The McLaughlin Group
Host: John McLaughlin
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek;
Paul Glastris, Washington Monthly;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report
Taped: Friday, January 11, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of January 12-13, 2013
Copyright © 2013 by Federal News Service, LLC, 1120 G Street NW, Suite 990, Washington, DC 20005-3801 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, LLC. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Transcripts Database or any other FNS product, please email email@example.com or call 1-202-347-1400.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The High Command.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) As a congressional staffer in the 1980s, he helped negotiate the deal between President Reagan and Tip O'Neill to save Social Security. Under President Clinton, he presided over three budget surpluses in a row. So for all the talk out there about deficit reduction, making sure our books are balanced, this is the guy who did it three times.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House chief of staff, Jack Lew, was nominated by the president this week to replace outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Lew is a Democratic veteran of Washington, 30 years of service. Currently he's President Obama's chief of staff. Earlier Lew served as his budget director. And in that job he raised Republican hackles. In fact, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has already said he'll try to block Mr. Lew's confirmation, notably over a statement Lew made two years ago. Lew was then OMB, Office of Management & Budget, director.
Quote: "Our budget will get us over the next several years to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we're not adding to the debt anymore. We're spending money that we have each year," unquote.
Speaking to this, Senator Sessions had this to say. Quote: "To look the American people in the eye and make such a statement remains the most direct and important false assertion during my entire time in Washington," unquote.
Question: Is Jacob Lew a shoo-in for treasury secretary, or does President Obama have a fight on his hands? Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN: I don't know if you'd call him a shoo-in. He's going to be touched up a bit by the Republicans. But he's going to be confirmed. Does Obama have a fight on his hands? You bet. But the fight is going to be over Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, John.
That is going to be a proxy battle for control of American foreign policy between what you might call the neoconservatives, the Bush II folks, the three amigos -- McCain and Lieberman and Lindsey Graham -- and what you might call the realist school of Scowcroft and Brzezinski and the others.
And what Hagel stands for, John, is a noninterventionist foreign policy; we don't go to war unless vital interests are at stake.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm. (Acknowledging.)
MR. BUCHANAN: We put our own country first. And I think this is really going to be the battle royal in the United States Senate in the coming months.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, nobody is a shoo-in with a Republican Party that failed to defeat President Obama for reelection but still seems determined to make him a failed president. But Jacob Lew is as close to a shoo-in as there can be.
He's eminently qualified. He's a consummate professional. The only complaint you hear is that he hasn't spent enough time on Wall Street. And for a lot of Democrats, that's actually a positive attribute. So he will be confirmed.
And I believe Senator Hagel will also be confirmed, although that's a bigger fight. And his remarks about Israel, that somehow he isn't tough enough on Israel -- his objection to sanctions was that they were unilateral. He now supports the current sanctions. He is certainly not anti-Israel. And those arguments will be put aside. He's there to cut the budget, and he's the man for the moment because he has the appetite to do that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this prospective appointment is bypassing Wall Street. Is that good play by Obama?
PAUL GLASTRIS: Well, in the first four years of his administration, the first term, his great job was to keep the financial sector from collapsing. And so he had someone intimately familiar in Tim Geithner with Wall Street. In the second four years, his great job is balancing fiscal issues. And he has in Jack Lew somebody who, as Eleanor said, knows the budget up and down; tremendous respect; a great negotiator.
And keep in mind, Jack Lew is something that people don't understand. He's a liberal fiscal hawk. He's a liberal deficit hawk. He's got very strong views on the safety net and the funding of government, but he really does believe in doing what can be done to reduce deficits.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's coming at the beginning of President Obama's second term. Second terms are rough. They eventually lead into lame duckery. Do you understand? People jump ship who are working for him. So he needs a strong group to handle the deficiencies that are inherent in a second term. Do you understand me?
MR. BUCHANAN: I understand. I think that's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's right. Now, is Lew the guy that can do this for him? Can he protect him and keep him alive and prosper -- alive in the sense of politically alive, of course -- and keep him vibrant as a president?
MORT ZUCKERMAN: Look, up to a degree he can do that. But ultimately still most of the major policy is at the desk of the president. When he said that he was the man who was responsible for three surpluses under Bill Clinton, let me tell you, Bill Clinton had three different programs to reduce the budget deficit and bring about that. So it was a presidential decision. It's not the decision of the budget director.
