Meet the Press   |  May 05, 2013

Pulse check: Obama’s response to terror crises

A Meet the Press panel of pundits examines the administration’s response to the Boston bombings and crisis in Syria.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> more on the theme we were just talking about. approval of president obama 's handling of terror threats. he's still pretty strong at 56%. 35% disapproval as more of these issues mount for him. back with our political round table. former speaker of the house and presidential candidate newt gingrich . former democratic congressman from tennessee, harold ford jr . editor of the national review rich lowry . managing editor of the grio.com and msnbc contributor joy reid. a lot to pick up on. speaker gingrich, the terror debate which can extend from benghazi now to syria to threats to the homeland after boston . how is the president doing?

>> oh, i think in the long run not particularly well. i think mayor giuliani stated a good example. 42 months after ft. hood we are pretending that this is a workplace incident when somebody jumps up, yelling allah and kills a bunch of american soldiers clearly related to radical islam . on the fbi most wanted list , 30 -- for terrorism, 30 of the 31 are islamists. yet the coverage of the first two days after boston was, gee, i wonder what motivated these two chechens? now, we still refuse to come to grips with how serious and how long term this problem is going to be. i think it could be a 50 to 70 year problem.

>> joy, it's a political question . it's a security question . two years after osama bin laden has been killed, are we safer as a country or not?

>> i think that this country obviously has a lot of basic freedoms that make it impossible to police every potential threat. we still have red blooded americans going into schools and maskering 26 people including children. we still have situations where domestic terrorist operatives that have nothing to do with islam have hit this country. oklahoma city had nothing to do with islamism. there are bad people who want to do awful thipgs. you can't stop them all. what we can do is try to do the best we can in terms of sensible security policy . i don't think anybody in the country wants to go back to the bush era and what we were doing with domestic wiretapping, what we were doing with demonizing and targeting entire groups of people based on religion. again, people who are not muslim also commit horrible random acts. not all with bombs. some with guns.

>> rich lowry , if the events on 9/11 and benghazi and that attack were a striking blow and reminder, boston was an exclamation point about the ongoing terror threat and this new age of terror where it can be developed and grown at home. the president saying this week, look, we have to come to grips there are certain things you simply cannot account for and detect in your society.

>> yeah. i think clearly the rumors of al qaeda 's complete demise are completely exaggerated. we saw it both in benghazi and in boston where these guys were inspired by al qaeda . i just have to stand up for president bush . he went out there after 9/11 and said, look, islam is a religion of peace. we're not going to target muslims. this is a generous country. that moved to be true. and also president obama 's picked upmost of bush's terror policies, anti-terror policies. happy to slam them and slander them as a candidate but he's picked upmost of them as president because they are responsible. when you're actually in that chair and aware of how many threats we have coming at us, the world looks a lot different than when you're on the outside.

>> not things like waterboarding, not things that exacerbated the tensions between us and the muslim community . some of the things that were done during the bush era that the president -- president obama specifically outlawed were part of what reradicalized, i believe --

>> let me --

>> some guys will say we did it because of drone attacks. as tom cotton says there's always an excuse to attack the united states .

>> the backdrop of all of this, harold ford jr ., is what the predent is facing in terms of his own leadership in his second term as he builds a legacy. at a press conference this week in which one of our colleagues asked do you still have the juice to get it done. this is part of what he said.

>> i think it comes to no surprise not only to the american people but even members of congress themselves that right now things are pretty dysfunctional up on capitol hill .

>> you seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. that's their job.

>> is he a lame duck, harold?

>> no. he, i think -- no. i sense his frustration. but that frustration has to be chaneled, i think, in a more positive way. there's a leadership void in this city on domestic issues. there's a leadership void in this city as it relates to how we address the economy and how we deal with entitlements and taxes and so forth. if the president believes that congress is behaving in an immature way which i think congress resembles that statement, he's probably going to have to show more leadership. in fairness to joy's point and the back and forth there's no point that we have to be right 100% of the time when it coes to security. jane harman articulated it better than anybody this morning. i think they've done a phenomenal job. i understand where the speaker -- i think i understand what you're saying when you say that more needs to be done. going forward you're right. this president, this white house have now got to come up with a set of policies clear, transparent, consistent along not only the lines of syria but our position as it relates to self-radicalization in this country and efforts around the world to create unrest for our policies and our allies around the globe. the president's comments about the red line , they have to be careful. i think the comments this morning in some of the national papers from former defense advisers saying the president's going to make a statement, you got to be willing to stand by that statement. they have to think more clearly. they have to be more careful about it and understand the ramifications are not only political here at home but they reverberate across the middle east .

>> just talking about even the domestic agenda and what the president talked about was does he still have his juice. you remember this well being speaker of the house of former parking light bill clinton making the case for his relevance. we're pretty early in the president's second term. what can he get done?

>> all presidents are functionally relevant because they can veto bills, because they have the bully pulpit , because they mauk appointments, because of the issue of regulations. the idea of an irrelevant president has existed since buchanan in the 1850s . the fact is that the president's greatest problem domestically in the next year and a half is that he has a lot of democratic senators up for re-election in states that mitt romney carried. so the cross pressure in the u.s. senate is going to be much greater than at any time up to now. and most of those senators are going to be inclined to say, you know, it actually helps me to not be an obama democrat.