CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR (is my source for this entry).
President Trump strikes back at Syria in response to that chemical attack that killed innocent civilians, sending a message to Bashar Assad and the world.
WALLACE: We will discuss Mr. Trump’s order to launch cruise missiles at the Syrian military, the signal it sends to Russia, and to North Korea in the middle of the Chinese summit. Our guest, President Trump’s national security advisor, General H.R. McMaster, in his first television interview since taking office. It’s a “Fox News Sunday” exclusive.
The Trump administration says it’s prepared to do more after this week’s missile barrage on the Syrian air base meant to deter President Bashar Assad from again using chemical weapons against his own people. The question this hour is: what happens next?
KRISTIN FISHER, FOX NEWS CORRRESPONDENT: Chris, residents of the same Syrian town hit in that chemical weapons attack say warplanes have returned to bomb them, though this time without the deadly gas. And it has the world wondering how President Trump will respond.
In a letter to Congress, he defended his decision to launch almost 60 Tomahawk missiles at a single Syrian air base without congressional approval by saying, quote, “I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interest of the United States pursuant to my constitutional authority.” He then said that, quote, “The U.S. will take additional action as necessary and appropriate to further its important national interests.”
As the president mulls over what those additional actions might be, the Pentagon is investigating if Russia was involved in that chemical weapons attack. Senior military officials say a Russian drone was seen flying over the hospital where victims of the attack were taken. A few hours later, it was bombed. The Kremlin is denying any responsibility.
Now, Russia is flexing its muscles by sending a warship towards the two Navy destroyers that launched the strike on Syria.
And all of this just days before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to take his first trip to Moscow. The State Department says Tillerson called his Russian counterpart yesterday and the trip is still on and he will be bringing a very powerful message with him, that President Trump is willing to take decisive military action any time a country crosses his red line — Chris.
LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Thank you, Chris. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
WALLACE: The Trump administration seems to be sending mixed signals this weekend. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says that getting rid of Assad is a priority. On the other hand, Secretary of State Tillerson says that first, we have to get rid of ISIS, destroy ISIS, Assad can wait.
So, which is it? How does the president see this playing out in Syria?
MCMASTER: Well, both Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley are right about this. What we really need to do, and what everyone who’s involved in this conflict needs to do is to do everything they can to resolve this civil war, to halt this humanitarian catastrophe, this political catastrophe, not only in Syria, but the catastrophe is affecting the greater Middle East, it’s affecting Europe and it’s a threat to the American people as well.
And so, to do that, what’s required is some kind of a political solution to that very complex problem. And what Ambassador Haley pointed out is it’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime.
Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves, what are we doing here? Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?
So, I think that while people are really anxious to find — to find inconsistencies in the statements, they are in fact very consistent in terms of what is the ultimate political objective in Syria.
WALLACE: I understand that that’s the ultimate political objective. But Secretary Tillerson said destroying ISIS must come first. You don’t seem to be saying that.
MCMASTER: No, that’s exactly what we are saying. We have seen what ISIS does, right, how ISIS brutalize these people, how ISIS has now established control of territory and populations and resources and grown in strength and is threat to all civilized peoples. So, we are conducting very effective operations alongside our partners in Syria and in Iraq to defeat ISIS, to destroy ISIS and reestablish control of that territory, control of those populations, protect those populations, allow refugees to come back, begin reconstruction and allow the resources —
WALLACE: But, sir, I’m just trying to clear this up — is it two separate tracks at the same time or does ISIS have to happen first before we and the international community moved to depose Assad?
MCMASTER: Well, I think as you saw with the strike, that there has to be a degree of simultaneous activity as well as sequencing of the defeat of ISIS first. What you have in Syria is a very destructive cycle of violence perpetuated by ISIS, obviously, but also by this regime and their Iranian and Russian sponsors. And so, what we have to be able to do is to work together with our allies and partners to help resolve this conflict and the resolution of the conflict will tell each of the elements that you are talking about, Chris, the defeat of ISIS, and then also, it has to be a significant change in the nature of the Assad regime and its behavior in particular.
WALLACE: But let me ask you a question, sir, which may clarify this, because as Kristin Fisher reported, Syrian warplanes are already using that same base that you and the U.S. forces hit Thursday night and they are reportedly again bombing that same town in northern Syria, but only this time with conventional weapons, not chemical. The question is, if Assad continues killing babies only with conventional weapons, not chemical, will this president stop that, or will President Trump say he’s going to do nothing, stand aside?
MCMASTER: Well, I think what’s important to remember is, our objective — our objective was to deter the continued use, because there’s been a pattern of the abuse of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and his mass murder attacks against innocent civilians. That was the objective.
And I think Ambassador Haley, Secretary Tillerson — everyone has confirmed that we are prepared to do more. In fact, we are prepared to do more. In fact, we are prepared to more two days ago as well.
And so, what’s significant about the strike is not that it was meant to take out the Syrian regime’s capacity or ability to commit mass murder of its own people, but it was to be a very strong signal to Assad and his sponsors that the United States cannot stand idly by as he is murdering innocent civilians — what was a red line in 2013. And so, that was the important objective to keep in mind here.
WALLACE: He is continuing the mass murder. So, the question is, if he uses conventional weapons, is President Trump prepared to stop him from using conventional weapons to slaughter innocent civilians?
MCMASTER: Well, I think with this president — what we have is someone was helping us understand helping us provide him with an assessment of what is the degree of agency and control we have over this very complex situation. The president has, in response to a mass murder attack, acted decisively.
And if they’re using that airfield, that’s — I mean, that’s not what the objective was, to take out the airfield forever. The objective was to send a very strong political message to Assad. And this is — this is very significant I think because I think everyone should realize this is the first time the United States has acted directly against the Assad regime, and that should be a strong message to Assad and to his sponsors who are enabling his campaign of mass murder against his own civilians.
WALLACE: So, there is a possibility that President Trump, you are saying — leaving it wide open that he will act against President Assad if he goes against civilians no matter what weapon he uses?
MCMASTER: Well, the president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people, and it will be our job to provide him with options based on how we see this conflict evolve in this period of time before us, after the strike. And what we’re doing now is working with our partners, our allies, everyone, except Russia and Iran, who are somehow continue to think that it’s OK to be aligned with his murderous regime.
We are working with our parties and allies to magnify the effects of this strike to — and then to build momentum toward ultimately resolving the civil war, defeating ISIS and bringing the peace and security back to this region and to the Syrian people.
WALLACE: Let me bring in — you mentioned Russia. Russia has sent, as Kristin Fisher reported, has sent a warship into the Mediterranean. And over the weekend, the prime minister of Russia, Medvedev, wrote, the U.S. is, quote, “on the verge of a military clash with Russia.”
Sir, what are we prepared to do if Russia defends its interests in Syria?
MCMASTER: Well, this is part of the problem with Syria is Russia’s sponsorship for this murderous regime.
And if we would want to appeal rationally to Russia, this is a great opportunity for the Russian leadership to reevaluate what they’re doing. Why they are supporting a regime that is committing mass murder against its own people. And so, Russia could be part of the solution. Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem.
WALLACE: Was Russia involved? Do we have evidence that they were involved in the chemical attack?
MCMASTER: Well, I think what we should do is ask Russia — how could it be, if you have advisors at that airfield, that you didn’t know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons? I think we ought to ask them a question.
WALLACE: President Trump, as you well know, talk to during the campaign and since about trying to establish an alliance with Vladimir Putin and he indicated that there was some kind of moral equivalence between the two nations.
WALLACE: General, what is our relationship with Russia and Putin today?
MCMASTER: Well, today, it can be whatever the Russians want it to be. Do they want it to be a relationship of competition and potential conflict? I don’t see how that’s in Russian interest. Or do they want it to be where a relationship in which we can find areas of cooperation that are — that are in our mutual interest?
How is it in anyone’s interest that this conflict in Syria and this catastrophe in the greater Middle East continue?
And they can be part of the solution or they can continue what has been really a very sophisticated campaign of subversion against Western interests and a campaign of subversion and intervention on behalf of a murderous regime in the Middle East.
And so, I think this is what our secretary of state will be exploring with the Russian leadership this week and the president is determined to do everything he can to advance American interests. And if that entails working with others to come to solutions in the world that enhance our security, the president will do that. And it’s really now up to the Russian leadership to reevaluate what they are doing in the Middle East.
WALLACE: I want to turn — this all overshadowed the fact that the missile strike happened in the midst of a summit between President Trump and Chinese President Xi. And during dinner, the president told President Xi about the attack. Did President Xi give any indication that he now takes President Trump statement more seriously that if China doesn’t act to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, that he, President Trump, will? Did you get the sense that they were taking that more seriously, and also we learned this morning that a U.S. carrier strike force is on its way to the Korean Peninsula, why?
MCMASTER: Well, it is such a privilege to be part of this national security team and help enable this team for the president as national security advisor. It’s really extraordinary. I think the degree of concurrent activity that was going on this week and nobody really even broke a sweat over it. I mean, we have extraordinarily competent people in these positions who are providing the president with options and then can — then have this amazing military that we have that can execute those decisions of the president flawlessly.
And so, it was, I think, maybe a bit surprising to the guests here about how really no one was really even stressed out or anything about the need to conduct this operation in the wake of this murderous attack. And I think the summit was extremely successful, because it met the first objective, which is to allow the president and Premier Xi to build a relationship that they can use to identify areas of cooperation and to advance really our mutual interests, but American interest in particular. These are key areas.
WALLACE: And I’m running out of time. So, I’ve got to ask you sort of lightning round — quick questions, quick answers.
Why the carrier strike force to the Korean Peninsula?
MCMASTER: Well, it’s prudent to do it, isn’t it? I mean, North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior. This is — this is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear capable regime, and President Xi and President Trump agreed that that is unacceptable, that what must happen is the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And so, the president has asked to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat the American people and to our allies and partners in the region.
WALLACE: Finally, you know, you’ve got China, you’ve got Syria, you’ve got Russia, but a lot of people in Washington are talking about relations inside the White House — welcome to the D.C. politics, General McMaster — why did you push for Steve Bannon to be taken off the principals committee of the National Security Council?
MCMASTER: Well, this is not as significant as it appears, I think. But I think what the president was making clear that he is going — in terms of permanent membership of National Security Council — have those permanent members who are for every meeting, every official meeting of the National Security Council, to be those who will give him their advice on the long-term interests of the American people.
And so, really, though, you know, it depends — the president can get advice from anybody he wants, and he does that. He asked a broad range of people who he trusts, and Steve Bannon is one of them, about policy decisions and about the risks and opportunities involved with each of these. So, none of that has changed.
WALLACE: But do you think it was inappropriate to have a political advisor in that role?
MCMASTER: Well, no, I think what is appropriate is to have in that role — whoever the president wants in that role. And there — and Steve Bannon provides the president with advice on a broad range of issues and will continue to do so.
WALLACE: Just as President Trump launched that missile attack in Syria, Senate Republicans employed the nuclear option to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Joining us now: two Senate leaders to discuss both developments. From Austin, Texas, the number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn, and here in Washington, Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Cardin, you just heard the president’s national security advisor, General McMaster. Are you satisfied that they have a clear plan for how to proceed in Syria?
SEN. BEN CARDIN, D-MARYLAND: Not at all. I don’t — I don’t think he articulated a Syrian strategy. What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported. But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.
WALLACE: I want to ask you about that, as well, Senator Cornyn, because as I said, there were these mixed messages that have come out this weekend from the administration. Haley is talking about deposing Assad, Tillerson talking about taking out ISIS first. Do you have a clear sense of what the administration’s policy is?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: Well, first and foremost, I think it’s to send a message to Assad and to the Russians, the Iranians and North Koreans that there’s a new administration in charge of our national security policy. I applaud the president for doing what he did to enforce that red line that President Obama drew three years ago, but did nothing to enforce.
But I think that, along with my friend, Ben Cardin, Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria. We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and the 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.
So, we definitely need a strategy. We need to work with the White House to come up with one that has bipartisan support.
WALLACE: Well, let’s talk about that, because while most senators, including the two of you, I think supported this particular strike under these specific circumstances, there was concern from both sides of the aisle about whether President Trump gets more deeply involved, whether or not he needs authorization from Congress to do so.
Here was Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-NY, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: It is now, however, incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a coherent strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, is Schumer right? Does the White House need approval from Congress if it’s going to get more deeply involved in Syria?
CORNYN: Well, under the War Resolutions Act, which the president sent a letter pursuant to that act yesterday explaining his actions, it is required, and I think it also makes good sense. Before we commit our military and our men and women in uniform to any sort of conflict, they deserve the support of Congress on a bipartisan basis, as well as the support of the American people. So, that’s why that sort of consultation and advice is so important.
WALLACE: Senator Cardin, let me pick up on this with you, because President Obama and now President Trump both authorized widespread force across the Middle East based on an approval that was given by Congress right after 9/11. This is 15 years later. Does that cover moving against the Assad regime or does the president made new approval? And an important question, because as we remember, when President Obama went to Congress back in 2013 to enforce the red line, it was clear Congress wasn’t going to approve it. Do you think if the president went to Congress now, that Democrats, Republicans would pass resolutions supporting the use of force to depose Bashar Assad?
