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tv   Crossfire  CNN  September 12, 2013 3:30pm-4:01pm PDT

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very skeptical. >> i've got real doubts about the motives of the russians and president assad. >> i've never liked mr. putin. in fact, obama never liked him until last tuesday, when he came and bailed him out. >> now, come on. you're going to join the complainers? >> let me just say, we've had 19 days since the attack of the obama rope-a-dope, talk, talk, talk, talk. followed by three days now of a joint russian/american talk, talk, talk. we'll find out if it leads to anything real or if it doesn't. but for this evening, i'm delighted that in the "crossfire," democratic congressman alan grayson who is for putin's peace plan, and danielle pletga, who thinks the president has mismanaged the syrian crisis. let me start, danielle, with you. you saw this morning "the new york times" op-ed piece by president putin, instructing the american people. let me just read one brief section of it. he says, "no one doubts that
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poison gas was used in syria. but there is every reason to believe it was used not by the syrian army, but by opposition forces to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patri patrons." now, do you agree with putin that this could have easily been a clever black flag operation, or do you in fact agree with the american intelligence community that this was clearly done by the syrian army? >> the weight of the evidence at this point is that it was done by the syrian army. however, all members of congress, all of whom, as you well know, have classified clearance, have received so far is a four-page unclassified document making all the arguments for war and a 12-page classified document, which you can surmise, does much the same. that's it. we haven't seen any of the underlying intelligence whatsoever. and it puzzles me and disturbs me that the administration has held these vital pieces of information so close to the vest, that even members of congress can't see it, although we're being asked to vote on war
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and peace. >> well, look, it's an absolute fact, and the governor agrees too, that in his own country, president putin opened a campaign in chechnya that killed about 300,000 people. that's an absolute fact that he, in fact, invaded the independent country of georgia. so i find it a little hard to take too credibly his defense of his syrian allally. it's something i would ask you, are you comfortable that putin will follow through and that we can rely on him? >> it doesn't matter. either he will or he won't. and nobody, nobody in america lakes being dictated to by a dictator. nobody likes being chided by a dictator, but one of your contributions to foreign policy is to point out the value of thinking in terms of national interests, rather than in terms of personality. it doesn't matter whether it's putin that came up with this plan or paris hilton. the fact is that we have to follow it through to see if it leads to some place good. >> well, i think we might actually agree on this, because, it's a messy kitchen.
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the process has been messy, but the cake might be yummy. we might be in a situation where we get the chemical weapons out, we don't have to spend a bunch of money, we don't have to go to war. you must be very happy about where we are right now, right? >> you have such a lovely smile. i wish i could agree with you. no, i'm not happy about where we are. i'm not happy about where we are for a whole variety of reasons. i think the president has made a profoundly confused case, and what we saw, as newt said at the beginning is we saw push, push, push, push. we've got to do it, we've got to do it, we've got to do it now. congress has the to authorize this. and all of a sudden we step back and hand responsibility of this to salad pier tvladimir putin. i would be happier if we were handing it to paris hilton, to be frank. >> it seems to me this is what diplomacy is all about. it's our president who put the warships out there, who called attention to these atrocities, who got this attention going, and he's responding to us. now isn't the monkey on the back
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of the russian? isn't this what diplomacy is all about? am i wrong? >> i think you're partly right. ting question of diplomacy is all about this kind of thing. if you can muscle someone to the right line and then get them to step across it diplomatically, that's awesome. >> and is that what -- is that not what we're doing? >> the problem is, they're not stepping across to us, they're stepping across to the russians. i think newt outlined who the russians are. i think they outlined who putin is. now, remember, russia is a signatory to the chemical weapons convention. they've got obligations under the cwc. they are not in compliance with the cwc, according to the state department, which mr. obama -- >> but if they had reached out to sweden or brazil, they have no leverage over syria. i mean, look, i don't like putin, i don't like what russia stands for, but you've got to deal with the facts on the ground. russia is a fact, putin is a leader. he's got the leverage. isn't it a good thing that obama got him in the game? >> it's great to be in the game, the problem is, is he giving us an answer? and i don't think we're getting a real answer.