Having said that, he is widely recognized as being an outstanding budget director. He is not widely recognized for understanding the world of finance or knowing the people in the world of finance. But let's hope we don't have another financial crisis -- although, with the kind of deficits we are running, we are vulnerable to a financial crisis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he appears to be a person you can rely on.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, without question. He knows the budget, as people say, inside and out. He's a very solid guy. His word is taken at its face value. And he knows how to deal on the budget issues with the Congress.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a little bit more on --
MS. CLIFT: He's no drama --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor.
He's married. He has two kids. He's 57 years of age. He's an Orthodox Jew. He's got a bachelor's degree from Harvard. He's got a J.D. from Georgetown School of Law. Office of Management & Budget, as we indicated earlier, he was in the Clinton administration from `98 to `01. New York University executive vice president and COO. That means president, right?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it doesn't mean president.
MS. CLIFT: Chief operating officer.
MR. BUCHANAN: Chief operating officer.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Chief operating officer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, Citi Alternative Investments and Citi Global Wealth Management, managing director and COO, 2006 to 2009.
I'm almost finished. State Department deputy secretary --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for management and resources. He was there for a year. Office of Management & Budget director for two years, 2010 to 2012. And he's been chief of staff for this year; I guess last year and this year. And that's about it.
MS. CLIFT: We have our own Wikipedia here on the set. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think the audience wants -- we all want to be introduced --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. Listen, he's had --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could I prevail upon any of the time you
wanted to say anything about Lew before we go on to Hagel?
MS. CLIFT: I just want to say --
MR. BUCHANAN: Let's go to Hagel.
MR. GLASTRIS: I was going to say exactly what you said.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You were?
MR. GLASTRIS: Yes, I was.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, right on. (Laughter.) By the way, I'm very glad to welcome you back here. This is your Washington Monthly.
MR. GLASTRIS: It is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I must commend you on this terrific -- on this terrific magazine, devoted to a large extent on what sprang from the career of Abraham Lincoln -- "Race, History and Obama's Second Term." Good luck with it; 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Where are we now?
MR. GLASTRIS: Thank you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I commend you.
MR. GLASTRIS: That's a fantastic plug.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's called Washington Monthly, for those hands out there that would like to see further on this.
OK. Haggle over Hagel.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) He'd be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as secretary of defense, one of the few secretaries who've been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama announced this week his choice for secretary of defense, former two-term senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel.
Get this. Unlike President Obama, a Democrat, Hagel is a Republican. Hagel voted for the war in Iraq in 2003. Senator Hagel became a vocal critic of the war's management. Also, Israel backers are incensed by Hagel's words regarding U.S. ally Israel. Hagel said, quote, "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator," unquote.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is no fan of Chuck Hagel.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): (From videotape.) Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation's history. Not only has he said you should directly negotiate with Iran, sanctions won't work, that Israel must negotiate with Hamas, an organization, terrorist group, that lobs thousands of rockets into Israel. This is an in-your-face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Anti-Hagel television ads are now airing.
ANNOUNCER: (From videotape.) And while President Obama says all options are on the table for preventing a nuclear Iran, Hagel said military action is not a viable, feasible, responsible option. President Obama, for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is not a responsible option.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Would President Obama have nominated Hagel if President Obama truly believed that Hagel was anti-Israel? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, he would not. And Hagel is not anti-Israel. What he is, though, is he puts his own country first. And he's tired of these resolutions the Israeli lobby brings up and tells him to sign on, and he irreverently smacked them away.
This is a guy, John, who has fought for his country and bled for his country and puts his own country first. He does believe in this. Like Nixon, like Ike, like Reagan, like Bush I, he believes in talking to our adversaries and enemies. That includes Cuba, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. And I don't know how we can prevent a war or stop wars unless you talk to both sides of these quarrels.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MS. CLIFT: That's exactly right. And that's what candidate Obama said in 2008. So these two men are very much in sync. And I just want to make one point. I'm not the first to say that, but this is really a band of brothers, because these four men -- the president, Vice President Biden, John Kerry as secretary of state and Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, if he's -- if they're all confirmed -- they all served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So they really -- they really know each other, and they are in sync in a way that I don't think we've ever seen a time like this before. This isn't the team of rivals. This is -- they're very much together.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're beginning to sound like good old boys. By the way, speaking about boys, where's the women in this administration forthcoming?