CARDIN: Chris, you asked a couple of questions. First, in regards to the 2001 authorization, it’s been interpreted by the Obama administration, I assume also the Trump administration, to cover the use of force against ISIS in Syria. Many of us disagree with that and believe Congress should pass a separate resolution dealing with ISIS, that we shouldn’t be using the 9/11 resolution for that purpose.
In regards of going against Assad-Syria, there is no congressional authorization. There is no authority to use force. The president has some inherent Article 2 to powers, but as he consulted with us by notice on this attack, it’s incumbent upon him to consult with Congress. And if there’s going to be a use of force on a continuing basis, he needs the authorization.
WALLACE: And do you think the House and Senate, Democrats as well as Republicans, would authorize the use of force?
CARDIN: I think it depends upon seeing a plan from the president on Syria that can get the support of Congress and then how force is used as part of implementing that strategy. We have neither. We have — we don’t have overall strategy, and we don’t have the request for use of force.
WALLACE: Well, there was another big story this week, and I want to address that with both of you now, and that was, the Senate Republicans invoking the nuclear option, changing the rules of the Senate to confirm Neil Gorsuch as the next justice to the Supreme Court. Here was that moment in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch of Colorado to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, I want to talk — there’s been enough about why this happened and Merrick Garland and Gorsuch, and all of that. I want to talk about the impact of this going forward — doesn’t this ensure that the next time the president gets an opening, if his party controls the Senate, that he’s going to appoint somebody even more ideological, even more to the extreme, if you will, wing of his base because he doesn’t have to worry about getting bipartisan support, doesn’t have to worry about reaching out to the other party?
CORNYN: Well, Chris, this is really a restoration of the status quo before the George W. Bush administration, when there was no such thing as filibustering judges, particular judges on the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas got 52 votes when he was confirmed. One senator could have required 60 votes under the theory that basically was developed under Chuck Schumer and Democratic leadership to the George Bush administration.
But I think there is no danger of that happening. What it means is when we elect the president, we know that they’re going to be the ones who get to nominate judges. And they’re going to get support for that, at least 51 votes. But here, Judge Gorsuch got bipartisan support, 54 votes in the Senate, for his confirmation and he deserves — he deserved it.
WALLACE: Senator Cardin, I want to ask about the strategy here. And I know there were some Democrats who said, maybe we shouldn’t filibuster Gorsuch because the thought was, well, then, the fact that we haven’t done it will lead President Trump to nominate, if there is a number opening, someone more moderate.
Have you made a strategic mistake here in the sense that now, President Trump knows I can nominate anyone — almost anyone I want and get 51 votes, a bare majority of the Senate, and they’ll get through?
CARDIN: Well, John Cornyn is my friend, and I mean that, but we disagree on this issue. I think damage has been done in the future nominees for the Supreme Court. I think damage has been done to the Senate as an institution, which is important for our country. I think that —
WALLACE: But didn’t you do some of the damage? I don’t mean you, but the Democrats, by filibustering?
CARDIN: Both the Democrats and Republicans have blame here. Both Democrats and Republicans have handled things in a way that shouldn’t have been done. We should change our rules by bipartisan. We shouldn’t change the rules to accomplish a purpose.
And this has been going on. The ultimate filibuster was Merrick Garland’s filibuster when he didn’t even get a hearing or vote in the United States Senate by less than a majority of the U.S. senators holding him up. So, we’ve seen this go back to when President Obama’s first year for second term, Republicans said we’re not going to confirm any more court of appeals for the district court.
WALLACE: And you invoke the nuclear option.
CARDIN: We did. So, we’ve seen this pattern. You see more filibusters for judicial nominees by the Republicans under President Obama than we saw in the whole history of the United State Senate. Both sides have blame here.
WALLACE: All right. I want to get into one last subject with both of you and the time we have left. When you get back from this two-week recess that you’re taking, we’re going to have less than one week to pass the spending bill. If you failed to do so, the government is going to shut down.
Senator Cardin, if the White House insist, as they are at this point about including funding for building that wall along the southern border, for having sharp domestic spending cuts in order to offset a defense spending increase, will you block that even if it means the government shutdown?
CARDIN: Well, first, I’m not sure the president has the majority of the United States Senate that will support funding a wall, because I talked to enough Republicans to know, and they’ve said it publicly, that’s a waste of money and it’s counterproductive. So, I think the Senate will carry out its will and hopefully provide no money, no taxpayer money for building a wall.