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what we're getting is a delay. and i've got to say, if the president of the united states comes within two weeks or three weeks and says, that really didn't work. but now things aren't going well, so please give me this authorization, tell me, what's going to happen? >> it's not going to happen. >> bin go. >> but it's been true now for two weeks that it's not going to happen. the current talent at "the washington post" website is 25 members of the house in favor of this, 1263 against. the numbers did change after the president spoke. 11 members declared they were against it, and one member shifted from for to against. that's the change in numbers since the president spoke. the problem, fundamentally, is that there is no better option than the so-called putin option, which is really in some sense the carry option, right now. there's no better way to do this. what happened is, the president presented his military options to congress and congress said, no way. that doesn't make any sense to us. that's dangerous and it's pointless. >> but let me ask you a
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question. i'm fascinated, you made a very important point here. if you had 11 people come out against and one person switched from yes to no, based on the president's speech the other night, why do you think the speech failed to decisively? you know, ideally, presidents lake to have momentum in the other direction, towards the speech, not away from it. i'm just curious, what do you think? you're a solid democrat, you know, what do you think happened -- >> i think that even the president's supporters feel that the president's focusing exclusively on what happened in damascus suburbs on the night of 21st without focusing on what might happen or what should happen going forward. he barely talks about the attack itself, the details of what the attack would look like. if he does talk about it, he never talks about the consequences of it. the potential counterstrikes. is syria going to go ahead and attack israel? is syria going to attack the u.s.? is syria going to attack u.s. civilian? is syria going to attack u.s. embassies in the region?
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there's no discussion -- >> do you realize what you're saying? and i don't want to defend the president's strategy. i think he's presented two extremely bad options to the american public and he hasn't built a credible foundation for his foreign policy, but what you are saying is we should be deterred by the likes of syria and hezbollah. let me tell you, if the united states is now in a position where we are deterred by them, we're in a very sorry place. >> that's completely the wrong way to look at this. anyone recognizes right now, in fact, the general who's in charge of this attack said himself that our attack siing sa is an act of war. if you throw a punch, you better be ready for someone else to throw a punch at you or maybe fire a gun at you. >> let me issue a follow-up. as recently as today, secretary kerry indicated very clearly that he thought the threat of force was essential to getting the russians and the syrians to be real. now, to what extent are you saying that you think the russians who have also had
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pretty good intelligence in this country can simply look and realize the president is not going to be able to get the kind of support he needs to have a serious threat of force, unless he operates by not going to the congress? >> well, in fact, i do believe that putin has access to "the washington post" website. so that much is true. i imagine syria also has access to "the washington post" website, so much is true also. one possibility is that the russians and the syrians are going ahead. and there's possibly a breakdown between the command and control of these weapons and now is the syrian dictator even realize s, this is trouble, he better get rid of them. >> i don't understand what you want to happen. i know you. i know you very well. you are somebody who cares about poor people, you care about children, you spent most of your life sticking up for the least of these. the worst-off people on planet earth right now, 2 million of them, they're stuck in these refugee camps. there are going to be 3 million or more.
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this president is trying to get something done about it. but to you, a liberal democrat, and someone who's a hero for a lot of people, to apparently be perfectly fine with america not using its power to get something done is kind of shocking. if you donate support the president, what is your plan for peace over there? >> listen, i'm in favor of doing things, except for things that make things worse. the war in iraq clearly has made things worse. >> i know what you don't want to do. >> no food, no water. >> i'm with you, i don't want the war. but i'm getting very, very concerned that with this break in the action, that we're going to be less concerned about what's going on there. what is the nonviolent peaceful plan that you would be for that would do something about those people who are being gassed, that would do something about those people who are suffering in the refugee camps? >> the answer is to help the living, to help the survivors, to give them food, to give them water, to give them shelter. but there's no such thing as a humanitarian bomb. there's no such thing -- >> are you also going to stand back -- you have been hawkish, you've been tough, you've been strong. is america now out of the
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democracy business? are you, at this point, prepared to stand back and let horrible things happen overseas? >> absolutely not. >> what should we do? >> well, i think, first of all, we can't turn back time. had we been doing the right thing, we would have stepped in before al qaeda was there. but you're absolutely right. right now there's only one answer. and that is a diplomatic answer for sure. the only thing that is going to get assad to the table for negotiations is when he thinks that otherwise, he is going to lose this fight. that's the imperative. >> so? >> from that standpoint, i think it's very, very important for us to look at whether getting rid of chemical weapons, but keeping assad, is an acceptable outcome, because that's certainly the direction that they are moving in at the present time. >> it's entirely confusing. the president came out in june and decided to arm the rebels. again, this was almost two years into a fight. why then? i can't tell you. but he decided to -- and then he
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didn't! why, why -- >> we'll go back to that in just a minute. but let me say first that i am amazed that anyone in america would be insulted by "the new york times'" op-ed by putin. because putin is unworthy of being insulted by. i'll explain why after the break. [ female announcer ] what if the next big thing, isn't a thing at all? it's lots of things. all waking up. connecting to the global phenomenon we call the internet of everything. ♪ it's going to be amazing. and exciting. and maybe, most remarkably, not that far away. we're going to wake the world up. and watch, with eyes wide, as it gets to work. cisco.