MS. CLIFT: They're -- Hillary is gone, but other than that --
MR. BUCHANAN: There's Valerie Jarrett, John. Leave it alone. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary is gone, though.
MS. CLIFT: Hillary is gone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Solis is leaving.
MS. CLIFT: Can I finish?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: Hillary is gone. All the other jobs that have been announced were occupied by white men. There are still more jobs coming. And I don't think this president feels the compulsion to look like a Benetton ad. His policies -- he's proved himself. The statistics are there. And if the Republicans want to argue that the Obama administration --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see --
MS. CLIFT: -- isn't diverse enough --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: -- have at it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see the group that were together with Obama? There was the TV set there. Their sleeves were all rolled up and they were concentrating.
MR. BUCHANAN: Staff aides.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They were all boys, out of 14 or 15 people, gathered around.
MS. CLIFT: I think Valerie --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not one woman.
MS. CLIFT: I think Valerie Jarrett's leg was in the picture.
MR. BUCHANAN: She was in there.
MS. CLIFT: She was in there.
MR. BUCHANAN: She was behind one of the guys.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She was not in there, was she?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, she was. And she's actually --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we talking about the same pictures?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: And she actually functions as the chief of staff. If anybody questions where the center of power is in the White House, a lot of it is around Valerie Jarrett.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think the gripe by feminist groups that there are not enough women --
MS. CLIFT: I understand the disappointment, but I think it's a moment in time. They're not going to be disappointed in the end.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have thoughts on this, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, well, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The subject is Hagel.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, Hagel. I feel I'd much rather talk about women. But if you insist, I'll talk about Hagel. Look, he's a very -- I think he's a very well-respected senator. The point about it is, I think, implicit in what was just referred to. He's very -- Obama's very comfortable with him. I mean, the major appointments are people he's very comfortable with and knows well personally. And I think that's the kind of person he wants to surround himself for his second term.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, you know Netanyahu. This is not privileged information I'm asking from you. But if you were Netanyahu, what conclusion would you draw from a Hagel nomination? Netanyahu might conclude that the U.S. is not serious about keeping open the option of a preemptive strike. Do you hear me on that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think Netanyahu knows exactly what his problems are in that part of the world, and he will do the best he can to deal with them without going to war. It doesn't mean that he's got an easy hand to play, by the way. But he also is going to have to deal with this administration, which probably is not the most friendly administration to the Israelis that he's had to deal with.
But that's his challenge, OK. He's got to find a way to deal with both the critical threats that Israel is facing and an administration that doesn't really believe that there should be force used in this whole process.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MS. CLIFT: I don't know that anyone thinks force should be used. It's a last resort. But they left it on the table.
MR. BUCHANAN: There are people in this city that do think force should be used, Eleanor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Paul, do you have thoughts on this?
MS. CLIFT: I was talking about the --
MR. GLASTRIS: Yeah. I think this is a great debate to have.
MS. CLIFT: -- Obama administration.
MR. GLASTRIS: Chuck Hagel -- putting him out there forces Washington to grapple with budget cuts on defense and how to do them right so that we cut but don't run. And he's the perfect foil for that. He will be, I think, elected -- appointed.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. GLASTRIS: But it's a great debate to have.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- he will put the debate right on -- I think a good debate is should we really go to war with Iran, and under what circumstances. We really ought to have it all out before that decision is made. And I think the Hagel nomination is a place to do it.
MS. CLIFT: Well, the president --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any doubt in your mind that we have practically sworn as a nation to be an ally with Israel, as Israel is with us?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the United States -- the American people, the whole country, believes that Israel is a friend and ally of the United States. I was with Nixon. He rescued Israel even though they weren't a formal ally.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MR. BUCHANAN: People believe that. But they disagree, John, on the agenda of Likud, of Netanyahu, and of the Israeli lobby.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it doesn't mean our alliance with Israel that we are unequivocally identified with or support the policies or programs of Netanyahu. Correct?