WALLACE: But to answer my direct question: if a choice between putting money in for the wall, having those domestic spending cuts, would you go for a shutdown?
CARDIN: I want to see government — I don’t want to see a government shutdown. I’m willing to make compromises in order to keep government functioning. But we have to take a look at their trade-offs. So, I can’t answer that, in fact, until I see everything that’s in the bill.
WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, are those issues that I just mentioned, worth shutting down the government or would you support leaving some of them out in order to keep the government functioning?
CORNYN: I think this is a test for the new Democratic leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, as well as the administration. They’re going to be the ones ultimately who negotiate this. But there’s not going to be a shutdown. I’m confident that we’ll come up with something that everybody can live with.
WALLACE: President Trump explaining a sudden change in his policy towards the Assad regime just one day before ordering a strike on a Syrian air base.
And it’s time now for our Sunday group. Bill Kristol from The Weekly Standard, Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Hill, Juan Williams, Mo Elleithee of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Washington Examiner contributor Lisa Boothe.
Bill Kristol, you heard General McMaster, the national security advisor, at the top of the show. Are you satisfied that this administration has a clear strategy for going forward in Syria particularly the question I asked, which was, is this just about chemical weapons or is the president prepared to act if there’s just, by conventional means, the slaughter of civilians?
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think they’ve at least done what they had to have done to lay the predicate for having a clear strategy. They haven’t worked it all out, but if he had not acted now, we would be in even worse shape than after President Obama didn’t enforce his red line. It was such a visible violation of its national norms and what Syria had committed to when it allegedly got rid of all these chemical weapons.
So let them work out the strategy. I have a lot of confidence in H.R. McMaster. I do think when historians — if the Trump administration ends up non-disastrously, the replacement —
KRISTOL: That’s my — that’s my standard for Trump, yes.
LISA BOOTHE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER CONTRIBUTOR: It’s very — it’s very believable (ph).
KRISTOL: If — if — if it does, and I’m hopeful it does, don’t get me wrong, I’m hopeful it does, the replacement of — of Mike Flynn by H.R. McMaster as national security advisor could really be an important moment because looking at from the outside, what struck me, and I think you — you noted this too, Chris, during the week, it seemed like this was — there was a crisis and they handled it competently. You could agree or disagree. Do they have a long term strategy? How knows.
WALLACE: No. Clearly.
KRISTOL: But in terms of just the execution of this (INAUDIBLE) 72 hours, meetings, diplomacy and military stuff coordinated, keeping it secret, you know, that was impressive. So that reassures you, if you think the Trump White House (INAUDIBLE) but a little bit of a chaotic place, you like, gee, H.R. McMaster has the national security side of it under control.
WALLACE: We asked you for questions for the panel. And on this issue of what the missile strike means for President Trump’s larger foreign policy, Michael Lodge sent this on Facebook. “Since the justified attack by the U.S. on Syria, was this truly a clear enough signal to world leaders that America is back in charge?”
Juan, how do you answer Michael?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that if you’re sitting there having lunch and dinner, as President Xi of China was, it’s got to send some kind of message, especially with regard to North Korea.
Now, if you look on the world, there are a lot of hot spots, though, and there a lot of reasons for the U.S. to exercise some moral authority. President Trump as a candidate said if it’s not about U.S. economic interest, if it’s not about U.S. national security interest, it’s no business of the Untied States. And as you know, he encouraged President Obama, don’t get involved with Syria. So there is no doctrine, Chris.
And when I was listening to your interview with McMaster, I looked forward to it because I wanted to understand, what is the rationale, how do they sell this to the American people, how do they sell it to the person asking the question this morning? And there is none. He doesn’t say, you know what, conventional weapons are continuing to kill people in Syria and we find this abhorrent and we will stop it. No, he did not say that to you. he doesn’t — he’s not clear what the next step is.
WALLACE: Let’s turn to the other big story this week — normally this would be dominating and the news — and that was Republican in the Senate invoking the nuclear option in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Here are the Senate’s two leaders.
WALLACE: Lisa, that’s what I want to talk about with you is, where the Senate goes from here, particularly on Supreme Court nominations. This is something I brought up with the two senators in the last segment. It seems to me, and this isn’t just Trump and Republicans, it will be true of the next Democratic president when he is a Democratic majority. Doesn’t this increase the likelihood that when a president’s in that situation, he’s going to appoint somebody that is more to the extreme, more to — in line with his base, because he doesn’t have to — he or she doesn’t have to reach out to the other side because they know there’s not going to be a filibuster?
