happened is just, as Evan said that they`ve got a sophisticated and a toxic
amalgam of both youth that have these talents, combined with brilliant.
Frankly, brilliant. We have to put that there, Iraqi, particularly
Baathist commanders that have joined in. Various frustriety (ph). And
some of the most, you know, demonological thugs that we see on the planet
today. But they`re engaged. They put all of this together. But it is a
shock and awe campaign. And we have to respond with our own campaign.
SHARPTON: Steve, then what does the President need to say tonight? And
what does he need to say to our allies?
CLEMONS: I think the President needs to show smart resolve. You know, a
lot of us want to see a reaction that shows he`ll make a difference. That
being said. You have to ask why is Evan said, why are they performing on a
stage to reach so many Americans and westerners? We have to be careful of
not creating the conditions that help fuel them as we did in my view in
Afghanistan and somewhat in Iraq that we -- a large military footprint
actually animates the building of our opposition. And we need to make sure
SHARPTON: But are we in danger of that now?
CLEMONS: We are if we -- right now the President as he did in Libya is
basically I think going to say tonight, there are ways to go in, ways to
respond. And while we may be dropping a lot of drones again and drones
represent their own problems. Because a lot of innocent people get killed
in that process. If we don`t have a large scale U.S. military footprint,
we may in fact be able to degrade ISIS without committing the major kinds
of mistakes that we did in Iraq.
SHARPTON: Evan, what is ISIS afraid of? I mean, are they afraid of troops
on the ground? I mean, what is their weakness?
KOHLMANN: ISIS is afraid that Sunnis within Syria and Iraq will turn
against them. And I think you can see that in an event that just happen
here within the last 24 hours. There was a major, what appears to any way
be a suicide attack on the leaders of Ahrar al-Sham, which a major Syrian
rebel group. It`s not a rebel group that is much in common with the United
States but it is a major competitor with ISIS. ISIS is apparently already
assassinated several leaders of this organization over the past year and it
sure looks like someone is trying to get rid of any opposition that would
present a challenge to them or would present any avenue for outside actors
to try to gain a foot hold against ISIS.
And I think part of the problem here, and this goes back to what Steve was
saying is, you know, in terms of social media in anyway. We don`t know
what message we should put out. You know, State Department put this video
out the other day which is in English which is obviously going to reach
people speaking in Arabic in Iraq and Syria and it is trying to terrify
people away from joining ISIS by saying, well, they`re into we beheadings
and crucifixions and this and that. And that might make an impression on
American audience but the people trying to join ISIS are rallied by these
images. They think this is great. So, trying on dissuade people from
joining ISIS by saying they behead people, that`s not a surprise to anyone.
And I think the State Department needs to figure out a better counter
SHARPTON: What would be a better message, Evan? What should the message
KOHLMANN: I think the better message would be to have Sunni Muslims in
Iraq and Syria who have been murdered and have been tortured and have been
beaten and have been stolen from, have those people on camera telling their
personal stories of anguish so that people can see, this is not about
America versus ISIS. This is about Islam versus ISIS. This is about the
Muslims of Syria and Iraq. The Sunni Muslims who no doubt they`ve suffered
under the regime of Nouri al Maliki but they`re suffering worse, and they
will suffer worse under ISIS. People to have get that message. And it is
amazing that the State Department after so many years still doesn`t
understand that. And as putting our videos in English, who are we trying
to reach? The people who speak English and see beheadings, they want to
SHARPTON: Steve, I see you nodding. I mean, is that what needs to happen?
I mean, get the Sunnis? Because they were so effective in the surge in
CLEMONS: There is no way to really beat ISIS without doing what Evan just
said. Which is to make the spearhead of this campaign Sunni soldiers,
Sunni stories, outraged and bereaved Sunni families, Sunni clerics, you`ve
got to have main stream Sunni society spit on ISIS and say you have no
place in our world. It can`t be the Shia Muslims, it can`t be western
Christians, it can`t be anyone else. It really has to be a Sunni spearhead
against ISIS, showing they are isolated and that there`s no place in the
Sunni future for ISIS to continue. We can`t deliver that message without
grabbing those stories.
SHARPTON: Evan, the tactics ISIS has used in Iraq and Syria include
beheadings, crucifixions, burying people alive and mass executions. While
the group is very media savvy, do they run the risk of alienating people?
KOHLMANN: One hundred percent. I mean, this is exactly what happened with
al Qaeda in Iraq when Zarqawi started beheading people on camera, the
leader of al Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri sent him a letter and said, stop doing
this. If you want to behead people, that`s fine. Don`t put on it camera.
Because the only people you`re rallying behind that are people who think
slaughter and destruction and chaos is a good thing and nobody really wants
that. If you want to establish an Islamic State, you don`t want a gang of
thugs and murderers. And that`s exactly what ISIS is getting for itself
right now. And the hope is that the majority of Sunni Muslims and Muslims
around the world and people around the world will understand. This is not
a group that stands for positive values. This is not a group that`s trying
to achieve something or build something. All it wants to do is destroy
things. To destroy everything around it and kill innocent people. That
message hopefully will resonate the more that ISIS pursues this bizarre
SHARPTON: All right. We`ll going to have to leave it there. The
President will be making a lot of that very clear tonight. I`m sure. Evan
Kohlmann and Steven Clemons, thank you both for your time tonight.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Rev.
KOHLMANN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, seizing the moment with a prime time address.
President Obama has done it before. We`ll look at what we can expect
SHARPTON: The POLITICS NATION`s social media communication has been very
active. We asked what do you want to hear from President Obama tonight.
Peggy hopes he will simply say that we will get rid of them. Them being
ISIS. Faith posted, "We will go slow, take care and save lives." Georgia
hopes President Obama says he will make every effort not to let this mutate
into an all-out war. Thank you for all your comments. More on President
Obama`s big moment. That`s next.
SHARPTON: Tonight will be President Obama`s seventh Address to the Nation
from the White House. He`s spoken from the White House to the nation on
issues of national importance. Such as announcing the end of the U.S.
combat mission in Iraq. Or the night he made this announcement to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Good evening. Tonight I can report to the American people and to
the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed
Osama bin Laden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: One year ago tonight President Obama delivered his last address
to the nation. On Syria. Every network carries the President`s remarks
live. The nation stops to watch as we have done throughout our history.
From President Eisenhower in 1957, sending troops to desegregate Little
Rock Central, to President Kennedy in 1962, addressing the Cuban missile
crisis. President Nixon announcing he was resigning from office. Or
President Reagan, mourning the challenger shuttle explosion. In 1993,
President Clinton outlined military involvement in Somalia. In 2001,
President George W. Bush vowed to go after the terrorist who attacked us on
9/11. And tonight, President Obama will lay out his vision to the country
for defeating ISIS. The nation will be watching.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. I will see you back here starting
at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for MSNBC`s special coverage of the President`s
speech. But first, "HARDBALL" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2014 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Transcription Copyright 2014 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is
granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not
reproduce or redistribute the material except for user`s personal or
internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall
user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may
infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC`s copyright or other proprietary rights or
interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of
MORE FROM POLITICSNATION
Add PoliticsNation headlines to your news reader: