Meet the Press   |  May 05, 2013

1: Strikes in Syria: MTP on the impact

Lawmakers from Capitol Hill visit Meet the Press to discuss what lies ahead for America’s role in the Syrian conflict and how the Boston bombing developments will affect national security.

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>>> this sunday, the president under pressure as he faces a growing debate about how safe we are at home from terror and confronts the political reality of a second term agenda in gridlock.

>>> as new details emerge about the boston bomb plot, the administration orders a review about whether the government should have, could have stopped the tsarnaev brothers before they allegedly struck.

>> one of the dangers we now face are self-radicalized individuals who are already here in the united states .

>> this morning a debate about the debate of your homeland security in a new age of terror. with us, former new york city mayor and u.s. attorney rudy giuliani . republican congressman from arkansas and veteran of the wars in iraq and afghanistan, tom cotton . plus, forler democratic congresswoman and ranking member on the house intelligence committee , now president and ceo of the wilson center , jane harman . chairman of the senate judiciary committee , democrat pat leahy of vermont. then president obama at 100 days into his second term. is he a lame duck?

>> rumors a little exaggerated at this point.

>> jobs. immigrati immigration. health care . syria . the ongoing fights over social issues like abortion and gay rights in america all taking center stage this week. inside and analysis from our special political round table this morning.

>>> from nbc news in washington, the world's longest running television program , this is "meet the press" with daid gregory.

>> good sunday morning. we want to start with developing stories on a couple different fronts. breaking news this morning out of syria where overnight israeli air strikes hit targets in syria for the second time in recent days. news of the first strike coming late friday evening. the president was traveling in latin america . reacting to all this escalation yesterday in an interview with telemundo.

>> what i have said in the past, i continue to believe this, the ace re israelis justifiably have to guard against the advancement of weaponry against hezbollah . hezbollah has repeatedly said that they would be willing to attack as far as tel-aviv. so the israelis have to be vigilant and they have to be concerned. and we will continue to coordinate with israel .

>> continue to coordinate with israel . andrea mitchell is here. a very important line, isn't it, andrea ? here you have the president who's issued a red line to syria saying if they move or use chemical weapons it would change his kcalculus about some kind of intervention. what does it mean?

>> first it means many people within the white house believe the president was mistaken in issuing that red line . but now the israelis have taken this over. they've taken this on. this actually takes the heat off of the president. the administration is clearly supporting this. a coordinating, perhaps, intelligence from the u.s. certainly a green light . no caution light here at all. first of all, second of all, the arab leaders are likely to be supportive as well. we know that the assad regime's only partners now are basically russia and iran. this comes just as secretary kerry is going to moscow to meet with putin. this does complicate his mission to try to get russia to somehow soften its continuing support of assad .

>> the conversation i was having last night on twitter in preparation for the program this morning, does this put more pressure or less pressure on president obama to act on syria ? whether that means mobilizing an international coalition of some kind or somehow backing up this red line which as you suggest the times is reporting this morning is almost treated as a gaffe, it seems, from anonymous advisers in the white house quoted in the story.

>> the administration was moving in that direction in any case. a more active role. there's going to be arming of carefully moderated, you know, rebel groups that the cia believes are not the most radical. that's a very dangerous game . but they are moving in that direction. secondly, there is now some more indication of a no fly zone, some kind of buffer. the fact is there has been a big division in the arab world . the turks are arming the more radical groups. the uae, saudis and jordan a supporting the more moderate groups. so the arab world is also divided. israel is doing this now and doing it because assad is so weakened that hezbollah and iran are now saying that we can call the game here. forcing assad 's hand. the assad regime has had pretty much of a detaunt, a quiet detante with israel for decades.

>> andrea mitchell with the latest. you'll be following this, andrea , thank you very much. this is senator leahy , congressman cotton. two members of congress. senator, do you think the administration is getting closer to providing lethal aid to the opposition in syria ?

>> i do, and i think that andrea 's analysis is -- is very correct. i can remind the israelis were using weapons that had been supplied by the united states . some of our f-16s and others. they, of course, have enormous prowess with those weapons. highly trained. but very sophisticated weapons. i think the fact that they're able to go in there shows that, perhaps, the russian supply and air defense systems are not as good as were said. our problem in who to supply is that some of these groups are strong islamists, al qaeda and others. we've seen in libya and egypt and elsewhere the islamists tend to get the upper hand if they get in there. we have given hundreds of millions of dollars in refugee aid. we've given anti-aircraft equipment to turkey. and the idea of getting weapons in, if we know the right people to get them, my guess is we'll give them to them.

>> congressman, what would you like to see the president do at this point?

>> well, i hope that senator leahy is correct that we are moving closer towards arming the reform minded, pro-western rebels. this is something that should have been done in months ago. something secretary of state hillary clinton , secretary of defense leon panetta , martin dempsey , david petraeus all proposed last year according to " wall street journal " reporting and the president refused to do. right now you have a front affiliated with al qaeda on the ground providing the best figtders, providing the most weapons, providing the most humanitarian assistance radicalizing some elements of the opposition. we have to arm the opposition. i think we also need to move towards imposing a no fly zone. bashar al assad cannot continue to use helicopter gun ships against civilians. and so the refugees he's creating aren't establishing allies like jordan.

>> before i move on to another topic the reporting this morning is striking. it underscores why this issue of the red line is so difficult for the president. because the u.s. does not want a true presence in syria .

>> well, the u.s. doesn't want boots on the ground . i think there's no chance we will have boots on the ground . i have been for some time for arming the opposition we trust. this is very complicated. andrea hinted at this, too. hezbollah is shiia. and this -- this crescent that supports action is sunni. let's understand. this isn't just the bashar group, his sect, against the rest of the world . this is now a real full blown civil war . and the missiles that were intercepted are not dumb scuds. they're smarter fattah three missiles that have range from southern lebanon to hit tel-aviv. this is a big, escalated problem. i wish we had acted sooner.

>> i would just say boots on the ground now is not the question. the question now is imposing a no fly zone, using aircraft and using naval gunfire . as senator leahy said the israeli strikes over the last 48 hours have indicated those russian air defense systems are not as robust as they're sometimes reported to be. we can stop bashar al assad from killing his own people. we can stop some of the worst violence in syria if we use aircraft --

>> i want to move on. i want to bring mayor giuliani in here. i want to widen this out a little bit. i think there's the broader topic we're broaching here about national security , about our own personal freedoms in america coming out of the bost boon bombing is in part ongoing concern about terrorism. graphic this week in the "wall stet journal" about that growing al qaeda threat even a couple years now after osama bin laden is killed. looking to north africa in the persian gulf states . we either have al qaeda with a safe haven or, indeed, more activity. at least, too, what happened last 9/11 in benghazi and the ongoing questions about what the united states knew about, what the administration knew, did they do enough to stop it. now now hearings coming up. new details being reported on, mr. mayor. is there something here that somehow gets to why we're more vulnerable now and whether the administration has done enough in your estimation?

>> well, i don't know. that has to be investigated. i think it would be wise if the administration would kind of ratchet up its focus on this. because i think that since the capture of bin laden there's bn a kind of sense that al qaeda 's on the run. the threat is less. the threat isn't less. the threat is actually more diverse now and maybe even more complex. you can detect through the benghazi defense which, of course, did come about during the election, and even during some of this boston bombing thing, there's sort of a tendency to underplay what is, in fact, i think a growing and pretty dangerous and to some extent a different kind of threat than what we were facing, you know, three or four years ago. so whether they didn't catch it fast enough, whether this is a product of, you know, leading from behind like i think happened in syria where a lot of action could have been taken a year ago that may have precluded this, but the president kind of prefers to watch these things play out before he makes a decision. i think they'd be well advised to get a lot more proactive now. because things are really heating up.

>> senator leahy , is there a there there when it comes to benghazi ? are there questions that have to be answered that reflect on how vulnerable we are and what we're doing about it?

>> there are questions should be asked. i know a terror committee that handles the safe providence budget. we've been in extra money, a great deal of extra money for -- let me finish. that was blocked by the house. they said they didn't want to spend the money. whether that would have made a difference or not, i don't know. should we look at benghazi ? yes. but keep in mind that's just one place. we should look at our security throughout our embassiesecause they will always be ease ciy targets. if you can attack an embassy no matter where it is you attack the united states of america . the symbolism is almost as great as what they knocked out. they didn't destroy any part of america 's capability. as tragic as it was in going to benghazi . but the symbolism was enormous. that's what they're aiming for.

>> were warnings ignored on benghazi , congressman?