BOOTHE: Yes, potentially. But, I mean, you also have to look at the fact that really prior — going back to 2003, prior to Miguel Estrada, no judicial nominee with a clear majority had essentially been blocked by a filibuster. Then you also go to 2006 with President Obama leading the filibuster attempt against Justice Alito. And then it was the Democratic Party in 2013 that changed the rules for the lower court. I mean —
WALLACE: I now. I mean this goes back and forth. There’s nobody with clean hands here. Cardin’s right. But my point is, going forward, there was at least this self-limiting factor. Well, maybe we’ve got to reach out to the other side. Is that gone now?
BOOTHE: I mean, yes, potentially, but I don’t necessarily think — I don’t think the onus is on the Republican Party. I think we’re just seeing politics as a whole getting increasingly more partisan.
But the point being is going back to 2003, you really didn’t see the filibuster being used in a partisan manner. So I — you know, I don’t know if this is fundamentally changing the rules when you just go back to 2003, where we really saw at least a party using it for, you know, sort of a bipartisan weapon.
WALLACE: But that’s what — but it’s gone on. I mean you’ve — you’ve had —
BOOTHE: Yes. But, no, but to answer —
WALLACE: I mean you had Merrick Garland. You — you — there’s — there is no — there may be an original sin here, but there’s not one party that —
BOOTHE: But — but to answer your question, I mean, sure, but I also think that that’s happening regardless of what just recently happened in the Senate. I think that is the direction that party politics is heading.
WALLACE: Well, if I’m right, did — and I know that’s a — a —
MO ELLEITHEE, GEORGETOWN INST. OF POLITICS & PUBLIC SERVICE: Right.
WALLACE: I — a very distant possibility —
WILLIAMS: Go ahead (INAUDIBLE). Go ahead —
WALLACE: If — if — if what I’ve said is not — if what I said is not disastrous, to use Bill Kristol’s new standard, did Democrats make a strategic mistake filibustering this one because it opens the door for President Trump with his next appointment, if he gets another appointment.
ELLEITHEE: Yes, I — you know, it’s — it’s hard to say. I — and — and I’m — I’m with you and I’m with Senator Cardin that both sides have some of the blame here. My party has a lot of blame for the way it — it acted. And I think maybe the filibuster may have been a — a poor judgment. I also think the Republicans — I mean the fact that Merrick Garland was — couldn’t even get a hearing, right, and we do go back and forth.
I’m — I’m usually a fairly optimistic guy. This is a case where I am very optimistic. You hear senators now saying, well, we went nuclear on nominations, there’s no way that’s going to happen on legislation. I’m not so sure, right? What’s going to happen the first time there’s a contentious piece of legislation that’s up there and the partisan heels dig in even more? I think we are — we are entering a very tenuous time for the United States Senate where it is going to become a lot more raucous and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing when there’s a lot of raucousness around now in this town that needs to be checked.
WALLACE: Well, look, I want to — I want to pick up on raucousness because there’s raucousness inside the Trump White House and I want to talk about that with you, Bill.
Let’s be honest, with all of the big events, this is really what’s got Washington buzzing, this apparent split inside the White House between the so-called nationalist, led by Steve Bannon on the — appropriately on the right there, and the so-called New Yorkers, or Democrats, led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over the direction of the Trump presidency.
Bill, what are you hearing? How bad is it? And is anybody going to be forced out?
KRISTOL: I think it’s bad or at least dramatic. I don’t know if Bannon will be — he’ll be, I think, pushed aside some. I doubt if he’ll be forced out immediately. What shows me who has the upper hand is this. I saw a New York Times — it was a New Times story, I think it was today or yesterday, and the sort of — the slug (ph) that once saw going in you know originally was, Trump had called it — these two top aides and told them, work it out.
KRISTOL: So I saw that and I thought, well, the two aides who had to work it out obviously were Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Those are the two guys who at loggerheads. No, Trump had called in Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus and told them to work it out with Jared Kushner. Now, what does that tell you? You’ve been around organizations a while. Kushner is and the driver’s seat. Trump is telling his chief of staff at this top strategist, you get along with Jared Kushner. So Jared Kushner in my — to my — in my opinion is the most powerful man in domestic policy at least in the White House today.