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welcome back to "crossfire." i just want to take a minute, personally, to talk about this "new york times" op-ed piece, almost certainly largely written by a washington if i were that's hired by the russians. but supposedly offered by president putin. i'm a little surprised at all the different reaction, senators who wanted to vomit, congressmen who were insulted. look, vladimir putin is honestly and authentically a kbg officer. he grew up in the kbg, he was trained in the kgb, he spent his career locking people up, overseeing torture, overseeing killings. this is a genuinely tough guy. and he has one interest. great russian nationalism. and he's very open about it. now, this is a guy who for public relations purposes wrestles bears. he goes out and shoots tigers stripped to the waist to prove he's a tough guy. the idea that we would take his
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statements seriously, you could go through and read that document and you could find at every single stage that it's a lie. this is a guy who clearly, for example, invaded georgia. he didn't go and ask the u.n. this is a guy who killed 300,000 people in chechnya. he didn't worry about humanitarian concerns. when he lectures us, that's his right. but for us to take it seriously is a sign we have forgotten who salad pier putin is and why we have to deal with him as the president of russia, we don't have to respect his views, we don't have to respect his opinions, and frankly, we should laugh at him when he tries to lecture america about exceptionalism, because he ain't exceptional, he's just one more in a long tradition of dictators and thugs. that's my view. but alan, i'm curious. >> a little hot! >> and let's talk about president obama. >> so he's not paris hilton. but, seriously --
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>> here's the interesting thing. someone who leads a country that was, until 20 years ago, the soviet union, appealing to our faith in god. did you notice that? >> i noticed that. >> what did you think of that? >> i thought it was written by the washington speechwriters. but it was a remarkable post-soviet document, because he cites the pope. i mean, can you imagine khrushchev or lennin or stalin, you want to know who lost the cold war, the communists lost the cold war. >> well, stalin would ask, how many divisions does the pope have. >> fair enough. and i -- nobody around ehere isa fan of putin. >> let's make that very clear. >> nobody around here is a fan of putin at all, that's fine. and i appreciate your passion. but i also think it's important for us to look at what set him off, he's mad that the president said something about american exceptionalism. i'm proud of this president. as mad as i am at putin, i'm proud of this president.
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and it seems to me you're not as proud. and i don't understand why not. when i look at this situation, i say to myself, we were in a lose/lose situation a week ago. we either rush into a war or we stand back and do nothing. now we're in a win/win situation. russia is in this game. their credibility is on the table, on the line. if they do well, we get peace. if they screw up, we have all of our options on the table. why are you not proud of this president? >> first of all, we don't have all our options on the table, because the president went -- well, stop a s.e.ec. the president went to congress. congress, votes aren't there. we know that. fewer votes will be there in a few weeks, a month. so i don't think the president any longer has all the options on the table. number one, he has transferred the chestnuts that were in the fire to putin's fire. and putin is now holding on to them. it seems to me that the president of the united states is not in a good position when he articulates something as a matter of the most important national security to us, but then says, i'm going to let
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vladimir work it out. >> you're still mad that the president went to congress? >> i spent ten years working for the senate foreign relations committee. i'm a huge believer in the prerogatives of congress. what i don't like about what the president did is the hypocrisy and the inconsistency. >> the president is being hypocritical? >> why was libya something that was totally good not to go to congress, and syria, he had to go to congress? why was libya, which was less in our national interests, though i supported him, as i would on syria, let me make that absolutely clear, but syria he has to go to congress. it's completely incomprehensible. >> danielle, here's my big concern. >> mm-hmm? >> i think this president is doing something remarkable. you have a rwanda on one side and iraq on the other. a rwanda, where we don't do anything and there's a disaster. you have iraq where we do something reckless and stupid and there's a disaster. and there's a winding road between those two outcomes and this president, yeah, he's zigging, he's zagging, because it's a zig-zaggy road. and i'm afraid that we don't recognize when somebody's
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actually trying, in the moment, to do the right thing. you know, peyton manning, as a quarterback, he will wait until the very last second. okay, okay, this is -- okay, i lost you, fine. i lost you. but my only point is, sometimes leadership is messy! and i think he's doing a good thing. how can you say he's yellow lines and dead critters. all i can say to you about that is i think that the president has managed to engineer the worst of all worlds. we don't get rid of the dictator but we still have all the dead people in rwanda. >> having turned to the congress, but now having sort of backed off from turning to congress because it is now all in limbo. has the president lost the ability to strike unilaterally? or could he get away with turning and saying, we tried. we did our best. as commander-in-chief i'm exercising my powers. >> the price you pay when you ask people for advice, sometime