>> i think there were cables before the benghazi attack that suggest the people in tripoli and in benghazi knew they were going to be facing a potential atags. steve hayes' reporting over the weekend shows the cia was aware during the attack happening, se certainly before susan rice went on the sunday talk shows , that these were al qaeda affiliated attacks. then after the attacks the president said he issued a directive and there was no follow up on the directive. he didn't go to the white house security room. he didn't follow up to see if that directive had been pursued.

>> jane harman and mayor giuliani , as we look at all of this, whether it's jihadist elements operating in syria , whether we look at now this widening plot out of the boston bombings, they wanted to attack reportedly on july fourth, there are others involved, friends of dzhokhar tsarnaev, involved in some level of clearing out some of the materials from his room, what does this tell us about what we're up against here in simply the boston plot? and this question of are we any safer, jane?

>> the answer to that question is yes and no. i agree with rudy giuliani the threat has evolved. we have decimated core al qaeda . and president obama deserves a lot of credit for doing that. but now there are these affiliated terror groups, el nusra is one in syria , that are capable of morphing and changing and attacking. then there's home grown radicalism which i think we really have to talk about. tsarnaev brothers may have had some training in dagestan and we may have missed a clue from the russians. be that as it may there are going to be other people like this. they have be right once. we have to be right 100%. that's not going to happen. our tactics are really pretty good. but we need a narrative about what the united states stands for that will win the argument with the next kids. and that is why we need to close in my view guantanamo bay and we need to put a clear set of rules around how we use drones. i support drone strikes but it needs to be clearer that we are living our values.

>> mayor giuliani , you've spoken out pretty strikingly this week about your views of what's happened in the investigation into boston this week. what do you make of it?

>> well, i think the investigation since the time of the bombing has been excellent. i think that unfortunately there were an awful lot of signals that were missed beforehand. jane harman is absolutely right. this has kind of morphed into a situation in america where we have these home grown terrorists. but we shouldn't claim surprise. this has been going on since 2005 , 2006 . the attack in london in 2005 was home grown terrorists in london. that should have said to us we're going to have the same problem here. chris christie when he was u.s. attorney had a case involving an attack -- an attempted attack on ft. hood. once again, home grown terrorists. he was the first to really alert me to the fact that this was a much bugger problem than exists. we shouldn't be claiming, oh, my goodness, we just found this out. we should be tryingo figure out why the heck didn't we react to this faster three, four, and five years ago? and with regard to the investigation, the point that i'd like to make is that these men who were arrested, who were involved in the coverup and were involved in obstructing justice, i'd like to point out something that hasn't been focused on enough. they were aware of the fact according to the complaint now, fbi's sworn complaint, they were aware of the fact those two brothers were involved in the bombing three to four hours before officer collier was murdered.

>> at mit.

>> yes. if these three men had not engaged in that obstruction of justice coverup, if they had notified the police the way any decent young men would do, there is a chance and a pretty good chance that officer collier would be alive today. if i were the u.s. attorney -- if i were u.s. attorney i'd be charging them with a conspiracy that embraced murder as a predicate act. because one of them actually said something very dramatic. one of them said, i didn't expect to ever see him again alive. so that conspiracy embraced the possibility of a violent aftermath to this situation.

>> congressman, the larger point the president made this week is we're dealing with something new. we're dealing with radicalization inside the homeland. how do we deal with it?

>> i want you to take on what he said during his press conference this week. watch.

>> one of the dangers that we now face are self-radicalized individuals who are already here in the united states . in some cases may not be part of any kind of network. but because of whatever warped, twisted ideas they may have, may decide to carry out an attack. those are in some ways more difficult to prevent.

>> and the polling shows this, too. of course there's some things we just can't prevent.

>> we don't know if tamerlan tsarnaev was purely home brown or if he was affiliated with al qaeda operatives in his return to dagestan. a place from which he had sought refugee status with his family. more broadly, though, we have to recognize we are still in a global war and its radical islamic jihadists. the president by his policies and words of senior officials in his administration are removing us from a war footing and putting us back a --

>> all five of those were promptly given the miranda warnings and treated like common criminals. we haven't sent a terrorist to guantanamo bay in over four years. we captured suleiman, osama bin laden 's son-in-law, hard terrorist, member of al qaeda central. we didn't send him to guantanamo bay for interrogation. we sent him to new york where he got --

>> let me respond on that. because -- to suggest sending him to guantanamo would help. he was given his miranda warning and as the public accounts have been, he wouldn't shut up. he kept on, kept on, kept on. he was given an enormous amount of intelligence. we've had a tiny handful, four, five, six military commission successful prosecutions. we've had hundreds in our courts. what are we afraid of? what are we afraid of? the law enforcement did a superb job in boston . these people are before courts. mayor giuliani and i were both prosecutors. we would love to prosecute this case.