WALLACE: Lisa, beyond the — the obvious “Game of Thrones” side of this, who’s up and who’s down, what’s the significance, whether it’s the Bannon wing or the Kushner wing in terms of policy for this presidency?
BOOTHE: Personally, I don’t think it’s as significant as it’s being made out to be because the reality — everyone — everyone is basically putting this at the premise of somehow, you know, President Trump is being, you know, is a puppet of either Steve Bannon or Priebus, or whoever’s in charge, Jared Kushner. The reality is, this is a guy — I think people are under — they’re not getting enough credit. This is a guy, in 2012, who trademarked make America great again. A guy who defeated 16 candidates in the primary, who defeated Hillary Clinton, who outspent him two to one. And if you include outside groups, three to one. And did all this with three separate campaign managers. I mean so this is a guy who’s very smart politically, who’s a lot more adept than anyone wants to give him credit for. So the idea of who was at the helm in regards to the chief of staff or whatever that role is, I think is — is irrelevant.
WILLIAMS: Well, I —
BOOTHE: I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as we’re all making it out to be.
WALLACE: Chances are you’ve never heard of Bill McRaven, but you know his work. A Navy SEAL for 37 years, he became the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He was in charge of the missions that captured Saddam Hussein and killed Osama bin Laden. And now he’s written a jewel of a book called “Make Your Bed: Little Things that can Change your Life and the World.”
We interviewed him after the chemical attack in Syria, but before President Trump’s response. Here’s our “Power Player of the Week.”
WALLACE: Bill, welcome to “Fox News Sunday.”
MCRAVEN: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: It’s an honor to have you.
MCRAVEN: It’s great to be here.
WALLACE: As the commander of the missions that rescued Captain Phillips, that found and killed bin Laden, what’s the secret of success? What is the key to pulling these things off?
MCRAVEN: Yes, I think you have to rely on a lot of great people. I mean, obviously, I didn’t do this on my own. I had great operators working for me in every case. And you have to be able to reach out, find those that are really experts in their field. The helicopter pilots, the fighter pilots, the SEALs on the ground, the built (ph) operators, the rangers, draw on their experience and then make the best decision you can to move forward.
WALLACE: In your book, and we’re going to talk about that more in a minute, you talk about SEAL training. You were a SEAL for 37 years. And how brutal it is. Hell week, six days of — of just extraordinary exercises on basically no sleep. Does it have to be that tough?
MCRAVEN: If their combat experience and if their success in combat is any indication, the traditions, if you will, and the standards we’ve had in place for many, many years have paid huge dividends and I think they’ll — they’ll continue to — to march out smartly with those.
WALLACE: You had, what, 150 people in your class and 33 made a through?
WALLACE: And — and from your experience in the field as a SEAL, do you need that kind of training to make it in real — in the real world?
MCRAVEN: In the real world of being a Navy SEAL, you do. I mean part of this is a recognition that, you know, you’re going out and you’re going to select not just the fastest and the strongest, you’re going to select that individual that can, one, think critically, that can — that can ensure that in the tough times they are going to get through. So you will see — we had — we had a young man in our class who was a remarkable runner. I think he was close to a four-minute mile in high school and yet we had an officer that was a little faster than he was. And — and so you found as time went on that it really wasn’t about the fastest and the strongest, was really about those kids that never, ever gave up. And that’s part of — of the points we — we bring out in the book is that just — just don’t give up and — and you’ll find a way to success.
WALLACE: You’re now chancellor of the University of Texas system, 14 institutions, about a quarter of a million students that you’re educating. And in 2014 you delivered a commencement speech that went viral, 10 million views online. Here’s a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCRAVEN: If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of that day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: If you want to change the world, make your bed. And that is the title of this — this book. It’s little, but it’s got wonderful life lessons in it. What’s the message?
MCRAVEN: I think the — the lessons are universal. It doesn’t make any difference whether you ever spent any time in the military, it doesn’t make any difference about your race or your ethnicity or your orientation, these are important lessons. Don’t quit, stand up to the bullies, have a little bit of discipline in your life.
WALLACE: Right, make your bed.
MCRAVEN: Make your bed.
WALLACE: Why is that — why is that so important?
MCRAVEN: Well, I think it is one of these tasks that really does get your day started off right. I mean all — you know, my — my mother and my father ensured that before I went to school every morning I made my bed. And then in the military, of course, the really reinforce that. And it’s — it’s a number of things. It is about the first task of the day. Doing the first task of the day right and recognizing also that little things matter.