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think -- but that's been true of every Israeli prime minister.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not every policy of every Israeli prime minister was supported by the United States. That's where the prime minister of Israel better make sure that he knows where the United States is coming from. And I suspect that this president is not going to abandon Israel.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, we've got to get --
MS. CLIFT: To clarify -- to clarify what I said, the president and the Obama administration does not want to use force against Iran. But that option is on the table. It has not been taken off the table.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Gun Control -- National and State.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: (From videotape.) There is nothing that has pricked the consciousness of the American people, there is nothing that has gone to the heart of the matter more than the visual image people have of little six-year-old kids, not shot by a stray bullet -- riddled, riddled with bullet holes in their classroom. And the public demands we speak to it.
This week, in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 elementary school children and six adults massacred, Vice President Joe Biden, at President Obama's request, led a task force to address the broad, sensitive and inflammatory issue of gun control.
Gun groups, like the National Rifle Association, presented views to the Biden task force, which has addressed specific proposals; notably, reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and close loopholes; require standardized universal criminal background checks and mental health background checks at gun shows and through private dealers.
Support for what the Obama-Biden team is doing at the federal level was echoed by Governor Cuomo in New York on and for the state level.
NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D): (From videotape.) Set them an example for the rest of the nation. Let them look at New York and say this is what you can do -- pass safe, reasonable gun control in the state of New York. And I say to you, forget the extremists. It's simple. No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. End the madness now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Points in Governor Cuomo's plan: Single standard for background checks, for gun licenses, notably to bar convicted felons. Ban large-capacity ammunition clips, 10 rounds or more, regardless of their manufacture date. Strengthen penalties for illegal gun carriers or for those who carry guns onto school property or those engaged in violent activity. Confiscate guns from owners deemed dangerous by mental health professionals. Regular reviews of gun owners to determine fitness to own a firearm.
Do you think Governor Cuomo is -- I say this respectfully -- waking up in the middle of the night hearing "Hail to the Chief"? Do you think this is --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: This --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- an indication of what his plans are four years from now, to run for president?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I can't imagine a New York governor thinking someday he might be president. It's just beyond my imagination, John. But I'll make the adjustment if I have to, just to answer your question. Yes, he does think about it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I am not saying it's a political --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that's perfectly all right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of the -- what did you think of what he said?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Listen, he's going to get this through. He's going to get a big change in gun controls through New York State. He's got the capability to do it. He knows how to handle his legislative bodies. So I think he's going to get this through. And it will set an example for the rest of the country, which, in my judgment, is long overdue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's already possibly answered the question, Paul, but do you think this is going to become normative, this approach of Governor Cuomo, where he's insisting on gun control in his state? It would be normative for the other 49 states?
MR. GLASTRIS: Not for the other 49 states, but the Democratic states. It's happening in Colorado. It's happening in Illinois, where they're tightening up gun control laws.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say just Democratic states?
MR. GLASTRIS: Well, I don't -- I don't know that there are too many Republican states that are going the same --
MR. BUCHANAN: Virginia's a real gun state.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but a lot has transpired.
MR. BUCHANAN: I know a lot has transpired. It would not get through, and it will not get through the Congress.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even today?
MR. BUCHANAN: It won't get through the Congress of the United States, in my judgment. Feinstein -- Dianne Feinstein, who's the head of this, she is going to grandfather in all of these assault weapons already in people's hands. One million, John, are on back order. Sales of these Bushmaster things, these Armalite rifles, have doubled in the last month. This whole campaign that turned around and focused on the horror of guns --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but that is such a --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- has boosted gun sales --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- all over the country.
MS. CLIFT: That's such a facetious argument. What you're basically saying, they're all out there, so therefore we can't stop it going forward. Reality is you're not going to get gun confiscation, because the Second Amendment supporters would be up in arms. So they can only do something prospectively going forward. But aside from just banning the sale of assault weapons, you can, as you pointed out in the set-up, ban the sale of these large magazines. If you're a sportsman --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: -- you do not need 10 shots to kill a deer. You're a lousy shot if that's -- so this is unnecessary. And most sportsmen, even members of the NRA, agree with that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Paul, quickly.
MR. GLASTRIS: Another point to make. Criminologists would point out that it is new guns that criminals like. Criminals don't like guns stored in people's houses. Yeah, some of those wind up in gun crimes. Most guns that wind up in gun crimes are new guns. Anything you start now is going to have positive effects.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, half the --
MS. CLIFT: And the paybacks that they're organizing --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, half the people who own --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat in.
