Meet the Press   |  September 08, 2013

Roundtable reviews McDonough's remarks

A Meet the Press panel examines comments made earlier on the show by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

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

>> went after the bush administration for raising the specter of weapons of mass destruction being used against our own troops to make a case for war that never happened because there were no wmd there. denis mcdonough just said that here. he said we don't want our own troops being targeted by these awful weapons.

>> but david, but these weapons are there. this is a completely different case. the weapons were used. we have film, we have all kinds of intelligence that suggests who used them. it's a much different case.

>> would syria attack the united states with weapons?

>> there's no doubt they're fighting side by side with hezbollah. they could certainly use them against israel . they could be proliferated from there. and it gives a signal to everyone else -- every bad actor on the planet, the united states , the world community is in a fetal position, and you can do what you want. that would be a terrible signal.

>> i think peggy noonan actually captured a good part of this in her column this week. this country has been engaged in the middle east seriously since october of 1979 . we are tired of being a region where everybody wants to kill each other. it's very un-american. and as this whole -- because we're a country that wants a solution. tell me what the end game is. well, the middle east , the end game may just not be not killed. israel has survived.

>> here's the problem. to me -- and i'm as cynical as anybody when it comes to political motivation. and i think about half of the republican opposition here is the political opposition . but i think a good 50% of it is not. i think about 75% of the opposition of the democratic party is rational and principled and may be about 25% of it is politics. i don't think it's as political as you think on this. i think there is -- but what does this look like on day four? the president, denis mcdonough , what does it look like day four?

>> go ahead.

>> that's what the president hasn't answered.

>> first of all, the word "un-american" makes me cringe. we're all patriotic americans, whatever our point of view is on this. we want america 's interests to be advanced. the people who have looked at this carefully think day two comes out okay. israel is prepared for day two. and we're prepared for day two. and day three and four won't be beautiful either, but this is a choice among bad options. this is the least bad option. even a guy like bill kristol writing in "the new york times."

>> civilians are going to be killed.

>> they're going to be killed anyway.

>> part of the legacy of iraq was that the bush administration failed to anticipate what could go wrong. so if denis mcdonough says limited strike, degraded ability to use chemical weapons , what happens if they retal rate against israel ? we get drawn in. what happens if he uses weapons again? do we have to strike again? what happens if the battlefield momentum is changed dramatically because of our military action and it begins to disintegrate? we had this point of view going into libya. what happened a year later? the ambassador was killed because it was chaotic.

>> what is the result of inaction and the israelis themselves have sent a signal that they felt -- that they feel we have to act because if we don't, it will encourage the use of these weapons.

>> let me, first of all, my reference on america was behavior of people in the middle east . i think it's very hard for us to understand people who three, four and five generations kill each other in order to set up a blood feud --

>> deep religious beliefs, by the way. this is crusade kind of stuff. this is not the history of america .

>> part of what we have happening in the country -- and i think in a democracy this is not a bad thing -- people are allowed to have views. and partly what's happening is a country talking to itself and the american people saying, "a," i don't understand why it's our problem. "b," i doubt very much that we can fix it. and "c," the guys who are against assad strike me as about as sick as assad is. so you really don't have a good guy/ bad guy environment here.

>> you know, the problem is it's not our problem until it's our problem. so if you don't accept the moral argument, how about the practical argument that we live in a very small world now, and if these weapons proliferate, that ultimately it washes up on our shores. we've seen that in a tragic way already. we need to contain this. and i think that is a fundamental point the president has to make.

>> and he's going to make it. i mean, he knows that this is clinch time. when the tough decision came about taking down osama, he did it. and i think he's unflinching here. and i actually think the move toward congress -- the process is very messy -- but putting this in congress's box is a very smart thing to do. there's an international lesson on what a mature democracy looks like going on right now. and whatever the result is, it won't be rifle