WALLACE: One of your stories, lessons, is about a ranger named Adam Bates (ph).
WALLACE: What’s the lesson there?
MCRAVEN: Well, Adam Bates, a young ranger, he was on his first tour in Afghanistan, stepped on a pressure plate IED and — and lost both his legs. And I really think what Adam Bates represents, frankly, is all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places. I never, ever met a single soldier didn’t say, I want to get back to my unit. Some of them missing legs, missing arms, they always wanted to get back to their unit. And Adam never gave up. And to this day he has carried on. He’s got a great life. And, again, its representative of — of all those great young men and women that served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
WALLACE: I’ve been trying to get you to sit down for an interview for several years now since we first met back in 2014. And I’m going to take this opportunity to ask you about some questions. Back in 2015 you said, if we really mean to beat ISIS, we’ve got to put more boots on the ground there. When you look at the situation in Iraq, in Syria, do we need more?
MCRAVEN: Well, I — you know, I’m always very cautious about old retired guys like me trying to make an assessment of the tactical situation on the ground. Having said that, I think if you look back a year, March or so of last year, we really begin — we, the United States, really began a — a more serious effort, I think, in going after ISIS. And I think that was the right thing to do. I — I credit President Obama for realizing that we needed a little bit of a change in the plan. He did that. And, of course, President Trump has continued that and — and –and looks to be accelerating that. And I think what we’ll see is the acceleration or the decline of ISIS. So I think both presidents deserve some credit in — in how they are attacking this problem.
WALLACE: Different issues, same country, Syria. When you look at this horrific chemical attack on the rebel-held town in northern Syria by the Assad regime, is there anything we can do?
MCRAVEN: There are some options out there. Everything from a no-fly zone, but it is difficult, and we have looked at that before, the potential to do a no-fly zone means you may come in contact with the Syrian air force or the Russian air force. So I think we have to be a little bit cautious. But clearly something needs to be done. We cannot just sit by and see this mass migration and see the carnage that is — that is occurring in Syria and do nothing.
WALLACE: I didn’t realize until this week that you graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism. I can’t understand how you went so wrong and decided it was more important to become a Navy SEAL and defend our nation. But when President Trump tweeted in February that much of the media are, in his words, quote, “the enemy of the American people,” your journalistic hackles went up and you said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCRAVEN: The news media is the enemy of the American people. This sentiment — this sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: That’s pretty strong language coming from somebody who’s seen the threats you’ve seen. Greater threat than the Soviet Union? Greater threat than radical Islam?
MCRAVEN: I think those threats really kind of brought us together. So when you looked at the — the strikes on 9/11, and the threat from the Soviet Union, this really brought us together as a democracy, I — I think. So when I talk about the media, you know, when — when the media is referred to as the enemy of the American people, both myself and — and the president and others swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States. And the First Amendment of that Constitution is freedom of the press. So the reason that I expressed some concern was that when the president of the United States says that the media is the enemy of the American people, to me that undermines a little bit of the Constitution. So I do think it is a tremendous threat to our democracy.
But there’s a second part of that clip that you should run, which is where I told the journalism students that they also have an obligation. So in order for the media really to — to be seen as more truthful, one, the journalists have to check their facts. Also, leave your bias at the door.
So, yes, I do think anybody that says that the media is the enemy of the American people is not right. I’ve been — I have been raked over the coals by the media, but I will tell you, I think it is the single most important thing for this democracy.
WALLACE: Finally, I want to ask you about your job as chancellor of UT because you have laid out what you call a path for change at UT, including what you call nine quantum leaps. And one of them I’m fascinated by, you want to start a mandatory course for every one of those quarter million students on American leadership. What do you hope to accomplish?
MCRAVEN: The fundamentals of leadership I think really are — are ethics. You know, how do you do things to ensure that you are — you know, I said there’s three things, you have to be moral, legal, and ethical. In all of our decisions, we must be moral, legal, and ethical. So we need to understand ethics. Ethics in business, ethics in politics, ethics in the military. It’s also recognizing that we need our young men and women to learn how to function in a group environment. How do you lead a small group? What are the qualities of leadership that we see in great business leaders, great politicians, great military men and women. So these are the sort of things we want to teach in the — in the leadership curriculum.
WALLACE: Well, You are an exemplar of that. Bill McRaven, thank you. Thank you for your lifetime of service.
MCRAVEN: My pleasure.
WALLACE: Thank you for your friendship, sir.
MCRAVEN: Thank you, sir.