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you have to listen to it. when the president came to congress and asked us for advice, many serving members of congress are veterans. many members like me have some experience. we can make independent judgments. we say to ourselves, this isn't going to work. this idea that there was ever another option is entirely. the president does not command forces that could overthrow the dictator. the president does not command forces that could even reduce the stockpile of chemical weapons. i've heard what the plans were. i'll tell that you the way we were headed. we weren't going to be able to prevent another chemical attack. so people look at this. the illusory advances, they say this is not a viable approach. >> are we now in a better position? we were wondering, can we deter
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the chemical attacks in we're now in a position to maybe destroy all the chemical weapons. that right. >> that is clock drop. he has already reportedly, i heard wolf tell me, begun to move the chemical weapons out of syria into iraq and lebanon. >> that's not true. >> sorry. >> why do you say it's not true? >> i have certain information. you can bet that if there were pro liveration even attempted, the israelis would do that. when the president drew his famous red line, he was responding to a question. >> they would allow it to be built in syria before they hit it. >> that's my point. >> if it happened today, i don't think they would have -- if it happened today i don't think they would have tested.
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don't you had it is very clear the prewill not get authority, in your belief, that in fact kerry has been stripped of almost any serious leverage and we're now relying on the good will of the russians. >> that's not the way diplomacy works. in your experience, it work when everybody ends up happy or at left a not sad. it doesn't work through coerci n coercion. you end up with people evading their responsibilities. >> aren't we in a situation where people are so concerned about russia eclipsing the u.s. that the american public make it uncomfortable with that. both sides get to win. do you the american people will be happy seeing russia strutting around saying we're the winner here? >> listen, the people will be happy if the government doesn't shut down in three week. they'll be happy if the 20 million americans who are looking for full time work can find it.
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>> you're talking isolation. >> no, but i don't think people can say the only choice is to occupy for a decade. there has to be some kind of middle. >> what president 50 meed? was the president suggesting that we invade iraq and occupy it for ten years? i have to get out more. >> and what do you think would happen if we hit them? they hit us? what do you think that is in. >> thank you very much. i wish we could go on with this but we have to call it there. i really want to thank you, congressman, and you, danielle for being here. next we're going to cease fire. tonight when we get back we'll agree to disagree with vladimir putin. i'm beth... and i'm michelle. and we own the paper cottage. it's a stationery and gifts store. anything we purchase for the paper cottage goes on our ink card. so you can manage your business expenses and access them online instantly with the game changing app from ink.
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putin has been attacking the president and i disagree. america is exceptional. we have this founding reality that was ugly. it had slavery in it but we had a founding dream about equality. as a country, year after year, decade after decade, we've been closing the gap between that reality and that dream. no country in the world can say that. and i just think it is sad that we even have to defend that we are a special place. we are a special place. >> i think one of the great
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things i worry about in our schools and our whole system of education. we've dropped away from reminding people that george washington, thomas jefferson, all these guys who wrote the declaration of independence wrork the constitution and led the early country. they had a vision, a dream. that dr. king remaineded us of when he came 50 years ago to this city. if write a russian leader with a history of czars and serfs and i was in a problem with lock up a girl band. you look at some of the stuff. lectured by pat pat on exceptionalism is an honor that i'm happy to bear on behalf of the united states. >> fair enough. we would lake to hear your opinion on this. if you go to faceback or twitter, you can weigh in on our fair back question. i'll let newt take it away.
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>> is america the most exceptional nation? 66% say no. >> so the debate kneads to continue online at cnn.com. join us tomorrow for another edition of cross fire. erin burnett starts right now. three stories breaking and developing. a six-alarm fire engulfing the famous new jersey boardwalk that was destroyed by hurricane sandy and just finished rebuild. we'll go alive to the scene. governor christie is alive. plus, syria degrees sign on to the weapon ban. and deadly in addition in colorado continue to rage tonight. you see that scene there. one of the most incredible rescues you have seen. three

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