>> signals were missed here. signals of this radicalization were missed.

>> that has nothing to do with guantanamo. the fact is we will always -- we're a nation of 325 million people. are there going to be people like the man who blew up oklahoma city , he was radicalized in a different way. let us figure out how we respond on this. my committee will have the director of the fbi and others before it. i want to know how much did the russians give us before. were signals missed there? sure. ask those questions. but let's not overlook the fact that our law enforcement did a superb job here. if there are people that should be prosecuted, prosecutor them in court --

>> jay harman, here's the question "time" magazine asks on its provocative cover this week. homeland insecurity . the question is do we need to sacrifice privacy in order to be safer? is that going to be the immedia immedialesson from the boston bombing?

>> i think we need more cameras. boston has a small police partment in new york if these folks had tried this they probably would have been identified faster. let me make a couple of points. first of all not all of these plots are associated in any way with al qaeda training. these are people who go on the internet and look at "inspire" magazine, this guy admitted it, and there are the directions for how to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom. you can figure this out. he also was inspire bid awlaki's preachings which are online even though he was taken out by a drone strike as was the original writer of "inspire" magazine. we have to think ahead. the best way to do this is build trust with communities so that families and teachers and neighbors alert law enforcement --

>> let me pick up on that point for mayor giuliani . there have been skacalls for more ethnic profiling . is it greater tracking and monitoring in mosques and in muslim communities to defect what was missed here with tsarnaev who apparently was challenging his iimam and all the rest.

>> profiling is perfectly legal and perfectly legitimate if you're following leads, objective evidence. somebody tells you that the person who committed the crime is 6'4" and he's white you don't go look for a 5'4" asian. the reality is profiling is perfectly appropriate if it relates to objective facts and not to some attempt to just smear someone. reality is, unfortunately, a significant number, not all, but a significant number of these attacks come about from this distorted islamic extremist ideology. so you can't ignore it. you've got to go after it. we don't have to sacrifice privacy to do it, but we also shouldn't sacrifice common sense . the president could help us here a lot if he would designate the major hasan shooting of several years ago as a terrorist act and not workplace violence . i think that sent the wrong signals to the bureaucracy.

>> quick point, congressman.

>> the mayor makes the core points that jihadists around the world don't attack us for the actions we take. they attack us for who we are. we are freedom's home and we are freedom's defender. it didn't take guantanamo bay , it didn't take drones to knock down those towers on 9/11. if we grounded ere dro eed every drone, closed guantanamo bay they'd find another pretext.

>> before i let all of you go, senator leahy , immigration. you're pushing this as are others to get an immigration reform bill. you want to amend the bill include same-sex partners to be able to come into the country. marco rubio and others have said that effort would kill this legislation.

>> there is -- you know, we've had about ten different things that people say will kill it. if we don't make the fence long enough that kills it. if we don't have a high enough fine, that kills it. the fact is there are a lot of people who want to kill an immigration bill no matter what. we will have votes on this. people can vote for or against any one of these amendments. now, i've had 20-some-odd hearings in all on immigration judiciary. we'll start marking up the bill this week. everybody can bring up whatever they want. we're going to have a fair and open thing. and then vote it up or vote it down.

>> is immigration going to pass? is reform going to pass?

>> i hope it does. because i think it would be a --

>> i know you hope it will.

>> it would be a huge mistake -- i think it can. i think the so-called gang of eight, four democrats, four republicans, crossing the political spectrum deserve an enormous amount of credit for the work they've done. i've met with them many times. i think we can get it passed.

>> all right. i'm going to leave it there. senator, congressmen, jane harman , major giuliani thank you all for much for engaging in this debate which is to be continued.

>>> coming up here, just over 100 days into president obama 's second term, is he starting to show signs he's becoming a lame duck? provocative question but he had to respond to it. we're going to debate it here with your round table. former house speaker newt gingrich , former democratic congressman harold ford , editor of the national review rich lowry , managing editor for the rio joe-ann reid.

>>> later on, conversation with all pro nfl line backer brendan