MR. BUCHANAN: Half the people who own these Armalite rifles are cops and veterans. They're -- also you've got kids watching these videos and all of these movies. They see these guns romanticized and glamorized.
When has Barack Obama said I don't want any Hollywood guy in my Oval Office or any money from Hollywood who glamorizes these weapons in movie after movie after movie? What do you think builds the audience --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- for these guns?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This point is extremely well taken and one that I have developed on previous shows. Portrait aggression plays a real role --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the psyche of younger people.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No question.
MS. CLIFT: And the vice president --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And older people too.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It doesn't justify it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And it doesn't justify a program in which --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we should watch our motion pictures and our television and our -- and other entertainment operations.
MR. BUCHANAN: Video games.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: All the more reason --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, these --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: All the more reason why we should control the distribution of guns, the sale of guns, and the kind of guns that people can buy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well stated, Mort.
Issue Three: Assad's Call to Arms.
Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, issued a defiant call this past Sunday for a, quote-unquote, "total national mobilization" to defeat Syrian nationals rebelling against him. The conflict is nearly two years old. It is estimated to have killed more than 60,000 people.
Assad's speech hammered home how far out of reach a political answer is to the civil war now raging. The U.N., by the way, is describing the hostilities as a civil war. Assad was addressing an audience of loyalists in the opera house in central Damascus. The Syrian leader stressed the importance of total mobilization.
Quote: "Syria will only exit this calamity by converting this energy into a total national mobilization to save the country from the clutches of a crisis that has no precedent in this region," unquote.
The addressed marked President Assad's first speech to the nation in more than six months. He denies that there was a popular uprising against his family's rule, now in its 42nd year. He called the conflict an insurgency comprised of a, quote, "handful of Syrians and many foreigners -- terrorists holding the views of al-Qaida. They call themselves jihadists and are running terrorist operations here, and we are fighting them," unquote.
Assad also called for a national dialogue that would include, quote, "all elements of Syrian society," unquote. Rebels have taken over significant territory, but to date have not been able to break Assad's regime's grip on most of the main cities.
Question: The U.N. says that the current conflict in Syria is a civil war. What follows from that?
MR. BUCHANAN: The United States is going to the Security Council, and we've been blocked by the Russians and the Chinese. So we have no authorization there. We have no NATO authorization as of now.
Frankly, John, the Americans and the Israelis and the others are getting cold feet on the idea of Assad going down, because the people who are really rising in this revolution are jihadists who are coming in from all over the world now into Syria. And also Syria, the government there has done a better job than people expected. People thought it was going to be gone. And they've done a better job of holding the cities, and they're maintaining it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I'll tell you, I don't think anybody really has a clear idea of what's going on on the ground. I just was with one of the journalists who just came back from Syria, and he says that that whole country is in turmoil. And there are all kinds of different groups.
I agree, the existing government has a certain amount of control over arms and military force in that part of the world, but it's eroding at a very rapid rate. And there's going to be chaos. It seems to me what we have to find out a way is to deal with the chaos and to find somebody that we can support who will succeed Assad, because he has been a disaster --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- for that region for a long time, as was his father.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know the chemical weapon worry. It was earlier connected to Assad. The bigger chemical weapon worry is that if the rebels take over that government, they will have the possible usage of chemical weapons if an uprising rises against them. Do you follow me?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is always possible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a worse -- is that a more likely scenario, scenario two? What am I trying to say? Is it a more justification for worry, number two, as opposed to number one?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, the issue is if we're going to stand by and do nothing, OK, the chances are that a rebel group will take over. And who knows what they will do?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who wants them to have --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The chances are also --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who wants them to have control of the weaponry?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We want them to have chemical -- we don't want Assad to have chemical weapons.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's also --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And the whole world has now warned Assad against the development and the use of chemical weapons. And if he does use it, he'll be over.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. But is there now a lessening of the worry that Assad may use the chemical weapons if it's now shifting in that way?
MR. GLASTRIS: I think we never know what Assad is going to do. But to answer your original question, does the fact that the U.N. has said it is a civil war justify it, what will -- if we want to justify it, we'll justify it.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. GLASTRIS: We'll find alliances to make it happen.
MS. CLIFT: And the --
MR. GLASTRIS: We don't have a handle on how to work there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Sorry. Bye-bye.
(C) 2013 Federal News Service